Thank you!

“Can miles truly separate you from friends… If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?” 
~  Richard Bach

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for making my birthday memorable.

I feel grateful to have you in my life, and I am overcome with your kind messages and well wishes. How truly blessed I am.

For the record – I drank excellent tea, ate cake at every meal, surrounded myself with friends, family, flowers, sunshine and moonlight, and welcomed in my fiftieth year with an abundance of love.

A quiet day of rest, meditation and writing for me today.

Normal blogging will resume tomorrow.

Biggest hugs and love, Nicole  ❤ xoxo

50 Things I’ve Learned From 50 Years of Life

“A happy birthday this evening, I sat by an open window and read till the light was gone and the book was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride the day down into night,
to sit alone, and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand” 
~  Ted Kooser

 

It’s my birthday today. Yay me!

I’m fifty, and it feels GOOD. Originally I was going to post a quick picture of me as a kid, looking all cute, and a few others through the years to now. But when I dug out all my old photos and memorabilia a funny thing happened. I saw so many pictures of friends I have loved and lost, so many family members who’ve passed, and friends whose lives have been touched by tragedy. It made me realise just how lucky I am to still be here at fifty, well loved, safe and secure, with work I adore, despite having had so many health diagnoses and prognoses predicting my demise or failure, and several near-death experiences, starting back when I was in my early twenties. Sure my health is still an ongoing adventure, but hey – I’m alive, and determined to make the most of every day. I’m still here! That deserves celebration!!!

Here are fifty things I’ve learned that have been helpful to me and which might come in useful for you too:

  1. Everyone needs cake on their birthday.
  2. I am not everyone’s flavour, but I am some people’s favourite, and that’s enough for me.
  3. It’s always better to be kind.
  4. No-one is immune to suffering. We all get to have our turn.
  5. Big old trees have much wisdom to share if you can get still and listen.
  6. The sun comes up after even the worst nights and things do look better in the morning.
  7. Sleep is under-rated as a coping mechanism.
  8. Clean sheets and a shower always make you feel better.
  9. Life is too short to live it for other people’s approval.
  10. If you don’t do what matters to you now you might never get your chance.
  11. Don’t wait for things to be perfect.
  12. Surround yourself with people who are real, caring and who think well of you.
  13. Shut the door on mean friends and people who treat you badly or with a lack of respect.
  14. Life needs more picnics and less overtime.
  15. Good books, movies and music are a kind of soul medicine.
  16. Sometimes you just need to take a road trip.
  17. Yes, you really do need to eat your vegetables and get enough fresh air and exercise.
  18. Never be afraid to seek a second opinion.
  19. Getting older is a privilege.
  20. Practice good hygiene, wash your hands after you go to the toilet and before eating, and consider others when you are ill. Not everyone has a robust immune system.
  21. It really is okay to indulge your craving for junk food, sweets or ice-cream occasionally.
  22. A part of you never changes, and stays solid and anchored inside you through all of your life experiences. That essence is always there for you to tap into.
  23. A part of you will change and grow and move you far from where you started. As you change you may outgrow people, places or situations. That’s normal. Don’t let it stress you.
  24. Sometimes we come full circle and find ourselves back where we started, but with new understanding and wisdom. That’s a sweet moment of realisation.
  25. Love is worth the risk of pain and loss.
  26. Laughing opens your heart and lets the light in.
  27. There is something magical about being a stranger in a new city. It unlocks all kinds of mysteries inside you.
  28. You need comfortable shoes for big adventures.
  29. Forgiveness is almost always about you and not the other person.
  30. Listen to your instincts, and honour your intuition. It was given to you for a reason.
  31. Some time on your own to think about everything or nothing is time well spent.
  32. Everyone should be able to cook a handful of meals well. Not just for survival but for satisfaction too.
  33. You’re never too old to learn something new.
  34. Do what you can to help others, if you are in a position to do so.
  35. It’s okay to put your own needs first.
  36. Follow your passion, or at least your curiosity. Who knows where it might lead you!
  37. Life rarely goes to plan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome anyway.
  38. There is always someone or something that can help you manage pain better. Ask and keep asking until you find what you need.
  39. Being vulnerable is a strength.
  40. If you don’t want to do something say no.
  41. If you want something say yes.
  42. It’s better to have been rejected or to fail than to never have tried.
  43. Failure often leads to success.
  44. Every week needs a complete rest day. On the other days? Meditation gives rest on even the craziest of days and can be done in minutes. Learning to meditate is a gift for yourself and an investment in your well-being.
  45. Treat yourself well, and allow yourself pleasure.
  46. Find the things that make you feel like you and then surround yourself with that energy. It could be yoga, a perfume, soy chai lattes or books. Let something define you. Be okay if it changes.
  47. Fall in love. Keep loving, even when it gets hard. It always gets hard. Once you learn how to navigate the first hard bit the wonder of an ever-deepening relationship can reward and comfort you your whole life.
  48. Fall in love with yourself. Let it be a life-long affair and treat yourself gloriously well.
  49. It’s a good thing to be a little different, odd or unusual. Keep being yourself.
  50. Celebrate life – the milestones, the anniversaries and seasonal festivities, the successes and the ordinary. Celebrate on your own. Celebrate with loved ones. Celebrate with strangers. Let each day bring at least one small moment of grace or gratitude. Feel everything deeply and be unafraid.

