Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Traditions

Another Christmas done and dusted.
I've just finished packing away the tree, carefully storing away ornaments, branches and all the other bits and bobs involved.

I love decorating the tree. When I was a kid it was the most wonderful thing to open the box of Christmas. It had a little wooden nativity set, decorations and a smell. The Christmas smell. To this day I'm not sure what the smell was but I know when we opened that box I would be flooded with joy. Christmas! In Alice Springs we used to buy our REAL Christmas tree from Kmart. Oh how I loved the process of selecting a tree and inhaling that pine fresh smell. We would take it home, stick it in a bucket and decorate it, listening to Boney M carols and feeling that all was right with the world.
Then of course my dear Dad went and died early one Christmas morning. From then on, Christmas was greeted with dread, not joy. My Mum in particular found it terribly hard, the carols, the well wishes, the memories. We would just endure it and be glad when it was all over.
I can't remember when it was that I re-opened that box of Christmas, I think it was some years later. I was an angsty teen, trying hard not to care, self pity flowing through my veins. But when I opened that box and smelt that smell, of so much joy and happy memories, when I saw that precious nativity set, I felt love, not pain. I felt happy to have the memories. Sometimes remembering the good stuff is harder than the bad stuff, sometimes it hurts more to remember the love. But that smell reminded me of too much happiness, so I was never going to be miserable about Christmas again.
You know the rest. My magnificent children came along and healed me up, at least where Christmas is concerned. Now it's a time for family, food and presents! They look forward to it as much as I ever did. I felt so privileged today, packing away that tree, remembering all this (so much so I had to write it whilst it was fresh!). Grateful for making these memories now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


We are going away for 12 days this festive season.
Months ago we started to wonder who we could get to look after the house and dog. Our previous housesitter had selfishly gone and become a homeowner so she was no good to us.
Someone I know had housesit for a friend of mine and I totally got the vibe that he spent some serious time sniffing around her private affairs. Searching bedside drawers for vibrators, reading through personal notebooks, looking for porn on her browser history. So I knew I wouldn't be asking him to stay. Oh the notebooks he could read! We needed a responsible stranger of mature years to mind our lovely home and dog.
Miraculously easily we found them! A husband & wife on the mindahome.com website. I was able to check them out (totally legit & 'normal') through their references via airbnb and the only thing I was really concerned about was how they would cope in my tidy, but not particularly clean, home.
Honestly if I could change one thing about myself it would be that rather than eating when I feel stressed instead I would clean.
Our home is by no means dirty, it's just a bit dusty and smudgy. The floors are maintained but goddamn it you do know if you clean one area of a wall you then need to clean ALL the walls in that room because it looks just as bad with one clean area as it does one dirty spot.
Anyway I became aware of how many areas needed to be clean in order for me to comfortably allow these strangers to stay in my home free of charge for 12 days. Fucking ridiculous.
Kitchen drawers. Cupboards. The pantry. The fridge (17 dead flies. 17!? How did they get in there? When? Who let them in? Fuck!). The cupboard above the pantry that actually had cleaning products in that expired in 2012. Along with a few more dead flies. And heaps of dust. So much dust.
I hired 2 lovely Irish girls to help me clean for 2 hours ($100 - money well spent!) the day before the housesitters arrived. What a genius idea that was. My house is just lovely. It always was, but now it's lovely without being dusty.
The housesitters arrived today, they are delightful (semi-retired, here to visit grandchildren, easygoing) and I am so pleased to be leaving them in my wonderful, clean home. We are going to have a lovely Christmas break and I look forward to returning to our deliciously clean and tidy (for now) home.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Secret Santa

