Thursday, December 22, 2016

Butterflies and Bonding

A week out from Christmas and two of my lovely friends and I decide to head to Litchfield National Park for 3 nights. Between us we have nine kids aged from 6 - 14. We organise to stay at the Batchelor Butterfly farm in their 12 bed Home Stay accommodation.
School finishes on a Thursday and by 5.30pm we are ready to go. We stop approximately 20 minutes later at Coolalinga Macca's for dinner. Leo and I create our own burgers and I have to say it is the best thing I've ever had sober from a fast food restaurant. Fresh lettuce! Haloumi! Red Onion. The chips are served in a metal basket and they taste terrific. I add dijonaise and it just brings it all together so perfectly.
We drive for another 45 minutes and just on nightfall we arrive at our destination. It's dark, but we can smell the fresh earth and farm animal manure as soon as we step out the car. The gardens are beautiful and lush, an array of flowers and bold green leaves that flick us as we walk the path to our house.
It has wonderful bright paintings on every wall and enough bunks and mattresses for all of us. Rooms were divied up into boys/girls/mums. It suits us, although sadly our enormous wooden framed king bed with the leopard skin blanket has the faint smell of vomit attached to it. We settle in and eventually sleep.
It's a slow start for our first morning. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, the kids feed the petting zoo (rabbits!goats!pigs!) carrots and the Mums do all the stuff to ensure some form of cleanliness and order. Eventually we leave for Buley Rockhole which is a little piece of paradise in the form of rocks and water. We jump, splash, swim, then walk, then eat a delightful picnic lunch.
We drag ourselves to Florence Falls and it is worth every hesitation - not many people, cool, clear water and the perfect jumping spot - for those that dare. Six metres up the cliff face that the 8 year old shimmies up in moments (she's been here before) and then leaps daringly into the water. It's gorgeous to watch. I wish I could say I joined in....but unfortunately the fear of slipping off the side of the cliff face and causing injury to myself was too great. I did let my ten year old do it though!
We are fairly exhausted when we get home and enjoy a home made meal of burgers, sausages and salad to finish the day.
The owner of the Butterfly Farm is quite a character and seems harmless enough. I nip out to the car by way of their back yard as the front way is completely dark and appears closed. On my return he and another male staff member cajole me about the beer I'm taking in, joke that we should share it with them. One approaches me from behind and pretends to dance with me. It's creepy and innapropriate and I'm seething as I walk away.
I tell the Mum's as soon as I return and am reassured. Next time I will take a torch and go the dark way, avoid them. I feel a bit better but still wonder how is it some people think it's ok to invade another persons space so easily. I wish I was bold enough to tell him that it made me uncomfortable but settle on possibly submitting a mediocre trip advisor review.
The next day we wonder around the town of Batchelor for a bit. It's pretty small and the museum is closed so we look at the unusual miniature castle and then go shopping at the local store. We spend a small fortune on icecreams and I hire two dvds - Hunt For The Wilderpeople and Ghostbusters. They prove very popular later in the day.
We head back to Florence Falls and this time instead of walking down the 135 steps I follow the Shady Creek Walk that is 1.1kms long. It is majestical. Woodlands turn to Wetlands and all I can hear is water, wind and birds. There are little bridges that run over the creek and it is picture perfect - bright green moss, gentle running water and ancient land surrounding me.
We spend another couple of hours swimming and jumping at Florence. I insist we all walk back along Sandy Creek which is surely a better option than climbing UP 135 steps back to the carpark. It seems so until one of the children discovers a leech on her ankle and just about dislocates her knee trying to shake it off. Then it's like a contagion as child after child finds leeches on themselves. Fortunately they are pretty small and we are a tough crowd, kids are ripping them off and throwing them into bushland without breaking stride. So proud.
We go for dinner that night at the Butterfly farm restaurant. It's quite busy and several local families are eating there - surely a good sign. Sadly the kids $13 fish and chips turns out to be the lesser known cousin of fish - the finger. I eat some delicious barramundi and someone else has the nasi goreng which tastes fantastic. Adult meals are almost $30 a pop which is a bit distressing but worth it. I speak a bit more with Chris the owner and enjoy it - he's a fascinating character and 20 years ago bought an empty block of land and turned it into this wonderful, exciting home. Just don't be grabbing people from behind pal, not cool.
The next morning it's pack up and tidy time. The three days have passed in a flash and I feel relaxed and loved. The kids are happy, the car stinks because water spilt and I didn't clean it up, but I feel regenerated and connected. It's a privilege to spend time with such solid women and their entertaining children. I mean the bottle flipping! Seriously -if you haven't heard the sound of a bottle landing every three seconds for hours on end then you have not lived!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On Writing

