Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Change Time

I did it.
I took the plunge and spoke to my boss, and now I'm going to be working 4 days a week for the rest of the year.
Thanks everyone for your advice, support and encouragement. It's been great to have all the different perspectives to help me make my decision.

I'll keep you posted about how I go...


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Oh wow. So complicated...

And yet, so not complicated.

Thanks for your comments everyone. I know it's my decision to make in the end, but it has been really great to have other people's ideas and perspectives to consider. Sometimes you're just so close to a situation that you can't see it clearly. The comment section was getting quite long though, so I thought I'd respond in a new post.

Lorraine, you make some very sensible and valid points, just like my dad. I think he'd like you! My whole life, Dad has been my 'sensible'. He is always the one who can see the potential hazards or problems. That's not to say that he isn't supportive, because he (and mum, who is also very sensible but lets dad do all the voicing of the concerns!) is. Very supportive. They are very good about letting me make my own decisions though, and have always been there to help when things go wrong. I don't know what I'd do without their support and help (although hopefully I don't have to ask for that very often, and especially not this time. They have enough to worry about!). Thanks, lovely parents!

I like to think that I'm already a fairly organised mum. And a couple of the things Lorraine suggested are things I do already; like freezing meals and not ironing (or cleaning often!).
I can't get a cleaner yet as my household is so strange and crazy that I couldn't afford what they'd charge! However, when all our renos are done, I think it's something that I will definitely do! I've been saying that for years.
I like the idea of online shopping too. Must try it!

And Lorraine (and dad) are right. I don't need to be worrying about money now. That thought has been playing and playing on my mind. It's the only thing that's been stopping me from making a definite decision to cut back. To make matters even more complicated, now Anthony's going the other way: 'do it; it's only for 6 months; I've got work in the shed waiting' etc etc, which makes it even worse!

Of course, we've been much worse off in the past. As Deb said, when I was at uni, Anthony supported us and things were very tight. This made things tense at times, but we managed. What I'm thinking about doing now won't be anything like those times. And honestly, I care a lot less about having lots of money than I used to. My priorities have changed so much. Of course, we need it to prevent us ending up on the street, but I have no desire to compromise my health and happiness (or anyone else's) just to make more money.

Apart from the money, what it comes down to is this. At the moment, given my state of mind, I worry about my capacity do the job well. I'm running low on leave days, and if this past term is anything to go by, there are still going to be times when I can't face work; where I need a day (or two or three) off. Do I take my chances with that or act in anticipation of it? The question is rhetorical of course, because I can't know what's ahead. But what I do know is that teaching isn't the kind of job that allows for too many mistakes; too much instability. Who knows how long it will take me to get my head together? Hopefully not years. But it has only been six months. Is it too much to ask that I take a year at least to get my head around this? To work out who I actually am without Sam? Nobody that hasn't been through this can know the answer. Actually, I don't think anyone can know. We're all built so differently. This is just what I need.

But I must also say, Lorraine also makes a very valid point about the potential to be sitting around doing nothing. It's very possible. There have been many times that I have got to the end of the weekend or the end of the holidays and thought "is it really possible that I've done nothing at all?".

Some of that is recharging: I (we - teachers) get so tired and drained by the end of the term, it often takes a week to recover.
Some of it is also laziness. I do like doing nothing sometimes. But then again, I don't know if lazy is the right word. I don't know why we feel so guilty about relaxing. About sitting down and reading a book, or watching a good movie. Or knitting. I don't see why I should have to wait until retirement to do the things I enjoy.

But taking a day off a week to relax is not really what I had in mind. And hopefully that's not the way I would go. I must say I've done a bit of it this past week, but I've been in a bit of a slump (and adjusting to this medication). I have been doing too much thinking to be productive. But at the same time, I've also seen that side of depression - the sitting-around-doing-nothing side. And it was pretty scary. I don't mind saying that's where I was headed too. Luckily, I made the right choice to go and see my doctor, and I think he's got to me in time.

I do have plans. Things I would do in the time Oli is at school. And quite frankly I'm sick of making plans that I'm too scared or too busy to act on. I've got an idea for a children's book that I've been mulling over for a while; I've got a garden that could be a good little money maker with a bit of work (or at least make us more self-sufficient and save us a lot of money on food); I'd like to investigate photography a bit more, maybe try and sell some photos; I've got an idea for an educational web-based resource; etc etc. I am aware of the danger of putting too much stock in these things; that they may be just 'get rich quick' schemes. But how do you ever know if you don't try?

Yes, I've definitely got things that I can be doing. Productive things. Things that might give me an idea of what I want for the future. Things that might help me find myself again. Things that will make me feel like I'm living; following my intuition, my dreams.

So I guess what this means is that I've made my decision. It's scary, and it's a bit of a risk and it's probably not going to be popular with everyone, but in the end it's mine to make.

Now I just have to make it happen. That could be the hard part.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday's Sensational Six

OK, enough of this melancholy, feeling-sorry-for-myself stuff. Time for some photos.

I've been experimenting with Dad's (my?) camera, and must say that I still have a lot to learn. Some of it is the camera and some of it is me. Sometimes I think I took better photos when I didn't know anything about photography! I'm not entirely happy with many of the photos I've been taking lately. Hopefully it's a passing phase, and once I'm past the learning/experimental phase, they'll get better.
I've also bought Photoshop, which I should be able to start using tomorrow. Another learning curve, I know, but it should hopefully be a good editing/processing tool to make my photos even better.

