Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sepia Tones

Isn't it amazing that when you add sepia tones to a photo, it changes it completely? But not in a bad way.

Blog This issued a photographic challenge this week:

Share your favourite sepia photo with the world.
Your photo can be of anything, just keep in sepia tones!

Now, with 27000 (literally!) photos on my hard drive, I'm going to be pretty hard pressed to find just one favourite photo. And once I started playing with the photos I have already, I knew that it would be impossible.

The one above is absolutely suited to sepia I think - it gives it a very eerie feel!

Here are some others that I liked as well:
This is a sculpture in the Melbourne CBD.
Animals in sepia tones lend a very old-fashioned feel to a photo.

Skin tones in sepia are wonderful too!
 My boys just look beautiful.

This is what it's all about...

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about the changing face of my grief, and how some of it was accompanied by guilt.
I got a couple of wonderful responses that I wanted to draw your attention to. Click here to read them.

When Sam died, people kept saying things like 'it will get easier' or 'in time you'll fee better'. At the time, I thought that it couldn't possibly be true, that the incredible pain and shock that I was feeling would be with me forever. That I'd always have trouble functioning (doing the 'mundane' things, as Susan mentioned in her comment), and even that I'd never want to face the world again (I had a very hard time leaving the house at all in the first month or so after Sam died).

As time went on, and things didn't hurt quite so much, I started to think that maybe we'd be OK. But there was that guilt about the good days, that if I showed people I was OK, they'd think I'd forgotten Sam.

Now, I know that I'm going to be OK. Better yet, I know that (most of) the people around me are too, especially Anthony and Oliver. There are still those guilt moments, but they don't happen so often. I could even see myself saying those very words to someone else going through this: 'it will get better in time'.

It does get better in time. I guess for some people, that time might be a little longer, but it does get better. And even though we've tried hard all along to keep Sam's memory alive, now it is even easier, because we don't feel that extreme sadness when we do talk about him. We can laugh about the great memories we had, we can smile when we think of what he did for us.

So what next?

The purpose of this blog in the beginning was to document my grief, and share my memories of Sam. I still have a few of them to share, so I will continue to do that. I'm sure there'll also be some times when I'll need to write about the grief too. But I hope you don't mind if I branch out a bit.
I love to write, and I'd like to use this space to write about a whole range of things. It will mean the blog is a little different, but I hope there will still be enough to keep my wonderful readers interested. I'd love it if you could stay with me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Merimbula (again!)

Last week, we went to Merimbula for the 4th time in 3 years. We do like it there!

I had been a bit worried before the trip, as the caravan park had decided to move us off the site we'd booked, to one much further away from everything! But, I kicked up a mild stink and by the time we got there, they had a nice flat site for us about 20m away from the pool and right in the middle of the park. So they came through for us well. We've always been pretty happy with the park, so I'm glad they could sort us out and not sour our experience!

After the success we had with the borrowed one last year, we bought a camper trailer for a very good price from my friend (and workmate) Clint.
This is what it looked like set up:
 It's a great trailer: it has a HUGE king size bed,
plus space inside for a queen and another single if you wanted. Then there's a big enclosed annex, which was great for sitting inside, but still being in the shade or out of the rain. There are also two more annexes that can be attached, but we didn't need them (nor could we fit them on the site!).

We did lots of different things, including a couple of firsts for both Oliver and I. For me, it was the first time I'd ever ridden a bobsled (lots of fun!), and for Oliver, it was both his first waterslide,

 But Dad had to go on first - ('cause mum wasn't quite ready to conquer that fear yet!):
 He also went boogie boarding for the first time:
He was pretty amazing; he kept getting knocked down by the waves, but got up again and again. He got some good runs in too! But the next time we went, the waves were a little bigger, and he balked. Perhaps too much water/sand in the belly the last time?

We went to Magic Mountain (where the water slides and bobsled were), and played some mini-golf (I was quite amazed at how well I went, even got a hole-in-one!), and rode the go-karts.
This is sooo cool mum!

Pure concentration.

Magic Mountain was also where Samuel first got into waterslides too, the same way that Ollie did 7 years later. Anthony went on with them both, and from then on, they were hooked. So there were some nice memories made that day.

We had bought a little blow-up dinghy, and took that out into the lake a couple of times. Anthony enjoyed it very much.

We built a few sandcastles (as we always do):

And spent a lot of time in the pool and the games room at the caravan park. Oliver's pretty good at air hockey!

There was a cracker of a storm on Friday night, where Anthony and I spent a long time waiting with our cameras to capture the lightning. We need some more practise, but we at least got one each!
Anthony's - his was better!

