Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rain, rain - just go away!!! Come and play another day!!!

We are trying to finalise all of those last jobs before we put this house on the market.  Today, Chris was beginning to paint the back door, he had already done other touch up work, and trims etc.  I was going into town to pick up some things for gifts for Easter, and as I drove my car down the driveway - Guess started raining again! 

As I drove through the city, the rains became stronger and more fierce.  They poured down so much at one stage that I had to put my windscreen wipers on at the fastest rate, just to see my way to drive over the Fitzroy bridge!  I couldn't believe it! 

Every time we have attempted to do anything outside, there are obstacles.

I'm beginning to get suspicious of Mother Nature.  So far since the beginning of January '11 we have lived through 69 climatic days, 43 of them included rain and major storms.  There have only been 26 days during that period when we had at least some sun and no trace of rain - that's not really indicative of a good summer in my books!  These 26 days have not been consecutive, so just recently, while we experienced 2 days of strong winds, and sun, and at times boiling humid heat, at least we did not have rain.

But then, today happened. I think She is trying to tell us something--but meanwhile, until She just comes right out and tells us - we'll keep working through Her temper tantrums and mood swings...listen here, Mother Nature, we are determined to move to Cairns - so come hail, wind, rain, or even snow - we will do it!  (Maybe I shouldn't bait her!!)

I had a close look at my feet tonight--I think they are forming webs!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Being introduced to my first three days in Melbourne

Flinders Street StationWhen I first arrived in Melbourne, Australia - I knew no one.  I had just met some fellow USA teachers on the special Qantas flight, who, like me, had made this journey to Australia to teach high school in Victoria, while the current Australian teachers went back to study for their now mandatory fourth year of study.

My group of fellow teachers, most of us still quite young, (I was 23), were taken to a local hostel, (an old mansion type building that had been converted into dining rooms, meeting rooms, and accommodation.)  We were all given small single rooms, and a schedule to live by for the next three days.  We had meetings, and discussions on Australian way of life, and teaching strategies, and name it! 

During our free times, I just headed straight out the front door from this grand old building, and started exploring.  I cannot remember what suburb it was in, but am tempted to say St Kilda.  Anyway, I was loving my new environment, the sound of the people when they spoke, the traffic, the various little street shops and bakeries.  What I noticed first was the glorious aroma of baking bread, and the mixture of aromas as the various beautiful, varied shaped loaves of bread were placed on the bakery shelves inside the shop along with those that just lay uncovered in the shop-front window. The bakery counter glass compartments held pastries of all descriptions and varieties that I had never tasted before, and I was sure that I would make it my goal to get introduced to these wonderful treats.  I felt the wonderment that I was in a new country with the whole future stretched out in front of me. 

I talked with so much enthusiasm  to any shop-keeper who would approach me.  It was infectious I think, because I usually ended up looking at their photos from their wallets, or was allowed to have taste sensations in some bakeries.  (My husband Chris says that they probably filled my mouth with food to stop me from talking and asking more questions.  I think they liked me, and that's the story I'm going to stick to!)

I discovered international restaurants and Australian cafes with their blackboard menus, and no table service.  (That took me a while to realise though).  Out of courtesy on my second day exploring, one of the staff members in a local cafe stopped by my table and asked me if I had ordered yet, and I said  " No, I haven't.  But would like to. Oh, and may I have a glass of water please!"

The stunned look on the face of the staff member amazed me, as I was directed to the front counter and told to choose something from the board -- but I did notice that he did put a glass of water on my table, and I wondered why he was stunned that I should have to ask for it!  ( I learned later, that in these cafes there just isn't or wasn't then any table service, and automatic servings of water was not the accepted custom.  I was lucky he even bothered to deal with me!)

I discovered that a hamburger with the lot meant that I would have to dislocate my jaw to get my mouth around it, but that the strange mixture of egg, bacon, salad, beetroot, and hamburger and cheese was not a bad taste sensation---just very filling!

Back at the hostel we were finally given our teaching placements.  A lot of the teachers were placed in Melbourne and surrounding areas, but I was placed in a wonderful sounding little town called  Rainbow.  I loved the idea!  (When I was doing my student teaching, my students had given me a plaque that read: 'I Believe in God because of Rainbows').  I thought that Rainbow and I had probably been brought together now for a reason!

The Victorian Minister of Education visited us at our hostel, and after a while had a private conversation with me about my placing.  He showed concern and wanted to know if I was OK with the placement.

 "OK? I'm over-joyed!"

"But do you realise that it is in the scrub, and there are limited facilities there?"

"They have a school which needs a teacher, and just listen to the name of the town - Rainbow! It has to be such a beautiful place!"

Just grinning the Minister replied, "Well, I will be travelling to Rainbow and surrounding areas in the near future, and I'll make a point to check on you to see how you are going.  I thought you might have been a bit worried about being so far away from the city".

