Kingdom Moments

We do not remember days, we remember moments. (Cesare Pavese)

I recently travelled to Tonga as part of a joint group with Good Return and Xplore for Success. Twelve women, six days, a thousand memories.

I have already written about first impressions in Mālō e lelei and how I struggled to keep emotions in check during the magnificent Sunday church service. I hope many other memories from the experience will stay with me for a life time.

I know I will continue to support the work of SPBD and Good Return

I will continuethetravellers to be astonished at the work of South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) and the difference they are making to places such as Tonga. I observed the commitment of the staff at SPBD, their passion. They know they are helping making a difference and it shows. I am also thankful for the tolerance of the SPBD staff when 12 career women from Australia arrive on your doorstep full of energy and questions, you were all very patient, courteous and extremely helpful.

I know I will remember the day I visited Tongatapu.

While I enjoy the luxury of my home I hope I remember the experience of arriving in the poor area of Tongatapu and the realisation that I am seeing people’s homes, lying below sea level amidst salty swamplands,  their yards  awash with fetid waters that seep in from the surrounding seas. Images quickly take me back the overpowering putrescent smells that hung in the air as we visited homes and listened to the women tell their stories.

As I flick on a light switch I hope I will remember the tears that rolled down her cheeks as she told us that the loans had helped her put on electricity in her home. As I jump into my new car I hope I remember the many hours of work over five years of another to save to buy a car to take her children to school. As I continue to support my own children through their university I hope I remember the 23 year old making handicrafts and baking to earn an income for her own education with the desire of a better standard of life for her children.

I hope the feeling of vulnerability in seeing, smelling, feeling the effects of Climate Change with my own senses, not just reading about it in news grabs will remain with me, as well as the small glimmer of hope at the mangrove reclamation area – one day this land will improve. I know future news items will stir the feeling of helplessness as I looked out to sea and pictured what it would be like if a tsunami was to land on these shores and its people.

I know I will always remember the people I met in the short time I spent in Tonga.

I will always…always remember the joy in a Tongan smile, how it is contagious and welcoming.

I was privileged to see and feel the pride shown by the clients when they shared with us stories about their businesses. It was heartwarming to listen the stories of how the microloans being provided by SPBD and Good Return are improving their lives, from providing food for their families, clothing, education, electricity, even a car to take children to school. I was surprised to see the small entrepreneur spirit of many who use the intermittent internet to sell their wares across the world.

Many will hold a special place in my memoday1_visit_bakersries.

The bakers, the mother who passes on her recipes to her daughter by showing.

 

 

The seamstress who makes traditional clothing that Tongans still wear with pride to church and other special occasions.

 

The weavers who will sit for days to make masterpieces from pandanus grass, from floor mats to the traditional taʻovala. Or others that will make intricate pieces to form kie kie that many people still wear daily.

The fisherman wives, who will pray each day for their husband’s safe return from the seas and who will then work long hours packing the haul for market.

The farmer’s wife and daughter who work side by side the husband and father to harvest tapioca and yams to sell at market.

selling_tapa

When I close my eyes I can see the image of women drying and pounding the tapa from thin leaf to broad sheets to sell at market. I can hear the sound of the rhythmic whacking ringing in the village air during the midday hours.

 

I hope I will be able to remember…

being immersed into Tongan life. I am grateful tdance2o be invited into their homes, their church, their lives for a small glimpse of Tonga and its people. Their music mixed with the softness of the Tongan expression and laughter of its people still ring in my ears and flows through my soul.

 

I know I will return to Tonga

You have created a special place in my heart

 

tonga_redshell

 

 

Spellbound Sunday

psschoolgrounds

The music drifted through the bus windows and silenced the passengers. They had been admiring the manicured gardens and grand buildings as they approached the church, a contrast to village constructions they had been travelling through the last few days. As soon as the bus stopped they scurried into the church in a single file to their assigned seating towards the front.

It was only then she allowed herself to relax and scan her surroundings. To her right were almost 1000 school boys dressed in their Sunday traditional white uniform with ocean blue Ta’ovala and sandaled feet. The choir master stood in front of the boys guiding voices and brass band as they offered their Sunday prayers.

psChurch_insideTo her left was the fine timber pulpit of orange grains polished and treasured by its congregation. Overhead the curved soft timber struts were covered by a watertight thatching that had absorbed over 150 years of Tongan song and prayer.

