Sunday, December 30, 2007


It was January 2000 when we moved onto our land at Kauroa, and for the first year and a bit we lived in the double garage and attached room. Gradually we moved into our house (still unfinished), and I had the bright idea of making a mosaic of a nikau palm on the shower wall in the new bathroom. I started. Then the arthritis in my knees started playing up. Then I got seriously depressed. I developed a kind of obsessional mystical thinking where I believed that it wasn't possible to sell our house and land with a half finished mosaic, and therefore if I didn't finish it, we would never have to leave.

So for the past 8 years we have been showering in the garage, meaning that for 6 1/2 years we have had to go outside in dark, cold, wind, rain, hail, frost or what ever else the weather threw at us, to shower.

But I got over my mystical thinking, and finished the mosaic a couple of days ago and we are now showering inside!

The funny thing is, I know I'm going to miss that daily trip out to the shower in the morning: even when I was cursing myself on cold, dark, rainy mornings, I was aware of pleasure at being forced daily to reconnect with the earth, with Gaia. Truly, there is something magical about the stars on a frosty winter morning with just that thin apricot rind of light on the eastern horizon signaling a new day approaching.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Frantic Season

On Tuesday 4th December I got 'tagged' by Shell - but that was Day 2 of my busiest fortnight for years. Another time the questions would have given me pause to think, examine my life, have a bit of fun, but this last fortnight I have had little time to think anything much. When I haven't been out an about, I have been catching up on sleep. So here are the questions, with very brief answers which apply to the whole fortnight:
  1. What did you accomplish? I survived!
  2. Did anything not go as expected? I survived without falling apart!
  3. What was the highlight of your week? I enjoyed myself
  4. Did anything exciting happen you did not expect? I enjoyed myself!
This time of the year is always hard. As a 'born-again atheist', the religious aspects of Christmas are not of interest to me, and I get intensely irritated by the commercialism which places pressure on me to spend a lot of money and energy for reasons that are completely irrelevant to me. Add to this the facts that my mother was admitted to hospital with cancer on Christmas Eve 19 years ago, and died a week later on New Year's Eve, and that I have not had Christmas with any member of my own family (other than my husband and children) for 20 years, and what you will find is a Cally who is always very grumpy at Christmas time and often very depressed.

For a few years now I have been threatening to dump the whole Christmas thing, and this year I am coming close. But still, because of our seasons here in New Zealand, this is not just the season of Christmas, it as also the time for all the end of year celebrations as school and university years end, and most people take their summer holidays. So really, there is no escape from the 'festive' season.

This year I determined that not only would I dump Christmas, but also I told myself I would try to enjoy the parties and happenings one at a time, rather than worrying too much about the next day. We live in the county 10 minutes from Raglan, 30 minutes from Hamilton. In the past fortnight I have had just two days at home. In the last fortnight - ie just fourteen days - I have made: 1 trip to Te Awamutu; 1 to Cambridge; 1 to Rotorua; 2 to Puahue; 2 to Auckland; 5 to Raglan; and 11 to Hamilton.

Some trips have been mundane: shopping, banking, warrant of fitness check for car.

Some have been unpleasant: dentist visits for Jeff and me; a trip to the Family Court in Rotorua.

Some have been fun: dancing; Rainbow's End; a friend's 21st birthday party; Jazz Society; my friends' dance show; drinks and a meal with some of the people from dh's first workplace that he left 20 years ago; a visit to see my son in Auckland; a day on the beach; drinks with my writers' group; a day spent with dh riding our motorbikes and visiting friends; and Christmas by the Lake in Cambridge spent with friends and family listening to Dave Dobbin and watching a wonderful fireworks display.

In the past I would have focussed all my energy into the negative events, and on dreading the tiredness that would come even from the fun things. This time I really tried to focus on the positive, and to just get the rest I needed when I could - deciding not to 'do' Christmas has released an enormous amount of energy for me! I've actually been able to enjoy the fun things and survive the not so fun things.

The beginning of the fortnight was the hardest, with my son's Family Court hearing about care of and access to my grandchildren, and the build up to this had been extremely stressful. It was a very hard day, but the outcome was reasonable, with an interim order that gave us the comfort of knowing exactly when the children will be with ds#1 Greg, so the stress of uncertainty is lifted at least for the time being.

