Raising cats and compost

A few years ago my next door neighbour’s cat died. Her name was Lucy, and she was a short-haired calico. The cat, that is, not my next-door neighbour.

My daughter was four. She was sad, because our cat had died barely a year before, and this time my daughter had a new arsenal of knowledge under her belt: she insisted that I go round to my next door neighbour’s house and pray for the revival of the cat.


Because God can do anything, Mummy. Don’t you believe that?

Well, yes, I do believe that. And yes, I believe that the power of God can raise people – and even cats – from the dead, and that if we have that power living in us then yes, we too can see cats raised from the dead. We’re big on faith, our family.


Now I’m not ashamed of my faith. Hell, we had our family photo plastered across a double-page spread of the paper as a representation of a Christian Family In An Age of Declining Faith! But still, going to visit my non-Christian next-door-neighbour in post-Christian Australia to tell him God’s going to raise his cat from the dead…ummmm…

Some things just need to stay dead. And that’s OKAY.

I’m remembering this today, because there’s something else that died a few years ago – eighteen years ago to be exact – and by now it’d be pretty darn smelly if it were to get up and start wandering round the grass again, and that’s exactly what it’s threatening to do. It’s a dream I used to have. Something I loved. Something I used to believe in. Something that died, and I grieved, and allowed new dreams to grow from the compost of what used to be.

Except now the new dream is wilting, its last bright petals shriveled and dancing to the dirt, to be swallowed by the compost, and suddenly I see that the compost that birthed it is stirring to life again, and is wanting to walk. This has happened before, with something else. It hurt. A lot. Some things need to stay dead.

But when I look back at that time, with the Something Else, the dead thing that walked, no matter how much it hurt at the time, I’m a better person, a happier person, because of it. Yes, it was smelly. And pretty ugly at first, but it grew into something beautiful. It grew into me.

I’m sad for the wilting dream, and, smelly though it may be, I’m just a bit excited about the walking compost in my heart. I’m glad there’s a time for resurrection.

My next-door-neighbor moved out a few years ago, and all that’s left of him is a memory, and a scrawled note on the bottom of the fence that I can see from the kitchen window. It says “Lucy Girl”, and it marks the place where the little calico cat is buried. There’s a beagle in the garden now, and much mud and compost. I’m hoping that the beagle doesn’t turn into a digger – things could get interesting (and smelly). But a pertinent reminder: even now, in God’s universe, it’s never too late.


Spider, spider, burning bright

When I was a kid every spider was a big one, and every really huge spider was a Trianchula. To say it right you’ve got to say it in an Aussie accent, hold your nose, and screw your face up at the second syllable, okay? Tri-AN-chula. As in “Muuuuuum, there’s a triANchula in the car! Get rid of that TRIANCHULA!”

I remember my first one. It was orange. I was loud.

Sometime, around the age of six, somebody told me that it wasn’t a trianchula, actually, it was a tarantula. And, then, sometime around the age of eight, somebody told me that it was a huntsman spider and that there’s no such thing as tarantulas anyway. Well. That’s all right then.

Huntsman are about as bad as it gets. They hate the rain, so on wet days they go to the nearest dry place, which is sometimes the woodpile, or the bedroom ceiling, or the toilet wall, or the front door, or the car. And they’re big. They’re freakin’ huge monsters of things that make grown men stop the car randomly in the nearest parking space and jump out leaving the door wide open and say they’re going to walk home. Oh. Maybe it was me who said they’d walk home. But it was the grown man next to me who jumped out first. I remember that. We never did find that spider, either.

Funny thing is though now I’ve got kids who are around six and around eight, and sometimes down at their school I hear other kids yelling out to their mums about seeing a trianchula. The myth is passed down from generation to generation.

There’s a few things I used to be frightened of that I later found out didn’t exist: like Transylvania, Count Dracula, Vampire bats, and tarantulas. Life feels calmer when you know it’s really only Pennsylvania, fruit bats and huntsman*.

I don’t remember when it was that I discovered that tarantulas actually existed. Probably after the age of fifteen when I saw the movie Arachnophobia. Do you remember that one? I’m NOT going to describe it here. Needless to say that if I’d known then what I know now I would have been looking for ways to exit the planet and quick smart, too.

