Hills’ Fair Share Festival 1

With all the trouble in the world, it can be difficult to maintain our focus on the good things in life. Youngest Daughter has taken the attitude that since the world will end in a year or two, she may as well do whatever she likes until then. A melodramatic teen, perhaps. A common perception, maybe. What I do know is the perpetuation of misery and promotion of fear by politicians and media, is poisoning our children’s perception of their future.

We have federal, state and local governments who are promoting safety, taking a stance against family violence. The cognitive dissonance here is a government claiming anti violence who are the perpetrators of violence against the families being interred on Manus and Nauru. How can they live with themselves? How can we?

I face this darkness and dishonesty by focusing on what I can do. I focus on sustainability and strengthening our communities. I focus on being honest (sometimes too bluntly) and doing my part for a sustainable future, despite the dismal picture being painted by our ‘leaders’.

I am keen to follow the lead of Transition Newcastle who held a Fair Share Festival last year. A festival where community come together to explore re-thinking, re-sharing, re-using, re-purposing and re-hoping our lives. Tiny homes, food sharing, community energy, wicking beds, re-fashion, repair cafes, the list of ways in which we can share hope for the future is endless.

I’m taking a stand for hope.

Through the window – A Musing

It’s raining, it’s pouring, I wish I was still snoring. All the animals are inside, and slightly damp, the visiting teens are inside, and watching telly loudly. The view through my lounge window is of looming grey clouds and rain. All the plants are holding their leaves to the sky and laughing.

I’ve loved the power and light show though. Only because we have not lost power, for which I am most grateful. Parts of the town have. Trees down, creek rising but on the bright side, no fires. The ‘fire season’ is officially over. On the first day the fire bans were lifted, which was hot and incredibly windy, people went to town burning off. Guess what happened? Yup, fires out of control.

Reminds me of one year a neighbour down the road, lit debris at the base of a tree. The fire began racing up the trunk and the neighbour began batting at it with his plastic rake, sending embers off into the wind. I stopped and told him I’d rung the fire brigade. He gave me a few choice words as he ran for his hose.

Then there was the other neighbour who lit a fire near their fence and a tree. Youngest Daughter and I stood watching as the flames took over the fence and leapt to the tree. I called the brigade.

We’ve watched a fair bit of weather through our lounge window. One year, hail stones as large as golf and tennis balls bounced into our front garden. The car received a lovely array of circular dents in the roof. Youngest Daughter, being seven, raced into the front yard to collect some hail stones and proudly showed me three. We put them in the freezer to keep them.

Another view was our first year here in a bush fire area. It was Black Saturday. I was already freaked out and the power kept cutting out. I was very aware of how fast fire could spread and there were four big fires well within 20 kms of us. The winds of change could easily bring them our way. I was bravely staying, encouraged by a fire-wise neighbour, when Youngest Daughter went to the window. “Mum,” she said, “Look how pretty the sky is.” I whipped around and saw vivid orange smoke clouds. We cut and ran to our friends for the night.

Other views through my window have been spider webs of rain drops in the trees, gymea lilies silhouetted against the sunrise, children making mudslides down the embankment, cats sunning themselves and pouncing upon one another. I’ll keep watching and let you know what we see next.

When to grieve and not to grieve: an Introspective

As we grow older, we gather layers of grief. Grief is a strange beast, best let have it’s way. It ebbs and flows like tidal waters under a glowing moon. It creates its own patterns to your days, the late hours, when we are tired and at our most vulnerable, are when the currents are strongest.

How we deal with grief builds resilience or swallows us whole. For me, living each day with loss means I need routine and happy habits, I need work to distract me and I need times to reflect.

Acknowledging grief is not easy to do. What is it every Australian says when asked how they are? Fine. I’m fine. Truly I am. I’m full of gratitude for my little house, my fluffy peeps, my kids, my work and my interests. I am fine. What I also am is quite lost, quite often.

I have learnt that this is okay. It waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows. A morning I have to convince myself to get out of bed and go to work can brighten into a day of laughter. A day which has started well can drag on and go downhill. I have remedies for these.

Every day I dash home from work and take my three little dogs to the off lead dog park. There we play ball, meet their doggy friends and chat with their humans. I love being down there. It’s  a peaceful piece of bush, with a brisk creek running through, which dogs and small people enjoy.