Although it was a hard day, it was also a wonderful day in that our family pulled together and supported Greg through a scary situation: although ds#3 could not be there (if he came ds#4 would not have been able to as he is the reliever at the same workplace), Greg had both dh and me there, along with two of his three brothers, one brother's fiancee, Greg's new partner and her father, and two friends. It felt so good sitting there with this group of people, knowing that despite the fact that his marriage turned to custard, Greg is still loved and supported because he is who he is. I am so proud of how he has worked his way through this situation, how he has grown and matured through this time of adversity.

A day at Rainbow's End with our homeschool group was wonderful - I spent the day with two good friends, and our kids hung out together despite the difference in ages (our lot are 17, 16, 12 and 7), and despite there being other kids there of their own ages. Normally my day would have been spoilt for me by the thought of what was to come, but I just shoved that to the back of my mind to deal with later. Thus it wasn't until 6.45pm when my friend dropped me at ds#3 Simon's house that I thought about the next part of my day - a shower, change of clothes, a large whisky (thanks to Simon's friend Tim), and then off to dh Mac's work Christmas do.

I really don't like these events: I don't know anyone, or not well, and when I meet new people they always seem stymied at the answer to the first question: "What do you do?" - "I'm a stay-at-home mother and homeschool my sons." Talk about a conversation killer! I might as well say "I'm an undertaker by day and work as an alien abductor at night." Still, in my new 'make the best of it' frame of mind, I realised that the dreadful and painfully loud music had its plus side - I didn't have to try and make polite conversation to the increasingly drunken people there!

However, I wasn't able to find the bright side of getting home in the work-provided transport at 1.00am and having to get up at 5.45 to go to the final day of Saturday morning music! Home from that, Mac fell asleep on the sofa while I got food ready to take out with us to a homeschooler's 21st birthday party which started at 2.00pm - but we didn't get there till 4.00pm. We had a wonderful time - virtually no alcohol, and probably the most fun 21st any of us had been to. The yard glass was filled with jelly beans and other lollies and poured over the birthday boy while lying on the trampoline being bounced by assorted small cousins. This was some time after he had been initiated into 'adulthood' by being 'baptized', head and shoulders, in a large bin of red jelly - after which a number of other party-goers were similarly immersed. Not exactly good 'clean' fun!

The birthday boy's mother being 'assisted' by one of her other sons.

It looks like Christmas Day will be just another day at home, just Mac, ds#4 Jeff and me. The family, except for ds#3 Steve, will get together to have Christmas with the grandchildren on December 23rd, before they go back to their mother. Steve is working with only Christmas Day off, and doesn't want to come down from Auckland - he and Heidi are as unenthusiastic about Christmas as I am!

So despite my very busy lead up to Christmas, the fact that we aren't 'doing' Christmas this year has allowed me to stay pretty calm and has enabled me to actually enjoy all the fun stuff for the first time in living memory.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Scared and Powerless

Today I am living in a kind of bubble. It's a bit like how I felt when I was a week overdue with a baby: not really participating in the world; seeing the world as if I was looking in through a lighted window from a dark, night time distance.

Tomorrow we go to Rotorua, to the family court, to find out what the next step in the ongoing dispute between my eldest son and his ex-wife over their children. It is very scary.

When I got married, I knew there was a possibility that it wouldn't last, but I thought, and still think, I could have handled that. What I find incredibly more scary, because I am powerless, just an onlooker, is the falling apart of my son's marriage, and the fighting over the children. The accusations and counter claims. The bitterness. The meanness. The tragedy of it all. No one starts a marriage with this end in view. We all start out with love and the expectation of living happily ever after. A child's birth is celebrated by all, the baby loved and treasured.

Now here I am waiting, dreading the worst - that I might never see my beautiful grandchildren again, hoping for the best - that my son will be able to have his children live with him again.

What we will probably end up with is yet another interim state of being, another compromise while some other action and reaction is sought, more stress, more instability.

I feel scared, impotent and very old and tired.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Steve (24) has just passed his first year of a jazz performance degree at Massey Albany. Well, he still has his theory result to come but there's no worries there, it's just a matter of how well he passed that paper. It's been a pretty scary time since his recital in Monday 19th November because although he played fine for the first half of the recital he totally froze up at the end, so we were worried he might fail. But he scraped through with a C+ for his Performance and Improvisation.

