August Summary 

Well, there’s certainly been a few months between drinks so to speak. And by drinks I mean blog posts, but coincidentally also drinks! Yay me! As to what’s been happening, to quote the great Inigo Montoya, “let me sum up”. G1 is busy in her apprenticeship, and has been back in the classroom at TAFE for the last few months, learning (and smashing) the theory behind all things first year electrical.

She has also finally got her boat license and much to her joy, her own car! Which is both wonderful and nail biting for me. 

G2 has recently acquired her coaching certificate and now coaches little ones in gymnastics, which she loves, and has also joined the trailblazing first ever lot of Moranbah Cadets!

G3 is cruising along through her first year of high school, putting her eldest sister to shame with her peaking stress levels at exam and assessment time, currently sitting on an A+ for maths, and working herself into an absolute frenzy to stay there. Despite constant assurances from us that’s it’s not a big deal to not get an A+. Our pedantic perfectionist, with a filthy room and wild temper.

All of this is exasperated by our impending trip, which I’ll elaborate on later.

In an exciting twist for our family, we ladies managed to turn the tide and get Dan to come to the party, by agreeing on a new sausage dog! 

Huzzah!

Our beautiful Willow Woofgood (a name you may recognise from such films as “Willow”) came into our lives a few months ago, and helped to fill the gaping hole that our Dukey boy left in our lives.

He’s not replaced, could never be. But is now accompanied. Willow is a little sweetheart, and our first inside dog. Which has been a challenge to say the least. We tried valiantly to get her to sleep in her crate all night, and by we, I mean me. Dan is remaining distant from the whole inside dog scenario, refusing to have anything to do with it, therefore it’s up to the girls and I to train, reward, feed, clean up etc. (and smother with love. Which we do in spades). But the shifts we rostered for pee breaks and cry calming, soon became just a mum job. And my gosh puppies are exhausting! She now snuggles in with whoever will have her (bar Dan of course), and happily sleeps through the night. Phew. She’s outside with the big dogs in the day, and even though Hera, who is pretty much Dan in dog form, growls at her every time she walks past her, Luna has (at first begrudgingly) welcomed her, and occasionally plays, like she used to with Duke. I often wonder if they miss him too?

Willow is different to him in lots of ways. But she likes to lay in the same spot in the nerd room which is lovely to see.

She doesn’t bark, touch wood, but is just as ignorant. Which is definitely a sausage trait. Where duke was a cheese man, willow is chicken. She’s pretty outgoing, duke was steady. But having said that she has 2 modes, when she’s not crazy she’s completely lazy.

But she’s beautiful, and we love her.

We’re off to NZ for 2 weeks on Friday, so she’s going to stay with friends. Coincidentally these friends lost their sausage nearly a year to the day they take Willow in.

So our little lady is off to heal more hearts.

Quite the warrior for a puppy. Much like her namesake, she’s here to bring love and healing. 

And that’s us up to date, Dan’s been working, and brewing, and much to my joy (insert sarcasm) has bought (halves with his brother)a keg machine thing. Yes an actual keg machine. So it’s like a pub on our veranda. Yay! He’s completely set up for a zombie apocalypse or bird flu outbreak. With enough booze to see out any lock down. But, whatever. Fair trade I say. We get Willow, he gets his toys and a hangover. Done.

I’m loving work at the radio, back in the pool, painting when I can and in the midst of a 6 week metafit challenge at our local gym. Hence the no drinks. And I’m just starting to feel the anxiety butterflies that prelude a family holiday. But I’ll tackle that as it comes.

Anywho, Stan has been introduced to Willow, and is ready to write home every day during our trip across the ditch. So stay tuned for Letters to Willow.

Microclimate 

nounThe climate of a very small or restricted area, especially when this differs from the climate of the surrounding area.  (Above is a Blackdowns NP microclimate)

We went on every school and guide camp, growing up.

There was always plenty of hiking, campfire cooking and fun, particularly when caves and gorges were involved.

Carnarvon Gorge is one of my favourite camp locations, though it’s been years since I’ve been, I can still remember many of the amazing natural formations, and learning how everything functioned throughout the gorge and its many different features.

