Here’s to an awesome week for everyone. Has anyone got anything exciting planned?
A Room of One’s Own
I reckon Virginia Woolf nailed it when she declared “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. In fact I think we can apply that to “a woman must have money and a room of her if she is to any damn thing at all”. I have a room, I’ve been trying for twelve months to set it up as a study. We’ve worked through a substantial amount of the junk and memories that were overflowing from it, in fact we cleared enough space for Hippie Child to live in there for the past month while my mother-in-law stayed for a visit. Now, I’ve got the space to start work on the final clear-out – if I can just get past my natural hoarding tendencies. Today as I fought with myself over what was a future historical document and what was rubbish I ended up simply clearing a corner of the desk and setting up some flowers and family photos in a delusional attempt at convincing myself that I was getting the room under control. Isn’t it marvellous the image you can project with careful framing and a bit of filtering?
Do you have space of your own? What do you use it for?
Sunday Night Dinner
In yet another example of why I’m not a food blogger, here’s the meal I called for Sunday night dinner.
Despite it’s appearance it was quite delicious, to see what the baked meatballs with tomato sauce and feta should look like (and to get the recipe) head over to Meet Me At Mike’s.
Surfing The Net
As for what I’ve been reading this week, here’s what caught my attention.
Is this the worst time to be a journalist? Nic Christensen considers the state of the Australian media.
Now 45 is too old? Huh? Anyone having trouble getting a job once they reach a certain age?
Hope your weekend is awesome.
Here’s our entry in the weekly photo challenge. Also if anyone would like to contribute a photo in our Monday Morning Photo post please drop me an email to shambolicliving(at)gmail(dot)com. There’s no set theme. All copyright remains with photographer. All photos published with links and credits. All levels of photographer (from beginner up) welcome.
It was school photos last week. As usual, I’d forgotten to pay attention and when I looked at the girls, like really LOOKED at them, on the morning of the photo shoot I realised they really needed haircuts. Every year we get the same dodgy shots of them with unruly hair because I can’t manage to get them to the hairdresser in time for the school photo day. Yet another black mark against my mothering scorecard.
We’d managed to lose the forms so there was the standard flurry of turning the house upside down to find them, unfortunately the girls are now of an age to realise that quite a lot of our disorganisation is down to me. “We gave you those forms AGES ago. You were supposed to go online STRAIGHT AWAY and pay.” Well yes, but I was busy on Twitter at the time and got distracted. Even if I had gone online and paid we still need the FORMS with a code on them for you to hand in to the photographer.
In the nick of time forms were found and funds transferred. Then I realised I didn’t have anything for a sibling photo. Do they not do sibling photos? Need to mention at this point in time, neither girl actually wants ANY photos let alone a sibling shot.
“We need a photo of the two of you together, look it says on their website they do it, I WANT ONE.”
“Oh please Mum just drop it, you have millions of photos, we don’t need another one.”
But being the interfering, overbearing mother I am I ring the photographer. He politely informs me, as detailed in the school newsletter, they will do sibling shots, but you have to pick up the form from the front office and pay immediately. I really should start reading the newsletter again. I scrounge together $15 in loose change from the back of the lounge, get the all-important form and voila my children are now in the queue for sibling photos. They are fighting like cats ‘n dogs but for one still moment in time, they will cease the arguing and smile at the camera so their mother can pretend that all was peaceful and beautiful in the world of sisterly love. Then the war will resume.
My other great discovery on school photo day was the loss of the class photo. Remember those? When, as a class you, would be dragged into the hall, ordered from shortest to tallest and unimaginatively arranged in a clump of standing and sitting bodies. Ours were done in our English class. Until the senior years when there was so few of us battling on we could combine for a “year” shot.
They don’t do them anymore. Now you get a thumbnail head shot of everyone in your year printed on one sheet. Which is kinda good that you’ve got a record of everybody you ever went to school with, but I think we’ve lost something with the demise of the class shot.
That group photo says so much. There’s the class clown who always managed to sneak in a funny face, the changing heights over the years, the scrawny boys suddenly graduating to the back line where the girls had dominated, the chance to prove to my kids that once I was tall and skinny. There’s the other stuff too, the scuffed floor of the hall brings back memories of forced dance classes – yes we made to learn the barn dance and strip the willow I can’t remember why. The windows behind us were the rooms where we were taught English. That’s where I first heard of Shakespeare, TS Elliot, Browning, Animal Farm, Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye.
