No milk today…

Hello my friends from a internet free house. Coming you now from my phone, where the only thing of note that I have to say is that I’ve got work to do, and just perhaps the good Lord has taken away my wifi to ensure I do it.
Or something like that.
Happy Monday, dear friends. See you later in the week…


The Price You Pay For Dreaming

Once upon a time, on the night of April 16th 2012 to be exact, I read an essay online that broke my heart. Isn’t it funny how, at the time, you don’t realise it’s your heart that’s breaking? You don’t hear the sound of snap like with a bone. This night I didn’t hear anything at all.

My husband was out at a meeting, and, because it was late, the kids were all asleep in bed. It was nine pm. I’m an early riser, and I tend to go to bed around then or just after, and read till I fall asleep. This night I didn’t though. This night I read the essay and shut the computer off quickly, but I couldn’t go to bed. I couldn’t say anything, and I was grateful that there was nobody there to not say anything to, because silence is awkward when you can’t, or don’t want to, explain it.

It took half an hour for me to realise something had broken. I washed the dishes and tidied up the lounge room and wandered back into the study to turn the computer on again and reread it and then thought better of it and brought the cat in and checked the sleeping children and eventually, because there was nothing else left to do, went into my bedroom and shut the door.

It must have been the click of the door jamb that did it, or maybe the so-familiar mess of discarded clothes and things to be dealt with. My unmade bed looked sad and empty, and suddenly I realised it was exactly like me. Words of an old song ran through my brain, and I looked away; turned my face into the coats hanging on the back of the door, and, just as suddenly as my heart had broken half an hour before, the sobs burst out of me.

I cried for half an hour, no less. Every time my tears subsided that song rang in my brain again like a punch to the gut. I hadn’t heard that song in years, and I hated it right then with a passion that I couldn’t contain, and everything it represented. It was an old Laura Branigan song, and that one line “I don’t wanna know the price I’m gonna pay for dreaming/Now that your dreams have come true” pummeled me again and again.

Dreams are hard to bear.

The essay was beautiful. It was written by the very talented Vila Gingerich, and spoke eloquently of her childhood passion to travel the world, and how she’d buried that dream only to one day be able to live it. It spoke to me in the deepest places of my own childhood passion, to see North, and how my own plans for an overseas trip six months earlier had been thwarted by circumstances beyond my control.

I still feel it in my body, that night of the heartbreak. I carry it with me, and maybe I always will, like a ridged scar where a wound has healed. I didn’t know then that, only seven months later, I’d be stepping off an aeroplane onto American soil for the very first time and getting my very first stamp in my virgin passport. You never know what’s going to happen in the future. This is the hard place. All you can do is bear the heartbreak of the present, and keep moving forward.

I didn’t know, either, when I sobbed my heart out back in Australia after I returned home with a heart full-to-bursting with love for the good old US of A, that I’d be going back again so soon; that I’d be packing up my entire family and planning a mammoth two-month hike over most of the North American continent. You never know what the future will hold. That can be a hard thing.

I’ve tried not to talk about the upcoming trip that much, mainly because I’m so painfully aware that, while this is my dream come true, so many of my friends and people I love dearly are still waiting for their dreams. It’s a hard place. There’s a price you pay for dreaming.

I’m not writing this to say “Hey folks, it’s okay! It all works out in the end, and you’ll get your dream!” I can’t say that. I’m writing it to say exactly what that song said to me: dreaming hurts. Waiting hurts. Not knowing the future hurts. Watching other people walk out into your dream hurts too.

This is why I’ll cry, yet again, when I’m on that aeroplane. This is why I’l never, ever, take my dreams for granted.

I know it hurts. But keep believing.

Just Because You Can’t See It…

We were in church when he said it, which made it a hundred times worse. Well, not church exactly, but the fabulous little art/craft/secondhand shop connected to my mum’s church, and filled with steel-wool haired ladies bustling around trying to sell us padded coat hangers and antique electric jugs. And, to make matters worse, he’s got the most piercing, piping little voice you’ve ever heard. The kid has a natural stage voice, and can cut through a crowd in a second to make himself heard without even trying.

He’s only four, in his defense, and his big brother had recently lost yet another tooth, so the tooth fairy had made an appearance, she of the shady past and hazy details; she of the “what do YOU believe?” status, showing our kind of reluctance to tell either the truth or the lie to a kid so young. And that may be it, it may be the reason why he said it, because he’s a logical kind of kid and he needs to know black from white, true from TV, and it’s his way of questioning, these bald statements of un-faith in a tone that suggests he’s really fifty and explaining things to his four year old self.

