Bookish

The first book I ever read was made by my Mum. It was a scrapbook she put together for my oldest siblings.  By the time it had passed into my treasured possession, the newsprint corners were soft and well-thumbed.  My favourite page was the page for ‘red’.  There was a lady in red, red flowers, red strawberries, a big red floppy hat. A collage of pictures cut from the pages of magazines and newspapers and annotated with her copperplate script.  I loved that book. I used to read it while I sat on the potty, or when I had flopped on my tummy on the lawn, or when I had escaped into a world of make-believe in our garden playhouse.

Mum told me that I was reading at age three, probably because I just wanted to be doing what the big kids were. We had a huge library of Arch Books (bible stories retold in rhyming verse for the children of churchgoers). I loved those books, the rhymes, the illustrations; especially the story of Esther. I read anything I could get my hands on, just as long as it wasn’t a library book. Enid Blyton, the Sugar Creek Gang, Pick-a-path novels, the Narnia series, Little House on the Prairie, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Apple Paperbacks and anything about Nuclear War and post-apocalyptic survival. I liked the ones about mutants, like Children of the Dust.  And then there were the Janette Oke range of Christian Romance novels, oh!  I wanted to fall in love with a tall silent rancher out in the Wild Western Frontier.  Griddle cakes, corn bread and snapping on a fresh apron “afore my man came home”, sounded so good!  My books were usually hand-me-downs and garage sale books …I loved every one of them, because I could keep them!

I had a bit of a phobia of book-borrowing when I was a kid.  When my teachers insisted I had to borrow books from the school library I would beg to be let off. There were tears. Of course I wanted to read the books, desperately, but borrowing them was upsetting. I knew I wouldn’t want to give them back and keeping them was against the rules. I overcame my phobic silliness in later years, but it is fair to say that I am a book buyer more than a borrower. I see it as a committed relationship. We belong to each other. Me and my books. These books of mine are all dear to me.  I love them. I collect them and keep them close.  One day, I am going to have a little room of my own that is lined with bookshelves. There will be a reading chair that is just for me. Large, overstuffed, wing backed and red. There will be a lap rug and cushions and a drawer full of chocolate treats. There will be a kind of heaven in that place that only exists in the company of books.

On those shelves, you would see some of the books I talk about in the following list. This list of prompts was given to me by the lovely Claire Barnier, fellow blogger.  You can read her Living Library List here And these books I list? These are some of my friends.  My bookish buddies. Some of the truest and most spectacular friends I know.

A book that changed your life
Mister God, This is Anna
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A book you were proud to read
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkein.  My Granny posted it from New Zealand the first year we were in Papua New Guinea.  It was a challenging read for me at eight, but I was determined to get through it! My big brother Shaun had read all of the Tolkein series and I wanted to impress him.  I’m not sure  if I managed to, but I remember thinking that Bilbo was a very brave Hobbit. And I wished Gandalf hadn’t kept disappearing! I still love epic children’s stories and love introducing these old favourites to my own kids.

A book that inspired you to try something different, or do something differently:
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.  I working as an Aupair in Germany and had just done a little tour of Cambridge University. I was 19. I was utterly naive and deeply confused by independent life and the feminist feelings that were hammering in my head. Virginia Woolf was a suitably inspirational character, fighting the dons of ancient universities whose paths I had walked, awe-inspired and feeling intellectually tiny.  She wrote this book in 1929 and her courage and determination in the face of enormous odds blew my anitpodean mind. To me, this book was the beginning of understanding history and my infinitessimal place within it, as a woman. It was the context bringer for my feminism and a wonderful counter to all the Austen I had soaked myself in during Year 12, 3 unit English. I read this, and Mary Wollstonecraft, and returned from my OE a changed girl. A fierce girl.
I began to speak my mind and choose my own path. It was disastrous, at first! But the beginning, for me, of being my own person:

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

A book that surprised you
Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda is the only book that I have ever started, loved, and not finished. It bested me. There was a point in the book when something unravelled in me. I felt used by the author, toyed with, disrespected. I threw the book across the room and cried and cried and cried. It was terrible. I was devastated, I just could not endure. I knew that wherever that book went, it was going to be bad. I love Peter Carey’s writing. It was probably a fit of ridiculous histrionics, perhaps it was more to do with my own circumstances at the time, but I felt deeply betrayed.  I was afraid of where Carey was taking his characters, I wanted a different story. I wonder sometimes, if I will ever finish this book. Maybe I will return to it one day.  Not finishing a book is very out of character for me. It is in fact,

