Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

 

We learnt about the Finnish concept of Sisu – a mental toughness that kicks in when all else is exhausted – on a walking tour of Helsinki, with icy winds and snow whipping around my hubby’s unprotected ears.

(He wasn’t listening when I told him to pack a beanie and gloves, so the blizzard on arrival was a shock to his system. He’d joked on the plane ride over that it would be a balmy 24 degrees. And it was – on the Fahrenheit scale.)

While I was doing a fair impression of the Michelin Man in puffer, gortex jacket and four layers of clothes, hardy locals were showing we Aussies just how soft we really are – by stripping down to their budgie smugglers for a quick dip in the ice-trapped local pool.  

Respect, my Finnish friends. Man, you are tough. But I guess that comes with the territory when you live in a country where the mercury rarely pushes above 15 degrees. Where only five million people became legendary throughout the world for standing alone in the Winter War against overwhelming Russian forces – and surviving. That’s sisu.

 

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

Now that I’m home again, home again, jiggety jig, I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned and experienced while away.

 


Time with loved ones is more precious when travelling, the juxtaposition of familiar and unfamiliar giving each day a special edge.

No wonder the Dalai Lama exhorts us to step away from the everyday: ‘Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.’

This year, it was Helsinki. Where I am glad to have discovered a new word to live by.

For when the going gets tough. Sisu.

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Johnny and Chrissy.jpg

Dancing with Uncle John on my big day

Hubby and I had a couple of dancing lessions in the lead-up to our wedding 23 years ago.

But on the big day, the band played the wedding waltz in 4/4 time, we tapped out and swore a marital pact: he didn’t have to dance in public again and I didn’t have to camp.

For more than two decades we stayed true to those vows.

Then a friend roped us in for a bit of fun at the local bowls club. She’d found a Brazilian dance teacher called Tarcisio who could show us some moves …

Fast-forward two years and we are official dance tragics: no longer trapped at home with young kids; kicking up our heels at West End’s Rio Rhythmics on most days ending in a ‘y’.

Aaron Veryard of asvphotographics photographs  White Magic charity event for Rio Rythmics

ASV Photographics: Rio Rhythmics White Magic

Our gorgeous instructors say we’ve come a long way (from an admittedly low base).

But we’re not in a hurry. We have the rest of our lives. And we’re having so much fun along the way. Making new friends. Listening to great music. And dancing, always dancing. Salsa. Bolero. Samba de Gaffeira. Bachata. Forro. Tango.

Our now-adult children have chronicled our adventures, entertaining their friends on snapchat with our dance journey.

Andy and chris
International Samba Day

Hiding round corners to video our faltering beginnings, staggering progress (two steps forward, one step back), and occasional matching outfits.

They pass round photos of us dressed as tropical bananas (for a recent performance at City Hall for the 65 Roses Masquerade Ball).

‘Don’t worry, you’ll just be part of the Carnivale parade,’ Tarcisio had assured us. ‘Cathy will tell you what to do.’

And she did. ‘You bananas, go up on stage and stand in front of the band.’

In front of the band? On stage? In front of 500 people? And do what?

‘Just dance,’ she said.

City Hall Carnevale Ball 2017 (2)

I’d like to say I’m the one on the far right (but I’m the one standing next to her….)

And we did. Salsa. In front of 500 people. On stage at City Hall.

So much fun, we just had to do it again.

We joined Rio Rhythmic’s flash mob for International Samba Day at Kangaroo Point cliffs … and the Brazilian Forro group performing at Woodford Folk Festival on 29th December.

Then came the real test ….

‘Who’s camping?’ asks Cathy. ‘We need to book tent sites for Woodford.’

white magic 2017Camping? What! No way. Some of us take our vows seriously.

I don’t camp.

But dancing …

Now that’s a whole different story!

(For more dance stories from the fabulous Rio Rhythmics community click here and scroll down)

Ted 1954

Ted 1954

The date hit like a fist to the heart. I’d forgotten his anniversary. And it took me two weeks to even remember that I’d missed it.

Thirteen years since my Dad died. And I didn’t ring my Mum. Or speak to my brothers. Or even register the date until two weeks after it had passed.

What kind of daughter does that?

Then I imagine him, looking up from his newspaper (the Catholic Leader or Queensland Graingrower, for sure), eyes huge through the lens of his reading glasses.

The half snort, half laugh. That’d be right. Then the sly look. You still miss me?

Yes, you old stirrer, I do. You’d be thrilled to know how much… And you’ll also be pleased to know that I took your advice –097_97

My advice? You became a nun? Good. I told you: it’s never too late; Mary Magdalene became a saint-

Uh, no, but-

You got married? Before you  lost your looks completely?

Well, yes – but you already knew that. You were there, remember?

2015-11-23 16.09.48I imagine him then, losing interest in the conversation. Going back to his newspaper. I was safely married, he could relax. And maybe one day, I might still become a nun and make him proud…

I wonder then if he remembers the other piece of advice. The one I can’t forget because it was delivered from a hospital bed just before he died:

…be what you were meant to be, do what you were meant to do

Thanks Dad, I took your advice – and became a writer instead.