Here's something I wasn't exactly prepared for.
Yesterday morning, as his sister ate breakfast alongside him, Leo nonchalantly said 'Mum, is Santa real?'.
There was an awkward pause whilst a low hum of static blew through my mind. Eventually I said 'well mate I believe in him'.
He looked at me inquisitively - 'a kid at school said it's just your mum and dad that do it'.
I managed to change the subject but later pulled Leo aside and said - 'mate - if you want to talk about any of that stuff make sure Mags isn't around to hear it - ok?'.
Ok. Great job so far Mum.
I mean, he's 9.5 years old. He's ready to know the truth. I'm just uncomfortable admitting to him that we've been feeding him bullshit for his whole life. Lovely, magical, present-inducing....bullshit.
Later that day after Mags is in bed I walk out to our lounge room. Josh & Leo are sitting together deep in conversation. Luckily I'd given Josh a head's up earlier and as he's never been particularly delighted with the whole Santa Lie, was more than ready to talk it through with his eldest child.
Leo looks at me, his eyes filled with a kind of bewilderment, a bit wounded, slightly shocked. 'Santa isn't true' he says.
I will honestly never forget his face in that moment. My child has grown up. I am so pleased, but heartbroken as well. I'm sure 9.5 is a good age to find this out. We sat and had an honest and funny conversation about the whole thing. He confessed to having his suspicions, for not only did he see some wrapping paper last year that looked exactly like santas, but he also thought the idea of flying reindeer was ridiculous.
Not quite as ridiculous as a rabbit that hands out chocolate to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus so we discussed both that and the tooth fairy. He is now in possession of very important truths that he must uphold - by lying to the people around him that don't yet know the truth.
What a complex web we've woven.
So tonight we are all sitting on the couch and little Mags, who is only 5, says 'Mum- is Santa real?' and I say - 'Well who's that on the tv mate? Looks like the real santa to me' (This week Elf starring Will Ferrell has been on the tv twice and we have watched it both times. I had never seen it before, but it has established itself as one of my all time favourite christmas movies ever. Hilarious. Poignant. Perfection.). Leo quickly pipes up to his sister, legitimately and almost truthfully - 'yeah! Of course he is Maggie'. And even I believe him.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Grandpa Ball

My Grandpa died this week. He was 98 and one of the best men I've known.
He was kind, compassionate, clever and strong. He told wonderful stories off the top of his head. He was both interesting and interested. People mattered to him. Kindness mattered. Treating other people the way you would like to be treated was his way.
I've a shoebox FULL of his letters. I didn't write enough back. I knew I would lament this when he died and I was right. I wish I wrote him more. He wrote of current affairs, the weather, he enquired after the family, school, work, he wrote the kids poems about a funny little mouse named Montgomery.
He was a wonderful person. I am proud to be his granddaughter.
Upon receiving the news that he had died I felt the breath leave my body. It took a moment to return. Despite knowing he was in ill health, that he was ready to go....I don't want him gone. I want him strong and kind and present. I grieve for him. I feel sadness run through me, a stream of loss.
I will keep him strong in my heart forever. Rest now Grandpa. See you on the otherside xo

Monday, October 12, 2015


It's been approximately 26 weeks since I broke this here hand.
After the initial shock and surgery were over I told myself 12 weeks. 16 at the most. It will get better. You need time to heal. It's your right hand. Be patient. Go easy.
So I did all that - or tried to. I returned to work after months off, I did all the physio I was told to do.
I took pride in my kick ass scar.
It didn't really get better though. It stayed sore, swollen and not that capable. It aches when I wake up, it hurts when I use it. If I knock it the pain jags down my body like a lightning strike.
The worst for me? I can't hold a pen for much over 5 minutes. So I can't write. I can't scribble. I can't doodle.
I feel lost. Afraid. I'm worried about the pain, about taking painkillers, about what to do next.
I'm sore. Not to mention slightly deformed.
My most recent xray showed a displaced screw is the cause of my 'discomfort'. It's the 3rd one down and appears to be nestling into the juiciness of my knuckles.
So it needs to be removed. More surgery. More money. More recovery.
I'm terrified. I don't really want to be cut open again. I don't want more pain. Or recovery. I'm over the uncertainty. I'm sick of being stoic. I've started complaining and I'm not sure I'll be able to stop. Pain, just like fatigue, accumulates. I'm tired of it. Worn down. I don't feel like being chipper or brave. I feel like whinging, possibly even crying sometimes.
Actually I may have burst into tears on my friend last Wednesday when I ran into her in the school carpark. There weren't too many people around and I knew she would understand. She just kind of rubbed my back & hugged me which was really all I needed. Aside from a better hand. That's pretty much what I need, but trusting someone enough to burst into tears on them is a pretty good thing. Thanks Cindy. You're a legend.
Most of all though I'm scared that it's not going to fix the problem. That I'm stuck with a dominant hand that doesn't perform. That we are going to pay more money to some rich asshat surgeon who doesn't really give a shit what becomes of me once I walk out of his office.
You know what I'm doing here? I'm keeping my expectations very very low. It took me 3 days to type this, because prolonged anything with my hand fucking hurts. But I had to write something.
I'm booked to go to Adelaide in a weeks time, child free, to have surgery & then recover at my Mums place for 5 days. I figure if I go in expecting it to be a terrible ordeal the chances are I'm going to be pleasantly surprised. That's the plan. I can feel you both wincing and wishing me luck from here. Thanks. I'll do my best.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Retail Queen

