Sunday, October 27, 2013

Taking Care

Taking care isn't easy, is it? Of yourself, I mean, taking care of yourself isn't easy. There are a million different demands - real ones like 'Muuuuuum, I needs my breakfast.' or perceived societal ones 'Be smart, fit and fabulously sociable at all times' and then all the basic demands of daily life, you all know what I'm talking about. And Anxiety,my constant, tireless task master, just makes the job seem impossible.  

So where does the taking care of yourself start? This week. I've had quite a few people tell me that I need to take care of myself, so I am taking their advice.

I've accepted help from friends.

I've been to a counsellor who shared a superb piece of advice: to walk every day and while you walk, to fully engage your five senses - can you see ants on the path, birds in the trees? What can you smell? What does the air feel like on your skin, the earth under your feet? What sounds reach your ears? What can you taste in the air?  This technique brings you out of your mind and into your body and lifts your spirit. It gives rest to your thinking brain.

I had a massage with hot stones - this had the same effect.

I went to see the movie 'About Time' with my wonderful luthier. I am a huge fan of Richard Curtis's writing and films and this gorgeous, insightful story did not let me down. In fact, it could've been written just for me, so perfect was its message for my life, right at this moment.

Pay attention, breathe it all in, see, smell, hear, touch and taste it and love every second of it, of this life we have, of this precious time we are given. Use your five senses to be in this moment. This one. Not that one tomorrow, or that shit one yesterday, or the dreamed up one that has never happened and possibly never will. 

This one.

This one where I am lying on the deck with Kevin, barefoot in the sunshine, listening to the kids squabble on the trampoline. 

I am working hard to quit my taskmaster and taking care of myself seems to do the trick.

I am here and I am enough. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I don't even know what to say about the last two weeks whether to laugh, cry or spontaneously combust in a smokey puff of anxiety.

Our Sach has been in the hospital, two hospitals actually and it has been scary and hard for all of us. There has been a barrage of tests - CT scans, cystograms, a cystoscopy and ultrasounds. He has had so many nuclear medicine scans, I think he might glow in the dark. He's had a barrage of medication - morphine endone, ketamine, medazalam, kephalexin, not to mention the anaesthetic drugs for surgery. Diagnoses have ranged from appendicitis, to a mass in the liver,, hydronephroses and now we are sitting with a dodgy kidney and abnormal ureters until the next tests. The kid knows more about canulas and catheters and worst of all, his nemesis, the dreaded medical tape, than is right for a boy of 8.

So incredibly grateful that excellent free medical help is here for us when we need it. 

And thank goodness he faced it all with confidence, spirit, intelligence and humour (and sometimes, inexplicably, with a Scottish accent). He could verbalise fears and demand that every nurse and doctor stop right there and explain exactly what they were going to do before they did it. He screamed when he was scared or in pain, he didn't swallow it up or pretend it wasn't happening. He made demands and tried to control what little of what was happening to him could be controlled. He took no shit.  And I am so grateful, (not for the screaming, I could totally do without the screaming) but for his honesty and spirit and confidence.

I am grateful that, even though this is not over for him, with more tests and a final plan to be established, this can probably be managed. I am grateful that he went through it surrounded by loving family: his mother or father sleeping at his side in hospital every night; his brother and sister playing with him in the children's ward play room, catheter bag in tow; his big cousin playing endless games of that great card game - 'Oh Shit' taught to him by the lovely teacher on the ward and his Gran, aunts and uncle all there to love and support him.

I am so grateful for his gorgeous school friends who came to visit, sent gifts and messages to 'get well soon'. For the friends who cooked us food, visited and made sure we arrived home to a clean house and a care package. That is love! 

I am especially grateful to Ronald McDonald House, who provided us with safe comfort and respite at such a stress-soaked time. Thanks to them we could rest, we could keep our family together for Sophie's birthday which we celebrated with cake in an isolation room in the children's ward. She declared it a 'shit day' but at least it was unforgettable.

We may not all support the McDonalds menus for kids but the service they provide through Ronald McDonald houses, to families like us, who have to travel for the medical treatment of their children, can not be underestimated. It can not.  Nor can the generosity of the companies or volunteers who come in and cook meals for parents in the houses, or those that donate toys and food and other comforts to these parents at their most stressed and most vulnerable. 

If you can help a Ronald McDonald house, in any way, I urge you to. They are doing good. 

I am grateful my son was not the boy with chronic skin conditions that had been in hospital for months, who had no visitors for the whole time we were there. Grateful not to be the mother of the twins with developmental problems so bad that they are violent and can't live together. They have to take turns being at home and in care.

