At Our Table

My husband shared a story that was told to the congregation at a Catholic mass. The Priest spoke of two boys who had been friends throughout childhood and into their teens. They were good boys but one day something went very wrong and the boys vandalized a local shopfront. Police were called. Both boys were hauled to the station and phone calls were made.

The father of one of the boys went to the station and spoke with the Police and his son. He made arrangements for his son to apologize to the store owner and worked out how his son would pay for the damages. The Police were unable to contact the parents of the other boy.

The son was embarrassed and wanted to leave the Police Station as quickly as possible but his father said they would wait until his friend’s parents arrived. Time passed. Eventually a Police Officer asked the father if he could take the boy as they had not been able to reach the parents and several hours had now passed. Immediately the father agreed and he left with both boys.

Later when the father and his son spoke, the son asked his father why they had to stay at the Police Station for so long when they could have left much sooner. The son was upset that he was made to stay there so long and that so many people had seen him. The father explained that they could not leave his friend. His words to his son were simple – he is at our table, we do not leave him behind.

At our table – the place where we gather with family and friends. At our table – the place where our loved ones bring those who are special to them. Our tables are where we share food, drink and conversation. Where celebrations are held and memories made. Our tables may be in our homes or at our parks, laid across our towels on a sandy beach or at the gathering around the tray of a ute. What ever form our tables take, it is where talking, sharing and listening forges relationships. It is where ideas emerge and stories are shared. At our tables we learn, we experience, we bond, we connect and like the Father, we should strive not to leave those at our table behind.

The light from our lake was particularly soft and beautiful tonight. I sent a picture of it to our adult kids who live across closed borders in this time of COVID and messaged them that I wished they were here tonight, for dinner. I do enjoy cooking lovely food for them but it is the magic of gathering in one place, of sharing laughter and teasing, jokes and stories, memories, achievements and disappointments – the cementing of ties with those who have come to our table.

We’ve had many tables. The first one – a veneer table for six, rented from the Army in a house which was called ‘a married quarter’ whereas newly weds living hundreds of miles from both our families, we gathered with other young friends, soldiers and university students. We played loud music and argued about Irish politics. We debated everything and thought we knew it all! All who came to our table were served care and attention. They always felt welcomed. Many have faded away on geographical winds into new seasons at different tables but some remain connected and present in our life.

The table which stands in our family home is the first piece of furniture that we bought together. Found in the industrial parts of Townsville where antique wares were fashion and stunning silky oak furniture could never have imagined that one day they would be swathed in coats of trendy chalk paint. Made of black oak, our table and side board have travelled from posting to posting, with a couple of stints in storage during posts to America and the Middle East. At our table we have spent time with all of our family, parents now passed, siblings and their children. Best mates have enjoyed formal food whilst dressed in pajamas. It is the place where eyes meet, minds open and hearts are helped to heal.

Our family grew and so did our tables. We found ourselves in fancier ‘married quarters’ where family rooms and casual tables beside the kitchen continued to provide a space for messy, spilling, floor dropping family meals. Candles were blown over cupcakes, mermaid cakes and iced footy fields year after year – as three under five became three over twenty-five! At our table was noisy, sticky and guaranteed to be welcoming. The most special ones – those spent with our loved ones, what ever the occasion or not. Time spent together is occasion enough.

Although, there have been some crazy and overly spectacular tables. One a gathering of twenty-two really good friends where furniture was moved and trestles brought in to be covered and decorated so we that could all be gathered together to eat, talk and enjoy a long night which went on into the early hours of a freezing Victorian morning. A stunning grazing table in the United States where Generals and the odd Ambassador wanted to grab a selfie! Car tables at tail gate parties with new mates – it is more than spectacular to share the good times and friendship that comes from being at the table. Back yard barbies, picnics, stand up affairs in our kitchen, fire pit nibbles, sunset toasts – our precious time to lay aside the phones, social media and plug into the warmth of real connection.

Beautiful as they can be – at our table does not rely on lovely wood, polished silverware and matching china. I love that we have a gorgeous big place to sit out by the lake to gather, to meet, to catch up, to welcome and to connect. That feeling, the strengthening of ties and relationships does not require a fancy table. On this beautiful night as we miss our kids and their beautiful partners, it is their precious essence that we yearn for.

So we are reminded to make time whenever possible to gather around our tables. To mix wisely and gently with those whom we invite to our table. Time and connection are the most precious gifts we can bestow to those at our table.

My Swans Are Grieving

Out on the lake my swans are crying. Their call echos with sadness as the last of their babies was taken during the night. It has been a tough year for our black swans, the two who claim the lake and creek behind our home as their own. After raising six of their seven cygnets to adulthood last year – this year, this awful 2020 has seen them lose their entire nest early in the season only to create a second batch of five eggs to lose all of them in just a matter of weeks.