It's been a hard year for Steve, and also his fiance Heidi, and their friend and flatmate, James. Living away from home for the first time. For Steve it has involved the first real academic study he's ever done, given his homeschooling was towards the unschooling end of the spectrum - but he managed an A- in music history.

He says he's learned a lot, not just about music, but also about study and hopes that next year he will manage his time and study better. But in the mean time, we can all put the worry aside look forward to his wedding to Heidi in February.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quiet Panic

As my children grow up, I find myself more and more relegated to the sidelines: they are out there leading their lives, and increasingly I am simply watching from the sidelines. It's hard. I see them going through the turmoils of life, but can do little to help. When they are sad or troubled three out of the four now have partners to turn to - a mother's hug just doesn't do it anymore! I'm glad of that: it is right that they move on - and I still remember the huge burden of responsibility of having babies and young children depending on me to 'fix it'! But after nearly 27 years of motherhood, it is hard to adjust to being needed so much less - it leaves a gap in one's life!

Of course they do still want me in their lives. Mac and I have spent a lot of time and energy supporting ds26 through his troubled marriage and subsequent bitter separation / access dispute. We are there when our sons feel the need to touch home base, or need to talk, need help moving house, whatever. But we no longer share their day to day life, except for that of ds17.

When the kids were younger, it sometimes seemed so hard: the illnesses, the broken sleep, the worries (especially as a homeschooling mother) about whether they were learning what they would need later, whether I was making the right decisions and so on and on and on. But there was so much fun too, and even in the sad times, there was a little body to hold and cuddle and comfort. I miss that.

So at this point in my life, when my 'baby' is planning on working full time for the first part of next year, before starting university in the second semester, I am left with a deep anxiety, not really certain of my own identity or place in the world. I thought these sort of feelings were the province of teenagers, but at 56 and going through the tail end of menopause, I find myself in a similar state of confusion. However, this time around it is less exciting, less dramatic - more a sense of quiet panic.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Caterpillar Binding

After seeing some photos of some stunning hand made books
I tracked down a book that describes how to do caterpillar binding on handmade books (and many other bindings too). I have finally completed my first attempt at this binding - on my 2008 diary - and though I have made a few mistakes, I have learned a lot, and as well, have a beautiful diary to use next year.

I'm looking forward to having a lot more fun with this binding.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

An Unbalanced Life

On the seesaw of life
the thought of sitting
at the pivot point
neither high nor down
always seemed uninviting.

Yet the wait on the ground,
knees up around ears,
with only an occasional quick-flick
up and down again,
I find even more drear.

But if I climb off deliberately
finally abandoning the game
a person I love may plummet
crashing too hard to bear,
perhaps concussed for life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Shining Mother

A couple of days ago I was looking at vegetables in Raglan Four Square. A man in his forties was stacking and rearranging vegetables, and between us a young woman was shopping with her little girl, about three by the looks. This child was beautiful - like something off an old fashioned biscuit box - pretty dress, long, light brown hair falling into soft ringlets, carrying a miniature shopping basket, in which she had an onion, a couple of carrots and a banana. She picked up a bunch of 'trussful' tomatoes - and two tomatoes fell off onto the floor.

My stomach clenched, waiting for the mother's reaction, with bitter bile rising to my throat, knowing how I would have reacted many years ago when my children were that age. What, I would have thought, would the shop employee think? What would that grandmother think? And I would have made assumptions about their thoughts and reacted with screaming and bitter abuse, embarrassment and rage.

I'd seen the signs but they hadn't registered: the basket, with the fruit and vegetables. This wasn't the sort of mother I was all those years ago. The mother just smiled and said, "You want some tomatoes? Pop those ones back and put those two in your basket, two will be enough. And that was all there was to it.

The little girl did as she was asked, then noticed me. She looked up at me, smiled and said, "Hello. I've got lots of things." I smiled back and replied, "You certainly have. You're going to have a yummy dinner tonight." Then I turned to the mother and said, "What a lovely little girl you have."

Why did I say that? Why couldn't I have said what I really wanted to say?