Grateful that he is out of hospital.
Grateful that there is hope that there will be a plan and an end.

Exhausted and still anxious as hell. 
But so lucky. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Something Beautiful

Sometimes you need to see something beautiful. 

'Illumination' is an exhibition of the work of Tasmanian landscape painter, Philip Wolfhagan currently showing at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in a Hobart. 

Philip's work not only illuminates but transports to the wild, Tasmanian sky, scrub and sea. His 'scapes evoke the sense that our island exists right at the edge of civilisation and our rugged Wild only just tolerates White Man's intrusion. Being in Tasmania's unforgiving Nature makes you feel that prehistory for this island was not that long ago. 

I walked into this exhibition and did not want to leave. It applied itself like a balm to my grief wounds, the soothing familiarity, the light, air and earth of this wild island was all there, like family and home.

A short film plays of Philip Wolfhagan and his work and I am seduced by the life of the artist. Walking into his studio, pulling out a huge canvas, mixing his earthy hues with beeswax, taking the pallet knife to it and letting the blues, whites, greys and blacks reveal the torrid Tasmanian sky or the turgid sea all to an orchestral soundtrack that fills his lightwashed workspace. 

Sometimes we all need to see something beautiful. Beauty to lift the spirit, to illuminate, to resonate, it is essential. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dark light

Even then, in that moment when darkness has seeped into the very marrow, there is light,
Light made more brilliant by that pitch.

Sadness, love, joy, they coexist in the same heart space - this trauma, this loss, this grief that rips like a grappling hook to the gut. 

The wound is rent, but the glowing beloveds pour in love to wash healing over the gore unhindered, the skin of resistance too hard to regrow. 

Light radiates from the crack between loss and life, between living and the abyss. From the thrill of being alive in the face of death. 

There is pain and privilege in being present, of staying hand and hand till the darkness takes them forward alone and they are gone towards the light. 

Relief in the end of suffering.
The primal wail of loss.

We remaining beloveds are left to set the candles flickering in celebration and honour of his shining life. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Little

I guess it's ok to fall apart a little.

I made it to work yesterday but felt like I was walking around in a bubble. Everyone's voices were either distant and muffled or harsh, shocking me out of my thoughts of Dad. Lots of kindness was received which made me feel better and worse, better and worse. I couldn't quite think through a problem or finish a sentence. 

After a sleepless night, that ended in apocalyptic dreams of being chased by awkward and unfeasible dinosaur monsters, unrealistic costume beasts like on a 70s episode of Doctor Who, now I can't seem to get out of bed.

Guilt is soaking my bones. There is so much work to do. So much. A day off is ridiculous. 

But today seems to be the day of tears and there is not a damn thing I can do about that.

I've never been great for soldiering on.

It's been such a wild ride this last week. Days of trauma, of busyness, of family of friends, spirit and joy: all distractions from the sadness. 

Now that the quiet has returned with the pressures of normal  life and work, the sadness is filling me up.

A friend sent me this message last week and it describes the sensation exactly - 

"It is so massive  the passing of a parent. Like a high speed squash ball to the heart wall."

I guess it's okay then, for the heart, to fall apart a little. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

To his grandchildren

His grandchildren, did not have the pleasure of knowing Dane before he had Parkinson’s.


So I ‘d like to share some things with them, things that they might not know.


The first is that growing up, I firmly believed that the name ‘ Doctor Dane Sutton’ had magic in it.


When I introduced myself, people’s faces would light up and with an invariable note of reverence and respect they would ask, “Are you Doctor Dane Sutton’s daughter?” and then the magic would happen – kindness would flow, doors would open, free tickets to the show appeared and often cake would be presented.




With his name magic was invoked in daily interactions but was particularly spectacular with his patients, people in the medical professions and the brothers, nuns and clergy who all adored and respected him.


People respected and loved Dane because he dedicated his life to love and care for his community unconditionally, with spiritempathy and stamina.


His magic was so strong that even when trapped inside his physical self, barely able to communicate, carers, nurses and respite staff would feel the magic and pour out love and respect for our Dane.


I always wondered how they knew about the name magic when he couldn’t say his name.


That’s when I realized the magic wasn’t in his name, it was in his spirit - in that twinkle in his eye.

And that spirit remains in all of us.


Now the other thing you need to know about Dane, is that Dane was, above all else, an ideas man.


And once an idea manifested itself, Dane had the drive and stamina to pursue that idea, sometimes in the face of all logic, reason, bylaws and minor legal requirements. 


Dane did not set limits on his life.


He had farming ideas with a property atNotley Hills where he ran a few sheep and cattle and he created beautiful gardens in each of our houses.


