A grateful heart.

Thank you

Thank you

Today I find myself aware of so many things I’m grateful for.

I arrived home last night after a trip to visit my brother and sister. My sister has a mental illness, my brother cares for her. Every day of my life I grieve for my sister, my baby sister, ten years younger. Every day of my life I am grateful to my brother and his care of her.

My sister, my brother, myself and pet rabbits- a very long time ago!

I am grateful I was finally able to make the trip. I have wanted to for so very long and I’m so very glad that at last I  have the time and the energy. I get to see where she lives, share her birthday and spend some time with both of them.

During the long train and bus travel, I texted and phoned the friend I was going to stay with en route and my brother, reminding me how much I appreciate mobile phones and emails. I’m running late? No problem. Send a text. I’m feeling distressed?  Text a friend I know will understand. I get messages from caring friends to let me know they’re thinking of me, phone calls from friends to check how it’s going.

I’m home again. Send some emails to let everyone know how it went. So simple, so useful.

Gums and European trees at our picnic spot.

Gums and European trees at our picnic spot.

Southern New South Wales is so different to the Mid North Coast. We don’t get much change of season, a few deciduous trees, a few spring bulbs.  Canberra is a city of trees, many of them from the Northern Hemisphere- oaks, elms, ashes, spruce, cedars, birches…such an abundance and all with delicious new spring growth. I could have walked and touched and marveled and enjoyed for many days.  I’m grateful I could experience them even briefly.

I meet some of the community who support my sister and I’m overwhelmed by the love they have for her and for the loving-kindness they extend to me as I break down in tears. I am so very grateful.

the joys of Spring.

the joys of Spring.

Coming home our bus to Sydney passes through the Southern Highlands. One of the  pleasures of my life is to visit this area in Spring and Autumn, something I haven’t been able to do for too long. It’s green and lush. Lilacs are in bloom. Fences and trellises drip with wisteria. Blossom trees, tulips, roses…old stone houses…lambs…I feast on it all.

A moment of synchronicity. We’re stopped briefly at Bowral station and I get a phone call. It’s a cousin with whom I have a special connection and had accidentally dialed the day before. The synchronicity? She lives in Bowral and is about two minutes away- driving! Unfortunately there is no time to see her, but we make an agreement for me to visit soon, something else I need to do.

If we can care for ducks, can we not care for each other?

If we can care for ducks, can we not care for each other?

Then, on a busy main road the traffic both ways is held up. For what? A family of ducks- mother, father and six ducklings are crossing the road, in safety. Bless the softness of the human heart that stops to let ducks cross. And remember this moment as a reminder to trust that goodness of the human heart to care for both my sister and my brother when I am not able to do so.

How embroidery is helping women in Pakistan stand up to honor killings and inequality

kategresham:

My local book club that I started several months ago, has now also become a sewing group. Some of us meet in local rooms to sew, whether that is clothes or embroidery or patchwork or knitting or cochet or making curtains or …if you’re me, until now…to talk and be with others. Doing things together has always seemed to me to be a powerful communication. Busy hands seems to free up the mind; talk follows and often, true community. Here’s an inspiring story of change using a traditional craft. Enjoy it and be inspired!

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

Khalida Brohi grew up traveling between two very different parts of Pakistan: the bustling city of Karachi, where her parents moved so that she and her sisters could go to school, and a small village in Balochistan, where her family has its roots. Brohi got a modern education, and also developed a deep reverence for her tribal traditions. Those two threads often tangled — especially when it came to the treatment of women.

As a teenager, Brohi watched as, one by one, her childhood friends entered arranged marriages, sometimes against their will. When she was 16, she received word that a close friend had been murdered by her family in an “honor killing.” She set her mind on starting a movement to stop these practices. But as it gained momentum, it also spurred a backlash.

“We were challenging centuries-old customs in these communities. They stood up, saying we were spreading un-Islamic behavior,”…

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Brain surgery and other scary things.

A reminder to live fully.

A reminder to live fully.

A few years ago I had brain surgery. The right branch of my carotid artery had an aneurysm, big enough to need surgery. I am alive because I have a clip (I call it a paper clip) on my artery.  The MRI also found a second aneurysm on the left branch of my carotid artery. Since then it has been checked regularly with an angiogram. I can’t have another MRI as the magnetism could  pull the clip out, or at least dislodge it. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

These were found by accident. I had no symptoms, but had complained to my doctor about my ear- feeling blocked,  giddiness, pain when I flew… it was probably sinus, but just to be sure…The ear was fine, but…I had an aneurysm. MRI, visit to a brain surgeon…too big to ignore, must be operated on.

Found by accident? Or one of the many blessings and miracles of my life?

Tantrum from me. Definitely did not want brain surgery. Handouts from the hospital- skull with piece cut out pictured on front. Threw it away, without reading. No one was going to do that to me.

great scar, shame about the hair.

