Category Archives: Slice of Life

Fruit Snacks and Other Things That No Longer Bother Me

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I sat in Sacrament meeting, watching the mother in front of me rip open a bag of fruit snacks. Five years ago I would have mentally tsk-tsk-ed and thought about how inappropriate it is to feed children in the chapel. I always prided myself on getting my children to behave without stuffing their mouths with snacks. I also prided myself on feeding my kids breakfast before we arrived at church, not during. I loved to turn up my nose at parents who treated Sacrament meeting like a little picnic.

Somewhere along the way, though, I realized that it really doesn’t matter if you break out food at church. Yes, it’s pretty unlovely to let your kids grind cheerios into the floor, but it doesn’t mean you’re a worse mom. Five years ago I would have disagreed from up on my high horse. Now I just smile at the mom in front of me with her five kids under age six and think, “do what you have to do. If fruit snacks are going to keep all seven of you from going ballistic at church then go for it.” Continue reading

Sensibility

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The coast is clear. I shove the closest book I’m reading down the back of my Fraggle Rock undies and heave myself up into the tree. Don’t look down, scurry around so the trunk is between me and the front door slamming open then FREEZE! while my sister looks for me, evil-eyed and discontent. She never looks up, we never see eye to eye, she sought my destruction and I hunted out wherever she wasn’t. Being eight is a tough gig.

Finally, higher than the roof of the house, suspended and hidden in the middle of the front yard, I pull out the book from my ever saggy underwear, and settle in to read.  My family say I read too much, that I need to go out and get fresh air, so I’ve learnt to hide my papery friends and climb fast. The tree leaves neon yellow stains under my fingernails in the warmer months, the boisterous red autumn colours camouflage me in autumn, and I’m left bereft like a forgotten scrap of tinsel in its naked arms in winter. When I’m told to go to my happy place, for real or in my head, I’m up a tree, wrapped in leaves, licking library stamp ink and sap off my fingers before I turn a page. Continue reading

Scarcity and Prayer

119HThe answer came as a little rectangle of paper, a few lines printed across it, nothing else. As answers to prayers went, I was decidedly underwhelmed.

I sighed, and scrunched my eyes a little tighter to squeeze whatever other clue out I could get.

A little piece of paper, some empty lines… and a smoothed lead pencil. Ah… recognition. In response, a blink type effect, then two names are there, carefully pressed into the paper. My ex-husband’s name, and his wife’s.

I am not a god of scarcity.

Huh. I ended my prayer and rolled into bed mulling the answer over like it was a loose tooth.

I’ve been wrecking myself against some significant decisions lately. I’ve had the stresses of starting a new job, beginning the second year of my degree, my youngest has started high school, and my oldest is in his final year. I’ve come home some nights late in the evening, to the assorted messes and heavy slumbering heat two teenagers can make, and wondered just what on earth I was trying to do with my life. Continue reading

Blood Isn’t Thicker Than Water

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I donate blood. Not for money, not for a love of pincushions, but because I know it makes a difference. (The Australian Red Cross Blood Service also gives chocolate milk, juice and TimTams to donors afterwards, which is admittedly a sweet deal, but not my only consideration). Because I am such a fantastic bleeder, I now donate plasma – a component suspended in everyone’s blood that is literally liquid gold, precious and needed. The process is impressively simple: a needle into the vein, a tube from the needle to the centrifuge, the centrifuge spins when full, pushing the plasma into the waiting translucent bag.

Then, while I’m tucked up in a reclining chair, snuggled under a soft blanket, saline is mixed back with the remaining blood, and piped back into my arm. The cycle repeats three times, by the end of which I’ve read a good chunk of my book, have kicked back for about half an hour, and can see the sparkle and heft of 900 straw coloured millilitres (30 oz) waiting to be spun into saved lives.

Blood isn’t thicker than water. You need water for your blood to shove around your body, to be hydrated, to think clearly, to make it easier for your heart to actually beat and for your blood to move. The saline replaces the volume I lose in donating, and I’m always impressed at how faint a blush the tubing can hold, carrying my blood and salt water back to me, back to my heart. Salt water is just as important to your body as your blood is, and in my case today, I have extra salt water inside and out.

My grandfather is dying. Cancer is laying siege to his spine, attacking northwards and consolidating their sneaky outposts around his body. He went straight from diagnosis to palliative treatment, from normal routine to a hospital bed at home. This is not my Grandpa.