"Don't think so, I grew up in a small town - (32,000 people) - how small can Rainbow be?"  (I found out later that it had a very small population best measured in about the 500- 600 figure area.)

The Minister just grinned, saying " Well, I will definitely make sure that I check on you.  I wish you a good experience."

"Thank you, Sir.  I'm sure it will be wonderful!"

And you know....I was right!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I mentioned briefly my time spent with Hattie and her lavendar plants and hooked rugs and canary, a magical time in my childhood.  But I need to explain more about Hattie - she just wasn't my special friend and neighbour, this 75 - 90 year old woman ( I never did know how old she was---I just knew she was a lot older than any of the parents in our neighbourhood.)  But she was someone who could move well and weighed just a bit more than a feather!

Hattie lived alone in a small cottage at the bottom of our street.  She belonged to every child in the neighbourhood.  She had a son, but I never knew him--he was older and had moved away--I never asked if she had any other children because we were her children--she belonged to us!

I can remember all the afternoons that I just had Hattie to myself, and we would sit and talk - I probably did most of the talking, but Hattie was a very good listener.  But sometimes when I would drop in for a visit there would be some of the other kids of the neighbourhood there already.  On these special days Hattie would make her carmel popcorn--probably the best things I have ever tasted in my life!  It was like eating warm, melting kernels of brown sugar and fun.

She usually had always at least one rug on her frame that she was working on, but usually on one of those days we would climb into the attic and bring down some of her others, and we would all pick one to sit on, while we sat in her very small parlor and just were together.  Sometimes Hattie would tell us stories, but usually we just loved being there--I think all of us were always on our best behaviour and showed very much respect.  I can remember laying on my favourite, colourful flower covered hook rug, often close to where Hattie was sitting, and would close my eyes and just smile and listen. I'd listen to the canary singing out in the small sunroom, and would listen to the excited jabber of my neighbourhood buddies, and would anticipate the possible carmel popcorn treat.  I was very content.  This was my treasured place, and Hattie was the white-haired ruler of this magical world.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The birds here are wild!

OK. I have to tell you this one quickly! I am becoming so amazed at these birds that have entered my life here......

Yesterday morning early, I walked past the large deck sliding glass doors, and was amazed at what I saw...there sitting on the top deck railing was a family of about 4 magpies, including my teenager, who I have mentioned before.

Next to them was another family of honey-eaters, a grouping of about 4 on the top railing and another 3 a few railings down...

Sitting next to the honey-eaters was a grouping of lorrikeets, at least 5 on the top deck railing, and 4 of them sitting under the table next to the deck railing.

They all just sat there, irresolute....waiting...for me.. for food...for a treat...but just sat waiting!!  Looking at me, as though I should now provide!

Yep you guessed it, I went inside and cut up a banana and a mandarin and went outside and threw it over the deck, where by now, they were all waiting.  But what really amazed me this time was that they all bogged in together....the magpies were eating with the lorrikeets, and the honey-eaters would join the crowd and fly up the the deck to eat their treats---(They are slower eaters, and like to take their time to eat their treats in peace - I can understand that!)

I went back inside and stood at one of the big deck windows and just watched them - that way I wouldn't disturb them ---they were all so well behaved and equally shared amongst each other --my little family is maturing!!!

As I write this, Squirt is sitting behind me and insisting that it is "Hello!" time.  If I start talking to her too early in the day, she just doesn't stop --so I have told her "It isn't morning yet, and just to be a bit quiet"  She is now muttering, "Hello......Strap...chirp, chirp, Hello!"  I'm trying to ignore her, but she really does crack me up!  Kind of telling a little kid to go back to bed, it isn't morning far it is working..I just dare not talk back with her!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Forever the performer!

I have never shied away from the limelight and the spotlight - although I do protest, stating that I am shy.  (for some reason others don't tend to believe me though).

When I was very young I used to sing in my local church's Christmas pageants, and/or recite the part in the nativity scene as the angel from above high---"Behold!  I bring you good tidings of great joy!  For unto you is born this day in City of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord......"  I was very little, but had the blond hair and very innocent and believeable eyes ( I still think that is why I was cast--had nothing to do with talent - probably similar to Hollywood in that same way...). 

One year I was asked to sing a solo - I've been trying to think of the song, but can only imagine it must have been 'Away in a Manger'--anyway, I had to go to a church member's house at night and practice while she played the piano - there were 3 verses and chorus that I had to learn.  It was more work than I thought it would be!  But, they had a cute dog, and when I could, I would escape and play with it!  My Mum and Arlene always found me though, and pushed me back to the piano for more practice.