I’m not sure any more why he said, where the conversation stemmed from, even though it was only last week. All I remember is this piercing little voice singing out over the prints of Byzantine icons and small wooden crucifixes, “But Jesus isn’t real…”

We jumped on him with our best theological arguments, all of us, even his brother and sister. “Yes he is!” “He’s just invisible.” “It’s like the wind. Just because you can’t see the wind doesn’t mean it isn’t there. God’s like that too.”

I find it hard with that one. If I tell him Jesus lives in my heart he thinks Jesus is small. And Jesus died on the cross some 2,000 years ago, so what’s he doing in my heart anyway? And if he’s in MY heart, how can he be in anyone else’s? So we explain the Trinity as God in Heaven who has a body but whom we can’t see, Jesus is Heaven who has a body and came to earth, also whom we can’t see, and the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t have a body, who’s the presence of God with us here. He doesn’t really get it. Who would? Theologians with years more experience than me still can’t fully explain the Trinity, or how all three can be one. Why would my four year old understand it either?

But it bothers me sometimes, the times I worry about whether I’m failing my child or my church for not giving him the most complete religious education I can. I try my precious best. I love him for all I’m worth and I pray every night that the reality of the presence of God that I’ve experienced so deeply and so transformatively will one day seep into his consciousness. I think, deep down, he knows that presence. Unfortunately, or fortunately, he probably knows nothing else but that feeling of peace and love. Fortunately. What am I saying? This is a GOOD thing.

I’m trying to quell the guilt. It’s not helpful. And if I believe (as I do) in a God who is big enough to create the universe and create man in his image, then I must believe that God is also big enough to correct my mistakes when I ask him to.

I don’t worry that much. Not anywhere nearly as much as I pray. And play. And bake.

Ohhhh baking. School holidays and new kitchens make for some serious baking going on in our house, and, thanks to my joyous new oven, the baking is gooooooood. I made a pumpkin streusel coffee cake (or, if you prefer, a pumpkin streusel diet Dr. Pepper cake) the other day, from an American recipe I gleaned from my American friend, Sharon. It’s delicious, a total favourite for all our kids, and with very good reason. We sat down at the table with our cake and our jigsaw puzzles and my four year old looked up at me and said “Who made this cake?”

I looked at him, puzzled. “We made it, just now. You licked the beaters, remember?”

“No, who taught us who to make it?”

“You mean who gave us the recipe? It’s from Sharon in America.”

“Ohhhh.” He took a bite, and said in that same slightly patronising voice, like he’s fifty years old and explaining it to his four year old self,

“But Sharon isn’t real, is she.”

Oh son. Just because you can’t see…

An essay of heartbreak

Happy Monday everybody. I’m hunkering down with edits for my novel, which need to be finished in the next six weeks before I jet-set back over to the good old US of A to go to the ACFW conference in Indianapolis and try and convince people it’s so awesome they should publish it. Or something like that. So I’m not blogging at the moment. I’ll stop in and give you something interesting to read instead, but it’s unlikely to be from me.

Today’s article is both profound and heartbreaking and incredibly, beautifully, poignantly written. It’s a personal essay written by Deborah Vlock, who I’ve been incredibly privileged to get to know through her blog, and who comments from time to time on mine. This essay is about her experiences with her son, now (I believe) fourteen.

Please read Benjy, Awake. Let it break your heart for a minute. Then, if you think of it, say a prayer today for Deb and for Benjy.


The thief of time


I’m meant to be writing.

It’s ten to six in the morning already, and so far I’ve checked Facebook, read my emails, checked Facebook again and deleted my emails (I was up to 700 the other day. I’m such a hoarder). Put a few emails in folders. Sent a message. Checked Facebook, you know, in case I missed anything fascinating while I was patting the cat or making myself that cup of tea. Patted the cat. Made myself a cup of tea. Remembered I was meant to be writing.

As a matter of fact, I’m meant to be REwriting, which is my personal version of writing hell. I hate rewriting, unless I hated the first version of what I wrote, which usually I don’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have written it. Unfortunately though, what I’ve written already is less than perfect, and so rewriting it is. I can do it. I will, in fact, do it. Just because I’ve been putting it off for the last couple of months (I’ve had good reasons, okay?!) doesn’t mean I won’t do it. I will.