The thing that has always stuck with me was microclimates. I’ve witnessed hundreds more locations that have their own, but the Carnarvon one was where it was taught to me, so it sits highest in my memory. 

Entering a space with a microclimate, in this case, a stunning little rainforesty/waterfally/straight out of fern gully, hidden in the stone gorge piece of paradise, just feels different! It feels special. Magic. The air is sweeter, the plant life lush and green. There’s this mini little environment, totally doing it’s own thing, amid the outside world and influences. It feels peaceful.

Nature is so awesome. 

This is possibly the only way I can explain, to the uninitiated, small towns. They too have their very own, very special, microclimate.

35 years and I will still sing the praises of little towns, from their hand poured driveways, to their community built churches and pubs. From the busy body dobbers, to the rebel teens and frustrated coppers.

These towns, our towns, are different.

Were different. 

My town, Tieri, is clearly my favourite example. 

Being a baby on the coal mining scene, there were no established roots there.

But over time, they were sown deep into the earth, and my heart never left when I did, 16 years ago. 

It’s a strange phenomenon to outsiders, this microclimate. And much like the gorge, it makes a place so much better, fresher, it makes a place grow, and feeds and sustains friendships and love.

The relationships that Tieri provided for me, and my family, are the greatest and strongest we have.

No where else, but little towns like ours, will you find people to stand by you and support you through grief, pain, and sorrow. People who will celebrate your achievements with genuine happiness, people who will join hands and walk through the scrub to flush out a prowler, people who will fundraiser their days off away, to help raise money for a mate, who will help you clean up when your roof blows off in a storm, who will build and maintain a memorial, people who pass no judgment on a teenage mum and dad, people who form a village to raise all of their children. 

People who make your heart ache just to think of, coz you just miss them so darn much. 

That little microclimate is in your heart forever. No matter where you go.

Fear and loss, made me decide a very long time ago, to never leave a word unspoken. I love, a lot. And I know that if anything were to unexpectedly change in my life, the people I love will not doubt for a second, just how special they are to me.

Yesterday, people from lots of little microclimate towns, gathered to say goodbye to a truly wonderful man.

We embraced, and wept, wiped tears and smiled. Caught up and reminisced, laughed and loved and wept some more.

I threw my I love you’s around like confetti, but not flippantly, not wastefully.

My love is genuine. 

There were no words left unsaid for this beautiful family. Though the pain is just as raw. 

So we grieve together in the hope that it can ease some of their pain, help to heal their hearts, that are breaking, so badly.

We band together, to cushion the blow.

Because that’s just what small town folk do.

I told you small towns were special.

It’s very Ed Sheeran, but true. These small town people raised me. 

And I miss them.

I only hope that my children can look back on their childhoods and appreciate what we’re doing for them, by raising them here in our medium town! 

Every friendship forged, every memory, every community event, all the highs and the lows, shared amongst some of the best people in the world.

I want to thank my parents for taking a leap of faith all those years ago. Without that blind faith, l would never have met all the people who have made my life fuller, funner, richer, and just better. And I really do love you all.

It’s a microclimate thing.

For Pip. THE PHONECALL

“Everyone’s ok, but…..”
Conversations that start like this usually turn worlds upside down. 

Your breath stops, the world stops, and all focus goes to listening to the words that inevitably follow;

“There’s been an accident”

I received this phone call on a Sunday afternoon. 

From your Grandma Sue.

She was talking about you, and your family.

As you know, we were on the tail end of a huge, happy family holiday. We had literally just got back to the van after a big day at Movie World. Which was awesome by the way, get your mum and dad to take you once your all tall enough, the rides are AMAZING! 

You guys had headed off home, a day before we were due to head off.

The accident, your hilux ute, towing your caravan, Vs a B-Double, (the driver of which had let his guard down while pulling on to the highway in front of you), happened nearly 300k from where we were.

Details were sketchy, even the location wasn’t exact. 

I was told that everyone was fine, but you, my niece, N1 (8) were being taken to hospital.

Feeling helpless and starved for information, we packed up camp and started for where we assumed you all were.