She sat motionless. Calmness washed over her, the fine detail of the surroundings fading from view. She closed her eyes and let the music envelope her.

 

For a time she tried to fight the sensations stirring within her. She curled her toes tightly, her breathing shallow as she struggled to remain composed and professional. Tears started to well in the corner of her eyes, her stomach tossed, her throat burned.

She could hold it no longer.

She let ‘it’ in.psbluewaters

The thousand strong tenor voices blended with the capacious brass melody and percolated into her inner core. The chorus evoked images of coconut trees gently swaying in the ocean breeze, before skipping her over the waves of the azure clear ocean. The chorus and whale song held her spellbound as tears freely flowed unchecked down her burning cheeks. Her skin quivered, her hands trembled.

The song swelled, the brass melody deepened as the majestic polished ebony whales glided through the blue waters in her mind. And then the final crescendo of voice and instrument filled the church to call the regal ocean mammal from the water towards the tropical sky in a final show of splendor as if one in the island Kingdom.

Her emotion showed freely, the power of the song in prayer captivated her. She didn’t need to know the words, the hymn had penetrated her very core.

It had been a long time since she had felt this much at peace with herself.

She had found a new place to re-energise her, to take home with her.

 

 

 

Photo credits: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / s_erez; Amanda Webb; Nicole Wallis

Mālō e lelei

It was 3 am when they had arrived in the darkness of the early morning. The simplistic life of the Kingdom was evident from the first step onto Tongan soil. No colossal airport terminal with numerous guards and staff ordering the travellers to assorted lines. Just two simple passages where passports were stamped, a quick scan for quarantine and the group shown the door to enter the Kingdom.band

As local families greeted their own back to country these western ladies were corralled past Tongan musicians who, despite the early hours of morning enthusiastically welcomed visitors with the traditional sounds of Tonga harmony. Their bus awaited. Their journey had begun.

Her neck stretched above the heads in front so she could see the road ahead. As
the bus quietly passed through sleeping villages she discerned the small simple houses in the shadows, trying to picture the families that lay within. Scruffy dogs played on the roads, only moving when the lights from the bus were upon them. An occasional pig joined in the game with the dogs. She smiled thinking the scene a contrast to the kangaroo, fox or koala she would normally see on the roads to home.

She could feel her heart pumping, her eyes wide open despite her weariness as the bus took the final turn to her home for the next six days. A small part of her was hoping this wasn’t some sort of TV reality show that now took one of those surprise turns and they were about to fight for their sleeping quarters and beg for food.

“Please just show me my room with clean sheets and running water” she silently prayed as the security guard led each to their abode, where she fell into bed in the hope she could revive her energy with just a few hours of sleep – there was lots to discover tomorrow, or was it already today?

The shackles of work and home were washed away in the tranquility of the morning. The azure waters of the Pacific Ocean expanded before her, the sounds as it crashed on the reef hypnotized her, the shadows of whales enjoying a morning play not far from the edge excited her. Her immersion had begun.

As the bus glanced through villages she observed the Tongan people industriously starting the day. Children strolling along the roadside edge to school, men heading into small fields to plant banana trees or clear land for another crop to bring a small income to the household, women setting up stalls outside the village homes to sell their frugal wares and produce.

She had expected to see streets of high rise buildings indicating the capital city centre so was surprised when Rick the bus driver said they had arrived in downtown Nuku’alofa. The larger country centres of home were busier and bigger than this she thought to herself. Despite its size, the place was a buzz with industry as the bus weaved through the morning traffic.

Vehicles with people stacked in every available seat, some taking passage in the back of the truck passed them by. Others were precariously parked by the road unloading watermelons, carrots, capsicums, yams ready for a long day of selling. Women watched over the stalls as younger children, scantily dressed ran along the dusty craggy paths. Older children, in their brightly coloured school uniforms giggled and chattered as they walked to school. She smiled as she thought somethings don’t change whatever the country it seems.

