Ready For Going Home!

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“Mr. Fred shook hands with her, said he was glad to see her, drew out a wet Coke from the machine, wiped it on his apron, and gave it to her.
This is one good thing about life that never changes, she thought. As long as he lived, as long as she returned, Mr. Fred would be here with his…simple welcome. What was that? Alice? Brer Rabbit? It was Mole. Mole, when he returned from some long journey, desperately tired, had found the familiar waiting for him with its simple welcome.”
~ Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

 

Nurse Bert and Cafe Dog have pronounced Ben well enough to travel. He is still sore after his knee surgery, but getting better every day.

Truth is, we’re all missing our farm…

We’re longing for wide blue skies, the smell of the rich earth and the fragrant trees, the gentle movements of the cows as they wander through our paddocks, the birdsong and the spaciousness and the chance to earth again.

We miss the beach and our early morning swims followed by good coffee and breakfast. We miss our friends. We miss afternoon naps with a good book, and digging things out of the garden.

We miss farmers markets and Sunday markets and stores and cafes where organic produce is normal rather than a novelty.

So today I’ll pack us up and drive us home.

Home for Christmas!

What a beautiful thing. <3

Who Would You Invite To Dinner?

“You can’t forget how important coming together is, whether it be a mom and a son, a dad and a daughter, whether the family be ten people, or twenty people, or a million people. Dinnertime is the perfect time for that. Dinnertime is the perfect time when you can sit down, you can offer thanks to your kids for making you laugh, or to your parents for supporting you, or to a god for looking out for you, or to whomever you want. You can just close your eyes and open them again and realize that you have the opportunity everyday to change your life, or change someone else’s. Dinnertime is a great time to think about that.

~ Dillon, age 22
From Dinnertimes: Stories of American Life, 1912 to 2012”

 

We’re stuck in the city just now, waiting for Ben’s knee to be sufficiently recovered from surgery for him to sit in the car for a few hours while we drive home to our farm.

One of the beautiful things in our marriage is that we talk about anything and everything. We have never yet run out of conversation.

So, Ben asked me last night, ‘If you could invite six people to Christmas Dinner, who would they be?’

‘Anyone at all?’ I asked him.

Yep. I could invite anyone at all. My mind went crazy. A table full of interesting and intelligent conversation? Wow. Who to ask? The new Pope. I’d love to have him to dinner. Patrick Stewart? Make it so. Sting? Remind him to bring his guitar, or a lute. Elizabeth Gilbert. She’d be fun. Cate Blanchett too. I was searching for a third woman to balance up the numbers, but really wanting to ask Joss Whedon while tossing up Joan Jett or Dame Judi Dench. Then I had a thought. I asked Ben if my dinner guests had to be living.

‘Pretty hard to have a conversation if they’re dead’, Ben said, ‘but sure, if you want.’

Suddenly everything changed.

If I could invite anyone? Anyone at all?

It would be my darling grandparents. Nana and Pa. Marga and Ceddie. As a grown woman now, there is so much I want to ask them. So much we never got to say. Ben’s dad. Bill passed away before I met his son. I’ve always wanted to cook for him, and to hear his stories. My Great Aunt Gwen, who died when I was still at high school. She was a remarkable woman, and she has had such a formative influence on me. I’d love the chance to share one good meal with her, adult to adult.

That’s who I’d want. Not famous strangers. Loved ones. Family. One last chance to have a glorious conversation, to ask them all the things we never talked about, to tell them how much they mean to me, how much I love them. To thank them with my hugs and my words and my food.

Who would you ask, if you could?

Image from www.flickr.com

Image from www.flickr.com

A Special Christmas Altar for Healing and Remembrance

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“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
~ Rose Kennedy

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
~ Thomas Campbell

 

Christmas is not always an easy time. There are many of us for whom Christmas brings stark reminders of families broken, loved ones lost, and empty chairs at our tables.

I have found it helpful and healing to make a private little Christmas Altar each year. This way I remember the dead, the absent, the lost. An altar is simply a small dedicated spiritual space that is meaningful to you in some way.

On my altar I place fresh flowers, a candle and some favourite crystals. Things that bring me comfort, and a sense of sacred. Then I place photos or objects that represent a loved one who will not be at my table. That way I can still have them near me, and I can flow love to them and have them be part of my life over the festive season.

nana pa ron

The beautiful big owl in the photo above was given to me last Christmas by my friend Angela, who passed away in this year. It will be central to my display.