We scrubbed up all right for our photos. We didn’t do too bad in life either, a bunch of country kids from the public high school. We went on to be teachers, nurses, there’s a doctor and a lawyer, a real estate agent, an art restorer and an assortment of other careers. Some of us moved away, some stayed and went on to send their own kids to our old high school. I wonder if they get class photos?
It’s 30 years since Year 10 this year. I’m not sure how that happened. We’ll be getting back together for a reunion.
Do your kids still get class photos in high school?
I think I may have a problem. I seem to have a love of darkness and death. It’s been unearthed as I sat down to write what I thought was a quick, easy blog post about favourite books. As I began to compile my list the only criteria was they had to stick in my mind long after I had finished reading.
As the list started to come together there seemed to be a common theme of death, war and something missing (a father, a memory). I love to laugh, how did I come up with a collection so dark? Anyone want to have a go at pyschoanalysing the mind of someone who would choose these books as favourites?
A Good Man Is Hard To Find – Flannery O’Connor
I read this collection of short stories at Uni. Just fantastic writing. Dark themes and surprising twists which leave you stunned.
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
I adored this book as a child. Even today I still love a good time travelling story! “It was a dark and stormy night.” So the adventure begins. It had a feisty heroine, Meg, who courageously goes off to find her missing father, leaping into the unknown with an assortment of mysterious characters appearing and disappearing. It fired my imagination.
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
I hated the thought of this book initially. It is told through the eyes of a teenage murder victim, watching the impact of her death on her family from the peace of heaven. However, when I did read it I found it, despite the dark subject matter, to be a surprisingly beautiful novel, suspenseful and hopeful.
What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
Alice slips at an aerobics class and blacks out. When she comes too she is convinced she is a twenty-nine year old newly wed about to give birth to her first child. Unfortunately, she is actually a thirty-nine year old, mother of three, on the verge of divorcing her husband. As she attempts to piece together the decade she has lost the novel explores how our choices impact on ourselves and those around us.
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
A funny and heartbreaking story. This award-winning book explores concepts of truth and courage. Two teenagers discover a dead girl and attempt to find her murderer. “Part crime, part coming of age and part romance, Jasper Jones deals with racism in a way that many of us who have spent time in regional areas are familiar with. It also addresses the hotbed of political uncertainty that was prevalent in Australian society during the Vietnam War.” Cath Shaw. For me, this book absolutely captured the tone of Australian country life and the uncertainties of growing up.
Tomorrow When the War Began – John Marsden
I absolutely loved this book when I read it at uni. I was using it to create a unit of work for Year 9 students as part of my teaching degree. There was so much to talk about in its themes of courage and resilience. Marsden had the idea for the book while watching an ANZAC Day parade, wondering how would today’s youth cope if they were called to war? The story of a group of teenagers who are on a camping trip when Australia is invaded. High up in the hills, they escape detection and go on to fight the enemy. It is the first in a series of books.
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
It’s To Kill A Mockingbird what more needs to be said? Like everyone, I read it at school. It’s the perfect book for teenagers just discovering their sense of justice and exploring ideas outside of their own experience.
Worse Things Happen At Sea - William McInnes and Sarah Watt
Made me laugh, made me cry. It was just an awesome telling of ordinary lives lived well. I reviewed it here.
Do you have a favourite book? One that lingers long after you’ve reached “The End”?
Welcome to a new week (Aussies), enjoy the last remnants of your weekend (rest of the world). I haven’t done the monday morning photo for a while, it might be becoming a semi-regular segment! Although if anyone would like to take part in monday morning photo drop me an email to shambolicliving(at)gmail(dot)com. We might be able to make it into a segment with guest photos going up every now and then (with credits and links of course).
Have a great new week.
I got a break from blogging this week when I handed over the reins to my friends Emma, Fiona, Therese and Katya. Each woman shared their journey to motherhood story, and they were all wonderful. A big thank you to each of them. None of these women are bloggers so it was very brave of them to share such personal stories online. I hope you enjoyed reading them.
