Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

A note about Clare

October 4, 2010 9 comments

By now, children across Queensland have been safely reinstalled at school for the last term of the year and parents have uttered something that loosely resembles a prayer of thanks.

But at one school on Brisbane’s northside, the dynamic this morning was different. Parents found out that one of their number had passed away on Friday morning, leaving behind a husband of fifteen years (and one week) and four young sons: the eldest being in year 4, and the youngest around 2 years old. Clare died at 1 a.m. on Friday from complications following a bone marrow transplant for leukemia. She was diagnosed last year and had been in and out of hospital since, but everyone had always expected that she’d be home again soon.

Today, people were too shocked to say much of anything. (I’ve had since Friday to ‘process’ the news). But what I do hope is that when people find their words, that they share them with the family. No-one really knows the right thing to say, or when, or how to say it; but I suspect that the greater tragedy would be to say nothing at all.

Clare was in the year above me, both at primary school and high school. Even though we didn’t know each other during those years as such, we met again when our children started at the very same primary school together. All the way through school, Clare had a quick and generous smile for everyone and it was that same smile (and irresistible, throaty laugh) that greeted me almost two decades later. I suspect that Clare touched a lot of people without knowing, without even trying.

It’s not unexpected that people will say nice things about the recently departed, however, even if you tried, you couldn’t find a single negative thing to say about Clare. She really was that good. When she was in a conversation with you, she was totally in that moment with you. She gave herself over to her family, entirely. She gave herself over to her faith. And she never complained about anything, or anybody.

While she was in hospital, she didn’t let on how much pain she was in; nor how it felt when her own baby had trouble recognising her with tubes and without hair. No. Clare, in her usual cheerful manner, would send me a message asking how my new chickens were going. Clare was never dying: she was living every moment.

Clare was a truly magnificent person. I hope people find as many ways as they can to tell Greg and the boys that.

R.I.P. Clare.

P.S. If people would like to share their Clare stories or offer words of support – feel free to click on the comments box and I’ll ensure the messages get across when the family’s ready to receive them (or do it on Clare’s FB page if it’s ok with Admin). Sometimes, it’s easier to write it than to say it. And sometimes, it’s easier to read it, than hear it.

Categories: Life, Love, Parenthood, Religion

The world needs more nannas

September 3, 2010 3 comments

With my Nanna turning 84 today, I reflect upon some of her wisdoms and how the world needs nannas more than ever.

Nanna was born in Poland, in 1926. She immigrated to Australia over 4 decades ago, with husband and son, to start a new life in a free land, where the fruits of one’s efforts were their own reward.

Her strength and cheerfulness doesn’t betray what a hard life she’s had. Communism. Starvation. Nazism. Being taken as a child and made to work on German farms. Outliving four husbands.

Yet, she can tell me that there were good German soldiers, who left their bread crusts for Polish children who otherwise wouldn’t have eaten that day. And that Russians were a good-hearted people, with a rotten government. And that to love and lose is better than to not love at all.

She marvels at the strength of the human spirit and that the world is filled with so many good people–that when her car broke down last week, people stopped to help. She gives. She loves her family. She works hard and believes that’s the key to a good and healthy life. She’s fiercely independent, except when she’s not (and that’s what family’s for). She bakes cakes, not only for me, but for my staff, because spreading a little joy and jelly-cake never hurt anyone.

So while our self-professed educated elite demand that we look backwards and forwards in despair and wear our global guilt with useless pride, Nanna has forgiven the past without lingering in it and enjoys the beauty in everybody she meets. She buys bacon from Russians, plays Pokies with Aussies and Ukrainians and eats sauerkraut with Germans. She takes only what she needs, and gives a lot more.

Happy birthday, Nanna. Kocham Cie. Sto lat!

How to Survive Twilight: Eclipse

Here are my best tips for getting through the latest movie in the Twilight vampire saga.

1. Before booking tickets, bone up on the previous two films. The best way to do that is to watch these reviews.

2. Book Gold Class. Not only will this help the third movie catch up to the gross of the first two, but if you are of age, alcohol helps. Failing that, any kind of digestible distraction helps.
3. Go with the girls. This is a girls-only fantasy film. If a male accompanies you, he’ll be expecting a reward … and it won’t just be tickets to The Karate Kid or The A-team next time.
4. Take someone who has read the books. Not even they know what’s going on, but together, you’ll have fun trying to work it out.
5. Wear sneakers, runners, joggers or sandshoes. There is so much blurry vision of people sprinting, the only thing missing is the Nike or Adidas logo, so bring your own. In fact, all that running might motivate you to run home. Fast.
6. Decide whether you’re on Team Edward or Team Jacob before you go. Everyone else does, even if sappy emo-girl Bella takes 2 hours to make up her mind.
7. Beware: the scariest thing about the film is the cinema full of middle-aged women trying to decide if they’re on Team Edward or Team Jacob (remembering this is a teen movie).
8. Spoiler alert: all the ladies end up rooting for Edward, because let’s face it, what woman longs to be changed into (instead of from) a hairy werewolf (instead of an ageless, powerful, irresistible version of herself)?