Thanks for being part of my life.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole  ❤ xoxo

Chop Wood, Carry Water, then Surf the Net!

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“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” ~ Zen Buddhism quote

“When hungry, eat your rice; when tired close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean.” ~ Zen Buddhism quote

 

It has been a frustrating week.

Due to a faulty landline I’ve had no phone or internet connection at the farm, unless I hiked up the hill behind the house with my iPhone.

At first I was angry. It’s a situation that has been dragging on for almost three years, with our landline slowly deteriorating until every phone call became a lesson in frustration due to static and poor line quality. (And our internet runs off this line too!) The telco kept sending technicians, and the phone would work a little better for a while, and then decline again. Until finally it broke altogether.

This week while they worked on our line I wondered what I would do. No amount of wishing was going to give me an ability to be online.

So in the end I drew on the wisdom of my favourite Zen quotes.

I rested.

I did laundry and actually folded it and put it away.

I planted things and tended my garden.

I tidied.

I wrote. So many words.

We did yard jobs. We chopped wood, and carried water to the plants where the hose doesn’t reach.

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Life became so much simpler when I stopped struggling against the things I couldn’t change and chose to be in the moment instead.

It was peaceful.

There was also something freeing about being so much less available, once I let go of the stress of no longer being in control.

But now the line is fixed. I am reconnected with the world. My internet is fast and my phone line is clear. So exciting!!!

And we have enough wood cut and stacked to see us through the winter.

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Afternoon Magic at the Farm

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“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
~ Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

 

Yesterday we came home. It’s a flying visit to the farm – a quick overnight to pick up some clothes, some paperwork and other things left behind in a hurry.

We still need to be back in Brisbane right now so that Ben can be close to doctors and hospitals while he heals. We head to the city later today.

But yesterday we came home.

The first thing we did was pile into the old farm ute and drive down to the river flats to check the cattle. They were fat and happy, there was plenty of feed, and all the water and fences (the things that farmers worry about) were in order.

So we strolled over to the river to look for the platypus, and we threw sticks for the dogs. A good time was had by all.

On the way back to the car we stopped at the site of an old bottle dump, from when the scrub was first cleared and a few woodcutter’s humpies were built back in the 1860’s. Each year more old glass and china fragments work their way to the surface. We gathered a few handfuls and came home to sit on the veranda as the sun set, being serenaded by frogs and cicadas, and the wind-chimes slowly tinkling in the light breeze.

Such simple, heartfelt magic! We can’t wait to be home again properly. We miss this place so much, but we are lucky to have fabulous neighbours watering our vegetable gardens and orchard, picking our harvest, and keeping an eye on our herd. Our treasured patch of land is in safe hands til we return. 🙂

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I should be grumpy this morning…

Image from lalal

Image from The Bump

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”Henry Ward Beecher

I should be grumpy this morning.

Really, really grumpy.

I have now completed my third drug-free week from my lyme treatment, letting my liver have a break. At first I was so grateful to not have to put fistfuls of pills into myself. The drugs themselves are a nightmare, and I was celebrating not taking them. My body sighed with relief and my toxicity levels dropped. For a moment I felt marginally better.

But then some of the old symptoms I haven’t experienced for months flared up. Bartonella pains, babesia night sweats, lyme brain, chest pain. No fun at all. And it has become steadily worse. Worse enough that I’m looking forward to starting those horrible drugs again next week.

