What Can I Do?

When I went to bed last night,  I didn’t shower or wash my makeup off and I didn’t brush my teeth.  I felt dirty!  I wanted to feel dirty!

I couldn’t lie in my soft bed, in my safe house, after eating my Vietnamese pork roll,  while the Children of Syria slept or should I say, closed their eyes, however they could.   Scared, hungry, alone, cold, tired, sick ….. dirty!  The least I could do, was to go to bed dirty!  I had been looking at the harrowing photographs and reading the gut wrenching stories of the refugee children of Syria originally posted on  Buzz Feed.   Copyright – Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

It took me forever to go to sleep.  I was restless and uncomfortable in my safety.  I woke early  and even before I had opened my eyes, tears were wetting my pillow.  As I looked at my makeup smudged face in the mirror, I recalled a conversation by text message I had with a dear friend, the previous night.  I was lamenting the fact of having almost no words to express myself and my final words had been that I just don’t know what to do!!  My friend’s reply had been swift – Blog it! And see what ideas others have about what to do!  But did I have the necessary words?

So I made my way to the sea and sat and looked at the peaceful scene around me.  Slowly, I could feel the words returning.  My soul opened just enough to let the gap left by the tears I had shed earlier, be filled with the beauty of the glistening water.

glistening

My heart, previously, so weighed down with the fear of what might be, began to soar with the seagulls and pelicans, with the possibilities of what could be!

seagull pelican

The warmth of the sun and the cool of the ocean breeze cleared my thoughts and gave me confidence in my ability to share what was troubling me.

I am not one trained in the complexities of the religious or political arguments of the refugees  both here in Australia and other parts of our world.  But I am someone deeply disturbed by the plight of those that have so little when I have so much!

All I know is that the situation as it is at the moment is not right.  If I choose to ignore those mothers and fathers and children who are in dire need and rather choose to generalise and ignore and teach hate and suspicion – then the terrorists have won.  I refuse to let the terrorists win!  I choose love and understanding and acceptance …. not blindly and without caution.  But with compassion and discernment and a listening ear and a gentle hand.

This beautiful video clip has been doing the rounds of the social media pages but it spoke to my heart in a way that nothing else has this week.

This father and son, taught me that the things that I can do, may be the simple but important work of reassuring a child of their safety and teaching them that love can win.  It may be the highlighting of the beautiful in the world through words and pictures, to counter balance the fear and hatred so freely plastered across our televisions and newspapers.  It may be financial support if I can afford it.  It may be to speak up when I hear generalisations about culture or religion or race.  It may be to pray.  It may be  to provoke thought where there has previously been none.  It may be  to give a forum for us to discuss our fears, here – in a safe environment.

I do not wish this post to become a for or against slanging match, about the political or religious solutions being thrown around.  But rather a positive sharing of ideas and thoughts of what I  can do!  I know that many of us want to do something but just don’t know what!  Please share in the comments your thoughts and ideas.

What can I do? 

Share ….

change

 

 

 

Advertisements

Baby Ella and Me!

I was lucky enough to cradle a tiny newborn in my arms yesterday.  She was just 5 days old and I felt my heart fill with love as my eyes began to brim with tears.  I breathed in that special newborn smell and closed my eyes.  What a wonder they are!

I LOVE babies!  All babies. It doesn’t matter who they belong to or what they look like or if their nappy needs changing – I’m your girl!  This love affair began many years ago at church.  Where friends entrusted their precious bundles of joy to my 10-year-old arms.  I learned to rock and soothe and cuddle and feed and change them.  But mostly, the thing I loved doing was looking and feeling them.

Making eye contact with a baby, for me, is like making eye contact with your lover – the first time!  Fireworks go off inside my heart and I feel as if I am in completely the right place at the right time.

all-the-fireworks-in-the-world

So yesterday, when I held gorgeous Ella for the first time, I did what I always do when holding a newborn for the first time.  I looked deep into her eyes and using no words at all, said with my heart “Thank you! Thank you for trusting me to hold you and love you and for relying on me for all you need at this moment.  Thank you!”