About six months ago I went to the library one Sunday afternoon and searched for the book 'On Writing' by Stephen King. I'd heard it was a great book for writers and I was ready to be inspired.

Despite the catalogue insisting there was one copy available, the helpful library person (librarian?) and I could not find it and believe me - we looked. Since then it has sat quietly on my card, a simple request for a book, going nowhere.
Three months later, knee deep in second hand books I'm sorting for the school white elephant stall and it appears in my dirty hand like an offering from the volunteer /writer gods. So I take it home and begin to read, but very slowly, I can't fully absorb myself into it. This is an old dusty book that has a lot of great stories. It sits by my bed and gets picked up maybe once a week and now that I think about it - I haven't read any in over a month.
Then today I'm once again spending some Sunday afternoon time at the library and I enquire about another book I have on order. It's available for me but not at this library, it's at the other one which doesn't open on a Sunday. The librarian looks pleased though and tells me to hang on for a minute because there is something out the back for me. I think she means another copy of the new David Baldacci I'm waiting for and I'm a bit excited waiting for her to return.
She brings me out a brand new edition, clean smelling, paper back copy of 'On Writing'. It looks and feels so full of promise - I can't wait to read it. (Still looking forward to picking up the Baldacci tomorrow though).
Two weeks ago I bought myself a $400 laptop, so I could/would write more. Finding the energy to write out the thoughts that swirl around your mind into something cohesive, that connects, that is's intimidating. Yet it's also joyful, liberating.
Yesterday I received some wonderful praise for this blog. It was unexpected and heartfelt and it lifted me up to the clouds. Connection through words on a screen.
I think what I'm feeling might be called inspiration...

Thursday, November 17, 2016


When I was a kid I loved singing. I was in the school choir, I got to sing with Kamahl in 1987(?) and Peter Combe live on stage. Wonderful experiences, the excitement and joy of singing together as a group. I loved it.
Then at some point, probably age 11 or 12 I lost interest. Maybe it became embarrassing, nerdy or maybe it looked like I was trying too hard. So I stopped singing in public and instead shut myself in my room and sang into my hairbrush.
I knew I wasn't a great singer, but occasionally I could pull off some serious Tori Amos or Madonna. But I stopped being able to sing in front of people. I could manage a soft drone, but singing from my belly - I physically couldn't do it.
For years it's been on my bucket list. Learn to sing. I figured if I could sing well I wouldn't be so scared to sing publicly. Unfortunately I was too shy to get singing lessons, so I just continued to sing alone in the car or very softly around people.
A few things happened that changed all that. I started singing to my kids and sometimes, if no other adults were around, I sounded good! I sang those nursery rhymes loud and proud.
I also started going to a monthly Taize session, where for 40 minutes we sing/chant in candlelight. The darkened room helped and if there was someone there who could really sing, well occasionally I could join in with them, lifting my voice and feeling that release. I started to feel connected again.
Finally, I made a friend who whenever we got drunk together would insist upon playing songs we all knew and loved from the 70s and 80s and we would sing. Loudly, drunkenly, passionately. I stopped feeling so shy and just enjoyed it.
So this same friend and I found a choir run by Sing Australia every Thursday evening. The first night we went and they asked whether we were alto or soprano I nearly ran out the door. Thank goodness for Leigh, with her quick wit and dry humour, we stayed. We sang, mostly quietly but there were moments of letting go, joining in. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and the best part was we weren't the only ones singing out of tune! Nobody worried about that - they were there to sing! Just sing. It didn't matter if you weren't 'good'.
Tonight was our fourth visit. I'm getting louder, braver and singing from my belly. There are moments when my skin tingles all over because together we are singing and it is glorious. Granted there are other moments when I think oh god make it stop this is terrible, but mostly it just feels good to sing. Tonight, at the end, we sang Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and it was magnificent. I'm pretty sure he might have heard us in heaven.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Revealing Women