So, here are today's:

A photo of Sam
A typical Sam pose. Bare feet, relaxed stance, cool expression. He's on our 'famous' front deck.

A photo of Oliver
Look at those long eyelashes!

An old photo

Me and Deb waaaaaaay back in primary school (hope you don't mind Deb - I'll take it down if you do!)

An Interesting Photo

I think it was Wednesday morning, I noticed that the hill not far from our house was almost glowing! I wish I'd gone closer, but it didn't last long anyway.

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
This week's theme is 'portrait'. Portraits are definitely not my strength. I was trying to get a good one of mum and dad, but none worked out quite the way I wanted. I took this one of Ollie the other day (he saw me teaching myself how to knit and decided he'd learn too), it's quite nice, although I think I could make it better with Photoshop or something.

Morguefile Lesson Photos

Lesson 3 - Lenses.
I've been doing a bit more fiddling with the lenses; just trying them out and getting to know them. This one is with the longer lens (150mm). The big building in the background was about 4km as the crow flies) from where I was standing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Midlife Crisis

You're perfect, yes it's true.
But without me you're only you...
Faith No More - Midlife Crisis

Is it possible to have one at 36?
Don't worry readers, I'm not about to go out and buy a ferrari or find myself a toyboy!

Now I know you're all saying, she's had this traumatic experience, she's depressed, she's not herself...and you may well be right. But I wonder if I'm thinking differently because of these things, or if I would have come to these conclusions eventually anyway.

Please bear with me (or not - your choice as always), as I think out loud.

Of course nothing's ever simple with me; not lately anyway. I have some thoughts that run over and over in my mind, and then others that pop in and out that seem to contradict each other. It's very confusing sometimes, and probably not helped by the drugs I'm now taking. I can't make any sense of things by talking either, because of my general inability to express myself verbally.

Let me explain (because by writing it all down; and maybe even getting some other people's perspectives - I'm sure Anthony's sick of me babbling - I might be able to make some sense of it):

The one, overriding thought I have at the moment; and I don't think it's been brought on by the drugs or the depression, because I've had it for a while; is that I just don't know who I am any more. It's not that I have amnesia or anything, it's just that the things I want and the way I want to operate have changed. I know I'm still a mum, and a partner, and a daughter, and a sister, but I feel like I've changed, but don't know how I've changed. My opinions and values seem to have shifted, that's for sure!

Prior to Sam's death, I was probably a workaholic (I think I even thought of myself like that afterwards too, as this post seems to be saying). At the very least I was one of those people who spent far too much time working or thinking about work.
And it was OK. I justified it in any number of ways and, I thought, was feeling OK about it all. After all, I was still in the early stages of my career, and getting my head around everything. Of course, when I was still working hard well into my 4th year, I guess I knew it was more than working the job out.

But now, I don't want to be that person. I do like teaching, and I do like working, but all I want to do is be here for Ollie. I want to be able to walk him to school every now and then, or go to his assemblies. I want to have enough energy at the end of the week to be able to go for a bike ride, kick a soccer ball around, watch a movie with him without falling asleep. They grow so quickly, and I've only got one now. It's so hard to know I'm not there for him.
Of course, Anthony is here for him, and he is very lucky to have his dad here, I've always said that. But I want to be here for some of it too!
When I said this to my parents yesterday, they spoke of leaving me at day care and crying all the way to work. I'm sure this is pretty normal for all parents when they leave their kids in care, and certainly I already felt that way. But now, it's stronger. Maybe because I've lost one child already, and I want to hang on desperately to the only one I have left. To experience every moment.

Of course I realise that there aren't many jobs that pay well that also allow you these things. And that's part of the frustration. I do actually like teaching sometimes too! I love the relationships you develop with people; I love that you can do different things every day; I love the constant learning that's involved. But sometimes it doesn't seem worth the effort and emotional investment. Especially when you're trading off your family to do it.

To tell you the truth, as much as I didn't want to take the whole week off, I'm glad I did. It's not like I've done much, but it has been nice to be here not doing much. I've loved being here every morning and every afternoon to see Oliver.

So it comes down to this. What I keep coming back to; what I really think I would like, is to just work 4 days a week until the end of the year. It started as just a little thought, but now it is almost all-consuming. I think it's also a bit of a compromise for my crazed mind, because sometimes all I want to to is run and keep running! Go somewhere that there are no reminders, no stresses. I know that place doesn't really exist, so I've gone for a compromise aimed at saving my sanity. I keep weighing up the pros and cons, and it's about even, so I don't know where to go. Maybe you can help me?

  • More time with Ollie.
  • I can make an appearance at Ollie's school once a week.
  • I can have some time to myself to work things out in my head (without Ollie/weekend stuff happening around me).
  • I can try some other things (like maybe doing some writing - a book?, photography etc).
  • We would be around $350-$400 worse off per fortnight (would not affect mortgage, bills too much, but would mean some belt-tightening).
  • It *may* hurt my career options in teaching (although I don't really believe that, as I do have a fairly good name in the profession anyway, and it is only one semester).
  • The school would be inconvenienced.
Y'see, to me, the main reason not to do it is financial. And the way that I'm thinking now, and have been for a long time, is that that's not a good enough reason. It is a problem, I guess, because we do have a mortgage etc (and my stupid HECS bill - if only I didn't have that we'd be all right!), but if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that family (and I'm starting to think, my sanity) is more important than financial concerns. Anthony has said that we'd manage if we had to, but I don't want to put him through too much belt-tightening if it's unnecessary for other reasons!

