Tuesday, 27 June 2017

[ falling down stairs ]

There's a lot about pregnancy they don't tell you. Not because no one wants to, but because it's hard to describe certain things, certain feelings, little quirks you might have.

Other stuff, in fact lots of stuff, they do tell you. There's two really great books, if you're interested, that are just the biz;

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Up The Duff by Kaz Cooke

The former answers all your weird and wonderful questions, from what tests am I having and why? to is that funny twinge-y-but-not-exactly-painful feeling in my left side normal? The latter is similar, but a little more fun and written by an Aussie. That being said, personally I'd get them in that order if you're looking.


Pregnancy was a laugh, to be honest. At least it was for me, for the short time that I got to be. I got fat for the first time in my life, I ate a lot of bananas, and sleeping became a strange ritual of fluffing pillows and arranging my teeny bump and legs until I got comfortable (variously 20 minutes to half an hour depending on the weather, what I'd eaten for dinner, whether the planets had aligned...).

The stuff they can't tell you could fill an endless well. That's probably a lot of the reason why they say each journey is different; because it really is. Every woman has a unique experience that has the basics drawn on a map, but the details need to be filled in by you.

The first morning you wake up and somehow notice the extra 3-4kgs you've packed on, and the lack of a waistline, can be better than every good hair day you've had up until that moment. The first time you hear a heartbeat can be surreal or like a firm pinch to the arm.

The first time you see little arms and little legs, a teeny spine, the curve of a bottom or the roundness of the head...How do you describe that? How do you tell someone about the wonder, the breathless joy rushing through you?


The time the sonographer says the doctor will have to talk to you about that. That moment when the doctor explains everything in exact detail (which you don't hear, but file away for later), then spells it out for you - your baby can't survive - this issue is incompatible with life - there are no other options here - there is no way to put that feeling into words.


Hearing that my baby couldn't live was like falling down a long flight of stairs. Every new piece of information that comes after is like doing it over and over.

The first flight smashed against every exposed edge I had, and left bruises that continue to ache. The second was shorter and sharper. The third was only a short stumble, and the fourth seemed to go back to the long crash down some concrete fire stairs.

After that I stopped keeping itemised track of the information, and just focused on whether the fall was going to break metaphorical bones or just leave me stunned, bruised, and sad.


I wish I could say that most days I wake up nearly ok and just take it as it comes. But that would be a lie, and I can't lie about that. 

Most days I wake up exhausted. Physically and mentally. You don't really sleep when you're grieving. No one ever told me that, and the last tragedy I went through seems to have erased that reminder from my memory. Or maybe this one is just working differently.

Dreaming is like a new experience entirely; your brain is working through so much emotion when you're awake that when you 'sleep' it's like it finally has the reins to go where it wills. 

So far there's only been a few clearly classified nightmares, as such, but I wouldn't call the rest of them placid, by any means. Between random exes (not even my favourite ones) turning up just to have conversations with me, to seeing myself as a doctor assisting a developmentally-delayed woman give birth, I could do with some good, old-fashioned, flying dreams. Even walking around a neighbourhood I've never been to, looking at wildly-out-of-proportion houses, would be a welcome change. 

That being said, Ben Affleck as Batman-but-not-exactly-Batman, if you know what I mean, rocked up to save me from the dangerous test-drive of a new car. He hugged me for the longest time and told me he would keep saving me as long as I needed saving. So, you know, it's not all bad I guess. 


We talk a lot about people and their filters. Having them, not having them, things that wipe out your ability to know which filters to use.

This experience has shown me how far that can go. I'm not rude or aggressive, I'm not verbally tone-deaf or offensive, I'm just not emotionally invested in most of what I say. Which, in some ways, seems to work out well; if I'm not invested, nobody seems to be able to offend me back either. Mostly.

It's hard to take petty people seriously when you grieve. Not that you should have to anyway, but the ability lessens when faced with having your hearts greatest joy taken away.

It becomes confusing because you think you have the emotional capacity of a toadstool - nothing excites you, nothing discourages you, nothing moves you - but that's not really it. It's not that what people are saying isn't eliciting an internal response; it's just that response is so much less than what you've faced.

