The Cup.

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It’s just a cup.

It’s not even a fancy cup, it has ‘made in korea’ stamped on the bottom. Recently my grandmother has been downsizing the items in her house and when I go over (which I should do more often but my life consists of work, work and a side order of work at the moment) I find she has piled a bunch of items on the bed in her back bedroom for myself and my mother and aunties and cousins to pore over like a garage sale. I collected a variety of mugs from the back bedroom – mugs are always in short order in my house because small children are butterfingers. Each mug reminds me of my grandparents home but I’m particularly protective of this one which no one else uses because it’s kind of unassuming.

It reminds me of my auntie for reasons I can’t put my finger on. I suppose I must have hidden memories of her using this mug – none of which I can recollect with any sort of clarity. But it reminds me of her so when I drink my tea out of it in the morning I am saturated in memories of her, my auntie, as she was when I was a child, long straight dark hair that I coveted, and her quietness.

My other auntie was 15 years older than me and I felt like she was a sister, other members of the family babied me but she called me out on my bullshit, didn’t let me win at monopoly simply because I was little and spent an entire summer eating ice blocks and trying to complete Mario Bros on my NES entertainment system. She was a friend, a confidant, a playmate.

My auntie with the mug was more elusive, quiet and calm. She would take me in the early summer mornings down to the pool where she would do laps and teach me to swim like a frog. She sat me on her lap and showed me how to form the letters of my name. When I told her my dreams she would ask questions as though they were important and not just a child’s nightmares. I see her in the garden watering the gerberas. I see her in the kitchen washing dishes. I see her turning up to the house like a celebration, for our missing piece had returned home.

And I love this cup.

Dreaming.

Do you know what I miss about being a child? That feeling that the possibilities were limitless. I never recall a time as a child where I thought there was anything I couldn’t put my mind to and achieve.

That’s probably a credit to the tribe of amazing adults who raised me, my quiet, quirky, hardworking father. My stubborn, humorous, doting grandfather. And the women in my life who I appreciate more and more as I get older. Our family had an over abundance of females, the scales tipped heavily to the second X chromosome. And these women were strong, fierce, funny, clever, creative, talented beyond measure (so much so that I didn’t even realise they were skilled until I went out into the world and discovered these talents were not possessed by everyone). Patient, empathetic women. When we get together in the same room the vibrance created by these women is uplifting. And that’s not to say they have not had heartbreak, disappointment or trials. Because they did. Their strengths show in how they weathered these. Sometimes waiting so patiently, gathering strength in the darkness and then stepping back out into the light and weaving their magic – living – despite those challenges.

So, you see, growing up I believed there was not a single thing I could dream of that wouldn’t be delivered to me should I put my mind to it and decide to do it. I’m not sure at what point I stopped believing this. That I decided to settle for the attainable instead of shooting for what I really wanted. That I became so scared of failure that it seemed safer to try for things I didn’t have to work very hard to get. I think a lot of us do that as we get older. Stop dreaming and start thinking about attainable goals. Which is fine, it’s good in some ways to be realistic. But in other ways it sucks. See, I think dreaming big is like a lot of things – if you don’t use it, you lose it. So when my therapist says, “What do you really want to do?” I come up blank. Literally can’t think of a thing. I can tell her things I can do, or things I plan to do to get from here (point A) to there (point B), but none of those things set my soul on fire. None of them make me excited. None of them make me dream.

And as I get older it’s harder too. I tend to do the math in my head and think, “If I did X I would be Y by the time I finish.” And you know what I read the other day? Someone said the same thing, I can’t remember what it was about but let’s say medicine. They said, “If I studied medicine now I’ll be 43 by the time I finish.” And the other person said, “And how old will you be by then if you don’t study medicine?” And that was an epiphany for me. Because you will be 37 or 43 or 57 anyway. You may as well spend that time doing something you love.

So long story short, I’m going to start dreaming again and see where that takes me. And if I practice really hard perhaps I’ll find something that sets my soul on fire. Perhaps I’ll stop limiting myself with can’t or shouldn’t or sensible, attainable goals and see where I fly off to.

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A Gift from my Mother.

