The Fault in our Stars

Yes, this is the teen book and film of the moment. It is easy to be cynical and critique the Americanisms and call it schmaltzy as I heard the reviewer on the radio comment in a snarky voice. But, my son and all his friends have read the book and enjoyed the movie. I have just enjoyed the movie.

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A friend’s little 7 year old nephew is dying of cancer as we speak, the poem below is for a friend whose son died of a silly mole on his leg. Shit happens.

Yet another little baby is in a critical condition from a bashing by a young male.

I was berating myself yesterday for not losing weight now that I’ve stopped working, telling myself how clumsy I am with sewing up my quilt and not doing a good job, criticising myself for not achieving all of the things on my list by now, wondering if I was stupid writing a blog, worrying about not having enough money etc etc.

Then I received a text from my sister who was in hospital with pneumonia and influenza.

Good reminder to be thankful.

The Painkillers

The bereft mother returned
The unused morphine to the chemist shop
When he died.

The young girl at the counter
Took the contents of the bag
And said brightly,
“Great, thanks,” as she turned to help
The old man with something for his piles.

Sue Heggie

Just a reminder that I will be sending the coaster tile below to a random person who has subscribed to my blog so far. Will choose and let someone know on Friday.

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Have a happy week. FG

 

Tough day at the home office

Beautiful Friday morning, sun streaming in, smell of bread and biscuits, 3 new library books, on my last square of knitted quilt, yoga completed, tiles to take to the next stage, life is sweet. How is your Friday going, not a black one any way I hope.

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Did I mention I love France….

I was hopeless at French at school so I don’t know why I love France and all things French so much. When I went there I had no idea where I was going and literally googled “a place to live in France for six months”. The wonderful thing about that was that no matter what, each new day would inevitably be different and bring new experiences which made it so exciting. The first night in the converted barn in Campgast, I sobbed my heart out. What was I doing there? I don’t know anyone? It’s lonely..? Sam started crying as well and when I asked him why he was crying, he said because I was. I knew right then I had to pull myself together. It was the one and only time I cried in France until the day I had to go home. ( if you are interested in this little sortie please read the tab above entitled “A Little Adventure in the Pyrenees”)

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Of course it isn’t the perfect place in the world, nowhere is but for me for six months it was a wonderful interlude in my life. Having gone through a restless phase just recently I returned to “my” little village and then did some travelling, ending up in Paris visiting friends along the way. I had a terrific time and could have stayed another month in Paris but this time I was really happy to come home. Maybe it was because I was alone and had left my partner and son in Auckland but I think I felt more foreign this time and was happy to return to an Auckland summer and to my own home.

That hasn’t stopped me trying to recreate little bits of France at home…

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I was lucky enough to stay at the Chateau Carbonneau because it belongs to a friend from teaching days long past. If you like luxurious surroundings, great wine, Bearnaise sheep dogs, Aquitaine cattle, beautiful food and a boutique vineyard, book a few nights with them! 🙂  I found their wine in my local wine shop so it was a real injection of sweet memories for me.

http://www.chateau-carbonneau.com/EN/accueil.htm

A cursory photo shoot at home…

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It’s a good Thursday when your son comes in and shares his tofu curry with you… FG

 

 

 

A little serendipity

When I was in Germany by myself at Christmas I found a cosy local cafe with good food and made a habit of eating there most evenings. Each night I walked past an architect’s office that had no blinds or curtains and there was a handsome young man working at his desk under a beautiful light that cast dandelion shadows on the ceiling. We would catch each other’s eyes and smile slightly. I loved that light.

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Because it was winter and Christmas, there were lovely lights everywhere.

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But the architect’s light was my favourite and I coveted it. As it was Germany and they are renowned for great design I imagined it to be a high end, very expensive thing but as I was looking at Trademe recently I found it, the exact same one. It is an IKEA design and someone was selling it. I stayed up until midnight when the auction closed and managed to buy it and now I have my own light, smaller version  admittedly, that casts dandelions on the ceiling. I like the way it does that but I also like it as a memory of that Christmas in Munich.