Despite copious amounts of zinc and sunscreen,
We still came back brown as berries (I've never understood that expression!), but we had lots and lots of fun, as you can see by Oliver's face: 

Still, next year, we've decided to go somewhere different. We're thinking maybe Kiama or somewhere around there. I'll keep you posted.

Grief? What grief?

What would you think of me if I told you that sometimes I forget?

It's not that I forget Sam, I'll never do that. But sometimes I forget that I'm 'grieving' for him.

Perhaps it's because it's been more than a year, and my mind has adjusted to the loss of Sam. I'll be happily travelling along and suddenly something will spark a memory or a thought about him. Then I'll feel guilty because he wasn't on my mind already.

Like for example, while we were in Merimbula, I was very busy having fun (I'll tell you about it in the next post). Then I'd see a bunch of teenagers messing around in the pool/at the beach and suddenly I'd think about Sam: what role he would have played in the group - the macho boy (nah), the obnoxious loudmouth (nah) or the nice boy sitting quietly talking to a couple of pretty girls (yeah, maybe).
And then I'd remember that I am still grieving, and get a little sad. But also feel guilty that he hadn't been right at the front of my mind.

When we were packing up our trailer, a big dragonfly was flying around us. We both thought it was nice, like Sam was watching over us, and that he approved of our holiday. That was the only time I felt a real pang. Yes, there had been a couple of other times when I thought about how much he would have liked something we were doing, but I hadn't felt that strong sense of loss that I would have felt months ago.

It probably doesn't make much sense to you. I don't know if I'm explaining it right, but it's happened a few times lately.

I've wondered before what the statute of limitations is on grief - how long we are 'supposed' to make public our feelings about what happened. Do I keep forcing myself to talk publicly about how sad it is for me to have lost Sam? Like some people seem to expect, and like some people still do.
Don't get me wrong. It is sad, but (and I've always said this) I want to focus on the happy memories, and on creating a whole lot of new happy memories. But if I don't talk (or post) once in a while about how sad I am, or how much I miss Sam, does it make me look heartless?

I know that everyone does this differently, and the time it takes is different for everyone, but there seems to be expectations. Expectations that I sometimes have trouble meeting.

I enjoyed my time at the coast. As opposed to last year's trip, when it was all very sad, we did not dwell on the absence of Sam much at all. What we did do was concentrate on having a great time together as a family. Our new family, that has taken some getting used to, but is starting to feel OK.

Friday, January 21, 2011

No, I haven't run away again. Well, actually I have run away, to the coast.
The boys and I have been here since Sunday (and have to head back Sunday, sniff!), having a lovely time.
I'll fill you all in when I get back! Hope you're all as relaxed and happy as I am!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our House Part 2: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (outside)

While I haven't taken many photos of the inside of our house, I've certainly made up for it with photos of the outside. This post will be told in pictures.

This one was taken pretty early on. We'd already moved the fence forward (it used to be at the back end of the house), but hadn't done much with the block yet. The yucky potato vine (on the front wall) is still there, and the little apple blossom tree my parents gave us is still sitting in a pot.

See the massive gum tree in the backyard? It truly was enormous. It was a good 15 metres tall and about 1 metre across on the widest part of the trunk. Sadly, it got quite sick a couple of years after we moved in, and we had to have it cut down. We still have a big part of the trunk in the backyard, that Anthony will (one day - it's on the list!) turn into a seat.

A couple of years later, I'd planted a bit of a flower garden out the front. Mostly bulbs, but a couple of shrubby things as well that are quite big now (and a good screen across the neighbour's driveway). You can see the little apple blossom tree on the far right of the picture - where we planted it in the ground.
In 2004, we had the driveway done, and had a couple of decks built.

One in the front:


And a really big one in the back:

If you look closely, you'll also see the really cool playground we built for the boys. They've had a lot of fun on it!

And now?
Well, now, it's probably not looking its best.
We still have some fantastic luck with plants, they just seem to like to grow enormous in our yard. You can see that our 'little' apple blossom tree is now quite large; in fact it likes to attack people as they walk up the driveway - I must be a little more ruthless in my pruning.
But the weeds have moved in to stay unfortunately. I let things go for a while and they took advantage. It's very hard to stay on top of them...
Except for my newest little corner. We started this little corner out the back not long before Sam died. Anthony has built an amazing wall out of concrete sleepers that goes on and on and on. It's fairly spectacular!

Samuel was around to see it go up (well some of it anyway). He even helped a bit.
You can see he was very good at supervising:

But also pitched in from time to time. He did tend to grumble a bit and give up fairly quickly, but he always helped!

So that little corner's OK.  It's where I grow my berries and also in my new apple (and sunflower!) garden. I manage to keep the weeds down and keep it all mulched and watered.