Stories To Tell
Curating these stories was a reminder to me of how everybody has an extraordinary story to tell. This was a lesson I learnt during the six years I spent as a Creative Memories consultant. In my stay-at-home decade my job was teaching photo scrapbooking and selling product with this direct-sales company. It was an amazing experience to sit with people as they worked on their photos and hear such incredible tales, the brother killed in Cyclone Tracey, the mother who adopted out her first-born only to adopt another person’s child many years later, the thrill of children graduating, the courageous journey of children with special needs, the weddings, the birthday parties, the holidays, the love affairs, the losses. It was all there laid out in photographs. It is very true that everybody does have a story to tell. I was very sad to hear that Creative Memories here in Australia went into voluntary administration last week.
It was Mother’s Day here today. We had both Grandmothers here for lunch. Mr Shambles and the girls cooked.
Our menu started with roast tomato, goats cheese and caramelised onion quiches.
Followed by Prawn Stuffed Squid with Couscous Salad. Well actually I made them do some chicken for me. They also threw together a roasted vegetable salad.
And we finished off with the fruit flan/cake Nana brought from the Cheescake Shop.
Then there was the obligatory photo shoot.
Surfing the Net
In other news. I read a lot. Books, magazines, and more and more lately, online. I have always consumed a lot of reading material. It’s costly. Here’s a few of things I’ve enjoyed reading this week, it may had made me laugh, cry or given me something to think about.
An interview with Liane Moriarity over at Life In A Pink Fibro, What Alice Forgot is one of my favourite books, and now it may be made into a movie.
In Cleveland there was the extraordinary story of the rescue of three women held captive for ten years. Terry Proybn is the mother of another kidnap victim, Jaycee Dugard, who was returned to her family after 18 years. Terry wrote about the trauma of such an experience.
Author Anna Funder writes a letter to her late mother in the Good Weekend.
Reservoir Dad was named the best parenting/personal blog in the Australian Writers Centre Blogging Competition I loved his piece on 2190 days as a house husband.
While Mrs Woog made me laugh with her loan shark duties at the mother’s day stall.
Read any great articles lately?
I hope you had (or are having) a great weekend.
The Weekly Photo Challenge this week is “pattern”. I’m not 100 per cent sure clouds could be classed as making a pattern, it’s not uniform or anything, but it is another quite spectacular photo from my brother. Perhaps a random pattern?
Katya Quigley is a radio broadcaster currently on maternity leave. Politicians around the world engage in endless debate on issues such as gay marriage while gay and lesbian couples just get on with their lives. Falling in love, creating their families, laughing, crying, enduring the same challenges of raising children as the rest of us. The thought and care that goes into the decision of deciding to have a baby, the quest for a donor and the logistics of an ongoing relationship between donor and child are a complicated series of events which involve much introspection and negotiation. I was so excited when Katya told me she and her partner where trying to have a baby. They are two amazing women who offer so much to a child. Their strength during the turmoil of trying to conceive was a credit to both of them. The struggles since their little boy arrived would be familiar to many mothers who didn’t get the dream birth or idyllic early days with their baby. Through it all Katya and her partner have retained their sense of humour, held tight together and worked hard to overcome the challenges. I admire them both so much.
My journey to motherhood began around three years ago when my partner and I decided to get serious about starting a family. Being in a same-sex relationship, the mechanics of getting from A to baby are somewhat challenging and there was a lot to consider.
We’d dallied around the idea for a while and had a few casual conversations with male friends about the prospect of becoming a donor daddy. It wasn’t until we pushed the point that we realised no one was really serious about that level of commitment.
After countless hours of research into the business of buying and acquiring sperm, we found a way that better matched our vision. My partner and I always wanted to use a known donor and have someone who wanted to be a part of the bigger picture. We met our donor, who I’ll call Ben for the purposes of this article, on a website designed to link up sperm donors with single women and same-sex couples keen to start a family. It was a lot like a dating website, complete with profiles and photos. But instead of looking for love, we were looking for someone who could help us make a baby and play a role in their life.
Eventually we met Ben and so began our journey. It took us a year of talking to get to the point where we all agreed we wanted to get the ball rolling. Fast forward another eighteen months and we were at the point of harvesting my eggs for the purposes of IVF. The preceding months had been a roller coaster of failed attempts and an overwhelming fear that our dream of starting a family may never come to fruition.
The process to get to that point was long-winded to say the least. We had to wade through what seemed like an endless array of red tape to commence IVF. This included multiple counselling sessions with all parties to ensure we had considered every possible hypothetical. It was hard to remain calm during these sessions, when all I could think of was the number of babies conceived without a moment’s thought or care. The exercise felt so rigid and academic, and this was not helped by the artificiality of the IVF process itself. If ever I needed confirmation that I was making a considered decision, this was it. By the time I was donning the white gown and going into theatre there could be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this child would be wanted and loved.