Here’s mine, I’m too impatient to wait until it is dark.

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The reason I was in Munich was because my friend Sabina was visiting her mother there and as I was in Europe at the same time we met up. It is her mother’s birthday soon and she asked me to write a poem for her. I am still working on it so it is unpolished but this is it in essence.

Birthday Poem for Sabina and her Mother

A mother over there, a daughter here
Or a mother over here and a daughter there.
No matter, the sun shines its face eventually on one or the other.
And the comfort of nightfall too.
Birthday morning here is evening there,
either already over here or about to begin there,

No matter the sun shines its face eventually on one or the other.
And the comfort of nightfall too.
Facing each other from each end of the earth
the daughter leans forward to send out birthday wishes.

The mother too, leans forward to catch them, softly, easily.

One sending in the light of early morning here,
the other feeling the dusk close gently in there
as she receives them.

No matter the sun shines its face eventually on one and the other.
And the comfort of nightfall too.

Sue

It is such bliss to be home and cosy in the pouring rain, prawns at the ready for dinner, spoilt for choice-knitting, reading, tile making. Wonderful. FG

Progress review

Well it has been 4  weeks since I chucked in the day job.

  • yoga sessions 20
  • blogs 20
  • tiles completed 26
  • garden tidied 2
  • extra cleaning 0
  • moments of pure bliss 306
  • books read 5
  • knitting 20 hours
  • regrets 0

As you can see I haven’t done the extra cleaning or as much gardening as I intended but I figure there is still plenty of time, After all the tennis has been on and now the cricket has started…… Good on Kane Williamson.

I am really enjoying the quiet craft pursuits of tile decoupage and knitting. I am making a blanket for no particular reason and at considerable cost. Once again, I could buy a fleece blanket for next to nothing but the process of knitting has a meditative, gentle quality and frees the mind to think of other things. I can see why some people find it healing after a set back or when they are grieving. (A little scarf kit would be a good present for someone in that position). I like to knit squares, so blankets and dish cloths are my signature presents- sorry everyone!

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My other little hobby that I am just learning about is tile decoupage. I have put some pictures below. Once again, the cost of the materials far outweighs their actual worth but it is a lot of fun and I find myself just getting lost in making them. I have given a few away which was my purpose in making them and maybe I will reach the dizzying heights of the Devonport craft market in July if I make enough perfect ones. I will open a tile tab above some time soon. I have experimented and it is possible to put poems on them so will work on that too.

http://devonportcraftmarket.blogspot.co.nz/

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Some years ago I read Martin Seligman’s book, “Flourish”  and he refers to the concept of flow and that the pursuit of just happiness is insufficient. He developed the acronym PERMA as a summary of a meaningful life. I finally feel as though I am working towards this state.

According to Seligman, PERMA makes up five important building blocks of well-being and happiness:

Positive emotions – feeling good
Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities
Relationships – being authentically connected to others
Meaning – purposeful existence
Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success

http://www.gostrengths.com/whatisperma/

You can find out more on the above link. Seligman is head of American Psychology so his work is grounded in science.

Another useful local resource is The Resilience Institute founded by Sven Hansen. I referred to this diagram often as I had it pinned up at work and as I realised I was on the way down the spiral rather than up I knew I needed to make some changes. Below is the  “up” part of the cycle and I was headed for disengagement, anxiety, worry, etc. near the bottom of the spiral.

 http://www.resiliencei.com/

And while knitting and faffing about with tiles and reading and cooking may not sound like earth shattering activities :), I feel a contentment that I haven’t experienced for a long time.

Hope you are getting into the flow whatever you are up to today. FG

I love Leunig!

I was going to post about the book I have just finished called, How To Cope with Adversity from the The School Of Life Philosophy series but hey it’s Friday and a time to be cheerful and relaxed so I’m going to do a wee rave about Leunig.