Can you see my dilemma? Of course, it is possible that this is all because I'm looking at the world through a different lens, and some of you might be able to help me see reason one way or another. Maybe you could add to my pros and cons list. All I know is that if I keep running it all around in my head, I'll go even more crazy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fashion, Family and Feats: my life in 5 year bursts...

The last few posts have been a little melancholy, so I thought I'd jump in on another Blog This challenge:
What were you doing 5, 10, 15, 20 etc years ago? 2005. 2000. 1995. 1990. 1985. 1980. 1975... Just go back as far as you can, we have a wide range of ages in our contributors!
Words, pictures or both, whatever you please.

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about how it would be nice to write some kind of a memoir (I know, I know, I'm only 36, but I've had a fairly interesting life up until now!), but that it's always so hard to remember stuff. This challenge will be a good place to start. As always, I've used photos to hopefully trigger some memories, and give me (and you) a bit of a giggle...

5 Years Ago
Feats and Finances - In 2005, I graduated from university. I was 32. I hadn't gone to uni after year 12, as I had a little bit of living I wanted to do. ;pI quite enjoyed uni, despite giving birth to a baby halfway through my degree. I did well, with a distinction average, and managed not to piss too many people off! I was offered a permanent job in November and spent the last few weeks of the school year working as a relief teacher, mainly at Birrigai, which is an awesome outdoor education school here in the ACT.

Family - In 2005, Oliver was 2 and Sam was 9. I think, deep down, Sam was proud of his mum becoming a teacher, but there was NO WAY he was going to let me teach at his school! Not that I would have anyway!
2005 was also the year that Anthony started getting serious about birds. It started off with a bunch of red rump parrots given to him by a friend, and a stray galah rescued from the side of the road. Now, we have hundreds of parrots of all different shapes and sizes (I'll write about them some time)!

Fashion - In 2005, I had already lost a fair bit of weight. I had been going to the gym regularly and eating well. At the time I said I wasn't dieting, but I certainly didn't eat heaps of junk. In the photo above, I think I'd already lost about 25 kilos. By my birthday/graduation it was over 30 kilos. So 2005 (and 2006) were the years I got interested in fashion again. I could walk in and buy something off the rack. Granted, it was usually a size 14-18 (sizing is just so inconsistent, isn't it!), but it FIT!
Now, of course, I've put almost all that weight on again! Sigh...

10 Years Ago
Family - In 2000, we were well on our way to establishing ourselves as a family. We'd bought our house (in 1998) and were busily knocking down walls, (we still haven't patched all the plaster!) planting our garden and ripping up carpets.
We went on our first 'family holiday' to Sydney, staying in a horrid hotel (above the pub; shared bathroom) in Wynyard in Sydney. We had a nice time though, walking almost everywhere (my boys have always had good stamina for walking - I truly believe it's the best way to see a place!) and doing lots of touristy things.
Samuel started preschool in 2000, and met some of the friends that he kept close until the day he died. He was quite young for preschool; three when he started, but he coped very well with it. We had no doubt that he was ready for it!

Work - In 2000 I had been working at the local cinema for 7 years. Some time around 2000, the management changed and it wasn't as nice a place to work. By 2000 I was the chief projectionist, and had started working as a shift supervisor for some shifts. I liked the shift work, as it meant I could do some of the school stuff (I was on the fund raising committee that year).
Anthony's business was going pretty well; and he was starting to pick up some pretty important jobs around town.

Fashion - In 2000, I didn't really worry about fashion too much. I wore a uniform at work, and as my job was fairly active and dirty, my clothes weren't particularly high fashion. I wore 'comfortable' clothes in my down time, many of which were fairly androgynous. I don't remember it being a particularly conscious choice, it was just what I liked. I was probably also a little conscious of my body/extra weight (which funnily enough, was not nearly as much of a problem as it is now!)

15 Years ago
For some reason, I couldn't find a single photo of me in 1995. This one was taken on New Year's Eve 1994, so it's close:
We were going to a 21st birthday party, with a medieval theme. Anthony must have really liked me even then, for me to talk him into dressing up like that!

Family - 1995 was the year I fell pregnant. I've told this story before, but Anthony and I had been together only about 5 months when I found out. A pretty heavy thing for both of us to have to deal with: me at 21 and him at 23. But we did OK out of it, I think.

Feats and Finances - In 1995, I was busy working as a projectionist at the local cinema. I'd been working there since 1992, and had been asking for a while to work in the projection room. I was told a few times that 'women don't do that job', but kept up my campaign until they gave me the job. I did it pretty well too, and then about 6 months into the job, found out I was pregnant (oh the irony!).

Fashion - Oh how I wish I had some photos for you! 1n 1995, there weren't the lovely, high fashion maternity clothes that there are now. There were (at least in the places I shopped) sacks, smocks and the occasional muumuu. My mum made me a few good bits and pieces (she's a highly talented lady that one, especially when it comes to anything requiring a needle!), but mostly I wore caftans and other shapeless, horrible things. Luckily, it was summer when I was heavily pregnant, so I spent most of my time in water, requiring little by the way of fashion!

