Why I hate my new kitchen

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It’s not that I’m stressed about it, not really. It’s not taking forever, the builders are working hard. I have a microwave and a fridge and running water. These are first world luxuries, even I know that. It’s okay, and more: soon it will be better than okay. Soon it will be beautiful.
It’s only a week. It’s just that a week is a long time when the room you spend most of your waking time in, the room you eat in, pray in, read in, write in, chat in and dream in is gone. I feel a bit homeless even in my own home.

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It’s gonna be good. It’s gonna be beautiful. It’s gonna be amazing and I’m gonna love it.
And I’ll keep telling myself these things because, to tell you the truth, it’s actually really stressful.

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The drama of new

They’re disemboweling my house tomorrow. Viscerating it. Ripping the guts out of the poor thing, and giving it a transplant. Men in khaki overalls will be here at breakfast time, and they shall expect empty cupboards and wide open doors. They’ll park a skip bin in front of my house and they’ll tear open my back door onto the frosty deck and they’ll come in with their crowbars and their hammers and they will wreak havoc on my morning.

I am paying them to do this, too.

I am paying them for the privilege of keeping my microwave and kettle and electric fry pan and toaster on a jaunty little table right next to my computer, so I can…well…keep up an endless supply of tea and toast while I write, I guess. I guess that’s a good thing, considering how much tea and toast I make while I write on a normal day (a lot).

I am paying them for the privilege of keeping my plates and bowls on a shelf in the lounge room, even after I’ve told the kids there’s a strict no-food-on-the-new-carpet rule. I’m paying them for the privilege of keeping my glassware under my bed.

I’m also paying them for doors that shut…well, for doors even…and for a stove that does all kinds of lovely things and doesn’t have gunky hard-to-clean bits. I’m paying them for pretty tiles and…oh YES…ventilation!! And shelves and nooks and new power points, and cool drawers that shut softly and places upon places to put things so they don’t clutter up my new and perfect benches.

It’s kinda worth it, really.

But, like with my first pregnancy, even though I knew at the end of that nine month perioi there’d definitely be a baby, and I knew it was coming, I’m still not ready.

How about you? Ever put a kitchen in? Got any top tips for surviving the upheaval? The new carpet ordeal is still fresh in my mind. I don’t want to do this again…can I shut my eyes and pretend it’s not happening? Help!!

The winter blues

Is it because it’s winter? I don’t think it’s the cold so much. Possibly because the rain has been so intense that the washing on the line comes off wetter than it went on…three days later…and the piles in the laundry are growing exponentially, and I’m still not in the habit of using tumble dryers without feeling guilty about how much my power bill will be. Maybe it’s the sunlight, or lack thereof, even though I’m not feeling the shortness of days as much as I have in other years. Possibly because I can’t get outside anyway because of the rain.

We don’t have snowy winters here, not like in some places. We have snow on the mountain, and the snow comes and the snow goes, and it’s a thing you go to when you see it from your front doorstep (“Mummy! When can we go to the snow?” as if snow is a location not a precipitation), not when you step outside onto your front doorstep. Most of us still dream of snow though, and imagine the joy of waking up with the world white and calm for a few hours. It did once, in 1986, it did snow on our doorsteps, on everyone’s doorsteps all over the city and beyond, not just up in the mountains or the places above the snow line.

I miss snow. I miss snow and I miss sunlight, and hanging the washing in the morning and having it crisp and dry and ironed by the afternoon. Tumble dryers dry things wrinkly, or at least mine does, and the things come out all higgledy piggledy, not nicely folded the way I take them off the washing line.

But do you really think the washing is the reason I feel so blah? I don’t know. It contributes.

Washing. Time. Life. Rain. Seasonal depression. The fact that all my friends seem to be feeling the same way, too, for reasons both the same and different. We feel it, really, because it’s June, and to be honest we feel this way in June every year, when Summer holidays seem so long ago, and so long to wait till the next ones, and everything, even getting up in the mornings, is a slog, and sometimes we even forget that we don’t always feel like this, and that one day, somewhere down in the depths of the dreaming future, there will again be plums on the trees in the back yard and the smell of sunscreen on our faces and cricket on the telly.

It’s a season. This too shall pass.

I wonder where people buy vitamin D supplements from?

Charlotte: a short story

It comes in waves. I vaguely remember them saying once that it would, although I couldn’t imagine it then, so I chose not to remember. I don’t know why our brains do that; choose like that. I hope I can choose to forget this whole night.

The dark surrounds me. I’ve left the lights off on purpose, because too much of anything is a distraction right now. I don’t want to see the dishes in the sink, or the boxes, or the piles of baby clothes to be sorted and folded. God I’ll be needing those by the morning. Oh God.