Tarantulas are real.

And not only that, I find out a few days ago that they’re not confined to the South American jungle, but that they’ve disregarded all common sense and live in California as well. California, USA. That very and self-same California that I will be actually standing on in fifteen short weeks. No longer the-other-side-of-the-world, but under my feet.**

I had a huntsman spider on my leg once. Crawling up the inside of my jeans, on my actual skin. I learned a valuable lesson that day: sometimes the best thing for people is to have the worst thing happen. Something unexpected occurs: you cope.

We are stronger (and at the same time more fragile) than we think we are.

I might pack a very large can of fly-spray though. You know…just in case.


*I know NOW, okay? Yes, even Transylvania and Vampire bats are real. Except I don’t think those things go together. Although I could be wrong.

**I’m assured by my friends who live there that I WON’T be seeing any tarantulas. So far I believe them. Although they could be wrong, too.


The Experience of Monsters

My friend Sonnie had the coolest house ever, because it was up in the bush with 100 acres (like Winnie the Pooh) to roam around in, and wallabies and possums (cute Australian ones, not those scary-looking American ones), and her Mum cooked the best mashed potatoes and her Dad’d light the fire and the whole house would feel toasty and cozy, AND she had an electric blanket, even on her spare bed, so I’d leave it on full the entire night even though I ended up kicking off all the blankets because I was too hot to sleep.

I loved Sonnie. She was like, my best friend, or one of them, anyway.*

I loved staying at Sonnie’s house, but I got nervous every time, because of the monsters, and I really couldn’t do anything about them either.

There were five of them. Hairy, running thing, with teeth. In the house. With me. I tried not to act too frightened around them because I knew they fed on fear, but I made sure I kept close to Sonnie, and didn’t let my guard down, and especially, didn’t run.

I still loved going there. And it helped that Sonnie didn’t at all think of those monsters as Hairy Running Things with Teeth. She just called them “the dogs”, and she patted them and ran with them and kicked them out of her way when they tried to nuzzle up to her bottom and said “garn” in affectionate tones (“Garn” is Australian for “please leave me alone”). Sonnie eyed my fright with care, but with complete lack of understanding. And that, in itself, helped.

Sometimes, but not that often, Sonnie came to stay at my place. I didn’t have a spare bed so she had to sleep on a mattress on the floor, and I didn’t have a wood fire or an electric blanket. And…she was scared of my cats!

What’s with that? Who is scared of cats? They’re cute and fluffy and purry and warm and snuggle in your lap, and…and Sonnie thought of them as Jumping Things with Claws.

Sure cats jump, and sure, they scratch too. I’ve had cats all my life and I’ve been scratched – and bitten – more times than I can count. That’s okay, it’s not terrible or anything. It’s not like dogs can do.

Oh. I should tell you here…I’ve never actually been bitten by a dog. Once, though, when I was five, a black snarly dog ran at me, and he ran so close he nearly got me and I only got inside my house and the screen door shut by barely a whisker. And another time when my Mum was walking with me and my friend-from-up-the-road in the dark suddenly my friend screamed, and when my Mum asked her what was wrong she said a Dog had bitten her. There was Blood. I saw. Dogs are Dangerous.

Now here’s a thing, an important thing that I’m learning right now: Sonnie and I live in exactly the same world, and the dogs in my world are exactly the same as the ones in hers. Experience colours our perception, especially early-childhood chased-by-snarly-dog experiences. Or people coming to school with cat-scratches on their arm experiences.

It Doesn’t. Mean. We’re. Right.

Get what I’m saying? It’s kind of big.

I’m realizing I’ve CHOSEN to believe certain things, and, to make things worse, I’ve chosen to remember and focus on the things that agree with that decision (remembering the bad dogs), and ignored the evidence that doesn’t agree (all the friendly dogs who never once bark at me).

Are there things that hold YOU back in life? I know what they are for me (one is talking to people). Maybe it’s time for a mental spring-clean.

Care to join me?

*she still is one of my best friends. Except she’s not on Facebook and doesn’t read blogs so she has no idea I’m talking about her. Hi Sonnie! *waves* And she still has dogs…but these ones are nice 🙂

I need to talk.