20 Years Ago
Family - Well in 1990 I was 16, so I was still ensconced in my 'first' family. I was in year 11, and it was a very exciting year. I found (and lost) my first 'real' boyfriend, met my best friend Sally, and went overseas for the second time in my life (in 1988 I had gone to Indonesia with school as part of the language program).

Feats and Finances - In September 1990, I went to the USA with the ACT Senior Concert Band. We went all over the states, playing concerts as we went. We went to Washington D.C, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Small-town Wisconsin and lots of places in between. We even played a couple of shows at Disneyland. My dad came along for the ride, and quite possibly had more fun than I did, but it was a great experience!

Fashion - I was 16, and above average weight-wise (god I'd love to be that 'fat' again!), so I probably wasn't going to squeeze myself into some of the stuff other 16 year olds were wearing. Which believe me, is NOTHING like what modern day 16 year olds are wearing! I was more of a jeans and Dr Martens girl anyway, and for the most part, made fairly acceptable fashion choices!
25 Years Ago
Family - In 1985 I was 12. I was in year 6 and excited about high school, from what I remember! We'd been living in our house for 4 years, and I'd made some pretty good friends around the neighbourhood. Our area was still pretty new, but growing rapidly.
Feats and Finances - I seem to remember I was OK at writing in primary school, and quite enjoyed drama. I generally got pretty good reports and got along with most people. It's very possible that I tried my first cigarette in year 6 (but don't tell my mum and dad!).

Fashion - It was the 80s! What can I tell you, except that I was no exception! I don't know if these are all 1985, but they were definitely taken between 1983 and 1986. Note the socks and sandals!
30 Years Ago
Well there's not really all that much I can tell you. It was 1980, I was 6, and I obviously liked pink ponchos. 'nuff said!
35 Years Ago
The year was 1975...I was nearly 2, completely gorgeous:
and possibly slightly perturbed at the arrival of my little brother:
Isn't it amazing how much goes on in 5 years? So many changes in between those times...
I wonder what I'll be doing in 2015??

Oh, and if you liked this post, please feel free to vote for it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Black Dog Barks

It's official. I am depressed.

Thankfully, it's a reactive form of depression, brought on by recent events (and some would argue, my crazy compulsion to look after everyone else but myself).
The doctor has given me some medication and told me to take the rest of the week off. Both suggestions troubled me initially: firstly, I am always hesitant to take any kind of drugs, and secondly, because I was concerned that time off might cause people to see me as unreliable (yes dad, I do take in the things you say!).

After some thought though, and a conversation with my sensible, experienced and wonderful best friend, I decided to follow the doctor's advice. He is a doctor after all!

So I'll be taking anti-depressants for the next few months, and will hopefully get my mojo back.
As for work, as Sally said, until this catastrophic event exploded into my life, my actions and achievements spoke for themselves (I know I'm going to have to keep reminding myself of these, as that terrible 'teacher guilt' creeps in). I was (am) a well-liked, highly skilled, respected, prize-winning (fully funded places in 2 separate conferences in two years), published (my maths unit on a national teaching website), interviewed (for the national union's magazine) teacher who has just hit a bump in the road. Those are the things that I will keep telling myself are important, not my current rate of absences. When I really think about it, I do love teaching, it's just that my judgement is clouded.

But the main thing is (once again I can credit Sally for this) that I have to look after myself. I have been busy looking after everyone else and have neglected myself. If I don't slow down, there will be an even bigger crash.

6 Months

Six months of the most unbelievable pain I've ever felt.

I miss him so much.

I always wonder whether I should post comments like these. For one, it seems to worry some of the people closest to me, and I sometimes wonder if it makes me look like a whinger.

But as I've said many times, I set out to document every step along the way, and I mean to do just that.

Sometimes I think I'm getting worse, not better. In the early months after Sam died, I was doing a passable job of 'keeping it all together'. Or so I thought. Perhaps I confused not crying and being strong with what it really was - supressing everything I "should" have been feeling.
I certainly cry more now. I feel more sad more often. And as I've mentioned before, there is an aspect of depression (whether you call it that or not) that has crept in: I don't feel like working, cooking, cleaning, exercising, even interacting with people all that much. And I am doing just enough to stop things from going too far.
(Don't worry readers, I am going to see my GP today).

When I write posts like this one, people talk to me or send me messages asking if I want to talk. It think it's fantastic that they do that; it shows that they care, but most of the time I don't want to talk.
There are lots of reasons why: I don't want to burden people with it; I've documented it here anyway; I'd rather talk about other things with people that are close to me. And I just don't know how much it would help. Me, that is. Thank you for the offers, but it's not what I need.

As I've said before, I get a lot out of putting everything down here. It's kind of like a clearinghouse of thoughts sometimes, and there have been times that writing it down has helped a lot. I think in the future it will also be good to come back and read through it all. I sometimes struggle with the public/private nature of it, but I actually enjoy the fact that 'strangers' read it and get something out of it, as well as people that I know.