He held a 99 lease on Tamar Island, bought when he was young, where he ran some cattle. He gave the island back to National Parks and it is now the Tamar Wetlands project. In order to transport his animals across the river to the island, he got this great idea to purchase a punt. He was very find of an eccentric mode of transport. 


One bull famously refused to board the punt when the cattle were moved off the island, and so began the tale of Bruno, the loneliest bull in the world. He was left to roam wild and free.


When the walkways went into the island a few years ago, Bruno was discovered, and he wasn't happy about it. Bruno’s story was out and animal lovers everywhere responded to his lonely plight. His story was even picked up by Reuters and featured in international press and a 'Save Bruno' petition was circulated. When Dad was asked by the press what should be done for poor lonely, abandoned Bruno, Dad responded "I've got a couple of bullets in my top drawer” – Dad also had an uncanny knack for inflaming a situation and political correctness was never his concern.


Dane had alternative ideas. He embraced the practice of transcendental meditation, every evening at about 5pm, silently in his study, while the noise and chaos of “arsenic hour’ reigned supreme outside with Mum and us 7 kids.


He explored organic gardening when it was considered outlandish, learned acupuncture and believed strongly in the mind–body connection years before it became accepted theory.


When Dane had an idea he followed it through.


He didn’t look for approval or permission from anyone, even Mum.


And Dad knew how to have, not just a good time, but a great time.


One of his best ideas was the purchase of our house at Alanvale. That house was almost big enough for all of us and all of our friends and Dane’s spirit.


That house was all about spirit. Those parties were legendary and Dane lead the charge, his incredible stamina kept him going till the early hours, often outlasting the cocky teens and uni students who had lobbed for the do.


That stamina kept Dane fighting his disease and its limitations to his very last breath.


So kids, listen and remember, Dane left us with an incredible model for life.


Live a life full of spirit, of fun, of love and service, pursuing

your ideas with stamina and self-belief, even in the face of logic, disapproval and political correctness and when necessary, minor legal requirements, because that is where the magic is.

Monday, September 16, 2013

To Dane.

Awake! For Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight.
And Lo! The Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry." 

- The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Our beloved Dane, who filled Life's cup to the brim and drank deeply, passed away this morning, in peace and love surrounded by his family.

Here's to a wonderful man who lived fully, in love, faith and service. 

We love you.

To Dane. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Love is

Caring. .

But staying.

But staying.

But staying.

And So So Sad
But staying to the end.

Monday, August 26, 2013


1 : to reduce the violence of (a disease); also : to ease (symptoms) without curing the underlying disease

2 : to cover by excuses and apologies

3 : to moderate the intensity of palliate
the boredom>

Examples of PALLIATE

  1. treatments that can palliate the painful symptoms of the disease
  2. palliate
your constant lying by claiming that everybody lies>

Origin of PALLIATE

Middle English, from Late Latin palliatus, past participle of palliare to cloak, conceal, from Latin pallium cloak
The process of palliative care is beginning for my father. Last time he was in hospital one of the doctors used the sentence "and if his condition worsens we will begin to palliate".
I had never heard it used as a verb before, the verb 'to palliate'.
What does that actually mean? These definitions don't cover my perception of its meaning. They don't say it out loud.
Does it mean making him comfortable as he slowly disappears,  as that grip on my hand slowly weakens and slips my grasp?
Does it mean cloaking and concealing the final stages of this long drawn out disease, which has locked and isolated my father in his body, losing one stage of function at a time, step by step, word by word over 13 years. This disease that has reduced him, physically, but made us blow up the memory of him to 'larger than life'.
There is  no cloaking, no concealing the outcome of this palliation.
We don't know how much longer we have with our father, maybe weeks? Maybe.
All we can do now is hold his hand to keep him company, as Mum and the carers make him comfortable.
We wait. 
We palliate.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catching Breath

The last few months have brought subtle shifts, big moves and epic events to us Smiths, as most 'few months' in a family seem to do.

A little home renovation that choked us with plaster dust and paint fumes, has now sent a breath of fresh air into our wee house. The clean,newly painted bedrooms and hallway, a luthier-made wardrobe and a new spot for our beloved art, has gifted some organisation, peace and ease into our sleep spaces. 

A 12 week transformation, meant planned meals and regular exercise and a commitment to self-care on a scale never before successfully carried through, by this master-excusemaker. I am not sure I can say that my body was 'transformed' exactly, but what it did for my spirit has been remarkable. Who knew self- love lay in the increasing kms on a treadmill or that extra weight on the bar in a pump class? That's not where I expected to find it, that's for sure. I though it only existed in the reducing number on the scales.  But as the fitness numbers went up, what had been the dreaded weekly weigh in mattered less and less.  But I do know that everyone likes to see the numbers, and if I helps to convince anyone to take such a programme on I'll tell you mine: 
I've lost 7.5 kilos, 48 cms, a minute from my 1km run time, I have gained the ability to do push ups on my toes and now I miss exercise when I don't do it and best of all, I like myself a lot more.) 