Later, when remembering my Ella cuddle, I thought about why I love the real newborns so much.  I thought about how they are completely reliant on me for everything.  Never again will this happen in its entireity.  I thought about the physical things I love about newborns – their soft, hairy, velvety skin; their wrinkles; their round little bellies; the way they inhabit their skin so completely; their ability to fart at the drop of a hat and the satisfaction they get from doing it!  Ella’s Grandma mentioned yesterday, how they arrive, knowing how to do stuff.  No one teaches them to sneeze – they just know!

2015-08-28 15.40.03

As I thought about my visit, it dawned on me that all the things I love about babies are indeed a lot of the things I don’t like about myself …. my hairy skin; my wrinkles; my round belly; the way I inhabit my skin a little too completely and of course my ability to fart at the drop of a hat!!  I, also, realised that I have to completely rely on and trust myself for all I need at any given moment.

dsc00106

The similarity was amazing to me!  Maybe it is time for me to embrace those special baby-like qualities about myself and stop fighting against them?

treat-your-heart-as-you-would-treat-a-new-born-baby-fragile-and-delicate-quote-1

Thank you baby Ella for teaching me an important life lesson!

My Mother-In-Law ……

For the last 35 years, I have had the same mother-in-law (MIL).  I have been lucky with my MIL.  She loves me and my boys, constantly finding ways to help us out over the years with baking, cooking, sewing, knitting, praying and the “don’t tell Dad but here’s some $$$ just incase you need it” money gifts!  She has always been positive about our marriage and family, although in the beginning she must have wondered what on earth her only son had brought home!

I entered her family like a freight train.  Head on, whistles blasting.  She didn’t get to meet me until we were engaged and well on our way to being married.  My husband and I were living in New Zealand at the time of meeting, his family were in Australia.  When that first meeting took place, it was a harrowing experience for both of us.  You see – the airline had lost my luggage and I had been in the same clothes for two days and one night while we drove from Melbourne to the country town an hour out of Adelaide where they lived.  I know I was stinky and crumpled and  unsure of myself, when I stepped out of the car to meet this very stylish, immaculately made-up, perfectly permed lady that was to become my MIL!  We sat down to tea (best china) and cakes (homemade of course) and nothing that I was experiencing made a bit of sense when I looked at my handsome, sloppy, daggy, no dress sense, sport obsessed fiancé.

Scan 5

Years later, when talking about our first meeting – MIL has often said that she was scared of me and then quickly realised that she would have to lower her expectations for her son, because obviously he loved me and had chosen me!!  Every now and then she would come out with classic comments like this – with absolutely no understanding of what she had just said and how it might affect the person she was talking about.  I absolutely, love this about her …. once I understood that she did not have a mean bone in her body.

Nana W & Jon in kitchen

Over the years, it became obvious to MIL that I didn’t really have a domestic bent and so preserved fruit & jam that was so sweet I couldn’t eat it, made its way to Queensland, where we were now living.  Along with curtains for our house; machine knitted jumpers by the dozen; pages of hand written names from the local newspaper – for when the babies started coming; home-made honey biscuits at Christmas; and then there were the months long driving visits to stay with us ….. with no going home date!  I had never experienced anything like this.  Not that my Mum wasn’t a happy homemaker – she was. But this was on a whole different level!!

I had some advantages – MIL could bake up a storm but I could cook her out of the kitchen.  And I made amazing babies!  Winning!  We each had our gifts and we learned to accept the other’s ways and our love and respect for each other grew strong.

Scan 4

Time has marched on.  We have both had  too much loss in our lives.   MIL is now aged 96 years old and has been through the deaths of her husband, step-daughter, all of her brothers & sisters and of course her much-loved son – my husband, Adrian.  Too much sadness for a mother – they aren’t supposed to bury their children.  She is an amazingly strong and determined woman.

