Monday, December 29, 2008

Well hello there, possums!


It's been aaaages! Dunno wot happened really, lost the blog bug for some reason. Plus the fact that I've been ridiculously but deliciously busy (ie. busy making lots of food for multiple gatherings of lovely people). December has been quite a month!

And it occurred to me, in amongst the craziness, that pretty much every year December is going to be a wild and crazy month. And I love it! There are so many gatherings in December, and just this year another three have been added to what was already a fairly busy month. We know so many people born in early December, but for our family the festivities begin with my dear mother's birth on the 12th. The family always gets together for a dinner together, either at someone's house or a restaurant. This year it was both! We converged at a very unsuitable location (family unfriendly or what?!), chosen by my sweet but misguided sister, and ordered take away gourmet pizza and took it all back to my sister's place, where we all shared and laughed and the kids jumped off the couches and it was much nicer. Then the next day was Indi's first birthday (YAY!), which I had been cooking for over the previous week, freezing stuff to be baked the day before (good plan, will continue doing this), and for which I have exactly zero photos, since my sisters took all the photos and I have yet to even see them. Will post them when I have them. And it went really really well, despite our park location being rained out and having to have it at home instead. It was crowded, but that just meant more joy per square metre really, and Indi was a star hostess! She didn't get freaked out at all, as I was fearing, but just got more and more excited, and when it came time to sing happy birthday she hunkered down in my arms and looked at every one with wide eyes til they were finished hooraying. As I cut the cake and people started milling, she suddenly clapped her hands and shouted "HRAY!", and everyone cracked up laughing, as did she, and she did it again and again and MANG it was so bloody cute, I think I will remember that for ever!

Oh I have one photo, of the cake I made, taken the night before just before I went to bed, satisfied all was as it should be:


Cute huh? I bought the icing flowers, so disregard any visions you might have conjured of me weilding the piping bag, it didn't happen. Much easier to hand over a few bucks at the cake supplies store nearby and buy some fruit mince pies to munch on at the swiss cake shop next door, yum! They were still warm too... But I digress!

OK, two birthdays down, but no rest for me, I had much cooking to do to prepare for the Christmas feast I was planning. I had to be creative and plan well since Christmas Eve my sister wanted us to gather at her place for the first of what will be our yearly tradition from now on, and on the 23rd it was Pa's 92nd birthday (go Pa!!). So three days in a row of gathering with family and wonderful food and celebrating lovely stuff. Plus a last minute invitation to a boxing day dinner at a friend's parent's place, and then tomorrow the last of the lot, a gathering at Mat's aunty's place, again the first of what she hopes will be a yearly gathering, post Christmas. Phew! Let me count them... seven events! And that's not counting the odd 'getting together with friends just coz we like em' thing too, which we also did. For kinda hermit-like peeps, that's a whole lotta socialising. And I have loved every minute of it. Six of those events will be repeated each year, each December, and I reckon it's awesome.



Here are some photos of us since my last post, just random shots of loveliness.

Me and Mat in a lovely moment.


The WHOLE kitty family, with mama top left, papa bottom right, and five kittens in between, all squished onto one armchair. How cute is that? They love each other so much. I think it was a couple of days before the first two kittens were taken to their new home, so I'm glad I took it when I did.


Kingu is the little ginger lady we will be keeping. Mat chose her, and she is most certainly the most remarkable of the kittens. She has pluck, and she purrs a lot. And her name means Chaos Dragon.
She's a TIGER! Fer-O-cious!


Yesterday I finally got my pool swimmable for the first time this summer, and Indi went into it with me! She had a great time! So much better than public indoor pools with their weird chlorine smells and echoes and freakiness, she was much more relaxed in our pool, which made me so happy. She just might be a water baby after all!

I just WISH this shot wasn't blurry, but you can see her joy through the blurriness, and it shows what a busy bee she's been sprouting all those teeth! She has four fully out, and there are two more sprouted below and another two on top. She makes the cutest teensy little bite marks in her cheese slices!

And here is the wonderful Dr Chops, my spirit cat who has gone through so much change and upheaval this past year, and who I love to bits. He is joined by Moo.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Springtime Abundance City Central

Our garden has been blazing away in mindblowing springtime glory for months now, and I thought I'd better capture it before the heat of summer fades the beauty, as it tends to do somewhat. The flowers have been going nuts for a couple of months now, and have been filling my heart with joy every time I walk out front, which is a LOT, we spend every day out there, Indi and I. I weed, plant and fertilise whilst she tries to slip a sheep poo past her lips without me noticing (which is all too often!! aaarghhh!! no wonder the first word she has learnt to respond to is "spit it out" in Turkish.). Thankfully my lettuces are now big enough to be mulched around, and so the sheep poo is hidden beneath lovely lucerne mulch, away from the fat little cheeky fingers of a certain 11 month old imp.



In the last couple of weeks the roses have been coming out to play, and have been filling the garden with a rich sweet perfume. Since getting the second queen bed in our bedroom and pushing the first one right up into the corner of the room under the huge window, we have been able to lie in bed with the window open and be awash with the scent of roses, which is quite a nice experience I must say, and easily promotes many moments of sheer unadulterated thankfulness for all the wonderful things in one's life. You can see the top of the window frame of our bedroom in the right hand side of this photo with the amazing purple rose archway.

Having ripped up half the front lawn in my quest for more vegies space, and as per my google research used a multitude of various forms of fertiliser (organic blood and bone, organic complete fertiliser, sheep poo, compost, organic Charlie Carp, sulphate of potash), we are now enjoying sitting back and watching as they all "go sick". Tomatoes are bushy and leafy and covered in flower buds, same with the capsicums, and the beans have just discovered the long poles of the pretty frame I put up for them to climb on, and are tendrilling around them nicely. The front of this photo has some shade cast by the huge market umbrella we invested in at the start of spring, when I realised that our precious baby was gonna get too much sun if we were gonna be gardening every day, which we both love to do.

Update re: strawberry patch on wheels - it is working! And wonderfully! It's only a teensy bit dumb coz it's waaaay to heavy to ever push anywhere, but as a novel and cheap (and not very legal) idea for a planter it is great! I had filled it lovingly with all manner of goodies, which, had I been a strawberry plant, I would have ached for - lots and lots of homemade compost, sheep poo, organic potting mix, sulphate of potash - and the results are really awesome. In the past all attempts to grow strawberries resulted in pathetically small and stunted fruit, and sad looking plants. Thanks to google and some lovely friends who had gifted me with the plants in the first place, I learned how voracious these little beauties are in terms of water and feeding, so I truly indulged them, and I have never grown strawberries this big or cheerful before! Indi has been eating them every day for about a week, and it just makes me so happy to see her eating home grown organic fruit. How lovely!! It might be hard to see (bottom photo below) but I have a tomato plant and two nectarine trees which have sprouted from the compost. I'll have to remove the trees I think and donate them to someone worthy, but methinks the tomato can stay, and may be handy in providing not only more tomatoes (I have planted HEAPS but you simply cannot have too many home grown tomatoes!), but when it's bigger will provide shade for the strawbs during the heat of summer.

Here are some more shots of berry-licious wonderment:


We are also looking forward to mounds of zuchinni, cucumbers, pumkins and potatoes. The snails and I have been battling it out for the cucumbers though. They seemed to think I was putting out a midnight snack for them each time I planted out a punnet. On the third punnet I put a cut-up plastic bottle over each plant, and I'm winning! Each plant is safely housed and growing wonderfully. Indi loves to much on cucumbers, so I just can't wait when I can reach into my garden and hand her a super duper fresh one. Yay! I have always always loved gardening, since I was a small child, and have planted a vegie patch and flowers for as long as I can remember, but growing organic food for your child just adds a whole new dimension to it!