No no no, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to tell you all my problems…well, not here, anyway, but I need to talk. Hopefully I AM the only person in the known universe who finds this difficult.

This is dumb.

People talk just fine most of the time. I talk a lot…some people might say A LOT…but it’s about the weather and why I like red chairs and white chocolate and what on earth my kids are thinking. I don’t talk about…stuff. I think it’s just me. But it’s bad.

When I was a kid I spent heaps of time waiting for my parents. I was an only child. I’d have a book to read or some paper to draw on, but basically there’d be a lot of waiting, and listening, and what I heard was always the same thing: my parents telling people their problems.

Always. Again.

I knew their problems already. I lived in our house. I had ears and eyes, and I figured that the three of us was about as far as that stuff needed to go. I didn’t roll my eyes at them because I was a good girl, but I decided, at the age of eleven, that I wasn’t going to tell anyone anything. Ever.

Except the stuff about the red chairs and the white chocolate, that was okay.

And that’s how things have stayed. Please tell me that I AM the only person who tells her husband and her best friends that she’s had a bad day…three days after the fact. It’s dumb. It really is. People need to talk about stuff. We do.

I do.

There’s just something about opening your mouth and pulling your heart out of it and giving it to another person that just smacks of the unsafe and faintly ridiculous. You have to trust people. You have to know them enough to believe that they do care, they do value what you’re telling then and that they won’t take that little piece of heart you’ve given them and stomp on it. You’ve got to trust that they are strong enough to be able to take that little piece of your heart and nestle it in next to theirs for a while until that little piece of your heart feels strong again. It’s not easy. The staircase that your heart has to climb up out of your chest, spiraling around your throat and up and out of your mouth is a long one. Sometimes my words get tired, and often they stop just before they reach the opening, and I will look at the person I’m with and nod my head sagely as if they know already, and while my tired heart pants in the back of my mouth my tongue pulls out the safe answer to the big question of “what’s happening?” and shoves it out for my listening friend, “Oh, you know. Stuff.” So today I’ve made a decision, and it’s this. It’s a big one:

I need to talk.

Hey, where did all the perfect people go?

When I was a kid pretty much everybody was perfect. Well…pretty much everybody, except me. Back then things were measured differently. You needed to have the right hair, the absolute right clothes, the zips on the right side of your trouser legs, the right logo on your sports socks and absolutely the right number of stripes on your sneakers.

It was a given.

To not have these meant, of course, that you are less than perfect. It didn’t matter how smart you were, or how well you swam, or danced, or played the trombone, it was how you looked that counted.

Everybody knew that.

I knew it because I read enough of my Mum’s magazines to know everything: how to deal with unwanted facial hair, what to do if I caught my husband with another woman (useful knowledge when you’re twelve), and Why Cybil Won’t be Wearing InsertNameofDesignerHere This Year at the Oscars.

The pictures in those magazines were helpful, because they showed me who I needed to be.

Blonde, obviously, and with long hair that fell and bounced in slow movements over my shoulders. Red pouty lips, and skin all creamy smooth and buttery.

I didn’t have any of those things. Nor did I have the zips on the right side of my trousers or the right amount of stripes on my sneakers, but I knew that that was just a matter of time. By the time I grew up, I knew, I wasn’t going to look like my Mum, with saggy boobs and a tummy that fell and bounced in slow movements and skin that creased and rainbowed with more colours than a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream.

I. Knew. Better. I knew that one day I’d be perfect too. I knew what to aim for. I knew it was only a matter of time.


Time has passed. Much time.

 I took my kids to the skating rink over the weekend, and while they played I sat back quietly and watched all the people careening past in various stages of skateability.

They were beautiful, stunningly beautiful, all of them. I loved them for their beauty.

There were mums there with tummies like mine, that fell and bounced in slow movements, and boobs like mine that fell far south of where any twelve-year old dreams they should be. There were boys with silly hair and far too many pimples and long legs and arms that they were still to grow into. There were little girls whose well-groomed pigtails had loosed their bondage and were dragging behind them like stray cat’s tails, and many more children who looked like they’d just fallen out of a clothes dryer than looked like they’d just stepped out of a TV commercial.