Each night now I endure pain, and insomnia. Last night was especially uncomfortable, and I didn’t get much sleep at all.

I should be so grumpy.

But last night I lay awake and listened to the sound of rain on our city roof. I peered into the bright screen of my iPad, loaded the weather radar and watched great clouds of rain dumping their load over the farm, imagining how the parched land would be sighing in relief.

I lay in the dark, hours later, and listened to the soft regular breathing of my husband, newly home from hospital. I reached my fingers out to him in the darkness and settled my hand on his chest.

Finally, after endless hours of misery I fell into a restless sleep.

I was dragged up from a disturbing dream by a persistent tugging on my arm.

Cafe Dog (known to some as Harry!) had my arm in his mouth and was trying to pull me out of bed. He let go, nudged my face and licked me. Then he bounded to the door.

Everyone was already up. It’s a glorious day. The air is fresh and clean from all the rain. The sunshine is dazzling. All my loved ones are happy.

So, I should be grumpy, but I’m not. Life is blessing me right now, and I’m not going to miss a moment. I can nap later, but right now morning calls, and Cafe Dog is keen for us to go to our favourite Brisbane haunt for an early breakfast, some writing and a little socialising.

No matter what is going on right now that is outside of my control, I can choose how I feel in each moment.

I choose love.

I choose happiness.

I choose gratitude.

How about you?

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Things that make my heart glad!

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” 
~ Samuel Johnson, The Idler; Poems

 

The New Year is almost here! As part of my sacred promise to live a heart-centred year in 2014, I am aiming to make sure I fill my days with more of the simple things that make my heart glad.

Here’s my list, below.

1. The ever-changing light here at our farm: a brilliant blaze of sunrise, that quirky green haze before the afternoon storm, the dove-grey gloom of dusk. Taking a moment to stand barefoot on the ground and drink in my surroundings is good medicine for my soul.

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2. A cup of tea – on my own, with my husband, or with friends. Tea is such a comforting brew, and there are so many flavours to choose from. There’s always one to suit my mood.

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3. Fresh flowers. These ones are from weeds and vegetables in my garden that have gone to seed. No matter, they still give me joy. There is loveliness everywhere once you start to look.

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4. The beach. Summer or winter, morning or evening or any time in between. Swims in the briny sea, lungfuls of good clean air, the tang of salt on the breeze, sun on my skin, sand between my toes.

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5. Meditation. I swear meditation has saved my life. I fall into its arms twice each day and it never fails to soothe me, restore me and connect me.

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6. Writing, and reading books. One of the great loves of my existence. To be able to sit at home, or at a favourite cafe, and let words tumble onto the page is a form of magic for me. So is reading a book and being transported to a whole new world for a while.2012-05-17 07.34.52

 

7. Fairies. Being able to sit quietly in nature and see who’s there, or talking with Sokli, my most favourite fairy of them all – that always makes my heart glad.

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8. Hanging out at the farm. Down by the river, watching the platypus. Cooking up treats in the kitchen. Communing with the cows. Exploring with Harry and Bert. Dancing in my gumboots. Listening to the birds. Searching for the noisy koalas. Chasing away the wallabies from my vegetable garden. Picking oranges in the orchard. It’s the little ordinary things that bring  a smile to my face. Truly, living here makes me feel so blessed.

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Life is a precious gift. This coming year I am going to fill it with the ordinary miracles of being alive. How about you? What things will you open your heart to in 2014? What makes your own heart glad?

Much love to you, Nicole xx

5 Random Things That Make Me Happy

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien

 

1. Little details of loveliness that show people care. Fresh flowers on a cafe table…

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2. Singing along to my favourite songs in the car!

Image from Ake Hige, Flickr

Image from Ake Hige, Flickr

3. Being lost in a book…

Image from bz55

Image from bz55

4.  Seeing shapes in clouds!

and this… (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

5. Cooking my Nana’s pikelets. I always feel her magic in the kitchen, and that makes me smile. It also makes the food taste good.

Nana's famous pikelet recipe

Nana’s famous pikelet recipe

PS: Pikelets are also coveted by dogs. Dogs make me happy too!

Bert, sneakily eyeing off the pikelets

Bert, sneakily eyeing off the pikelets

Wherever you are, I’m wishing you some sparkles of happiness and joy today.

What little things make you happy?

Much love to you, and a big hug too, ♥ 🙂 Nicole xx