MIL still chooses to live alone, in a retirement village, in the same country town where I first met her.  She manages her own money and only stopped driving at 90.  She has help with showering & house cleaning but still insists on cooking, doing her own washing & many other things that I think she should not be doing!  She is being careful, she says but has now had 4 or 5 falls in the last 4 months.  She won’t press her emergency button when she has a fall because she would rather wait until her next booked doctor’s appointment to be checked out!  This worries me but she tells me not to.  She only tells me she has fallen, weeks after the event – so she won’t be a worry to me!!!  She cut her toe last week when cutting her toenails, but can’t see that she needs a podiatrist to do it!  She was silly and would have to take more care, she says.

nana W & Andrew

She loves me and my boys and always will. I live too far away to visit often but our phone calls are filled with love & laughter & pride in her Grandsons. I’m learning to let go and let God.  Soon, she won’t be able to make those phone calls anymore and we will just have the precious memories of the love she gives us.

And of course the memory of when she told us that she had to have a small medical procedure on her head because it had fossilised!!!  We are sure she meant calcified but will forevermore enjoy sharing about MIL’s fossilised head!

Different But Yet The Same.

The invitation came months ago and hinted that it would be a wedding with a difference.  A morning wedding and on a Monday morning at that!  Sweet Love, it read, etched below their silver silhouettes.  And so we travelled across the Tasman Sea to celebrate this special day with my youngest nephew and his chosen one.

The day began early, with the ping alerting me of the arrival of a Snapchat!  It was the Bride and she was “getting her hair did!”  I thought back to that day almost 35 years ago, when I was “getting my hair did” and I smiled to myself and sent a crazy face reply.

Different but yet the same. 

Hayden watch

The ceremony took place outside and the groom mingled with the guests, waiting for his always punctual bride to make her entrance.  She was never late – except today!  A silly tradition that carries an edge, that soon fades into oblivion when the bride finally arrives.  Gasp!  She’s here and she’s beautiful!  That look when they see each other for the first time.  Eyes only for each other.  Tears pricking the eyes and that’s just the father of the groom!

Different but yet the same.

2015-02-23 11.12.34

The ceremony was filled with love and laughter and words spoken clearly and with sincerity.  There was happiness and togetherness everywhere, shared with a freedom and confidence that can only be felt when hands held are an indication of hearts united.  There was a casual feel but also a security in familiar words read and spoken as God blessed this sacred union and rings were exchanged.

Different but yet the same.

2015-02-23 11.18.25

A kiss!  A cheer!  Applause!  Family and friends rejoiced and even basked in the love that radiated from the new Mr & Mrs!  Then there was hugs to be given, photographs to be taken, games to be played, chat to be had, food and drinks to be tasted.  During the next couple of hours, there was time to enjoy and relax and fill our memories to overflowing.   Feet felt like they never touched the ground – theirs and ours!

Different but yet the same.

Multiple Hayden & Ran Faces

The entrance into the wedding breakfast was our chance to surprise them.  A sea of their own faces greeted them, by way of bride and groom masks, provided by the MC.  They delighted in the thoughtful, fun gesture.  More food, drink and conversation around the beautifully dressed tables.  Heartfelt speeches and man hugs were a highlight, with every guest privileged to be included within the family and friendship circles that grew this impressive couple.  Thoughtful gifts given to all the guests and most especially to the attendants, parents and special helpers were so appropriate and will forever serve to gently transport us back to that time and place – for years to come.

Different but yet the same.

2015-02-23 10.27.07 2015-02-23 10.25.43

2015-02-23 11.24.28

A guard of honour was just so right!  Light sabres led the way to their new life together.  A true indication of their fun life together.  The Force will be with you always!  As will our love and prayers for you.  After the guests had departed and family was left to help the couple pack up their things and climb into a cab – we knew that they were beginning a wonderful, love filled, not always easy journey together – marriage.  And we would be there to help carry the load when it got hard.  But now, it was all good and right and wonderful ….. just as it should be.

Different but yet the same.