When I was in high school my great uncle passed away. I didn’t go to the funeral but I went to the gathering at his home afterwards where my cousins and family had come together to celebrate his life and mourn his passing.

My great uncle was the husband of my Nanna’s sister who had died of breast cancer when I was 7. They had 4 children and one of them had daughters who were two years older than me and two years younger than me. Growing up, I had no siblings or first cousins until I was 8, so my second cousins were the closest in my age and my playmates. My family is very close knit so when my cousins lost their grandparents I felt their pain quite keenly. I couldn’t imagine the loss of my own grandparents, in fact even now with them in their 70s and 80s I feel like I’m not ready to do life without them. I’m 35. I’m still not ready. So I couldn’t even fathom that at 7 years old. I’m very aware of how blessed I am. I am thankful every day.

Coming home from my great uncles funeral my friends came over. Way more of them than usual actually and we were all going to walk over to another friend’s house and hang over there. My mother made sausages for everyone, the kind you wrap in a piece of bread and slather with sauce. She was in the kitchen. I was wearing this god awful dress reminiscent of 60s furniture and I felt like I was doing okay, I was a bit subdued but otherwise I felt okay. I don’t know why I remember what I was wearing. Memories are funny things. So I wander into the kitchen and I talk to mum a second about my friends and my plans and they’re all chatting in the lounge room and it just hit me.

He was gone. That life was done. His children and his grandchildren were without him. My grandparents had lost their friend. And I began to cry. Just my eyes filling with tears at first, but soon they became big raw sobs of grief. My mother took me in her arms. And I think I remember this so much because my family is close knit but we are not touchy. Emotions are usually kept pretty in check. I can only remember seeing my mother cry once in my life and I’m sure there have been many tears she has shed in private.

So I’m crying and my mother is holding me and I begin to apologise. I say, “I’m sorry. I know I didn’t know him that well…”
And my mother says, and I will never forget, “That doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know someone well for them to touch your life.”

And I’ve never forgotten that. That day when my mother gave me this gift. That while the sausages fried in a pan and my friends in the next room laughed and talked, my mother gave me one of the most valuable pieces of life advice I ever received.

That we all matter.

That sometimes the most fleeting of contact can change someone’s life.

That our grief does not have to be measured for value against how well we knew someone.

That empathy is one of our most important gifts to the world.

Never lose it.

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That time my daughter needed an exorcism.

Do we even like being parents anymore? I’m joking, obviously but I go through memes and photos and posts every day taking about a) how hard this gig is and b) how we all need to self medicate to survive parenthood.

And the funny part is, almost all the things complained about are the parts of parenting I secretly don’t mind so much. Like the fact my five year old will come and ask me something and use a word that isn’t correct or say a sentence that doesn’t make sense, and when I say I don’t understand she will repeat the EXACT SAME WORD just slower or louder like she is speaking to someone of incredibly low intelligence.
“What day is tomorrow?”
“Friday.”
“No. What DAY is tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow is Friday.”
“No. The day after today. WHAT DAY is it?”
“Dude. It’s Friday. I don’t know what answer you want.”
“The day after today.”
“Tomorrow?”
“Yes. What DAY is that?”
“Tomorrow is Friday.”
“No. WHAT…DAY…IS…IT?”
“….you need to go play.”

It’s infuriating. It makes me want to stab myself to death with a spoon. But it’s absolutely hilarious and that’s what I love about parenting.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been on this whirly-gig for almost two decades now. But all those things that drive you insane today? Funny as shit in 5-10 years time. Trust me. One day your house will be clean, your car won’t have smashed milk arrowroot on the carpet, your kids will hold conversations that actually make sense and you will MISS this insanity.

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Let me tell you a story. It’s one of my favourites. To set the scene my eldest daughter is 7 years old. You wouldn’t know it to look at her now but she had this incredible temper when she was little. In fact, most people unless they experienced one of her infrequent but volatile rages wouldn’t have believed me then. This particular day it is summer and I am getting the kids to school. My Nanna took us because I didn’t drive back then and I was about 25 weeks pregnant with my first son and fourth child. Nanna was waiting in the car with E who was 3 and going to go swimming with her auntie that day. I am walking a 7 year old J and 6 year old B into their catholic school. Everything is fine.