I could have done all this with a diary, but I don't know whether I would have. I've kept many diaries in the past. Briefly. There were the numerous 'teen angst' journals, where I agonised about boys, dreamed about pouffy-haired popstars, and collected angsty poems and song lyrics. There are the million diet diaries that I've started and stopped (seriously, who writes down EVERYTHING they eat and drink, every day, for years on end??). There are the creative writing journals that I've started: "observe everything, write everything down". There are the journals I've kept (or is that 'meant to keep') about my kid's antics. And there have been countless other diaries over the years. None of them have lasted long. This is the only one that I've sustained longer than a couple of months. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the subject matter. Maybe it's the medium. Maybe it's me and where I am...

Anyway, I can't believe I've written another one of these posts. I've got another one that's almost ready to go, will post later. Today I'm having some 'me' time: going to the doctor and having some quiet time (last time I took a day off, Oliver was home sick too). Later on, Anthony, Oliver and I are meeting some of Sam's friends and one of his teachers for Goodberrys. It will be nice to see them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday's Sensational Six

Wow, I'm cutting it fine tonight! But here it is...

A photo of Sam
How cute was he??

A photo of Oliver
We went to Sydney for the day last Sunday for my nephew's naming day. It was one of the first days I got a real chance to play with my dad's camera. I like the focus in this one.

An old photo

This is one of my dear old dad when he was a little younger. Up the right way now!

An Interesting Photo

Another one with the different camera. They're very clear photos!
This is Connie, my mother-in-law's dog.

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
This week's challenge was 'Old Age'. This is Merlin, our 15 year old dog, on our 15+ year old couch. (Actually, it's his couch!)

Morguefile Lesson Photos
Lesson 3 - Lenses.
I haven't done the assignments yet, but I thought I'd put these in. These were taken at Parramatta Lake last Sunday, with the same lens (from the same place).

More Mondegreens!

Ollie and I have had a lovely evening tonight, playing Uno and dancing madly around the lounge room. And now I have some more Mondegreens that I'd love to share:

We were listening to Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side'. The original lyric is:

"But she never lost her head, even when she was giving head".

Ollie's version was:

"But she never lost her head, even when she was given a head". I got a good 5 minutes of laughter out of that one!

(Oh, and before you jump up and down objecting to the music I play for my children, I do believe in exposing my kids to a wide range of music! Plus, there's MUCH worse out there!) :)

It also reminded me of one that he does for Pink's song "So What". The original lyric is:

"So what, I'm still a rock star".

Ollie's version is:

"Snow White, I'm still a rock star".


Friday, June 18, 2010

FlogYoBlog Friday

Do you like my blog? Perhaps you might like some of these:

Are you looking for a new post?

I did publish one late last night, but because I started the draft on Tuesday, blogger (in it's infinite wisdom) stuck it in before the last one. Here is a link to it:
More later...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A new low?

Monday was a low moment for me. Thanks to those of you who left comments or contacted me in other ways, I really do appreciate your support.

I ummed and ahhed about posting about depression. I knew that it could possibly worry some of those close to me (I'm sorry if it did), because (as I have mentioned) depression has been an issue in our family before.

But as I said in the previous post, I did set out to document this grief process, and I would be doing myself (and any readers who still hang around) a disservice if I skipped bits that might be controversial or worrying.

The other reason I wrote about it is because depression is still such a taboo subject. I think it's important for us to talk about.

Depression is so much more common than we realise. Beyond Blue's website says that 'around one million Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with depression each year.' and that 'On average, one in five people will experience depression in their lifetime.' That's a lot of people for us not to be talking about it!

When Anthony was diagnosed with depression, I found it really difficult to talk to people about it, mainly because they felt uncomfortable with it I guess, but also because they didn't know much about it. I did a fair bit of reading about it, and although it was a very trying and difficult time, I was able to support him through it.

So I wanted to put it out there. I'm not sure whether I actually am depressed or was just feeling down in the dumps on Monday, but I'm glad I posted it. Now we can start the discussion. Feel free to add your comments or experiences (although I realise that not all of us are as comfortable (?) in sharing our personal thoughts as I am!)

(By the way, I am feeling more chipper than Monday (although I will still visit the doctor), so stay tuned for some more upbeat stuff.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

10 Things I'm Grateful For

If you'd asked me 5 months ago what I loved about my world, I'd be hard-pressed to name anything. The all-encompassing sadness that hung over me then (and still does now, sometimes) would have clouded my judgement.

But as hard as this has been for me, I know that Sam would be very disappointed if I consistently took the negative view. I think a healthy dose of positive might be good for me at the moment. Originally, I was going to write this as a Blog This challenge, but had trouble with the whole '10 things I love about my world' concept. So instead I've decided to write about 10 things I'm grateful for.


We've been together a very long time (15 and a half years). We've been through great hardships and trials, and we have somehow managed to stick it out. Sometimes I wonder if it's just stubbornness: we certainly piss each other off royally sometimes. I'll never forget the time we had a big fight and I got the shits that he was walking out, so I threw a cooling rack (you know, those wire things you put bikkies on to cool) at him and it went right through the lounge room window!. It occasionally frustrates me that he's not at all romantic; and sometimes he takes AGES to do anything.
But there are also moments when I see clearly how much love and support we have for each other. I know that even though Anthony is not openly demonstrative or affectionate; he is always attentive and interested; I KNOW that he would do anything at all for me, and he is a talented, gentle, caring and generous partner.