We moved here three months ago, me and my mum, after Shane walked out. Well, after Shane found out about the baby. Mum was lost in that big empty house and big empty bank account, and I was lost behind this big belly, so we cut our losses and said what the hell about the past let’s set up home together. It’s a good idea, right, me and my mum. She did this for me, once, carried me inside her and rubbed her full belly and dreamed, just like I’m doing now.

I bet she never dreamed things would work out like they did.

It comes now. Starts in my deepest gut and rolls forward over me, over into my back. I have to remind myself to breathe. Big breaths. Keep going. It’ll pass. Roll with it girl, roll with it.

And it’s gone.

Breathe out.

The wooden kitchen chair creaks as I stand up. I’ve got this heat pack thing that a lady at our old church gave me, she said it’s good for pain, and it is, but only when it’s really hot. Bernard. Sally Bernard is her name. I waddle over to the microwave and put it in again, pushing the buttons without thinking about it, praying it’ll be hot enough for when…oh God.

The kitchen light goes on with a click and a wash of colour bright, and Mum shuffles in, tying up her dressing gown as she goes. She’s got a cigarette between her fingers already and she’s fumbling in her dressing gown pocket for a lighter, no matter how many times I’ve asked her not to smoke near me.

“Yer right Kel?” It’s the middle of the night and her voice is raspy as a toad. She sits down in the place I’ve just got up from.

The microwave pings to announce it’s finish, and I take out the heat pack and shove it into the band of my track pants again to hold it into place. Just in time. The pain rolls in and breaks over me all over again. I put my head down on the bench and try not to make a noise while I wait for it to finish.

At the table Mum puffs and taps and puffs again. I’m leaning over the bench looking at Mum in the wooden chair, both of us in the same positions we’ve been so many times together. The words slip out of my mouth without thinking. I say them by default, because it’s what I say when I’m standing here, not because I’m thinking about it but because I’m not. She doesn’t seem to notice the difference, or any peculiarity. “Want a coffee, Mum?”

“Oh yes thanks Kel. Only two pills today though thanks love. I’m trying to cut down. You know the doctor says that even artificial sugar isn’t good for you?”

“Yeah.” I get the mugs and put the kettle on to boil while I hunt around in the cupboard for the jar of instant coffee. I’m just spooning it in when another wave comes. This one is powerful, intense, maybe more so because I can’t take refuge in the shadows of the dark.

“…yes, they’re saying now that diabetics should be careful with artificial sweeteners, and that too much of it can lead to Multiple Sclerosis of all things. Shirl Baker’s been having this one for years though, she’s the one who got me onto it in the first place, and she says…”

I slide down behind the bench into a crouch, as if I’m going to start running. If only I could. The pain holds it’s own now and keeps up, longer than before, until I can hear it as if it’s singing in my ears, making me want to moan with it. I don’t. Not with Mum here, not with the cold stark light of the kitchen glaring at me.

“…but Shirl’s got a new man now, and she swears it’s got everything to do with how much weight she’s lost. She goes out with the walking club three times a week, and on Fridays they have…”

I realise I’ve been holding my breath. When I breathe out the pain goes, and I straighten up again. I pour in the milk, stir two artificial sweeteners into Mum’s coffee, and two spoons of sugar into mine, then take them over to the table.

“Sorry it took a while Mum.”

“Oh that’s okay. Did I tell you about Merle? She bought a new washing machine the other day, and oh the trouble she’s had with it already. She did say that you could bring your baby clothes down and use it any time you want though, but the first day she had it, well…”

The chair I’m sitting in is uncomfortable, and my coffee tastes like dirt. We sit here like this for half an hour, an hour maybe; her smoking and blathering and me nursing my coffee and my pain. The clock on the oven says it’s 1:13am, which means I’ve been awake for almost twenty hours now. I can’t do this. I can’t do this any more.

She’s talking now about the debate that’s been raging over whether they should install an elevator in our apartment block and I nod and pretend to listen, but when the pain pushes into me again and I stand up and go to the bathroom, slide down with my back to the door, curl my knees up to my face and sob.

I should be timing these things. I should know how long they are going for, and how far apart they are. And isn’t there something about towels, and hot water? They always ask for those things in movies. I want to call the hospital again and ask them what I should do, whether it’s okay to come in now, but I don’t know if that’s okay. They sounded busy when I called earlier, when the pain first started. They said to stay at home for as long as I could. God I don’t even know what that means!

I’m going to call them again. I can’t stay here any more, not with her. Not with her like this. I’d rather have nobody here at all than a mother who doesn’t notice me.

She held me once. She carried me in her womb for nine months, and maybe she rocked and cradled her stomach the way I’m doing to mine. She hurt, or maybe I made her hurt. Is that what this is about Mum? Did I make you like this? When the pain is dulled for a minute I wipe my eyes and stand up. I know what I have to do.