There is a tiny wooden boat for my brother, and a book for my dad. A sparkly stone for my sister and a gardenia for my mum and all of the women in her family who have shaped and grown and loved me. My family all live far from me. But now they are here on my altar.

gardenia

My Coral Bird, given to my grandmother Marga, that came back to me this year. Various other little things that have meaning for me or my husband.

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Cupcake candles for my darling Kate, who passed away a few years ago, and Julie, who passed away in 2014. My Grandparents, all now passed, are here in photographs too and I will place a glass of sherry, Christmas Cake and some gingernut biscuits out because these are all the things they would have loved to eat, and later I will eat some and think of them. On Christmas Day I will play The Twelve Days of Christmas by the Ray Conniff Singers, and shed a few happy-sad tears.

It’s not the same as having them at my table, but it’s the next best thing.

Perhaps making your own Christmas Altar will help you this Christmas too.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole <3 xx

 

 

 

It’s Okay to Keep Changing – and How to Cope with People Who Don’t Recognise That

Image from timrettig.net

Image from timrettig.net

“If people refuse to look at you in a new light and they can only see you for what you were, only see you for the mistakes you’ve made, if they don’t realize that you are not your mistakes, then they have to go.”
~ Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

 

I received another message this week that I thought was best answered on my blog.

Lilly writes:

“Hello beautiful. Just wanted to ask some advice. I’m feeling really flat and down and sad this past week. My issues are based in trust and loyalty around family. I am trying to take a holistic approach to life and health in general , have been trying as hard as I can to do and be my best. My ” family ” is still full of doubt , spite and criticism of me and my abilities as a mum and person. My heart is bruised and my soul is weary. Can you offer any advice at all please ? Crystals to work with, books to read, certain meditations, angels to pray to, advice on how to react or not reactionary. ? Anything ?? I know your very busy and have a lot on your own plate but I’m sitting here feeling so lost and down and I don’t know who else to ask. Any advice at all would be deeply appreciated.”

 

First of all, Lilly, here’s a big hug (((HUG))). It’s hard when we’re doing our best and consciously making better choices to lift ourselves up and to live by our own values, and then to get pulled down by the people we had hoped would support us. You can always call on your Angels and Guides. Just talk to them out loud, or in your head, and ask for their help and support. Loved ones who’ve passed over can also bring us comfort. Some people talk to God. GO with what feels right to you.

Lilly, this is a hard one, and I’m going to consider it from several angles. Please know that I am no longer writing just about you, but about so many people just like you, and some who are not.

 

When You Really Did Do Some Things To Harm Trust:

If there was a time when you made mistakes or poor choices, or were immature or had a bad attitude or an addiction, then it’s likely that you hurt the people closest to you. It’s painful for family and friends to watch someone they love be in that space, and it’s painful to be on the receiving end of their bad behaviour, lies, addiction or attitude. When you’ve been continually hurt by someone you become wary of being hurt again. It is hard to trust someone who has put you through that, especially if they have promised or pleaded that they have changed, only to then fall back into those behaviours, or to manipulate your sympathies to their own ends.

In that kind of situation where you’ve hurt others, you will have to earn that trust back. You may want to apologise and let those people speak their hurts to you, so that they too can feel heard. And then you need to let your changed life and your actions speak for themselves. I have seen many brave people work the AA Twelve Step program or similar, and go back to people they had harmed – to explain and to apologise and to offer restitution. Sometimes it helped heal the relationship. Sometimes it just enabled the person who’d broken the trust to make peace with themselves that they had done the best that they could to put things right. Family counselling can help. Or a good counsellor or support group can help you to forgive yourself, understand what happened and move on.

If you’re the one who has been on the receiving end of that harmed trust, it is perfectly fine to look for evidence of change through a person’s actions and day-to-day life, rather than simply accepting what they tell you. The old saying about talk being cheap is true when you have been let down many times before. I wrote a post about that here called Listen With Your Eyes

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When A Loved One Did Things That Harmed Trust:

Sometimes people we love lie. Or cheat. Or take sides. Or play favourites. Or are insensitive or mean. Maybe they have an addiction issue. Perhaps they have experienced abuse or trauma themselves. Or maybe they just made bad choices. People make mistakes. Sometimes, if everyone is willing to work on it, we can put broken back together. It usually takes time,  commitment, and the facilitation of a good therapist. I’ve known people who have forged better, more honest relationships after times of great hardship.

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BUT sometimes our loved one is a bully, a violent addict, a narcissist, a sociopath. Sometimes they are so broken or their behaviours so entrenched that all you will get is more of the same abuse every time you front on up to that relationship. Wanting or needing a person to change doesn’t make them change, no matter how hard you make changes to yourself, or try to handle the relationship differently.