See? That’s the trouble with natural pauses in writing. They make you check Facebook. Oh look, Dani Hickey is in Romania, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It makes me wonder if she’s ran into my friend Wanderer, whose beautiful blog about life in Romania I tried to tag but could no longer find, and I’m must have deleted the last email blog update by accident because I can’t find that either, and see? This is the problem. Now it’s 6am.

I’ll have to write to Wanderer today. Or maybe next week because Today is still looking rather busy, and there’s all that Facebook checking still to be done, and the rewrites. And the dishes, because I didn’t do them last night like I should have.

I should have blogged last night too. I tried to. I realised though that by 8pm I had absolutely nothing to say – sensical or not – to anybody. I’d run clean out of words. Do you ever find that? I read an article once that men and women have an allotted number of words for each day (women more than men) and once they’re gone they’re gone. Men usually use theirs all at work, and by the time they get home they’re exhausted and spent. Stay at home mothers (like me) on the other hand, are desperate for conversation, desperate to get out all those words pent up inside them to make ready for those for the next day. I think it’s true, to some extent. Certainly true for me.

That’s why I enjoy Facebook. Although I don’t like those selling posts, especially where I’m suggested pages for my newsfeed about glittery sneakers, or plastic surgeons, because one of my friends “liked” their page once. Sure, I love glittery sneakers, but I like Romania better.

I did a search for Wanderer by her real name (because I know it) and discovered a rather funny site, Radaris or some such, where you can see people’s contact information, places they’ve lived, who they’re related to, their age and such stuff. And places you’ve lived in the past. And not only that, it links in to social networks, with photos and stuff. AND it asks your opinion of them! Sheesh. So I started typing in friends with obscure names, and found that in a country of 350 million people some of those names aren’t that obscure after all.

But…sheesh. Seriously? I know social media is public, and so is the phone book, and so are…well, pretty much everything these days, but it was still a bit weird having them all together like that. And, bizarrely enough, there are only seven Megan Sayers listed (none of them – because I’m not American – are me). I tried searching for how many are on Facebook, but it’s slow, and wasn’t going to give me any concrete answers any time soon. Oh look, there are a few. And there’s one who lives in the North West Territories of Canada. Oh MY!! I’ll have to check that place out. I adore North…


6.30am. Kids are up now, asking me for things. And I’m hungry. Need to cook that porridge soon.

I’m meant to be writing.

When context is everything

It’s been quite a week. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m really glad it’s Monday today. A chance for new, for settled, for picking up where we left off before the new kitchen and the missing cat, and a slice of normalcy (or as normal as normalcy can go on the first day of mid-winter school holidays).

So the cat is back, the kitchen is pretty much done (still some painting and some new blinds to go, but that’s neither here nor there, and both are staying firmly over THERE for a little while thank you very much!). Yesterday afternoon, thanks to my fabulous in-laws, we finally got the old fridge, freezer and ever-so-slightly-falling-apart old flatpack pantry out of the house, and therefore we’re now rediscovering the lounge room under all the excess kitchen stuff. It’s nice. Hey, there’s carpet back there. When did that happen?

Want to see some pictures? You bet I want to show them to you!

OMG there are shelves, drawers, and cupboards for EVERYTHING!

OMG there are shelves, drawers, and cupboards for EVERYTHING!

I love this fireplace. It used to have the old oven in it, and a bunch of useless space around it.

I love this fireplace. It used to have the old oven in it, and a bunch of useless space around it.

It has a dishwasher!! And actually IN the kitchen!! Seriously folks, if yours is in the laundry (like mine has been for years) you should put it in the kitchen. Man those things can change a woman's life!

It has a dishwasher!! And actually IN the kitchen!! Seriously folks, if yours is in the laundry (like mine has been for years) you should put it in the kitchen. Man those things can change a woman’s life!

So there you go. I love it. Feels like there’s so much space, even though the cabinetry takes up more room than the old stuff. And it’s so light, and there’s so much storage! And yes, before you ask, it IS still that clean. Who knew that house work was easy once you had a kitchen where everything had a place? (Even when that place is on the shelf in the bathroom, or under the bed. I know. I need to have a garage sale. )

You know what though? They finished it on Wednesday, packed up all their tools and moved out and let me put all my things back in place, and I sat down on my little white stool at the island bench and I thought…

It’s not right.

All that money, all that time. All that stress. All that but-I-loved-it-while-they-were-building-it. I didn’t like it.