Her eyes worked overtime to capture these moments, her head darting from side to side to front to take in the scene of the morning bustle. A squeal from the front of the bus made her turn to see a scruffy dog dart through the traffic, to the right western fashion collecting the dust that was swirling along with the traffic was strung along a wire for sale. A large sow tramped along with purpose as her piglets danced around her feet, a few brown chickens scratched for some morsel of breakfast as vehicles of all shapes and vintage continued to pass by.

As they arSPBDrived at their destination she sat on the bus for a short moment. She was 3600 kilometres from home, with a group of women she hardly knew in a country she knew little about. She was a voyager in a foreign country, almost anonymous with no preceding tags except those she chose to share.  She could barely contain the intrepid excitement growing within her. Her feet were tingling, her eyes wide, her ears tuned, her whole self poised to embrace every second of the next six days.

A broad smile greeted her, a welcoming hand outstretched “Mālō e lelei, welcome to Tonga”.

Welcome indeed.

 

Some images: (c) Amanda Webb

Stopped

Accident: an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap

She had a productive day. It was Sunday and she had made the radical decision that instead of doing the house work she would indulge in her new hobby. The housework would wait for another day, why not leave it! Feeling a little like a girl skipping school she lost herself in absolute contentment. She redesigned her blossoming web page and blog, took some photos and dabbled in her new photo editing software.

parkbench

She was so engrossed in creativity she didn’t realise a storm was building outside…and she had dry washing on the clothes line. Without hesitating she raced outside, down the five stairs and across her backyard towards the clothes line as the stormy winds started to thrash her clean clothes like dancing puppets.

She didn’t make it to the puppets on the line.

Her life came to a stop.

Suddenly.

Her foot found a small divet in the yard, she lost her balance and the cracking sound echoed in her ears as she tumbled to the ground.

“No, no, no!” she screamed as people came to her aid and whisked her to hospital emergency. The pain was debilitating, the realization of what she had done dawning on her as she waited to be see a doctor and xray. She didn’t have time for this accident. Her ankle cannot be broken.

Self reliant: Relying on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others

She was powerless. While others may have embraced crutches she couldn’t, it was not natural. Everything required careful planning and time, so much time. A simple shower took nearly an hour, moving from bedroom to lounge took minutes rather than seconds.

She had to learn to rely on others for bathing, food, even a simple requests for a glass of water. This was hard for her to do. “The problem is you are so self-reliant” a close friend sympathised. She had never viewed this as a problem before.crutches

She left the house only for medical appointments, even these were tiring and filled her with dread.

There were tears. Confidence turned to fear.

Who was this woman she saw in the mirror? Dark clouds descended into her thoughts

Perspective: A particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; True understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion

Stairs became a barrier, distance a calculation. She developed a new perspective on the ease or difficulty of what before that day had seemed normal tasks.

Her orthopedic surgeon had a ramp to his consulting rooms – it was about 500m long. It took her 3 rest stops on her crutches to get to the door. The door was heavy to open. She had to knock and wait for someone to open for her.

Her own doctors rooms required a step up, about a 400m hop to the door. Another long walk to his room at the end of a long hall…and back again.

The chemist had an automatic door, but the service desk was at the back of the shop – another long distance to someone who was tired, uncertain, feeble.

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Before the accident none of these places were considered difficult places to attend. Her perspective on ‘disabled access’ changed. These places ticked the requirements of the law, but are they really accessible?

 

She did not attempt anywhere else. Her mind could not work with her, her body was too tired to try.

 

Even her own work location – single floor, a ramp…she could go to work?

No.

The ramp at the back door is too steep for crutches. The toilet door too heavy to open with crutches. The hall too long to negotiate up to ten times a day. She would not be able to make a simple cup of coffee herself. No, work is not ‘disability friendly’.

She set up a home office and could still function and do her work. Her team was busy, they had lots to do. At first this was a sense of achievement but as the days became weeks her anger grew –

“Cant you just let me be miserable in peace? I am tired of looking like I’m managing ok, of the pressure of work. I’m tired of everything” she cried into her pillow one morning, another day ahead of trying hard, of coping, of relying on others for help.