In that situation, hard as it may be, you might need to cut your losses or put a lot of space into the relationship. Don’t put yourself into abuse ‘because it’s Christmas’ or ‘because they’re still my family’. Find a good therapist or counsellor for yourself. Work on you. Get a support network. If you’re an adult you have choices. You don’t need to continue to suffer that kind of behaviour. As a parent you don’t need to expose your child to that kind of behaviour.

 

When You’ve Changed and People Can’t Understand That:

We all grow and change over time. Some of us slowly. Some of us fast. If you’ve travelled extensively, and your family and friends haven’t. If you went to war. If you lost your partner to cancer. If you experienced trauma or chronic illness or some kind of ecstatic spiritual transformation…

Shared experiences are one of the things that unite us. If our loved ones haven’t got that same frame of reference you lose ground and connection. It can be easy to become distant. It isn’t that they don’t love you. It’s just that they don’t understand.

So, don’t expect them to. There will be other people who know what you are going through. Find them, and use them for mutual support and sharing. Or hold your experience close and sacred.

Image from www.alz.org

Image from www.alz.org

Reconnect with family and friends by exploring the things you DO share in common. Old memories, family traditions, people and places that mean something that links you to each other.

We can still be loved, and be part of a family or group, and yet not be fully known or seen or understood. Truth is, sometimes we can even be a mystery to ourselves…

 

When You’ve Changed For The Better and People Can’t Accept That:

Sometimes we grow, and the people around us can’t cope with the fact that we are different. Sometimes we’ve done our best to fit in but we can’t keep pretending. Sometimes we reach a point where we can’t tolerate a situation or relationship because it doesn’t align with our ethics and values, or we will no longer tolerate victimisation, bullying, abuse or unhealthy behaviours. Sometimes we become better, wiser, stronger, more educated, or in other ways different to how we were. We outgrow lovers, friends, and even families.

In certain circumstances we can choose to hide or minimise that change for short periods of time in order to maintain relationships or family harmony. But if you are put down for your transformation, if you are rejected or victimised because of your choices, if you experience abuse – verbal, emotional or otherwise, then it’s time to leave that relationship behind, and to create relationships with people who value you. Value yourself first. Value yourself enough to walk away from those who belittle and diminish you.

Above all, Lilly, It’s important that you value and love yourself. That you make healthy choices for yourself and for your children. That you allow yourself to be valued by others and that you stand up for yourself, protect yourself, and keep yourself and your children out of situations that are abusive and toxic.

Create the life you want for yourself through mindful choices and actions. Grieve the loss of the way things could have been, but don’t dwell on it. Be the person and mum that is you evolving as your best self. Know that in doing that you’ll attract to you the sorts of people who will fit better with who you are and who you are becoming.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole xoxo

Extra Coping Tools

You might find these posts helpful too:

How to get through the hard stuff

How to deal with toxic people

Crystals for highly sensitive people

Free Guided Meditation for the Solar Plexus Chakra

Guided Meditation for Emotional Healing

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Sometimes The Best Way to Honour The Dead is to Celebrate

The last photo I have of Nana, taken with my Dad on my birthday, 6 September, 2012

The last photo I have of Nana, taken with my Dad on my birthday, 6 September, 2012

“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”
~ Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas

My beloved Nana would have turned one hundred yesterday.

She passed three years ago, and I find myself missing her more as time goes on. We had a very special connection, and I still talk with her and feel her guiding presence in my life.

Yesterday I held a little celebration of her life, in a way that Nana would have appreciated. A cup of tea and a toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich (her favourite) followed by a pink cupcake. It wasn’t Nana, but it was the next best thing. The kind of ritual we had followed in life. Her traditional choice of meal if we went out shopping together.

Homemade toasties, just like Nana used to make!

Homemade toasties, just like Nana used to make!

As I age I seem to be gathering so many ghosts to me. It’s like that for all of us, I think. Friends die. Relatives too. Young and old and in-between. So many holes in our hearts, empty places at our tables.

The dead no longer occupy physical space in our lives, but they live on in our hearts. It only takes a song, the smell of cooking on the breeze, a certain place or particular company and they are right here with me. Sometimes, they visit me as ghosts. The veil between me and that other place can be nearly transparent at times.

People have told me that time heals and that memory fades,that eventually I will forget and move on, but I have to disagree. When you truly love someone, that love doesn’t fade if they are no longer here. Hearts are big enough to love many, and keep loving. The nature of the relationship changes, but the heart remembers. I’m glad it does. Why would you want to forget someone so precious?