After not working for months because of my dodgy hand in the last few weeks I have picked up some extra work in 2 different retail stores at our local shopping centre.
Both are chain stores, with particular styles. For example in one store I'm encouraged to dress 'geeky chic' which I think, I said I think, is how I've always dressed. However one of the girls wears trouser braces and black framed glasses that are just for show - e.g. they have glass? plastic? in but are of no use to anyone who actually has vision problems. She also wears high wasted stonewashed jeans so needless to say we probably won't be friends.
10 years ago I was the manager of a successful small business working for wonderful people who allowed me a great deal of control within the shop. I loved customer service, making connections through a shared love of the products we sold, being friendly but not in your face, running the shop to suit the environment I lived in.
Here I am in a brand new world of formulated sales plans, KPI's, visual merchandising and a goddamn piece of machinery attached to the doorway that counts how many people enter the shop to keep track of how many convert to sales. A happy face appears on our home page if we hit 25%.
I had some 'training' with my manager recently in which she went over my sales figures for the past month. Apparently it seems I'm only selling 1.92 items per sale and I need to try and push it up to 2.5.
Which means adding on items at the counter.
It means selling people extra crap at discounted prices whenever they make a purchase.
I worked a 4 hour shift last week and during it my manager asked me about 15 times how I was going with my extra sells. Let's give them an acronym - 'exs'.
Beginning of shift - "Ok Clare, today we're going to have you on the register, working on selling those exs with every purchase. I've written you down some goals for today, I'd like you to sell 8 exs this morning."
Oh. Ok. I'll try.
"Well remember that if you don't sell your total then they pass down to the rest of the team and they then have to make up the difference."
Oh. Ok. No pressure then.
I try to sell them, without seeming like an asshole who is greedy for your money. I sell none. People either say 'No Thank You' in an almost defensive tone, or they pretend I haven't said anything and stare hopefully at the EFT machine, willing me to get on with it. Several times Miss Manager comes over to enquire how I'm going. The third time she does and I say, apologetically, 'nope, still none' and she looks at me like I'm her greatest disappointment.
By the third hour I've sold 2 exs,  and I'm starting to actually feel like a disappointment. The thing is - the exs are pretty shitty plastic crap that people just don't want to buy, regardless of my damn sales pitch. I'm biting my tongue each time she questions me for an updated exs tally - I want to say STOP IT WITH THE PRESSURE YOU FUCKER. I GET IT. I KNOW. 8. I HAVE TO SELL 8. I'VE ONLY SOLD 2. YOU'RE WASTING YOUR BREATH.
Instead I breathe deeply and finally enquire - 'so how many did you guys sell yesterday?'
She fluffs about a bit, looks through her Very Important Folder and eventually finds yesterdays tally.
8. She says, without looking at me.
Get fucked. They sold 8 yesterday. The same amount I'm being pressured to sell in 4 hours.
"Oh," I say. "That makes me feel a bit better!".
She looks at me again like I'm a small piece of shit on her shoe. I realise that I am not meant to be funny, or clever, or have personality, I'm just meant to sell fucking exs.
I feel a bit sick and eventually mention to one of my coworkers that the exs are a bit stressful.
She's about 20 and she looks at me like I'm a child. "Don't worry about them" she says.
"How?" I ask. "I keep being reminded about them! It's driving me mad!"
She looks at me kindly and wisely, for someone so young. "I just don't worry about them. It doesn't make any difference to me. I ask people if they want them, most of them don't, so no problem."
I feel surprised but also really relieved. She's exactly right. I'm doing what I have to do and it's completely unnecessary to take on any stress. Full stop.
So I shall persevere as a poorly paid mature age retail staff member despite the challenges. In this frightening new world of high performance and coworkers born in 1997, wearing pretend glasses. In fact that's probably the hardest part, those youthful and carefree sprites reminding me of who I used to be. Or possibly - who I still am. Minus the gammon glasses.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lost and Found

This post is kind of a combination of the last 2 that I submitted to ABC Open 500words.
Such a great opportunity to write and be read! The theme of this month was Lost and Found, hence my original title.