I make sure I have plenty of berries. Full of vitamin C, low in fructose and delicious, they cheer me up and ensure I don’t resort to lollies or chocolate. I ring friends to see how they are and what they are up to. It’s good to hear other people’s stories. I take myself out for coffee.

I spend time thinking about good memories with the loved one lost. I count my blessings and sometimes I cry. Not often, I don’t like crying, but sometimes it is just the thing to do. I do what I need to do and move with the flow.

She is wild, my girl, and does wild things.

I have been thinking a lot about how I could have been different as a parent. This is a torture unique to parents, that even when we know that we have done our best, however flawed, we scrutinise.

Youngest Daughter has returned to care. This has been an agonising journey. I have had to recognise that the damage done to her in her first three years of life and subsequently by her birth mother, has had cumulative impact over time, exacerbated by the dreaded hormones. I will always be here for her and love her no matter what. At 15 and a half, she has decided that she can do whatever the bleep she wants and bleep everyone. She loves me and protects me from her excesses by choosing not to live with me.

My heart breaks over and over again. Living with the grief of watching a loved one struggle and be the cause of their own suffering is deeply sorrowful. It has taken me some time to unravel the tangled threads of thought and trace back to what is mine and acknowledge the grief. I share this here as I understand there are many parents who are perplexed and shattered by their children’s choices. Whether or not I agree with hers, I still love every molecule of her.

I have had substantial practice over the last ten years of letting go. It is agonising to do so when you know they do not yet have the skills, knowledge or ability to understand the world, or only from their own limited perspective. Letting go is so very hard when all you want to do is keep the loved one safe, even from themselves.

Trusting that she can keep herself safe is a constant practice. I have to pep talk myself through moment by moment. When she is missing for days and the agency that has care of her is ringing me to make contact. When I coach her back to them and they don’t let me know she is home. When no-one tells me she is missing and she and I have been chatting so I have no idea. It is bizarre and strange and cuts through to your centre as a parent.

My challenge is to keep her alive long enough for her to want to be alive. Let her know that I believe in her until she believes in herself. Tell her she is my shining girl until she sees it for herself. Keep the faith until she finds it. Love her always and hope she discovers she loves herself.

Hold her in the Light with me, for all those children for whom we wish a future, a life they love and are proud of.

In the photo, Me in the background, Youngest Daughter, Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter.

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I’m painting a tree on my wall

Over the past few years, life has changed dramatically. You know, life happens. One of the things has been to get rid of lots of stuff, including furniture. With spare rooms it has been shifted around and with daughters, it has been shifted out. I’ve always leaned towards large pieces of wooden furniture and it has been a substantial effort to move said items.

The result has been a spareness that is pleasing to me. My house looks a little bare. I seem to need to create the space for my mental health and wellbeing and to move on from very painful experiences. It has taken a long time to clear the wall in my kitchen/ living area. Longer to talk myself into painting the wall then believing that I can design and paint the tree.

I drew many trees over the past year before deciding on a curlicue version, much like my doodling. The challenge was then to believe I could transfer it onto my wall. I won’t describe here the many methods and techniques I considered. Eventually, I painted the wall and took chalk to it and began drawing. I erased the first two efforts and the third I am happy with. When finished, I’ll move the family photos to that wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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What spare room?

I have been keeping a spare room. Daughters have slept in it, mother and friends. It’s been good. I’ve kept the animals out of it because not everyone can sleep with a stack of furry bodies. But no longer. Youngest daughter has moved back in and it is now her room. Where will I sort my towels?

There’s been me and three dogs and three cats for the last six months. While what precipitated this alone time was heart-breaking, I have been happy living by myself with my Fluffy Floozies (ergo, ‘fluffy floozies’ collective description for said furry peeps). Now I have to share again.

Oh, I want to, happy to do it, more than happy. It’s just confronting. It’s been 30 years since I lived alone and as a young woman, didn’t do so well. As myself now, did absolutely fine, better than fine. Who knew? It’s been a revelation that I can live happily by myself. I hope it’s equally a revelation that  can live with my youngster again.

So, no spare room for awhile. Day trips are us for the rest of the family. Sharing a bathroom again. Ugh. Oh well, I’m thrilled to have her here, we will see what the future brings.

I’m staying up late…heh heh

Here I am, sitting at my desk at a time of morning I am normally just waking up. I am not enamoured of early morning sounds or light. I admit I have been in times past but I would rather be asleep. I am determinately an owl.