Last night I performed in a show for the Fringe Festival called Revealing Women.
We were 6 women, each telling our own stories along the themes of vulnerability, naked, forbidden and strong.
The rehearsals were good, but occasionally arduous and nerve wracking - how would we ever learn our lines in time?
I was excited, but terrified.
My piece was a bit rude, definitely not something I could rehearse around the children at home. I recorded it onto my phone, then rehearsed over and over in my car, walking the dog, on my lunch break.
I was terrified that I would freeze on stage and completely forget or fluff my lines.
All of a sudden it's performance night. I feel okay and I look okay, particularly after one of the girls loans me her amazing red lipstick. I'm nervous but calm.
We walk on stage to introduce ourselves and I spot the front row - 8 of my gorgeous friends beaming up at us. I hear them, laughing, cheering, having a wonderful time. There are about 30 people in the crowd and they are fantastic, so enthusiastic and supportive.
Then it's my turn. I walk out, spotlight is so bright, I can't really see anyone, just lights and blackness.
And I nail it. Every word, every pause. I smile and use expression, I feel confident and funny and comfortable telling this story, my story.
It's the same for each of us. The audience are wonderful, we all feel so proud and grateful.
Afterwards my friends come backstage and my dear friend Leisa hands each performer 2 pink roses. I get so many cuddles and compliments and I am buzzing with joy and adrenaline.
I still am.

What a wonderful thing it is to get out of your comfort zone, to push the boundaries, to collaborate with other people. I'm so delighted. Tonight we do it all again!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Maybe it will be alright.

For the past 3 years I've been going to the same hairdresser. She runs her salon out of her home now, but it used to be from a little shop in a nearby suburb.
She offers a nanny service, so whilst you have your hair cut your child(s) are looked after by a qualified childcare person, in a room adjoining the salon.
I have told her lots of things. She's told me some and is never shy of an opinion, but has never said much about the cancer that her body had, then fought and for a while, beat.
She has 3 young boys, the oldest is about 11, I think.
I called to make an appointment but there was no answer. I got a call back the next afternoon, her old assistant/apprentice (both terms are valid, surely) who said she was coming back up to work because Jo was having some time off.
I assumed the worst, but didn't expect it. I wonder if that's how she felt?
Word filters through, quickly. It's back, all through her.
I think about ways I can help, could I cook meals maybe?
I don't know her well, really. Yet I feel a connection to her, a sense of familiarity and friendship. She certainly knows some about me. She was easy to talk to, despite her strong opinions.
She made me feel validated, she made me look good and she made me laugh. I feel a deep sadness for her. Her family.
I wonder how many people will say the wrong thing. Or even say the right thing. If there is such a thing. How many sympathetic looks she will receive. How she will tell her story.
Maybe she'll beat it. Maybe it will all be okay. We'll just wait and see. Maybe it will be alright.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Shit Story

Wednesdays are my day off. It's the school holidays and my darling Mum is here to look after the kids. It's been wonderful. We are all relaxed, enjoying ourselves and spending quality time together.

We saw a movie this morning and I encouraged Mum to head off afterwards and do some shopping. The kids each had 2 friends coming over so it was going to be a loud, childlike afternoon. She deserved a break.

So the friends come over. 2 brothers, Leo's mates and a brother & sister, Maggie's mates. All easy, relatively quiet, un-argumentative children. My favourite kind. The younger brother of Maggie's mate ditches the girls pretty quick and goes to play xbox with the big boys. All is relatively peaceful for about 35 minutes.

I decide to pop my head in to Leo's room and see how the boys are going.
One of them says
'I smell poop'
The 3 big boys are looking at me in desperation. The smaller guy looks anywhere but at us and the first opportunity he can dashes out the door.
'Maybe it's just a fart?' I say, then on inhale realize that it's much more than a fart.
It's possibly a terrible thing.
I enter the girls room and the first thing the sister tells me is 'I smell something bad'.
I say 'Do you know where your brother is? Is he ok?'
'He's behind the door' they tell me and I see him standing, frozen behind the door.