I think I need to stop here and explain that I carry large with boys. Like, I’m big. With girls I have a teeny compact rockmelon under my dress, with boys…let’s just say that I was once stopped at 15 weeks pregnant with R and asked how much longer I had. (I may have growled at them).

Anyway, I’m waddling along and I mention to B that it is water play at her class today. She had swimmers and a towel and her class was going to play with sprinklers and buckets of water and have a grand old time. J says, “Why does she get water play and I don’t?”
I explain that her class is having a water play day, I don’t know, I don’t make the rules. She immediately launched into how unfair this was. B getting water play and E getting to go swimming.
“I can take you swimming at Nanna’s after school,” I say.
Not good enough. J is saying that is also unfair because then her sisters have done two water things and she has only done one. Her friends wave hello. She glares at them. She is beginning to melt down. She starts screaming she doesn’t want to go to school.
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL! I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

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I kiss B goodbye and push her towards her classroom and away from her sisters wrath. People are staring. The bell rings and it’s assembly day so kids begin to move towards the hall. Throngs of children and me clutching my demon child’s hand while she struggles to free herself all the while screaming at the top of her lungs, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

At the doorway to the hall the Principal comes up to us and tries to talk J into coming inside and – I shit you not – she HISSES at him. Then screams in his face those same words. He retreats. I don’t blame him.

At this point basically every head in the school is turned towards my daughter wailing. People whisper to B who is sitting placidly with her class. Privately she looks pleased because she will forever be known as the ‘good sister’ and also because she will have mad street cred for living with such a crazy person and surviving.

I realise I cannot take her in. This temper tantrum will run it’s own course but she absolutely cannot go to school today. So I turn to J and I say, “Okay. We are going home.”

But I do it in that mum way. You know the way. Like, your voice is totally calm but the kid knows shit just got real. And J looks at me and knows this so she starts screaming, “No! I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!”

She’s hysterical. I half drag her towards the exit. She’s screaming the whole way, “LET ME GO TO SCHOOL! LET ME GO TO SCHOOL!”

But I can’t back down because I made a call and kids smell weakness.

She is digging her heels in and I’m so big and pregnant, you guys. But it becomes clear the only way I’m getting her back to the car is if I carry her. So I heft up this 7 year old on my belly while she is kicking and screaming and yelling, “LET ME GO TO SCHOOL!”

I am headed towards this little path behind the church and there are colourful flower beds. I see the parish priest walking a visitor around them, both marvelling at the roses while I am heading towards them with a kid that looks like she needs an exorcism. Just before we get to the priest and companion, J does this wild whole body buck that because of my centre of gravity being off due to massive belly sends both of us sprawling on the concrete, my shoe breaks, my skirt rides up and I skin a knee. I burst into tears.

Here we are. Both of us crying, me bleeding, one shoe and the priest looking on in horror. J sniffles and looks at me and says, “Please mummy. I don’t want to hurt you…..but I will.”

The priest recoils and retreats to the safety of his rose bushes.

Five minutes later I am hobbling back to the car, broken shoe in hand, both J and I crying and Nanna jumps out and says, “What happened?!”

Where to begin?

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Now, as far as shitty parenting days go, that was right up there. It was so far up there. It’s one of my top 5 Shitty Parenting Moments.

But now we laugh about it. So I guess it’s also one of my top 5 Most Hilarious Parenting Moments.

What I’m trying to say is the real shitty stuff is the stuff you will never laugh about. Sickness, broken hearts, those heart stopping moments when you think ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’. You’ve probably all had one of those. The day to day with kids is hard work, I’m not devaluing that, but it’s fleeting, man. It really is. But it’s so fucking good as well. The hard stuff is part of the tapestry of your parenting journey. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

So, yes. Drink your wine, eat the chocolate, sneak the good ice cream. But try to think, “Will I laugh about this one day?” “Will I miss this when she is walking out the door on a date at 18?” For me the answer is almost always, yes.

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The Goat.