And as they span and careened and limboed and gawked and fell over the rink the smiles on their faces said everything worth knowing.

Perfect is never to be found in magazines.

Perfect is found in being who you truly are, and enjoying it.  

Thank you, and Good Morning.

Good heavens!

I get up in the morning and find an extra 80 people suddenly following my blog. Wow. Thank you! I love meeting new people.

I will try my hardest to be as deep, wise, witty and intelligent as you probably expect (LOL!!). I will absolutely let you down in that, so I will now apologise in advance. There’s something about trying to live up to your own expectations that’s always going to end badly, so I’ll make it easy for all of us and…not.

I’m working on a “proper” post, but right now I just wanted to say Hi, and thank you for brightening my day.

Oh, and next time you drop by can you please bring some coffee? I think we’re out…


Sociology, and why we should all drink more coffee

I was in a café today fixing up a few things for work, and I couldn’t help but overhearing the conversation the man at the table next to me was having with his friend. Well, I call it a conversation; it was more of a monologue, which is why I didn’t mind so much that I was listening in. He wanted to talk. He did it well. Actually, he did it so well that before I left I was sorely tempted to turn around and ask him if he’d written a book on the subject, or a blog, or a PhD even, because I’d go out and buy a copy right now if I could.

 I should have. I don’t even know what this guy looks like, because I had my back to him for the time that I was there, but I’ll probably remember his words for an awfully long time. Pity it’s too late now. Pity Real Life isn’t as easy as Facebook, where you CAN just “like” someone’s conversation, or be their friend because they’re interesting. If we were both six I would have asked him if he wanted to come and build a sandcastle with me. It’s such a pity that such things aren’t appropriate any more. It should be.

 Anyway, the point of this, the subject that this man in the café was soliloquizing about, was houses, and the nature of housing in Australia versus what happens in England, Europe and the US. Honestly, I would have took out a Dictaphone or taken notes if I could, but I didn’t, so I can’t really repeat his thoughts here that much. What I do remember was how he talked about how the renovation movement – Australia’s new-found obsession with buying a house, doing it up and moving on – is causing us to lose touch with our roots and our sense of community. See? Fascinating stuff.

 BUT…here’s the thing that brought it home to me in a big way…I’m reading Jonah Lehner’s book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” at the moment, and in it HE talks about how the random encounters we have on footpaths, in cafes, during toilet breaks, are often the key to idea-sharing that can lead to big creative breakthroughs, and he presents research to suggest that more creative ideas (as quantified by patents) happen in large cities as opposed to small regional areas. It’s because we’re thrown into proximity with a greater number of people that leads to a greater amount of idea-sharing.

 Interesting, eh?

 This leads me to another thing I read in a newspaper article once, about how urban planners are often the people responsible for the success or failure of a community: things like whether there are footpaths, and corner shops to walk to on those footpaths, and playgrounds and high density housing estates…all of these things dictate the type of people that the area will attract, and determine how they live their lives in it.

I have much to think about here, and I’d love to hear what anybody else has to say on the subject. But one thing is for sure: when our communities are becoming more limited and insular, and when Facebook and Twitter (where we choose who is part of our community) replace parks and footpath exchanges, we all need to get out to great cafes more, and drink more coffee.

I agree 100% with everything Susie says here…well…except for the Michigan bit. This book is truly amazing. Well worth checking out.

Have you ever read a novel that stabbed you in the heart? Convicted you for something you had no idea was an issue in your life? Left you sobbing (no, really, sobbing) at the last words?

Well. That happened to me the other day.

I was reading “Zora & Nicky” by  the gorgeous and fabulous Claudia Mair Burney.

Claudia is a Michigan native…so you KNOW I love her.

Claudia has tattoos (which is how I met her)…so you KNOW we can get along.

Claudia is a a painter….so you KNOW I want to be her when I grow up.

But, really and truly, Claudia really got to me with this novel.

She showed me beauty, hatred, racism (yes, even in the North, even in these modern times), characters using hands and feet to be Jesus to others…mercy. Claudia showed me so much grace and mercy and love in this book.

