Wednesday, 28 September 2011

To Mum.

Mum, you're about to go in for a big operation, a hip replacement.
I called you before, and you sounded so calm. You have a strong spirit, and you are an amazing woman.

Today I was thinking about a little girl called Rose. You know who she is, you know very well. Rose's mum was a heroin addict, and little Rose was born an addict as well. I watched as you had Rose come to your house, where she would play with the basket of toys you put together just for her. She loved all the activities you did with her, loved your attention, soaked in your smiles.
When you talked about Rose, I could tell that you loved her.

I wonder if that was part of my inspiration to become a social worker, a subconscious push to offer people love, guidance and support. I saw you treat people kindly, many times over.

You watched patiently (at least on the outside!) as I tried to work out who I was. You didn't push me, you didn't nag me, you didn't hassle me. You just let me grow.

I know you haven't had an easy life. It was hard for you to leave Dad, but you knew you had to do it to give us all a chance to have a decent life. Now that I've experienced divorce myself, I am starting to understand more fully how hard that was . Having to watch us leave each fortnight, and not knowing what we were going to would have been dreadful. But you also never stopped us having a relationship with our father, and I thank you for that, because although he and I are not close, I still treasure the time I spent with him on access visits.

You weren't really one for getting sick, Mum, which must make the pain you've had from your back and hip all the harder to handle. Sometimes I felt sad when I was growing up, because you would send me to Grandma's when I was sick, and I just wanted you to look after me. Grandma was a good nurse, but it wasn't the same as having my own mum there.

But I forgive you for that, I understand that you were working hard to build a career for yourself, you were determined to provide for your daughters and to not have to beg anyone for money. You were great at what you did, that was for sure, I know your students loved you very much.

I always had a clean, freshly made bed, clean washed clothes, plenty to eat, clothes to wear, and the chance to do things I wanted to do. You always helped out when I needed money, helped us through the tough early times children and babies and unemployment, the later times when I just didn't have my act together. You were always there when I needed you, just a phone call away.

Mum, you are sweet, creative and loving, highly intelligent, a great writer, an avid reader.

My kids tease me now for having 'phases'... my Harry Potter phase, my religious phase, my spiritual, relaxation no-T.V. phase - maybe I got that from you ... cake decorating, golf, bike-riding, gardening, dinner-parties, canoeing, travel around Australia in a camper-van, motor-bikes. You worked in partnership with Jim, going into business together at Sun Siesta Caravan Park in Mildura.

You worked like crazy and kept the place running as Jim got sicker and sicker. Boy have you worked hard over your life-time - amazing determination! I was always envious of your fitness and organisational skills.

I am thinking of you now, Mum, as you prepare to go to hospital in the morning. You always said 'I know I'm a terrible mum', and we always said 'no, you're a great mum'. I meant it then, I mean it now. You're the best mum. You probably won't read this, because you're not really into computers, but that's okay. I tell you I love you all the time, I don't think it's any great secret.

All the best, lovely, beautiful mother.
I hope the operation brings you relief from pain.

From your youngest daughter, with so much love.

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Saturday, 24 September 2011

My chocolatey heaven

Yesterday I walked for hours around the Chadstone Shopping Centre Melbourne with my daughter. I was fulfilling the promise I'd made to her after her sister and I had our city trip some time ago, and as she had a student-free day, I took the day off as time-in-lieu and bundled her off for some spending.

Working to a budget of $200, we enjoyed exploring the fashion shops, avoiding the ones with one or two eagle-eyed sales-women breathing down our necks and instead heading to the more open, bright and cheerful shops, particularly the ones were the marketers have gone to the trouble of creating a teen-friendly atmosphere. She has a good eye for value, and was happy to search for cheaper options of dresses she liked and to try on a range of clothes. I took it pretty easy, trying on only a couple of things every now and again and providing a positive commetary on her choices when required. I was attentive to staying calm amidst the hustle and bustle, noise and lights, and made sure I sat for a rest on the odd occasion.

By 2.30pm I was getting pretty tired- we had done a lot of walking by this time and the noise and stimulation of the centre was starting to get to me a bit. So was I excited when I spotted the Lindt chocolate cafe? You BET!!!! Heaven just made for me! We feasted our eyes on the range of brightly wrapped delights, before I sent her on her way to finish her shopping while I lost myself inside.