What I lost : The use of my right hand
What I found : my other hand
I've never been particularly good at sport and was reminded of this when I broke my right hand whilst playing netball some months ago. My third meta carpal suffered a diagonal 'unstable' break as a result of me running and trying to play netball. Never again.
I endured the pain for a day before even my delightful codeine haze couldn't hide the fierce throb of terrible injury. My Dr winced when he saw my X-ray and the emergency nurse made sure to hook me up with some quality Endone. Thanks man. I can't remember what you look like but I'll never forget you.
I'm informed my break will need surgery, which included a plate and seven screws. Yes that does seem like a lot, but expensive surgeon knows best. I'm still paying that rich man off, a slow and humiliating process as I haven't worked since my injury.
These are some of the things you can't do when you break your dominant hand.
Use scissors.
Do your bra up.
Comb your childs hair (especially when said child does not like hair to be combed).
Use a stove (safely).
Drive a car (safely)
Open jars.
There are more, but I'm boring myself.
So as dire as this was, something amazing happened.
I found out I had a left hand!
I always knew she was there, but she was so submissive! She never did a thing for herself. She just followed along with Mr Right.
Just to clarify - I never knew my hands were different sexes. But they definitely are, sexist as this may seem. It's been a big few months of learning for everybody. We're getting there.
To begin with, she was very shy. Unsure of her abilities and very out of practise. We started immediately to write, first like a 4 year old then better and better until I self proclaimed my script to be on par with a 12 year old. 8 years handwriting progress in 6 weeks!! Astonishing.
I'm not one to wear a lot of make up but I do like a strong eyebrow. My first attempt was heavy, messy, uneven. My mind was working so hard at telling Ms Left what to do, but it was sluggish, unnatural and tiring! Using so much mind power is draining. My eyebrow vanity was determined and those bushy delights over my eyes are further proof - the human mind is capable of great things.
It turns out the list of things I can do with my left hand is way longer than the things I can't do with a broken hand.
So good job Ms Left. I'll never forget you again.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Helping Hand

There are numerous witty hand related titles I could have used for this entry. Hand Me Down. Handfull. Second Hand Story. Hard to choose.
To fix my broken metacarpal an overpriced surgeon cut my hand open, scraped some bone from a healthy meta carpal then grafted it onto the broken bone. To enhance the graft he added a plate which attached to the bone using 7 screws.

Yes that is rather a lot of screws.
Yes it was and often still is quite painful.

Here is a list of things I'm not to do :

Drive a Car
Use my hand
Get the plaster wet

Although a short list, it's quite restrictive.

A visit to the doctor yesterday resulted in a fairly stern warning/reminder to Not Use My Hand. To Keep It In A Sling. To Try And Rest.

I'm finding these instructions slightly difficult to adhere to.
Have you ever been to the toilet using only one hand?
Have you ever tried to cut a cucumber using only one hand?
Have you ever eaten a steak with one hand?

I'm getting accustomed to asking for help. A man in the supermarket pulled a bunch of bananas apart for me. I've stopped using the self serve registers. I'm allowing friends and family to cut my dinner up.

I've always thought one of my better qualities was my independence. Was quite proud of it.
Now I feel vulnerable, a little out of control and somewhat powerless. It's challenging.