“an improbable idea tearing the membrane between dreams and life.”
Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda

For now, the one that got away sits on my shelf, alone in it’s unfinished state. I imagine it holds some notoriety among the others on the shelf.  Do they whisper? That book over there…

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A book that made you cry
Most good books make me cry. Either because they are sad, or because they are so well written that I despair of ever writing my own!   The first book I cried over was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (she also wrote The Secret Garden).  I have just finished reading the longform poem: Autobiography of a Margeurite. So cleverly written, so heart catching. So beautiful. It made me cry too.  Sometimes my hubster walks in to find me with my eyes swollen from crying. He knows after all these years not to worry, he’ll just ask “Good book?”

A book that required dedication
Cries Unheard by Gitta Sereny.
It’s the life story of one of Britain’s most notorious female child murderers, Mary Bell. It is really a book about the criminal mind. About how criminals aren’t just random occurences within the populace, but the result of systemic abuse and neglect.  Their behaviour part of a psychological picture it is so hard to look at. But we must. We must begin to address the ways we fail children in this society, and how we perpetuate the terror by creating monsters. This book is a call for responsible parenting. It’s always stayed with me and weighed heavily on my heart.  It required dedication because it is very hard to sit with stories that are not fiction but are so horrific they haunt your dreams. Real people’s stories can be so much more distressing than fiction. But I stuck with this story because I needed to. We all need to stick with these stories. To keep them forefront in our minds when we are caring for the next generation. To do better by our babies.

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A book you are grateful for
Blank books, journals, this wordpress draft page, my wordprocessing software.  Since I was tiny, writing has been the best way for me to navigate my head and find my way out of the maze in there.  I love to read books. And one day I will write them.  Like a few other things in my life, the process towards backing myself has been slow, but I’m on my way.  I am most grateful for the most recent book-in-my-head that is growing out of a new idea. It happened during a writing workshop I did recently with Pip (you can do it too, click here!). Ideas come at different times, but this one has me more excited than the others. I’m working on a plot structure and feeling a bit excited about this little baby book!  I am grateful that it has begun.

A book you read when you were half your current age
Wild Swans by Jung Chang.  This book was the beginning of my fascination with Chinese authored literature, particularly women’s stories. I was fascinated by China because my parents were living there and because I knew nothing about it. China was for me the most exotic, extraordinary, intriguing place.  I read this book overnight. It is the story of three generations of Chinese women and spans the cultural revolution. A powerful read and fascinating insight into the tumultuous modern history of China.

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A favourite book from childhood
The Anne of Green Gables series. I love me a strong heroine!  Anne was probably the beginning of my feminist ideas, not that I could articulate that then. I liked her rebelliousness and her intelligence. Although now there is so much in those books that makes me cringe (including the sappy Gilbert Blythe), but they were a huge part of my early reading bookishness. I loved everything about those books.  The smell of them, the laminated glossy green and white covers and the beautiful cover illustrations. I even wrote an ode to Anne’s white woman (her stillborn baby) in my adolescent grief.

A book that will always have a special place in your heart
Z for Zachariah.  I think I it was 1988 when I read this one; it’s the story of a girl in a post nuclear holocaust world.  She lives in a valley which is a tiny micro-climate, unspoilt by the devastation beyond, and she is utterly alone. I was captured by her story and by the emotional conflict the arrival of a stranger created. It stayed with me, that book. But it’s special place in my heart is because the first time I ever went out for dinner with the hubster, we talked about survivalist literature. We bonded over this book.  Looked each other in the eye and realised we would be together. So I will always feel affection towards this book!  I can’t wait til Zed is old enough to read it.

The best movie or TV series adapted from a book you have read
Little House on the Prairie!  John Landon. Is the theme song playing in your head, now!?

The worst movie or TV adaptation of a book you have read
The Bridges of Madison County.  No adaptation can top the reading of that book for me. It holds all sorts of special memories. I read it aloud from cover to cover, on a dinghy, drifting out on Lake Macquarie. When the light went, I finished it by torchlight. It was a special book experience and even Meryl Streep can’t top that.