Although I am following Weight-Watchers at the moment, I am allowing myself the enjoyment of good quality chocolate every day, knowing that this is good for my general well-being. Lindt, to me, is the epitome of deliciousness when it comes to Chocolate. I took my time and chose a few delicious, hazelnutty, creamy delights and ordered a skinny de-caf cappuccino to have alongside... mmmm, time to find a seat and day-dream about chocolate!

I have a lot of memories of chocolate. The first ones would, like many of use, be related to Easter ... that glorious morning when you get up to see if the Easter Bunny has been - and get to over-indulge in chocolate - thanks Mr Bunny! Mum, Helen (my sister) and I lived in Puckapunyal for a short time when I was in grade 2. We would have had very little money, with mum still studying primary teaching and I think she was on her teaching rounds while we were there. That Easter the Easter Bunny left me a beautiful egg shaped like a chicken, with full detail on the wrapper. That stands out to me, for some reason, and I actually savoured that one gradually - unusual for me, they usually went down the hatch pretty quickly! My grandma, when we were a bit older, began to buy my sister and I Ernest Hillier Eggs and chocolates - delicious and very memorable. All Easter eggs, though, are very yummy.

The movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a great favourite with us as kids. We only ever saw it on television, usually screened once a year, and it was a real occasion, as inevitably there would be some chocolate to enjoy while we watched the movie - making it a multi-sensory experience! I still think the original movie is a million times better than the more modern (and more creepy, I think) version.

These days it is much better for me to eat little bits of chocolate at a time and really savour it - the temptation is far too easy to scoff down bars and blocks and boy does my body become a tell-tale sign of my greed! Lol. So easy does it now, but I plan to enjoy chocolate, in its myriad of forms, for many years to come.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sunday stroll in the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens




A gorgeously unfilled Sunday in Spring - what to do? A stroll in the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens is on the cards, so off we drive.

The gardens are a work in progress. The main section, which we enjoyed today, is called the Australian Garden. It was designed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean, with Paul Thomson, whose aim was to share the 'beauty and diversity of Australian plants'.

Some of the features of the garden include the Red Sand Garden, which is quite beautiful (it is not aessible to the public, but is a lovely welcoming feature to the eye), the exhibition gardens which give examples of how Australian plants can be used around the home garden, the arid garden and eucalypt walk. Sadly, the rockpool waterway and escarpment wall are a nice feature but devoid of water, which was disappointing, considering our recent rainfall has been pretty high.

We stopped for a cappuccino in the cafe which was lovely, overlooking the gardens. The table we chose was decorated with a mini water-garden pot, a lovely feature. The Gardens shop was also well worth a look, with a great selection of botanical books and plant-themed products. David bought me some lemon-scented gum and Boronia incense cones and a gorgeous little decorated egg.

The morning was completed as we drove back out to a secluded picnic area towards the front entrance, and ate some freshly made sandwiches that David had lovingly prepared. What a great Sunday morning!

Friday, 16 September 2011

If you feel like you look good, you look like you feel good.

You've all seen her - that average woman doing her grocery shopping at the local supermarket. She isn't thinking about herself. She didn't dress to impress. In fact, she didn't even put her makeup on that morning. But she's stunning, glowing, and beautiful. Why? Simply because she's comfortable in her own skin. She's proof that the tongue twister is downright truth. If you feel like you look good you look like you feel good.


Confidence is the magical ingredient. Many beautiful women never get noticed because they have insecurities about their looks. Confidence doesn't mean that you are focused on yourself. Instead, it means that you are so comfortable with your looks and that you truly believe that you look great, that you can forget about yourself and enjoy caring about others. Insecurity focuses on what is wrong. It is introspective, looking in and being frightened by the thoughts that your looks don't meet the mark. When you believe that you are just right the way you are, you can stop thinking about yourself and look out and around you at the excitement and wonder in the world. People notice when women are confident, when they care about others, and it translates into opinions of beauty.