Date set. The ninth of July. Uh oh. My most auspicious date, my day of celebrating my re-birth. How could this be anything but positive? Coloured my hair plum. After all, it was going to be shaved so I could experiment. A nasty colour, for me.

Brain surgery. It was too big to get my mind around. An aneurysm. It was too scary to contemplate, so I didn’t. The reaction of other people surprised me. They seemed to think this was significant, urgent, frightening… It wasn’t until afterwards I began to hear the stories: the young woman who had died on my local beach- an aneurysm had burst; the man who was now paralysed down one side, an aneurysm had bled…I had protected myself by closing my eyes to the reality.

Brain surgery. Yes, but they weren’t really operating on my brain were they, only an artery. Afterwards, checks every hour. What’s your name? What’s the date? (Who knows? I’ve had an operation, been in Intensive Care.) Where are you? Count to ten. Most questions I could answer, although I did ask them to come up with something different, I was getting bored with the same ones.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

There were effects. My sleeping was destroyed, until it reached crisis point and I had to demand extreme help. My short term memory is affected. But…I am alive. My brain still works, quite well really. I like it…a lot. And I truly value it… greatly. In fact, I love and cherish it.

And I still have an aneurysm. A small one, but an aneurysm. I’m always aware of it, ticking away up there in my head. And now I know how serious that is. I have been told by the psychiatrist who treated me during the sleep crisis, that the brain suffers some damage as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. So mine has suffered some damage already. I do not want to run the risk a second time. I do not want to experience another sleep crisis. I know why sleep deprivation is a torture, I’ve lived it.

But, nor do I want to run the risk of the aneurysm bleeding or bursting. Neither have good outcomes- death or incapacity. So I have regular angiograms and trust the results, trust that while it’s small it’s harmless.

On Friday I had an angiogram, hence this post. I am left confused by the results. It showed no aneurysm. I ask “Do arteries heal themselves?”  “Has it disappeared?”  “Is this the result of a simple life with little stress?” “Can I celebrate or has there been a mistake?” I wait to hear from my brain surgeon.

The gift of life.

The gift of life.

Meanwhile I shall live this day- fully, richly, moment by moment, because I have experienced how fragile life is. I have no excuse but to treasure each moment I have.

 

 

 

 

The Equinox.

Day and night of equal time.

Day and night of equal time.

Monday, the twenty-second of September is the Equinox. The time of equal light and darkness. Everyone on earth experiences a twelve hour day twice a year on the Spring (Vernal) and Fall (Autumnal) equinox.

And now I quote from the Gratefulness website - “These events remind us that we are one planetary family and motivate us to live in harmony with all life.”

I didn’t know. I didn’t know that on the Equinox all over the Earth we all experience a time of equal light and equal dark. I marvel at this. I am filled with wonder. All over the earth our day and night will be the same! I can sense our sameness, rather than our difference.

“let there be praise of our mutual beauty, our total loving of the World.” ( gratefulness webpage)

How can we not protect them?

How can we not protect them?

Saturday I joined people  gathering together as part of a worldwide movement to demonstrate their commitment to save the planet and to focus attention on the supreme importance for all of us all over the world to halt climate change. Here in our Valley the focus was to highlight the problems with coal seam gas development and fracking.

Sunday, all over the world, people will gather to show this same commitment- to halt climate change; to stop the burning of fossil fuels and to end increases in carbon. This day has been organised prior to the UN meeting of World leaders this week to discuss  the coming crisis in climate change, the UN’s Emergency Summit.

the joy of roses.

the joy of roses.

Sunday also happens to be The International Day of Peace, established by the UN as a day of global ceasefire to strengthen the ideals of peace within all nations. And it is World Gratitude Day, started by the UN Meditation Group  to promote the cause of worldwide gratitude. An auspicious time- the Equinox and special days, all falling around each other.

At the TED@unilever conference, Keith Weeks, Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications officer is quoted saying “When someone asks what is the case for sustainability?  I ask ‘What is the case for the alternative’?” Good question. We know what we have to lose, well we know some of it, if we fail to halt global warming. And it is unthinkable, unbearable, heartbreaking. But what if we act as if climate change is happening and we humans can halt it? What do we have to lose? Maybe we won’t be quite as affluent in some countries.  Maybe we will need to change our lifestyle. Maybe life will become simpler. Is that a negative?

They are losing their habitat.We could all dedicate five minutes to spend in meditation. We could all contemplate the beauty of this Earth and our love for her. We could ponder our humanness and all we have in common. We could sit in gratitude for all that we do have. We could remember what we have to lose.  And we could consider what we can do.

 

POSTSCRIPT.

Today is Tuesday. The Climate March has happened all over this Earth. This link will share a report.