"What a wonderful mother you are, surrounding your little girl with so much love and respect, encouraging her Self to Shine so brightly."

Why is it so hard to comment on other people's parenting, even when what I want to say is positive?

I hope that young woman wasn't a visitor to Raglan: if I see her again, I will go up to her, remind her of the incident and tell her what I wanted to say. I want to offer her the encouragement to keep Shining just as she offers it to her little girl. I hope I have the chance.

If you wonder why I capitalised 'Self' and 'Shine', it is because these words have come to mean something special to me through an email list, and one very special woman, Anne O.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy 4th Birthday

My grandson turns 4 this week, and we celebrated the wonderfulness of him last Sunday.

Monday, October 29, 2007


If there 's one thing that irritates the hell out of me, it is the Positive Thinking, Just Put A Smile On Your Face And All Will Be Well brigade. You know, the born-again Amway tribe. It seems just the same old 'count your blessings' nonsense of our grandparents day. It just doesn't work for me: above all else I value honesty and truth especially within myself, and pretending that the World and I are just honky dory doesn't cut it with me.

And yet....

I've been reading a book, 'The Healing Journey' by Matthew Manning, which details studies that show that such things as smiling, even in a pretend way, thinking positive thoughts etc. do indeed have an effect on the body in extraordinary ways, such as increasing the effectiveness of the immune system.

Well, great, but you know, even if it is good for me, I don't want to tell mySelf lies, to pretend to mySelf - hell it's bad enough having to put on a brave face for the rest of the world! And anyway, I just can't do it. As soon as I try to count my blessings, it's like, yeah, I'm so lucky to have a wonderful husband and four lovely sons..... but HELL! They aren't here right now! I'm so lucky to have a house here on this beautiful piece of land....but HELL! The cow's out of the paddock and in the garden! Positive thinking? Me? I could find the negative side of eternal bliss!

However, in this book I did find a useful suggestion. Of course the instructions weren't actually for what I thought; I did misread them quite significantly, but somehow my misinterpretation worked for me!

So what I've is trying to do when I feel myself slipping into the bleakness, heading for that dead black place, is to remember love. Not particular people or places or times, because that just makes me sad for what is no longer with me. The first time I tried this it was really hard, because I couldn't think of a single instant of feeling loved in that unconditional way that I love my children, which that is what I have missed all my life, and what I really need. I finally remembered one incident, and clung onto that. What I pull into my present is the sensation of being loved and I wrap that around myself like a soft, warm, alpaca wool blanket. Amazingly it works! And the more I do this, the better I feel about mySelf.

I have started using the same technique in other situations: when feeling very stressed I pulled up a memory of a time and place where I felt calm and peaceful, then 'extracted' the feeling from the memory, and wrapped that around my shoulders. It helped - but I need to practice this technique a lot more before it will work as well as I would like it to.

But if ever I start to tell people: just get a grip, count your blessings, smile, just change your attitude, be positive - please feel free to smother me in my blanket!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reminders and Connections

There are times when peace is hard to find: the last few weeks have been one of those times. Worrying about my oldest son and his bitter battle for reasonable access to his two children has been an underlying stress in our lives all year, but as each new stage of the process draws near, my anxiety increases. Last Friday I had to go to the Family Court in Rotorua to support Greg, and my anxiety reached new heights - or lows. (I didn't 'have' to go, of course, I chose to go. But supporting my kids is a part of what being a mother means to me.) It was terrifying. Not the court itself, but what it represents: the possibility that Greg's access to his children, and our chances to see our grandchildren, could be taken from us, all on the basis of how convincingly his ex-wife can tell her lies. Perhaps all her accusations are not lies - I have not been present all through their marriage - but I am in a position to know that some of the more serious ones are fabrications. It is frightening, and there is so little I, or anyone, can do about it.

On Saturday I was feeling a bit less stressed, having another stage behind us. I got out in the garden, despite having a cold and feeling pretty sick, and set up the strawberry bed ready for the new season crop. Doing this reminded me of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place and to be surrounded by signs of so much love and friendship.

My strawberry bed was intended as a flower garden, but before I had decided what to plant, my friend Valerie gave me forty strawberry suckers which needed planting, so in they went instead. Past experience told me I needed to cover the plants if I was to have any hope of actually getting a chance to beat the birds to even a half-ripe strawberry.