My little ray of sunshine. He was such a surprise. After 7 years of believing I'd only have one child, he came along. He's gorgeous, funny, sweet and is really 'touchy' (as in he likes to touch and be touched - in a totally innocent and non-sexual way!!) - just like me. In fact, Oliver is like me in many ways: musical, extroverted, fidgety, clever...
He has a beautiful singing voice (but won't let me send him to lessons) and the potential for greatness. He has done such a good job of keeping us all going. Sometimes it's hard to believe he's only 6!

The time I did have with Sam
I only had him for 13 years and 9 months, but they were some of the best years of my life. I've already raved about how awesome, wonderful, kind, funny, generous and talented my boy was. I think you know how I feel about him...

My Family
I do have some wonderfully supportive family members. My mum and dad are wonderful, caring, giving people who I sometimes suspect would do anything for me. Anthony's family are just as great. His brothers are funny, charming, welcoming and always there when you need them. Our extended families are also great at being supportive!

My Friends
As I've mentioned before, I haven't always been good at making friends. So the ones I have are even more special now.
I know lots of people. I've lived in Canberra my whole life, I worked in a cinema for 10 years and I'm now a teacher, so I've met LOTS of people along the way. It's not so bad (remember I do like meeting lots of different people!). But as for friends, I could count my close ones on one hand. The ones I know would drop everything for me if I needed them (and did so very recently).
But that's OK. Because deep down, I know I wouldn't be able to give a big group of friends the time they would need. So I'm happy to stick to the occasional night out with them, so there's more time for Sunday drinks with the good ones!

I love music. I think I've made that fairly clear. From my early, misguided days of worshipping the likes of A-ha and Culture Club to my current, mostly open minded (but leaning more towards rock) and broad preferences.
I love loud music in the home, I love live music, I love playing music (though I don't do that much any more). And I am so grateful that there are thousands of talented people in the world making music that I can listen to.

There's no denying it. I'm a geek. I love computers and all the fantastic things they do for us. I love that if I want to, I can communicate instantly with anyone in the world. I love that I can take photos and edit them or do funky things to them. I love being able to look at a photo or map of any place in the world. I love my iPhone. I love that I have over 17000 songs accessible at the touch of a button (I know, I know, the quality's not as good, but who cares when all you want to do is hear that song? Right now!)
Yes, there are downfalls (and I'm sure it will make a great blog topic one day), but I am very grateful for technology.

I'm grateful that I live in Canberra.
It gets a bum wrap a lot of the time - and people often move away to Brisbane - but it really is a great place. It's green and beautiful (for now!) and the mountains make a very picturesque backdrop. The weather is often misunderstood: it is very cold in the winter sometimes, but most winter days are sunny and clear (in fact it's been said that Canberra has more days of sunshine than Queensland!), and the summers are BLOODY hot! I like that we have definite seasons and the autumn colours are gorgeous!
Much-maligned Canberra is also often accused of being soulless and boring, but if you know what you're doing, there's always plenty to do! It's even getting better the older I get. Not just because I'm older, but because more things happen here now. It might look boring to an outsider (I'm talking to you Bill Bryson!) but it's probably because we don't want everyone joining in. :)
And then there's the "it's full of politicians" line. Well hello, the politicians come from ALL OVER AUSTRALIA!!!

It was Samuel that gave me a true appreciation of comedy, although I have always liked funny people. When I was younger, I remember crying with laughter while watching Billy Connolly video (funny guy!). I also had a lot of fun watching the D-Generation as a teenager.
Because I'm such a 'smiley' person, I really do enjoy a good laugh. And sadly, there aren't as many opportunities for a good laugh as there used to be, so good comedy is always welcome.
I'll even pay someone!
We took Samuel to see live comedy shows twice. Once to see The Umbilical Brothers when he was about 9; very, very funny guys. We also took him to see Tripod in November last year. He was just old enough to get the 'adult references', and loved it a lot.
I've talked about how much I miss Samuel's laugh, and perhaps it's because I heard it so much. He loved watching the Comedy Channel; from stand-up to Family Guy to Chaser's War on Everything. He also loved Monty Python (who doesn't?!). And when Sam started giggling, it wasn't long before the rest of us were too.
Sometimes you need a bit of help to get the laugh going. So I'm grateful for comedy.

And a 10th?
Well there are so many things that I am grateful for. There are the big things: living in a free country; my (relative) good health; having basic human rights that are denied to many; having a roof over my head; my job etc. And there are the little things: spring flowers and autumn leaves; coffee flavoured ice cream; my doona; good coffee; the beach...

What are you grateful for?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Black Dog

I have a very long and intimate connection with depression.
And that's why I know I'm possibly on the way there...

After Samuel was born, I suffered from Post-natal depression. It wasn't severe, and I recovered quickly (it wasn't even until afterward that I knew what it was).

A bit later on (but before Oliver) I had proper, diagnosed depression, but once again, it wasn't too serious. I was never medicated or anything, just made aware of it.

Then, just last year, a counsellor told me I had 'depletion depression' - that is, depression caused by being a 'super mum' and being all things to all people.

And then of course, there's Anthony's depression. Not something I'm particularly interested in rehashing here, but back in 2006 we went through a pretty rough time when he had a fairly serious breakdown.

So I guess you could say that I'm familiar with depression, and all that comes along with it. I know how it feels, and I know how hard it is to live with.

So when I started feeling sad, worthless, listless, hopeless...(etc) I knew that I'd probably be better off paying attention to my mental health.