Right now I am doing my usual sitting outside on the daybed under my nest of quilts. I am drinking a whiskey. Well, I’ve mixed it with coke but it’s a strong whiskey because I poured the coke in first and then eyeballed it. I have a black cat to my right. And some rogue stuffing from one of the cushions because when I was babysitting my ex husband’s dog this last week it discovered a hole and pulled the stuffing out and danced in it like it was snowing.

I am writing so I won’t think. Here I am brutally honest, raw as I can be but there is this one thing I cannot write about so instead I am sitting here, drinking a strong whiskey with a cat under a nest of quilts and rogue stuffing and missing my mother who is not in the country.

I want to write because it is cathartic but I can’t write about this one thing so I will write about something else instead. I flick through my memories, sifting them through my fingers and hold them to light trying to find one to dive into. Kind of like that basin in Dumbledore’s office where he can dunk his head like a weird wizard baptism and immerse himself in a memory.

What shall I write about? Pain? Joy? Confusion? Heartache? Love?

Okay, I am going to tell you about my goat.

So, a few years back I learnt to spin, I’ve probably told you about this before. I explained how I like to know exactly how to do something. So I use to knit and crochet and then I wanted to learn to spin, which I did, and then I needed to learn how to process raw fleece and I did. And then I decided I want to ‘grow’ the fleece.

So I find some dude selling baby angora goats and I arrange to pick two up. I didn’t realise until I got these babies that they were literally babies. I was actually pretty devastated thinking about it. I brought them home in a crate and when I took them out I realised they still had little dried umbilical cords on. I judged them to be a few days old. My heart just bled thinking of them missing their mamas and the mamas missing their babies but I knew if I took them back he would just sell them to someone else and that most people would think me some kind of bleeding heart, too soft for the country. Which in some ways I am.

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So I decided I was going to be the best mama to these babies ever. They needed to be fed 6 times a day in the beginning and I warmed their bottles diligently and squatted over them, pressing the nipple of the bottle to their mouth. One of them would nurse immediately. The other refused. Even if I opened her mouth and closed it around the nipple she would not suckle. I dribbled as much as I could into her, rhythmically squeezing the nipple and allowing it to build up in her mouth before she would swallow instinctively…but she wouldn’t suckle. It would take me an hour to get a feed into her, milk clotting her fleece near her jaw and running down my arm and leg. I would have to change my clothes after and wash the sour milk smell from my skin. She wasn’t gaining weight like her sister though and she was so timid that when she saw anyone come to her she would hide in a corner and turn her face to the wall. She refused to make eye contact, her beautiful sweet green eyes staring to my side or behind me. I was distraught and worried she would die.

I went to the vets and asked advice. They said that some babies just won’t drink. I could keep doing what I was doing or wait until she got hungry enough to work it out. They warned me that she may not gain weight and would one day not wake up. I tried to wait. But after half a day I felt so bad for this baby, this shy little timid creature I gave up and lay her back on my lap; went back to steadily squeezing milk into her. She never learnt to suck. For 8 weeks I sat with her, day after day, the first feed of the morning at 5am, and got that bottle into her. However long it took. I kept this baby goat alive by sheer stubbornness and determination. You will not die. You will not die on my watch. I am going to show you how to live. By the time she weaned she was eating just fine, the tamest, most beautiful little goat you have ever seen who would run up to me in the yard and nuzzle my hand, snuffle at my face if I was sitting down.

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There are few times in my life that I refused to concede defeat. I’ll put up a good fight, man, but at the end of the day? I know when I’m pushing shit uphill. Only a few times in my whole life have I stood up and said, “This is happening. I am MAKING this happen.” Not letting that baby goat starve herself to death, that was one of those times. And I realised while I was writing this – I have never done that for myself. Anytime I’ve done that it’s been because someone else was at stake. Those times I saw that shit I was pushing uphill and thought, “Screw it. I’ll move the mountain, because this? THIS is moving, damn it.” But never for me. For me, I lie down and take it. But when there is shit to be moved – you want me to have your back. Because God fucking damnit…I will fight until I’m bloody for you.

Aren’t I worth as much as a goat? Can’t I fight for me? Get up. Move the goddamn mountain.

