Anna sat down to write on the multi coloured Christmas card she had spent over an hour selecting in the David Jones Xmas section. Baby animals jumping around the well known portly man in his red suit filled the front of the card. Anna was sure her new grandson would love it. Her first grandchild.
‘Dear Jacob’, Anna started, imagining her daughter reading out the words to the young baby who’s age was still being counted in weeks and days.
Anna wanted the card to be special. It was going to be Jacob’s first Christmas. She would much prefer to be there, to hold him tight and whisper ‘Merry Christmas my little one’ into his ear, but it was not to be this time.
She stared at the blank inside of the card. The words did not flow. Instead, wet giant silent tears formed and trickled down her cheek. Images of Jacob from the many photos and videos her daughter Lilly had sent rolled in front of her eyes. This tiny human that she had yet to meet in person had already taken up a massive chunk of her heart. He was not her own baby, but the feelings she felt for him seemed as strong as her feelings were for Lilly. It had taken Anna by surprise, and memories of holding her own babies had come flooding back. She longed to hold this baby, but it was too dangerous to travel just yet with the pandemic still raging.
She wiped her cheek and pushed the chair back, making it almost fall over. The heat in her chest spread like wildfire across her body, causing knots in her throat and redness in her cheeks.
Damn flushes. Not now!!
Anna couldn’t control the tears or the hot flush, and raced to the bathroom, stripped down naked into the shower of welcoming cool water. While the tears flowed down her cheeks the tightness in her chest and throat eased. The roughness of the towel drying her body felt comforting.
She walked back into the kitchen and made herself a cool drink from the fresh mint leaves and soda, then pulled out the old family photo album.
Pictures of happy faces over the years, sleeping babies, birthday parties and picnics. And many Christmas’s; silver and gold adorned trees, tables laded with turkey and glazed ham, steaming pudding full of rich marinated fruit and warm creamy custard.
Christmas in so many locations, most years in their old red brick home. But also the occasional Christmas spent abroad in the cold northern winter with snow and darkness outside, and smells of vanilla cookies, roast pork and pine needles inside. Other times with friends up north in the blistering heat, everyone in swimmers in the backyard under the tarp thrown over the Hills-hoist, and the kids playing with their water guns soaking wet and laughing.
So many memories in the photo album, but also in Anna’s heart and she knew in her children’s heart. No Christmas had ever been a sad event for the little ones, even if the adults had had their own problems to deal with. For the kids, every Christmas had always meant good times and lots of presents.
Jacob would have many more Christmas days, and Anna knew she would celebrate with him one day. His parents would be with him this year. It would be their new little family Christmas. Their time to start their very own mesh of old and new family traditions filling albums of happy memories.
Anna sat down to write.
You don’t know me yet, but you will soon. I am your Grandma from Sydney, where our Christmas is in summer, and the sun shines almost every day. We will meet one day, and I will read Australian books to you, and show you pictures from your mum’s homeland. Maybe one day you can visit me, and I can take you to places I am sure you will love; giant beaches and bays, shady bush lands with enormous trees reaching right up to the clouds, and so many wonderful animals that will make you squeal with delight.
Till we meet my love, I welcome you to life, and hope you have a wonderful blessed Christmas with your very own mum and dad.
Love Grandma xxx
‘It’s a small world!’.
How many times have you said that in your life? I know I have many times. That was until 2020.
The world hasn’t changed in size. Just feels that way. With the global pandemic we are no longer free flying birds, hopping on planes and zipping to the other side of the world in a day. Travel restrictions and limited planes have slowed it all down, in fact almost to a grinding halt. The cold reality of distance has crept into our anxious minds; distance between us and our loved one’s overseas.
It feels like when I first came to Australia many years ago in my early twenties. I left my family behind in Denmark to start a new life down-under with my love and soon to be husband. We were young and money was tight. Trips back to visit my Danish family then were rare. Each time I worried that Australia would not let me in. I loved living in Australia, so different to the cold winters of the north.
I never imagined there would come a day when Australia would not let me out. That the world would not be free to travel. That I could not visit my family in Denmark and my daughter in the US whenever I wanted to. But that is our new normal. For now. For how long? The uncertainty is sometimes worse than the restriction itself.