Oh, and just a final note about watering. We bought a tiny pump (really a bilge pump that boats have on them to pump out the water that seeps in) which you attach your garden hose to and sit into your bath, and it works beautifully, and means we can save our bath water (only when we have used no shampoo or conditioner, which is fairly often with Indi and most of my showers these days) and water whenever we like. I try to not get the water onto the leaves, since it's technically grey water even though it has no chemicals in it. I have hated the two day a week rule, any true gardener knows it's not enough in summer, not by a long shot, so it's so nice to know I can water my garden without using any extra tap water, and keep my garden growing during the heat of summer. And you can recharge the pump battery by a small solar panel too! Needless to say, we likes the pump.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

OMIGOD LOOK! It's a fuzzy ball of KITTEN!

I have always, always wanted to have a litter of something born at my house. Puppies, kittens, ducklings, whatever! It always seemed to be the thing that happened to other people, a magical thing that I could only ever dream of. Until the lovely Sophia arrived at our place just over two months ago. She is a beautiful, slender, pure white cat, who is not much more than a kitten herself actually. She arrived one day, scrawny, hungry, with a flea collar around her neck so tight I couldn't get a finger under it, and with a really dirty head as clearly she had been trying to rub the damn thing off for a long time. She wasn't very happy. She was also quite the randy one. Within minutes of taking the collar off her and giving her a good feed, our other adoptee Crunchie strutted over and began to get to know her better, in the biblical sense. (Yes, we know, we are getting him spayed next week!!) And there were other strange cats hanging around over the next few days, so we were pretty sure she was pregnant. We didn't really want another cat, but there was no way we could turn away the lovely and tiny Sophia, especially since she'd be needing somewhere safe and warm to grow and birth her little babies. So suddenly we had a third cat! (This picture of her was taken the day she arrived. Yes, it didn't take her long to feel at home!) She grew and grew, and grew and grew (I had never seen a pregnant cat before!). She ate and ate, and grew some more. Her ever expanding girth had no effect whatsoever on her cheeky scampy nature however! Her nickname is Scamp. She still pounced playfully on Dr Chops (our O.C - Original Cat) at every given opportunity, and leaped literally a metre high in the air to catch them pesky cabbage moths (I was cheering her on!) But she did become more and more wary of the suddenly scarily mobile Indigo! Much to Indigo's disappointment.

Anyway, we knew it would be soon that little Sophia would be birthing her babies, so I put some blankets in a few spots around the house - under the bed, under the armchair in Indigo's room, behind the recliner in the lounge, and also in the bassinet that came with the pram, which we only used once when Indigo was little (coz of course she is huge now!). This I placed in our bedroom, which is the only room that is heated a little at night when it's cold. And this is where Sophia chose to give birth to her beautiful little family. We had been out all day, building a brick wall in mum's garden and hanging out with the family, and when we arrived home I noticed after a while that Sophia wasn't insistently hanging around for her dinner. I asked Mat if he'd seen her, no he hadn't. I wondered if this was it, if she had given birth while we were out and went to see if I could find her, and sure enough, there she was lying on her side inside the bassinet with a mass of cute tiny fluffy things wriggling beside her, blindly finding her nipples and feeding and then losing them again and finding them.

I couldn't believe it! She had done it! All on her own! I was so proud of her, and still am. She has done an awesome job, really she has, and the kittens are growing so fast! Each day we take a peek inside the bassinet, and are shocked at how big they are! I think we been taking too many peeks coz this morning Mat went to check on them and they were gone! I was scared since they haven't been out of the bassinet since they were born, either remaining feeding or sleeping against mum or in a heap together if she has gone out for a stretch and a feed and a wee, as she has been doing. I was worried that Crunchie had attacked them (tom cats sometimes do this to reduce competition in their territory), but there was no blood anywhere. Then we found them tucked deep into the corner of our room behind some hung up clothes and the washing basket. Phew! Was glad they were still OK.

So for now life continues as normal, since they still can't really walk properly and their eyes are shut. Once they are looking about and are mobile, things are gonna get a teensy bit crazy, methinks!! But boy are five kittens gonna be cute! How the hell are we going to give them away?? I'm trying not to think about it too much. Will cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, enjoy the pics of utter cuteness.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Neighbours

The three of us were sitting out on our front porch today, with Indigo playing with the remnants of our yummy lunch made by Mat (a yummy egg and fetta cheese omelette, mmmm!) when I noticed Mat looking intently just beyond our front fence, a bit I couldn't see due to the bushes threatening to engulf the chair I was sitting on. I asked him what he was looking at, and he said, quietly, "A man, right next to our fence," and kept looking. I leaned forward to catch a glimpse of this man, and heard a wizzing sound, and another, and another, and then all of a sudden a motor catching and buzzing into action. It was a wipper snipper thing. And then we both suddenly realised who it was, and what they were doing. It was dear old Barney, my favourite neighbour who lives a little down the road, and who walks past with his lovely wife Heather every day on their trip to and from the local shops. They usually walk pretty slow, as they are in their late sixties/early seventies, but Barney is still as sharp as a tack, with a cheeky glint in his eye he lets with wisecracks fly before you even realise, and giggles as you finally catch on. He's a funny man, and has a really big heart. We always have a nice chat when we see each other, and always enjoy a laugh or two together. Anyway, he has suggested more than once that I borrow his wipper snipper to trim the buffalo grass that has climbed our front picket fence, about a foot and a half high. It is a huge mass of grass that is impossible to mow, it is so thick, and we just ignore it and mow around it and it gets higher and higher. I think each time Barney walks past it it annoys him. We also have a dodgy section of fence which keeps blowing down each time there's a big wind, and each time Mat puts a few more nails into it, which holds it up until the next big wind. Well lately this big of fence has been down a lot, coz the winds have been massive, and I reckon Barney has been muttering under his breath every time he walks past at how lazy we are not trimming the grass or fixing that fence. So finally, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and so he turned up with a wheelbarrow, his wipper snipper, some nails and hammer and some wood, to bloody trim that bloody grass and fix that bloody fence himself! So he just turns up and starts doing it! Without saying anything! Hilarious! We cracked up laughing, gave him a beer, and Mat took the hammer and took over the mending of the fence, under Barney's firm and precise instruction of course. When the grass was trimmed and the fence fixed, he loaded up his tools back into his wheelbarrow, and after many thanks and laughs from us, he wheeled his stuff back home, declining our offered cup of tea but promising to come back with Heather one day to take us up on it. It was just a lovely thing to do, and both Mat and I were filled with a sense of humorous thankfulness. So thank you Barney, the grass is trimmed, and the fence fixed (ugly, but sturdy), and you can resume your daily walking in peace, not having to be irritated by those lovely but lazy people at number 81.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Big Questions

It occurred to me today, whilst changing Indigo's nappy, that I have had a very productive day, and that most of my days are in fact almost as productive. Today I planted out my whole vegie patch (Hooray! Methinks this topic deserves it's own post...), I walked for an hour with Indi in the Ergo to get her to sleep in the morning, I played with Indigo and Mat over lunch (so much fun, giggly chortles aplenty!), I watered my new garden while holding Indi (all bloody 8.5kg of her!), and for the rest of the evening I planned to chop the cat's meat (three kilo's of it), make a lentil vegie soup for our lunches for the next few days, and prepare dinner. It felt like a decent day's work! And I mentioned to Mat that we are both really quite productive in our own ways. I am used to thinking of him as productive - he is a super prolific artist, musician and writer, and the evidence of his productivity surrounds us and crowds his ever cluttered studio (and the garage!) But I am not so used to thinking of myself as overly productive. I usually think of myself as quite a leisurely sort (or at least I did before I became a mum!), who could spend a day lounging around reading quite blissfully. But these days especially I think I really do achieve quite a lot in a day, and most days, with no break at all.