Also? I’m out of whiskey.

Dad.

I’m going to tell you a secret. It took me years to love my dad properly. I didn’t understand him really. He was never a mean dad, he joked with me, I have a picture of us on the beach, him giving me a piggy back so I know he played with me when I was small. But as a child I took those things for granted. But mum was my go to, alright. I knew mum bought all the birthday and Christmas presents and Dad was just as surprised as me to see what was inside, I knew mum cooked the dinner and washed the clothes.

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My dad, seemed this odd mystery to me. He disappeared in the morning before I was awake and came home and lay down on the couch where most nights he promptly fell asleep. He was always really into things I didn’t understand, like cycads and palms and occasionally I would be pressed into watering these which I really begrudged. He was always finding things he loved and bringing them home like rocks and cow skulls and broken birds that would chirp on top of the bathroom mirror light where it was warm while I brushed my teeth. He would sometimes say to me, “What do you think of this design? Do you think it would make a good chair?” And I would be bewildered by this because I didn’t know if he was planning to quit his job and become a chair maker. One time mum and I had to role play customers while he pretended to sell us smoke alarms. The falling asleep on the couch alarmed me. My friends and I creeping by him on the way to my room dodging the cup on its side on the floor where he had been practising his putting before he fell asleep. Sometimes he would have two TVs going in the same room – both on sport – and he would be asleep in front of them.

It took me years – I’m embarrassed to admit – before I realised he was sleeping because he was exhausted. My dad would get up early and go to work and often stop by the family farm on the way home to round up cattle or feed them or fix something. I never connected these absent hours to the sleeping on the couch. He worked and worked and he was tired. In my childhood innocence I didn’t connect this with the yellow pay packets that came home, with the clothes on my back, with the food on the table, with the tennis lessons or tae-kwon-do lessons or those Christmas presents he was just as surprised at as me when I opened them.

It took me years to think…oh. My dad went a great many years dreadfully under appreciated by me. When I sit with him now a part of me whispers “I see you, I see you, I see you.” because for years he was invisible to me. And I learnt that my dad is funny, he tells hilarious stories. He is quirky. He is kind to animals which I think shows great character in a man. He will fix something before he throws it away, or at least have the intention to. He loves my mother in a way that blows me away. Years ago on my wedding night my mother fell asleep and he came in and stroked her hair and said, “God, she is so beautiful.” And I thought how magical to have someone love you so fiercely even while you’re asleep that he blurts out his love and you never even know.

So there it is. My dad. Happy Father’s Day. I see you.

The Hardest Thing about Parenthood.

I’ll tell you the hardest thing about being a parent. Or actually, what for me has been the hardest thing about being a mother. The invisibility.

There are dozens of ‘hard things’ and the hard stuff happens immediately. It begins right there when you see those two pink lines on the little white wand you just peed on and realise that you can say goodbye to soft cheese for the next 8 months (I know friends, it was a struggle for me too). You feel tired, emotional, your skin stretches and warps over your abdomen and you watch as stretch marks bloom across you. I remember one night going to sleep with perfect breasts and I woke the next morning to step in the shower and caught sight of my chest in the mirror and thought I had those strange marks from sleeping all over my breasts until I realised they were stretch marks that literally appeared overnight like magic. Across my thighs they were deep, painful looking scarlet scars as though I had been whipped. I looked down once when I could still see my calves and was fascinated by the fact I had a lone red tendril of stretch mark on my calf, far from my stomach that was the cause of all this. And that’s before we hit hyperemesis, SPD that literally crippled me (although I was fortunate enough to suffer no major lasting effects), gestational diabetes.

Then labour. The pain that comes with opening a portal to life, the panting, the pushing, the sweat, the blood.

Swollen breasts filled with milk. Cracked nipples. Post partum bleeding. Sleepless nights. The perfume of baby powder and newborn and underneath it all the faint sour smell of baby vomit on your shirt you didn’t notice until you were in the shops grabbing bread because – goddamn it, do we ALWAYS need bread in this house? Where does it go?