Here are some other good things.
In the space of 3 weeks my handwriting has improved from a 4 year olds to a 9 year olds. That is progress.
My Mum is here and she is cleaning! The kitchen! The kids rooms! Real cleaning! I love her. Not only for the cleaning but it really is the cherry on top of amazing.
I've watched Seasons 1-4 of Parks and Recreation and Lesley Knope makes me happy.
By using my left hand for everything, I'm changing my brain. Right hand has been the boss for so long, Leftie just did whatever it was told. It didn't have to think.
Now, we are thinking. A lot. Arduously. Every action requires thinking about because Leftie is still learning. Ergo, I'm being mindful.
So there we go. Turning negatives into positives. Always changing. Developing new skills.
I think I'm finally an adult.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Of All The Luck

Congratulations are in order. Not only did I get selected for my first ever jury duty but I also broke my right hand! In the words of the hipsterish cool kids I work with: 'I know - right?'.
I feel its necessary to add I am in something of a codeine riddled haze but that it is working for me, especially the staring at nothing/can't really move out of my chair thing I've got going on.
I've made it to the computer, am not gonna give up now.
So I get selected as unlucky for some juror #13 on Tuesday morning. Meaning I'm to sit through the entire (3-4day) trial as a reserve and unless someone drops out I will be dismissed before the real jury decided their verdict.
Someone drops out - I'm off the bench! I thought this was kind of cool until I had to spend almost an entire day in a windowless room with 11 almost strangers trying to come to a unanimous decision about the fate of another almost stranger. Not fun, but we did it.
Broken hand and all.
Wednesday night we play mixed netball. 2 minutes to go, I'm gunning for the ball, get my fingers caught up in the netting that encloses our court, feel something tear/pop/wrench in my hand but I carry on, run around & avoid the ball as much as possible until time is called.
I feel very light headed, am clasping my injured hand tightly to my body and may possibly vomit. I'm aware I've done some damage but not willing to speculate. I consider going to emergency butfigure if I rest it, ice it and compress it I'll be right by the morning.
Fortunately a dear friend and team mate gives me some night time mercyndol and after 2 of those I'm the most relaxed I have possibly ever been. How did I not know about this drug? Mummys little helper.

So I spend the next day still on jury duty in pretty good pain but fairly well medicated, so it's bearable. One doctor visit and xray later (both bulk billed - no cost to me - Australia I love you) I'm in the hospital emergency room with an unstable meta carpal fracture. The nurse gives me an endone for the pain and the next 4 hours are really lovely.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Spilt Water

Tonight my 8 year old spilt an entire glass of water all over my bedside drawers, soaking one phone, 2 library books, my journal, the wall, a lamp and a power plug board.
I really wanted to yell at him. I stomped around, rescuing items and towelling things dry, thinking I just want to SHOUT! Bloody Bloody Bloody.
Anyway, other than stomping, I did not shout. I was quite pleased with myself about this because showing restraint is not my forte and I would have felt like an ASSHOLE if I had of yelled at him.
So I'm laying next to him after reading him a chapter of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, feeling pretty good. I love reading to my kids and I especially love that he still lets me read to him - he has outgrown a lot of me lately - I'm gonna hang onto this reading privilege as long as he'll let me.
So I hand him a glass of water and say  "Careful - you wouldn't want to spill it". He gives me a cheeky smile. I say - "Did you notice I didn't even yell - how good am I getting at this Mum stuff?"
His eyes light up and he says "Yeah but you did say a swear word"
I say "No. Nope. Definitely not"
He's grinning from ear to ear "Yes you did. And it was the worst one"
I'm shaking my head "No way mate. No way. You must have been hearing things"
He's laughing. I'm laughing. In all my stomping and not yelling I had forgotten that the only thing that had left my mouth when I heard the splash was an almighty 'FUCK!'
So what could have been a shitty parenting moment turned into a shared mischief. I guess I didn't exactly get it right, but I sure as fuck didn't get it wrong!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Now I've never really been one for gardening. It's hot, it's dirty and I've always found it a bit difficult. I'd look around the yard and think - well it's green and it's growing - I'll leave it be. Not quite sure what to do. Lately though, with this wondrous monsoonal weather, cool breezes and SO MUCH RAIN I've been tempted. Inspired I suppose.
Several of my good friends are gardeners. I admire them so for their  motivation in getting into the yard work on any given day, regardless of whats on tv, or what demands their children are hurling toward them. I want to be a gardener - it's such an appropriate hobby and I need more of them.
So my dear friend Leisa got us over to her Dads place, who has this amazing garden full of tropical splendour. His wife walked me through the garden, cutting off branches from many a tree/plant/bush/foliage and placing them in my arms with love. She said over the past 10 years they have given their friends cuttings from the same plants - many of whom have blooming gardens based on the produce they received the same way I was now receiving.
So we took it all home. Surprisingly 3 weeks earlier I had mulched our yard, because I thought it was about time. We have only lived here for 5 years. 3 hours and one trailer load of dirt scattered through the garden, I was exhausted but pretty bloody pleased with myself.
Heres what I know now, one week into this gardening hobby. It turns out you can cut branches of plants off, stick them in the ground and they grow. Especially during the wet season. Why do people even go to the plant shop? We now have a delicious array of crotons with leaves of deep green scattered with spots of orange and pink, stuck in a row along our fence line. Big luscious bromeliads with juicy branchlike leaves. Hibiscus and bougainvillaea in buckets waiting to be transplanted. Elephant Ears (possibly not the scientific name) looking all Jurassic Park in our delicious garden.
I am in the process of weeding out a plague of purple flowered devils, who have slowly overtaken our front garden. They won't be pulled out by hand - it's a trowel and glove job - I have the blisters to prove it. Terrifically there are about a thousand worms per square metre so the kids are completely onboard with gardening, as it seems worms are awesome. The fatter and juicier the better.
We dig in the rain, the wind, the heat. I find it strangely meditative, the sweat dripping off me, the pile of dug up weeds growing larger, the arranging of plants in a line. I've committed myself to doing 10 minutes a day, which is so easy I end up doing 2-3 times more. It's exercise, it's outside, it's rewarding. It's even free!
So. My ode to gardening in the wet season. Mild case of chafing and several (what I would consider) severe blisters, but dammit I'm sticking with it! Open Garden 2016 here we come!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Every (2-3) days I'm shuffling