The work kitchen getting flooded by a leaking tap was way less interesting than it would have previously been. An acquaintance having relationship issues evokes less than mild and quickly passing curiousity. Someone having an unlikely and complete meltdown barely raises a brow.

These aren't the best examples, but I think you get the picture. Knowing and hoping and striving to get back to yourself, your old personality, is a great ambition. But it takes time. And there is no way to tell how long that will take. Or how you will feel towards the world as you do.

It's about being kind to yourself, something I'm still trying to figure out the picture of even now.


Some people's kids are fine. It's ok to be near them and almost-ok to talk to them. Interacting with kids is simple enough; they don't expect much from you and all they want is attention. 

Babies are another matter. The really hard part is separating your resentment from everything else. 

I resent random people with children. I also resent people I know with children. But it does seem confined to very little children and babies, for whatever that's worth. And it comes and goes - mainly staying gone these days - which is also something I'm deeply grateful for.


My nephew and niece occupy that very deep and special place in my heart nothing can ever get to. The first time I was near them after my procedure however, I could barely speak. And when their beautiful blue eyes both focused on me at once, I cried and left the room.

After that, it got incrementally easier. My nephew is a cannonball of endless energy and careens around a room with a smile so much like his dad's, my brother.

My niece, still a baby at a few months old, is more placid. She has her mother's hair and gaze, and is happy to be carried around looking at everyone.

When she clenched her little fists and my sister-in-law asked if we knew why that might be, I said we did; when I was a little one (even now sometimes really), I did that for a while. It was a comfort thing. I'd curl my tiny hands into tight bunches and squeeze and let go.

I'm not sure why, but that released a little knot in me. It started to slowly unravel the bigger knot in my belly that felt like it was never going to go away.


Days can go by where I don't think about my little one and who she may have been. Who I may have been with her. Where our lives may have led us had we had more time together. 

Sometimes the day gets measured by where I would have been; so many weeks pregnant, so many weeks to go. And some occasions make me grind my teeth, holding it together by sheer force of will and stubbornness. 

I know it won't always be like this. And I know that even when this is far away, there will be a moment here and there when I'm still sad, when the sorrow punches me low and swift, and takes my breath away. 

Time does heal all wounds, but it can never take your memories away.


One of the things that keeps coming back to me was something I read after speaking to my counsellor; people who are grateful for things in life find their grief easier to work through. It doesn't make it easy, just easier.

Don't misunderstand me; I am angry and heartbroken and endlessly unsure of myself going forward.

But I am grateful beyond words to be here. I am grateful I even got to have this experience, to have been given the chance to be a mummy, even for the briefest of times.  

And I believe with my whole being that my little soul and I were meant to meet, to say hello, before we had to go our separate ways. 


Should the powers of science and magic so bless me again, I will one day get to be a mum in real life, as it were. I will watch myself get fat again and pop out a teeny version of myself and marvel that such a thing could come to be. 

I will teach that little faerie person how to walk and talk. How to eat solids and blow bubbles. My mother will then get to teach that little person all the wonderful things she taught me. And some of the cheeky things too. 

The difficulty is seeing anything past that point. Or letting yourself see past that point. 

Hoping and making up stories of what may be past that point. 

But my body has performed such magic before. And maybe, just maybe, we will be able to do so again. 

At that time, maybe my heart will fill the space my baby left and join her memories to make something new. Something special. Something made of a strength of a sister never born and a mum who so desperately wants to be. 

Anything is possible.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

[ it's written in the cards ]

When I was a teenager, I would ask people to bring me back match-boxes or -books from their travels, no matter where they went. When I was old enough, I started to collect them myself.

Surfers Paradise in Queensland. Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas. Christchurch in New Zealand. Ivy Bar in Sydney. The Elephant and Wheelbarrow in Melbourne. Everywhere. Little packets with exotic names or cute decals on the packaging.

Sometime in my late teens, the wooden box I kept them in on my verandah got stolen. It was probably kids and just a malicious prank - they weren't worth anything, really - but it broke my heart.

For a while, I didn't collect anything at all.


The first deck of cards I was ever given came from my grandad. They had to already be a million years old and he gave them to me in this old metal tin, like a fifties biscuit box, which I still have. They're teeny, about the size of a matchbox, with perfectly shaped and detailed suits on each card. I adore them. 