The journey felt so slow, but more calls were coming in. Your Daddy, my Brother in law, (BIL), and sisters, nieces N2 (6) & N3 (5), and brother, nephew N4 (4), were being taken to their closest hospital 30k from the accident site, and my beloved middle sister, your beautiful Mumma and you, were being choppered to the nearest big hospital, 250k from the accident site. Seems you had been knocked unconscious, and had quite a bump to the head. 

Your car and van were a write off.

You know how your Uncle Dan is a pretty volatile individual. Hell hath no fury like Uncle Dan with a fly in his beer, a missing screwdriver or a stubbed toe, but put him in a serious, dramatic life event, and he’s as calm and clear headed as a superhero.

As I freaked out and cried and filled the gaps of information with awful scenarios in my head, he made a plan.

He would drop your cousins, G1, G2, G3 and I at the big town, we’d set up camp, go to the big hospital, and he would keep going north to your Dad and the little ones, and help sort the practical side of things.

It was late and freezing when we arrived at the hospital, and you and your Mumma had just arrived too. 

Hospital waiting rooms are pretty bizarre. Late at night, they’re bizarre-er still. 

I didn’t wait long before I was taken in to see you.

G1, G2 & G3 waited in the crazy waiting room. An old friend on hand to sit with them for the first little while.

To say walking into that emergency room was confronting, would be a total understatement.

I was expecting a bump to the head.

What I seen was my beautiful, funny, loud sister, ashen faced, in a paper gown, standing with 3 nurses around the head of the bed where my baby, my first niece, that I watched enter the world, you, lay, bloody, dirty, and drugged. 

You looked as frail and helpless as the day you were born. Wearing knickers and a huge neck brace. Stickers attached to wires, attached to a beeping machine covered your little body, still tanned and glowing from a week at the beach. There was an adhesive on your chin, covering a star shaped split that would be sutured together hours later. 

Your sun streaked blonde hair was a mess, and stiff with dirt and tears.

From your beautiful blond right eyebrow, to your chin, was swollen and bruised. Your beautiful blue eyes frightfully mismatched. With the right completely swollen shut. Your little mouth, bloody and barely able to open, turned up at the edges when you saw me. 

“Aunty Loo!”

I kissed your mother, and they took her away to have her injuries, which I didn’t even know she had, seen to. The terror in her eyes is something I’ll never forget.

So my watch began.

I stroked your hair and told you that I loved you. You told me what happened as I tried to distract you with other talk, and questions about your trip to SeaWorld. You were sick. Many times. I’d hold the bag while the nurses carefully tipped you to your side, a back/neck injury still a very real possibility.

Your little body would convulse as you wretched, your frightened eyes rolling in your head. 

I gently held your sore little hand as you were wheeled down corridors for scans on your brain, spine, pelvis, and internal organs, helping shift you, ever so carefully from bed to bed.

Leaving the room while the scans took place was awful. Seeing the nurses adjust you for the machine was awful. Waiting for someone to explain the results as they came through was agony. 

You know how your Mum gets watching state of origin, her pulse racing, on the edge of her seat, that was me inside. But replace excitement with fear. The anticipation was awful. It was all awful.

Getting the all clear was amazing. I took my first breath.

Drs and nurses came and went, and the emergency department carried on at full, crazy steam, as city hospitals do. 

G1, G2 and G3 still waited. 

They found you had a broken cheekbone and eye socket. You also had belly and hip bruising from the seatbelt, and ended up with 4 stitches in your chin.

When your neck cuff was removed, much to your relief, and some more pain relief was administered, you finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

I watched you as you slept. Stroking your hair and thanking every god I could think of for your very existence. 

Just like when you were a baby, and I’d watch you sleep in my arms, your face portrayed every emotion in your brain. Your little face would fitfully turn from still, to grin, to sobs. It was heartbreaking.

When at last your mind was still, and your machine beeps were steady, I tagged out with your nurse, and I went to check on your Mumma.

I was again taken by surprise. 

Finding her laying in an emergency bed, wearing a neck brace, ashen, panicked, and very afraid.

She’d not realized how hurt she was, until she knew you were ok. She felt no pain at all, up until then.

She retold the accident in detail. Her eyes darting about, like a cornered animal. Scared out of her mind about her babies. About you.

She was so relieved to hear of your clearance, and to know everyone was in the right places to care for you all.