My friend Jenny had given me a whole heap of short lengths of black polythene pipe that she no longer wanted. I visited a reinforcing steel manufacturer who gave me some short lengths of reinforcing rod, which I hit into the ground along the sides of the garden, putting the pipe over the rods to form hoops. Over these I stretched some bird netting that I had been given several years ago by my eldest son's in laws, and the net is held down by tents pegs from a variety of small pup tents long worn out after years of fun.

This is my favourite garden. Apart from the fact that it produced a 2 litre ice cream container full of strawberries every two days for three months last year (its first year), it is such a special reminder of friendship. As I spread the netting over it, the day after being in Rotorua for Greg's family court appearance, I wondered if I should throw it away and go buy some new netting. But instead I chose to use the netting as a reminder of the friendship we had had in the past with that family, and as a reminder to hope that one day that friendship can be restored.

I then went for a walk around our property and focussed on the reminders I have around me, of friends and family, that make Secret Waters more than just a property, more than just the place we live, but also a real home with reminders and connections to the past and the future.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Unseen Pain

if you saw me,
my leg missing
from the knee down,
the end red and puckered
often rubbed raw
by aggravation
and friction,

you would find
compassion in your heart,
you would happily
lend a hand to help,
a shoulder to cry on
and healthy legs to
move the furniture

but when you see me
you don’t even notice
the missing bits,
the scars on my soul,
often rubbed raw
by aggravation
and friction

you find my tears and fears
self indulgent;
my despair -
just an excuse
for not living up
to your expectations

you tell me to
Pull Up My Socks
(hard when my soul’s
missing a leg)
Get A Grip
(difficult for my scarred
spirit fingers)

you wouldn’t tell
a blind man,
just get over it and see,
so why can’t you
recognize that I
am scarred of spirit
missing something real?

are you scared
that if you allow
the reality of my pain,
then when you look
in the mirror tomorrow
you may have to
acknowledge your own?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Lately I've been playing with the new camera Mac and I bought for our birthdays, and more recently, with blogs. Life has been pretty stressful with family troubles, and this has been a way of running away and hiding for a few hours. I thought I'd put up a few pictures of our home - Secret Waters - and of the nearby beach at Raglan.

Out front of our house.

Bob enjoying our bush

Newly planted Ikebana Gold willows - generously given to us by Peter Cave

Mt Karioi at sunset: view from our house

and at moon set

Jeff & me on the beach: it is so wonderful to have a 17yo son who will walk down the beach arm in arm with his mother.

The beach at dusk - why does anyone want to live anywhere else but here?

Side Effects of Mothering

Imagine a life where you could tell people just what you think of them. It's so hard. It's hard to tell people the things you love about them - that's just not the kiwi way. Yet it feels so good when someone does it to me - though I can't help but feel suspicious and question their sincerity. It's just not the kiwi way to say nice things to others, is it?

Sadly, it seems easier for many of us to point out another person's faults and flaws - though often it's my own reflection in the other that I find myself objecting to.

But worst of all, is having to pretend friendship with someone because to tell the truth would damage people that I love. It would damage my children's friendships. It would damage my own friendships with others.

do you really think
that a superficial hug
a public air kiss
three chemically coloured
toxic smelling bath salts
and a cheap slave trafficker's
heart-shaped chocolate
is enough to save our friendship?

after years of manipulation
broken commitments
and a total lack of concern
for my well-being?
i suppose you thought
what's been good enough
for the last decade or so
will suffice.

but our friendship's
been dead and gone
a long long time.
it's real friendships
i'm trying to save
as i say 'thank you',
waiting till you've gone
to hear the satisfying thud

of cheap gifts and
even cheaper friendship
starting their journey to landfill


Erebus Syndrome

Don't panic - I only wrote 5 blogs on Myspace, and I'm only going to re-post four of them (slightly adapted) here!

At the Pandemonium show on 6 September…...
.....I watched the preschool children dance, smile, wave, and the lower primary school children smile, laugh, and wave and clap in time with the music. Then there were the older children, the teens, and the adults. The older the person, the more restrained their response.

Littlies express their joy and sadness so joyously and uninhibitedly, while we adults try so hard to restrain ourselves.