In my early twenties, I went on a work trip to the snow at Jindabyne. I'd never been before and with no desire to ski, I spent a decent amount of time drinking and dancing in a pub called the Kessler. 

I bought a deck of cards from the giftshop; they're covered in snowmen in scarves and beanies and are completely adorable. Pretty sure these were the second deck I bought myself, but they are the first I remember the story of. 


The first deck are from Smiggle. They have stylised voodoo dolls on them and make me smile every time I use them. I can't recall exactly when I bought them or why, only their sequence in relation to the others.  

These cards talk to me like a Tarot deck, but faster, like describing scenes while people-watching in the street. During hand after hand of Solitaire, the deck describes various scenes to me; see the lady standing alone, if her gentleman does not come soon, she will not wait any longer. Watch the group of young ones - 2, 3, 4, 5 - all by themselves, they need to join a bigger group or they will create trouble on their own. 

My head spins a little, but sometimes the scenes come true...


Bali's Classic Wayang deck came from Seminyak in Indonesia, when Mum and I went to Bali in 2014. In a beautiful cafe/restaurant/bar called Biku, we had dinner and high tea and Indonesian desserts. Everything was panelled in wood, and heavy bookshelves held sarongs, books, and scarves. 

Tucked amongst the treasures was this exotic little packet, covered in classic wayang characters, which are puppets that tell stories of the gods. I keep some of the plastic on the outside of the deck; it keeps the faint smell of spices and oil alive. 

It was my first overseas trip, and I can still feel the humidity in the air like a breeze passing by. The noise and dust, the people and their endless parade of balancing acts on scooters. This deck reminds me of strange, far away places. 


Ned Kelly and Hobbiton don't always remind me of my ex, even though he travelled with me on both these trips, but of the places we went; Old Melbourne Gaol in Russell Street, and Hobbiton / Lord of the Rings farmstead, respectively. 

Neither have overt personalities, though Kelly boasts some great pictures of the bushranger and his crew, including famous one-liners and last words. Though not my favourites, they are both dear to me for the memories they hold.


The Favole and Alchemy decks, both by a playing card company called Bicycle, do remind me of my ex. But not in a bad way. 

We went to a comic book fair out at Blacktown. Or perhaps it was Westmead. I don't rightly recall, but it was in an old town hall, and people had trestle tables set up with so many things; childhood toys and action figures, dusty boardgames and cards, comics by the crate-load.

The decks are both sad and creepy. Favole has harlequins of all types, clowns with greasepaint tears on each cheek, and stylised vampires, all by a Spanish artist named Victoria Frances. The Alchemy is darker still, with skulls and bleeding daggers, burning eyes and grinning, motorcycle-riding skeletons.

These decks remind me of the fun and nerdy things we used to do, the comics, the toys, the endless fandom discussions we had.

But all things die, and so did all of this. Melancholy decks that remind me of someone who no longer exists, but in my memory. Sometimes memories treat you better than people do.


The Phryne Fisher deck, with the inimitable Nathan Page as Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. Gorgeous 1920's patterns, with Robinson looking dashing doing various things.

Mum and I went to the Phryne Fisher Costume Exhibition at Old Government House in Parramatta around August in 2016. We wandered around the costumes and stage-set pieces, marvelling at the skill in the gowns, the detail of the sets, and the sheer glamour imbued in it all. 

I ahhh-ed and hmmm-ed in the gift shop at the decks, nestled between vases of coloured feathers and engraved notebooks, finally settling on Nathan Page's stern but charming visage. 

The gentle sun and the lovely parkgrounds nearby made it a perfect setting for afternoon high tea, and these cards will always bring to mind elegant settings wiled away at leisure. 


The IKEA deck is almost not worth mentioning, except that the figurines on the Joker and the high cards are so very...Swedish. 

This wonderful little deck is functional and odd at the same time; the Joker has a Mr Squiggle-like hat and nose, as well as six spindly arms. The costumes are weird and the colours are bright. The back of each card has paintswirls of teal and blue, and is deeply relaxing to rest your eyes on. 

Here I see a deck that will be used for games with friends, and bonding over putting together IKEA furniture (something I adore and mostly everyone hates). Sometimes you buy things just for fun and as a reminder of mundane places you like to go. 