Michael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet. His commentary on political, cultural and emotional life spans more than forty years and has often explored the idea of an innocent and sacred personal world. The fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world is a related and recurrent theme.

His newspaper work appears regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. He describes his approach as regressive, humorous, messy, mystical, primal and vaudevillian – producing work which is open to many interpretations and has been widely adapted in education, music, theatre, psychotherapy and spiritual life.

http://www.leunig.com.au/

The cartoon below is quintessential Leunig and is my profile picture.

Flying lady
Very often there is always a lovely duck, I luvva duck. And often a tea pot.

duck

 

 

And below is the one I had at work and that helped me to give up the day job.

 

And his painting are a joy.

dancing painting

And this is one of my favourites too. So gently wonderful.

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And speaking of ducks..I was lucky enough to be in Paris at Christmas with a friend in a museum, I hope Leunig would have appreciated these photos….

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Have a luvverly duck of a weekend. FG

 

Tiger mother incident

A couple of weeks ago my 21 year old son rang me and told me in a  forlorn voice that he had been banned from all branches of PaknSave ( a large supermarket chain here in NZ) as he was accused of stealing a packet of batteries. He had the batteries in his bag when he entered the store and hadn’t stolen them at all but the buzzer alarm had gone off as he left and he was hauled into a private room, had the batteries taken from him and made to sign a trespass order.

Now I know I have rosy tinted spectacles five inches thick but I know my son and I know he wouldn’t steal. Typical Sam didn’t want to make a fuss but the supermarket is about 50 metres from his flat and convenient for them all. And as Iago tried to dispute reputation is everything!

Tiger mother Sue rang the manager of the store and asked if we could come in together to see him. He was a reasonable person and agreed to meet. Sam brought along his bag etc. and the deputy manager had done his homework and had looked at the video footage which clearly showed Sam hadn’t been near the battery stand. The security guard had told Sam they didn’t have the footage by the way.

The store apologised and returned the batteries but I was still not clear why the alarm went off. Sam has a Kathmandu bag and they sew a security tag inside all their gear and clothes and so we chopped the tag out and went down to test it but it still set the alarm off. They have deactivated his bag but Sam now won’t take his bag there just in case.

Sam’s name has been cleared and he has got his batteries back but I think a food voucher for his flat wouldn’t have gone astray as a gesture of goodwill. I do understand however that stores lose large amounts of money from shoplifters. 

Being accused of something you haven’t done is both humiliating and painful, at least to the mother! Sam took it well and wouldn’t have bothered arguing. I couldn’t let it go like that.

here is a poem about my over protective nature that I wrote when Sam was a little boy. Nothing much has changed….

For Sam

Gentle hands with fine-boned fingers
Holding a flute, a bat, a book.
Inching a knight across a chequer board
Or arms bras bas, a demi plié,
The leotard outlining your lean shape,
My graceful gazelle.

I would kill for you

Wistful brown eyes, see things through,
See through things,
Dreams turn to whimper and murmur,
A word, a sigh the storms and fires
Rumple your nights,
My leggy colt.

I would kill for you

Pushing wet tendrils back from your face,
I kiss your downy cheek and know that I would
Dash out the skull, take the bullet, hide you
Fiercely in the folds of my skirt. Wield a sword, a knife,
A gun. Starve, steal, willingly, viciously,
To keep you from harm.

I would kill for you.

A late bus, a man in the park, a careless playground moment,
The wrong place at the wrong time, a truck, a bike
And I would embrace death as a lover.

I would kill for you.

 

Sue Heggie

 

Last Evening

I walked home from a movie last evening and it started to get dark. The 5 o’clock rush hour was full on with cars streaming past me. Tense faces and horns going reminded me of how lucky I am not to be part of it anymore. I picked some lavender from a bush on the berm and enjoyed the beautiful sunset on a fairly balmy night for Auckland winter time. My mind turned to the poor woman murdered on her way home from the bus stop and I knew I couldn’t take any of the short cuts home via walking tracks as they are poorly lit. It makes me both angry and sad that women feel they cannot safely walk home alone. An Auckland psychologist says that it rarely happens (murder) but i guess the point is, it does happen.