We suspect eels. The lake has not been harvested now for two years and we imagine the eel population has grown. They can be strikingly large and are no match for baby swans who stray too far from the protection of their parents. It’s hard not to hate the eels.

Nature gives and takes. I’m just going to give myself permission to be sad over it.

PVA Patron – A Legacy Piece

Late last year I was approached by the President of the Partners of Veterans Association Qld (PVA) to consider the role of Patron. During the early and less formal conversations I gave deep thought to this role and careful consideration of my involvement. After meeting with the board I felt strongly motivated and honoured to move forward with the role of Patron for PVA Queensland.

It is almost impossible to reflect back on a time when COVID19 was not a focus of our daily lives. In March 2020, PVA had to reluctantly move away from the face to face support work of the partners of veterans and exist in the new physically contactless world which was and in many ways remains our normal.

That is not to say that the President and board were not active and busy working with and through this new normal until conditions were such that the scheduled AGM at Hervey Bay in Queensland could proceed taking care and precautions with COVID19.

It was here in July 2020 that I was formally introduced and appointed as the first Patron of PVA Qld. I spoke of the honour, I talked a little of what I expected to achieve in the role but most importantly I expressed my deep hope that the partners of veterans would share their stories with me. It was a wonderful few days and I met many resilient, caring partners who generously gifted their memories, their challenges and achievements. It is my greatest goal to continue to foster these important bonds.

Welcome and Appointment of Patron with President of PVA Qld

Oh That’s Great News

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There is little to compare to the wonderful feeling that comes with good news.  Even more so if the great tidings come from a cherished child, a worthy family member or a terrific mate.

A few days ago I poured myself a cup of tea and got comfy to return a call that I had missed.  I was expecting a little catch up chat so when the news was shared it was all the more special.  It’s such a gift to be included in the personal joy of others.  That warm feeling in the belly that comes with genuine happiness for another is a welcome testament to honorable connections.

I thought to say, well deserved but in this case the opportunities were earned with hard work and fierce decisions.  We are team players in this game of life, this heady, full contact, blazing mass of love, aches, loss, hopes and dreams.  Enjoy the precious moments cheering on others from the sidelines – it’s simply beautiful.  I’m clapping like a big kid for my mates!

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Motherhood and Bug Spray

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Some days I think being a Mum and being a can of insect spray have a lot in common. What an ugly thing to compare the most precious and beautiful state of the human condition to!  Hold on though – my mind is running with the theme of protection.

From the moment we conceive or know that we have conceived most Mothers take every reasonable precaution to protect their growing baby.  At birth we are making decisions to best consider our soon to be newborns.  NO pain relief if it might cross the placenta! Nearly all parents and caregivers are in a constant state of doing everything they can to shield their children from all the physical and emotional harms which might come their way.

So if we are proactively trying to counter every possible situation before it happens then we might be a bit like the top shelf brand of surface spray getting into all the nooks and crannies before anything awful turns up.  Good old solid protection!

If we are skittering around fixing things for our kids (of course we are) delivering forgotten hats and homework books – kind of reminds me of chasing the flies out with the spray can.  Reactive protection – shield them from trouble and get rid of the baddies!

What if we can be the big gun Mums?  Those who have protection sorted, planned and never left to chance.  There are those Mums who just seem to get everything right and achieve very pleasing results.  Well, that has to be the precisely on date, full service pest protection which comes with guarantees and refunds for any slip ups.  Not that they happen.  Wouldn’t that be nice in the pesky, incredible and privileged business of parenting?

Insect spray and having kids – the comparison was a touch of whimsy as the notion scrambled in all sorts of directions in my mind as I caught a glimpse of the idea just barely out of the corner of my eye.

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Losing My Religion

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I can’t say I lost God because that would imply that at some point I found God.  I have always had a faith – I guess a belief in God, most likely brought about by a Catholic upbringing.  To be clear there is a tag for the Catholicism I experienced as a child.  It’s called being a C&E Catholic – Christmas and Easter.  We were a common group.

I attended a state primary school in the 1970s and the good Catholic ladies ensured that the kids with a C noted as their religion were rounded up to complete the sacraments.  I recall very little of the process except that it was a welcome diversion to the boredom of doing little else but going to school and being at home.

There were lessons with baked goods at the end (the best part).

We visited the church to give confessions (my standard mantra was – Forgive me Father for I have sinned, I have had bad thoughts) which I hadn’t – as all in all I was a happy kid who had no dramas, found academics almost too easy and lived to play netball in winter and softball in summer.  Life was good, so I confessed to bad thoughts and dutifully said the three Hail Marys as penance.