Deck O'Meals are my second-to-last purchase, and come from one of my spiritual homes, New Orleans, and Mardi Gras. Each card has a southern recipe on it, from crawfish to etouffee, and deep-fried alligator and gumbo. 

I can't bring myself to play hands with these cards yet, as the memories of the trip are slippery in my mind and play tricks on me depending on the light. 

I miss parts of New Orleans with a yearning I guess you don't know until a place gives it to you, and would rather forget others (the delay in LA will forever sour the end, but hopefully fade in time). 

Directly post-NOLA at home bought a tragedy I can never get over, so my heart is still untangling the feelings of both, even though my head knows they are separate things. 

That being said, when the weather becomes really cold (it's not yet, don't be such a wuss), and time has done its gentle magic, anyone feel like trying some authentic southern cooking? I promise not to poison you...


We come, finally, to my most recent acquisitions; the Steve Minty decks. I wish I didn't play favourites, but at present I'm falling a little in love with them. 

Each one is a little work of art in themselves. Muertos Mourning are a celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead. Intricately decorated faces and hats, dangling earrings on grinning skulls, swirls and dots, all in black and gold on white. 

Olympia is exactly what is sounds like; all the Greek gods in all their glory. Zeus and Hera, Hermes and Apollo. My patron, Artemis, is there too, looking contrastingly fierce and elegant.  All gold and grey and black on white, but different from Muertos, completely different. 

And here, the one that leads this trio, the Anubis deck. Gold and red on black. Mysterious, alluring, sinister. Each picture looking every inch as exotic as the deity they represent. 

All these decks are made of the most exquisite-feeling paper; strong and silky, with the tiniest little bumps, they glide through your hands like nothing so much as a flow of water. 

I bought these after watching episode 4 of American Gods. Laura Moon is working in the casino, and her hands deal the Anubis deck as they have a million times before. 

But my eye is caught, immovable. I pause and Google. And research and squint in wonder at the pictures on my little phone screen. And then I get my laptop out...

I guess not all my cards are reminders of places. Sometimes they remind me of things. Wondrous things. 


In this life, all we really have are our memories. We cannot recreate events like they are a film to be played over and over. And even if we could, there's no way to be sure we'd feel the same way about them if seen again. 

But sometimes, just sometimes, we can enclose them in articles that sing to our hearts, creating a golden thread that outlasts time and other experiences. 

We call these talismans. Objects that hold our feelings, as we would forever hold water in our hands if we could. 

These are only some of my talismans, but they hold part of my favourite memories; some sad, some joyous, mostly both. 

If you ever feel like sharing the stories of your talismans with me, I would be most honoured. Thank you for sharing mine. 


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

[ walking in a winter wonderland ]

It's Winter. It's here. The temperature is in single digits, clothing is counted in layers, food is in hot - and generally liquid - form. We all walk around swaddled like snowmen, faces pink with cold, puffing our breath like teeny, floating steam engines.

Gods, I love this weather. And oh, how you all hate it.

But really, you know I'm not. Not even a bit. Even when huddled in my own multiple layers and hopping on the spot at the coffee shop, I'm all grins and happy noises. 

So, before you all pummel me with your glove-clad fists, let me remind you why Autumn and Winter are the absolute best...



It gets a category of its own because, well, it's soup

You know how some people say you can put anything on a sandwich? Well, those people should be watched carefully and not left in your kitchen alone. Just saying.
Anyway, these same people also say you can put anything in soup, and in this case, they're right! Bacon, veggies, pasta, lentils, bacon, cheese, chicken, herbs, did I mention bacon? But seriously, you can put anything in soup. Really, anything. Doesn't exactly mean you should, but you certainly could...

And soup is healthy. I swear, it really is. My favourites are pumpkin, pea and ham hock, chicken and pearl barley. FULL OF VEGGIES, all of them! See? Healthy!

Also, making soup gives you instant cooking street cred. Oh, you know how to make soup? Really! How clever you are! Nevermind that you used stock from a carton (making from scratch is time-consuming and tedious), you basically just threw everything in a pot, and watched 3 hours of Netflix, while occasionally stirring between episodes. You, my friend, have your life together; you are able to make a staple meal, with all the requisite dietary requirements, and more. 

Pat yourself on the back, box up those portions for the freezer, and get yourself a glass of wine. Cheers!