It makes the tough times we are finding ourselves in tougher by not being with people we love. It’s natural to want to have family close by. To want them safe and to feel safe ourselves. To hold them tight and be with them in person. FaceTime and the internet is a blessing but it can never beat seeing their smiles and hugging them tight.
I cannot wait to do that. One day. Soon.
When the world is small again.
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We are now halfway through 2020; a year of turmoil and change, but also a year of hope for a better life. Hope because the events that have unfolded this year has made us all appreciate what matters; love, family, human contact, freedom, time to reflect, our health and waking up every morning still BREATHING.
In fact, BREATHING seems to have been a common thread through the chaos we have experienced in 2020.
First the bushfires that ravaged such a vast part of Australia in our summer season and continued into the start of this year. Smoke filled the air even in places far from the burning bush. It blanketed Sydney for months and many stayed indoors because of the worst air quality experienced in our normally bright and clean city. Our BREATHING was restricted, and we felt it in our lungs when venturing outdoors on bad days.
Then Covid-19 started surfacing in China, a virus affecting the respiratory system and in worst cases requiring ventilators to assist with BREATHING. By March Australia saw a surge in cases and we went into lockdown. We needed to contain the virus as our hospitals and medical supplies were not ready to deal with mass infections. Mass production of both masks and respirators commenced in the anticipation of hospitals potentially filling with people not being able to BREATHE by themselves.
The restrictions has helped Australia manage Covid-19 so far, and we are seeing very few cases emerge now apart from travellers returning or cluster cases. We are in a new phase of easing up on the restrictions, though many businesses continue to work from home. Some are going back to what they used to do, as if everything is back to normal, but we are far from it. Right now we are in ‘holding our BREATH’ mode to see what happens next.
To top it off amidst all the turmoil an American police officer arrested and killed George Floyd. His last words ‘I can’t BREATHE’ was captured on video and plastered on headlines online everywhere. This gross injustice lead to a massive protest movement across not only America but the world. Amidst the dangers of Covid-19 people gathered in peaceful protests wearing masks to voice their opinion about the injustice against people of colour. It escalated and within days America was in chaos.
George Floyd’s last words echoes what has been the issue for many all of 2020. For people of restricted freedom and privileges, it has been an issue for a lot longer.
What are we being told? What is it we need to learn before we can move forward to a new normal?
BREATHING is our life force. Not just for us humans. It’s the basis of all existence. Animals breathe, plants breathe. We all breathe in coexistence and codependence. Our breath brings us back to a balanced life, it grounds us, it sustains us, it nurtures our bodies. We must breathe to exist.
A new normal must make BREATHING a top priority on all levels, from daily interactions to top corporate visions. It’s that simple. And also that complex.
‘It was once a beautiful city by the east coast of Australia known for its warm weather, azure blue bays, many majestic park lands, vast open spaces and clean air. That was before the fires came’
I wrote this over a month ago to go with some photos I took from the top of our local Westfield building early one Sunday morning while most of the city was still sleeping. It appealed to my interest in apocalyptic style movies and books, and I had two story lines rolling around my head. One of them I wrote as a short story for a competition, but there was a whole book in me wanting to come out.
This feeling now feels far too close to our reality here in Australia, and my desire to write these stories has been extinguished. The flames devastating this country sucked out the oxygen of the emerging seeds for these stories. The last month has been soul destroying and horrendous. Our firefighters have worked tirelessly for a very long time to keep as many people safe, but not without some losses, both lives and livelyhoods. Our ABC have done a fantastic job in keeping everyone informed https://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/
Here is Sydney, where I live, a thick smoke has blanketed our city for what seems forever. The atmosphere is grey and depressing. I flew into Sydney airport on New Year’s day and the ‘view’, if you can call it that, had me in tears. Grey fog like air covered all the loved landmarks, and there was a rancid smell of smoke welcoming us as we descended the steps of the shuttle bus from the plane.