A disappointing book
The Bible. Disappointing is too strong a word… I’ve read it cover to cover a few times but I still struggle with the idea that all of the Bible is the inspired word of God. I question so much about it. If He was commissioning people to write on his behalf, He might have ensured a bit more of a balanced approach for the women’s perspective, ya know? Something a bit more accessible for future generations of readers? The bible contains some extraordinary and important stories and is a records some beautiful words.  But I have always wanted more from it than I found within it.  I have also found the literal translation of some of it by Christians to be devisive and uphelpful.  It’s a cultural/contextual problem.  I considered studying theology so I could understand it better, but back when I was considering it, theology seemed a directionless career for a woman so I abandoned it.  Nonetheless, and not wishing to sound sacreligious, just honest, I have often wished I could understand the deeper meanings of the bible better than I do.

A book that makes you smile every time you see it
Mrs Millie’s Paintings was written and illustrated by a Matt Ottley, who like me, grew up in PNG.  That influence shows all through the illustrations.  But my favourite part is the double page spread where ancient Mrs Millie is skinny dipping and her backside is showing. I like it because subsequent publications of the book censored her bottom, cladding her in a bikini.  But I’ve got the original with Mrs Millie’s bum!  Ha!
It’s also a poignant story with an important message about creativity. I love it.

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A book that made you want to learn more
Half the Sky is a book written by journalists, Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  In their many years writing for newspapers, they were struck most by the stories no one wanted. Stories about the plight of women across the globe. So they set out to write a book outlining the issues for women in our world. If you are interested, you can find it here. It’s a very important read.

A book or series you will never forget
Clan of Cavebear was something of a sex-ed series for me in my late teens. Perhaps caveman sex was a poor education, in hindsight. Some of those scenes are indelibly etched.

A book you would prefer to forget
I am such a fan of Chimamanda Ngoze Adiche’s work. I was swept up into Half of a Yellow Sun and no less captured by Purple Hibiscus, although darker and more difficult. So when Americanah came out I was really excited! But it is so different to her other work, somehow. I found myself wishing I hadn’t looked in on that American/African immigrant world, it felt like such a destruction of a culture I didn’t want amercianised. She raises important issues about race, culture and immigration, however. All topics close to my heart. It was beautifully written (I don’t think she could write badly if she tried to). It’s just that I’ve decided I really like her Nigerian based fiction much more than anything set in the States.  Maybe I’ll change my mind with her next novel.

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“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

What you are currently reading
Buy me the Sky by Xinran.  She wrote The Good Women of China, one of my all time favourites from my sino-collection.  So when I saw Buy Me the Sky (about the only-child generations of China) I knew it would be worth the read. It has already given me so much insight into the social dynamics and fallout from the One Child Policy.

A book you come back to read time and time again
I rarely read a book more than once. Do you?

Would you like to join me, reflecting on Claire’s Library List?
(copy and paste below…)
I’d love to see your list!
Or hear your thoughts on mine…!
Are you bookish too?

A book that changed your life
A book you were proud to read
A book that inspired you to try something different, or do something differently
A book that surprised you
A book that made you cry
A book you couldn’t live without
A book that required dedication
A book you are grateful for
A book you read when you were half your current age
A favourite book from childhood
A book that will always have a special place in your heart
The best movie or TV series adapted from a book you have read
The worst movie or TV adaptation of a book you have read
A disappointing book
A book that makes you smile every time you see it
A book that made you want to learn more
A book or series you will never forget
A book you would prefer to forget
A book you come back to read time and time again
What you are currently reading

 

8 Great Things you can do to Live Well with Chronic Illness.

I sat yesterday morning in the infusion centre beside a beautiful woman called Christine.

We always try to sit together when our dates coincide in the infusion room at Auckland City Hospital. She goes more regularly than I do, for her regular vials of IV Immunoglobulin.  Every fourth Monday since we first met, we’ve been sitting together while her IVIG boosts her fight against Myasthenia Gravis, and my Pulse Methylprednisolone suppresses the cause of my Pandysautonomia. She’s great company.

I am always impressed with Christine.  In the face of some truly difficult and devastating challenges, she always looks beautiful and is beautiful.  Carefully groomed, well dressed with such a warm and  lovely nature.  She always has a bag full of occupations to keep her busy.  Yet, she makes time to chat, to ask how things are.  She remembers my kid’s names and cares about what they’re up to. She works part time as an English tutor and is studying the Maori language in her spare time. She is a devoted mother and grandmother, wife, neighbour, online patient forum member, and friend to many. I honestly can’t comprehend how she manages all of those things, every day, and a severe chronic illness as well. But her example makes me want to be better at living with chronic illness. She has made me think more about all the things that we can try to do, to distract, manage, cope with and transcend chronic illnesses.  She is one of the people I look to for guidance, carefully watching how they do it. There are some incredible people out there to learn from, I bet you know some too.  You probably see one of my sources every time you look in the mirror!