I have always had difficulty in going to bed early. I still have difficultly in going to bed early. I never want to go to bed early or even at a reasonable time. If I have lights out before midnight, it is a surprise. I still have to get up to go to work and really need a nap in the afternoon (not always possible at work, though it is amazing how much I can type with my eyes closed). I seem to function on a certain level of sleep deprivation. Yet, can I make myself go to bed earlier? Nope.

I have good intentions but there is always one more thing to draw, another game to play, one more episode to watch. It’s never, oh I’ll just get these dishes done or I’ll get this floor mopped now. Which would be bizarre but interesting at midnight. No, it’s always play.

Then I go to bed and read. Eventually when I cannot focus on the words any longer, I relax into sleep. Such good habits, if only two hours earlier.

I am completely baffled as to why my good intentions for a proper night sleep are never met. I suspect I never mean to. I often give myself a good pep talk (about everything really) to get myself to bed earlier and then still crawl into bed at midnight. I’m 53, it’s a long standing habit. I reckon I’ll still be doing it when I’m 83.

This year I am giving up insisting that I go to bed earlier. I’m going to let me stay up as late as I want. (That never worked with kids, I doubt it will work with me.) I’m still going to do it though. Stop giving myself a hard time about staying up late. See what happens.

From brown to grey in a few short years

Very recently, Youngest Daughter, re-posted a photo of me from 2009. I looked so much younger than I do know. A lot has happened over the past eight years and I am completely grey. (I tell Youngest Daughter that she is responsible. heh!)

I don’t mind being older, in fact I relish it. There is so much that once used to bother me that now doesn’t. My hair being grey? Looks good. Other people’s opinions? Who cares? What I relish most is what I know. Feeling down? It will pass. Sliding into a depression? I have the skills now to balance out. Stressed out about kids, work, house, elderly animals? I can deal.

All that ‘dealing’ has been hard won. Does it sometimes get on top of me despite my best efforts? Totally. Do I break under the strain? Sometimes. Do I know that I can get back up? Absolutely. At times it seems to take me longer, I don’t bounce back any more. ‘Getting back up’ can be laborious and take some serious determination. Do I pep-talk myself every morning to get up and get going? Yes. Do I have internal debates about every effort? Yes. Do I do it anyway? Yes, I do.

I am better at what is good for me and better at not giving up. Sometimes it takes an inordinate amount of time to figure how to get things done with limited resources (for example, gigantic dresser down to Middle Daughter’s place without strong people to help), and I eventually succeed. I am better at knowing when one thing extra is too much or when one thing extra will be just the thing. Falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from work? Go to sleep or take dogs for walk? I take the dogs for their walk. I feel this deserves cheering!

My reluctance to socialise does not concern me any longer. I work with people five days a week, belong to committees and volunteer. Enough people. Being at home, peacefully with my fluffy peeps is the best.

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Today is Sunday and I am tired. (Yesterday was exhausting, searching for missing child.) I will take the dogs for a walk after this, then have another cup of tea. I will do some shopping (yuck) and housework (double yuck) and rest because it’s back to work tomorrow.

Yes, I like being older. I am sad that I have physically aged so much but vanity was never my concern. I do wish I had more pep. I know that I will still get done that which needs to be done and the selectivity between need and want will prune the extraneous. It may take me longer but I get there in the end.

Grey hair rules!

 

Storytelling 102

So, how do you move from being a storyteller to a Storyteller?

I am assuming that you know what storytelling is. It is spoken word story that can be told in a variety of styles. My own style is dramatic. There is also trance and physical and a myriad versions in between. There is not exactly a wrong way to tell a story and yet there is. We’ll talk of that another time.

Stories have been handed down through generations and are at the centre of cultures. We tell stories every day, whether anecdotes of family happenings, incidents at work, online news or gossip. The important verb here is ‘tell’. We tell the stories. This is the cornerstone of storytelling and the important thing to remember. We tell stories. Yes, there is spoken word poetry, readers’ theatre and read stories. What Storytellers do is tell stories. How do you remember those stories? We will discuss that later.

