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.