Blocked

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I feel overwhelmed. Stuck. Blocked. Frustrated. Can’t move forward. Can’t move back. Can’t move sideways. Haven’t been writing, haven’t been to the gym, the “to do” list just keeps on getting longer.

Know that feeling?

I live in a spacious house. All by myself. Large rooms- back deck and front porch; wide, long room downstairs; gracious loungeroom and a huge, sunny family room + kitchen. When my co-housing partner lives here, there will be the grand total of two of us

scary, isn't it?

scary, isn’t it?

But. I can’t settle my work space. Right now I’m camped in the dining room (yes, there’s a dining room as well) – computers set up on the dining table, papers strewn everywhere, books stacked…Angie, my co-housemate suggests the second bedroom is my space and some stuff is in there-  left over clothes of mine that don’t fit in my bedroom, a largeish table, full boxes and plastic crates, all my paperwork, stationery…Downstairs is stuffed with furniture- a desk, a workbench, cupboards, bookshelves, books and books and books, filing cabinets, plastic crates full of stuff belonging to both of us, all my parents’ family photos waiting to be sorted, my notes from courses I have run, old letters (of course!), boxes of Angie’s…all waiting to be sorted. There’s no garage, so downstairs is where it’s all at. My stuff, and it is stuff, is scattered in three places. No wonder I keep losing things.

Where do I settle my study? upstairs? second bedroom? downstairs? the dining room? turn the loungeroom into a work space? Where do we put guests?

questions,

questions,

I haven’t mentioned the garden. You remember the garden? One of our aims is to be as self sufficient as possible, so the garden is a top priority. Well, here I am, eighteen months later, and I’ve only been playing around the edges. Where will I create the beds? How will I make them? Where do I start? Treated pine edging or colorbond or?  If I put a tree there, will it stop the sun?  Questions, uncertainty, indecision… and I’m back where I started from, feeling stuck.

By now, you’re probably feeling irritated with me and want to tell me to “stop carrying on , just get on with it!” I’m irritated with me!

However. And there is usually an however. I have watched people talking about how they feel blocked and I have seen that they have solutions. I’ve watched them reject any options or possibilities. For some reason they didn’t want to move forward.

What does this tell me now? That I am refusing solutions? Choosing to stay stuck? Why do I keep rejecting any possible solutions?  What am I frightened of?

This is a life lesson, of course. It’s not just in our homes or gardens we get stuck. How many times have you been at a point where you have felt powerless, you can’t make a choice and  your life’s been  in a holding pattern?

And isn’t it an uncomfortable place to be? No energy, restless, I take to prowling about, unable to settle anywhere. Nothing gets done.

What was I told once? It doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need. Here and now, it doesn’t matter what choice I make. All that matters is to start. It’s my old friend, fear- the fear of making a mistake. What did I learn, many years ago, from Susan Jeffers? To “feel the fear, and do it anyway”. What do I have to lose?

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

P.S. If you have an idea about the garden or the house, I’d love to hear it. Think outside the square!

 

 

 

 

Love Letters straight from the Heart.

Remember letters? You wrote to someone on paper, put it in an envelope, addressed, stamped  and posted it.

A bundle of friends.

A bundle of friends.

Remember the feeling when you get a letter? Remember the feeling of anticipation, trying to guess who it may be from if you don’t recognize the writing. How long since you wrote a letter or since someone wrote a letter to you?

I don’t mean emails. I love emails. They’re quick, can be brief, are great for making arrangements and for staying in touch with a lot of people.

So far, I haven’t used Facebook much, but I can see how  useful it is for sharing stuff with lots of people.

But real letters, think about them for a moment. Think about letters you’ve received that mattered to you. Do you have a bundle of kept letters? If you’re young, you may never have received one. Do you still get birthday cards in the mail or is an email good enough?

Treasured letters.

Treasured letters.

I have a letter from my grandmother so old the paper is worn away in some of its folds. There’s a note my father sent me when I was seventeen and had just left home. A box of cards from  people I have never met sent to me in hospital, a very ill girl far away from home. They gave me the courage to keep going.  Do I keep emails?

Well yes, sometimes I do, but…do I re-read them? Do I hold them in my hand and treasure them? Do they bring back memories of that person as I see her beloved handwriting? Do I remember the moment I found them in the letter box?

There’s discussion here in Australia about ending a daily mail delivery. I had been thinking about letters, prompted by the rarity of my receiving any before this discussion began. Somehow it now seems more urgent. One of my friends is diligent about sending cards and my mother was known and appreciated for sending notes to her friends to let them know she was thinking of them. I’m slack at sending birthday cards- first I have to find one I like, then I resist the cost.. often I end up with a card I haven’t managed to post. I have several August birthdays I meant to…

If I like getting a letter, won’t other people enjoy it too?