Light sabre

The Abi Diaries (part three)

I’m in the middle of a 2 day 1 night stay by Abi.  I woke at 5am this morning and she is still sleeping, so thought I’d get some thoughts down before she wakes.  Have I told you lately, that she’s not a baby any more?  Well, she isn’t and I have to say when she called me last week, to tell me that she hadn’t had a sleepover at my little house these holidays, I very nearly lost it!!  I mean, she’s my baby right and she was asking when it would be “suitable” to come and stay and maybe Friday/Saturday would be best and would I like to stay for dinner when I drive her home?

Abi starts Prep this year and she is ready … leaving me dragging behind on the preparedness stakes.  So this will be my last sleepover with her before school begins to mould her.  Our conversations, have been at times, deep and meaningful and  I am listening closely and learning much.  She is a patient teacher!

This is how our weekend has gone so far.

They arrived, Abi and her family, just after 9:30 am, for morning cuppa and a chat.  The kids, Abi has 2 brothers, went in search of Fev, my furbaby, then settled in my only spare room that, apparently turns into Abi’s Room the moment she arrives.  Her mum and I sat down for a catch up but it was only a matter of moments before we could hear her calling for help because in her words “T is messing up my room and he won’t share my things!”  Secretly, my heart skipped a beat – she knows she belong in my home!2015-01-16 07.29.26

After, coffee and donuts and an hour of chat, Abi’s Mum and brothers were on their way home, leaving Abi and I cheering on my doorstep!  Hurrah! They are gone.  Girl time …. but not for long!  Her overnight bag had been left in the car, so back they came!  Thank goodness!  That bag contained important things like Zelfs and My Little Ponies as well as clothes and toothbrush etc.

2015-01-16 11.10.02

The day continued with playing, watching a movie, shopping, eating and swimming.  Each activity had its life lesson for me!  Each activity showed me both glimpses of my special baby girl and the independent school girl that is developing within.  She chose to watch a movie that had been too scary the last time she was here, Alice In Wonderland, only this time she knew the story and the characters.  She coped really well but crawled to lie on top of me during several scary bits “because she felt safe on top of me and my body felt like a squishy, comfortable mattress but it did have some big lumpy bits!”

2015-01-16 12.59.54

She wondered why I had bought her some Shopkins to collect rather than more Zelfs?  I told Abi that I thought her mummy would love the fact that I had introduced a whole new collecting world that she previously didn’t know about! (I got this idea from one of my favourite blogs Enjoying the Small Things by Kelle Hampton).  Of course when we went shopping I accidently bought some more and the seed was well and truly planted “I really, really like Shopkins and I can show Mummy where to find them in Coles!”  You’re welcome, Abi’s Mum!

As we drove out of my unit complex, Abi asked why it was that there were so many little houses where I lived.  I told her that there were lots of people, like me, who needed somewhere small to live because they didn’t have family close by or their family had moved away. Tears sprang to my eyes, as she replied “But Mandy, you have us – we are your family!  You could come and live with us!”  Bless her heart and bless her family for giving her such a heart.

We went swimming at my friends house and I was so proud of this little poppet for the love and friendliness that she so easily shares with my friends.  We ate chips until they came out of her ears because I knew dinner would be a little later than she was used to but that didn’t stop her from informing me that she was starving the minute we got home and every 5 minutes there after!  It also, didn’t stop her from being full up 5 minutes after she started eating dinner!  She did, however have room for some yoghurt!

2015-01-16 19.55.13

Abi has been asleep for 11 hours now.  That is one of the wonderful things about her.  She goes to bed and sleeps.  But any minute she will be up and out and our second day together will begin.  We have more adventures to have, questions to ask, places to go and I have so much stuff to learn.

I can’t wait!

2015-01-16 20.36.45

Endings and Beginnings.

Do you ever wish things would never end?  Or do you just want some things to end quickly?  I do both of these things at different times.  If the footy is poor and the night is cold – I just want it to end, so I can go home and warm up!  But if the sun is warm and the sea is rolling in gently, soothingly – I want to stay forever!