I thought of the recent discussion I'd had with someone who said much the same words that I have said many, many times myself: "I shouldn't feel so unhappy because I have so much to be happy about and there are other people who are so much worse off that me."

The guilt for feeling sad makes us feel even sadder, and stops us from showing our misery, makes us pretend all is well, even when we are at our blackest. We present a false face to the world, until finally we either deny our bad feelings so successfully we no longer recognize them – or we explode in some way, our misery, anger, whatever, erupting in a totally inappropriate way.

The problem is that when we successfully deny ourselves expression of our misery, it comes at the price of the experience and expression of joy.

Watch those toddlers: they laugh, cry, dance, sing, clap, scream and totally experience their world. I know that if society is to function reasonably smoothly, we need to be a little restrained about where and when and how we express ourselves – but how did we get to this point where we feel that we aren't allowed to feel or express our sadness, or even our happiness, at all? That although it is regarded as acceptable if toddler gets up and dances joyously at a show, a 15 year old, even a Down's Syndrome 15 year old, is regarded as unacceptable and told to sit down.

Every time we deny ourselves proper expression and acceptance of our misery, we reduce our ability to experience and express joy.

I am so sick of that. It's time I learned to feel and express my misery without guilt, so that I can feel and express my joy too: I want to get up and dance whenever and wherever the music of life takes me.


without knowing exactly what they did
i imagine the scraping
pulling, mopping and discarding
of the remains of what
would have been you

probably they talked of cricket scores
and laughed over the antics
at some party or other
while i lay limp, anaesthetised
legs splayed, covered in blood

later in the day while i wept
for you, for you who would never be,
nurses spoke in horrified whispers
of the two hundred and fifty seven dead
in the ice and snow on Mount Erebus
and told me to be quiet
to stop weeping and to think
of those who had lost real loved ones
not just a foetus
not much more than an embryo

twenty five years on
i listen as mothers fathers sons
daughters brothers sisters
talk of their lost loved ones
of how it's okay now
now they have grieved
and moved on, healed

while a jazz band plays
a woman tells me
of her daughter whose
tenth birthday was spoiled
by the Erebus crash,
who would have been thirty five today
had she not died young

once more i weep silently for you
while smiling in sympathy
making the right noises
at one who seems to have
more right to grieve

once more the tears harden
to cold grey stones
and settle down in
the hollow of my heart


More Mother stuff

This is the second of my new poems which I
posted first on Myspace.

Honey Puffs

After all these decades
I've taken to buying
Honey Puffs for breakfast.

What's more,
I fill my bowl to the brim.
And I pour on soymilk
instead of the
"it's-good-for-you" cows' milk
which always
made me sick.

You were quite wrong:
eating cereal pre-sugared
instead of heaping spoonfuls on
at time of consumption,
is not a moral issue.



I had my first go at blogging on Myspace, simply because I had a couple of friends there, but I discovered that I really don't like the atmosphere there, although I really can't work out how Myspace can actually have an atmosphere at all! I have decided to delete that page, but I didn't want to lose what I had written there, and I would like to keep writing occasionally. I can't work out why , but it seems that millions around the world have a similar desire to put themselves out there, so why not me?

I write poetry - but I haven't been able to write anything for two years. Reading a Myspace blog, which was a tribute to the writer's mother, triggered something in my head - but what follows isn't a sweetly loving reminiscence like hers.

I'm a mother. I love being a mother. But I also had a mother, and the hardest thing to admit is, that, despite loving her as a child can't seem to help but do, I also hated her for never showing that she loved me, for never acknowledging I was okay, or good enough. Two decades after her death, I'm still not quite over it, probably never will be. My greatest fear is that my beautiful sons, whom I love more than life, will feel the same about me.

The After-Game Debrief

Right into extra time
it was all about you.
Lying grey and motionless
you still controlled the play.

You wouldn't blow the whistle
till I had shaken hands,
acknowledged you as
Player of the Century,
and me - less than second five-eighths.

Even now, two decades on,
you still high tackle into my life
scrummaging in my head
at inopportune moments.

It's time I told you,
The Game's over.
The boot's on my foot.
Your ball's out of play.
My team's playing live.
Your team's dead and gone.
It's all over - even the shouting.