Phone calls relayed info through the night. Your Daddy and the little ones were spending the night in hospital, nurses monitoring the head bumps of N3 and N4. And N3’s belly. N2 was just along for the ride. And the treat of toast in bed! 

Uncle Dan had arrived there safe. Phew. And Grandma was well on her way(800k), due to arrive the next morning. She promised she would only travel half way and rest, but we all knew better.

I braced your cousins, G1, G2 and G3 for what they would see, and they were let in to sit with you, so I could be with your mum. 

Thankfully you were asleep and missed the shocked sobs, as they all came and sat by your bed. Unsuccessfully holding back tears, they realised, as I had, how terribly lucky we were to have you with us.

Your mums cuff was removed and she revealed her war wounds. An awful friction burn on her throat from the seatbelt, and matching deep purple and black bruises across her chest and waist.

Both hands were swollen and aching. Whiplash and worry, making moving and speaking very difficult.

When you were given the all clear to move to the children’s ward, mum and baby were finally reunited. Your mumma was allowed to accompany you up, she in her wheelchair and you on your trolley bed.

My girls and I headed back to camp. 

Dawn, and we were back again. I checked in on your mumma, not a great rest was had on the Emergency floor. And then up to you. 

Your improvement was incredible!

My girls stayed with you, and I went to your mum.

An X-ray had picked up a broken hand. And ensued a hilarious trip to the have her bones manipulated and set.

I’ve been with your mum through 4 births, and 3 of my own, so I’m no stranger to laughing gas. But perhaps given the different circumstances of child birth, I’ve never seen gas do anything but make people vomit.

Until that moment.

My heart was singing as I watched her giggle and drunkenly tell her Dr how gorgeous she was, way too young to be a Dr, and the bone Dr how old he looked with his grey hair! You know Ice Age 3, when they go through the gas, she totally did that line! “It’s Gas talk dude”, followed by “we’re all gunna die!” Before laughing maniacally. 

She was wheeled back to her cubicle very embarrassed, but totally pain free!

Your Dad, N2, N3 and N4 were all discharged that morning, and Grandma Sue had arrived at the crack of dawn, ready to take the little ones into her care in a motel, while Uncle Dan and your dad salvaged what they could from the car and van. 

They sent through photos of the wreckage.

Horrendous.

Your great Aunt drove out to check in, living 100k away, she was the closest family and couldn’t stay away. A nurse, she was invaluable in translating info, and taking special care of you, up in the kids ward.

She took my girls and I into the shops to buy clothing and special treats for you both. Trying to find warm clothes in December is hard! Even in the arctic town of Toowoomba! 

My girls, your cousins, were amazing at looking after you, and our Aunt thinks we may get a nurse out of one yet!

They really do love you a lot. 

Late that afternoon, your mum was finally discharged and able to be wheeled up to you in the children’s ward, where they had found another break in your eye socket.

Your Daddy and uncle Dan arrived that evening. It was a very, very teary, heart wrenching reunion for a Daddy and his little girl. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Even from Uncle Dan!

The following day Drs found that you, tough as nails, and totally getting used to being waited on, had in fact broken your right arm as well.

Grandma was doing a smashing job keeping the little ones sane and smiling, up in the little town, but was very much looking forward to seeing her daughter and granddaughter, (and having a bit of a break).

With your Dad and mum both with you, it was time for us to go. Walking out of that hospital was hard. 

So hard.

It’s just like when your Mum had you babies. I’d be there for her, go through the birthing roller coaster with her. Share in the joy. And then have to step back. And realize that she had her own family. A family that are more than capable of caring for her and loving her, and her babies.

Just like now.

We headed up to Grandma and the little ones, staying the night, and hugging them all to pieces. Thankful for every little part of them. Thankful for their lives. Thankful and laughing at their stories of the accident, and their time in the motel with grandma. 

Sad when they asked when mummy and you, would be back, knowing how bloody scary it must have been for them, for you all, to be separated. 

Your James grandparents had arrived too, and your great Aunt and Uncle. All ready to offer a hand. 

And your beautiful Aunt had been informed down on the ice in Antarctica, and through the help of some friends, was in the up to date loop of info. 