1102694-1366x768-summer

I’ve come to realise that letting go of heart stuff can be the same as something coming to an end.  Often times a quick ending is less painful than wanting to stay forever!   But not always. As 2014 comes to an end and 2015 starts it’s engine, I am aware of the necessity of saying goodbye to different important parts of my life.  These are not quick endings but long slow painful ones.

Abi 2 days old

I am losing my baby!  Well, not my baby but my gorgeous god daughter Abi, is starting school and that means “I’m a big girl now. Not your baby any more”, as she happily told me on Christmas Day.  How am I handling it?  Not well at all!  Of course, as a retired teacher, I am thrilled to see her development and growth.  I have no worries that she will cope and fit in easily.  But ME?  I really don’t want her to grow up.  Who will give me those whole body, smooshy, never let me go cuddles?  When Abi was born, she filled that constant yearning for physical touch, that comes from living with someone for 28 years and then losing them.  I could hold her and stroke her hair and smother her with kisses when I saw her and no one would know that I hadn’t actually touched another human being for a week or more.  I would drown myself in Abi, drinking up her unconditional love – hoping it would get me through the coming week.  When my Counsellor asked me what I was going to do to fill the gap when she started school – I sincerely looked her in the eye and told her as soon as Christmas was over, I would be out on the street looking for some pregnant woman who would like to share her baby with me!  She almost fell off her chair and it wasn’t until she saw my wink at the end of my statement, that she realised I was joking ….. kinda, sort of, maybe!!

I don’t want to say goodbye to the relationship we have.  I want it to go on forever.

Mum's Day Andrew & Patrick                       Jonathan Brewers Christmas 2014

My boys are men!  They are 31, 29 & 23 years old.  I no longer have any of them living at home and this has been the case for 6 or so years.  I have been saying goodbye to my little boys for many years now but no matter how independent they become, I still want to take away as much of their pain and heartache as I can.  Their dependence on me for financial back up or transport needs or the occasional home cooked meal (although all are very good cooks), means I am still their mother and they need me!   It also means that I am able to enjoy the mannerisms of their father, that I miss so much.  But I want my men to live their own lives and continue to develop their independence and find that special someone to share their world with – that isn’t me ….. kinda, sort of, maybe!!

I don’t want to say goodbye to the relationship we have.  I want it to go on forever.

And then Sons of Anarchy finished – forever!!!!  Yes, I know!  It’s a TV show!  It’s not real!  The characters were BAD boys!! But have you seen Jax Teller?

Jax 2

I know that TV shows do not go on forever ….. kinda, sort of, maybe!!

I don’t want to say goodbye to the relationship we have.  I want it to go on forever.

With endings come beginnings!  Just as endings can be hard, so too can beginnings have their dangers.  It’s a risk to do something new or different.  Just in the same way, looking at old relationships with new eyes and expectations is also difficult.  Fortunately, humans keep changing and growing – especially young people – and that forces us to keep changing and growing as well.

So with 2015 only one day away, I am thinking about the ways I can make sure those special relationships do go on forever.  Not as they were, but as they can be. Will be!  Have to be!!  So the changes that occur will be natural and satisfactory for all involved.  But there will be changes.  My 2015 Resolutions will not be the normal unattainable  ones of years gone by – lose 30kgs & get fit.  This year they will be simple and helpful.  Encouraging me to keep changing and growing.

I will simply ……..

add a little structure to my life

forgive myself

love myself

If I can do these 3 things, who knows what beginnings lie ahead for me?

Love yourself

And as Jax Teller would say

Jax

“I got this!”

Grief and the Holidays.

When you have been married to a Preacher Man, no matter how many years ago, when he dies, your memories good and bad will always be tied to those special Christian festivals.