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I am three weeks into my “experiment” now and feel so content and happy in a way I wasn’t expecting. I run out of time 🙂 I was going to go to Bookchat at the library today but got absorbed in learning how to add a Subscribe widget to my blog. I think I have managed it so would be really keen for anyone to test it for me please.

Below is a poem I wrote when I was living in Christchurch. It was a horrible light plane accident and it reminded me yet again of how unpredictable life is and how easily it can be  turned upside down. all the more reason to savour the day. Hope your is enjoyable. FG

Last Evening
Last evening, just at the moment I was sipping
My red wine and stirring the bolognaise for the spaghetti
A light plane was beaming in on the landing strip. A young wife
Was looking for loose change for the meter and buttoning up the jacket
Over the pyjamas of the smallest child.

It was dark and foggy and somehow the plane became lost
And smashed into a field near the airport as I was getting plates
Out of the oven. Amazingly, two of the ten survived and cried
For help all the way through Holmes and some of a new reality TV series.

This morning over a cup of tea, I see all their loved faces,
Smiling at me from the front page and also a picture of the wreckage.
It’s a small city and I recognise two young men from high school.
One was head boy, one was a twin and both had PhD’s.

Their wine is untouched, the meal congealed and cold.
Tomorrow the paragraphs will be smaller. Some funerals
Will be covered. It’s certain an aviation investigation will proceed.
Relatives have been contacted and flowers and cards have been
Laid along the fence at the crash site.

It is raining today and the petals have browned and wilted,
Ribbons escaped and caught on barbed wire, the words blurred
And illegible on the cards. The turbulence is visible, grey cloud
Is racing across a winter sky and it’s hard to tell
Which way up the world is.

 

 

 

The Mourning After

The Mourning After

I wrote an article along these lines not long after my husband died in 1994 and sent it off to a woman’s magazine but I didn’t hear back from them. I still feel there is some merit in offering a few suggestions for others in this situation. Adapt, reject, make your own suggestions and perhaps together we will be able to compile a helpful list for others.

When Brett died I received a large number of bunches of flowers. I owned two vases. I barely remember seeing them let alone enjoying them. I gave a lot away. I do know that it was important that cards and flowers came to the house so that the world at least stopped for a moment. However, I received enough flowers to have a bunch of flowers delivered every month for about two years. How wonderful it would have been to receive those flowers after the initial shock and sadness where I could acknowledge the giver properly and enjoy having the flowers at a time when life had moved on for others as of course it must do.

Suggestion: Ask the florist to send the card and a note that the flowers will arrive in a month’s time or on another special day.
I am lucky to have a generous sister who still sends me flowers every Queen’s Birthday even though it is now 20 years since Brett died. It is so lovely to have that caring gesture and that just because time has gone by it doesn’t mean that we don’t think about that life-changing day.
It is overwhelming at the time; the death, a few days, the funeral and it’s all over. Ask a friend to keep note of flowers and gifts as writing thank you letters can be hard and it isn’t possible to remember everything. I felt terrible many years later when a dear friend said she hadn’t received the nice card I sent out.

Suggestion: bring a notebook with you if you are a close friend or family member to record these.

There are lots of other things you can do apart from flowers. Do say or write something, even if it is simply that you don’t know what to say. Going to the mail box in the foggy days afterwards and finding a card or note is very comforting. However, in my opinion, do not impose your religious beliefs on someone else if they have different beliefs or no beliefs. Some of the comments I found unhelpful when Brett died leaving an adored 20 month old and a two week old marriage were:
He is by god’s side now.
It was his time.
He died doing something he loved.

Suggestion: write or say something, take time over it and be honest and sincere, avoiding platitudes.

Visit the home with prior warning if you are a close friend or family member only but do not visit and/or stay too long if you are not! I remember a whole family called in the day after Brett died, I don’t even know them well enough to remember their names. They sat there wittering on about homework and the daughters’ activities etc. Finally one of my sisters asked them to leave.