The night of my solo in the Pageant arrived!  I was ready!  I had my white gown on, and my angel wings, and was singing the first verse.  Then it occurred to me that I couldn't remember the other verses, so as the piano played away, I just kept singing....the same first verse.  Someone soon realised and somehow after 3 renditions of the same first verse--I was signalled to leave the stage/altar area which was the main stage for the pageant.   I think there may have been smiles and some laughter, but I just bowed as I found that much more elegant than curtsying, and walked off proudly. 

There was some commotion back in the ante-rooms of the pastor's study as they tried to decide how to recover, and I just said that:

 "I have had a delightful time, and Jesus probably loved how much I loved singing about him.  I enjoyed it!  And it's much better than singing Happy Birthday all the time - that song can get so boring!"

 Everyone just stopped and stared at me, and I just walked away to take my wings off.  It was very quiet after that..I'm thinking now that they probably realised that I knew why we were performing that night, and that perhaps they had forgotten.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

IQ tests and me....

When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher and the counsellors at the school decided that I needed to undergo a week long program of IQ tests (at least it seemed like a week). I was forever being pulled out of class and made to put puzzles together to a time clock or fit weird shapes into strange holes - I had to line up pictures and write stories and do all sorts of things.....(Sometimes I thought I was being made to go through all of this so that my teacher could have a rest - I had a lot of questions in those days....)

Well, the decision was made to take me out of my third grade class and bang me straight into the 4th grade.  This was about 3 months into the school year - so it was a very strange experience.  I enjoyed - sort of- the attention, and these kids were at least learning something more interesting than what I had been forced to sit through in 3rd grade, but the kids in the class didn't like it that a 3rd grader was invading their territory.  And at lunch-times my 3rd grade friends didn't like it that I had been taken out of their class and put up with the 4th graders.  After a  while, I didn't like any of it!

While I enjoyed learning new things, I didn't enjoy the feeling of being friendless --it was a very difficult time for me.  Some of my 3rd grade friends hurt my feelings so much, you know, the ones I had played with every day, and walked home with, and cared about.  Suddenly I was being pushed into a corner all by myself.  I couldn't talk to my 3rd grade teacher, because I thought she was probably happy with the whole set-up, I couldn't talk to my 4th grade teacher, because I think she was still trying to figure out what to do with me, my principal always needed appointments, and the counsellor that had tested me was always busy.  I was sort of in this problem on my own.  Even my parents didn't seem to enter into it - it was like I was living in this strange world where I was just supposed to accept all of these problems and in a way, be punished for having curiosity.  I started to withdraw.  I stopped eating at lunchtime because it was very sad to just sit by myself.

My sister was interested in early childhood education and started to notice the change in my behaviour.  I remember a facial tick/gesture that I developed.  I would stretch my face long wise with my facial muscles as though I was trying to pull it away, and would open my mouth and stretch my face out longer. It is hard to describe, but I remember the feeling to this day.  When I was worried, or felt very alone, I would do this awful facial exercise a lot!  No one seemed to care if I did it, and I couldn't stop it after a while.  I just remember being very unhappy, and just wanted to be with my friends, and happy again.  I stopped talking.  I stopped everything in class.  I listened, and did the work, and tried to learn --but I just didn't care anymore.  I just wanted to be left alone forever.  I didn't want to go to school anymore, and I sure didn't want to be in that classroom!

Finally, (apparently) my sister talked with my parents and made my Mum go up to the school to talk to them about my behaviour.  I don't think Mum wanted to - I think she was just hoping I would adjust and she wouldn't have to deal with anything.  But she and my sister confronted the principal.  The next thing I knew I was snatched out of the 4th grade, and plunked back into my 3rd grade class, and just left alone again.  I thought I had really done something bad, and would often cry at night, because no-one seemed to talk to me about it, and I figured I must have been a very bad person to be moved around like this. 

But somehow I made it through this process, my friendships were never the same, and I felt lost for a very long time - but I survived.  From then on I decided that school and curiosity was dangerous - but probably was very lucky to survive it as me.  As the years went by I tried to hold onto my natural curiosity, but I was suspicious of some people and really tested my teachers to see if they deserved to teach me.  In the end I became accepting of people and the fact that they could make mistakes which affected me personally.  I never liked it that they did, but learned to accept that as a part of life. 

What this process instilled in me though was the determination to become a teacher who would teach.  I wanted to work with my students and enjoy them and teach them that any kind of  learning was fun and easy to do, and very worthwhile.  I was an instigator in remedial reading programs in high school, and introduced fun and curiosity and 'human-ness' into my classroom.  I liked teaching my students how to learn, not what to learn....we grew together and discovered all sorts of wonderful things.  I am still discovering them!