People think of beauty as being a set in stone guideline, but it isn't. We think it has to do with the shape of features and the color of hair and a certain height, but beauty is defined very strongly, but subtly to our eyes, by confidence. Countless celebrities and fashion models aren't what is traditionally considered good looking. But these women are world renowned beauties simply because they've embraced their looks. They accept the long nose or the space between their teeth or the thick eyebrows, and everyone raves about their striking, gorgeous appearance.


When you accept your looks and know that you look good, no matter what, dressing becomes effortless. In big cities, traditional fashion rules are broken all the time, and it always works because of one element: confidence. This isn't to say that you should pair patterns with each other. But if you want to, if you feel like that sort of thing, or any deviation from regular fashion, is suited to your personality, go for it! If you are confident in what you wear, you can pull anything off.


Remember to be yourself. Trying to be something that isn't you won't prove your confidence, but is just another way that insecurity shows itself. Choose clothes that you like, not ones that are trendy. These clothes best display your personality and self respect. You'll have an easier time being confident and not thinking about yourself if you are comfortable in what you are wearing. The right clothes give you a step up. People always make opinions on their impressions of your appearance, whether they want to or not. So wearing clothes that both suit who you are as an individual and flatter your body gives an impression of good self esteem and feeling great.


When you combine the confidence that the body you were born with is the perfect body for you with the flair that dressing well gives you, you become unbeatable and beautiful. You feel like you look good, and everyone will see you and think that you feel great


This article was contributed by Moose Mountain Trading Company. http://www.moosemtntradingco.com/ Moose Mt. focuses on clothing for women and carries a wonderful collection of  http://www.moosemtntradingco.com/designers/barbara-lesser.html
Barbara Lesser Clothing.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Do you like the dog slobber on the floorboards?

Dogs can be messy, loud and demanding. But would we live without them?

We have two, Ellie the border Collie and Ernie the poodle, as well as a gorgeous grey and white cat called Hershey. The dogs are hilarious when they wrestle. They started it when they first met and Ernie was introduced to the concept of rough-play -  and he has never looked back!

Just as I try and create some peace, sit back after a day of work and a long walk, off they go on a wild wrestling match across the lounge room. It's extremely funny to watch. And now they're lying exhausted on the floor and the couch - Ellie always goes for the floor, being so much bigger, while Ernie, still ruling the roost, hogs the couch.

Life would be so boring without pets! I think Ernie is my all time favourite - he found me and it was instant love! Other favourites have been my old cat Garfield, who I grew up with, our labrador Bill (who bit me but I wouldn't let mum get him put down and he never forgot - loyal as). Our black cat Ricky who ended up with 3 legs and living with mum at Sun Siesta Caravan Park in Mildura - he was an awesome cat. Our old sausage dog Christy - cheeky and naughty but very lovable. I loved the way she used to cover our chihuahua with a blanket each night - talk about nurturing

They're all gorgeous, and give back way more than we ever give to them - despite all the vet bills, and hey, that odd puddle of slobber on the floorboards.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Is Peace a dirty word?

The end of Stott's lane is a rough dirt road, and the sign is at first elusive, however after a brief false start I found my way to Brahma Kumaris in Frankston South. It is set in 20 hectares of bushland, and from arrival the feeling is one of peace. A little bridge leads down to the front door of the building, where visitors are guide by a flag waving gently on a pole. Inside, the foyer is clean and simple, with lots of light entering the building through the large glass windows which are a feature throughout.

I am welcomed and signed in, and guided downstairs to where thick woven wool rugs line the floor, and a Coonara wood heater is warming the room. Balinese style chairs are placed simply around the sides of the room, a piano sits in the corner and coffee tables with paisley-patterned wood grain add to the earthy and clean feel to the place, and potted cyclamen add a touch of colour and life. There is definitely a positive vibration here.

A man named Chris introduces himself and shakes my hand as I make myself a cup of tea in the dining room, which is found down a set of stairs on a lower level, and then I take my cup of tea and a home-made shortbread biscuit up to sit down and wait for the start of the retreat day.

As I sit, I take in the quiet. The chirping of birds and a sweet woody scent is calming and I become aware that I am quite tense inside. Indian-style meditation music begins to play gently. I later learn that the music is played for one minute, every hour, to remind us to be at peace, to just be still, to feel the power of the supreme soul. As I sit, my eyes fall on a tree which leans against the large window, and I notice a bird playing on its branches. Then I see it is tending to a nest - a mother bird tending to its young. Hence all the chirping! The mother bird is joined by another, and I watch the parents tending to their young with care and persistence. This becomes a symbol which returns to me throughout the day.