Thankful: Expressing gratitude and relief

Despite these dark thoughts she knew she was lucky. She fought the dark clouds with expressions of thankfulness to try to get through this unexpected halt to life.

Thankful this occurred in Australia where the health system could treat her quickly and provide her with high quality care.

Thankful she lived in a small country town. It was hard enough to negotiate places, the city would have worse with parking, longer walks, busy streets.

Thankful that her aging mother supported, cared, did anything and evergetwellsoonything despite her own body failing her.

Thankful her daughter came home from travels at the top end of Australia to be a carer, supporter, chauffeur, shopper, cook, companion, nurse. Thankful to her other daughters who helped when they journeyed home for short weekends – the housework she left THAT day was finally done weeks later.

Thankful to work colleagues who were ever so patient, genuinely caring and sympathetic.

Thankful to wonderful  friends who offered to help, cook, clean, bring her news about whats happening in the world beyond her home.

Thankful this situation was for just a short time. Others have injuries, pain and disabilities that are permanent and life long.

Healing: The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again; mending

autumnleavesAs the autumn leaves fell from branches, as the days became shorter and the winter cold settled across the land her body healed.

As the countryside painted green, fresh after cleansing welcome rain her resolve brightened.

Her bones mended, her crutches stayed in the corner, her muscles started to recover.

She fought the anxiety that washed over her as she left her home which had been her comfort and safe haven for 6 weeks.

 

She had to find the strength and courage to enter the world again.

It took time, a few false starts, small tentative outings to gain back confidence and independence.

Last Sunday she sent a message to a friend “Just did my first Downward Dog in nearly 3 months, you would not believe how good that feels”

She was healing, inside and out.

Fight Song: Rachael Platten

Ten weeks, 70 days.

Life stopped. She survived.

One could find lots of words of wisdom as to why this happened, learnings, words from another world, inspirations…but for now every morning she simply plays a song that reminds her the healing continues, and get on with what you were doing before the ‘accident’. She has a trip to Tonga in six weeks and she isn’t missing that.

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Thank you Rachael Platten. Thank you family, friends, medical teams, work colleagues.

A hand up, not a hand out

canstockphoto25413463Just across the ocean, to the north east of my homeland is a small group of islands known as the Kingdom of Tonga. The rich fertile volcanic soil provides the Tongans their main income  while a plethora of hibiscus and frangipani give colour to the coconut groves and banana plantations.

 

The rainforests and skies are home to golden plovers, the Pacific black duck, the Tongan whistler and lorikeets while flying fish, dolphins and humpback whales reside in the oceans below.

Or so my research tells me, I’m yet to see for myself!

In a few weeks I am taking the opportunity to discover and learn about this friendly culture and I hope I can give as much to the community as I know I will receive from the experience. I am travelling with an inspiring group of women, many who I first met last year with the non-proft organisation Good Return  our educators as we journey through Tonga and share time with local Tongan people benefiting from the work of Good Return

I have admitted in the past that I am a bit of a list person. As I celebrated a landmark birthday this year the desire to help others has filled my thoughts and has been added to the imaginary list in my head.

canstockphoto5272365If you had to write a list of what you wanted from your career and your income what you write? A promotion? A good boss? Long lunches? Flexible working hours? Sick leave? Maternity leave? Free childcare?

Would you think to write “To be able to feed my family three meals a day”? When I learnt this is a goal for a lady in Tonga I knew I wanted to help.

In August I am journeying  to Tonga as part of a cross-cultural leadership program and to support and train local women to improve their futures and lift them from the cycle of poverty.

I have self-fcanstockphoto30781094unded my own travel costs and time away and am now fundraising for Good Return and these women and their families who are less fortunate than me and many of us.
If you can support me in my endeavours with a donation to this cause I would be very grateful.
https://tonga2016.goodreturn.org.au/angela_mccormack/

I will keep you posted of my journeys too 🙂

 

Images from © Can Stock Photo Inc. / donyanedomam;  © Can Stock Photo Inc./Alexis84 and  © Can Stock Photo Inc./lemony 

Brown eyes

And there she was. She had arrived. I had mixed emotions that day, excited to meet her but overcome with the work ahead. I was already feeling that unrelenting fatigue that comes with being a mother of several toddlers. I now had another.