I've started running again.
To clarify that - I've started shuffling again. I am beyond slow. It's possible I walk faster than I run.
Nevertheless it's definitely classified as running. And I'm doing it, regularly.
I've hooked up runkeeper, who cheers me on via my iphone & keeps sending me emails telling me what personal records I've broken. I love it. So supportive.

I've several playlists to choose from, all fast, dancey, motivating tracks. I've taken to wearing a headband so the earbuds stay in my ears, as it seems my entire body is capable of sweating, including my inner ear. I like to think I look pretty cool with that headband on, in fact I'm sure of it. Without it my hair is frizzy, several shades of brown/blond/grey and messy. Always messy. Even when I 'do' my hair it still looks messy. The humidity in Darwin only adds to my windswept appearance. Doesn't bother me most of the time, unless I catch a surprise glimpse of myself in a window and I wonder who is that strange looking person and why doesn't she brush her hair?

My feet have been troubling me for over 18 months now. Heel spurs, plantar fascitis, whatever it's called they hurt. Like crushed glass beneath the skin on the sole of my foot. Being overweight doesn't help matters. In fact, according to that rude and slightly offensive BMI chart I am now considered obese. My poor feet. What a load they must carry. I thought I would never run again, considering how hard it often was to walk. Then I found out about orthodics. Inserts for your shoes. You can have special ones fitted by a podiatrist, but that costs a lot. I went with middle of the range one size fits all from the physio and hello! My feet don't hate me anymore. I'm even feeling quite fond of them again.

Anyway, the running. The first few minutes it hurts, I reassure myself I will only keep going for another minute or two, then I'll walk for a bit. The next few minutes hurt more but I suck it up. Breathe and plod. Breathe and plod. Breathe and plod. Then miraculously that's what I'm doing, my mind is wandering but focussed. Breathe and plod. Breathe and plod.

I'm not going far, or for long periods. Averaging about 3k, running/shuffling/plodding for most of it.
I'm stretching like a yogi afterward (the trick is to keep my headphones in & let the music keep me moving), drinking heaps of water and feeling....shit hot. I love it.

Yesterday I took the dog to the beach and mostly we walked, but we are in the middle of a glorious monsoon and soon enough we were in the midst of some serious rainfall. So I ran, over the sand, laughing, puffing, running back to the car. It was a magnificent feeling, free as a bird and completely willing and able to run. The dog loves it. I love it. That's pretty good.