There are a few married couples here and a few on their own, like me. I wonder if David would come here with me? I would like to photograph the parent birds but know this would be intrusive. I think about David on the plane to China, and send him wishes of safety and peace. I am still feeling that sense of panic that comes with his departure for me, it has always been hard. This is something I want to work on. I need to find my inner strength.

We are directed upstairs into the meditation area, which is a carpeted, simply furnished room, with an amazing painting lit up at the front of the room. It is a spiritual painting, representing the supreme soul, and it becomes a focal point during the meditations we are taught. The retreat is run by women in white clothing - regular pants and fleece vests, but white. Their hair is grey. But there is a colourful, warm feel which embraces us, like a gentle, comforting hug.

From a selection of Virtue cards I am given one which says 'TRUTHFUL - I am straightforward, tactful, genuine and unbiased in all my dealings.'
I reflect on this a while, and feel that is highlighting my need to be more tactful in my communications. I think about how I behaved with David the day before and the emotional games I was playing, based on my own fear of him leaving, the fear of being with myself, the fear that he won't return. I know this fear comes from way back, from examples I learned as a child, from experiences in my life. But it is something I want to address, to move away from co-dependency and instead be confident in being ME.

One analogy used during the day was of the difference between ants and birds - as ants would walk over each other to get to the food, while birds were flying above everything to see the bigger picture, and would work as a collective. I found this to be a strong image and one that I would like to return to in the future. I learned a number of things during the morning. That ten minutes of meditation in the morning becomes your foundation, then during the day making time to be conscious of the higher self continues to 're-charge' our spiritual energies. The phrase 'I am a peaceful soul'.

I am a peaceful soul.
Animals can see the soul of people.
I need to come from my authentic self.
I will let go of attachment to what I thought I was.
We need to come first in our spiritual endeavours - for what do we have to give to others if we have nothing ourselves?

Lunchtime and we are asked to make it a lunch in silence. The food was vegetarian - simple and nourishing, rice, curried vegetables and salad. I was confronted with my anxiety of sitting around a dinner table. This comes from my experience of being criticised at the dinner table as a child and adolescent, on many occasions, from adults. I did have some positive experiences - birthday parties, my grandma's dinner table (smaller and more intimate). I have chosen to have a round table in my house, I feel this removes the 'hierarchy' that can dominate on a rectangular table, and it is more peaceful, mandala-like. I am creating a happier feel in the home in which I live.

After lunch there was half an hour to browse in the bookshop, and I purchased a couple of books and a poster for myself ('Self-empowerment' by Bridget Menezes and 'The Gift of Peace - thoughts for a peaceful world (a Brahma Kumaris publication). The poster is of the Supreme Soul giving light and power to us through the universe. I also purchased a set of Cd's and a book of healing for Mum, which I will send to her for her birthday. She has been very unwell, with terrible, debilitating arthritic pain. I hope this helps.

Once again I removed my shoes and made my way up to the meditation room for the second half of the day. During this half, I got to know some of the other participants more intimately, as we had time for small group discussion. The first quality I chose was purity, and we discussed why we had chosen this and felt attracted to it. We agreed that we each felt innocent, despite any of the wrong-doings we had been involved in. We also felt attracted to the purity of animals, of babies, of goodness itself.

We were then asked to sit near a quality which resonated least with us - most of us went to 'Power'. This was a really good discussion and one in which I felt I learned the most. For me, power does not feel like a natural virtue and the discussion helped me focus on the need for me to be strong, to not lose sight of the power that can come from love, peace, purity, sitting in silence, or speaking out in love. The power that is worshipped in society is not a real power (money, materialism, status). Real power is far quieter, far more peaceful.

The mention of a book called 'Slaying the three dragons - overcoming doubt, worry and fear', reminded me of the book I read when I first had a spiritual experience, a book called 'The dragon doesn't live here anymore.' A connection? Yes, I definitely believe so. I would like to order that book, all in good time.