Shift again. This is the shift to working 5 days a week again. It's a good job working with nice people, but damn!-work sure gets in the way of an exercise program. However, needs must when you throw financial caution to the wind, and commit to sending your 3 kids to a private school. Mind you, its a commitment worth every hour of work and every penny, in my opinion, to have my kids in a school where they are known, recognised and cherished. And it is an easier burden to shoulder when you work for someone who thanks you every day. 

My beautiful J performed in his drama school's production of 'The Music Man' this week. I am constantly overwhelmed at the commitment of teachers and parents to make stuff happen for kids. All those sporting coaches, little athletics timekeepers, eisteddfod organisers etc who give their time and energy so that children can have opportunities - they are incredible. 'The Music Man' saw the kids involved in a gruelling rehearsal schedule, giving up entire weekends and late nights, but it was all worth the pre-teen grumbling, it was a hit! And J has made new friends for life. 

The smalls are chugging along with their usual mess, hilarity and bickering. Soph fell through the unzipped trampoline in the school holidays which left her with a greenstick fracture to her right wrist, a brother-assisted accident, which didn't slow her down much. Her writing from both hands is now impeccable. (She certainly doesn't get that from me. I take after my GP father in the illegible handwriting stakes.) 

The luthier's genius is becoming more widely recognised. His work schedule now extends well into next year and musicians from around the country are seeking out his work. It's a slow and steady business, the work of the violin maker and it is  so gratifying to see his efforts praised and loved. 

So now, here we are, lying in bed,healthy and strong, with a little less time but a bit more comfort, breathing in the cool winter air and wondering what shifts the Spring breezes are bringing us. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Being the Mother of a Son

Being the mother of a son, or sons in my case, I have found, involves lots of dirt, action heroes, big collections of collectibles, a lot of video games, sports gear, food preparation and more Adam Sandler movies than I care to mention, 

It's a big job. Don't you think? To mother a son. To bring up a man. Hopefully a good man? 

Good. 'Good'. I am rolling the word around my tongue and brain. 'Good'... really? I am not sure that 'good' is my aspiration for my sons. What is 'good' anyway? 

Apparently, according to a random on WikiHow, being a 'good son' involves being nice to your siblings even though you hate them, doing all your homework, being loving towards your parents and not using bad language.


Not 'good' then.  Particularly in view of that criteria, as I consider it an essential life lesson for my children to learn the art of contextual swearing, and am proud to say that their skills are coming along nicely.  

Anyway, my boys are better than good, my boys are gold. But they do know how to be good, which I think is very important. My boys do behave well ... at school.  At home things get a bit more loud, messy and swear-y obviously. 

It is, on one level, gratifying to know that my boys can behave well, can 'be good'.  My boys, they are not very boys-y boys. They are definitely boys, but they are quite gentle my lads, most of the time. And funny, they are really funny, by accident and on purpose. One is also intolerably messy and inclined to pick up dead animals with his bare hands and the other loves hockey and skateboards and cartooning and they dig music and dancing and are loving and kind. I think all that is good. 

We have brought our lads up to work hard and be kind, and to tread through life gently with consideration, but as we have seen all too much lately, the world, still a man's world, often doesn't play that way.  So have we really done our lads a disservice? We often watch our gentle boys railroaded by their alpha peers, particularly our eldest. He has been pushed around a bit by boys who have been encouraged 'to be boys', in that rough-and-tumble-wrestle-and-shout-playing-violent-video-games-and-calling-girls-'bitches'-kind of way. These boys leave my boys a little knocked around and a bit confused.

My first son has had to pick his way through a minefield of bullies and more alpha males in his classes and I am impressed to say he has started to figure it out. He has the gift of perseverance, my boy, dogged persistence, and he is using it to find his place in the world of boys. He is figuring out when to stand up for himself, when 'to hold 'em and when to fold 'em'.  (And did I tell you he is the lead in the school musical this year? Thought I'd just drop that in.) 

With the second son, just as if he was born with wings, he has fallen on his feet. He is in a class with lovely boys who, while they themselves are gung-ho crazy, give him no grief for sitting out of the lunchtime football tussle in favour of going to play with the Preps, as is his want.  There were a few issues with argy-bargy in the playground recently and I asked his teacher if my quiet little lad was ok, if he got caught up in the rough and tumble of his peer group? She assured me that he was very good at being clear when he didn't want to get involved in the other boys' shenanigans and that the other boys always accepted that. If only life always worked out that way. He is lucky, my lad. 