So much help and love, all coming together to make sure everything went smoothly.

After an awful side track. We are all home. Shaken but not stirred! We had Christmas together, and all the injuries are improving so fast! The breaks need more checks, and some more aches and pains are popping up in your Mumma. 

Though driving is still a bit scary, for all of you, through debriefing and being open about how you’re feeling, I’m confident you will all be just fine.

And I’m non stop thanking all our dead relatives for protecting our beautiful family. 

My lesson here my darling? 

Hold your loved ones tight. Always wear your seatbelt. (The wicked bruises they leave are worth all the pain). Never, ever give up hope. 

And, my goodness, you are one super brave, super tough young lady! 

You must get it from your Mumma. 

I love you my baby! Xx 

 

On the eve of your graduation!

G1, I’m exhausted! Seriously, I know everyone always says that the last year goes the quickest, but whoa! 
This last term has been a mental whirlwind of aptitude tests and driving hours, hair appointments and shopping trips, exams and extra study, and all the usual tears, yelling and laughter.

Thankfully mostly the latter.

I know tomorrow is going to be one of those moments that imprints on my brain forever. I see you, walking across the crossing all by yourself for the first time in year 1, too big backpack, too big dress, looking so proud and happy! I see you walking out of the airport waiting room after flying back from Canberra in Year 7, again, proud and happy, and tomorrow I will see you in your school uniform for the last time, accepting your year 12 certificate. 

I guess I just want now, to explain away my emotions, that will no doubt make an appearance tomorrow, at your graduation.

I’m going to cry. Despite your father asking me not to. And despite it appearing that I’m sad, it’s not entirely true.

I’m excited for your future, excited for you to be handed your certificate, excited to see your grades, excited for your formal and your Jessica rabbit dress, your sparkly shoes and fancy nails, your beautiful hair and stunning make up, your photos, your dinner, your after party, your last hoorah with some of your mates (some, because you may not see all of these guys together again until your 10 year reunion), excited for your schoolies fun, excited for your career and all it will entail.

I’m proud, proud of your hard work (your just like your Daddy), proud of your resilience, proud of your dedication, proud of your ability to not hold grudges, to be Switzerland (like your mumma), proud of you standing up for what you believe in, proud of you taking in information, proud of you being brave enough to try scary new things (being the only girl in the blue shed, going on the young endeavor), proud of your kind heart, your open mind, and your quick witted humor (you get that from your Aunty).

I’m scared. Scared of the world corrupting you. Of the world hurting you, or disappointing you. Scared to death of anything bad ever happening to you.

I’m eager. Eager to see what’s next! How you’ll grow and change. How you’ll adapt. What obstacles you’ll overcome and how!

I’m happy! So happy to see you glowing, happy to see you with your friends, happy to see the way you interact with your teachers and other adults. Happy to see that stunning smile, (that your dad and I made all by ourselves), so happy to see you so happy.

I’m humbled, that your so amazing, and I’m stunned, that I, that we, could make someone as perfect, as clever, as funny, as beautiful and as special as you.

And yes, I’m sad, because I miss my baby. 

So when I’m crying, like I am now, that’s why. 

Congratulations my darling, I love you.

  

So I don’t forget.

My dad was tall, and blonde, with blue eyes and a tattoo of a kangaroo and the Northern Territory on his upper arm. The forearm of which he would often shave with one of his good knives once he had sharpened it on his steel, testing its edge. A butcher by trade, he did this a lot. I don’t recall a scar, but I know he once accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with a boning knife in a Katherine abattoir.

He loved camping, the bush, campfires, country music, and being alone with all of the above. He loved animals and would bring home injured or abandoned wild life, doted on our inside dogs and fed every magpie, butcher bird and lorikeet in town. He smoked craven A’s and rolled champion ruby in tally ho’s, or mum would roll them for him, especially when we were driving. He was pretty tech wise for his time, and we grew up with a computer, and he must have had some nerd in him, as we always had cool games, would play lots of trivia pursuit, and he bought us a telescope.