But something else occured to me, standing there at the change table, as Indigo chewed on her foot. Whilst the products of Mat's creativity are visible, audible, readable, the products of my own productivity more often than not end up either on the compost heap or down the toilet! It's kinda horrifying, and a tad disappointing! Well my two main joys are gardening and cooking. So I'm either growing it, or buying it, or preparing and cooking it, or eating it. What we don't eat ends up on the compost, and what we eat, well.... ends up as poo. It's not really what I would consider a life's work. Compost and poo. I really would probably prefer to be remembered for more noble outcomes or products than compost and poo. I mean, sure, we're all kept in good health by my efforts in the kitchen, and we sure do enjoy our delectables on a daily basis (we are not the kind of household that skimps, let's put it that way!). Aesthetically I get to design and create and handle all kinds of lovely foods, and gardening wise I am kept healthy and spiritually whole by my green thumbs.

But I guess the question that inevitably ended up forming itself in my head, whilst standing there changing Indigo's nappy (which was a pooey nappy too, quite apt!), was whether all this effort, delightful and enjoyable as it is, constitutes a meaningful life. A full life. Whether it is enough?

Enough for whom? A good question. Me? Others? Is this about what I think of myself, or how others will judge me? A bit of both I guess. I wonder whether it is enough for me. But also I find myself thinking of how my child(ren?) will view me when they are teenagers. Whether they will be able to respect me, or whether they will look down on me if all I ever do is garden and cook. And occasionally dabble in something creative. While the cake bakes.

I remember a woman in a novel I read once (dunno which one?), quoting her mother, who once advised her to create something that would not be consumed or messed up each day. To not devote one's entire life to making food that would be eaten or beds that would be slept in (I don't make beds, but still). To make something each day that would last. I find this sentence ringing around in my brain after all these years, even though the names of the author and book from which it came are long gone. Clearly it struck a chord.

I think for so many years of my adult life I have struggled simply to be well and happy. I spent my twenties battling addictions of substance and soul. There was no time, or energy, for grand pursuits over and above trying to be happy and learning how to live well. It has taken me a long time to get where I am now, where I am happy with who I am and where I am at, most of the time at least. At this point in my life I scarcely have time for a shower some days, let alone time to find another meaningful pursuit to add depth to my life. But I think once the hustle and bustle of child-rearing slows a little, enough to create some space, some time to sit and think and breathe slowly (dare I say, time to be contemplative), then I think there will be something else added to this delightful mix of seeds, weeds, cakes and soups. I can feel something forming, taking shape in some way, although it is still way too embryonic and amorphous, too new and fragile just yet, to shed public light on.

But yeah, I think one day there will be more depth, and more meaning, to what I do, in a lasting way. But for now, with a baby, and possibly more on the way, I am happy in my garden and my kitchen, and consider my time spent in both as a rich and wonderful backdrop for my kids' lives. I can see that the things I love to do, as well as providing me with endless joy and satisfaction (anyone who has smelled and bitten into a sun-warmed home grown tomato knows of what I speak), as well as making me happy, I can see how these things provide a lovely environment in which my kids will grow and learn, and one that to be honest I am proud to create and provide.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Name change

Well it was during my pregnancy (yes, back in the days beyond time when my life was my own!) that I mosied on down to the good ol' Births, Deaths and Marriages Office in the city and stood in line to change my name. I changed my surname from Yuksel to Arileo. Why? A lot of people ask this, and really it's a fair enough question. Well, at first glance, as you can see, despite my former surname being pronounced Yook-sel, in written form it has the word Yuk in it. "A minor detail!" one may exclaim. But not so! It displeased me. Immensely. It aggravated my aesthetic sensibilities, in fact. It has always niggled at me. I don't like being niggled at. However, despite my anti-niggling preferences, I was prepared to put up with it, and I did for a long time. I mean, it was my name! It was a part of my identity. I couldn't imagine having anything else. Even when I hated my dad for a while, and wanted to break all ties with him, including my surname, despite racking my brain for a good couple of years I never came up with anything that even came close to being imaginable as replacing my actual NAME.

But one day, after putting up with this less than perfect but really quite serviceable name for 31 years, it just began getting stuck in my throat. I remember being asked for my name over the phone for something official, and when I spoke it, it just sounded wrong. It was like I was spitting out something distasteful. And the same thing happened the next time. Suddenly, I just felt as though it wasn't actually my name any more. It was really weird!

Well, now, everyone needs a surname. Our society would collapse if everyone suddenly decided not to have a surname. "I must have a new surname!" I exclaimed. And so began the search, in earnest, of a name befitting a woman of my station. It was not an easy search, oh no! There were trials and tribulations the likes of which I could scarcely convey. Well, I could convey them by just saying it was hard to think of one I guess. That would do it. Mighty hard! It's a huge thing, choosing your new name. I mean, everything you come up with is gonna sound weird, coz it's so new, and the old one so ingrained, so habitual. It really did perplex me for ages, and in the meantime I was stuck with this name that sounded wrong wrong wrong.

I wanted this new name to mean something. I wanted it to be relevant to who I had become. I wanted my spirituality to be involved. I was fairly sure I wanted Leo to be a part of it, since Lions are a part of my spirituality, one of the creatures I feel a deep affinity with. And then one day, as I was walking to work, I came up with Arileo. Don't know why the Ari, it just sounded nice. It was the only name I had come up with that even had a chance. And I liked the feel of it. So I let it roll around in my head for the day, and when I got home I googled Ari, just to see, and lo and behold (and don't you worry, I beheld!) that Ari, in fact, in both Hebrew and Netherlandish, meant... Lion! So inadvertantly (or maybe totally advertantly, or intuitively) I had chosen Lion Lion as my name. Well, it seemed to be getting the spiritual tick of the century, so I went with it. I gave it a month or two to settle into my brain, and then took the plunge.

It was surprisingly hard down at the office. I felt some reservations, some niggles of a new sort. Did I really want to change my name? Was I really gonna go through with it? I ummed, I ahhed, but in the end, after some administrative issues were sorted out, I did it. And it felt good!

Now I toy with my first name. I am thinking of changing it from Nalan to Nalin, officially. I have been trying Nalin on for size for some time now, and I tell you I like what I hear. And see. Again, aesthetically, I like the 'a' and the 'i' in both names - Nalin Arileo. I like that Nalin actually pronounces my name better the way I use it on a day-to-day basis (NAH-lin; as opposed to the Turkish pronunciation, which is more NAH-LAN, and with which I identify less). There are other reasons also, but in the end, I think Nalin does win. It's not a crowd pleaser with my family, but regardless I am pretty sure I'll be back at the old Births, Deaths and Marriages eventually. And from then on I'm not touching it!

Or...

...maybe I could do with a middle name?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The mama's mama

Well, the holiday is over, my mum returned from her three month overseas trip last Saturday, and of course brought with her all the many and varied issues, problems and resentments that have plagued our relationship for so many years, particularly the last 10 months or so. And to be honest, I enjoyed her time away, almost as much as she did. I enjoyed having more time in my week, without feeling obliged to see her twice a week so she can be close to Indi. I have enjoyed not having to worry about offending her, not having to worry about her silent judgement and criticism of me (and my house and garden!), or her not-so-silent judgements either. I have enjoyed the space in my mind and heart not taken up by worry and hurt. And I especially enjoyed not feeling scrutinised and misunderstood as a new mother, and found that while she was away I was really able to grow and develop and find my groove as a mum, to really get the hang of it all and develop real strength and confidence in my abilities and my choices.