Letters provide us with history. They fill in the detail. Cronechronicler is blogging the letters she sent her small sons while she and their father were abroad. Fortunately she had kept them. I have a letter my mother had kept for more than fifty years- I wrote it to her when she was away in hospital and I was twelve. I don’t remember writing it and that twelve year old self is a distant echo. You can imagine my feelings when I found it, after her death. I was so glad that twelve year old had written it.

Maybe they're full of letters!

Maybe they’re full of letters!

While I’ve been pondering getting mail and writing letters and as we Australians may lose our regular mail delivery, I discovered a movement to send a letter to a stranger through a TED talk (God bless TED!). Hannah Bencher, whose mother wrote regularly to her, became depressed after college, so she did what came naturally- she wrote love letters to strangers and left them wherever she went. She blogged about this and promised “if you ask me for a hand-written letter, I will write you one.” Overnight she was inundated with requests. As she says “her inbox morphed into this harbor of heartbreak”.

This simple beginning is now a global initiative- “The world  needs more love letters.”  Her talk is moving and inspiring and the stories she tells will warm your  heart. I am determined to take paper and pen and write! I have bought some sheets of beautiful paper, I have stacks of cards…maybe my neighbour would like a letter in her box? In the meantime, I have those August birthdays. It’s not too late to write.

 

 

 

 

 

The kindness of strangers and my undying gratitude.

We had big storms here last week and the State Emergency Services have been endlessly busy.

The SES big truck was called to my house once. It was my very first returning- to- work half- day after long months of absence with CFS. A big day.

Bear the cat, at home and comfy.

Maybe Bear isn’t looking all that chastened.

I drove into my carport and could hear a cat in distress. Bear had jumped onto the hot water tank in the corner, miscalculated and fallen head first down the small space between the tank and the wall. Too small for him to right himself, there he was, wedged head first, back legs in the air, crying. I could just reach him but not well enough to get a hold. I started crying…and panicking.

Help!

Help!

What does a woman do in such a moment but call 000? Yes, I was assured, someone would help. In the meantime I phoned back, sobbing, to my workplace. Long ago I had taught  two of the women who worked in the front office. I have presumed a lot on this association. One of them answered and was her usual commonsensical self. She would phone the father of one of our school families who lived in my small hamlet. ( This was neither the first nor the last time that this wonderful group of women would care for my sobbing self.)

The father was contacted, arrived with his family, then with that brisk practical sense of country people he set about undoing the tank, emptying the hot water and  freeing one distraught and muddy cat. His very sweet wife dealt with one  extremely distressed and grateful woman while the children offered pats on the back and sympathy. (I have quite a special relationship with those children now.)

Emergency services to the rescue!

Emergency services to the rescue!

It was then the Emergency Services pulled up, a big truck with all the bells and whistles,  to find one sobbing woman, a chastened, and dishevelled cat, a hot water service being re-assembled and the family of my rescuer standing about making kind noises. These busy people were understanding about a wasted trip and my small hamlet enjoyed the spectacle.

Bear the cat insisted on several lottery tickets being given to his rescuer (I don’t think he even liked cats!) and he continued to send him Christmas cards. Nowadays I have a special bond with his wife and children. The time Bear was caught behind the water tank became a favourite story in their classes. Children enjoy seeing their teachers displaying less than their usual competence. It makes us more human.

Once again I was offered the opportunity to accept generosity and kindness with humility and great gratitude. These people expected nothing back and were happy to help.

I’m a slow learner. I keep learning the same lesson- that I can ask for help. A mentor once told me to reach out- isn’t that asking for help? I look back and can see so many times when I didn’t know I could even ask. What a difference there could have been!

And it’s a memory in my collection of stories when I have been cared for, unexpectedly. The stories I take out when the world seems a little bleak . The stories I keep in my gratitude book.  A large collection and a large book.

What are your stories? What are you grateful for? Can you ask for help?

Railroaded and Blended: Thirstless in a Bloodthirsty World, Sober in a Laughless One

kategresham:

I have long worried about the amount of violence to which children are routinely exposed. I choose to never watch either violent or horror movies. My spirit doesn’t need them and they can certainly prey on my mind. Judy’s post speaks from the heart.

Originally posted on lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown:

Railroaded and Blended: Thirstless in a Bloodthirsty World, Sober in a Laughless One

Every day, our children are mesmerized by computer games where they hunt down and kill. TV shows go from violent to horrific—all echoing a world made increasingly more warlike as the war games of children grown into the war games of politicians and financiers who seek political and financial gain by first vilifying and then “going after” their enemies.

It is not my dreams, but rather my waking world that’s tortured by the bloodthirst of our world. At night, in my bed before sleeping, I fear for my own breathing and have to go outside for the comfort of cool night moving air. That scene from “The Bridge” where a child is buried alive with water slowly filling his crypt—will not go away. I am stuffed to strangling with earth’s cruelty.

My dreams remain my own, so…

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