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Here are the 8 of most effective ways of overcoming I have observed in the world of chronic illness.
Some strategies:

Get Right-Brainy

Knit, crochet, write, listen to music, paint, sew, create, play an instrument, make, or do whatever it is you can do within your ability. Remember the complete satisfaction of creativity? It’s transformative, distracting, wonderful.  Listen to creative people talking about their creativity. Invite creative people over to teach you techniques. Watch YouTube tutorials. Do some online courses. Search for ideas. If you can, attend cultural events, musical recitals, the ballet, a musical, a movie festival, poetry reading, gallery or museum.  If you can’t, visit them online.

 

Source: http://meetmeatmikes.com/craft-saves-the-day/
Used with the generous permission of Pip Lincolne: http://meetmeatmikes.com/craft-saves-the-day/

Get Involved

Participate in the initiatives and events being organised by your patient groups on facebook and elsewhere.  Get to know others. There is so much soul-food in the solidarity of people who have travelled the same paths as you. Engage with them. Help fundraise for research. Get the word out in whatever ways are available to you. Post, and comment in patient forums. Ask questions, help out with the knowledge you have gained on your journey already. Finding your tribe is so good for you.  So affirming.  And there are always avenues to be proactive about the circumstances chronic illness has given you. Being an involved member of society is a wonderful way to begin to overcome.

Get Ready

I have spent days that became weeks that became years, living in old jeans, t-shirts and sweat tops, or staying my PJs. It made me feel even more grey and unattractive.  If you can manage it, find a position that works for you near a mirror and put on some makeup. Brush your hair and find something nice to wear, even if it is simply a favourite scarf. Sometimes, getting ready for the day, even if it is likely to be the same as yesterday, makes you feel a little brighter.  I don’t understand the psychology of that, but it just somehow seems to work. When my Mum was battling ovarian cancer, she spent some time with the good people of the ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ Foundation. She came back armed with bags of goodies, a stunning make up look they had helped her to create and new ways of styling her headwear. She walked taller, smiled more and reported more energy when her lippy was on. It’s a kind of magic for the self esteem, somehow.  A lesson I need to remember more often.

It changes how you see yourself, which

Get Outdoors or Bring it In

Even if getting out takes enormous scheduling, incredible effort and results in days of payback, try to get out when you can. Try to make it into the outdoors to look at the beauty of that sky, to breathe in that fresh air and feel a breeze on your cheek.   Even rain feels incredible when you have been stuck inside for too long. I have never felt so amazing as when I floated in the warm sea on my back, blue sky above and white sand below. It’s so therapeutic. We are born for nature.  If you are bed-bound, see if someone can bring you something beautiful from outside from time to time. My kids have always been so lovely with this. A cicada shell, a posy of autumn flowers, a droopy dandelion seed head with all the wishes, wished.  Treasures from outside to hold and to take your mind out there. Maybe you miss seeing all that beauty for yourself and it’s impossible.  Take a look at my photo series from Be Couper: How to Just Be.  She has generously shared some of her stunning photography for my readers to lose themselves in, when nature needs to come to you.

Be Couper Yellow Skies

Transport Yourself

Reading, listening to audio books and watching television series or movies will take you places!  Overcome your reality with a healthy dose of fiction. It’s brilliant to vicariously live the experiences you can’t easily have. Audio books are particularly helpful because you don’t have to lift the book or strain your eyes.  Libraries usually have a good stock that you can order. Sometimes even online!  The Book Depository has free worldwide shipping and a staggering range of titles if you prefer to buy. When I really want to get outside of myself, I call a close friend or family member overseas and indulge in a long chat. Imagining the things they tell me about, where they are, how it looks, how it feels. It’s armchair travel with the joy of connection. Bliss.