So I'll go and see a doctor this week. Don't worry readers (especially you mum and dad!), I'm aware of it, so that's gotta mean something, doesn't it?? This is, after all, an honest representation of my life (and my grief journey), so I do need to be honest, don't I??


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday's Sensational Six

I didn't think I was going to get them in today. But here I am!

A photo of Sam
Oh what beautiful eyes you have...

A photo of Oliver
My Dad has given me his camera to fiddle with, and perhaps I'll buy it off him. I must say it does take some nice photos!

An old photo
Not long after we brought Sam home from hospital.

An Interesting Photo
More fiddling with Dad's camera. I do like the way it focuses!

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:

This week's challenge was ''Whimsical Winter". I wasn't enormously inspired (it's been a tough week), but it's better than nothing!

Morguefile Lesson Photos
I'm going to redo the lessons with Dad's camera when I get a moment. This one is nice, if not a little overexposed. I was testing out the longer range lens.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another funeral

It was pretty awful.
I'm going to say now that I hate that it always comes back to Sam, but then again, it's always going to, isn't it?
I am very sad for my friends, and very sad for the group of people who are close to them and their daughter, who now have to start grieving. She was a lovely girl, and it was obvious by the number of people at her funeral that she was very well loved.

I had only met her a couple of times. I remember her as sweet, and gentle and very friendly. Her funeral was very moving and lovely, with some beautiful moments - when her mother, brother and sisters got up and spoke; when one of K's friends spoke beautifully; when one of her teachers spoke the words many people were obviously thinking.

When they were describing her, I was reminded of myself as a teenager. She was always trying to help people, always smiling, didn't like seeing people unhappy, wanted to be friends with everyone, not just one little group of people (and sometimes some of those little groups got angry with her). That was what I was like at school too. It's what I'm like now too, sometimes. Her birthday was 2 days before mine, too. Perhaps it's a Sagittarius thing.

But I have to admit, my thoughts did keep coming back to Sam. Their funerals were so different, and yet so similar. I certainly cried more at K's funeral than I did at Samuel's. Lots more. Especially afterwards.

I guess there are going to be lots more times that I feel this overwhelmed by grief. And it will be a long time before things are good or normal.

I'm having a day off today because I just feel so drained. I've had a little cold on and off for a few weeks now, but it's not really that. I think it's been building up for a couple of weeks now. I've got a terrible headache that is probably stress related, and my body just feels so sore and tired. I'm sure it's all stress, but I'm just going to have a quiet, nothing day.

Looks like Oliver will too.
When we picked him up yesterday after the funeral, he said "so many people are dying". I thought: what a sad thing for a six year old boy to have to be thinking about.

But I've gotta admit, it's exactly what I was thinking too. First, of course there was the Sam thing, which we're all having trouble adjusting to. Then there was my best friend's grandmother last week (which was sad, because of how my friend was feeling, but a different kind of sad, because, after all, she was 90). Then there was K. So much death. Too many unnecessary deaths!

I guess he's worried about who's going to die next. I know that thought's always in the back of my mind. I told him that people die all the time, it just happens that lately it's been people that we know. I also told him that no one we know is likely to die any time soon.
He didn't ask any more questions, and was fairly chirpy after that, so hopefully it's not worrying him too much.

But we're going to have a day off together today. I know it sounds like I'm a terrible mother, not sending him to school, but I don't care. He has got a weird looking rash on his arms, so I will take him to the doctor, but really, it's more of a mental health day for both of us.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Water - from happy to healing

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea. ~Isak Dinesen

This week, Blog This issued a photographic challenge: water.
I started looking through my photos, thinking that perhaps I'd find some fantastic beach sunset photo that I could post.
I do have some nice beach sunset photos; from Perth (from Cottesloe Beach):
and Melbourne (from Frankston Beach):
Which are lovely, really (isn't it amazing that no matter where you go, the sunset looks great over the ocean?).
But while I was looking through, I kept noticing a whole lot of other water photos, which happen to coincide with some wonderful memories, moments and milestones in my life.

There's the obligatory bath photo:
And the solitary "walk along the beach" photo,
Which help remind me how much my kids love (loved) the water - from the bathroom to the beach.

There's the photos that remind me of happier times with my family, like our first real holiday as a family of four, when we first discovered the beautiful town of Merimbula:
Or when we spent a lovely 10 days in Brisbane, with much of our time spent by the pool:
There are the memories of simple summer evenings spent down by the river:
The times when fears won (Samuel would not go out on the water):
And the other times where fears were conquered, and new passions begun:
(it took all our powers of persuasion to get Sam onto the boat, but once he was out at sea, he was a convert, and headed out to sea as much as he could, mostly with his friend Ryan).

The water was where my beautiful oldest child showed his nurturing side, at a time when little brothers were the biggest pains ever:
And then there are the photos that remind me of what has been taken away from me.
(Samuel loved waterslides, and actually visited this pool complex just 4 days before he died).

And then, after all that we have been through, when it seemed like there might be nothing that would ever give us joy again, there are the photos that remind me that there is still some joy in the world. That water helped us start to heal.
I've been a 'water baby' all my life. I love the water in all its forms. And despite the fact that the most water I've seen this year is the tears that I've cried for my boy, I know that there is a little hope.