Well, not so much that I didn’t like it. They’d grouted the tiles in an off-white grout, presumably designed to blend in with the off-white tiles and the off-white cupboards. I hated that grout. I hated the way it blended with the colour of the tiles, especially the feature tiles, and made it look just like something out of a Home and Garden spread…from 1983.

Nothing wrong with 1983. It was a good year, really…thirty years ago. And I didn’t spend all that money and all that time and stress and craziness for 1983. You can see it in the photos if you look hard. The grout is kind of orangy, a bit darker than the tiles themselves. It’s not a big thing, not really, but I couldn’t look away. After a few days that ivory grout became the biggest thing in my kitchen, like it had grown into a massive, stressful, kitchen-eating monster.

I know, I know. First World Problem. And here’s me having dreamed of a new kitchen for so long, and there are so many GOOD things, like a dishwasher in the kitchen, a tap that works properly, oodles of storage, you know? But I hated the grout.

By Friday morning I’d made up my mind. I, who’ve been taught well not to make a fuss and to be grateful for what I have rather than complain about what I don’t have, I called the kitchen people and told them…TOLD them, mind you…to fix it. Felt like a naughty kid testing the boundaries and stomping off to my room in a tantrum. Told them.

They fixed it that day.

White grout makes my heart happy.

White grout makes my heart happy.

The new grout 2


I walked into the kitchen on Friday afternoon and saw that new grout, and the mess the disgruntled tilers had left, and just like that a weight lifted off me. It was good.

I know, the stress of the wrong-coloured grout was wildly exacerbated by the craziness of home-upheaval and the worry about the missing (and recently discovered) cat. It certainly hadn’t been an easy week. But in that small moment I realised a good lesson: just as it wasn’t the tiles that were wrong – I’d chosen them carefully – it was the grout, sometimes in life it’s not the big things (like a marriage or a job, for instance) that are wrong, but the little tiny stuff around them, the stuff that’s easily changed. It takes wisdom to see it.

Context is everything.

Making that phone call and getting them to change the grout was worth it.

Maggie’s Back!!


Thank you for all your prayers and hope and wishes for Maggie’s safe return. We found her. Here. In my son’s little-used soft toy trunk in the bottom of his bookshelf.
Five days is an awful long time to be stuck in a toy trunk. She’s happy to be out, very hungry, but otherwise completely fine.
Oh. My. Goodness.
She has no idea the stress she’s put us through!

What my cat taught me about breaking all the rules of love

When I was a kid I liked the rules, and I liked staying on the right side of them. I was a good kid. It probably has something to do with being an only child, or being good at my schoolwork and liking the praise of my teachers. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, or just my particular personality. I liked the rules, and I liked them because they told me I was good.

There weren’t that many rules when I was growing up. It’s not like I lived in a strict disciplinarian household. And many of the rules were unspoken, as well, or implied. Say please and thank you. Say thank-you-for-having-me if you’ve been to someone’s house. If a friend offers you a lift home take it, because they may not offer again. Comb your hair. Don’t ask for anything. Don’t dog-ear the pages of books, or fold their covers over onto themselves like you would a magazine. Be good. Don’t be a nuisance. Wait your turn. Offer the last biscuit to everyone else before you take it yourself. Don’t ever presume you’re welcome, but wait to be invited.

Do some of these rules sound familiar? There are some that I’ve thrown out in my adult life; recognised them as unnecessary, silly, or just plain wrong. I haven’t combed my hair in years – don’t own a hairbrush. I dog-ear books with alarming regularity, although I’d never bend their covers right back like a magazine. Sometimes I eat the last biscuit, even when I’m with other adults (as opposed to being the one adult around a bunch of kids, where I’d be lucky to get any biscuit at all!). I’ve noticed the silliness of kids who have been taught that it’s rude to ask (“Oh it’s such a pity I didn’t bring my drink bottle/lunch box/jumper/note pad to your place today”), and kids who miss out at birthday parties because they’re hanging back away from the food table or the piñata loot collection, waiting for their turn. Some rules are okay to break. Some rules are hard and fast. There’s wisdom in knowing the difference.

I thought I knew which rules were which, until Maggie came along.