Miss Hoelzen

When I was in primary school I had a German born teacher who had also taught my sister, who was, as I mentioned earlier - nine years older than I was.  I think Miss Hoelzen also taught my Dad, who was considerably older than I was - if she didn't teach him she came over in the Ark with him!  (Sorry, Dad - couldn't resist that line!)  Miss Hoelzen was a bit overweight, but I used to figure she wanted to be strong looking like that so that she could really throw her weight into her convictions.  She would get very frustrated with us when we weren't cooperating and learning the things we were supposed to be learning.  I don't remember if Miss Hoelzen taught any other subjects, but she did teach us how to sing Silent Night in German. I can still do it today. Verbatim. She was that kind of teacher - could really drill it into you. 

She had white hair which she wore in a puffy bun with her hair pushed onto the top of her head. She wore sensible shoes, as my Mother would have said, and she was forever saying to me: "Janice, when I taught your sister she was a joy to have in my class.  Always so quiet, always ready to learn.  Now I have you - what am I supposed to do?"  One time I made the mistake of saying, "Well, Miss Hoelzen you should see Joyce now - bet she wouldn't bother to learn Silent Night in German now!  And, as much as I like the sound of it - when will I ever use it!"  She used to just sit and look at me, shake her head, and probably wonder where my family went wrong with me.  I just would sit and smile at her and wait for an answer - she never really had one....

Anyway, when I was her student she decided to arrange her classroom so that her desk sat at a strange angle in the rear of the classroom, and then arranged the student desks in a semi-circular pattern around her desk, facing it.  So in other words we faced the back of the classroom, not the front, and sat at weird angles--I think she thought she could throw us off, if she confused us in how to sit in a classroom.    

Guess where I sat.  You guessed it...right in front of her desk!  In fact I could touch the edge of it!  I remember most clearly the lessons we used to have after lunch - mainly because I can still smell them! I don't mean to be rude, but there were morning smells in primary school, and then after lunch smells.  In the morning, most of us kids were still fresh from morning scrubbings at home, and we just occupied a classroom.  Unless one of the boys 'let off', the classrooms were usually pretty good.  But after lunch, especially with most of us brown bagging peanut butter sandwiches there was a definite odour of peanuts, sweat, and kid smell- the kind of smell that happens to kids when they take part in life--mostly actively.....and then there was Miss Hoelzen.

Miss Hoelzen obviously liked coffee at lunchtime, and from what I could smell, a lot of it!  Now my Mum and Dad drank coffee but they didn't spit the smell and splash it all over my face when they got excited talking after drinking it.  Well, because I was sitting so close to Miss Hoelzen's desk--I could practically touch her desk blotter - which I used to try to do sometimes.  She would get so excited in her music and her lessons that she would yell out with her coffee breath.  But as I was right there--right next to her desk, I got the coffee smells and sometimes the spits which unfortunately landed at times right on my nose or cheeks!.  It wasn't a fun time in my life.

I became fascinated with how far my arm would reach to touch the stuff on her desk, especially when she was really excited and not paying attention to me, which wasn't often, I have to tell you!  Sometimes I would be able to slide a piece of paper from her desk and I would make a breathing tunnel to cover my face, so that I didn't have to smell the coffee or get showered.  But she usually noticed what I was doing and I was usually ordered to behave, and stop my nonsense.  (Believe me, it wasn't nonsense - it was a means of surviving the smells all around me!)

But finally the Christmas holidays arrived, and we sang our German Silent Night at the school assembly and dared not get a single word wrong --I'd write it out for you now - but that would just be showing off!

So even though dear Miss Hoelzen suffered in trying to teach me, I did learn.  My report cards always mentioned things like 'Janice has a tendency to talk too much in class.  While she can apply herself very well, she can be a disruption' - The only thing I ever disrupted was boredom and the need to make the clock on the wall move faster---but I guess that's another story!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Yesterday I was lucky enough to save a dragonfly.  It was a great experience for me!  I had opened the deck door, and was greeted by my 'mate' my teenage magpie (one of this season's new born) who always flys down to the deck railing each morning, to ask me what I have planned for his breakfast, (He's a very cheeky bird - I'm trying to teach him to talk, but he just looks at me with intensity at the moment). 

I went back inside to the kitchen, and was beginning to cut up some fruit for my birds - my wild magpies, honey eaters and lorrikeets, when I noticed a small dragonfly throwing itself at the kitchen window, trying to escape.  It had obviously flown in while I had opened the door to the deck and had left it open while I spoke to my magpie friend.

I explained to the dragonfly that it couldn't stay inside, it would eventually die, and that I could help it escape--but it had to trust me...