You can see the other posts in this challenge (and vote for your favourite from Thursday 10/6/10). Just click here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Get this out of my system first

I've got a post planned, but I just wanted to do a little venting (complaining?) first. Sorry if it's 'rambly' and hard to read.

I've gotta admit, I'm struggling a little with the death of K. She was almost exactly the same age as Samuel was when he died, and it's all hitting a little too close to home. She had an asthma attack, which I must admit was what I thought had happened to Samuel for a long time.
I know that each case is different, and I'm so sad for her parents and her family and friends, but I'm also sad because of how much it reminds me of Sam's death. And how much I keep thinking that this stuff just should not happen!

I had been feeling a little sorry for myself anyway, as you know. It just seemed to be a whole lot of things that keep piling on. The inquest had come to an end (we received the updated, final death certificate today). The weather has been getting colder and more miserable. My best friend's grandmother died last week, and we went to her funeral on Thursday. I'd taken Oliver to the doctor and found out there's a chance he might have to have surgery (very minor surgery to have one of his testicles brought down, but I was freaking out about any kind of anesthetic - pathetic I know!). Work has been ultra busy. No one really comes to my Sunday drinks any more :( That person I've mentioned before was back to their old ways...things were just, well, shitty.

Then of course a tragedy like this happens, and you feel a little bit guilty that you were worried about the weather.

So it's been a pretty sad few days. I've been watching on Facebook as a page is set up for K, and people have been writing beautiful messages.
When Sam died, I suspended my account and logged out of Facebook for at least a month (I can't remember exactly how long), because I couldn't face that same outpouring. Funnily enough, once I logged back on, I couldn't get enough of the messages and wonderful support I received on there. I hope that K's family is getting something out of that.

It's not that we're close to K's family, not really. I went to high school with K's dad; I've had coffee with the family once before, and we talk on Facebook a bit, just general stuff that happens between people that are busy living.

But now, somehow we feel a connection. I hate that a connection could be formed over something so horrible, but it's there (Anthony and I have talked about it and we both feel the same). That's where all this 'searching for kindred spirits' came from.

As I've mentioned, when Samuel died, I went looking for people that felt the same way as me. Who had some kind of understanding of what I was going through. It wasn't that I felt that my family and friends were not supportive, because they were, but I wanted to talk to people who knew what it was like to have a great hole cut out of your life; one that can never be filled.

At first, I didn't have much luck; the first group I found online was way too religious for my liking! There are a couple that I have found since then, like Kate, Jaimee and Tammy (thanks girls); and I have found some good support back on Essential Baby.

But this need to reach out; to find other people who had this horrible, traumatic, life changing event envelop their lives was one of the main reasons that I started this blog. If I couldn't find them, I'd pour my heart out into the (cyber) space. Part of me (the part that always makes people want to feel better), also thought that maybe I'd be able to help someone through all of it too.

And I really want to help K's parents. Desperately! I hate that someone else has to go through all this. Someone that I know. This stuff is not supposed to happen!
I went over to see them on Saturday, not knowing if I would be a help, or just a nuisance; someone who just brought them down. I'm hoping it was the former. And I'll do anything else that I can to help them.
On Thursday, Anthony and I will go along to K's funeral. There was never any doubt that we would.

But in the end, there's nothing anyone can do. Those of us who get lumped with this horrible burden go through it so differently. There doesn't seem to be a right way, or a wrong way, just the way that's going to get us through to the other side.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

(Sunday's) Sensational Six

Not a good week for my new hobby unfortunately.
I'll only be posting the first four this week. The EB challenge theme was 'Circle of Life' and I just couldn't think of a subject without coming back to Sam. Of course, I could have done a butterfly or a flower/seed, but they had already been done so much better than I could, and everything else was too depressing.
Then of course, K passed away. She was almost exactly the same age as Samuel was when he died. I just don't understand why this stuff has to happen It's just confirmed to me that sometimes the circle of life is uneven and unfair. So I'm not entering this week.

On top of all that, the new Morguefile lesson is based on lenses, and of course, my camera only has one, so I can't really get into it. I'm hoping that my dad's camera has an extra lens so that I can play with his. But I have to wait for him to get back from holidays.

So, here are the four I can post!

A photo of Sam
This was taken on Boxing Day 2008. Sam had been saving up all his money (he usually got nothing but money for birthday and Christmas presents) and he went out and bought the phone. He'd been without a 'cool' phone since his was stolen at school. As you can see, he's very happy with it.

A photo of Oliver
The same Christmas, we bought Ollie a camera, as he was very interested in photos. And what's the first thing you do when you get a new camera? Take a photo of yourself, of course!

An old photo
At my graduation in 2005. It was stinking hot (21st December), way too long a night for my kids, and of all the outings, Samuel chose this one to bring a pocket knife along. Did I mention the graduation ceremony was at Parliament House? You can imagine the reaction he got from the security staff!

An Interesting Photo

It's amazing how much difference a bit of cropping and editing can make. This is something I'm only just starting to learn, and unfortunately I'm fairly limited in both my editing software and abilities. I do have Photoshop Elements, but it's for Windows, and our Windows computer is currently playing up. I'll eventually buy it for my Mac - but then I've got to learn how to use it!
This editing is just done in iPhoto.

This is the original. Isn't it amazing how much the whole mood changes?

More bloggy stuff later...