The Gift of Giving

In the early months of my parents’ relationship, my mum met my dad’s mother. She took her a gift. It was nothing fancy but a goodwill gesture that implied something along the lines of ‘I come in peace’. My grandmother received it awkwardly, unwrapped it, left the room and came back with a box of something she’d pulled from the cupboard wrapped in the very same paper.

Honestly. Families are weird.

Admittedly, there are more factors at play here than simply etiquette, Mum’s future mother-in-law had a general dislike for anyone who dated my father. So perhaps this is a bad example to begin with but it is a neat segue into gifting.

Finding the perfect item for someone is THE BEST THING EVER! I get so much joy from this it may even be one of my favourite things. Being in a position to give is a privilege I will never take for granted. With Christmas looming, I thought I’d share my gifting philosophy – at times it’s a little unconventional.

Working in retail for many years of my life, it fascinated me how people would like something more if it was the right price, or rather, the amount they’d mentally assigned to spend on the giftee. There’s obviously logic here and I’m also governed by what I can afford, but if my gift is cheaper than expected I try to resist the inclination to add to my present. Especially if it’s purely for the sake of matching my budget. Next year, I might find just what I want to a little more than budget and I reckon it all evens out. Social expectation has us in fear of appearing mean when it really is the thought that counts.

I switch on my gifting-radar and leave it on all year. Much like the police are tuned into suspicious behaviour and writers think about plotlines on the way to the store, I’m constantly on the lookout for gift ideas. I start thinking about Christmas in January and birthdays months in advance, this is especially important for people I consider difficult to buy for. It also takes the stress out of it financially because my gift-buying is more evenly distributed through the year and it removes that last minute panic because I buy it when I see it.

I have a present drawer. This sounds more organised than it actually is. I really should label stuff when I put it in because a few times a year I find myself rummaging through it, trying to remember who I bought what.

The gift of time. Offering to baby sit or making yourself available for an afternoon of room-painting can be welcome help for the right people. For those arty-crafty-creative types, taking the time to make gifts is rewarding and personal.

The common card. It’s the simplest way to let people know you’re thinking of them. A thoughtful, simple, beautiful, delightful or humorous card that appeals to the receiver’s sensibilities can be the perfect gift in itself.

The important thing is, give because you want to and expect nothing in return.

Gifts are unconditional.

nanopoblano2015darkClick on the link to visit the team of Tiny Peppers. It’s Rarasaur’s version of NaBloPoMo and it’s called Nano Poblano.  Or, as I’ve been calling it lately Nano Problano.

We’re blogging every day in the month of November! I think I’m actually getting the hang of this.



Today is Remembrance Day and this year is the one hundredth anniversary of Gallipoli.

It is really important that we remember those we have lost at war. It is really important we remember who fought and returned home. It’s really important that everyone is acknowledged for their part.

I mean no disrespect, but I struggle.

I struggle with the ever increasing media surrounding these events. A nauseating quantity of documentaries, shows and interviews that border on the commercial exploitation of what are, and should be, sombre days.

I found a Victory Medal from the WWII among my grandfather’s things and wondered who was feeling victorious. The ‘We Lost Less Medal’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

My grandparents never attended an ANZAC Day ceremony. We lived by an instinctive, barely spoken mantra:

“Don’t mention the war”

And we didn’t. But memories surfaced in random moments and my grandfather’s eyes would grow wide and he’d rant about blood and bombs and he’d grab hold of my arm so hard it hurt. I was young – too young to understand mental illness and terms like shell-shock and paranoia.

I knew he scared me sometimes. I knew I loved him more than he scared me. I knew this wasn’t him.

My grandparent’s believed, lest we remember.

It’s something I cannot forget.

nanopoblano2015darkA serious post for Day 11 of Nano Poblano.

Spread the love, click on the image and visit the AMAZING team of Tiny Peppers!


Possum Magic

Sometimes I think Australia is misunderstood. When I visited the UK and Ireland a couple of years ago, it was interesting to hear how different countries (and indeed, my distant relatives) viewed ours.

A pattern emerged. Australia is made of venomous spiders and snakes and glorious beaches,  sharks, bikinis and surf boards, and a large rock, kangaroos and echidnas. We have a bridge and an opera house and sunshine.

And we all go around saying ‘G’day’.

We don’t.

I mean, some people do, like some people say, ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ or ‘how are you?’ and maybe that includes those from non-English speaking backgrounds or our indigenous population, or it might not. We are a big continent – our accents get broader or thinner depending upon the part you grew up in.

It’s like going to Ireland assuming everyone says ‘Top of the mornin’ to ye’ and it’s all leprechauns and clover leaves and Riverdance and Guiness and St Patrick’s Day. It’s not. This is what tourist advertising does. They tell you what you think you want to hear and they get it all wrong. If I had been given an outsiders’ idea of Australia –  I wouldn’t come here. Except perhaps for kangaroos and echidnas.