Seven steps of silence:
Listening
Reflection
concentration - one single thought  'peace' 'love' etc.
connection - with self as soul, spirit and light
absorption - re-claiming my original spiritual inheritance
filling
donation - because I have been filled, I can then give.

Always go back into the peace.
All things depend on him for life.
Body consciousness into soul consciousness.

After the meditation, I drove back Debbie and Lior, two fellow participants, to Frankston, then headed back and started to cleanse my home space, with an inner smile. Renewed!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Before my buddhist retreat

I'm about to head off to a day of retreat. I haven't been to this place before, so it's going to be a little 'scary'.... not much time, but briefly - I am feeling kind of excited, a bit anxious. David left this morning for China, but we had a lovely warm night together last night, and the kids were over which took my mind off him leaving. (I'm normally hopeless!) I think I'm getting a bit better at this separation thing, but it does make me realise how much I love this guy.
Anyway - took the dogs for a beach walk this morning, had a yum breakky of egg, toast and salmon dip, a cup of tea and an orange. What will the day bring? Here I go!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

That darned border collie!!!!!!

Sitting down at the table, reading my emails and sipping a cup of tea, I didn't take any notice of the quiet rustling sound from near the pantry. I mean, it's not unusual for the cat to be playing with something, or the dogs to be sniffing around with their chew toys. So when I got up and walked to the pantry, ready to start dinner, I was a bit shocked when I saw the mess - and a great big border collie finishing off a big tray of muffins!!
A chocolatey nose and a sore sore tummy .. guess she has to learn somehow, and after a bone outside to clean off the teeth, she's snoring away on the floor-boards, feeling sad and sorry for herself.

Dogs.
Gotto love them, even though sometimes they can be a bit naughty! A bit like kids, I guess, and partners - even myself!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Strawberries, ginger-beer and roasted pumpkin Sunday

Happy with my efforts this week, after jumping back on the weight tracking wagon, I've lost 1kg, hooray! Will try and keep up the effort, warmer weather is upon us and it would be great to go to Central Australia in October feeling good about my body. Might even get a spray tan, woo hoo!
Another aweseome Sunday, so relaxing. Out in the garden a little, went for a big walk to our local market which is held on the foreshore once a month, and found some fantastic Mr Men pjs - originals from 1997. Know what I'll be wearing to bed tonight.
So, father's day. Brings up so much stuff! I still have a big question mark over who my dad really is, which is kind of weird - my mum having admitted that my dad might not even be my dad in 1997. That came at a time when I felt I was finally getting closer to my dad, after years of tricky relationship stuff, going on access visits (mum and dad splitting when I was about six years old). So anyway, deciding to cast doubts to the wind I tried to call him yesterday, texted him today and no response. Oh well!
Really, when I was growing up, my Grandpa was my father figure. He was amazing - community minded, loving and smart, with plenty of time for his two grandchildren, my sister Helen and I. Boy I loved that man! He came to all my piano concerts and competitions, winked at me across the table when my step-dad was being mean, taught me to play Euchre and took me to the market with all his 50 cent pieces he would collect for me. And that's just a tiny sample. We were all devastated when he got cancer, and his death was the saddest moment of my life.
So I'll dedicate today's father's day to the most awesome Grandpa in the world - Arthur Ernest Birrell - may his memory live on forever!!!!!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

He's doing the dishes :)

Am I bad to be enjoying the sight of my lovely man doing the dishes, whilst I sit on my behind doing some blogging? Am I bad to have enjoyed a lovely fresh piece of salmon and some delicious steamed veges, lovingly prepared by the same lovely man? Hell, I probably am. Am I lazy due to my positioning in the family, as youngest daughter? Well..... I am a bit more organised than I used to be, these days, thank goodness, but still have a few slack moments. Relaxing is an art-form that I am trying to develop. I work hard during the week and have to be thinking about pretty heavy stuff, so it's a relief to let it go on the weekend. What weather! Today has been so warm and the scents of blossoms are everywhere. Dogs had a great walk at the beach, Ellie (our border-collie) was so cute, splashing in and out of the waves and chasing Ernie (our poodle-bischon) in between. All was well until we spotted them rolling in something fishy and disgusting.... so home to be washed.... be the foresaid lovely man... (whoops, i am a bit lazy, aren't I!)