This went on for a few minutes as I tried to get closer to it at the window.  I tried to encourage it to step onto the back of my hand, which I thought was the most unthreatening position I could use towards the small, delicate creature. But, understandably, it was very shy and kept trying to climb the curtain and hide, or kept hitting the glass with no success. After a few minutes of my gentle urging, and a very quiet, soothing voice, the little dragonfly tentatively stepped onto the top of my hand. I just stood there quietly for a minute, letting it settle, and then very quietly told him/her that I could help and not to worry. I very slowly backed away from the window, and turning towards the open deck door, we walked through the dining room together and eventually stepped outside onto the deck.  I gently laid my hand down on the side deck railing and told my little piece of beautiful nature that it was safe it fly away now.....and off it went!  I felt very happy and connected with my surroundings.  A very nice feeling.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The weight of the world according to Strap

Just a short one.....

Today, after my trip into town, I parked my wonderful little blue convertible in the car shed, and opening the door to the the backyard, Jock met me with a grin and waited for his attention cuddle and head and ear rub.  I usually also grab his snout and play a game with him. 

"Have you been a good boy, Jockie?", I'll say gently shaking his snout.  He'll stand there and put his wet nose back into my hand.  "What!  You have been?"  He'll grin at me and nudge me with his nose again..."Go get'em boy!", I'll say and he jumps and runs ahead of me - trying to act like a puppy again--It's just a thing we do.....

Strap normally joins in and wants to play with his soccer ball, and will drop it at anyone's feet, just for a chance to have them kick it, so that he can chase it.  But today was different.  If Strap had been a girl, I would have said that he was having PMS--but being a boy---he must have just been very tired or full of too many dog worries....

He was laying at the side of the back door, his head resting on his favourite stone (I know, sounds strange - but he likes it), and he just couldn't bring himself to have any enthusiasm.  I asked him if he was going to get up to say hello, but he just gave me one of those sad, please know I am having a bad day looks, and rolled onto his back and raised his front paw.  I shook it, saying "Oh, Strappy!  I hope you feel better soon!"

He accepted my hand/paw shake and continued to lay like that until I went into the house. I think he was hoping for a bit more sympathy--our Strappy is good at that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The leaking drip

I am telling this tale on myself in order to give due credit to my ever understanding husband, Chris, and for my dear friend Leone who already knows that I am not like most people!  They both accept me for who I am - and if you are still reading my blog - you must be like them, and recognise this oddity of human thought that is behind a lot of the stuff I write about.

This story began about 2 mornings ago - very early in the morning.....

I had just been into the bathroom and washed my face quickly with a fresh, cold face washer--just to wake up a bit, and feel refreshed.  While I was patting my face dry, I noticed a dripping sound which sounded as though it was coming through the bathroom ceiling and hitting the floor in droplets.  Even with all of the lights on in there, I still could not see any leaks coming from the ceiling.  It was really a mystery.  I went to the cupboard and pulled out a torch to have a closer look at the ceiling, but still could not see anything....

I went upstairs to the other bedroom and ensuite to check out any leaks that may be coming from there, but all seemed to be fine. 

By the time I made it down to the middle bathroom, (the one I had just noticed the drips coming from) it appeared as though the dripping had stopped.  I figured it must have come from the new vanity and taps which we had just had installed.  I decided to keep an eye on it, and see if it happened again.

About a half hour later Chris came up, and also washed his face with the cold face washer to wake up.  Before he could turn on the tap I ran into the bathroom and asked him to watch what happened next.  He looked at me strangely, and just stood there!  I replied:

"Go ahead, wash your face - I just want to watch something!"
"Well, maybe we'll find out - just turn on the tap!"
"Turn on the tap?  Are you OK?"
" Yep.  Something weird is happening with the water and the ceiling in here, I just want to watch this.."
"'re acting strange again..."
"I know, but just do it...."
Chris proceeded to wash his face with the face washer, turning on the tap to wet the washer, and then turned it off.  I kept my eyes firmly sealed on the ceiling.  As he was hanging the face washer back on the towel rail, he turned to me patiently and said:
"OK.  What is going on?  Why are you looking at the ceiling?"
"It's not leaking!", I replied.
"Was it supposed to?"
"It did earlier this morning, then just stopped."  I showed him the puddle of water on the floor under the rubbish bin, where the water had leaked through.
"Could it be from the very wet face washer that had been hanging here before?"
"Very drenching wet face washer--I had to wring it out before I could even begin to use it.....could that be where the water had come from?  Not the ceiling?"
"But I got a torch and everything to find the leak - I went upstairs to that ensuite to check out the plumbing- I looked everywhere!"
"Did you look at the face washer directly above the wet area?"
"I dunno"
As he was walking out of the bathroom, I followed him saying how happy I was that we wouldn't have to call in the plumbers, and how lucky we were.  Chris just turned and looked at me, shook his head and headed to the kitchen for his early morning 'calming tea making ceremony'.  He does that a lot!

Monday, March 14, 2011

My early morning birds

  Each morning at about 6:30 or 7:00 am, I am up and checking out the day, trying to determine what I can possibly achieve that day, and whether the wet weather that we have been experiencing is going to stop me. 