So now she is back, and I have decided to enter into a new phase in my relationship with her. The Buddhist reading I have been doing has enabled me to open my heart, to really see her as a person who is trying her best, whatever the outcomes, whatever the behaviours, and to understand that what I see as her shortcomings are more often than not the result of her own heavy load of pain and hurt that she has accumulated throughout her own difficult life. I have embraced the compassionate heart, and have found an ability to forgive her, and myself, that has eluded me for a long time. I have felt my anger flow away, replaced by a resolve to make things better.

After spending four hours with her yesterday, I came away tired and a little disappointed. It takes so much effort for me to spend time with her, to stop myself from sliding into unhealthy power struggles, to keep dipping into my spiritual well in order to maintain myself, to not let the heaviness bring me down. I guess I was hoping my new-found resolve and a good dose of affection would melt her coldness a little, and that I would inspire within her some sort of change.

But then, after coming home and making dinner and pondering it all while I chopped and stirred, I saw that to expect a change after one meeting was probably pretty naive. I can see that she is hurt and wounded, and that if there is going to be any change at all she is going to have to be made to feel very safe and loved, and this may take quite a while. And also, I realised that in the end, she may never change the way she behaves towards me, and that all I can do is keep holding on to my compassionate heart, to keep stoking the fires of my own joy and understanding, and to keep loving myself no matter how she treats me, no matter how she judges me. Ultimately, my goal is to love her openly, while not caring so much what she thinks of me. I need to be able to do this for myself, and for Indi too. It's important for me that Indi sees a loving strong bond between my own mother and myself, but ultimately, if that can't happen, it's important for me to model to Indi how to stay strong and true to yourself in the face of criticism, and to put yourself on top of the list of people's opinions you should care about.

Damn those Buddhists are on the ball!

Seriously, I know they have had two and a half thousand years to nut it all out, it's a long time, enough time to look at it from all angles and draft and redraft, but geez those Buddhists just have it down pat! It's amazing. I know that reincarnation is not everyone's cup of chicken noodle soup, but I personally can fit reincarnation into my own personal conceptual scheme of the universe, quite neatly. I wouldn't say I believe in it, but that goes for a lot of my spirituality - it is in that category of things I can easily grasp and understand and imagine being the case and even intuitively lean towards, but about which ultimately I have no real definitive idea. How can you? So in as much as there is never going to be any hard proof, I think I'm about as comfy as I'm gonna get with reincarnation. It's all good. For those science-worshipers who can't get their heads around it, no worries really, just act as though karma begins at birth and ends at death, and refers to the fruit you will reap as a result of your actions in this life, sweet or bitter as the case may be. Same net effect, in that you stop acting so much like an arse-hole and try to think about the effects of your thoughts, words and actions on those around you.

OK, so with the reincarnation thing out of the way (the biggest beef most people have about Buddhism, coz really, the rest is all just about how to be happy and nice), I've just gotta say how impressed and thankful I am that Buddhist wisdom is out there doing it's thang and making the world a better place for so many. I studied it pretty intensely a number of years ago (wow, almost a decade! fuck!), but became a little disillusioned with it after an unfortunate series of events involving a local Vipassana meditation group.

For those who don't know, Vipassana is a kind of meditation that has you totally focus on just the in and out of the breath (there are many many kinds of Buddhist meditation, where the focus is placed on various things), and which frequently involves extended silent retreats, generally 10 days for lay-people. Most people are really quite horrified at the thought of spending 10 days meditating silently, but from the moment I heard about it some kind of fire lit up in my heart, and I knew knew knew it was for me. And I was totally right! I just loved it. Really loved it. Did I mention that I loved it? Loved. I had, at the time, never felt more in love with the universe without the help of some good hard drugs. (Ahhhh, those were the days! *Sniff*) Gradually over the ten days my heart opened like a flower, and bloomed gloriously! I was amazed at the beauty of nature all around me, stuff most people, including myself, just walk past without noticing every day. The graceful and gentle twist in a perfect blade of grass. The seeds heads of the same grass, so symmetrically perfect, so intricate, just amazing. Grass! I was blissing out on the lawn! It was so much bloody fun, and showed me a way life could be, a way I could be, that was so beautiful, and so removed from the life of real difficulty I was leading at the time. I was not doing well at all, in many many ways, and Vipassana was truly a retreat for me, in the deepest sense. So, unsurprisingly, I offered to volunteer there, and did more retreats along the way. It became a very treasured part of my life for about six months. Then my dad died, and my world crumbled a little. I booked myself in for another retreat, knowing I really needed it this time, and packed my little granny jeep with my belongings and spent three hours on public transport getting there, plus a really long walk up a steep winding road with my jeep. Violins please! Anyway, I filled out the usual forms when I got there (they had a weird set of forms which asked all sorts of things) and to the question asking if I had done any other form of meditation or healing since the last retreat, I answered 'yes', since I had been doing pranic healing, a kind of reiki. Also, what issues I had been having, and I mentioned my dad dying. I had a private meeting with the meditation teacher, again the usual procedure before commencing a retreat, and he brought up the pranic healing. He asked who I had been working on, and I told him my dog, who had cancer. He ummed and ahhed (he was a man of few words), and then regretfully informed me that I would not be able to start my retreat. I was shocked and so disappointed, I REALLY needed this one to help me find my way in the world, I had a lot of shit to deal with and this was something I felt I really couldn't do without. He told me that until I decided to stop doing the reiki forever, and devote myself entirely to Vipassana meditation, I would not ever be able to do another retreat. Not only that, but I wouldn't even be able to spend the night there before going home, that I was to leave the premises ASAP! That my altered energies might disturb the other meditators!

To cut a long story relatively short(ish), I was really hurt and offended at being kicked out while so vulnerable. And with new and angry eyes, I saw that, despite the wisdom of their teachings, the Vipassana Centre and the way it was run was a bit cultish, and kinda creepy. I think for many years this experience turned me off Buddhism altogether. And it has taken this long for me to revisit it in any meaningful way, and to realise that despite the narrow-mindedness of one group's policies, Buddhism itself has so much to offer. My one real criticism of it that had nothing to do with any lingering resentments, and which I mentioned in a previous post, related to one of the four noble truth's being the goal of the cessation of suffering, which I thought was simplistic and didn't acknowledge the growth that comes out of most suffering and the yin/yang dualistic nature of the universe. The recent reading I have done has actually addressed this one point, and I have a new found understanding of Buddhisms perspective on suffering (well, according to one Buddhist nun anyway - Robina Courtin, in an interview with her that you can read here.) Here is the bit that shed new light for me:

Robina Courtin:
So therefore the Buddhist method then of getting rid of suffering and developing happiness is the method of learning—one, to know my mind well, and then learning through familiarity on the basis of having Buddha's model of the mind as my basis, learning to identify ever more deeply the neuroses and then learning every day—and it's the hardest job we'll ever do—to go against them, to deconstruct them, to let go of them.
So it's not, as I previously thought, aiming at just repressing all the suffering to attain the feel-good states of meditation. It's actually about digging deep into your heart, deconstructing the underlying causes of the pain (more often than not some kind of fear, if you dig deep enough), and then letting it go. So it totally acknowledges the growth and learning that suffering brings, and the analysis required to get there. I think the actual problem was that my understanding was limited, and that my own practice at the time was probably about desperately clinging to the bliss. When I think back, my life was such a mess back then, and I was going through so much pain every day, that I kind of became addicted to the blissful states I achieved through meditation, and began to cling to them. I didn't know how not to. For me back then, it would have been like asking a drowning person to not cling to the rope being offered to them. Or that's how it seemed. And one of the main lessons in Buddhism is to not cling. To not crave. No craving, no aversion, one of the most important phrases you'll hear at a Vipassana retreat!