It changes how you see yourself, which(1)

Laugh

…because laughing raises your endorphins and happy hormones can’t help but leave you, happy!  Watch the comedy channel. Listen to children talking amongst themselves or playing games. Be silly.  Pull faces and do funny accents. We have a dress-up box and nothing makes the kids giggle so much as coming home to find mummy in an odd wig. Wear crazy things, if that is your thing. Listen to podcasts from clever comedy writers. Read funny blogs. Let your children choose your clothes for a day. Google jokes on subjects that you find funny.  Tell them to people. Recall funny memories and tell them to the kids. Friends.  The nurse.  And when you laugh, make it big!  Breathe deeper, laugh louder, linger longer on the funny bit. It’s good for you.

Find ways to tell people how much you(1)

Give

Chronic Illness teaches us so much.  We often would rather skip the lesson, thanks. But we get it. And consequently, we ‘get’ a lot about life; about what is important. About how to truly love. About patience, compromise, honesty and communication. Be generous with that hard-fought wisdom. Be a good listener. Do you have a talent or skill that you can offer?  A wonderful person I know is severely debilitated by her illness. She volunteered to cut up blankets for the SPCA.  Because she could do that.
Do the household tasks around you that are achievable. Fold those clothes.  Chop the veggies in your bedroom or set-up on the kitchen floor.  Whatever works for you. Maybe there is something else you can think of that you could do for someone? Find ways to tell people how much you appreciate them.  Because being generous is one of the ways that human beings become happy.  If you can’t give of your energy; you can give of your heart.

Find ways to tell people how much you

Find Your Thing

All of these strategies are things I have observed in people I admire with chronic illness.  Some of them work for me too. But for me, the greatest of all is writing. It is my favourite overcoming tool. Writing a blog is a focused habit of writing that I use as my therapy, my release, my way to help, my journey to memory, my connection with my community. If you would like to try blogging too, I recommend it. It can open doors you might never imagine. Being part of the blogging community has also introduced me to some of my favourite regular blog reads. It has given me a format for my research and learning around Dysautonomia and an avenue for meeting people I may never have met if I hadn’t begun to write. I can’t thank Kylie at Rainbows and Clover enough for starting me back at the keyboard, or my fellow Dysautonomiac, Michelle Roger, for sparking this blog by doing such a rad job of her own. And of course… Pip Lincolne for teaching me how to make it happen! I hope that someone else out there might find the spark too.  It’s helping me overcome, every day.  Ask me about it!  I have an online course recommendation! 😉

Whatever methods you employ, don’t give up. There are always, ways to overcome.

Find ways to tell people how much you(2)

Have I missed some good ones?
How do you distract yourself from the daily realities of chronic illness?

…and Christine? You are doing brilliantly. Thankyou for being such a stoic, thoroughly great person to infuse and enthuse with. Kia Kaha.  Stand Tall.

NB. to my shame, this one of the only Maori phrases I know, but it is useful and pertinent for a girl like me, I use it all the time!

 

“Inappropriate Happiness”

Today was my first steroid infusion.  I don’t mind admitting that I was very nervous.  I seem to have a talent for experiencing side effects when they are on offer.  My first two drugs, fludrocortisone and midodrine both had to be stopped because the side effects were dangerous. Fludro dangerously rose my intra-ocular eye pressure.  If my optometrist hadn’t noticed the rising numbers, I could have gone blind. The midodrine (my most favourite medication of all time) caused urinary retention and hypertension.  Again, I had to stop.

As always, I had done my homework before today’s infusion.  I knew the common side effects and the less common.  I also had a moment of panic when the ward immunologist explained during her disclaimer, “…and I have to tell you, it’s rarely ever heard of, but some people do have serious allergic reactions to high dose steroids”.  See? Don’t tell a girl with a rare diagnosis that things ‘rarely’ ever happen.  It’s like putting a siren strobe light on my head, pointing at me and yelling at the universe
“That rare-side-effect-magnet-girl is HERE!  Come stuff her up some more!”.

Of course, in the interest of self protection, I always do consider the worst-case-scenario when I am embarking on a new medication.  I scan the Medsafe sheet and think ‘Can I handle that?’  If I am prepared to handle that in exchange for the benefits the drug might bring, then it’s worth the risk.

So this was the list I examined last night.  It’s from the Mayo website:

Add a little bit of body text(3)(yes, I know, the highlighting slipped on the second group of my graphic, but tonight, I don’t care about getting it just so!  Handle the jandal design minded peeps, it’s really, okay).