I first came across Storytelling at Wonderwings Fairy Shop in 1992 when I dragged a number of friends along to an adult Storytelling. The party room was set up as a forest with a treed mural on the wall and mushroom cushions on the floor. We were served fairy bread and champagne. There was much laughter as we settled in, with some discomfort, unsure of what was to come. I was looking forward to whatever it might be. The Storyteller was Matteo, still telling today, and despite one friend’s determined efforts to distract and actively critique him, he told traditional folk tales. I was fascinated. I loved being told stories. When we pottered about the magical shop afterwards, my friends muttered to me, “You could do that!”

What? Tell stories, for a living? Surely not. I did enquire of Annie, the shop proprietor, who  told me of the Storytelling Guild (now Storytelling Australia Victoria). The idea persisted and I began attending the Storytelling Cafe nights. I was fascinated by the different styles of Telling and the plethora of stories told. It came to crunch point for me. It was time to tell a tale.

The first story I told was the Magic Stones. Having no idea how people went about learning stories, I did it my way. I read many many stories until one struck me as resonant. Once I had the bones of it, I began telling it to myself. Hours of practice saw me ready and finally I stood to tell a tale at the Storytelling Cafe. I was terrified. I told. I survived. I was elated.

Feedback later was that although my style was apparently far more dramatic than most, my story had been enjoyed. Whew. Did I consider myself a Storyteller now? No, I did not.

I have noticed that when people embark on a new endeavour, they are reluctant to name themselves Artist or Writer or Storyteller. Within a year of my first told tale, I produced a solo show (because why tip toe in when you can jump with both feet?). It went well. Over the next ten years, I told in early childhood centres, primary schools, libraries, with adults, ran workshops, facilitated groups and travelled across Victoria with my beautiful storytelling trunk.

Somewhere in that time, I stepped from storyteller to Storyteller. Once a Storyteller, always a Storyteller.

Now, how do you remember stories? We’ll talk about that next time.

 

Storytelling 101

I have been a storyteller for over forty years.

From the age of six I can remember asking my mum for stories and repeating them to myself and others. In my teens, I became the holder of family stories. In my twenties, I began to keep the stories and tell them for the young people I worked with.

As I journeyed through life, I held and told the stories of my workplaces, my family, myself, my children, my life. That is what storytellers do, we hold and tell the stories of our world. Does this make us all storytellers?

Why, yes it does. We use stories to make sense of our lives, to learn and to share. We share our experiences through stories and share stories to capitalise on our experiences.

So what makes a Storyteller different to a storyteller? It depends how far you want to take it.

By the time I was in my twenties, I found that friends were asking me to tell stories of shared experiences. By the time I was in my thirties, my colleagues were giving me stories so I could share them with new staff. As I built my storytelling business, I worked at a large chain warehouse for a few years. Staff from other sections would share incidents that occurred then ask me to re-tell those stories. I worked in the nursery and two of our favourite stories concerned customers who had come asking for unusual plants. A woman came in with her husband and child and explained that she needed a plant that would grow above a metre and half tall and would climb up the fence over a shrub she already had planted there. The plant she wanted had large white flowers and big leaves that it lost in winter and she racked her brain to think of the name. As she spoke I began mentally flicking through the climbers in our stock, when she exclaimed, “Oh! It’s a clitorus!” Surprised silence. “Oh no! That’s exactly what I didn’t want to say!” she was horrified. I laughed, “You mean Clematis?” “Yes, that’s it, a clematis!”, she agreed, red with embarrassment. She bought three. Then there was the man who came to examine olives, insisting that he wanted the one with orange centres. We didn’t laugh then and there, just explained that the one he wanted were pickled and stuffed olives that you could only buy from the supermarket.

From Paint there was the story of the hospital that called wanting to know what was in Cabot’s decking oil as someone had used it for fake tan; and the Hardware story of the irate customer who explained she had laid out the nails from the liquid nail tube but they would not harden to nail in; and on it went. Why me? I remembered the stories and told them with such relish that even those who knew them well, enjoyed hearing them again.

I worked as a travelling Storyteller for ten years, growing my business and developing it into a Storytelling agency. I sold it when life moved me in other directions. Once a Storyteller however, always a Storyteller.

I hold the stories for my children and begin to hold the stories for their children. I hold stories I have been gifted, stories I’ve read, stories I’ve heard, stories I’ve created. Many, many stories live inside my head. My developed storytelling mind lends itself to interesting connections which serves my current employment well.

How do you make the shift from storyteller to Storyteller. I’ll tell you next time.