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that I dealt with the following situation kindly, quietly and calmly. At no point did that poor child feel any worse about his situation because of me. I was a fucking saviour. God may it never happen but if my own kids ever shit themselves ANYWHERE may they have a sweet kind Mum angel such as myself to sort that shit out. Pun intended.

So I gently and quietly ask the boy to come with me to the bathroom. On entry I see he has already been in there which explains the shit explosions in, on and around the toilet. His pair of shit ridden jocks are stuffed in the corner of the room, I follow the trail of brown splashes to find them.

I'm unsure where to start, but not for a minute does he see my distress. I turn the shower on, hot and fast and throw his jocks in there. I explain I would like him to have a quick shower to make sure all the poo is gone. He needs to remove his shirt, but not his shorts, he can take them off once he is in there and clean himself properly.

I pull the shower curtain across so he can deal with his shit appropriately and I can deal with the rest of it. I'm dry retching as quietly as possible, spraying bleach on each and every surface, one hand stuffed over my nose the other scrubbing, wiping, rinsing. I clean and clean and clean until thank god all I can smell is bleach. I fucking love bleach. What a glorious, rewarding smell.

He gets out of the shower and I wrap him up in a towel, give him some slightly too big shorts and remind him to wash his hands again. I ask if he would like me to call his Dad to pick him up? No, he says, I want to stay. One part of me thinks this is great, because he is in a safe space and he likes it here, the other part of me is having a massive panic attack thinking fuck fuck fuck if there is a Round Two I cannot handle it. What if it gets on the furniture?

Anyway he stays, doesn't shit on anything (else) and I'm impressed with all the kids reactions (pretty much nothing and the big boys even let him back in to play xbox). I wash my hands about 16 times and drink several drinks that evening in an attempt to rid myself of the visions, the terrible flashbacks.

I scrub the bathroom floor one more time before bed, then I came in to write this. What a fucking experience. I fucking nailed it. Today I was a queen, a goddess, a saint. I never, ever, ever want to live through that again, but in the meantime, I'm a superstar. The more praise I heap on myself the further away from shit sprays I move. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

You Write Mate?!

So I started a writing group.
Well, when I say I, I actually mean me and my awesome friend Steph started it (because honestly if she had of said Nah Clare that's a shit idea I would have been like, Oh, Yeah, probably, yeah, nah, if you don't want to do it then neither do I) but she was like 'YEAH - excellent!'. So I in turn was like, YEAH! This is excellent.
It turns out it is quite excellent. We text message bantered over the name - Write Club, Write On, You Write...which quickly became You Write Mate?! which is possibly the best most Australian name for any writing group ever.
Our first session had 10 people, 2 blokes, 8 ladies, only 2 of whom were my mates! Steph and I had prepared a loose running sheet, we were aiming for creative fun & getting words down on paper. It was a brilliant night. We walked out grinning from ear to ear.
A month later we held our 2nd session and it too was terrific, 10 people again, a couple of actual serious writers which was a bit scary and I'm fairly certain that they won't come back - but as for us amateurs - we love it!
It's relaxed, nobody critiques anybody else and occasionally people produce something in 10 minutes that is amazing!
I'm so proud of it! I'm writing creatively and getting other people to as well. Occasionally I look up during a session and see faces bent over pens on paper writing away and I feel brilliant! We made it happen. A community of writers, together.
Definitely pretty write mate.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Next Life