I scanned the list and realised that of all those side effects, most are my current symptoms anyway (highlighted in yellow). Nothing new there.  The ones highlighted  in blue are not usual for me, so would be easy to spot if they turned up.  I decided it was worth the risks.  But there were other sites I visited, too.  Ones like this one, that listed side effects I felt sure were too nice for me to ever have.  Like euphoria (apparently this ranks at #36 in all on online discussions about IV steroids).  Euphoria is a sense of ‘misplaced wellbeing’.  Or as one of the sites describes it: ‘inappropriate happiness’!  When could happiness ever be inappropriate?  Well maybe at a funeral. Or job interview.  Or in the wee small hours.

I arrived at the Immunology Daystay and we got underway.  The Immunologist who saw me was wearing killer heels and wrote with a Mont Blanc.  It was a brilliant start. I wanted to get a photo but I thought she might think me weird.  She was that sort of doctor who talks to you without any hint of superiority, too.  Taste and tact.  Smart and sensible and kind. I liked her right away. She asked me questions and explained the process.  I signed the form.  They stuck the needle in my hand, taped it down and away we went.  It’s the fastest infusion I have ever had; it only took a morning.

This is what I noticed:
First, a rising metallic taste in my mouth.  It even made my water taste brackish.  The kind lady next to met gave me a mint.  She was nice.  We talked about books we loved (she was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour and I am in the midst of Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves).  I began to feel woozier than normal and really tired.  I noticed when I got up that my legs were weaker.

Back at home, I propped myself up in the armchair and drank a cup of bitter tea.  Then the hunger hit.  I was a ravenous creature! Thankfully, an entire pomelo was on the bench (pomelo are giant fruit from my childhood in the tropics, kind of a cross between a huge grapefruit and a mandarin).  I ate a whole one.  What? They’re only the size of a human head! And then (shhhh) a few other things besides! Aunty Dee’s tua tua fritters with wasabi mayonnaise,  a salted caramel and date cupcake.  There goes my liquid diet!  BAM. Delicious.  By late afternoon I felt really odd.  Just wrong, weak and dizzy, but different to my normal weak and dizzy.  Who knew that weak and dizzy had so many different presentations? I lay and marvelled about that.  All the different dizzies.  I was sleepy, but I didn’t couldn’t stay asleep.  I got ready for bed, hoping sleep would claim me for the night.`But there in the back of my head, there was a shiny little secret twinkling.  I pulled it closer so I could see what it was.

Every little thing is gonna be alright.

‘That’s odd.  So not true!’   I thought.  ‘But it is true, come see’ was the thought that came back at me.  I closed my eyes and this is what I saw…

Earth, from space, like you see in the movies, all that blue and green with wispy scuds of clouds.  Breathtaking.  But as I looked I saw that in some places there were burnt patches.  I knew; those patches were the horror scenes we see on the news, we read about in books, we worry about as we hold our babies close. And then, from the back of my tiny brain, somewhere down there in New Zealand, that twinkly little thought rose up and burst through the atmosphere.  I saw it climbing up.  Then millions of starbursts of thoughts, from everyone else too, everywhere else, cutting vertical lines upward through the atmosphere across the entire planet.  Then they bent and arced around the earth, forming a web of light that shone down over everything, even the burnt places.  And there was regeneration.  But new burnt patches appeared, pinpricks and vast stretches.  And the arcs of light kept shining. And the world kept healing itself.  One patch at a time.  Links of light shining down in the dark spaces.

I opened my eyes then.  Looked around my room and thought:  
‘There is more good than bad’. And that little epiphany made me happy.  And the happiness just sort of filled me up.  Just like that.  I haven’t felt happy like that for a long long time.  I’ve felt content, but not so completely happy.  Better than being able to hike up to a good view, even.  Better than being deliriously tipsy in the kitchen, lost in the sway of your man’s arms and a good song.  Better than floating on your back in a sapphire sea. A better buzz than most of life’s joys.  Better than baby feet! So nice to feel that every little thing is going to be alright.  So good to feel it in my bones.

And then it occurred to me.  HAPPY DAYS! Far out, Rachel.  I’m experiencing euphoria!  For once in my life, a nice side effect!  Huzzah!

And then I chatted with my dear friend, Nettie, and I rocked around the internet marvelling at it’s extraordinary wonders.  I felt a growing sense of Eudaimonia (there’s a word to make you happy); human flourishing.  Another thought twinkled away: this illness, this experience, it’s a process.  It’s not the opposite of good, it’s just a process, like any other biological process.  I can flourish from it just as well, or maybe more, even, than I could have if I were well.  And I am, I will.  I’m a quick study. And that thought made me even happier.