Lorrikeet sitting on a branch of a pencil pine tree
For the past few mornings I have been been having a lot of fun with our bird life outside in our front yard.  We have a great variety of birds - I think I've spoken about them all  before- but we have been inundated just lately with a flock of beautiful lorrikeets - which are very cheeky and inquisitive birds. 

Eating the berries from the Schefflera tree

At the moment our Schefflera tree (Umbrella tree), is flowering and its bright red berries are a favourite of the lorrikeets.  As I feed the birds every morning I was very happy to notice the large flock that was here at the moment!

Group feed
A couple or mornings ago, I was feeding a large flock of lorrikeets, who eat in community style.  Each small group gathers around a piece of food and gently peck at it, while the magpies are more serious and do not like intrusions, but are learning to share with the lorrikeets.  It's fun to watch!

Magpie trying to be gracious

 They are funny birds, and Squirt who is now living downstairs in the family room in her large aviary sings out to them each day.  They answer back and at times it can really get noisy here! 

Is this my best angle?

I also had one of my favourite birds stop by for a sticky beak- literally - and kindly posed for some photos - a kookaburra!  They are just stately birds!  They have such a proud demeanour and give me lots of joy when I see them.  They even pose when they see I have my camera!

But then the lorrikeets decided to play a game, and I think it was hide and seek, as these pictures show:

8,9,10...ready or not, here I come!
As you see, they do have fun, and so of course they bring me a lot of pleasure and fun.  It's never a dull moment!

You're not even close!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Enjoying married life

I married Chris in 1999.  During our entire married life, we have only had 3 holidays on our own, without children.  This included our honeymoon, which began with Maddie in our room at 6:00 am on our first morning as man and wife, as she had discovered at the age of 7 how to find us in the resort, and left her older sister 'sleeping off' our wedding from the night before!

In fact, after being married only about 2.5 months we took all 3 girls overseas with us for about 2 months, to the USA, London and Paris.  While it was a great bonding experience for our mixed family, it was a learning experience.  But very much worth it.  Just never had any privacy.  Travelling with 3 girls and the two of us through all the cities we visited was a massive planning experience, but well worth it!

A few years later we managed to fit in a week in Cairns while my eldest daughter and Maddie flew to Melbourne to visit relatives.  That was a fresh break for us!

Then on our 7th wedding anniversary we flew to Fiji for a week and enjoyed the ability to do things as adults and not have to consider the children or family in every activity.  It was heaven.

We have now been married - approaching our 12th year in May, and for the first time, we are the only two here.   We are discovering that when we want to do something, we don't have to run it past the girls, or make arrangements.  We can just be us.  It felt funny at first.  But you know.  I think we are beginning to relax and enjoy it!

We are, after almost 12 years, being allowed to have a marriage that just includes us for a change.  It's not that we don't love all of our girls.  We sure do.  But they aren't living with us anymore. If there is a mess in the house - it is our mess.  If we don't want to cook, we don't have to.  It's kind of nice.  A bit more quiet - but relaxing, with a lot of humour that follows us around everyday!!

Oh, and girls --you are welcome anytime.  We love you and miss you, but we love us too!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sometimes it's difficult

I started writing this blog because I really do want to express how happy I am and how much appreciation of life I do feel.  But sometimes it's difficult.

Family issues happen and unhappiness occurs. 

My eldest daughter grows up and moves away and out of my life literally. 

My second daughter dies in a car accident at the age of 19.

My youngest moves away from home to start a whole new life --a very good thing for her - but still difficult for us all to go through at the moment.  She is only a phone call away though, and still is in my life.  What a great future she has because of the choices she has made!

Health issues happen, and family members face serious illness and the ending of life.   This is very difficult, as we know there is nothing we can do, but have to stand by and give support when we can.

My original family lives in the USA, so consequently I only get to see them once every few years, when we visit there - it is the distance and the financial decisions that make our closeness difficult.

But despite all of these sad and emotional issues, there is still so much love in my life from friends, my immediate family and my peace of mind. 

That is why I love my life.  Every day.

Moving on

We are getting closer and closer to finalising all improvements on our home here.  And it shows! She is really loving it.  Every day she shines and holds her head up proudly.  At night she hugs us, and keeps us safe and comfortable and exudes charm.  She is so proud of what she has been able to do.  We feel proud of her too!

But as much as we are enjoying her transformation from what had always been to what is now the much improved model, we know it is time to leave her soon. 

There are new adventures that we have to face, and new steps that we need to take.  Life is too short to just keep following the one pathway. 

I know that we will discover a new life and a new home.  Will it be the same?  Probably not.  Will we like it? I'm sure we will.  Will we miss our life here in this lovely home?  You betcha!

But what is life without adventure and challenges?