Maggie and the goldfish

Maggie and the goldfish

It was Summer 2010. January, maybe even December when we first met her. We’d been catless for over a year (my first time ever living without a cat). The kids were small, my baby just toddling, and one of them yells out “Mummy! There’s a cat in our yard!” so we all went out to see. Sure enough, a fluffy black and white thing was calmly eating our grass, and allowed us to get close enough to go and pat her. The girls next door were over, and there was a big kerfuffle as the older kids raced inside to find a saucer of milk for her, and the ensuing spill, and by the time we got it outside again she was gone, and we all went back to what we were doing.

I don’t know how long after that we saw her again, maybe a week. “There’s that cat!” someone would call, and we’d all traipse to the back door to look. We presumed she lived over the back fence, or maybe in one of the units off to the side.

By February though, when the summer heat beat relentlessly on us, she was at our place more often than not. She’d lie outstretched in the sun on our deck, barely blinking as we wandered past with baskets of washing or hula hoops and balls. She’d be lying there, contentedly still, as we called the kids in for dinner finally, as the heat stretched into dusk and the curtains were closed for the night.

I think it was March when she first came inside. The days were generally hot enough for us to leave the back door open for the breeze, and in she’d wander until we picked her up and threw her out again. She didn’t learn though. Never learned that these were the rules, and that maybe she wasn’t welcome. Soon after, because it was still so warm, someone would leave the back door open again and in she’d come. Soon it wasn’t just the kitchen, we’d be turfing her off the couch in the lounge room, or a child would come out with a bemused expression, “That CAT’s under my bed!” We christened her Maggie, because she was black and white like a Magpie, and because we needed to call her something.

By June, when the back door was shut always against the cold, and the deck was more ice than sunshine, we didn’t have the heart to turf her off the couch when we found her there – which was nearly always. She’d miaow at the back door in the mornings, as if to say “you locked me out!” which of course we had. There was no food for her at our place, and no litter tray. She was healthy and well-fed though. She obviously had a home and an owner, although none of our neighbours knew who that owner was, and nobody ever called when we left fliers about her in their letterboxes.

One weekend in June we went away for a holiday. The kids were devastated. “But what about Maggie?” What if she goes away? What will we do without this cat that isn’t ours? What DOES one do? We left a can of tuna with our next door neighbour, and asked her to put it on the deck for us if she saw Maggie around. We briefed the kids to expect that we may not see Maggie for a while when we got home again, that she’d probably realised we were gone, and she’d go back to her original owner for a while. Every night though the kids prayed that Maggie would be there when we got back.

We didn’t get home until late, well past the time it first got dark, but the first thing we saw when we pulled into our driveway was a black and white cat standing on the woodpile, with the loudest MIAOW I’d ever heard. Maggie had missed us. I realised then just how much I’d missed her, too.

It was a few weeks after that a friend pointed out how skinny she was getting, and it suddenly occurred to me that she was spending so much time at our house that she may not have been going home at all, or if she had then her owner had given up on feeding a cat that they never saw. That afternoon we went to the supermarket and bought her a bowl and a litter tray and a dozen tins of cat food, and, as simply as that, she became ours.

Nobody ever taught Maggie to wait her turn, or to say thank-you-for-having-me. Nobody ever explained to her that it was rude to simply turn up uninvited and expect that you’d be wanted. Nobody ever told her that she couldn’t just show up and expect people to like her. She never listened to the rule that you needed to wait until you were asked, or thought to check first to see if she was wanted. She presumed she would be, and because of it she made us want her. Because she moved in she made us love her, not the other way around.

This is the biggest gift my cat has taught me: that the times that I’ve moved into people’s lives and made myself at home and just expected that I’d be their friend are okay too. That’s it’s better to presume you are loved and wanted and to act accordingly than it is to not, to have to wait to be asked.

If Maggie had waited to be asked we’d never have had a cat.

Magie on the pillow

Maggie on the pillow. This is her near-permanent home. 

I’m glad she didn’t wait. I’m glad we gave up hoisting her back out the door.

I’m glad that she’s taught me that it’s okay to expect to be loved.

I’m not glad that she’s missing though.

Just as quickly as she slipped into our lives she’s also slipped out. I think she got spooked by the builders. It’s been a stressful time for all of us, including Maggie. I haven’t seen her since last Thursday. Praying like crazy she comes home, and soon; that we’ll have one of those “our cat when missing for three whole weeks, oh don’t you wish they could talk” endings. I’m still, even now, peering into the early-morning grey out the window and hoping to see her little eyes glowing, waiting to be let in.

Because she’s our cat, and, simply because she broke all those stupid rules and moved in uninvited, we love her.

Maggie the cat