My Grandpa taught me about cryptic crosswords, introduced me to dry humour and quick witted conversation, and taught my seven year old self the complicated way to the local corner store to buy his morning paper (with 20 cents extra “in case you need it”). He bought me my first ever tape deck – a bronze brick of a single cassette player – for Christmas when I was twelve and told my parents to let me be so I could read. He and Grandma would argue over which of their families gave me my red hair, then each pull me aside later out of the other’s hearing to tell me it was their sister/aunt who also had red hair. “Red hair is in our family, Kel. Doesn’t matter where it came from exactly… But it came from my side…”

My Grandpa met me the week before a wedding. His son was marrying my Mum, and I was the orange haired, bobble-headed toddler that came as part of the package deal. I didn’t find out for decades that blood played no part in our relationship. Instead, I grew up confident I was his favourite and oldest grandchild, with no evidence to the contrary. Even when the truth was revealed to me ten years ago, and I broached it with Grandpa and ‘ma, they just said “We love you, so who cares?”

People care. Last week, after ten days of being softly and deliberately left out of the loop by those related “by blood”, I rang him.

“Who? Kel! Oh Kellie, how are you?” curled in my ear and eased the frostbite of fear. He knew me, was delighted to hear my voice, asked after my sons and my life. At different points in the conversation we each wheezed and rattled, but his love for me flowed through the line unchanged and unaffected by DNA strands and diagnoses, thicker than blood, more vital than water.

Blood isn’t thicker than water. You can’t live without either. Salt water of every kind is involved with all of us, in the families we choose, that we make, in the families and people that we lose. Some people give blood. Some people give love.

Blood isn’t thicker than water. The heart just wants to be full.

Which is thicker, blood or water? Why? 

Water, wind, earth and fire (and cyclones)

Tropical Cyclone Marcia, off the coast of Queensland Australia, taken 20 Feb 2015 by NASA

If my soul had a natural setting, it would be the densely treed Australian Snowy Mountain ranges, grey fog a draping necklace in the cleavage of the mountains and valleys. There is a particular palette of greens and luminous browns that create it, a eucalypt mossy tang to the air, a hitch of woodsmoke and rain that bundles me up in calm whenever I think of it.

Of course, nature doesn’t care much for calm.

Today tropical cyclone Marcia is creating havoc, damage and flooding all over the bottom half of Queensland, Australia. Normally I love rain – the slow waddle and roll of clouds across the sky, the countless musical ways rain can fall to earth – but today, not so much. Not only because over a hundred schools were closed in the state, not only because a delightful driver swerved into a puddle to thoroughly dapple me with a pool of rainwater as I walked by, but because too much of a good thing really can be too much.

But I do love rain, and the incredible wonders and beauty weather produces on this planet of ours (and other planets in our solar system!) Flamboyant sunsets, foggy winter mornings, moonlight sleeking shadows to silver, the dry lavender dawn that warns the day is going to be a scorcher. The tangle and ebb of the colour of oceans, the fluff and nonsense of kittens and ducklings, the curl and flaunt of flower petals. Then there are all the marvels I want to see. The auroras (australis and borealis), coral of the Great Barrier Reef, the cliffs at Calais, the hot natural pools in Finland, Irish wolfhound puppies. Creation in full throated, bizarre, exuberant song.

Too long ago I drove along a mountain road with a dear friend, where we stopped countless times to soak in the view of mountain, sky, tree and air. I stood under an aspen tree for the first time, and stood blinking hard at the weirdness, the utter uniqueness, of the sounds of its leaves. Each new corner turned would have us breathing “Wow!” or struck gloriously mute at the magnificence before us. It was a holy experience that drive, our sudden miniscule recognition and gratitude at how incredible creation really was.

So today it’s raining. Flat grey clouds dumping water without style or finesse, hiding the moon and whatever sunset may be happening far above me. But I know – as sure as it’ll rain tomorrow, as sure as this summer is starting to curl into sleepy autumn – that seeing grey for days will draw my attention and thanks to the colours and splendors that will eventually return, and sharpen my memory for the beauties I have already experienced.

“For the beauty of the earth… of the skies.. of each hour.. of the day and of the night.

Hill and vale and tree and flow’r, sun and moon.. stars of light,

Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

(excerpted from Hymn 92, For the Beauty of the Earth)

Is there a part of creation that fills you with wonder, gratitude or surprise? Which part or wonder of the natural world do you want to see for yourself? If your soul had a natural setting, where would it be?