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The teething, the worry of SIDS, the baby check ups and doctors appointments, the growth charts and milestones: check, check, check…

Baby proofing and blending of foods and patience until you think you might explode from buried frustration. Endless on loop soundtracks of the Wiggles, or Thomas, or Strawberry Shortcake and barbie shoes that never seem to exist after the first five minutes of leaving their box.

Clothes and washing and which school is right? Are they happy? Are other kids mean? Is MY kid mean? Homework and more doctors visits and fever in the night that leaves you sleeping on the floor by the bed sponging a scalding forehead with a tepid cloth and praying the panadol kicks in soon.

Head lice and parent/teacher interviews and costumes and parties. Christmas presents and birthdays and school discos and is my child happy? Is he happy? And oh, my heart is breaking. And vomit buckets being emptied.

Football games and netball games and swimming lessons.

A thousand sandwiches.

Which high school? Should I let her wear make up? Is she too young? And teens with boyfriends and parties and leaving you and leaving you and leaving you. And you have to balance your protection with your need to see if she can fly. Will you fly? And heartbreaks and colds and doctors visits and the orthodontist and talent quests where she sang like an angel.

Bearing witness. Day in day out. Endless. A hundred things. A thousand memories and you are their keeper.

The hardest thing is the invisibility. Of knowing there is not a single time they will remember all of those thankless things you did because you loved them until they are the keeper of memories for their own children.

But writing them out just now, they didn’t feel like that much of a hardship after all.

Miscommunication.

So awhile ago my mum and I were on the phone and I asked if she would mind having the kids overnight that weekend. At the time I had visions of escaping to a nice hotel with my partner for the night, ordering room service and perhaps we would sit on a balcony with drinks and talk about the world before we went to bed and got sexy. What actually happened was we were both so busy and tired he ended up working on an engine while I sat in a fold out chair and we talked about things before I went to bed early because I’m a piker like that. Anyway, mum says, “No worries, Dad had a bit of a cold but he went with Grandad on a run so he mustn’t feel too bad.”

Now at the time this didn’t seem to phase me, I just kind of accepted that my dad was going for a run with Grandad even though my dad – while always seeming to take pretty good care of himself – has never ran on the regular (or irregular) to my knowledge. Still, after I got off the phone and I had a bit of time to process this information I was a bit confused because while my dad running is strange, Grandad running was really next level.

Firstly, Grandad has had a hip replacement and uses a cane. He has used a cane for so many years now I can’t remember him not using a cane. I pretty sure Grandad wouldn’t walk to the shops that are only a street away. In some ways, Grandad is like my spirit animal in that respect because I try not to walk anywhere unless I’m hatching a Pokemon egg and even then, I do it grudgingly. One time before they sold the farm Grandad couldn’t find the car keys so he drove the tractor into town to get the paper. That story delights me and I tell it to everyone. I am so impressed by his problem solving attitude to the paper situation and his complete lack of give-a-fucks as to what people thought when they saw this man riding on top of a tractor down the main drag of town to fetch The Courier Mail.

Anyway, on the weekend I am sitting at my aunties after mum had the kids for me and I say to her tentatively, “Mum, you said that Dad and Grandad were going for a run and….Grandad runs?” My mother bursts out laughing and my brother has tears in his eyes and slaps his knee in hilarity. “Oh, god no!” Mum chokes out between fresh peals of laughter, “It’s a sausage run! They go to Bunnings and get a sausage from the sausage sizzle!”

Sausage run. I told you he was my spirit animal.

ps. I don’t really have a photo to go with this. I had grand plans of perhaps partaking in a sausage run myself but unfortunately my kids were away this weekend so I felt more strongly about wearing sweatpants and refusing to put on a bra. Also I have a complete avoidance issue with stock photos. I just can’t bring myself to use them even though I sell stock images – or maybe that’s why, I don’t know, it’s neurotic. Anyway, the best I could do is a random photo I found of my daughter trying to convince this chicken to get down from the tree. We had such trouble with this bird, to be honest. We clipped her wings and she still managed to flap and struggle her way to the highest a branch. I admired her tenacity. I’m far too lazy for that myself but I think it was a good quality to have. Peace out, folks. Happy Sunday.