He loved horror movies, and we cut our teeth, or rather, chewed our nails, with movies like Night of the Living Dead, the Exorcist and Razorback, we had multiple episodes of Creep Show on video, and Bloodbath and the House of Death was a comic favourite. He loved Toyotas and driving. He wore an akubra or cap, work shirt and stubbies or ruggers. He drank fourex heavies, and the occasional glass of asti with mum, out of the good crystal, while celebrating.

He loved babies, and won over every one we knew. He kept a beautiful lawn, I’m telling you now, it was gorgeous. He liked to play the pokies on holidays, and loved the beach. He loved it when they went on strike. There’d be an extra spring in his step as he dumped his crib port on the ground, and I would go through it, retrieving all the coffee, tea and sugar sachets that he’d acquired from Mitre 11. He loved BBQ samboys, Vegemite on toast, and Vegemite soup when he was sick, smooshed up egg and bread in a cup, and bubble and squeak.

He loved mum. He loved us.

He loved fishing, and would usually do a big trip every year. Mum would cook for weeks, freezing curry and stews in ice cream containers, and he’d return with tales of giant crocs and massive gropers and Barra, and freezers full of fish. Before leaving we would pick a star, that way we could look at each other through the heavens while he was away. This was probably my dramatic idea, and has a very “An American Tail” feel about it. But it always made me feel better.

Tonight the moon is the closest it’s been in decades, and I think it’s quite appropriate. My Dad has been gone 21 years today, and I think I need to feel close to him. So tonight I choose the moon as my means to see him.

Peek through Dad, and see your 6 granddaughters and grandson. Your 2 sons in law, 3 great nephews and great niece, 2 families in law, and see how much your wife has strived and achieved, how much more beautiful she has gotten with age, see your eldest daughter conquering fears and smashing glass ceilings, your middle daughter raising 4 gorgeous kids (yes 4!), and me, keeping on, and keeping up, with this crazy old world!

Oh, the things you’ve missed. Oh, the people who miss you.

Time fades the bad and the sad, and maturity changes perspective.

But broken hearts stay broken hearts.

And love never dies. 
  

Magic Beans!

Now, I like stuff. Anyone who has spent a deal of time with me knows this.

I’m forever warning my children against spending their money on magic beans, when, given the opportunity, I’d be buying up those magical little suckers.

I was a bit saddened to hear that shops like “The Red Leprechaun”, and “National Geographic” are closing their doors. I guess because people like me, people who would spend hours browsing their oil and water egg timers, bronze coke bottles, solar powered bugs, mini telescopes, goo, pewter dragons and ant farms, grew up, and had to fake being responsible adults, who choose, I don’t know, chicken breasts and brand cheese over beloved magic beans.

Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I still get to indulge my inner child. There’s heaps of Adult stuff about.

Just tonight I got to play with some new toys that, shock horror, Dan bought me. Dan is anti-stuff. Very much so. But it seems I may be having an effect. 

Round 1, the vagetti. I hate the vagetti. I hate using the vagetti.I hate saying the word vagetti. A lot. Try it. Pretty cringe worthy hey? Or maybe I’m just a child.

It’s essentially a carrot sharpener. That you need fingers as long and skinny as carrots, yet strong as steel, to use efficiently. Hence the reason I’m using a fork. Yes the results are pretty cool, but I think I’ll stick with my grater.

Round 2, the silicon citrus squeezer! I’m not entirely sure that’s it’s name, but I got it for my birthday, and it’s AWESOME! Thanks Dan!

I was fully prepared to be disappointed after the carrot sharpener, but I gotta tell ya! This is going to be joining the eggo* as one of my kitchen faves!

You cut your citrus in half, or 4ths if your lemon/lime/orange tree yields giant fruit like ours, pop it in the lemon shaped citrus pocket, complete with little holes to reject the seeds and gunk, and squeeze!

Voila!

Magic beans come good!!

I’m so happy I may just go and buy myself a slinky!

Except I don’t have to as my stuff loving G3 spent up on Magic beans on her school camp, like her sisters before her, and I have a brand new one right here!

I tell ya, Jack was onto something!! 

 
*an eggo is a cool thing used to time boiling eggs! It’s shaped like half an egg, is clear (I know right! Me all over) and it gets darker depending on the eggs softness inside! It goes in the saucepan with the eggs as they boil, and has saved us from destroying dippy eggs for years!