Males who have been to the film universally comment as follows:
1. Where’s our eye-candy?
2. What sort of a jerk would be lead on by a girl like that?
3. As if.

Just remember, it’s a love story …

Categories: Books, Love, Movies

The Meaning of Stuff

June 29, 2010 1 comment

Life seems to be preoccupied with stuff – the yearning for it, the pursuit of it, the acquisition, maintenance and the disposal of it.

If I were a bleached Brit rather than an Aussie, I might’ve called this piece, “The Joys and Sorrows of Possessions”, or “Possession Anxiety” and written 60,000 words to prove it. However, being the hardened pragmatist from the far-flung colonies, I shall persevere with “The Meaning of Stuff” and keep it short enough to read with coffee and several biscuits.

“Domestic Goddess”, “Spotless” and “No More Clutter” were but three of the most necessary but overlooked books rediscovered during our most recent house move. Their mere reappearance at that moment known as TOO LATE screamed F for fail. Did I think that the books would do the work for me? Perhaps. These self-help books related to the most challenging phase of possession obsession, namely the maintenance phase. Upon reflection, I was hot for the love of the chase in terms of possession relations, but unequivocally cool about what followed. Given the number of self-help books available, I was certain that I wasn’t alone in this guilt.

I’d had a week from the contract going unconditional to when it settled – a week to reorganise life from living big to living decidedly smaller. Being reminded of the old adage of Position Position Position was no comfort at all when not even half of our stuff would fit into the new-old place with views.

Fortunately, we’d had help galore from the long-suffering team known simply as “family”. They’d moved us that many times that really, we should all be good at it by now.

On a night when we could do no more and the new address was unbearably tight with boxes and stacked furniture, family stuck around and the great-grandmothers came to inspect and trip on things. All we needed was another four chickens inside (thanks to Miss Six), the six-kilo cat inside (thanks to Miss Nine) and the poodle-cross (or cross-poodle) to come home from grand-dad’s for a parole visit (after killing the last chicks) – thanks to the Auntie Who Thinks Of Everything. To use the choice vocabulary of last week’s Prime Minister (Mr Rudd), the place looked like it had been hit by a major shit-storm. Put another way, the moment was memorably execrable.

Once the elders who couldn’t hold their grog had left the building, we pulled out the champagne for the younger help, to see if it made us feel any better. One bottle at a time was opened, with nary a *pop*. Our pre-emptive celebrations were being thwarted and we should’ve taken it as an omen. Undeterred, we left the fourth bottle of champers in the fridge (we couldn’t take any more disappointment in one day), passed on the expired desserts and drank wine instead. We went to bed telling each other that things would surely be better tomorrow.

However, the next day manifested more angst, carrying on about how much stuff there was to move and how little time was left, particularly as the buyers were insisting on partially moving in before settlement. By the afternoon, the lone, brave and completely pissed off family member who remained with me through thick and thin (while Hubby and others returned to work), tied up the last trailer load for the day. We drove in a slow caravan of two 4WDs towing trailers. Nanna walked to bingo faster. Yet, it happened…. The big brown cargo bag (the type that gets tied to roof-racks) slipped off the second trailer and within the half an hour that it took us to realise, someone had picked it up. To this day, it is gone – four days and counting.

Out of everything that could’ve gone missing (and in 8 house moves in 15 years, nothing ever had), it had to be the bag with all the irreplaceable stuff – the pre-digital age wedding albums, baby albums from 1972 onwards, school photos from 1978 onwards, personal memorabilia, the original framed poem Rupert McCall wrote for me as a prize (which I’d had dedicated to my parents), childhood diaries… The things that had been protected for so many years, were gone.

Ringing the police every day and driving the route with eyes wide open scored nothing. It was when Hubby and I were tying up LOST signs on street poles and bus stops on what was the coldest night of winter, that I realised that I would’ve preferred to have lost something more tangible – a fridge, a couch – pretty much anything but the contents of that bag. While couches and fridges conjure up memories of how and when they were acquired, that miserable brown bag contained our whole family history – it was a recollection and celebration of our memories for when our memories fail us.

But then, while stringing up those signs with rigidly cold fingers, I had a thought about families who’d had to post LOST signs, in search of missing relatives, presuming they were dead, but hoping that they were not. With that sort of perspective, a person can pretty much let go of anything and still feel lucky.

So, in what was a physically and emotionally harrowing week, I learned something very important. In short, asset management is everything – otherwise the stuff we go to so much effort to accumulate becomes meaningless. We need good people around us to share the moments to attach significance to the stuff and as noted with the flat champagne times three episode, we can’t wait too long to share it – otherwise, all we’re left with is… stuff all ….