On the subject of food, the cooler months mean you can be a little less circumspect with the carbs. Or, more accurately, better with the carbs.

In the Summer, you eat a burger and don't think twice about it. You drink beers, eat pasta, scoff chips and sweet buns like nobodies business. Which is basically why we have an obesity problem really.

The chilly season brings on what I like to call the good carbs; porridge for breakfast, one piece of crusty bread with soup at lunch, maybe a cheeky drink with dinner at the end of the week. 

Here's what I find; I don't want to eat crap in Winter. I'm cold, my body needs fuel and it needs nurturing. What it doesn't need is a greasy plate of not-food and weird, sugary not-drinks. 

A good, home-cooked meal and a cup of tea. A deep bowl of soup, a well-made, old-school cocktail. A lush dessert, made at home. It all seems so much better in the cold. Want to know why?

Your body is burning through its reserves to keep you warm as it is and if you've got the right fuel, you know it, your body feels it. Conversely, if all you're eating is rubbish because you're miserable about the weather, try not to wonder why you have a constant headache and are still hungry after three portions. 

Plus, as an added bonus, eating veggies is sooo much easier at this time of the year. Think soups, savvy?


Boots, beanies, puffy jackets, woollen socks, hurrah! 

The women in my family tend to run on the cooler side. We tend to get chilly extremities, and are known to have rather a fondness for hot water bottles, so we do like the fluffy. We like the furry, the knitted, and the puffy. 

Yes friends, it's time to crack out the Winter Wardrobe. This wondrous collection of items may take up rather a lot of space in your cupboard for the rest of the year, but come that first icy breeze one weekday morning - it's on like Revlon. 

No other time calls for UGG boots, the ultimate in Australian apparel. The exact date of invention is unclear, but they certainly began life here and we are rightly damn proud of them. They're basically chunks of wool inside strips of leather, heeled in strong rubber, laced in elastic or cord. Oh boy, are they warm. Keeping your toes toasty since 1933. 

What better goes with boots than beanies; fluffy, knitted, ear flaps- and animal ears-adorned. Dark and utilitarian or bright and festive, we have them all. Fashion being what it is, you can also get matching gloves and scarves. Ah, matchy matchy goodness! 

Also, being Australians, we take a kinder view of workwear in the brisker months; function over fashion, comfort over couture. That being said, never have a people so embraced making homey look hot. Two words; Peter Alexander. 'Nuff said, amiright?

Finally, on that note, the first leaves going brown and the days getting shorter mark an especially auspicious time. You know it, I know, say it with me: Jammies Time. 

Still dark outside in the morning? Jammies appropriate lighting. Dark at 5pm? Back in your jammies, quickly now! 

Need milk/croissants/coffee/papers/anything at all from the corner store? Jammies + add overcoat = et voila! You are appropriately dressed for a quick dash to the shops. You're welcome. 



Some people don't get out much in Winter. Much like our ancestors, they huddle indoors hiding from the dark like it's a wild animal, waiting to spring unsuspecting, everyday people. Which is ridiculous, as you're not going to get eaten by a sabretooth in the dark one evening, I swear. 

Unless you live in the Hunter, but I'm pretty sure you should take this with a grain of salt...

Anyway. Even I'm keen on more quiet nights in than out these days, but a lot of that revolves around Netflix, home cooking, and projects.

Lest you fear I've gone all Stepford wife on you, I'm just calling them projects to cover all the bases; knitting and crochet, sewing and scrapbooking, writing and painting. Woodwork and jewellery making, cooking and baking. 

All the things it's just a little too hot to do in other half of the year, it's nigh on perfect to settle in and do now. Never has it been more fitting to flake out in your jammies with a variety of materials strewn around you and make something. Oh, but the wondrous satisfaction of a work in progress forming before your very eyes. And you didn't even have to leave the house, hurrah! 

*Note: Netflix marathons, in isolation, cannot be considered projects. Soz. 


Social interactions

It's cold, it's wet, I'm freezing, please don't make me get dressed and go outside. Literally half the social occasions I've avoided have been dodged due to seriously inclement weather. Which is saying something, as I'm an all-weather girl. 