Mum is flicking her cigarette into the ashtray when I come back through the kitchen, and reading a magazine. I grab the phone from where I left it on the table, and punch in the number for the taxi company. I know it by heart already.  It doesn’t take long for them to answer, and the lady on the exchange says there’ll be one there in about five minutes. I take my heat pack out from the waistband of my trousers and put it in the microwave again. Her name is on the label, just in case I forgot who it belonged to: Sally Bernard, 56 Acorn Road. I can’t believe she’s so organised as to write on that stuff, like she’s some kind of TV mother. I bet her kids have perfect bedrooms and only ever eat organic lunches.

Mum folds the magazine over and holds it up. “Oh look here Kel. There’s an article in here about a lady who…”

I don’t stop to listen. I put my coat on and grab the heat pack out of the microwave before it even beeps. My hospital bag is waiting for me at the front door, with clean clothes for me, clean clothes for the baby, blankets and nappies and the tiniest little singlets I ever saw to start this new life off in. The taxi is early, pulls up just as I pull the door shut behind me. I’m sobbing so hard that the best I can do is hand the driver the address and curl up in the back seat in the dark and wait for this night to end.

*

I’m on the train to Sydney when I first find out we made the news. The man next to me is reading the paper, and there it is, on page three. I guess baby-left-on-a-doorstep stories are kind of big, kind of noteworthy. They said she’s okay though, that she’s healthy and well, and that the family whose door she was left on are wanting to keep her, to foster her if they can’t locate the mother. I’m glad. I rang that doorbell like crazy before I ran, just so she wouldn’t be alone for too long. I snuggled her up as tight as I could so she’d be warm in those blankets. She wasn’t even crying when I left her. I hope they do keep her. I hope they call her Charlotte, too. Charlotte Bernard has a nice ring to it. I’ll bet she’s a pretty thing, too.

I’ll send her a present from Sydney, I think. I’ve still got the address tucked in my bag, beneath my spare clothes and my wallet and the things I’ve got to start my new life. 56 Acorn Road.

I hope they call her Charlotte.

When art meets life

Goodness and Mercy by Patti Hill

Goodness and Mercy by Patti Hill

I read this book about two weeks ago.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know how she did it.

I’m only telling you this, of course, because I do think you should read this book, and the only reason I’m telling you now is because it’s FREE today and tomorrow for Kindle (and if you don’t have a Kindle then you can download the app for your smartphone/tablet/computer…and if you don’t have one of those then you’re probably Sonya. I’m sorry Son. I’ll buy you a copy), and because sometimes you read a book that impacts you so profoundly that you just don’t have any words for a little while, and the best you can do is store the memory of it somewhere in the front space of your brain so that you can process it when you do have the words, or maybe so you can grow into the memory of it.

Or something like that.

But I don’t know how she did it still, and that’s a little weird.

When I started reading this book I was cautious, suspicious even. I knew enough about the story from the blurb – teenager kidnaps kid brother and sister from orphanage and hightails them across the country to go seek refuge with estranged family – to already think that she’d get it wrong, even before I started reading it.

She didn’t.

I did.

What I didn’t expect was this: that this writer, that this woman I’d never met, that I know mainly from reading her blog posts, would somehow know not only what it felt like to be me, but know strange details of my life, things so oddly unimportant to me that I’d never talk about them. Yet because she wrote them they became important to me. Because she wrote them she made me think through things that had happened many, many years ago, and then she turned them around and ever so gently peeled back a layer and showed me the other side. You can’t talk about experiences like that, not really. Not in public, when it’s only been a few short weeks since the book finished. Not when the memory of the book is still so fresh, and when I still feel like I need to grow into it.

I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she wrote a book so busting with life and truth and colour that I stopped thinking of it as a book and started thinking of it as a window into my family. I wish she’d got it wrong. I wish she’d written an awful book, full of awful clichés and stupid saccharine endings, because then I’d smile nicely and hate it and never have to think about it again.

It’s never that easy though. Not when art meets life.

So I’m not going to tell you about this book today, or at least I’m not going to tell you anything more than that it’s FREE, and that it’s very, very good. All the rest you can find out for yourself. Click the link. It’ll take you straight there. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

 

God Save The Queen!

Queen Elizabeth in 3D glasses (from www.huffingtonpost.com 25.12.12)

Queen Elizabeth in 3D glasses (from http://www.huffingtonpost.com 25.12.12)

Well she’s on the money. She was born in April, but Australians are too partial to our public holidays to celebrate her birthday then…too close to ANZAC day, and gee, sometimes her birthday holiday would be swallowed up by Easter (gasp!) and we couldn’t have that, could we, so we celebrate it in June, when it’s dark and cold already and it feels like a long time since Easter and we’re all desperate for one last long weekend before the chill sets in.