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Misty water-coloured Memories…of

I have a long memory. A REALLY long memory. This is useful for some things, like helping people find their car keys at parties (yes, I can do that. Sorry, I do actually have to see you put them down first…please don’t email me randomly), or understanding why my kids are behaving the way they are (because once upon a time I didn’t like the door left open the wrong way either). I’m just good at remembering heaps of really random stuff, okay?
So…and there is a point here, just bear with me okay…here’s a short quote from chapter 2 of my memoir, Where The Words Are (you can read it over there on the Books tab if you like…hehe…shameless self-promotion, sorry)…

When I was eight this man came to preach at our church, and he waved a little yellow booklet around and he yelled so loud I had to look up from my drawings, which is good, because he said that if you want to get into Heaven you have to read this little yellow book. I didn’t know you had to do anything to get into Heaven. I thought everyone just went there when they died. My Mum got one of the little yellow booklets and now it’s on our bookshelf in the lounge room. I haven’t read it yet though.

Nothing terribly remarkable or quote-worthy in that little section, not really…except for the fact that I had a meeting this morning at my church with the lady who looks after new Christians, and she’s taking me through this bunch of notes so that I can do it too (things like “be nice. Show them where the toilets are”…oh okay, I made that one up), and then she gives me this little bible that they give to new Christians, and a form for them to fill out, and then she gave me…


…still haven’t read it…

The Little Yellow Book.

I should read it. I should.

But dash it all, I’d rather keep the mystery and…not.

I’m a rebel like that : )

Loving people is a stupid idea

Love is dumb.

There. I’ve said it. Surely we have better things to do, like look after ourselves and our own. Makes me kind of wish we were like cats, or lions or something, you know: had babies, grew them up, killed animals, ate them, made babies, moved on, died. You don’t see cats getting all emotional because they wanted to share their kibble with the neighbour’s cat and the neighbour’s cat said no. You don’t see cats caring about much at all, actually.

Some people are like that. We can all, if the truth be told, be like that. We’re all selfish, demanding creatures who love salty food and warm beds and someone who shares the couch and lets us do our own things. It’s considered normal, and considered The Way Things Are.

That’s the way it was for me, really. Until some crazy lady did a Rachel Stewart number on me, and helped me when I’d fallen over in the middle of the race.

Rachel Who?

I don’t know if Rachel Stewart remembers the grade five athletics carnival. I don’t know if the friend she stopped for just before the end of the 100m sprint to help back to her feet again remembers the grade five athletics carnival either, but I do know that those two women, nearly thirty years later, are still friends. She stopped. Rachel Stewart was our fastest runner, and she stopped before the end to help her friend that was down. That’s love. That’s when you know that Rachel Stewart knew what meant more than some poxy ribbon on a pin.
That’s what love is.

She didn’t need to. Nobody needs to do a Rachel. In fact, Rachel Stewart didn’t need to do a Rachel, and when she did it it was Dumb dumb de dumb dumb, and she lost the race.

And once upon a time that crazy woman who did a Rachel on me knew what it meant as well. I drove her crazy. A few times. I probably put her through hell and back a few times as well, and I even did the famous SDCU* on her and decided that I’d stuffed things up so badly I could never ever love anybody again.

We do that. We all do that. We turn to our Rachel Stewarts and give them the finger and then we beat them in the next race and not think about it till it’s too late and we can only hope to God they might forgive us, and then we swear we’re never ever going to race again, poxy ribbon or no.

Tell you what, I’m glad that once upon a time God did a Rachel Stewart number on me. He did all right. And that’s the only reason I’m back lining up for the race at the moment.I’m back there on the old New Norfolk oval staring down the white lines on the grass and eyeing off the sports teacher holding the ribbon, and just a bit worried that that starter gun is a real one.

I’m going to run.
I’m looking at the people who are racing with me. None of us are that great, or that pretty, or that cool any more. And none of us are ever going to make the Olympics.
but together we’re running this race we call life, and this time I know, because I will always remember the ones who stopped for me, that no matter which one of us falls, I’M gonna be the one this time to stop and do a Rachel.

Care to join me?

*Super-dooper cock-up. See the last blog post.