We also have quokkas and platypuses and extraordinary wildlife and wilderness and beaches that aren’t covered tanned folk but are blustery and rugged with lighthouses. Bush that can be rainforest or alpine or dry. We have areas that get snow and sunshine. And these are only in the small parts of this continent that I’ve touched. I’m sure there’s much more wonder to be had.

I’m getting way off track.

On the downside, we also have possums. They’re quite cute when you catch them, wide eyed, with a torch on a midnight walk but not so much fun if they’re in your roof space. One took up residence and woke us up the other morning as it returned from whatever-possums-do-at-night to our place to sleep.

We could hear it creaking around, fitting into walls and snuggling into nooks. As my husband and I were sitting in the lounge room, I heard it in the ceiling next door.

“It’s on the move” I said.

My husband dashed upstairs into the attic.

After about twenty minutes of silence, I ducked into the attic to see my husband in the darkness, with a finger to his lips before pointing to possum’s place in the roof.

I quietly retreated downstairs.

Five minutes later, my husband emerged and threw on his shoes.

“He’s out! I saw him jump from the roof to the tree.”

And my husband was outside with a touch and a ladder, lopping our tree so the possum couldn’t access the house.

Welcome to Australia.

Don’t Quote Me

I’ve managed to make it to Day 9 of Nano Poblano without writing a list blog. Except for the Lost post, but that doesn’t count because it wasn’t written in eleventh-hour panic. Today, I’ve drawn a blank but fortunately Ra kindly left a prompt page for such occasions. Although they are list-prompts, I read through them to see if one of them could inspire a non-list post.

“Stuff you’ve said that’s worth quoting”

I don’t think I’ve ever said something worth quoting, at least, nothing I can recall, but it reminded me of something a colleague said about me.

I had to make a phone call to give a client some bad news. On a bad-news scale, it was nothing drastic, but I was about to tell someone something they didn’t want to hear. After I’d hung up the phone my colleague said, “Wow you’re so good at that – shattering people’s dreams! You know just what to say!”

We laughed.

“Perhaps it’s my lame super power. ”

“You  should be called The Disillusionist!”

I suppose the nice word for it, is diplomacy. People have remarked before that I have the right words – I know what to say and how to say it. I’ve always been the mediator among friends, the messenger between colleagues and the one who steadies the boat.

I guess I’ll never know how many people who I’ve left with the wrong words but I always remember moments where I believe my words have helped people cope, no matter how obscurely.

nanopoblano2015darkA few years ago, a friend of mine lost a member of their family. She paced, trying to walk away from her tears and eye contact with the people offering to help carry her pain.
“Why?” she asked, “I don’t understand why awful things always seem to happen to good people.”

“No one talks about the bad people.” I said.

And she smiled, for a brief moment she smiled.


While trying to work my way around all the Little Peppers’ blog posts, I found this one at Part-Time Monster. It made me ponder what I have lost and how much there is to lose. Then I felt fortunate that I haven’t lost more. Sometimes we have no control over it and other times, maybe we are careless. I guess it is all relative. Some things I’ll never get back, others, I might yet see again.

Like that gift voucher that expires early December.

I’ve lost both sets of grandparents. Which makes them sound like salt and pepper shakers that I left in a car park somewhere. Lost is a strange euphemism for death. But, while the ache of loss never leaves you, I stopped feeling angry that they died and felt  privileged that I knew them to an age where I was old enough to remember them. Old enough to have meaningful relationships with them. Old enough to understand what it meant to lose them.

I’ve lost a dog and two cats and the tree outside my bedroom window.

I lost Billy Goat Gruff when I was three. I took him as a shopping companion with Mum and he never came home. Strangely, I can’t remember what he looked like but I vividly remember my distress when he went missing.

Every year, we gave up some of our things to charity. Technically, that doesn’t classify as ‘lost’ except, I gave up MonkeyMonkeyMoo and regretted it. My aunt knitted him for me when I was in hospital. I kept other things she knitted that were smaller and easier to store.

I’ve lost friends to nothing more sinister than different paths. I lost a book to one of those friends, but I believe the book is better with her.

I lost my favourite dangly earring one winter.

I lost my purse on Christmas Eve and got it back five days later with everything still in it.

I’m losing hair and skin cells and youth with every passing year.

Hopefully I have lost misconceptions and ignorance and fear.

I’ve lost my internet connection and found nanopoblano2015darkit.

Perhaps I have lost religion but found faith.

Perhaps I have lost my mind but found sanity.

So much to lose, but still so much to find.

Spinskees and Happiness

Spinkees are spiders. I have this desire to cute-speak everything – even things that creep me out. I remember being newly engaged to my husband and as I waved my parents away from the house, I turned to face a spider.