My two older siblings had completed their sacraments in Scotland before we arrived in Australia so my brother who was two years older was also part of our group making first communion.  My parents had a photo of us standing together outside of the church which disappointed my Mum when they were developed (back then you would leave your film at Kodak and wait at least a week for the pictures to come back in a packet) because I had dirty knees from playing which did not match my little white dress but did match my personality exactly!

So, I have asked myself – Am I losing my religion?  The more I think about it, the less I feel I ever had one to lose.  I married in a Catholic Church – yes, the same one but I only had photos taken in the garden this time so NO dirty knees!  My husband is Catholic and he absolutely has religion.  Weekly attendance at Catholic mass is vital to him – he describes it as the one hour a week he stops to focus on how he can do better.  He lives his religion and wishes to adhere to the formalities of his church.  He was not and never will be a C&E Catholic.

I spent most of my life with religion.  We went to mass as a family.  We opted for Catholic schooling in the hope that the environment would best match the family values in our home and extended family.  Our kids all completed the sacraments, willingly and happily enough.  I believe they have a sense of faith, a belief of more than the immediate.  As adults though, they do not participate in their Catholic communities. They do – out of regard, respect, perhaps compliance, attend services during holiday visits with us.  If they don’t realize it – doing so, means the world to their Dad.

I do need to contemplate my own faith, my beliefs and how I can best restore and nourish my connection to that which is more than the here and now.  My faith is being tested, has done so now for too many years.  It seems like my prayers are not being heard and are far from being answered.  It has made me less inclined to show up on Sunday.  I feel no guilt when I don’t.  That kid in me though, falsely confessing to bad thoughts does try to double the efforts after an absence in the hope that perhaps those prayers will be heard and the much needed miracle will happen.

My prayers are not for me and that just might be where the searching I need to do is leading me.  I do not ask for myself.  I have been on my knees in churches around the globe praying for the health and well being of one I love.  I am telling God that this life is declining and where are your eyes God, why won’t you look?  Where is the miracle – and what person will not bend and beg for the miracle to bring back energy, wellness and life – crazy, hectic full capacity life to a loved one.

Faith – we need to spend some time.  There’s a bit to do.

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Pendles Loves Rosie

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Rosie is just a little bit too good looking.  She actually can’t help walking with an air of nobility.  Rosie is regal – an absolute beauty.  Her expression is one of confusion should anyone not immediately pay close attention to her – she likes to be seen.  Rosie will simply not tolerate attention being given to others.

She pretends to kiss Pendles then will bite his lip.  I have seen Rosie push him back into the water when he tries to get out of the lake.  She dips her long blonde legs at the water’s edge while he swims far and deep trying to catch her eye.  He splashes about but most often Rosie has already moved on to another for her amusement.

Pendles adores Rosie.  He is never happier than when she visits.  His excitement ripples through his body as he tries to get close, hoping for her attention.  Rosie teases him with a little play, some flirting until someone more interesting comes along.

He will watch and wait with his caramel eyes – ready to respond should she signal the faintest interest in his presence.  If some other eyes stray over to this fine, young handsome fellow – well Rosie is there in a pounce, claiming her territory.

Pendles only loves Rosie.  No other will do for him.  She was his first love and will be his last.  His loyal qualities may be lost on Queen Rosie but for now he is content to wait for her.

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Twistie and a VB

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You must be Australian or have visited this stunning country or have loved an Aussie to have a comprehension of a twistie and a VB.  I have a new and deeply bittersweet connection to this combination of the uniquely yellow, salty, cheesy, twirly and crispy baked stubby chippy thing.  VB, well that is a little easier – it is a brand of beer.

Yesterday, my friend Kate responded to my message on the anniversary of William, their dear boy whom they were able to hold for less than a year.  William is brother to Jack who passed to heaven at just five days old.  It was the 20 year anniversary of William’s passing, sweet smiling William who is also brother to his beautiful sisters Emily and Jessica who are fine young woman stepping out into the world to discover their journeys.  I have deep faith that Jack and William also watch over their brother Paddy who personifies fun, happiness and goodness.

It is a love story.

Anything to do with Dave and Kate – is always a love story.  Love of family, each other, their children, their friends – life.  Deeply faithful, positive and with full hearts I have witnessed this resilient couple face the storms of life.  Their story is not mine to tell.

The lessons that their actions teach me are – love mightily, live compassion, model justice and family, those whom we cherish – well THIS is everything.

For me, the sharing of a story is a gift.  Given in the trust that it will be received in gratitude, cherished and respected.  The story of William, the twistie and VB tugs my emotions in two ways – sadness always for the loss but joy also that in the darkest time, love finds a way to enter with a moment to be cherished, remembered fondly – replayed in legacy, belief and love – always love.