And then we saw them. Those brown eyes, deep pools of mesmerizing chocolate coloured eyes. She had us wrapped around her little finger from that moment.

 

 

Our family was complete, except for the two dogs that came later.

As I flipped through photos from the next five years so much seems a blur. Three children under four years of age can do that to a person. The routine of life had its ebbs and flows, its happy moments, its dark times. But we made it through.

Our brown eyed baby had to survive two bigger sisters. I used to put her in a jolly jumper in the living area so she was part of the action until I came across her two sisters swinging, quite high while she laughed and giggled. I packed the jumper away after that.

One other day I met her sisters carrying her down the hallway, having dragged her from her cot – “She was awake mum”, though I’m still not convinced she was. Her sisters persuaded her that the bigger the coins the more they were worth so she swapped all her 2 dollars coins with her sisters 50 cents. They played with her mind by covering all the photos of her in the house and convincing her she didn’t exist.

 

I went to work when she was just a toddler, my husband stayed home to be a house husband and look after the three girls. This worked well most of the time. I did come home one summers day  to find her being hosed in the back yard as she had soiled her nappy and this seemed the quickest and easiest way for my husband to clean her up

withdad065

With her dad, a special bond growing up

 

Her father only has one working arm, a victim of polio. So I should not have been surprised to arrive home to see the girls tying their shoes with one hand and their teeth, as dad had done.  She formed a wonderful relationship with her dad, especially after her older sisters went off to school. She learnt to fish (one handed) and developed a lifelong love of fishing, especially after catching ‘the big one’ when she was ten.

Like all my girls their grandparents farm created so many happy times, especially times with cousins. She formed a unique bond with my mother through cooking , first starting with licking the bowl and then helping with the stirring to being able to completely cook a cake for herself. Like her grandmother she now uses cooking as a stress relief. Through her teens years I would arrive home to a kitchen that looked like a bomb site – flour and sugar strewn over the floor and bench, measuring cups laying haphazardly across the bench, sink full of every mixing bowl we own.

“Bad day at school today?” I would ask

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Oh, just guessed”, the mess in the kitchen didn’t provide me any clues!

 

She is a confident unique individual. I am not sure whether growing up in the shadows of two older sisters bought this out in her, or whether it is just in her genes. She dressed herself from an early age – some of the photos showed just how individual her dress sense was. She decided another day she no longer wanted a fringe in her hair, so cut it off resulting in a lovely little row of fluff across the top of her forehead. She tried makeup. She rocked the easter bunny outfit at school, really played the character of a clown when she dressed up for a school social. She went through a onesie stage, her collection growing to over 7 different outfits and she confidently wore them to parties, school events and other public places.

 

This youngest girl of mine showed her wonderful caring nature very early. As a toddler she would regularly have a cup of tea with her grandparents and get all the gossip of the latest operations, complaints and deaths, which she would relay to me when she arrived home. This included telling me that “Uncle Fred died last night mum, he went to sleep and just didn’t wake up”. The thought of this captivated her for some time.

When I used to ask how was preschool I would get a report of everyone’s ailments, by the time she went to school I would get an update on who was away each day, like a mother hen doing the daily report of her brood.

 

She has also had a fascination with death and body functions. She is always willing to dig out a burr or a splinter, squeeze a pimple, examine a wound – the things that make many people queezy at the thought.

Year 10 students are required to do two weeks work experience to help them plan for their future career. I was surprised to learn this baby of mine has selected two weeks working in an aged care facility. Any doubts I had were quickly washed away. She had found her calling.

She cared for these wonderful older members of the community with such tenderness and gentleness, and still does to this day. She can remain calm in a stressful, highly tense situation keeping her head and showing a maturity well beyond her years. At times it is hard to believe that she is my daughter. I feel so much pride for her and the woman she has become.

EPSON MFP image
The day she got her school captain badge – with one her most influential teachers Miss Hodge

 

I see a great leader in this girl. She earnt the award of school captain for her primary school and set the example for the school – showing a willingness to assist teachers and be a voice for children that could not be heard. She participated in many sports, setting the example to other students and showed a mature leadership on the sporting field as well.