Yesterday was also a time of reflection for me. Only three years ago I was dying from heart failure. I was on holidays in Thailand when Nana passed in November 2012. I’d had chest pain all day. I was struggling to walk. To breathe. Everything was hard, and I felt so ill and low. I wondered if it was the last holiday I might ever have with my husband.

When I found out about my grandmother’s death I walked down to the beach, and stood in the dark with my feet lapped by the warm caress of the ocean. The sky was lit with stars and as tears rolled down my face I looked up to the heavens and asked my Nana to help me. I told her that I couldn’t keep doing this – living with so much suffering and ill health. I wanted to live, or be done with it. Not this in-between place I’d been in for so long.

Only a few days later, back in Bangkok, a friend suggested that I get my thyroid checked again when I got home to Australia. A bizarre out-of-the-blue comment that led to my lyme diagnosis and subsequent treatment that turned my health around. I truly believe that Nana heard me that night, and helped in a way she’d never been able to while she was alive.

I’ll keep celebrating Nana’s birthday each year. It brings me comfort. It helps me to hold her close. Or maybe she’s holding me. All I know is that acknowledging her birthday seems as natural and right as it did when she was still here to eat that cake with me!

Sometimes the best way to honour our dead is to celebrate their living.

Thinking of you and sending much love, Nicole <3 xx

That's me on my Dad's lap and my little sister on Nana's lap

That’s me on my Dad’s lap and my little sister on Nana’s lap

A Big Few Days…

General Hottie Hospital by Foxy Belle

General Hottie Hospital by Foxy Belle

“It never rains, but it pours.” ~ Old English Proverb

 

Forgive me. This post is late in coming. Or early. Depending on how you look at it.

You see, we had just returned home to the farm to catch our breath when Ben became unwell. Unwell gave way to a difficult night, a worsening of symptoms and a dash to hospital back in the city again. At three o-clock in the morning.

I’ve had four hours sleep in the past two days. So I’m a bit wrecked. Too many family ill and occupying my thoughts and care right now.

Although I did get an awful lot of colouring done while sitting in hospital waiting rooms.

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Ben’s finally home, with a raft of drugs, and under the watchful attention of myself and Nurse Bert. At the first sign of any worsening he’ll be straight back in hospital, so he’d better behave!  Harry, of course, is also glued to Ben’s side, and has not chewed up a single thing. So far…

So I’m giving myself the weekend off, to catch up on some sleep and to look after my family. See you on Monday.

All my love, Nicole <3 xoxo

PS – I had to laugh. When I looked up the General Hottie Hospital images, I found out that the male doll’s name is Ben. He’d love that. Especially this next shot, which of course, bore NO resemblance to his actual hospital stay!

General Hottie Hospital by Foxy Belle

General Hottie Hospital by Foxy Belle

Reflections From A Cancer Clinic Waiting Room

Image from pixgood.com

Image from pixgood.com

“From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.”
~ H.P. Lovecraft, Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

A small family cluster of us sat endlessly in the waiting room of a cancer clinic yesterday.

It was a busy place, at a busy hospital. On the way to the clinic, we’d passed a young woman who had lost her eye, a man in a wheelchair missing a foot, a series of shuffling and shambling patients of various ages.

There were hosts of worried relatives in thrown-together outfits, looking careworn and in need of coffee and a hug.

The waiting room was packed. We found seats underneath a television screen we could not see. But I listened to the running commentary.

The irony was not lost on me. Television spruikers talked about the importance of skin care and maintaining our youthful appearance. Life was better with young skin. You would be more popular, and get better jobs. You could look  like a movie star. Then there was a miracle exercise machine to effortlessly melt fat. It came with complimentary mineral makeup. Call now!

How truly offensive it was, listening to these paid presenters playing to our insecurities. Deprived of the pictures, the commentary took on a lewd ignorance.

Here I was, surrounded by people fighting for their lives.

For some, the fight isn’t going well. For some, the fight will be lost.

People bald from chemo, their skin fragile, bruised and thin, their faces bloated and round or gaunt and pale, looked away from the screen. I saw beauty in every single one. I witnessed the most tender exchanges of love and care. I saw how valued and precious each person was to their family and friends.

You are beautiful. Life is beautiful. This endless quest for youth and physical perfection is the ugly thing.

Hug your loved ones today. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to the people around you. Don’t buy into that garbage on television and the media. What’s inside you will always matter more that big hair, white teeth or a perfect hip-thigh ratio.

I love you. Right now. Just as you are.

Nicole <3 xoxo