I love the gentleness of my boys and that they will review one of their little sister's drawings earnestly with  "That is beautiful, Sophie" and that Joshie has been known to brush her hair and read her a story at bedtime. I love that they get angry and scream and swear but rarely raise a hand to each other.  I love that they don't define feminine and masculine in the same way that tradition or society does. I love that they can run around, dig holes, hit balls, build stuff, be noisy and tell each other to 'get stuffed' (in the contextually appropriate moment, of course), and that they can be quiet and creative, affectionate, sweet and soft, at least some of the time. 

Sometimes, though, I wonder, should we have taught our two little men to wrestle and wrangle and be tough? Should I be concerned that my number two son, stands in the back of the soccer field during a match, ignoring the ball as he is too busy re-enacting the entire choreography from the Bellas "I Saw The Sign/Turn the Beat Around" mash up  routine from 'Pitch Perfect' while his team mates are hell bent on the ball and the goals? That in the school nursery rhyme play he wants to audition for the part of  "Jill"? Should we berate ourselves for not pushing our sons towards a more traditional masculinity so that they can mix it with the big boys when they are men? Naaaah.  I never held much respect for the 'boys wiill be boys' philosophy.  And, no matter what philosophy I hold, my boys can only be themselves. 

But its not easy for the gentle guys in a world where the alpha man (and woman) is still such a dominant force. So what have we set our sons up for? Happily, I have faith that our generation and the younger boys, like Sacha's friends, are much more accepting and comfortable with making room for difference than the generations that have gone before. But then again, I am not sure that most men aren't in fact just like my boys, pretty lovely: kind, committed men who love their families, friends and communities. Most of the men I know certainly are. But sheesh, the ones who aren't so kind sure make a lotta noise, don't they? 

There is nothing I can teach my sons about becoming a man. What I can teach them, I hope,  is how to look after themselves, how to live and love wholeheartedly and what it is to be loved wholeheartedly by their Mum, (and, of course, the right moment to use the words 'shit, bugger and douchebag'.)

My aspiration for my golden sons is not to be 'good', but to be themselves and to live their lives as they see fit. To be wholehearted men of joy, kindness, pride and passion. 

I wonder if my mother-in-law realises how lucky she is? 

Thank you to Lexi from Pottymouthmama for inviting me to join in on blogging about 'Being the mother of a son'. Other great blogs participating are:

Checks and Spots <>  Kootoyoo <> Sadie and Lance

Friday, May 31, 2013


This lovely lady arrived today. My beautiful Aunty Sue bequeathed to me my Grandmother's piano. She told me awhile ago that this was her intention. She thought we would most appreciate it, us Smiths, being a keen musical bunch. At the time, I had no idea that it would be arriving so soon.

The piano is a grand old lady. The story goes that my grandmother, Dorothy, loved a singalong and was a star whistler. She would stand by the piano and whistle to entertain her family and guests. I never met my Grandmother and I really wish I had. It's only since becoming a parent that I have realised what I missed out on, growing up grandparent-less, and how hard that must have been for my parents of 7.

My Dad always loves a singalong too and would often burst into a little Al Jolson or Johnny Mercer in a deep, warm baritone, weird, ancient songs to a little girl of the 70s. I just opened the piano stool and there they all were, hits by Bing Crosby, an Al And Johnny and old time movie hits, ageing sheet music unearthed like treasure. And in the bottom of the stool, I found this beautiful sheet music that brought a smile and a tear. The music for 'Georgia On My Mind' ... my song. Men of Sue and Dad's vintage would often break into this one when they learnt my name. And Dad (and Ray Charles) would sing this one just for me, I am sure.

Thanks Sue. It's such an grand legacy. It's an honour to have the Sutton song and spirit in the house. A grand old lady passed on from two very grand old ladies.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Conversations with Children (Mothers' Day)

Me: Do you like any girls at school Sacha?
Sophie: Yes
Sacha: giggle
Me: Who is it?
All: muchos giggling
Sophie: Her name is ... Invisi-babe.

They are completely crackers, but what would we do without them (apart from sleep, drink too much, dance all night and have disposable income?)

Happy Mothers' Day Ladies!

Thursday, May 09, 2013


So, I've signed myself up for a bit of a physical readjustment/overhaul/revolution and start a 12 week Body transformation next Monday. Needless to say I am shitting myself.