The Bobby D came into the bedroom to go to sleep then, it was already late and he was concerned.  I don’t do well with poor sleep, so he suggested with that lovely man-kindness, that I call it a night.  But you know what?  I JUST COULDN’T.  I am happy!!!  I want to squeeze every last drop of this euphoria out.  I told him I needed to write (that look lasered over at me) and that I would come to bed as soon as I possibly could.  I repaired to the living room and lay on our lovely long velvet sofa.  It makes me happy too. The feeling of my feet brushing across the nap, smooth, rough, smooth.  Life.

And I wrote this down.  Well, in fits and starts.  I’m a bit distractable tonight!  Flitting here there and everywhere in my laptop world! Loving all of the world, the light and the dark. The shiny thoughts that are gonna make everything all right. It’s all probably a bit wuwu.  I hope it won’t be so nutty I will have to delete it tomorrow.  Because I want to capture this feeling.  Can you feel this joy?  It’s so nice. It’s like one of those big round papasan chairs but instead of a cushion there is lots of sunshiney light, and I am coccooned in it; euphoric!

Goodness!  it is nearly 2am already.  How did that happen?

May euphoria find you some time in your lifetime too.  And may it not be via drugs.
It’s wow.

EUPHORIA

 

Petits ‘fours’

I’m joining in a blog post idea suggested by my blogging friends Clare and Nettie. It’s a series of questions with answers of four. I’d love to hear your petits-fours too!  Just copy and paste the questions into the comments field, I’d like to get to know you better and this is a fun and easy way!  In-four-mation makes the world go round.  Bahaha!

Four names that people call me, other than my real name.

Rachiepoo
Ragey
Fat Foo
Mumma

Four jobs I have had (not counting current jobs)

Cut Price Deli chick
IT help desk
Telephone marketer
(yep.  be kind to those poor souls, they’d rather not be calling you, either)
A blue body-painted extra in a promotional event.

Four movies I have watched more than once

Toy Story
The Piano
Whale Rider
We bought a Zoo

Four books I’d recommend

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
North of Normal by Cea Person
Purple Hibiscus (or any of Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie’s books)
The Good Women of China by Xinran

Four places I’ve lived

Christchurch; enduring memories are icy puddles on winter mornings and frost on my woollen school socks.  I had a pink school uniform, a tree hut in the willow tree. And I met two lasting friends, Rachel.G and Dana.

Papua New Guinea; land of Islands and Mountains, sunshine and breeze. This country is a big part of who I am today. All the memories fill my heart and mind and have shaped my personality.

Melbourne; in a boarding house, far far from home.  It was in a huge city, yet my world there was very small.

Sydney; my first ‘grown up’ home, a little flat with gingham kitchen curtains.  I loved keeping house and making everything just so. But arranging cushions does not a marriage make!  Thankfully, happy endings have been had by all who lived in that little Hornsby nest.

Four places I have been

China (loved the alleyway markets in Tian Jin)
USA (Colorado is my favourite state so far)
Germany (au-pair to a family in Munich)
England (where I met rellies who made me appreciate the marvel of genes)

Four places I would rather be right now

There’s no where I would rather be, but if I HAD to be somewhere else… and there were no limitations hefted on me by reality…

I’d be at Vista Verde in Colorado, having another magical white Christmas.  But only if everyone I love could be there too (yes, that includes you Nettie, and all the Pipsters, my dear friends, my girls from the Dysautonomia community and my lovely readers)!  We’d book out the whole ranch and build gingerbread houses and sing carols with the cowboys and take sleigh rides, or ride horses through the snow and drink mulled wine! There would be hot spas looking out over the snow covered Lodge, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, Cholly’s homebaked cookies, cedar scented cabins, snow tubing and twinkling trees lighting the snow-ploughed path home each night! Ohhhh!  Lucky lucky people that are doing just that right now.

(here’s some photos from when we did it for real)

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I’d be in Darwin: so I could see the precious bump that is going to be my little nephew next year, and hug his much-missed parents this Christmas; see their new house and get a fix for what their world looks like.  I’ve only seen it in my imagination and I want to know what it feels like in that part of the world.

I’d be in Sydney: so I could wish my bro and his beautiful wife and kids a Merry Christmas in person, which would involve my arms around all of them, lots of loud and enthusiastic singing and lots of floating in the pool, ‘cause Sydney, like Darwin, is too HOT!