But, there's still so much to do. I guess that's the price we pay for having a big (1/4 acre) block, and I know that one day it will be very nice, but sometime I wish some of those Backyard Blitz (do they even have that show any more?? ;p) folks would come along and make it all pretty!
 Well anyway, it's a work in progress. And having all the food coming out of there is definitely a benefit. It was a great move planting lots of food (I'll tell you about that soon too), and I can see the structure starting to come together. Perhaps I shouldn't hope for it to be done too soon, then I might have nothing to complain about!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Our House Part 2: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (inside)

Forgive the title, I do love a bit of David Bowie!

Over the (nearly) 13 years we have lived in our house, we have made a few changes (not including all the bedroom-swapping we do around here!)

Within two years of moving in, we had pulled down nearly all of the internal walls in the living area. For some reason, I can't find any photos, but we went from a tiny box of a kitchen, a separate living room and a walled-off loungeroom to one big open space. We still haven't patched the plaster where the walls were, but it's on our list...

We also painted the bedrooms insanely bright colours:
Believe it or not, the colours actually worked quite well. The yellow brightens up the room considerably, and the blue is cheerful and inviting. Still, more 'neutral' colours are probably needed as we grow older and far less sensible. It's on our list...

We also ripped up the carpets fairly early on. It wasn't really a very nice carpet anyway, but after finding bucketloads of sand underneath, I was convinced that I would never have carpet again. We're not the neatest people in the world, but keeping a wooden floor clean is much easier than a carpet!

Anthony also built a couple of simple but nifty and absolutely essential things in the hallway.
The first was a big cupboard, which is almost as wide as the hallway is long. He also built a clothes drying rack all the way along the hallway, which is very handy for days weeks like this where it rains and rains and rains. It holds two baskets of washing and when the heather's on in the hallway, everything dries really quickly!
In 2003, we had the bathroom done. We had timed it so that it would be completed by the time Oliver was born, but sadly the builders didn't share the same timeline. The day I went into labour, there was no access to the bathroom, and they'd just tiled the toilet, so we couldn't use that either. Twice I drove out to my mum and dad's place to shower, and I was lucky enough to get to use the 'natural toilet' (i.e. the ground) in the backyard. Now I'm not a small person, and at 40 weeks pregnant I was the size of a small truck, so you can just imagine me out there, having contractions and trying to wee without falling over.
Not pleasant!
And now, 7 years later, there are problems with it: the paint's peeling off and the floor has moved. We're a little peeved that we didn't do it ourselves actually, with Anthony being the handy man that he is. I'm sure we'll do it again some time. It's on our list...

Weirdly enough, with all the photos I take, I don't seem to have any of the bathroom before/after. Perhaps I didn't want reminders of that rather unpleasant experience!

We've still got big plans for the indoors. As I've mentioned before, we've changed our lounge room window, and Anthony recently replaced another window with a door:

And Anthony is currently working on a new kitchen for me, which will be very nice! Of course, with Anthony in charge, it's taking an awfully long time (there's something mildly annoying about the time frame in which tradies complete personal projects...), but I know once it's done it will be solid as a rock and absolutely perfect. Hopefully I won't have to wait too much longer!
Once we've done the kitchen, we'll patch up the plaster and paint the whole lounge/kitchen/dining area. Which will really bring it together. And painting's my thing, so I know it will get done fairly quickly!

There are more plans afoot. They are on the awfully long list. Hopefully we'll be able to cross off some things very soon!

Next - the changes outside...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Livin' Simple

Blog This have issued a New Year challenge:

So smile! It's a brand new year! Enter in your picture of your new years eve, or your first picture of 2011! Feel free to mix it up a bit too, maybe you want to show us a picture that represents what you hope 2011 will hold, or what surprises came around in 2010.

I did have some nice New Year's Day photos of my lovely brothers (and sisters)-in-law building a pool for me and my smiling boy, but then I came across the following couple of photos, and they really made me think about my 2011.

I've never been much good at New Year's resolutions. With the glaring exception of consistent weight loss, if I put my mind to something, I will generally achieve it, but these achievements don't tend to correspond with the start of a new year.

So this year, I didn't make any resolutions, but I have resolved to continue changing my life in 2011. In one simple way.

Those of who that know me, and that have followed my strange journey this year will know that I have made some big life changes. Situations and events I had taken for granted before were suddenly unimportant, and I realised what was important, what I really wanted out of life.

And that's simplicity. To have the time and (sadly, but it is necessary) the financial security to enjoy the simple things in life.

Many of the aspects of this lifestyle I am all but craving are represented in these photos.