The program requires focus, discipline, commitment and organisation in order to transcend to a higher physical level. So, I am wondering if you can buy those traits at the gym with your protein powder, because I don't have a clue where I left mine. Maybe under that pile of discarded soccer gear on the living room floor? Or the pile of bills, drawings and important school notices on the ... hang on, I just need to finish the washing up and did I just eat that last biscuit?


The transformation plan has been motivated by the many reminders of mortality that I've experienced lately, and by turning 40. No one wants to be fat and 40. I want a nice, long, able-bodied life. And I certainly haven't gone through the joys motherhood to drop off the perch early or be too unfit to play with the grand kiddies when they eventually arrive, not if I can help it.

The only times I have ever really lost weight, as an adult, have been through the power of sheer, anxious and dedicated self-loathing. Starvation diets, no exercise and it was all about looking good. Like being thin is the best thing you can be and being fat is by far the worst. Ridiculous. Now that I have actually learned to like myself a bit, I thought it was a good time to love myself healthy instead. Ew, that sounds a bit untidy but you know what I mean.

Today is weigh in and measure day. Yipes! It is a sad moment when you realise you are a 'Before' photo. But the hope for a better 'After' is tantalising.

Now, I am off to unearth that focus and discipline ... It must be around here somewhere.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Autumn Hols

These school holidays have been sweet.

This late coming Autumn has a beautiful soft feeling and with the luthier working from his atelier in the garden, our small life has a rhythm and flow.

Of course with the school holidays comes the bickering and the mess, and the job of short-order chef. But Monday will come fast, with its lunch boxes to fill and socks to find, so Monday can take its sweet time. And besides, I'll miss them.

Yesterday Sophie had been quietly and intently drawing away for quite some time, when suddenly she looked up and exclaimed 'Hang on! I've been entertaining myself!'

Perfect. That's what school hols and slow, sweet time is all about.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sweet Time

The kids have all trotted off to school with Dad.

I have stumbled upon a moment of happiness.

This rare sweet morning, the children dressed and fed themselves. This morning gave us time. Time for long hugs, with smalls on my knee and wrapped around my neck, faces buried in the nape.There was time for their two breakfasts and time to curl Sophie's hair.
(I have sent her to school looking like a beauty pageant entrant, but it made her very happy. We held off on the lip gloss and fake eyelashes.)

The sun is warming me up through the window.
There are wattle birds and rosellas chirruping and squawking in the gum tree that hangs huge and heavy over the fence from next door. It is a mass of pink fluffy flowers.

The house was cleaned yesterday so it's just the morning dishes and some washing to pack away. The door on the kids' room lego mess can stay shut.

There is work to do, work for the luthier, but it doesn't feel like work.

Of course, there are jobs, there are always jobs, but ... this moment of peace is sublime.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Great Things

Walking to Duck Reach on your own on a sunny Autumn morning.

Walking and listening to podcasts.

Finding art on a rusty door.

This speech made by David William on the Future of Creative Arts Education in Australian Universities.

This workshop given by Marcus Buckngham on Oprah. 


This podcast from ABC's Life Matters "The 91 Year Old Midwife'. 

The luthier's Camerata Obscura and their beautiful, sell out concert last Sunday. 

Trusting your instincts. 

Dad coming home from hospital yesterday.

Saturday, April 06, 2013


Ok, ok I get it, Universe, we are mortal. I get it. Can you please now cease beating me over the head with this lesson?


This week my Dad has teetered between the light and the dark a few times. It has been a wild ride. But he has, with the power of his beard, and his incredible force of will, recovered. He is getting ready to go home.

We celebrated my Aunty Sue's life and bade her our farewells. The wooden box looked too small to contain her. It was festooned with dusty pink roses and she descended to 'Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Good-bye'. She always had a golden sense of humour.

Life and death. It makes me come over all philosophical.

What is it, do you think, that our purpose is? Do you think it's predestined, or a choice we make?

Dad's life purpose has always been so clear - a clear vocation to save lives and to make lives (all 7 of us). Aunty Sue's purpose seems clear too: she was a great friend and mentor to everyone she knew and loved.

Big, ordinary lives.

I am one of those hippies that believes that every experience holds a lesson. (You don't watch as much Oprah as I have without that little chestnut becoming firmly embedded in your psyche.) This week has felt like being squeezed through an emotional mangle, but being close to death is a gift. A gift that hurts like hell and feels like a big kick in the pants. A hot pink neon sign flashing, 'Pull your head out of your arse and get on with it!' in curly cursive.

I'm still not certain what it is I need to get on with, but the answer that will have to satisfy for the moment is 'Something'. Stop thinking, worrying, analysing and act.