I remember the day of embryo transfer quite vividly. I watched a tiny speck on the monitor as it was inserted into my womb, it literally looked like a black dot. My partner remembers it as a little star in a black night sky. As we left the clinic and walked out of the hospital into the harsh light of day I recall how surreal it all felt. I never thought we’d be so lucky that this tiny bundle of cells would grow into my son.
At six weeks we thought we had lost our baby when I had an unexpected and large bleed. We both cried tears of joy and relief when the ultrasound revealed a small shadow and within that the pulsing of a heart. This baby was meant to be.
Fast forward to Christmas day, where I gave birth to my son at four minutes to midnight. It was not the birthing experience that I had anticipated. Looking back at the birth plan now I laugh in disbelief because the experience was so different to what we had wanted. From my lofty notions of minimal intervention, soft lighting and Tibetan gongs playing in the background, the reality was at the other extreme. I laboured for 22 hours and despite my best efforts, ended up having to have an epidural and emergency caesarean. There are no words that can describe what it is like to hold your baby for the first time, I am sure all mothers will attest to this. All the baby books in the world do their best to explain what birth is like but none capture the primal nature of holding your baby and staring into its eyes.
Post birth I became very unwell with complications from the surgery so I spent extra time in hospital. The birth coupled with my poor health impacted on my ability to bond with my son. He screamed incessantly, especially when I fed him on the breast. This was very distressing, as I so wanted breastfeeding to be a beautiful experience, but it was much harder than I could ever have imagined. It transpired that my son had reflux and was allergic to the proteins in my breastmilk. So, eventually I had to give up and move onto formula which was a painful decision and there was a period of grieving involved. At times it has felt like the cards have been stacked against me.
Thankfully I have a partner who is very supportive and understanding. I have learnt to seek out the many support networks available to new mums. I adore my son and my new family and for this my first mother’s day, I look forward to all the joy this new role will bring.
Therese Goshorn is a former teacher. I bonded with Therese on the sidelines of freezing cold Friday night soccer games. As our daughters lurched around the soccer field we laughed and joked and sometimes missed vital point scores ’cause we were talking. Therese and her husband have a beautiful relationship with their girls. There is a lot of love, humour and openness on display. When I asked Therese to write for this series she was reluctant because she is not “a writer”, and then she went on to produce a beautiful piece giving a lovely tribute to the women who gave birth to her daughters.
Our girls are 12 and 15 years old. They have long, thick, dark hair, almost black eyes and beautiful brown skin. They dance with an internal rhythm, laugh joyfully and loudly, and push us, in their teenage-hood, to our wits end!
My journey to motherhood began over 20 years ago and was to take a course way different from the one that my husband and I set out on. We were keen to start our family and after nearly three years we were overjoyed to discover that we were expecting. We very quickly formed an attachment to the dream of our future child.
Our family and friends were of comfort to us when we lost our first, and then a year later, our second child, through miscarriage.
My mum saw an article in the local paper advising an information afternoon for people considering overseas adoption. We went along and met families whose stories got us thinking….
We learned that in order to adopt from overseas we must first be “approved” by the Department of Community Services. This was a roller coaster journey of emotions, attending seminars, filling out loads of paperwork, undergoing police criminal checks and fingerprinting as well as ongoing interviews with social workers who would assess us as suitable parents. Lucky for us there were no major concerns and after about 18 months we got the go ahead to send our papers to Colombia.
We share parenthood with our girls’ other families, the people who hold their genetic code and biological blood. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What happened to their real parents?” As I see it, we’re all their real parents.
Our girls have pictures of their birth mums. We see them on a daily basis. We talk about them by name. We’ve read the letters that they prepared for their daughters. They are not strangers, even though we have never met. The names we call our girls are the names their birth mums gave them. The hopes and dreams that they had for their girls are the same ones that we have – that they be happy, confident and never know want.
I share Mother’s Day with two other women who live a continent and several time zones away. I will think about them on Sunday. I wish them peace, and offer them thanks for allowing me the privilege of sharing the title Mum with them.
Have you been involved in an overseas adoption? Please feel free to share your experience.