But now, I'm a much much happier and well adjusted person. I've dealt with so many of my demons. I'm not desperate. So I think I'm actually in a much better place to really re-examine Buddhism, and look at it all again from this healthier place. Which is exactly what I have been doing over the last few days. And I have been truly delighted at the new perspective it has given me on my life. The peace, the awareness, the opening of the heart, and the thankfulness for all the little things. I have really enjoyed revisiting this old friend, and look forward to once more incorporating Buddhist philosophy into my own little eclectic collection of spiritual wisdom that I have nurtured for so many years.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Man

Looking at this photo just now, as I've been uploading it, I am struck firstly by how much of a spunk he is, and secondly by how much sharedness we have together, Mat and I. I have looked at his face for almost half of my life. There is so much 'us-ness' between us. Fourteen years of it. It's a long time. But then again, when we are old and grey and our wrinkled toes instinctively find each other in the bed for the six billionth time, fourteen years will seem like a drop in the ocean.

This man, this brilliant, unique, spectacular man, has shaped my life in ways I could never have predicted. Somehow I knew as I looked at him across the room one day, drawing feverishly, that he was a catch. But I had no idea just what kind of crazy adventure I was embarking on by choosing him as my man. We have had the most amazing highs together, so many of them, and ridiculously high! Our feet barely touched the ground for so long. Years. Two innocent, big hearted souls bursting with joy in the presence of each other, heads shaking in disbelief at the fact that feelings this intense were even possible! A cosmic dance of connection and union, two true opposites joining to form a magical whole.

We've also had our lows, as all couples do. Our feet did touch the ground, eventually. I in particular got bogged down in some muddy ground that I spent the next decade trying to get clear of. Mat was such a complex part of it all. In some ways, he held me up and kept me from totally drowning in my self-destructive urges. He loved me through it all, and stayed by my side when many would have left. He barely wavered. And in other ways at other times he took my hand and led me in even deeper, when I was barely staying afloat as it was. Relationships are funny like that.

We are such different people, Mat and I. Really complete polar opposites in so many fundamental ways! Sometimes I don't know how it has ever worked at all! He loves black metal and breakcore and all sorts of noise "music", and I love silence. The sounds of nature. Or Radio National. I love food and cooking and love planning meals and shopping for food at markets and cooking and eating, love love love it all, and he could quite happily subsist on toast and coffee and the odd pizza. I love travelling, he hates it. Seriously. He is the only person I know who gets stressed out about going away for the weekend, and would really rather not go, thank you very much. He is a true hermit, only emerging from his cave to play the odd gig now and then. I have dreams of travelling
Australia and the world; he could think of nothing worse. I really could go on with these diametrically opposed elements of our personalities, but really, there are so many that it would become a very boring post indeed. Suffice to say, alike we are not!

But beneath and beyond all of these surface level differences, our deepest and most dearly treasured values are almost completely matched. We share philosophies on life and people and morality. We stand united on everything political, environmental, social. The same things make us angry with the world, the same things fill us with hope and joy. We agree totally and utterly about how to parent Indi, what we feel is important in shaping her environment, in order to totally support and nurture her beautiful little body and soul. And that is just so wonderful. So wonderful. All of these things which are really important to us, all of these things which are a part of a life lived thoughtfully and from the heart, we share. And for that I am so very grateful.

But for some time now I have been feeling a little lost in amongst all of our great differences. I have been lamenting the lack of shared interests, and the resulting fact that a lot of the joys we both experience in life are experienced without the presence of the other. It has made me really sad. The other day Mat told me he thought I was unhappy, or stressed, most of the time. I reacted really badly to this, because I have been feeling more like I have found my place on this earth than ever before, now that I am a mother. I have felt more fulfilled, truly, than at any other time in my life. And it made me really sad that he wasn't seeing this. And I realised that a part of the reason was that many of my joys, my daily happinesses, occur without him. They happen in my garden, on my walks, when I connected spiritually. Or in my kitchen. All without him, all private. I questioned whether this was right. Whether a truly healthy relationship can exist between two people who really are so very different in terms of what they like to do with their days. Whether the infinite love two people both share for their daughter was enough of a 'shared interest' (if you can call it that) to be enough? It has been really hard having these thoughts.

But then, when I really really think about it, in the areas that matter, in the way our hearts dance in our breasts, in the way our eyes sparkle and gleam with love and joy, we are so united. We may DO different things, without the other, but when it comes down the the important stuff, we are right there, side by side. At the end of the day, I would rather, much rather, be with a person who has interests really different to mine but who shares my deepest values, than with someone who likes to do the same things as me but doesn't agree with my core philosophies on life.

I think that relationships are complex beings, and as the old cliche goes, they are hard work. They really are. But when I look back at the relationship between Mat and I, I feel so blessed, so awesomely lucky to have found someone so caring, so loving, so passionate, and so truly unique. Anyone who knows Mat understands what I mean. He is a very special person. A real gem of a human being. I don't know anyone who lives by their morals as closely as he does, who lives so thoughtfully, so authentically, so earnestly. I don't know anyone else who has such a drive to create and be creative. And I don't know anyone else who has been so unwaveringly supportive, who has stood by my side, the whole bloody time, with love just pouring out of him. Not only am I the luckiest woman alive, to have him, to be with him, but my daughter is the luckiest girl in the world to have him as a father. He is the most loving, devoted and joyful father I have ever seen, ever!

I am crying as I write this, as I declare to the world, once again, how much I love him.

Mat, my cosmic partner, my true best friend. I love you so much! Thank you so much for every minute, my sweet one. I am truly blessed. You have shown me love beyond anything I could have even fantasised about before I met you. You have expanded my mind and my heart, and introduced me to whole new worlds. I continue to learn and be inspired by you. And I couldn't have dreamed up a better father for my child. I feel like the queen of the world, living by your side, your cosmic wife.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Strawberry Patch on Wheels

Yep, that's right, I'm currently in the middle of creating the world's first completely portable strawberry patch. How? Why? Let me explain...

A couple of weeks ago I walked to the supermarket, and I bought way too much to carry home, especially with an incredibly cute eight kilos of little girl strapped to my body, so I brought home my shopping in one of those big metal supermarket trolleys. Huge ungainly things that they are! I had such trouble bringing it all home, they are so HEAVY (I think these days trolleys are actually larger than they used to be -probably so we can be tricked by the evil supermarket tycoons into buying more - they are so deep I almost fall into them trying to get the last little packets out of the bottom. I have visions of little old ladies taking dives into them as they overbalance, their legs waving around as they wait to be helped out.) and the footpaths are all much more uneven than you would ever notice just walking along. I spent the whole walk home trying to prevent the damn thing from either rolling onto the road, the nature strips or banging into fences. Do others have this issue? Maybe it's just me. Anyway, it was annoying. So the thing has been sitting in our front yard since then, waiting for me to take it back. It just didn't seem to be happening. It wasn't that I didn't go on lots of walks, in the direction of the supermarket. I went on heaps. I could have done it multiple times. But my general inclination for some reason just didn't seem to be leaning towards hauling this massive, cumbersome, LOUD contraption back from whence it came. Especially empty. At least a full trolley represents the promise of delicious treats and wonderful ingredients to unpack at the other end. An empty trolley is just dead weight. Not appealing at all!

Strawberries, I hear you ask? Why all this faffle about trolleys? Yes, well recently some dear friends who were moving out of their rented home gifted us with about 30 strawberry plants from a wonderful patch they had created, but were now leaving. I was so stoked!! I had always dreamed of growing a whole strawberry patch, but for some reason in my mind it was placed in the category of really awesome things other people did but not me. (I really must minimise the number of things in that category, life's too short!) So anyway, I went ahead and dug out a lovely section of lawn and created my own lovely patch, and planted away. They all looked very happy in their new home, and my mouth watered as I imagined the bountiful bowlfuls of delicious homegrown organic strawberries that we would be surrounded by. Yay!