Sadly, no matter how fabulous the night might turn out to be, if I have to get a train, a bus, and then walk to a venue, I'm already resenting being invited at all and thinking of fibs to get out of it. 

*cough* sorry, not feeling great *cough*

Totally forgot it was today! Goodness, really? Could have sworn it was next week!

I've already made plans (with my lounge). I've got loads to do (like making soup). Really wish I could fit it in (around the loungetime and soup making) but I can't (won't). 

Then someone says the magic words; Right, shall we stay in then? 

What does this mean? What - stay here - and get takeout!? Play boardgames and drink tea, you say? 


Ehem. Why yes, that sounds nice, ta. 

Winter suddenly makes loafing around someone's loungeroom totally acceptable. It is perfectly reasonable to lie about, variously watching tv together, eating cake, playing board games (boardgames!!), and generally just 'hanging out'. 

All at once, what is essentially an adult pajama party becomes the unqualified height of social achievement for the season. 

For some reason, we all spent the balmier months feeling like we must be dressed in a fitting manner, sitting must be on chairs, and dinner must be eaten at a table on plates. Of course you can also drink, but it will be out of the right glasses, thank you very much.

Sometime after Mother's Day and a little before the Queens Birthday, we all realise just how ruddy chilly it is, and all bets are off. Out come the trackies, UGG's, and scarves. Now it is entirely acceptable to dress like Michelin Man and drink copious amounts of fluid from a teacup (boozy or otherwise), whilst lolling contentedly on a beanbag.

Monopoly and House of Cards, anyone? I've got Snuggies, you bring the Baileys. 


Seasonal viewing

Admittedly, I did say that Netflix marathons can't really be considered a project, or productive activity, per se.

However. Let me now come to the marvelous world of Winter watching. Yes indeed, we have now again come to the honoured tradition of plonking ourselves in front of a good crime drama and figuring out whodunnit. 

Never has a season been better for scaring the dickens out of yourself, getting a flutter from the creepy music, and using your detective skills. From Midsomer Murders to Elementary, Broadchurch to Miss Marple, and all that comes between.

If you've never really been a fan of the crime shows, then I suspect you've been deprived of the really good ones. And if you've never watched a British crime drama, then you are utterly missing out!

Here is a decent list to get you started (though number 35 is very proudly Australian!), so that should get you through, oh, at least a few weeks. 

Added to the fact this is something you can make an evening of with friends (bets on who the murderer is, for example) - suddenly you have an ad-hoc dinner party with a theme. Look at you, hostess with the mostest, and you all you did was turn the tv on and order a curry. You're doubly welcome. 


Winter Wonderland

Once and for all, let me give you the final reason why Autumn and Winter in Sydney are pretty special. 

Compared to the rest of the world, we don't actually get that cold. Yes, fair play, it gets fairly damn nippy in Sydney town; single digits, frigid morning winds, fog and mist as far as you can see. But it doesn't snow in the CBD, or it hasn't since a drift at Wynyard Station in 1941

Which means, that chilly 9 degrees usually makes it to at least 13 or 14 by midday, the wind dies down a little, and that misty fog crystallises over everything. We generally get dewy rain sprinkling our walk home, we get the occasional deluge, and the even more infrequent hail storm. And doesn't Sydney know how to put on a storm. 

That being said, it's not all boom crash opera (thank you, Tim Bailey). We get brisk afternoons; perfect for walks to the pub. We get crystal clear mornings, lit by glittering Autumn sunshine; glorious for brunch at your local cafe. 

We get dark Winter nights, golden orbed streetlights lighting your way, a sly breeze thrilling your unsuspecting ankles; near-splendid weather to take in a dinner and a show. All the better if the content has a sinister theme, just quietly!

And there it is; our pretty city suddenly turns into a wonderland of reflecting colours and lights. There's a reason we have the Vivid Festival at this time of the year. Ever wanted to try ice skating? We have that too; fun for the whole family! The air is so clear and sharp you could carve snowflakes out of it.


So, I know it's cold darlings, and I know it's a bit miserable. Your knees hurt, and getting out of bed in the morning is rather a dire prospect (but you slept better than in Summer right?). 

But we have 90-odd days more of this, so I suggest you make the best of it with the best it has to offer, hmmm...

Now. Who's for a big bowl of soup, a hot choccie, and a game of Cluedo?