Aussies traditionally don’t care about that much. We’re a laconic sorta bunch on the whole, and prone neither to great loves or great hatreds (although as I write this I’m remembering the horror of the race riots in Cronulla, and the screaming hordes of tweenage One Direction fans. And even the protesters who turned up with placards at a recent function I attended…although six or seven people doth hardly a protest make. We honestly thought they were directing us to the parking!). I’ve not met many (any?) people with a passion for the Queen, for our noble place as part of the British Commonwealth (although as a kid I did enjoy being top of the medal tally at the Commonwealth games). I don’t know anyone who will go out and let off some jolly old fireworks tonight in honour of Her Majesty, or even pat a corgi in her honour. Actually, I don’t know anyone with a corgi either.

But today we are happy because we have the day off. Or because there is a day off. Apparently, according to an article in The Australian newspaper in 2011, only 34% of Australians over the age of 14 support a republic, the lowest level since the Republic Referendum in 1991. Either we love Wills and Kate like everybody loved Charles and Di back in the 80s, or in this time of sweeping social upheaval, financial uncertainty and loss, we just don’t like change.

So Happy Birthday, Your Majesty. So sorry we missed it by a few months (every year!). I sincerely hope you have (had) a lovely one. And, to all my readers out there, whatever we think of the Queen, there’s no denying…she’s on the money.

Flotsam and jetsam

I spent the day yesterday sorting through the last (okay, nearly the last) of the flotsam and jetsam washed up in canvas shopping bags into a corner of our lounge room by the tide of our renovations. I chucked a lot of stuff, and that was good. I found homes for a lot of stuff, and that was good too. There’s more to do (and a garage-sale-to-be-had waiting for me in the garage), and I’m very tired, but it’s good.

But I miss my dad.

Our new carpet is fantastic. It warms the house like never before, it’s made me clean out piles of stuff that I’d otherwise leave in place for…for…a lot longer. It’s made me re-look at everything we have and simplify simplify simplify. Our new kitchen windows I love, and have helped me look at our shabby little place with a whole new potential. Our new kitchen comes in four weeks. Once that’s done I need to go to the travel agents and finalise our trip to the US. I’m amazed, truly amazed at the weirdness this year is bringing.

But I miss my dad.

Dad and I didn’t always get along. Most people didn’t get along with Dad that well all the time. Dad was a dreamer, a visionary; he knew what he wanted and he set about making it happen, in his own way. I understand that. I’m a dreamer too, and a visionary. I guess this is the reason I fell in love with a run-down house, because I once saw how beautiful it could become. And now it is.

But I miss my dad.

The thing is though, the important thing, we wouldn’t be doing any of this stuff if he were still alive. We inherited money from him. We are truly blessed in that regard. Dad’s death is making some dreams come true for us.

But every time the phone rings on a Sunday I think it’s him still. He always rang on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes I didn’t bother ringing back if I missed his call, because he prattled on so much about his dreams and visions, things I knew full well would never happen. It’s not like we got along fabulously all my adult life.

But he doesn’t call any more. Not even on a Sunday. His ashes, all that’s left of his mortal body, are in a big plastic box in a paper shopping bag that the funeral home gave me. It’s incredibly, surprisingly heavy. They sit (ironically) in the fireplace in my bedroom, along with the last of the canvas shopping bags of flotsam and jetsam of the new carpet’s tide. I’m not ready to get rid of them just yet, to scatter them or to inter them anywhere. Nothing feels right, not really.

You know what I would do, if this were a story and not real life, if none of it mattered? I’d open that box and l’d take a little bit of those ashes out each time, and I’d scatter them with each new development we’re doing with Dad’s money, as a thank you. I’d lay some under the carpet. I’d put some on the top and vacuum it up with our new vacuum cleaner. I’d sprinkle some on the kitchen floor before the new cupboards go down. I’d bury some in the new patch of land we’re buying next door to ours. And then I’d take the rest overseas with me, not enough to make any government make a fuss, and I’d drop small pieces of ash wherever we go: a little in a cigarette-disposal-ash-tray thingy outside an airport; a little on a lake, a little in a park. A little near a tree, a little near some water. A little in a garbage can in Edmonton, which is the northern-most city in Canada. He never went to the US or Canada. He always expected me to go though. I think he’d like that. And a little leftover for me, to add to the clutter and junk that I’m trying to rid my live of.  Just a little to keep, to remember.

It’s a bit late to lift the carpet now, but the rest…I still miss my dad. But this, this…

If you see me in the US or Canada, lurking strangely near a garbage can, or checking as I open a ziplock bag near a rose bush, don’t be alarmed. Stop and say hi. And be aware if I cry more than I ought to about throwing out some old lunch scraps, it may be because I miss my dad.

Have you ever had to deal with a loved one’s ashes? What did you do? Have you ever considered taking them overseas? Is that just a little too weird do you think? How do YOU remember, or say thank you, to someone who’s no longer here?