Someone with only one foot on the ground, and a head in the clouds.

Someone who feels her father’s presence more deeply since he died. But forgets to ring her Mum on the anniversary of his death.

Someone who goes back through her diary to see what kind of daughter does that, and finds this entry: ‘How to Destroy Earth (Part One) 13,419 words – it’s getting there!’

Someone who takes time out today, when the word count stands at 20,064, to spend an hour just thinking of her dad.

And so we beat on, words against the page, a middle-aged woman, unsuited to the cloistered life, still trying to make her dad proud.

 

 

Jambin floods

My brother’s home isolated by flood waters

The older I get, the more I suspect happiness is linked to low expectations.

I expected nothing from yesterday’s birthday, had planned nothing in the aftermath of floods and other dramas, and yet 24 hours later I’m still aglow from the unexpected pleasures it brought.

A romantic dinner with hubby the night before… Great Italian with the kids last night. A call from an old pal – celebrating a 43 year friendship that’s still going strong. Another from my brother – hearing his voice on the phone after a tracheotomy tube had prevented him from speaking for a week was the most joyful of birthday presents.

All six of my brothers remembered, even the one on night shift in cyclone-torn Central Queensland. Such great blokes, and lord knows, they all had more important things on their minds.

The 42 people evacuated by helicopter from flood-devastated Jambin included one brother, his wife, their daughter and granddaughter, and another nephew and niece.

Water surrounded my family’s homes in Biloela and Jambin, but didn’t make it inside, thank the high heavens. Chooks and dogs survived, but not the four black snakes my brother killed while clearing debris from around his front steps.

A neighbour across from my Mum admitted panicking as the rising waters turned the surrounding streets into canals. ‘Oh, I wasn’t worried,’ said my 84 year old mother. ‘I’ve been through this before.’ And she has. More times than most. Despite power failures and unreliable telephone coverage, she somehow managed to send me a beautiful bunch of flowers, bless her.

The floods of the 1970s made an enormous impression on me as a teenager and decades later featured in my first novel Dust‘Silently, like a thief, the flood had crept up on us, stealing our land, our paddocks, the path to our back door, our bottom step.’ This year, the flood waters made it two steps higher.

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Me during my Suzi Q phase

Back in the 70s, I was a Suzi Quatro-obsessed teen.

And in a strange twist of fate, as the flood waters recede yet again in Central Queensland and the indomitable folk begin yet another clean up, I’ll be reliving that teenaged obsession.

A good friend has surprised me with tickets to Suzi Quatro for my birthday – and try as I might to keep my expectations low, they keep bubbling up.

Can the Can, baby, we’ll be Devil Gate Driving tonight!Quatro, Suzi

Chris & Andrew 076Collective nouns aren’t normally associated with brides, what with only one usually in a room at a time (South Korean mass weddings notwithstanding).

But oh my lordy, we needed a compendium of collective nouns to describe the bevy of bridal treats that turned up for our 20th wedding anniversary party on the weekend.

Dozens of my nearest and dearest slipped, shoe-horned and shimmied their way back into their wedding finery to celebrate with hubba hubby and me.

A train of brides chugalugging on champers. A bouquet of bridesmaids blessing us with their fragrant presence. A gabble of groomsmen that could be heard a suburb away.1383718_10152579227633725_4419480155957365272_n

Oh, and for some unexplained reason, hubba hubby chose to wear a safari suit, but each to his own.

I love him dearly and when it comes to wedding parties, no-one cares what the blokes wear, do they?

Chris & Andrew 070

V-Day flour power

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Events, Family
Tags: ,

Flours for Valentine's DayHubba hubby and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day (even though our children would prefer that we confined any lovey-dovey-ness to just one day of the year).

BUT we did get a kick out of our daughter’s V-day surprise.

One enterprising lad gave my little cupcake flowers flours – two kilos of self-raising flours, to be exact.cakes

An inspired V-day gift for our family’s uber-baker. 🙂

Hope your Valentine’s Day was full of sweet surprises too.

Here’s looking at you, Mum

Posted: October 19, 2012 in Family, Musings
Tags:
Back in 1966, at the age of 36, my mum had given birth to six children in the previous six years – including two sets of twins.

She’s pictured here (at Kemp Beach, Yeppoon, with the younger twins), looking effortlessly elegant in her brother Neil’s hat.

Forty-six years later, she’d probably still fit into that dress… legacy of a lifetime of taking only one potato – and then promptly offering it to the nearest child in need (I suspect I was that child a bit too often for my own good).

I often wish I could be more like my mum – but it’s probably too late now to say no to potatoes – so tonight I’ll simply settle for being with her.

I’m hopping on a plane and flying up to Bilo to help celebrate her birthday. She didn’t think turning 82 was worth making a fuss about, but I beg to differ.

Every birthday is a cause for celebration. And we’ll remind her of that every year from now on:

You only live once, Mum…but if you do it right, once is enough. 🙂