Suggestion: Have a “watch dog” at the door to filter visitors and be prepared to be upfront about when it is time to leave.

Food is always welcome but please put it in a disposable container. Something that can be frozen is good. Brett died in winter so I received a proliferation of pumpkin soup and muffins which I couldn’t face at the time.

Suggestion: Take light snacks rather than weighty casseroles. Make sure it is able to be frozen. I lived on a diet of cheese straws for about a week. Something nibbly and small is good. There are usually visitors who need feeding as well so biscuits are useful too.

There are a lot of gifts you can give apart from flowers. Below is a list of things I really appreciated immediately.

Suggestions:
• A journal to write my thoughts in.
• Vouchers for local restaurants.
• Activities and toys for Sam. I still remember a dear male friend standing on the path with a beautiful wee green trike that he had painted up and brought down for Sam.
• Toilet paper and tissues- no one tells you your body really lets you down!
• Offers to pick up and drop off visitors at the airport.
• Petrol vouchers and loan of a car.
• Someone to do basic super market shopping.
• Photo frame
• Cleaning
• Candles or anything you know the person likes
• Wheat bag- so cuddly and comforting
• Woollen electric blanket- it was Dunedin….
• Take and print photos of the funeral and visitors
• Nice writing paper

Offer to stay on after the funeral for a week if you can and if you are close. One of my sisters did this and did all the practical things- paid bills, tidied, looked after Sam, organised a cleaner for me, did the shopping, filled the freezer and labelled everything, threw out the dead flowers, lit the fire etc. etc. The funeral comes so quickly and then everyone leaves and you are alone with your thoughts and the situation and while you do have to come to terms with it, it was lovely to have that company for the following week.

Suggestion: take time off work and stay a little longer if you can and the person wants you to.

Close friends knew that the worst would be still to come and the following were gratefully received by me a few months later.

Suggestion: think about something you can do or say a few months down the track. 

• Babysitting offers.
• Magazine subscriptions- my mind couldn’t concentrate on novels for a while even though I am a big reader.
• A beautiful woven scarf.
• A silk camisole.
• One day about six months on I arrived home from work to a large silver box of gourmet meat treats. Yummy.
• Cards and letters by snail mail.
• Music chosen and put on a cd especially.
I know others of you will have completely different experiences so please contribute with your thoughts and ideas. FG

 

 

 

Lemon Yoghurt Cake- Thanks Alison Holst!

 

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It was a friend’s birthday on Friday and so I made an old favourite of mine from Alison Holst’s Dollars and Sense Cookbook. It is one of those never-fail popular lemony cakes that is good on its own with coffee or slathered in cream or yoghurt for dessert. It keeps really well and is so simple. See http://www.holst.co.nz/Recipes/Lemon-Yoghurt-Cake.aspx

 

Because this cake contains oil and yoghurt in place of solid fat, it is very easy to mix.

 

Lemon Yoghurt Cake by Alison Holst
• rind of two lemons
• 1 cup oil
• 2 eggs
• 1.5 cups of sugar
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• 1 cup plain or flavoured yoghurt
• 3 tblsp of lemon juice
• 2 cups of self-raising flour
Grate all the coloured peel from the lemons into a mixing bowl. Add the oil, eggs and sugar and beat with a rotary beater until thick and well blended. Add the salt, yoghurt and lemon juice and beat again briefly. Add the sifted flour and beat gently into a smooth batter. It doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps as they seem to disappear.
Pour mixture into a buttered and floured ring pan and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes or until the sides start to shrink, the centre springs back when pressed and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for about ten minutes before turning out carefully onto a rack.
Serve plain, sprinkled with a little icing sugar or topped with whipped cream.

 

The recipient of the cake said this, ” I am ploughing through my birthday cake-so moist and lemony and yummy..”

I hope you are having a great long weekend NZders, FG