This photo, of assorted berries, potatoes, garlic and peas picked from my garden represents the connection I have with food (not always positive, but definitely so in this case), and the assurance and independence that I feel when I know exactly where my food has come from.

Over the last couple of years, Anthony and I have been replacing the plants in our garden with food-bearing plants. I am planning a post dedicated to it, but I wanted to mention that the more food I get from my own garden, the better I feel.
I would love nothing more than to be able to live year-round with little to no dependence on others for food. I'd settle for some kind of barter/market system with like-minded people, but how wonderful to know exactly what's going into your mouth!

And this photo represents the other things that I now find I am constantly craving. A tranquil, bush setting; time away from home/the city with my family; simple pleasures like a bonfire (or just a night away from the TV!); and holidays: the creation of those great memories that last far longer than any TV show, game or book ever could. One of the most comforting things for me after Sam died was knowing that he had led a full and happy (if short) life, and had been on lots of holidays!

So that's what I'm resolving to do. Not just this year, but from this year on. Simple living, lots of memories, holidays, and hopefully, a quiet bush place that I can call home. 
(Don't tell anyone, but if I have to make my bush retreat the house I live in now, I will, but really, I'm still hoping for that windfall that will get my my 50+ acres near the sea!)

I'm going to do my best to avoid the toxic people in my life, work just enough to get us where we need to be, and most of all, enjoy life.

I guess in the end that is a resolution. But it's one I think I can live with.

Happy New Year.


Still here, survived my first week back at work, but only just!
My body is saying "you've got another 4 weeks off dude!", so by 10am each morning, I've been yawning and by 2pm I'm ready for my nap!

Apart from that it's OK. The office is nice and quiet, and I don't get so many phone calls or emails, so it's actually a good time to get some work done.

It's been a weird up-and-down week, in which there have been a couple of warm days when I've come home to a nice swim in the backyard (more about that later); I've been a little more motivated with exercise; and I've been blamed for events I didn't really have much to do with, all via text message mind you. Now I'm a talker, and I don't have much time for people that tell me their problems (with me) via text message. So I'm just ignoring that big ol' dumb situation.

Apart from that though. Not too bad a start to 2011. With much more goodness to come, including a lovely trip to the beach with my two best boys (burglars beware, the house will be occupied!)

I've also been tentatively taking photos again. After the hassles I had with the camera, and the run of average photos I had been taking, I lost a fair bit of confidence. But I've picked it up again lately, and will hopefully have a few photos to show you. I'm even thinking of entering a couple in a 'summer photo' competiton being run by our local newspaper.

Come to think of it, you could be my critical eye! The following are a couple I took of the gigantic sunflowers in our backyard (I'll tell you more about my amazing monster garden later!). Which do you think is better? Is there any editing I could do to improve them (cropping, light etc)? I'd love some feedback! Most of the photos entered so far have been beachy/pooly type ones, so I'd love to enter something different.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Our House - part 1

I've always thought we were destined to live in this house.

In 1997, we were living in a granny flat behind my mum and dad's house. They had been kind enough to offer the use of it while we saved for a house deposit, and it wasn't too bad, despite the fact that there were three of us in a one-bedroom flat.

From quite early on, I got into a habit of picking up real estate magazines, even though we hadn't saved anywhere near enough for a deposit.
In October, I circled this ad.
It was a good price, and it got us thinking about how we might be able to get into our own home sooner. We didn't do much else though, and the magazine was soon forgotten.

A few weeks later I saw an ad in the paper about a 'rent-to-buy' scheme. I called a real estate agent who promised to look into it for us. A few days later, he called and said he had a couple of houses to show us that we'd be able to buy without having to worry about the renting part.

We went with him to look at a nice house in Wanniassa. It had a huge backyard, a big garage and a lovely view of the mountains. We fell in love with it straight away. We didn't even look at the other houses he had on his list. We told him we wanted this one.

This was well before the 'first home buyer' money that the government gives out (we've had great timing all through our life together - always getting in too early for all the home-buying and baby-making handouts), but we found a bank that was willing to lend us 98% of the purchase price, and our income was low enough to receive a big stamp duty discount. My parents also kicked in a bit of cash to help us on our way. Before we knew it, we'd bought the house for $104,500. It's amazing how much house prices have risen since then! It's probably worth about $400,000 now.

Not long before we were due to move in, I realised that the house we were buying was the same one I'd seen all those months ago in the magazine. We decided it was fate.

We moved in on the 7th of March, 1998. Two days after Sam's 2nd birthday. We always told him he'd gotten a house for his birthday, and it was pretty hard to top that.
We've been here ever since. We've made a lot of changes, and still have more to make.
I'll tell you about them next time.