Until I did a little research (well, actually I just mentioned my new patch to Tania as we sat in the sun in her lovely backyard, sipping herbal tea) and discovered that strawberries need a raised mound to grow well, with lots of drainage. Bugger! My patch was not only un-raised, it was a kind of a ditch. Hmmm. Not good. I wanted the best for these strawberries, I wanted them to really thrive, and living in a ditch just wasn't gonna cut it for them. Also, I had recently been inspired (as per a few blog posts ago) to really devote a big area of our garden to veggies. And really, the strawberries, although lovely and wonderful and delicious and marvellous, were taking up a huge piece of prime vegie land. I knew I had to make a decision, and it wasn't gonna be easy.

And then one day, as I sat on my front porch and looked out over my garden, and pondered (as I do often) I had a brilliant idea. I could take this here godawful trolley, line it with the bit of shadecloth I had sitting in the garage, fill it with soil and compost and all manner of lovely things that strawberries love to dine on, and turn it into a planter! AND, not only could I plant them in the top, as no doubt you are imagining right now, but I could also poke holes in the shadecloth along the *vertical sides* of the trolley, and grow strawberries up the SIDES! Pure genius! I almost saw a flash of light come out my ears as this thought formed itself in my brain. The whole darned THING could be covered in lovely delicious strawberries! Yay!

So it's underway. This afternoon while Indi and Mat sat on a blanket on the grass, chatting and singing, I spent an hour lining the trolley with the shade cloth and hauling into it a bunch of home made compost, potting mix, sheep manure, blood and bone, sulphate of potash and a bit of pine mulch and mixing it all together. Dr Chops was fascinated and kept sniffing around and investigating. And then Indi got sick of it all and wanted a feed and a nap, so we left it at that, and now we have a trolley filled with soil on the lawn. My neighbours now have even more reason than before to think I am mad. But oh well. Will *they* have a strawberry patch on wheels? No, no they won't.

Friday, August 1, 2008

This is fucking HARD!!

I am really struggling today. This week. Have been for a little while. It's partly the sleep deprivation thing. But I don't think it's just that. It's so many things. It's partly the lack of freedom thing, I think. The lack of anything even close to the ability to be able to just say "I'm driving to the beach" or "I'm going to the pool" or "I'm gonna lie in bed and read all day". What I am feeling is so multilayered I don't even know where to start, really. So it's partly lack of freedom. It's also partly not being able to bloody drive anywhere greater than 10 minutes away, coz Indi has a hatred of being strapped into anything for longer than that, be it car seat, highchair, or pram. It's also Indi needing to feed to sleep unless she is in the Ergo. So either I am lying in bed with her, or she is feeding on the breastfeeding cushion on my lap while I'm at the computer, or I'm walking around with her. I have enjoyed each of these sleep-related experiences with her, to varying degrees (in increasing order) but I think I am just tired of it all! She naps three times a day, and I think I'm just dessicated by the monoculture of options I have available to me. I'm sick sick sick of lying in bed waiting, hoping she will fall into a deep enough sleep for me to pull away and leave. It usually takes so long! And then she only sleeps in bed without me for about 20 minutes at most. I am sick sick sick of being on the net for hours a day while she sleeps on me, not being able to go get a drink or go to the toilet, or let my cat in, or anything. I am sick to bloody death of walking around the streets around my house, I think I could name each and every plant my neighbours have in their yards by now. Plus I'm just so tired, and my knees and hips are so sore. These things, which gave me such pleasure a while ago, now have lost their ability to sustain my spirit, and instead have been draining me, depleting me. I am getting frustrated with all of it. Maybe if we could just have a day at the beach every now and then I'd cope better. I used to visit the ocean as a wonderful way to connect to my spiritual world and work through my issues, a way to let the wind sweep away all my stress and scrub me clean. But I can't do it. We can't drive to the beach, and a train ride to the nearest ocean beach and back is too long to be done in a day, and we just can't afford to go away for the weekend. If I was rich I'd hop on a plane (I reckon Indi would fly better than she travels in the car) and fly to tasmania or something. I don't need warm, I need ocean. Not calm pretty bay beaches, I need rollicking crashing wave action. Hence the pictures in this post. They are a pathetic attempt to connect to the energy I need and miss so much, my ocean friend.
Sorry for the rant. But I don't want this blog to be a filtered pretty happy shiny unrealistic slice of my life. I want it to be real, and I want to be honest.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chink!

Well it happens to the best of us, it happens to the worst of us, and it has finally happened to my little girl. Her first tooth (teeth?) have emerged! Just peeking outta the surface of her bottom gum. She has been showing the symptoms of teething for a good three weeks now (her first fever three weeks ago, and her first dose of panadol, nappy rash, rubbing her ears, and a bit of general grumpiness from time to time), so we knew it was imminent. I wouldn't even have known if I hadn't have given her a drink from my glass of water (she has a sippy cup but I'm teaching her to drink from a glass as well), and after some blowing of bubbles, some dribbling, a few gulping sounds (at least *some* was getting in!) I heard a definite "chink!" sound! It took me a second to realise what it meant! How exciting! I don't quite know what I am so excited about to be honest, I mean, it happens to everyone as I mentioned before, and the thought of lots of little chompers near my already overworked nipples is not too delightful! But it is a definite milestone. She's growing up, my little girl.

She's also holding herself up on her hands and knees for longer and longer. Just this last week she has developed so much, and she clearly enjoys her new superpowers of stability! Until she gets a bit tired and faceplants for a few seconds. Now this crawling thing is not a milestone I am in a huge rush for her to accomplish. I am happy for her to take her sweet old time about it, as I have been told over and over by other mums that it just takes things to another, more frenetic level, as they scurry about the place wreaking havoc. But such cute little havoc!

Well to aid her in her scurrying, and mainly coz after three years of living in this house I was just bloody sick of the lounge room arrangement which I didn't like from the beginning, we did a big shift around in there and somehow we have managed to knit some more universe or something coz now we have so much more space! It's great! Mat and I, and Dr Chops, are all loving it! Chopsy has been just uber-cute, rolling around on his back with complete and frivolous abandon, playing with his favourite toy of all time which had become lost under the couch and which emerged during the shift around. He is so happy! And this toy, it is so funny, it is a shred of plastic bag, those thin clear ones you get near the vegies at the supermarket, which I had tied a knot into a few times, back when he was a kitten, like TWO and a HALF years ago. He loved it instantly! It is now like a plastic floppy anemone, some whisps of plastic joined by the knot in the middle, and there is nothing else on this sweet sweet earth that gives him the same unbridled joy as this bit of plastic. The first night it emerged, he woke me twice in the night coz he had jumped on to our bed with it in his mouth and played with it for ages. He never does this! He sleeps on our bed when he wants to but he never plays with things on his own like that, and never in the middle of the night! Despite it being 2am, and having just been woken after getting back to sleep post feeding Indi, I smiled in the darkness at my beautiful spirit-cat's joy. He is such a special one. I love him.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Living a Simple Life, and Living it Well!

I have just been reading this great blog on living simply and being as frugal and self sufficient as possible, and I must say I am inspired and invigorated! I have been reminded of many a thing of great importance to me, such as being gentle with the earth and having minimal impact on the environment, being close to nature and growing your own food, spending less and being satisfied with what you have, and being creative with fewer resources rather than constantly buying and consuming and disposing of. These are wonderful things to be reminded of!