Besides, we'll still have so many memories!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bud and Elna - Part 2

On Sundays in our home, Mum would always cook a lunch-time Sunday roast - usually a roast chicken, with vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Not every Sunday, but at least one or two Sundays a month my Grandma Erickson would come and visit with us and share in our Sunday roast.

After lunch, when Mum and Dad, and Grandma would leave the table and go to digest their meal in the living room, it was up to Joyce and I to clean up the kitchen and wash and dry the dishes and put them away.

My Grandmother was fairly religious, and really didn't encourage a lot of singing or dancing on the Sabbath, unless it was to celebrate the church and all things religious.  So Joyce and I would close all the doors to the kitchen and sing and harmonise while we had to do this horrible task of washing the dishes.  We would sing our little hearts out!  Loud and strong, and would experiment in harmonies, and would occasionally throw soapsuds and whip each other with the dishtowel, but we eventually got the job done.

As the years went by, Mum and Dad sold that house and we moved to our new home.  By this stage, Joyce was on the verge of getting married, and I was 14.  Very grown up!

A couple of years passed again, and I ran into Bud in town one day.  I stopped and gave him a hug and asked how Elna was and asked about the old neighbourhood where I had lived so many happy memories.  Bud told me about the new people who were moving into the neighbourhood, and how things had changed.  He did say something though that has always stayed with me:

"When your family moved away, we lost a lot.  On Sundays, I used to go sit on my back stoop, and listen to Joyce and you sing as you cleaned up the kitchen after lunch.  I used to love that time each week.  It was like you were singing to me.  Nobody does that anymore!  It was special."

He was right.  Not that we were special necessarily with our singing (but we probably were!), but that the whole neighbourhood was special -I always knew that. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The intruder!

King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis)About 3 weeks ago, I was driving down our 1/2 kilometre driveway, when about half way down, I suddenly slowed my car, and almost stopped as I gave way to a large, thin blackish brown snake who had apparently been sunning himself on the track. It was about 6 feet long, and tried to quickly slither away into the bush on the other side of the driveway, to get out of my way. I stopped at the time, as I did not know what kind of snake it was, or if it was poisonous, and saw no reason to run over it and kill it while it was in its own environment.   I thought it might have been a tree snake, or possibly a king brown, but just wasn't sure.

Then about a week later, I was just about to walk down the back tiled stairway leading from our central hallway to the family room downstairs, when sitting on the bottom step I spotted a very similar looking snake laying on the bottom step.  The shock of seeing it in the house and so close to me, made me slip on the tiles and I screamed out -"Snake! Help!  Snake!"  As the hall doorway was shut I wasn't sure if Chris would hear me, but he did come running, and while he didn't see it as it had already been frightened by my screaming, I continured to follow it to watch it as it slithered on down to the family room.  Chris ran for a spade or something to attack it with.  By the time I made it downstairs, I could already see it slithering behind the desk and the filing cabinet, and then it disappeared.  When Chris arrived, we couldn't find it anywhere.  As snakes sense with their hearing and vibrations we tried to remain calm and just chose good positions to sit on opposite sides of the room, to see if it would eventually appear as they do sometimes.  But after about 1/2 hour there still was no sign of the snake, and as much as we moved things, we just could not find a trace of it. 

Needless to say, this appearance of what could possibly have been a King Brown snake, made us both very cautious when walking around the house, and we tried to find any possible nook or cranny where it may have slid in from outside, and filled the crack with filler to seal the area. 

A few days later, I was walking down the same tiled stairs into the family room early one morning, ready to sit at my computer and write, when suddenly I saw on the very bottom step, what looked like a thin electrical cord which didn't seem to be normal. I had never noticed it before.  Then it moved.  It was another snake--it quickly slid down the stairs to the floor and crawled into a packet of photocopy paper which was laying opened on the floor next to the printer.  I quickly grabbed a spade from outside, came back to the folder of paper, and moved it.  The snake slithered out - it was a light brown, and resembled either an immature brown snake or a young taipan.  Either way, it wasn't going to live.  It was in my territory now.  I hit it with a spade, and it died quickly.  It was only young, and not quite a foot long yet - but if it had been poisonous, it would have carried enough venom in its system to have done a lot of poisonous damage to me if I had been bitten. 

I will respect all wildlife if they stay out there, in the wild.  But this is my home, and once they enter they take their chances.  We have experienced too many poisonous snakes here over the years to be flippant about them.. We take each snake seriously.  I often photograph them first, if I can reach my camera in time...but when in close proximity, our theory is a good snake is a dead snake.  (I know that the wildlife people out there are now screaming out), but too many intrusions by King Browns and Taipans over the years has taken its toll on us.

I will admit though, that we had one snake which intruded about a month or two ago, and it was obvious it was a young python - we caught it and put it in a garbage bag, and Chris walked it halfway down our front track and set it loose.  Not all snakes are poisonous.

