Friday, October 31, 2008


My son asked me to make him a new journal, which I did, and that kick started me to make my next year's diary, and to make myself a new journal as well.

The cover is pulled paste paper (ie paper spread with coloured paste, another sheet placed on top, pressed down and then pulled apart). The binding is two needle coptic.

The inside cover is a leaf rubbing using crayon, then dye washed.

I got carried away and stuck lots of 'bits' (paper, feathers, leaves, ribbon etc) on random pages, turning it into a bricolage journal, which is appropriate given the random nature of the thoughts that will be written in the book!

A scrap of glad-wrapped dyed paper.

Another scap of dye-washed crayon rubbing with paper flowers attached.

So that's the new journal - but I need a diary for 2009 as well.....

My 2009 dairy - cloth covered to be sturdy - I fell in love with the pukeko. One cheeky puke was looking through our ranch slider last week!

I print my own pages to get it the way I find most useful and again have random bits of my favourite papers scattered throughout.

And for the second year in a row, I have put one of this years birthday cards from a special friend around my birthday month.

Now I'm off to bed, and will be up early to go to a poetry workshop in Tauranga - if the workshop works I may have to come home and make another book to write my poetry in!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Making Plans in the Sunshine

The days are getting longer and we have had a quite a bit of sunshine, so I am starting to feel a bit better about life. However, I realise that this sunshine improvement won't last and so I'm trying to make a few plans and adjustments to my life to do the best I can to keep the black dog away.

I've decided to invest in some kind of full spectrum lighting before next winter, so have been googling and reading up about that.

I am trying to set myself up with small and large 'pleasures' to look forward to.

I bought early bird tickets for womad next March - for Mac, Jeff and me - and chased the rest of the gang to get theirs, so I have months of pleasurable anticipation waiting for that.

I'm trying to ensure I have at least one day a week when I do something interesting for myself, especially when Jeff, as well as Mac, is working - solitude is okay, but out here in the country it can turn to loneliness quickly for someone like me with a tendency for depression.

This week I have two such events, both to do with writing. There is a free session on self-publishing at Hamilton Central Library, which I hope to get to, but may miss if another meeting goes over time.

Then on Saturday I am stepping outside my comfort zone to attend a couple of poetry writing workshops in Tauranga. I had considered it and then passed, but a woman who attends the Raglan writers' group urged me to go, and so I agreed, more out of a wish to get to know her better than a desire to expose my inadequacies at the workshop!

N is around my age, maybe a little older, and has said a few things that show she has been through and understands many of the issues I am facing at the moment. One thing I have come to realise is that although I love my friends, they are all younger than me by at least ten years - and in some cases by a lot more. This helps me keep my mind working, and slows the descent into old age, but I am starting to realise that I also need mentors for myself as I move into this new stage of my life. I can't do it on my own, my younger friends don't understand what I am going through. Some don't want to understand. Some are actively antagonistic about what they perceive as my lack of gratitude for what I have, and seem to think that I have no business to be grieving what I have lost. So, time to try and develop relationships with some older women I think - and thus the willingness to overcome my fear of a poetry workshop, in the interests of getting to know N better.

I recently read that pessimists are more realistic than optimists in anticipating outcomes, yet optimists perceive their outcomes more positively. While me and my pessimistic mates focus on the negative and see our lives that way, those optimists, despite having foreseen a more positive outcome than actually eventuated, still see their outcomes in a positive light. I have also read that it is not possible to alter one's natural tendency towards optimism or pessimism. But as nothing else seems to have worked for me, I'm trying to change a bit - just please let me know if I start coming across as a born-again Amway dealer!

I've also started making sure that I do some craft work every week instead of putting it off until I have caught up on the housework and gardening - like that will ever happen! I am going to a jewellry making class at Just Bead It - the first, I suspect, of many. I have three shirts to sew, and a pile of material waiting to be turned into Kate-inspired creations. And Tiana wants to make faces next time she visits, like those made by her uncles years ago,

so I'm off to buy clay later this week.