I have always valued these things, but over the last few years I have become rather lazy in my commitment to them. I think as our household income grew over the years, and buying things became easier and easier, I became quite the capitalist consumer. I fell a little in love with this model of living that is thrust upon us by society at large, that of working and purchasing and throwing away, a life isolated from one's environment, isolated from nature, and isolated from the effects of one's actions on the planet and it's inhabitants, such as the huge amount of resources used, natural environments spoiled by contaminants, land degraded by commercial farming methods, air polluted by factories and cars and electricity generation, and animals suffering for our pleasure. Not to mention the millions of people over the world who are affected by slave labour or who are grossly underpaid, and have awful living and working conditions. All of this is the effect of the obese capitalist Western lifestyle. Over the last few months I've had a growing awareness of the distance that has developed between my morals and the reality of my life, and I have been slowly trying to bridge that gap. Reading the blog has inspired me to make more of an effort in this area, to speed things up, to go further than I have been going lately, or ever before, and to finally put things right.

This is a very good thing. It makes me feel good in the pit of my tummy, a sure sign I am on the right path. And where does this path lead me? It leads me towards a life that sees me growing into my full potential as a human being, living in the greatest harmony with my surroundings, and with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude for all that I have. It leads to what I would call a bloody good life.

OK, so growing your own food is a huge part of this living simply and sustainably thing. Ever since I was a wee one I was heavily into gardening, of all kinds. I have always had a particular fondness for combining my two great loves, gardening and food, so the vegie patch has always had a very special place in my heart. The photos in this blog are of things I from my garden. (The first two photos are of three different kinds of beetroot, and the last one is a punnet of rainbow chard just before planting.)

So until now, my vegie patch has been a place of indulgence, really. I have grown vegetables, often from seed, for the sheer pleasure of gardening itself. With the exception of the amazing tomato, my favourite food plant of all time, my crops have been intermittent and sporadic, and have been secondary in importance to the process of growing, the joy of planting seeds and watching them sprout (a very special time), helping them become seedlings, planting them out and caring for them into their old age. It has given me countless hours of untold pleasure, it really has, and I imagine it always will. But something has been gnawing at the pit of my stomach for a while, and I have been ignoring it for long enough. I have never even come near to growing a decent fraction of the vegetables that we consume on a day to day basis. Like I said, the tomato is the exception to this. Each year I grow kilos and kilos of wonderful tomatoes, often five or six different varieties, and from mid-summer into autumn we are self-sufficient tomato wise, with enough for sharing (another special thing). Other than the tomato, however, and the odd crop of lettuce, silverbeet and zucchini (anyone who has ever grown them knows the feeling of a glut of zucchinis, which seem to grow an inch every time you turn around) the things that I harvest are considered special treats, things to delight in and savour. I have never planted in the numbers required to really feed us, or staggered my plantings to ensure a long harvest period, or devoted the required space for a serious kitchen garden.

But I think I've had it with this type of middle-class indulgent gardening. It's been fun, lots of fun, but I think now it's time to turn my skills and my enthusiasm into something the whole family can really, truly, tangibly benefit from, in terms of nutrition and cost. I want to grow an organic vegie garden that I can really rely on to feed us well, for most of the year.

I'm a little daunted by this task to be honest. This will need some serious garden space, and some real time and effort. But to be honest, everything that's involved is stuff I love doing, it's just that I need to do more of it than I ever have. There are harder things to swallow in life than doing more of what you love than you have ever done before. I think I'll cope!

I'm really quite excited. Spring is just around the corner so this is the perfect time to start planning what I will need and order my seeds (yay!!). I've got a compost heap just bursting with goodness, thanks to the wonderful Mat who took over maintenance duties at some stage (much to my surprise and delight) and I've got a few garden beds in mind that have a couple of straggly flowering bushes on them, and that had better get ready for a good overhaul.

There are many other things discussed on the blog such as stockpiling, making your own cleaning products and not spending unnecessarily, all of which I want to incorporate into my life, but this is the bit I'm most excited about, to be honest.

And I can't help but think this is wonderful stuff for Indi to see and be involved with as she grows older. Having her around is a real incentive for me to be really authentic to my beliefs and my ideals, and to model the things I hold dear. I can see myself really evolving into the person I have wanted to be for so long. It feels like it's time to stop dipping my toes in the waters of life and really take the plunge. As with all big jumps into the deep end, it's a bit daunting and a bit scary and threatens to challenge me more than I've been challenged in the past, but if there's one thing that new motherhood has taught me already, it's that I have more strength, endurance, patience and drive within me than I have ever given myself credit for, and I reckon it's time to put it to good use!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crunchy and the Big Bad Foot!

Sounds like a children's story! But no, unfortunately it's Crunchy's reality. His foot's not much better than it was when he came back home, and after going to the vet today after thinking I could actually see bone (gross and disturbing!), it was confirmed that his toe is dislocated and might have to be amputated. Poor sweetie. He's moping around with a huge sticky bandage wrapped round and round his leg to help give the toe a chance to develop some skin over the bone, otherwise the toe is coming off. The bandage looks like a big club coming off his leg, and he's not happy about it one bit. Plus he has to stay inside at night. We have one grumpy pudda on our hands! He's such a beautiful person though, such a stoic really, he's currently curled up asleep. I'm sure if he could he'd be muttering under his breath.

So we are faced with the decision to neuter him and keep him indoors at night permanently, in an effort to curb his street-fighting ways, and help him live longer, and help our vet costs go down, goddammit!

Mat is not happy coz of all the reasons listed in the "My cat eats cake" post. He wants little Crunchy to remain the free citizen of the world that he is today. He doesn't want to be his "owner", but rather his housemate. Who doesn't steal his testicles. I am torn. As per usual, I can see both sides really well and am sitting squarely in the middle, wringing my hands, looking left and looking right and not really knowing which way is really best. Ahh the challenges of trying to live by one's morals! Not always an easy path to take, and the road isn't always clear ahead. Sometimes you gotta cut a new track through the forest... OK, enough with the dodgy metaphors already.

So maybe we can try keeping him in at night and put off the neutering once we see how that works?

But then if his toe does come off, they'll want to do it in one go, while he's under (so steal his testicles AND his toe.)

D'cisions, d'cisions...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dreaming of feasting on sleep

Ahhh, that wonderous space of dreamy rest, warm comfort, liminal delights - such a precious commodity to the parent of the very young, so taken for granted by those who have yet to procreate... sleep is one of those things which, like food, must be enjoyed in just the right quantity to have the greatest effect on the sleeper. Too much and one feels sluggish and 'overcooked', too little and the nerves start to tighten, the muscles to ache, the eyes to sting, and you can almost feel the brain kinda flexing itself to keep going, keep going.

Yes, it's finally getting to me, the lack of sleep. For the first few months of Indi's life, I can honestly say I was better rested than through the bulk of my pregnancy with her, during which I suffered from chronic insomnia and experienced the deepest tiredness I have ever felt - growing a person is not easy! Indi has always been a fairly good sleeper, sleeping most nights for 10-12 hours, not even really waking to feed, just stirring and being fed back to rest immediately as she sleeps right by me in our big bed. For the first few months she needed a feed every three hours, and during that time I felt really great, very energetic, not tired at all. The last few months have seen the gaps between feeds shrinking gradually, and for the last few weeks it seems I wake every hour or two. This has been taking it's toll. I seem to be unable to get a really restful sleep when waking with this frequency, and I can feel myself running out of steam. I feel tired during the day. I'm a bit more cranky than usual. I don't feel the elation and joy I used to during my long walks while Indi naps in the Ergo. I'm kinda going through the motions a little. Indi herself still makes my heart sing with her every action, she is still the most amazing thing ever, it's just that my spirit seems to be sagging a little as my physical body struggles with the load.