Also, being the Oprah watching hippy I am, I think the answer is to love. Open whole hearted living, must be the way forward. That is not easy for a person with mild social phobias, like me, but fears are to be conquered. Trust is not something I hand out willy-nilly, and as for revealing my vulnerable self to the world? I would really rather avoid it. And so I walk around in an opaque armoured box of politeness wondering why no one can see who I really am.

Ooh, I think I might have just workshopped myself through an, 'A-ha!' moment.

Do you know your purpose? Or do you think that idea is ridiculous? Maybe you are what you are, you do what you do and that is all there is.

Or did you have an epiphany, a moment when your focus crystallised and you knew exactly what it's all about for you? Exactly who you are?

Or did you just follow a path? Choose a way forward and plow on with your head down and your bum up?

Maybe none if these questions matter. Maybe you get one shot at living and so you better suck the marrow from it.

Maybe the best lives are those that are too full of love and survival to stop and waste time pondering existential dilemmas?

The thing I know for sure is that, with all it's light and dark, I am so grateful for this one sentient lesson-filled life and everyone in it.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Sky rockets in flight ...

Anyone for a little afternoon delight?
A glass of bubbles and some fine classical music this Sunday, I mean.

Tickets available from

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Today started early, sitting on the couch with Sacha when it was still dark. He read to me, books about goslings, while everyone else slept. Then he told me about the game he and his buddy play at school:'Bibby in Babbyland'. In this game, they build the 'bibbies' (acorns) houses out if 'babbies'(rocks). I liked the sound of that game. After the joy of our rare one on one sharing session, my boy took advantage of a mollified mother to ask if he could play the Xbox. Of course I folded like a deck of cards and decided to go back to bed.

I crawled back under the covers, the novelty of the morning chill made me grateful for their cosy comforts. I drifted back to heavy sleep and slept wrapped in those weird morning dreams.

At 9.15, a distant mobile ring dragged me reluctantly from that deep, dreamy slumber, and I half heard half the words wafting out of it:
'It's Mum... Dad... bleed ... emergency...'
I shot out of bed like a startled cat, was dressed and heading for the hospital before the message had time to play out.

Hurried in by the Triage nurse, (you always know things are serious when hospital staff hurry) I fastwalked, dazzled by the glare of fluorescent hospital lights, to find Mum and my sister by a bed, holding my prostrate father's hands, all of us white as his sheets.

The morning passed with nervous whispers, cafeteria coffee, more hand holding and Dane's humour keeping us buoyant. Always a man of few words and even fewer now, Dad's motivations to clarity never fail to amaze me. My sister said to him. 'You're tough, Dad' to which he quipped. 'Yeah, of course... I've got a beard!' And later when talk was getting a little grim and the medical staff were looking nervous, Dad piped up 'I'm not dead yet.' We laughed loudly and nervously and watched the machines that go beep.

Things were not looking good. He needed a procedure but finding the source of the bleed was a long shot.

We called the siblings, warned them of the potential end, waved him off to his procedure, looking down the barrel of a cure or to 'palliate' (who knew that was a verb?). We went home and worried.

'I'm not dead yet' he had said, and indeed he was right. They found the source of his bleed, fixed the glitch and now he is being doted on by ward nurses with veins pumped full of only slightly used blood. That beard is really working for him! And we are all booking in to the Red Cross to replenish some of the precious blood resources that saved Dane's bacon today.

So he lives to fight another day. Halleluia! Praise be!
The rest of us are a little pale and nauseous after the wild ride of today's emotional roller coaster, but nothing some Haighs white chocolate eggs and a gut full of hot cross buns didn't fix.

Trust Dane to make us reenact the Easter story for real, he always was a devoted Catholic. And what with that miracle beard of his and a lifetime of saving lives 'n all, he really is an excellent candidate for the part of the Messiah in today's Passion play.

It was a very good Friday.
Happy Easter to you!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Daring Greatly

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” - Teddy Roosevelt, 1910

My Auntie Sue died this morning. 
The dreaded cancer took her too soon, robbing her of the 80th birthday she would have celebrated this year. 

Sue was a woman of spirit, a woman who dared greatly. She always lived in the arena of life, always, and pulled others in there too, with her organisation and boldness, all the while telling stories and handing out faith and encouragement. 

She was a dedicated mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend, as her abundant loved ones will readily testify.

Her humour was wicked and  irreverent and she sometimes manifested a Dame Edna twang, adored and copied by my  sisters and me. She handed out whisky. dirty jokes and love in bucketfuls and her business acumen was undeniable. 
A woman who dared to divorce in the days when people didn't, to raise her sons proudly, to start a new life in a new town and build successful businesses, a woman who gave her later years to her island home, to worthy causes and as a mentor to fledglings at their beginnings. 