I am adding an edit here and wanted it to stand out in bold and italics as it is a message from Kate.  After reading my words, Kate wanted to share their precious family memory and only Kate’s words are fitting.

“William got to try VB and twisties before he passed.  We gave them to him so he could experience two quintessential Aussie tastes.” (From William’s Mum, Kate).

The family continue this deeply personal tribute to William.  From frothy fills and squeaking packages comes a bond of love, grief and endless connection much stronger than any storm that dare try to show its dam self this way again.

It is a privilege to bear witness to great strength and resilience in this grounded family. Hanging out with them always means a roaring good time.  Pranks and fun!  Hosting is their brand – few could match it.  Dave and Kate are so consciously present in the epic which is life.

Lucky us, who get to share a little of it with them.

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Bucket List

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To get to the point – if the kids are married, have their own family and own a house then I’ll be sad to go but I won’t be worried about the kids which must make the going a bit less bloody awful!

I have a list of the things to be done before kicking the bucket – a previous list of desires written on a piece of paper and slipped between the pages of a lifetime event diary which records – just moments.  It is not particularly detailed.  In fact, it is no longer a valid list as I’ve come to the realization that I only want to see my children happy, secure and loved.

A few days ago I watched – via some social media platform (so many of them now) a short clip of a young American nurse singing a much loved song to a patient who was in the very end stage of life.  Indeed, the beautiful elderly woman passed in the following week.  Clearly with the permission of her family, that sweet moment was captured and I was deeply touched by the compassion of the young nurse who sung so lovingly with her patient who appeared calm, smiling and peaceful.  What a blessing to be cared for so gently in those final days.  My heart told me that the woman was ready – to be ready.

My hope, my wish, my dream is to see all three of my children settled with their own families.  Married, well – yes, I would feel contentment if marriage is the wish of all my children.  A declaration of love and commitment with family and true friends is a desire I have for each of my kids – whatever form that may take.  I adore that young people no longer follow a set of rules set by an invisible force of society.  They say you have to have…they say you must…they expect you to…who the heck are they?

We have the beautiful, fairy princess wedding of our eldest daughter as a happy and gorgeous memory.  Alex and Greg shared their commitment with loved ones and close friends in a beautiful ceremony which emphasized the beginning of their marriage in an elegant and personal ceremony.  They had a sparkling party in a pretty ballroom with dancing and happiness.  Fairy lights, white linens, candles and deep red roses and loved ones – some who are now passed, making the memory all the more special.

Harry and Heidi are planning their wedding which will be held in America in 2021. They are faced with the challenge of uncertainty at each turn as the global pandemic COVID19 continues to spread death and discord.  It will be extraordinarily special when we combine with Cathy, Heidi’s Mom and our families to witness and celebrate the marriage of these two spectacular young people.  I know they want a family and my biggest hope is to know and love their stunning children – and I can guarantee they will be tall!

Annie wants to have children.  Lucky babies who have this amazing woman as their mother.

I pray that all of my kids are blessed with a family should they want to nourish children with love, care and time.  I would feel content to know them in their own homes, with their dedicated and sturdy partners and their children, should a family be on their own little bucket lists.

I know for Shane and I, our own parents were content and proud of their children knowing they had jobs which would sustain them, had chosen worthy partners and made sensible decisions to ensure their own families – all of us blessed, had comfortable and loving homes.

So the bucket list does not contain trips to Paris although I would like to walk on the soil of Scotland one last time.  It has nothing to do with dollars, cars or villas in exotic locations.  I have no desire to be strapped to some rookie jumper out of a tourist aircraft unless perhaps it is Shane whom I would actually trust to check the gear!

My three loves and their own loves can and will fill my bucket should I be so blessed.

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How To Win, Lose and Regain a Contract in less than 48 hours

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After nearly five years out of paid employment and naively believing I am up to speed with technology – well, let’s just say it’s a whole new world out there!

It was surprisingly easy to achieve the above.

Go camping on the very day the contract link is sent via email.

Camp freestyle with no power and intermediate phone coverage.

Open contract via email in transit and assume that technology such as print, sign, scan, download, attach and send is required and that one and half days is not too long to wait to do so.

Have no clue about docusign!

Check phone in tent at 9pm and finally get coverage to dash off reply to urgent text reminder to sign contract – reply, however it is never to be seen (but showing at my end) Even I know DO NOT REPLY usually means auto – but none on this one so it remains a telco mystery.

Arrive home to the sane world of an actual computer and deal with the volley of events.

Emails and actual telephone conversations.

‘Little’ lesson on docusign from one I birthed – ‘they’ become very useful! (You can actually hear ‘eye rolling’ over a messenger call with no video).

Sorted!  I try not to long for the days when a turnaround was not required within hours, minutes even!

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