‘Eek! Spinskee!’

‘Did you just say “spinskee”?’

‘Uh oh.’

I’d like to say he was surprised but in reality he grinned all-knowingly, with eyebrows raised. Perhaps he didn’t know I called them spinskees, but he knew might. He knew I would.

Some months later,  I text him:

‘There’s a spinskee on the loose in the house!’

It was a huntsman. They’re quite gentle but large spiders and I believed it could wait for capture-and-release when he got home. I believed that until it disappeared.

The only thing worse than a spider in the house is a missing spider and after moving serveral pieces of furniture I found it behind a bookcase. By the time my husband arrived home, I had it secured by a fishbowl vase and fixed against the wall with books. I’d completely rearranged the house around the spider.

After marriage and our own home, one evening, I took a bath. I pulled the face-washer from the edge of the bath, dunked it in the water and ran it up my leg. A spider crawled out.

I squealed and flung the face-washer to one end of the bath while I cowered at the other. Now, I’m not completely useless with spiders. When I know they’re there I can handle them, I just struggle when they surprise me. So as a moment passed, I wondered how I would deal with the spider that now emerged leg by leg onto the floating face-washer. I could hear my mother’s wisdom, ‘It’s as scared as you are.’

I relaxed a little.nanopoblano2015dark

My husband appeared, ‘Are you alright?’

‘Yeah, there’s a spinskee.’ I paused, ‘Did you hear me squeal?’

He nodded.

‘Did you wait for a commercial before you came?’

His eyes went wide and panicked, ‘Mayyyybe.’

Now Wait a Doggone Minute

Part II, see Part I here.

Beach Little Dog

Little Dog

My parents have learnt a lot about their dog since adopting her from the shelter. She couldn’t stand the smell of smoke, or any vehicle noisier than a two-stroke motorcycle. She feared the kitchen and kitchen-type noises. She feared a door that was neither open or shut. She feared feet. She didn’t understand water could be found in designated bowls. She thought a ball was a weapon rather than a toy. She didn’t know grass, sand or dirt. She didn’t know she could dig. She cowered at any hand that reached for her.

My parents have learnt she loves children and will wag her backend off and/or cross traffic at the sight of one. She’s also an optimist. Despite evidence she’s been abused by the adult man of her previous life, she continues to approach men, cowering with appeasing Bambi-eyes, sometimes dragging herself along on her stomach to reach them in the hope of their approval.

I marvel at how adaptive and forgiving dogs can be and for Little Dog, most of the fears and anxieties she exhibited in those early days have dissipated, or in some instances, disappeared altogether.

This brings me to the day she was attacked by another dog. She survived, and she walks through the park where the attack took place without hesitation and continues to ignore other dogs like they don’t exist. The only thing that has changed is Little Dog gets defensive when strange dogs race up to her, even if they intend to play. They can bark or do cartwheels for all she cares so long as they keep their distance, but a fast-paced introduction leads to growling and a brief scuffle. This is compounded by my mum’s own anxiety on the issue, who’s now fearful of any dog off-lead.

This would be manageable except for the surprising number of dog walkers who disrespect our wish to not engage with their dog.

They say, ‘it’s fine, she won’t hurt’ or, ‘he’s friendly’ but it’s incidental – we don’t want other dogs racing towards ours but we cannot convey this, or Little Dog’s back-story before the other dog gets to us. Even if we manage to say ‘Can you please put your dog on lead’ they offer the same answers. A man told my mum to take her ‘f*cking dog elsewhere’ among other profanities as he had no control over his own dog nor had he bothered to even bring a lead. In another instance a woman told me indignantly it was an off-lead area. I said, ‘that’s fine, but as you have no control over your dog, how can I protect yours from mine?’

[Okay, so I wasn’t quite that eloquent, but I conveyed that point and it gave her something to think about.]

Even though we put our dog on lead when another approaches, it’s rarely read as a sign by them to do the same. One lady once let her dog off to meet ours. She was lovely, and the dog was lovely but that’s beside the point. By the time Mum was able to explain her concerns, the dogs had been with each other long enough to settle. Mum said it makes her feel like a over-reactive fool when she cannot prevent the exchange and then all her concerns amount to nothing.

As Little Dog is calm and unreactive, I guess people assume she’s ‘okay’ and they can please themselves, but I’m certain they’d be more cautious if Mum owned a Rottweiler or a Doberman or a German Shepherd. And simply because your dog isn’t the ‘problem’ dog, doesn’t mean you should be inconsiderate of others. Here’s another perspective, in this blog post by Liz.

Our dog is great with other dogs, if given the time to adjust to their presence. Please think about the dog walkers you approach – they may be one of those wonderful people who’ve adopted a ‘broken’ dog or they have a dog with a complex history. Respect that.

You do not know their story.