 

This carried over to home, especially willing to help her grandparents, more so today than ever. Being school captain of her high school allowed her leadership qualities to mature even more and I see her taking these experiences to her workplaces and her university life.

My crystal ball for this bright, delightful, compassionate young lady shows me sunshine and many successes. I know she will make her mark in nursing and attention to others – her leadership and caring nature show me this already.

My advice to her is to listen to your heart, advocate for yourself, be confident on the outside even if you aren’t on the inside. You can do it, you just need to believe in yourself.

My wish for Bonnie, my brown eyed baby who came into this world 21 years ago today is for every happiness. You have bought joy to our lives, your smile brightens every day, your honesty (i.e. bluntness!) is refreshing.

Live long, live well, live happy my Bonnie. Happy 21st birthday.

 

UPDATE 05/05/2020: Today this brown eyed girl turns 25. What a ride the past 4 years have been for her!

I know there moments of doubt – and “I cant do this!” as she worked her way through University. Turning up to a hospital ready to do your prac, not knowing anyone is daunting. I get that. She worked through those moments.

I know she has been scared as all get-out as she started her first day as a qualified nurse – how terrifying it must have been to be thrown into the Criminal Justice system and be asked to nurse men who have performed unspeakable acts.

She did it.

She did it with the same care and tenderness that she would show any other person who needs help, support and comfort. And continues to show.

She is a sponge for knowledge – the more she knows the better care and decisions she can make. This drives her to learn more. It is remarkable to observe.

She has found her voice and it grows stronger every day. She has learnt to advocate for the patient and finally, for herself. I know this voice will continue to become louder and resolute as her confidence grows. Keep going, we are listening!

She has had a wealth of experiences and a maturity beyond her years – I have to remind myself she is only 25. She is on a path to greatness in nursing…and whatever other life path the next quarter century takes her. 

Happy birthday our brown eye girl. x

Our extended family

Fizz_damI recently read a saying “When your children are teenagers, its important to have a dog so that someone is happy to see you”. I can relate to this. As my girls were growing through the tumultuous teen years I never quite knew what the greeting would be when I entered the house in the evening.

Sometimes it was quiet, each of the girls in their own ’corners’ amusing themselves. Other times I was greeted with a barage of questions and news about the day. Sometimes there were tears, other times laughter and smiles.

Every day was unique.

Except for our two dogs. Every day was the same. I would arrive in the driveway and no matter where they were in the house or yard they would run to the top of the steps  and greet me with a mix of barking and howling. An onlooker would think I had been away for months, not a few hours. As I entered the house they would run around along the lounge, up and down the hallways, jump and bark and almost try to speak.

Admittedly I would join in the game and ask them who called today, how many neighborhood cats walked past the front window, how many birds did they chase out of the back yard– you know all those important things a dog would want to report . As teenagers the girls would sit sullenly on the lounge and roll their eyes at the act.

Every day was the same.

Fizz and Freckle joined our family about 14 years ago. We visited dog pounds, vet clinics and pet shops to look for the perfect dog for our home. We found Fizz at a pet shop, a small bundle of shyness, the runt of the litter. She and her siblings had been born new years eve and had been rescued from a flea infested house by the pet shop owners. While all of these puppies were cute to hold and play with my daughter picked little Fizz.

A few months later we picked up Freckle from some people in Barraba who had let their show Japanese Spitz accidentally mate with a terrier. He is a white dog, not spotted as his name would suggest, but he has always been Freckle.

Much to my husband’s distaste we had, in a small space of time become a two dog family. As with all new pets the novelty of daily feeding and walking wore off with the children. Evening chores became the usual battle of not only who is washing up, wiping up, doing bins but also who is feeding the dogs, locking them up and bathing them.

Just a normal house with pets.

Our dogs had their own personalities. Fizz definitely the smarter of the pair and Daughter 2 spent hours training her to Sit – Paw – Lay for biscuits and beg on her hind legs. Freckle was not so keen and Daughter 1, a little on the lazy side herself used to say “Freckle and I know each other – I don’t want to teach and he doesn’t want to learn”. Hence Freckle mumbled through life following Fizz’s leads.