But I'm keeping it all in perspective, and recognising this as an intrinsic element of being a new mother. It's part and parcel of the job for most parents. This is part of the hard work of parenting. I know many others have it far harder than me - my partner works from home part time, and is very supportive, so I am most grateful really.

A couple of nights recently I have had three hour gaps between feeds, and I have woken feeling like I have been asleep for AGES! Wow, how different this is to pre-pregnancy times! Back then, waking after three hours would have seemed horrible, and I would have been complaining bitterly! Ahhh how things change when you become a parent! Youth is definitely wasted on the young!

We have recently acquired another queen size bed to sit alongside our current one (which Indi and I have been sleeping in as Mat camped out on the floor on a single futon), so we will experiment with having Indi sleep in one bed while Mum and Dad sleep in the other one, in case she is waking due to my snoring or shifting. Maybe it's just the teething, or a growth spurt, or who knows what.

In the meantime I dream of the wonderfully restful and uninterrupted eight hour sleeps I used to get, and the long luxurious sleep-ins Mat and I used to have so often, every day during uni days, and weekends after that, chatting in bed for hours , making love, being silly and laughing so much, only emerging when hunger forced us to. Such sweet sweet memories that I will treasure forever. And look forward to having again one day.


Note: The wonderful picture above, called Sleeping in the Garden, is a painting by Erika Hastings. She has a cool blog: http://mudspice.wordpress.com where you can see more lovely paintings, and contact her.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Magic Red Hat

OK, so I said I would post a picture when it was done, and here it is! My first ever completed knitting project! I'm very proud. It's simply two rectangles (not even measured properly or the same size really) joined together, so the corners make these cute little ears.

Next project: one for me!

Friday, July 11, 2008

I am woman!


Today, I felt good. No, actually, I felt awesome. I felt strong. I felt capable. I was impressed with myself. Is it OK to say that? Does it sound egotistical? It's a shame that in this world it is frowned upon to praise yourself, that it is often considered being "full of ones' self" or arrogant. Well, I don't care, today I will praise myself, coz I feel I deserve it. So should you, you probably did something awesome recently too. Go for it!

OK, so the praiseworthy moment of my day came when I was walking up the ramp to the train station at Preston Market, carrying Indi in the Ergo, feeding her while I walked, pulling my trolley full of organic fruit and vegies and nuts and smoked salmon and (OK, getting distracted by the food... Must... stay... on... track.... - I'm really hungry at the moment, can you tell...) yeah and catching the train and well I just felt like a pretty damned good mother to be out and about like that, doing our shopping to feed us good healthy food, bringing it home without using up any fossil fuels, carrying my baby and feeding her while I walked. It felt good. I felt proud of myself. I spent so many years being so critical of who I was and what I was doing, so many years, that now that I am in a place in my life where I am really *proud* of myself, am really happy with what I am doing and how I am doing it, I just felt it needed to be said. To be proclaimed.

So I did.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Crunchy Boy


Well we have had a big adventure these last three days. Not an external adventure, not overland, but an adventure of the heart, a feline adventure of the spirit.

This wonderful creature you see pictured here, the wonderful Mysterious Crunch as he is called, has been the main protagonist of this tale. A little background on him might set the scene nicely. Crunchy is called Crunchy because about a month after Indi was born, in the middle of the night, Mat and I would hear a definite crunching coming from the kitchen area where Dr Chops' food is kept. This was an unusual sound, since Dr Chops swallows his dry food whole. Another way we could tell that it wasn't Dr Chops is coz we could see Dr Chops sleeping at the foot of our bed. A couple of times I caught this new renegade out, and saw a white-ish cat from behind as he scooted out the back door at the sound of my footsteps (we keep the back door bolted a little ajar, to let Dr Chops satisfy his urge to romp about at night). So this continued for a while. Once to my utter surprise, I found Dr Chops and Crunchy (then unnamed) asleep together on the couch on our front porch when I got home! Crunchy ran away as soon as he saw me, still very shy. Then one day Mat found Crunchy asleep in his studio, the room right next to the back door, on the couch. I was secretly thrilled! I employed my very best cat etiquette and slowly, ever so slowly, inched my way inside the door to the studio. I made sure not to make direct eye contact, used lots of slow blinks and projected my energy just right, and soon enough I was patting my new white and tan friend, who was purring loudly! So friendly! Almost too friendly! Before I knew it he was climbing on to my lap, trying to almost suck the pats out of me... it was like he was starving for some love, poor poppet! What a sweetie. From that day on he has been living with us, sharing mealtimes with Dr Chops and winning us over with his big heart. He lets Indi pat him with her over-eager fat little hands, as she grasps and pulls at his fur, squealing with joy, and he just sits there, as though he understands that this is what kids are like. He seems to really love her actually.

So that's Crunchy. Eats like a horse. Big heart. Lovely person.

Three nights ago as Crunchy got off his usual couch right by the heater, where he sprawls for hours at a time, I noticed he was limping horribly, and basically couldn't put any weight on his left back leg. Upon closer examination I could see his toe was very swollen and misshapen. He was lurching around in a really upsetting way, and obviously distressed. He also wasn't eating, which for Crunchy is a BIG DEAL. He usually eats as much as I am prepared to put down in front of him. He has developed a lovely little paunch in the five months or so that he has been with us. So anyway, we decided to keep him inside til I could take him to the vet, despite Crunchy really really wanting to go outside. Unfortunately Mat accidently let him out while he was letting Dr Chops in, which he felt really bad about when our friend told him that cats usually gang up on weak sick cats, and that Crunchy would be in real danger out there. Poor Crunchy!!

I walked the streets calling his name, twice that night, but nothing. I kept getting up in the middle of the night to check, but no Crunchy. I actually felt ill I was so worried for him, and felt guilty that I hadn't bundled him up right away to the vets, that I could have prevented this. (In reality I was juggling a baby, a cat, visitors, a grumpy reluctant husband and a billion other things.) It wasn't very abnormal for him to be out all night, or even til late morning. It was when the sun was setting the next day and no sign of Crunchy that I really began to worry.

But it was weird. By the end of the day both Mat and I had this odd inner sense, a deep intuition, that things were OK. That things were as they should be. That if he had died fighting in the night, that Crunchy had died as he had lived, a free spirit, true to his inner nature, fighting til the end. He's a tough cat, and it was a fitting departure. It was weird for two people who love their animals truly and deeply to be acting so calm about the disappearance of one so dear and cherished. But we were.

By the second night, we had pretty much accepted his death as being certain. It had been a cold and rainy two days, the coldest of the winter yet, and there was no way he would have stayed out knowing there was a warm place with food for him to come, especially when he was in pain. So I went to bed with Indi, feeding her to sleep as per usual. After a few minutes Mat pokes his head in the door and whispers to me "Guess who just walked in the door?" and my eyes almost fell out of my head they opened so wide! I grinned, and poor Indi lay there blinking as I whisked my breast out of her mouth and ran to the kitchen, where dear little Crunchy was scoffing down as much food as he could. He glanced up at me, blinked me a smile, then kept eating hungrily. I almost cried with relief! I got him some more food and then crouched next to him, repeating his name with love and relief, over and over, and when he was done (the picture above was taken just after he finished eating) I picked him up and carried him to a spot right in front of our heater, on a soft futon. He purred for a while as I patted him with love, and fell right asleep, no washing of his face or anything. I was so amazed. It was like looking at a ghost. I had been sure he was dead! He slept in that spot til morning, when we took him to the lovely kind vet, who washed his sore abscessed foot, gave him a painkiller and some antibiotics.

He's still recovering, still sleeping a lot, and his foot still looks pretty bad, but he's back, with us, in a warm place where he is loved and cared for.