There is this slightly annoying advert on tv for our local university that says....'Are You Ready For Your Next Life?' in regards to enrolling in and studying for a degree. Well it turns out that I am ready for my next life, but it doesn't begin with university.
A few weeks ago I had a sad few days in preparation for Maggie heading off to full time school. I knew she would love it, that she was ready for it, that it would be amazing but I was desolate that my baby was moving on. Parenting has broken my heart a few times and this was one of them.
Until I got home that first morning after dropping her off, took my newly fixed bike on a 10k ride and felt a freedom I hadn't known for YEARS! The combination of muscle burn, sweat and the wind in my hair was perfect for such a big day.
I've never been much good at housewifing and although the floors are clean and the meals are (occasionally) delicious I had been feeling pretty flat - enjoying my freedom but not feeling any sense of purpose?
So I applied for a job.... THEN I GOT THE JOB! With a wonderful organisation as the coordinator of a new program working part time hours. It's everything I wanted! I still can't quite believe it's happened. I have this ridiculous, hysterical feeling of joy and promise and PURPOSE!
So tonight is the eve of my next life beginning. I needed to share it, because it's a bloody great feeling. Thanks for reading x

Thursday, January 7, 2016

School Holidays

We are in the middle of Week 4 school holidays.
Now I love school holidays. Sleeping in, staying up a bit later, lazy mornings, hanging with the kids.
We run on a balance of about 65% great, 35% fuck this I'm enrolling you kids in vacation care STOP ARGUING ABOUT BULLSHIT.
However I will not enrol my children in vacation care, mostly due to the fact I'm not currently working and no-one will pay for it, but also because a few years ago Leo did go for about a week and it was not a great experience.
Anyhoo. We are making our way through the holidays, together.
After spending an entire day with one another today, I'm talking swimming, playground, completing a 300 piece puzzle, driving, eating, reminding them to clean their teeth.

Question - how many times do you need to tell a person to brush their teeth before they actually start to do it without being told? Yesterday we had been out for about 45 minutes (queuing in Medicare/Centrelink no less) when I questioned my kids as to whether they had brushed before we left the house. The answer was no. So that means my 9 year old STILL needs reminding. Which equates to thousands of daily reminders.
Good to know.

Anyhoo. Tonight I decided I needed a bath. Josh was in the kitchen cooking his dinner.
Sidenote : I love to cook. Occasionally.
I also love not to cook, sometimes. Tonight was one of those nights. So the children and I had cheese toast and cucumber slices (one of our faves) & Josh spent about an hour in the kitchen preparing his steak, homemade potato cakes and caramelised onion. It was ready by about 8.45pm which is almost my bedtime & if I had to wait that long for dinner I would be curled up in a corner sobbing - so I didn't feel I missed out on too much.

Back to the bath. I shut the bathroom door, decide not to lock it, sink into the deliciously hot and bubbly water.
Knock knock knock. Door opens.
"Mum, can we have an ice-cream?"
Door closes. message is relayed to sibling. 10 seconds passes.
Knock knock knock. Door opens.
"Mum I'm still hungry"
Is Dad in the kitchen? Ask him.
Door doesn't quite close. About 20 seconds passes.
"Mum, can I have an apple?"
Yes. Door is left wide open.
"Mum can I have a nectarine?"
"Where are they?"
In the fridge.
20 more seconds.
"Where in the fridge?"
In the drawer.
15 seconds.
"They aren't in the drawer"
Look in the fridge.
"Where in the fridge?"
In the fucking fridge dickhead. (Ok so I thought that, I didn't say it.)
Check the shelves mate.
23 seconds pass.
"They aren't there Mum"
Yes they are.
"Can you look Mum?"
17 seconds. "I can't find them Mum".

I take a few moments to submerge my head, try to be thankful for the 7 minutes of glorious bath time I've been allocated and then I turn and look him in the eye.
How long do you think it will take me to find them mate? I'm thinking 15 seconds max.
He says "I don't think there are any Mum".
I graciously heave myself out of the bath & wrap myself up in my Mum only towel. Its about a month old & the chances are it won't retain the title of Mum Only for long. For now though, it's luxurious, soft and special. I love it.
We walk to the fridge (6 seconds?) and as I open the door I start to count....1....2....3.....
It takes me 4 seconds to find the nectarines. They were in the door, not on the shelf. My mistake. Dickheads.
We have spent the rest of this evening curled up in the parental bed watching screaming goats on youtube. I mean that shit is hilarious.
There are moments, hours, sometimes days where I fret that I could be more, should be more than just a Mum. That time will come. For now, there is a day like today, where we got it almost completely right, together. Thank goodness for screaming goats.