When the house was quiet during the day our dogs became escape artists. I am sure Fizz was the ring leader, finding the best place to dig under the fence or under the rock boulders we had to line up against the house. We had to build gates to make the yard dog proof, redesign the fences. Somehow I know Fizz convinced Freckle with his bigger paws to be the manual labour to dig.

The girl’s primary school is just a block away from home. I always thought this as one of the highlights of raising children in a small country town – how many other places can you stand at the kitchen window and watch your children walk into the school gate? I think the dogs thought this was a great benefit too. They became regular visitors to the school – somehow knowing which classroom the girls were in and putting on their cuteness at the teacher so that they weren’t scolded. I am sure Fizz was the mastermind, Freckle the disciple.

Each of the girls spent time walking the dogs home from the school and locking them back in the yard. My mum also spent time driving them back home from her place, 2 kms away. Yes, they regularly made their way that far as well. Other residents of the village also knew these rascals and would bring them home, or text me at work to say they saw them trotting down the road.

There were times when I cursed their existence.

They were woven into our family. I never thought I would drive 1.5 hours to take the dogs on a day out at the Nundle Dog Races, but I did. They came to Anzac Day marches, family picnics, celebrations, camping. They even co-signed birthday and Christmas cards with their paws.

It has never ceased to amaze me how astute the dogs are about the human habits in the house. Just the sound of the chopping board moving on the kitchen bench brings them into the kitchen – they know there will be morsels of meat and food coming their way. As soon as I put on my hat and have my phone and headphones in my hand they are ready at the gate, knowing that we were going for a walk – even before the shoes were anywhere in sight. They know that when we settle in the evening with a cup of tea that I will have an extra biscuit for them. Yes I dunk in my tea first too.

As I head off to bed each evening Fizz would snuggle into her bed in the lounge and Freckle faithfully follows me and sleeps under the bed. It’s such a routine that I hardly notice anymore.

We were a family of seven, not five.

Over the last few years the girls have moved onto to become independent adults creating their own lives. The house has fallen silent, very silent. I have found the dogs are important now more than ever.

I could re-write the saying to “When your children leave home, its important to have a dog so that someone is happy to see you”

ThedogsWhen I arrive home from travelling with my work, the house is quiet and darkened. No matter what time it might be the dogs are on the top step, greeting in their usual frantic way. It is indeed very welcoming. There are no sullen cold shoulders to reflect that I’m late, that I’ve been away for days, sometimes weeks. It is an unrequited welcome and love with no strings.

 

Without warning this all changed last week.

Fizz scampered into the bedroom for her usual perky good morning. At 14 human years the scamper was a little slower and the perky not quite as energetic but it always started the day on a positive note.

Within the hour I was the bearer of terrible news. Three phone calls I wished I never had to make. As the girls are scattered across the country we couldn’t hug each other and grieve together. We could only take time to remember the many, many wonderful moments that little Fizz shared with us, the love, the fun, the loyalty that a dog can give a family. Her memories will stay with us a lifetime.RIP_Fizz

A woman’s perspective

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The day recognising gender equality, International Womens Day or IWD was celebrated this last week. I happen to be in the city for celebrations, including watching a debate titled “Who needs feminism anyway”. It provided some great points from both sides of argument, I was agreeing and nodding throughout.

Females, particularly younger women working in 2016 are enjoying the work of the feminist movement of last century. Have we made progress? Yes. Read More

Ending eras & creating new ones

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The end of 2015 also marked the finish of an era in our household. On December 31st 2015 our household became learner andP-plate provisional driver FREE, bringing to the end 8 years of log books, supervised driving, looking and checking for plates on cars, reduced driving speeds. While this is a celebration for the provisional drivers, I felt a sense of loss. It is another step of letting go, my brood growing up and me being ‘needed’ less. Read More

Gray Street

canstockphoto7691275She steps over the bodies strewn across the room. One body lies in the hall, trying to grab any gasp of breeze that may float in the front door. It’s been a hot night.

Her walk is slow and soft, hoping the creaking of floorboards doesn’t wake anyone. It would be nice to have a moment of quiet before the children waken. Read More