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You Got It.

What is your earliest memory? Mine is being held by my grandfather. He said when I was born he didn’t intend to like me. He thought he was too young to be a grandfather and was offended by my existence. But when I came home from the hospital with my mother I would settle in his arms. He didn’t want to choose me – but I chose him.

He would rock me in his arms and sing me a lullaby and I would fall asleep. I liked sensory things like the satin that rimmed my blanket and scratching stickers. I have this vivid recollection of my grandfather holding me in front of the inside of my auntie’s wardrobe where she had a collection of stickers and me picking one of them off. I remember her protesting and him defending my right as the baby to demolish her sticker collection. That is my oldest memory. Being safe in his arms.

In fact in all my earliest memories I only remember being loved and cared for and cherished. I remember there always being somebody’s lap to climb into and someone to listen to my chatter. I remember my mother stroking my back so I could fall asleep, my auntie taking me out early in the morning and teaching me how to swim, my grandmother hanging clothes while I shadowed her out to the clothesline and she listened to my stories, monopoly games with my other auntie.

And my grandfather. Infinitely patient with me. A streak of mischief that wasn’t tamed when he became an adult. His laugh. His hands roughened from work. His pockets always jingling with change.

I remember sitting in his car on the way to the shops one time when I was very small and Roy Orbison “You Got It” came on the radio and I began to sing and him laughing because I knew the lyrics. We were going to buy things for Nanna from the grocery store and he let me pick ice cream but then remembered he left his wallet in the car and only had the change in his pockets so instead of putting back the ice cream he put back what he came to buy and came back later with his wallet for what he actually needed.

Sometimes when I am feeling low or like I don’t want to keep going, when things are hard – I think of all the care and love he showered on me when I was little and I think I owe it to him to be brave. Because he gave me a wildness by teaching me to laugh at life. Because he treated me like I was precious and left a hard act for any man to follow. Because he sang me to sleep. Because he put back what he needed just to give me something I wanted. Because my oldest memory is of being safe – because of him.

Because he loves me. Even if he didn’t intend to in the beginning.

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Awkward and Precious.

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I made a conscious effort lately to pull out the camera and take photos of life. Not posed images but the images where the Doritos are still in a packet on the kitchen table and the kids faces are illuminated by their phones. The images where we are in the car or there is a smudge of dirt on a five year olds cheek. The ones where I set the timer and hop back into place and find out later the focus totally missed the mark and the table I leaned it on is in focus and we are but a kaleidoscope of colours. We could be anyone.

Wrinkles. Blemishes. Hair messed up. Sweatpants.

Life.

I’ve fallen in love with these images. Their imperfections and the impermanent of it. Just a second in time, gone. I feel like a journalist, like a historian. Every time I press the shutter I think – this will mean something some day. These will be the images that hold my attention. There is no bullshit here, no trappings.

image

When I use to shoot, clients would often say, “We like unposed photos.” And I would have to explain to them that EVERY image in my portfolio was posed. Every single one. The ones that looked candid were really just disguised poses.

“Hold on to Daddy’s leg so he doesn’t run away.”

“Can you kiss Mummy on the cheek?”

“Pretend you like each other.”

Laughter.

Click. Click. Click.

A friend once sent me a text from nowhere last year when I was in the depths of depression and asked how I was. We hadn’t talked in over 12 months but she use to be one of my best friends and had been my confidante for years. Then life got in the way and we drifted apart and I felt like a shitty friend and the more time that went by the more I felt embarrassed about reconnecting with her. I don’t know how she knew to reach out to me then. I cried when I got her message which was simply little more than, “I’m thinking of you.” I apologised for being a crappy friend and she told me there was nothing to be sorry for – which of course made me cry more. I lay my sorrows at her feet and told her I couldn’t stop crying, I cried all day for weeks at just about everything and she said to me, “Life is awkward and precious.”

I loved that so much I wrote it down and went back to it every now and then. Because it is awkward. The mess, the reality, the indignities. The laughs where you snort during them. The tears that smear your eye makeup. The sweat. The blood. The sex. The love.

And, my god. It is precious.