Our air quality, normally clear and healthy, has been skyrocketing on the AQI, some days over 2000. Healthy levels should be less than 100! I don’t suffer from any breathing problems or asthma, but in this smoke even I have noticed a heaviness and shortness in my breath when walking.
But we are the lucky ones here in Sydney. We are not in the fire danger zones and often live in air-conditioned houses with our comfort intact. Tornado like fires have not ravaged our lives and our homes are not demolished in the tracks of the burning flames. Our lives here in the city are as normal as can be under the circumstances; people are safe and appear to go on like they have before. And yet, do they?
I know I have felt the effects of the fires on my soul. I have cried over the devastation and the horrifying photos and stories posted on Facebook and other websites. I have wanted to stay informed, but part of me have also wanted to shut myself away from it. I have felt helpless and useless. I have reached out and said comforting words where needed, but never felt it was enough. I have adopted a koala and donated money in my small way. I have felt a need to be KIND. To do SOMETHING.
In the last few days I have noticed online posts are changing. We seem to be starting the new decade with a new mantra. From photos of devastation, anger, despair and name blaming; to a deep need to help and be kind to others. So many stories of normal everyday people showing enormous generosity and kindness. Like a chemist on the Sth Coast keeping his business open and providing free medication to people who have fled their homes and lost everything.
Big businesses are getting behind the kindness wave too, e.g. Airbnb have set up a link to Open Homes, for hosts opening up their places for free to people in need of shelter. Many donation links are popping up and groups are being set up to coordinate help. This morning I joined an animal rescue craft group and will knit pouches and nests. It’s a small act, but lots of small gestures add up to big outcomes.
Maybe that is the ONE POSITIVE in this tragedy; people starting to care for each other and for our environment. Something we should have started many many years ago. Why didn’t we? Who knows? Our own greed or maybe our beautiful Australian relaxed ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. We don’t want to lose that feeling, but we must face reality when needed. Our environment needs looking after NOW or our future generation will never know what it means to breathe in clean air. The fires Australia has witnessed this season feels like nature is giving us a wake up call; shouting ‘sit up and listen to who is boss’; Mother Earth. This has nothing to do with politics; it is something we as humans need to do no matter what we believe in.
If you feel the same as I do and want to help there are many options. I list some of them below, but you can find many more online. Let’s fuel the flames of KINDNESS, and keep this earth and Australia beautiful.
Thank you for reading and for any support you can offer. Please feel free to add any comments or links to sites or groups helping out.
Vinnies Bushfire Appeal https://donate.vinnies.org.au/…/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal…
WWF Bushfire Rescue https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency
Wildlife Victoria https://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/
Koala Ark https://www.aussieark.org.au/koala-ark/
The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.au/
Animal Rescue Craft Guild https://www.facebook.com/groups/arfsncrafts/
For centuries it had been frozen in time and in structure. Hidden from civilisation beneath the cold ice; covered in layers of bone chilling snow. Its weapon harmless. Unable to kill. A frozen assassin.
Global warming slowly changed the killer. Like a hibernating bear, the deadly bacteria stretched and yawned back to life. Slowly leaking out. Coming to the surface. Hungry. Deep in the Canadian mountains it started its roar.
The train left the station every carriage filled with hundreds of tourists dressed in hiking gear, expensive camera’s adorning their necks and carrying heavy backpacks. The buzz and excitement permeated every part of the train. Strangers connecting over maps and old travel stories.
It was Linda and Paul’s first hiking trip. They kept to themselves; cocooned in their bubble of young passion and excited about their future life together. Paul touched his shirt pocket for the hundredth time. The tiny box still there containing a dainty ring with the most expensive pink diamond he could afford on his meagre intern salary.
Linda looked pale. Paler than usual. Her long dark hair contrasting her porcelain skin. She had wanted to stay in bed that morning, but she couldn’t disappoint Paul.
The train slowed down, stopping at the last station before the climb up the steep mountain covered in an eery fog making it impossible to see to the top. Like it had disappeared. Hiding something.
‘Last stop. A ten minute break for anyone who wants to stretch or grab a snack at the station cafe,’ the voice came over the loudspeaker.