Her capacity for 'being there' was incredible. Throughout my father's continuing decline over the last decade, she was a rock for my mother and a regular and dependable hand to hold for my father. 

Her life story is extraordinary and ordinary . She was an Australian woman  of her time who dared to live life with gusto.

She  was full of joy and inspired joy in all of us.
Her life is to be honoured and celebrated. 

Goodbye, Auntie Sue. we will miss you. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Luthier - Go Behind the Scenery

Keep your eye out for the Luthier's Violin No. 3 on this excellent ad selling our wee state.  How exciting to be included with icons like MONA, Cradle Mountain. David Foster and that dude with the alpaca. It fills my heart when the luthier gets a bit of love for the work he does. It took more than 300 hours of hand making passion and an incredible amount of skill to make that beautiful instrument.  A little love for the work goes a very long way.

If you can't see the YouTube screen, click in the link

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


He's a crackerjack this boy, and he turned 12 on Tuesday.

My tween age boy ...
He can be a bit of a worrier, but his capacity to push himself through it and do what needs to be done is formidable.

He is independent and organised.
He has empathy and kindness in spades. Swears like a trooper and has been convinced by his father that playing in a band is the best part time job to put you through uni.
He sings like an angel.
He was the 12 year old boy gifted cookbooks, kitchen scales, measuring spoons and an Adriano Zumbo packet mix and was well chuffed.

We bought him an XBOX Kinect and tickets to the 360 degrees Allstars.
Colour and movement. He was super chuffed.

I had a turn on the XBox tonight... It's awesome! The highlight was my three children comprehensively losing their shit at the action snap shots that the box took of me and my enthusiastic attack on Reflex Ridge. Ha! Happy days

12 years ago on Tuesday, J entered the world and he has made it a happier place.
I can't wait to see what life has in store for this excellent kid.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Its been a while between posts. The will to blog has been elusive over the last few weeks. It turns out that happiness and contentment are not great blog fodder. I know myself, I get a little weary of reading over everyone's fabulous A game on the interwebs, to the point where I had to cut myself off from reading Che and Fidel completely. She is gorgeous, but there is only so much gorgeousness a girl can take.

So, I'll just say that the last few weeks have been fun. We've been to art exhibitions and a party, we boarded the PFunk mothership with George Clinton at the concert at MONA last weekend and stayed overnight in Hobart and had a hotel buffet breakfast (kid's highlight). We've worked really hard and spent some really nice time together, us Smiths.

Tassie is going off at the moment, Ten Days on the Island (our bi-annual arts festival) is on and there is art, theatre and music in every Tasmanian nook and cranny. Even Dame Kiri is on tonight in ol' Launny town!

There is a dynamic vibe going on the island and in Smith-life in general and it's just so good.

And, 12 years ago today, for the first time, I commenced the long journey of labour. Two days later after many hours of mono tonal wailing (the luthier, or 'the man who has seen too much' as he referred to himself post-babies, said he knew that something was finally happening when I changed pitch, hitting a higher note of course) our wonderful J- boy arrived. That's right, my eldest son is turning 12. We are so close to having a bona fide teen in the house, I don't know what to say, except ...

Holy shitballs, Batman!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

'You've made your bed ...'

Happiness is a made bed.
I've made mine just the way I like it
and lying in it feels fantastic.

Made, of course, with a help from my little friends.

This changed life feels like active rest, if that's possible. Like floating on your back with the current and staring up at the stars, moving with the flow with the confidence that its heading just where you need to go.

It flew like this:
I received thanks and sweet-smelling gifts from previous workmates and counted my blessings.
Work rolled in and the challenge was to say 'No' to too much rather than to chase not enough, for which I am truly grateful.
I got into 'Digital Ready' and met other people in our town making their own beds in business.
Hunted for venues for camerata concerts.

Embraced my Stepford side and cleaned house.
Baked cupcakes ready for school pick up to ward off the 'after- school hangries'.
Poached peaches with a dash of Pimms.

Walked out of a yoga class that felt more like beating yourself up with your own limbs than strength, spirit and movement and received a well-intentioned lecture from the very young, unmarried, childless teacher about the importance of embracing challenge.

Talked to first-time expectant mothers, shared their impending joy and shivered at everything they are about to learn that is impossible to explain in advance.

Was gifted 'The Red Tent' by a new sister and remembered how significant is domestic work and are the stories, culture and spirit passed from mother to daughter and the immense power of sisterhood and motherhood.

Welcomed my big boy home from camp and caught a bittersweet glimpse of the man he is becoming.

And I sat with Dane, honouring his life and going with the flow of his slow decline.

Even when it's messy, a bed of my own making is my favourite place to be.