I'm getting out in the garden a lot more. This weekend Tiana and I made a new tepee for the runner beans, and put the birdnetting back up over the starwberries. We also planted a weeping willow twig that I brought back from her house three weeks ago and put in a bottle of water to grow roots - willows are miraculous that way, aren't they? She inspected it the next day to see if it had grown, but it hadn't got quite as as big as their one, which is at least twice as high as their house and about as wide!

Some fine day, before November 14, Jeff and I are planning to visit the Waitakaruru Arboretum and Sculpture Park - they are currently featuring a glass sculpture exhibition.

Today, while volunteering at Trade Aid, two women came in and bought some vibrant coloured handmade paper. It was one's sixtieth birthday and she was off home to make a treasure map, a plan for the coming year, using this paper, maps, magazine pictures, whatever suited the purpose. I like that idea - maybe I'll have a go at that, it's only a month past my birthday. Maybe that would encourage me - or maybe it will just make me feel crap next September!

Whatever - when the sun warms the sea a little more, I'm determined to swim at least once a week at my most favourite beach in the world.

I guess it's all about making dthe best of what I have instead of weeping for what I have not. Sounds easy. Now, please can someone remind me each day of what I need to do?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Depressor

The leper no longer rings her bell
so others can pass at a distance.
The leper is no longer called leper
but a person with leprosy
disfigured perhaps, but not contagious.

The depressed woman looks normal
but her mind is disfigured
and some believe contagious.
Others come close but recoil
sooner or later, becoming distant.

There are those who
would call me depressor:
"Keep your tongue in your mouth;
Keep your words to your self;
Hold your leprous thoughts;
Ring your bloody bell -
Stay away from me!"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Many years ago, Before Children, I worked at what was then called Social Welfare in the National Superannuation section. I gradually became aware that many men died within a year of retiring from work. I talked to many co-workers about this, and the conclusion we came to was that basically, these men had lost a sense of purpose, and with it, the will to live. If they made it through the first year, they'd generally live to a ripe old age. No statistics to back any of these up, just observation. Women of that generation (who were turning 60 back in the Seventies) were generally not working in paid employment, so never retired, just carried on doing what they always did.

Farmers were particularly likely to die early. The farmer usually lost not only his purpose, but his home and playground. They retired to the beach they'd dreamed of for decades, built a beautiful home that the wife had dreamed of for decades - and he found that there was nothing to do! That fishing, which had been relaxing when it happened just occasionally, was terminally boring when he had to do it for hours every days because the wife chased him out of the house, not wanting him underfoot all day. He no longer had his exercise routine (farming being hard physical work), and his mates. He was lost.

It's over 28 years since I left paid employment, but since I decided to homeschool 22 years ago, I have felt that I had a job, a career, a vocation, even if I didn't get paid money to do it. Before Mac and I had children, I had insisted that I was not going to be a housewife: that once we had children my primary job would be looking after the kids, just as his was earning money. That we should go on sharing the work as we always had.

But here I am, 57 years old, redundant, and untrained for any paid employment. Most of all though, I feel like those farmers: lacking purpose, lacking mates, lacking a sense of day to day usefulness, and living a fairly isolated life.

Living in the country, I feel that there is not much point in trying to get a job: at my age and without any relevant qualifications, any job I could get would be unlikely to pay for much more than the costs of getting there and back. Which might be okay if it was an interesting, stimulating job, but that is not a likely scenario.

I have lots of things I want to do (growing food and developing our land, making books and doing other craft work, learning again to make my own clothes) but it is the people factor that is the problem. I want to be available to my children when they need me, or just want to spend time with me - but that is very irregular, and I will not inflict nagging demands to visit on them the way my mother did to me. I want to spend time with my grandchildren, but with petrol the cost it is that cannot be a weekly arrangement, and with them going to school, weekends are the most practical time - but that is also the only time I have to spend with Mac.

For 28 years my social life has revolved around my children: from antenatal classes, through La Leche League, Playcentre, Kindergarten, homeschool groups, dancing, Jazz Society evenings, almost everything I have done has been for, with, or focused on my sons. I don't really know how to relate to people outside those boundaries, without the excuse, the reason, the purpose, of my sons. Of my three best friends, all made within that world of children, two live in other countries now. And then there are my relationships with my sons, who I also feel are my other 'best friends'. Well, now it seems I need to find new friends - and I haven't a clue how!