Well, the reason I am telling you this is that about 5 days ago, I was driving down our track when suddenly in front of me was the same, or similar to it, dark coloured snake that I had seen originally.  I stopped and sent it a mental message.  I agreed to always respect its right to life, if it stayed in its environment.  But warned it that if it were to ever enter our home again, it would not be leaving alive.

Lets hope the message got through!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bill and Anna

I have been thinking about it today, and I probably grew up in one of the most interesting neighbourhoods that any kid could have wished to be born into!  There were so many characters, and because I loved talking to them and visiting them, I got to know them very well.  Probably more visiting on my part than they wanted, but what the heck - I was a kid--there were things I needed to do and see!

My neighbours who lived at the top of the block, directly next to our house block, were brother and sister.  Both of them seemed quite old, well, at least to me anyway at the time.  They weren't very sociable, and mainly kept to themselves.  If the truth be known the neighbourhood talked about them as being misers - I had to look that word up in the dictionary at the time, and didn't think that that was a fair description.  Sure they were loners, and Anna especially was kind of scary, but I eventually just invaded their lives, and they eventually got used to me.

They owned a lot of property in town, and apparently were fairly wealthy, but to look at how they lived, I would never have guessed that.  Anna grew beautiful flowers in an area of their garden and Bill grew the largest raspberries and blackberries that I had ever tasted. (I knew that I wasn't supposed to raid his berry patches, but I figured that any berries that escaped through the fence and into our yard were fair game - and I would lay on the lawn and eat them and love them!)

Eventually Bill started meeting me in the alley-way which I would walk down every day, past his house, to get to my house for lunch during the school week.  I was probably about 7 or 8, and Bill would time it so that he occasionally gave me a punnet of fresh berries to have with my lunch.  I loved him for that!  I would skip into our kitchen and would tell Mum I had more raspberries, and she would say:

" Janice, stop harassing that poor man.  Stop taking his berries - it's not nice!"  I just looked at her in awe, as if she were from another planet--of course I was meant to take Bill's berries - they were a present!

I was a very capitalistic child, and was forever trying to make money.  I sold lemonade at my lemonade stands, made hot pads on my little loom and sold them around the neighbourhood from door to door, but one day I thought I had come up with a brilliant plan!  I had recently been able to invite myself into Bill and Anna's house, and occasionally sat in their kitchen and had a cold drink with them.  I was about 8 years old.  One day while sitting and talking with Bill, with Anna hovering in the background, I noticed that their  kitchen was fairly dark, and seemed dusty and murky, even to a kid.  I decided to look around, something I don't think they expected, and walked into their living room.  It was even darker, and all the windows had long blinds drawn down low.  Without even asking, I just walked over and pulled on a blind and watched it roll up to the top of its coil, throwing years of dust everywhere.  Suddenly a ray of sunlight lit up the room, and I stood and just looked around the room.  The room had older style furniture in it, lots of dark wood and brocaded material, but with a bit of cleaning, I figured they could really like it!  Bill grabbed me before Anna could, and suggested that it was probably time for me to leave, and Anna was quickly closing the blind again.  I figured the light must have hurt her eyes - but then couldn't understand how she could plant such beautiful flowers and not want that sunlight which smiled down on her flowers to also shine into this room!

So a couple of days later, I knocked on their back door, which led into their kitchen, and Bill answered the door.  He was a bit surprised to see me, and I just took that as a good sign.  I excitedly turned to Bill, and blurted out:

"Bill!  I have a plan!  I want to make some money, so I have decided to sell my body to you!"

The look on his face was one of shock and then a lot of confusion.  Anna was muttering something in the background, but I just kept explaining:

"If I sell you my body, I can come in and clean your kitchen and open your windows and let the sun in and you will be very much happier - you just have to pay me for my body to do this work!"

Bill replied, somewhat worried, "Have you been to anyone else's house and said this?"

"Nope, just came here first!  Figured you guys needed my body the most!"

Bill just stood and looked at me, was speechless for a short time, then reached in his pants pocket and took out a dollar bill.  He gave it to me and said:

"Janice. What I am going to say to you is very important.  You cannot go from door to door to sell any part of you.  You are very young, and probably don't understand, but you must promise me not to do that again.  Take this dollar, and remember what I am saying to you.  There are better ways to make money.  One day when you are older you will work it all out.  Now - just go play!" 

Bill then closed the door, and I stood looking at the dollar, and wondered why he gave it to me.  But I figured that perhaps he was renting me, and would ask me to do the cleaning later when I was older.  I just went home and put the dollar in my piggy bank, and layed on my bed, trying to think of another way to make money.  I don't think I ever told my family about this adventure until many years later.  It just didn't seem important at the time - I just had to grow up more, before I could earn that dollar I figured........