‘Let’s hop off. I need to pee’ Linda urged, feeling the wave of nausea that had plagued her for the last few days.
They jumped off holding hands and made their way to the far end of the platform. Paul noticed Linda shaking.
‘You don’t look well, Linda?’ concern written all over his young face. She just made it into the cubicle, head spinning when her insides rushed up her throat into the rust coloured toilet bowl.
‘Are you ok?’ she heard Paul’s voice outside.
When she didn’t answer he barged into the cubicle.
She looked up at him. The realisation hit. Late period!
Paul took off his neck tie, wet it under the tap and wiped her face covered in perspiration.
‘I think I might be pregnant Paul,’ Linda said quietly.
‘Oh My God! Yes!’ Paul hugged her as they sat huddled on the grimy bathroom tiles oblivious to the ear piercing sound of the train whistle.
‘A trip of a lifetime missed by 1 second, but two lives saved ‘ according to the evening news read by a grim faced reporter.
‘A tourist train met with a deadly destination today. SOS signals from the driver at 11am sent rescue teams to investigate. No survivors except a young couple who missed re-boarding at Trinytie. All carriages covered in unidentified pus. Cause of death unknown.’
‘I love you!’
Charlene longed to hear those three words, but after nine months of going out with Mark, she was still waiting. She loved Mark, and many times she had almost blurted the words out. But she worried he would freak out and run. So many had in the past. Mark had been single since his wife died 4 years ago. She knew she had to go slow.
‘Valentine’s day. I’ll tell him then,’ Charlene planned.
‘Go get yourself some sexy underwear,’ her crazy girlfriend Nicky had suggested.
That’s how Charlene found herself for the first time in a sexy lingerie shop. More of a cotton brief girl she never understood why something ten times smaller cost ten times more.
‘Can I help you?’ the beautiful young shop assistant enquired.
‘I’m just browsing’ Charlene muttered.
Didn’t stop the assistant. ‘Can I offer you a measure?’ she asked. ‘So important to wear the right fit or you will never feel comfortable.’
Two minutes later Charlene was in the change room being measured every which way.
‘Is this for a special occasion?’ the assistant asked.
‘Yes it is,’ Charlene replied without elaborating.
‘You’re a standard 14C. Let me show you a few of our special items.’
Before Charlene knew what was happening, the assistant led her to the far corner of the shop. The mood was ‘special occasion’. A large ruby red electric candle sent flickering shadows onto the exquisite lingerie making the pearls and sequins sparkle.
‘How about this one?’ The assistant held up a black lacy one-piece. ‘Try it on if you like it.’
Charlene had to admit it was a big step up from her usual big cotton briefs, but wondered how she would ever get to the bathroom in time with that on.
As if the assistant read her mind she held up the crutch area ‘easy access too for emergency visits to the bathroom.’
Charlene blushed. What does this young woman know about emergency? Her bladder turned into a roaring faucet as soon as she put her key in the front door.
‘Or maybe a set like this one?’ the assistant suggested removing a burgundy lacy bra and knicker set from the rack. ‘Made to hold everything in place.’
With gravity pulling her body parts in the wrong direction, and a sweet tooth adding to the roundness of her maturing body, Charlene liked her bits being held in place.
She struggled to get the items on in the change room, but with the help and praise from the assistant she finally looked at herself in the 3-way mirror. At first only for a few seconds, avoiding the full inspection. Then with surprise. Even with her cotton brief underneath she had to admit she looked damn good. She stood straighter and noticed even her eyes sparkled. She felt proud and looked straight into her own eyes in the mirror.
‘I love you! I am buying this for you old girl. Happy Valentine’s day Charlene.’
Today’s positive…it’s great when your friendship is strong enough to accept the ebs and flow in life, and that we can be honest when something annoys us.
Today’s positive…my cat. Just a cat, runt of the litter, now at 15 years an old cat, keeping me company and greeting me every day when I return from work. Pets can be a pain sometimes, but they are definitely a big positive in our lives.
Today’s positive…loved chatting to my daughter this morning. We are both super excited about her visit in March and wedding in September. Going to be a great year.