In the past I have laughed at jokes about women suffering from 'empty nest syndrome', but now I know it isn't funny, and I think perhaps homeschooling mothers may be hit particularly hard by it.

This all sounds so whiny! I'm trying desperately not to fall into a whiny, self-pitying, weepy heap - after all, there are so many people who would love to have my problems (as someone commented recently to another woman I know who was complaining of problems that would seem insignificant to billions around the world).

However, feelings cannot be looked at in terms of other people's situations. Years ago when I was recovering from a D & C after a third miscarriage, weeping quietly under the covers, a nurse told me not to be so self-centred - that there was a 70 year old diabetic blind woman at the other end of the ward who had just had her leg amputated, so I should be happy I wasn't her. More recently a friend told me that I should be grateful that I see my sons as often as I do, which is more often than she sees hers, and that I don't have the same problems in my relationship that she has in hers. These kinds comparisons and belittling of my pain don't help me feel better, even when I am not suffering a bout of depression.

But depression is an illness, and I have been struggling to keep afloat these past six months. One of the things that helps me keep my head above the waters of depression is spending time with people I care about, but with friends overseas and sons growing up and out into their own adult lives, I need new relationships. I am socially inept, I don't know how to find them, and I am scared of investing in relationships only to find rejection when they too see my depression as self-centred, unreasonable, intolerable.

I can't blame them: it is self-centred, unreasonable, intolerable - and very, very lonely.

I wonder if I will make it through my first year of 'retirement'.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Moving into the next stage....

The last week of the school term started on the Saturday with the music school's annual concert, and foolishly perhaps, I had volunteered to act as stage manager - or Stage Bitch, as I prefer to be known. It made for a long day, as we had to be in town (45 minutes drive) by 7 am to set things up and for rehearsal. We did come home in the middle of the day for 3 hours, but had to be back at 4 pm for more set up prior to the concert starting at 5 pm. After it finished at 7.30, there was pack up - and then unpacking again, back at the university, with drums, marimbas, electric piano and more, to be put away in the storeroom. It was a relief to go upstairs to the staff after gathering for food and drink. We finally got home at 11 pm. It was a great concert, and I got to watch J playing his trumpet with the jazz group - he has come so far. Of course M and I also played with the marimba group, along with our teacher - our son, J. There was a degree of sadness though, as after 19 years, my connection to the music school has come to an end. Next year J will be at university and probably flatting in town - and I will be growing into my next life stage too.

The rest of the week was full of album making and wedding (see previous blog post), until Sunday when we went and collected two of our grandchildren, T 6 1/2 and E nearly 5. I'm not sure I'm ready for this new stage in my life! I love them dearly, they are a lot of fun - but tiring! I must be getting old, as I can't even begin to imagine how I raised four kids without dying of exhaustion. E stayed for 2 nights, but T stayed an extra two nights, and I found that easier to manage.

On Tuesday afternoon, after E had gone, T and I drove to Bridal Veil Falls, 10 minutes down the road, and walked to the bottom of the falls and back.

On the path, T was fascinated by fallen nikau leaves, the strange roots, tree stumps, and odd angles some trees were growing on.

On Wednesday we spent a few hours finger painting, making paste papers (one of my favourite things to do), and making necklaces and bracelets out of beads. The following day we used one of the paste papers that T had made to make a book. T folded pages, and sewed the book together - do I have an apprentice, I wonder?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

and they lived happily ever after......

One of my oldest friends got married on Saturday. A few years ago I wept when she left the country to live in Thailand for a while and Saturday saw me in tears again. This time it was happiness though. She has had a hard life, with her son getting leukemia when he was just 3 years old and her daughter still a small baby, and her marriage subsequently breaking up.

However she rises to the occasion - even when the occasion goes on for years! Her faith in God has helped her, even though I, a born-again atheist, cannot understand it, and she is the sort of person who I consider a 'real' Christian.

Her son is now flatting and has a job he enjoys. Her daughter is married with two children, and pregnant with her third. And E herself has now found well-deserved happiness with an intelligent, humorous, kind man. I am so happy for them both.

A few months ago Jeff and I went and helped E and her daughter put together the wedding invitations and I took the scraps home so that I could make them a matching wedding album.