I love the holiday celebrations.  They have always been my thing.  It started as a child for me, when my hard-working parents couldn’t afford many extras during the year but at birthdays and Christmas and Easter we were spoilt with gifts and food and church festivals. Don’t get me wrong – we never went without anything on a day-to-day basis – but excess was often the go at holiday time!  Rituals were begun and followed. Like the yearly Christmas visit to  my Dad’s brother’s place, where my Aunty always had her tree decorated with lollipops!  Or the fact that Mum always included a religious gift with our Easter eggs.  I remember with delight a beautiful pink twinkley cross to wear around my neck and my Living Bible that was all the rage in the 1970’s.  Christmas was church and carols and Advent Dinners and beaches and new dresses for the Sunday School Nativity.

pohutakawa
Pohutukawa tree also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.

I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand in a church with many European nationalities.  Each of those wonderful families brought a lot of their home culture to my Mandy Christmas tradition that was being moulded.  Candles were always important, as was music, food, and seasonal colours.  A real tree was much-loved and decorated with the symbols of God’s gift to us.  The Advent Wreath, that dripped candle wax on you, at Communion time, if you were not careful. And Carol singing will always begin in my mind with

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

and end with

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

So it was not surprising to me, that I chose to get married during Advent to my Preacher Man.  The church was decorated with the previously mentioned Advent Wreath and there were pine fronds in the church flowers.  I was presented with a beautifully decorated rolling-pin to carry from a Swedish family, which I cherish to this day.

Swedish rolling pin given at my wedding.
Swedish rolling-pin given at my wedding.

And so my own family tradition began!  Adrian’s family were not much on tradition, so it took  few years to train my Preacher Man up on what was expected.  A real tree was found and decorated with love and family heirloom decorations.  If money was tight, as many presents as you could buy for a set amount must be bought and each item must be wrapped individually!  The Advent Dinner must be full of purple and candles and Carols.  Then as our Boys arrived, more traditions developed with decorations galore, many with a European touch and presents opened on Christmas Eve, after church, as a nod to both of our German heritage. The Boxing Day test match on TV was never missed.  Our family celebrated the Christian holidays with gusto – both Christmas and Easter.

Our presents all wrapped individually!
Our presents all wrapped individually!
Easter tree.
Easter tree.

They were our favourite ….. and then Adrian died …… on an Easter Monday!

How to go on?  Not only on a day by day basis but those special holidays that were all of a sudden raw and full of pain.  He would want us to celebrate.  After arriving in our marriage with little or no Christmas celebratory spirit, Adrian, in his last years questioned why the Christmas tree couldn’t stay up all year long!  He loved it!

I go through the motions of Advent – the season of anticipation and preparation for the coming of the Christ Child but also the coming of another wedding anniversary  – spent alone.  I buy and wrap each gift with love and thoughtfulness but when I sign the card from Mandy or Mum or Aunty Mandy and not Mandy & Adrian or Mum & Dad or Aunty Mandy & Uncle Adrian, there is always a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart.  I decorate the tree using the old and much-loved family decorations, wishing it could stay up all year long.

Oldest Christmas decoration - once owned by my Grandparents and future cause of ownership dispute by the Boys in years to come. We only have one and they all want it!
Oldest Christmas decoration – once owned by my Grandparents and future cause of ownership dispute by the Boys in years to come. We only have one and they all want it!

The same occurs at Easter time where my heart is grateful for God’s sacrifice of his Son but empty at the loss we experienced at this time almost six years ago.  But my Preacher Man would want me to continue the traditions we forged as a family in the 30 years we spent together.  For our Boys and their future families and for those around me that help me through these times.  I try to continue making meaningful rituals that symbolize that life continues and we take our memories with us as we move on.

I am grateful for the reminders of God’s grace and love and the certainty of being reunited in eternity.  I can acknowledge the peace that passes all understanding but I give myself the permission to struggle through these wonderful celebratory days, with my heart brimming and my eyes glistening with love and loss.  And if I choose to be quiet and withdraw from life some days – that’s acceptable too!

Christmas remembrance
Christmas Remembrance candles for my Dad, Adrian & my dear friend Ross.