I’d be in Gisborne: so I could marvel anew at how giant my nephews are becoming, meet the new puppy, chat and reminisce about my Mum with my sister. Dose up on those sisterly cups of tea, and wish them all a beautiful Christmas too.

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Four things I don’t eat

offal
strange parts of animals
kimchi
pork buns (after an experience once on a ship that I cannot shake from my amygdyla)

Four of my favourite foods

(I had to put these into categories, because I couldn’t stop at four!)

Pavlova, Chocolate, Cake, Cinnamon Rolls
Fresh garden veggies; asparagus, snow peas, capsicum, grilled artichokes
Venison, lamb, crayfish and salmon
Fresh still-warm white bread (I know.  Evil.  Yet delicious!)

Four TV shows that I watch

Game of Thrones
Downton Abbey
Graham Norton
Anything on the Living Channel

Four things I am looking forward to this year (and into 2015)

Finally trialling treatment and hopefully having favourable results
Hearing back about a study opportunity… and hopefully, DOING it!
Spending heavenly horse time with my daughter’s new pony (shhh!  still a secret from her!)
Writing more…

 

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Four things I am always saying

“WHO was the last person in the toilet?!”
“Try again, using calm words…”
“…it’s a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, the part of our bodies that controls all the automatic functions”
“FFS” (it’s swearing, so I won’t translate)

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Come on!  Tell me your fours…

(copy and paste this into your comment)
Four namesFour jobs
Four movies
Four books
Four places lived
Four places been
Four places I’d rather be
Four foods I don’t eat
Four foods I love
Four TV shows
Four things I’m looking forward to this year
Four things I say

Gone Girl. A Tale of Road Rage.

On a scooter.

Yesterday was my birthday…
I turned 28.  In hexadecimal “nibbles”.
(google it, hexadecimals are kinda cute).

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But back to the story…
…my friend Flo came and picked me up and took me to the mall.  The scooter hire girl remembered me and I got the highly coveted Scooter Number One. It is zippier, better at stopping when you ask it to, and the side mirrors don’t flop down all over your handbag.  Score! I tootled around a few shops high on the joy of a birthday and time with Flo.  I tried not to be distressed that I couldn’t even get down the lingerie aisles in Farmers Department Store. I figured I didn’t really need a birthday bra. I smiled anyway at the shop girl near the fitting rooms in Esprit when she said it might be easier to shop online. It might.  But it isn’t as much fun as shopping with Flo. And why shouldn’t I enjoy a bit of retail therapy?  Then I dropped Flo off for her appointment at the makeup counter.  I should be, er… more into makeup… but the bookshop was just down one floor and it is an unfair competition! Hmmm… makeup, books, makeup, books. It’s really no competition between makeup and books.  A hole was burning in my pocket.  For my birthday I’d been given a cool hundy, and I was thinking about the delicious potential to drop it exclusively on BOOKS!  Squeee!

I scootered down there faster than you can say ‘tortoise’.   A few aeons later, I arrived.  Mobility scooters have a speed switch that ranges from slow (a tortoise icon) to fast (you guessed it, a hare)… but even at hare-speed, it takes a looong time to get anywhere.  In the front of the bookstore of choice, Whitcoulls, they have some displays of new releases.  My twitchy fingers were eager to pick up the first one I could see. I liked the title, ‘Gone Girl’.  But the angled display tables made it impossible for me to pull up alongside on my scooter. I did a sleek little (sixteen point!)  turn and tried to reverse in. I banged the corner of the table.  A Whitcoull’s employee looked across at me, arched her eyebrow and walked off in the opposite direction. I reached for the book. It was 5cm out of my grasp. There was no room to ease myself off the scooter and stand to give myself more reach. Had I had room, I’d have been able to do that. But it occurred to me in that moment, that many people in wheel chairs can’t stand to get to things out of reach; what would they do in this situation?  I looked around for the employee, hoping for some help.  She was gone, girl.

I was not going to be deterred.  A hundred to spend on books is one of the greatest gifts of all time. I wasn’t going to let a bookshop girl with her archy eyebrows get the better of me.  I gave my embarrassment a silent talking-to and manoeuvred out of the space.  At the back of the store, the wall is lined with authors from A-Z.  I wouldn’t have a spotlight on the newest, but I might find some gems. I set my course for the rear. Half way on the dial between tortoise speed and hare speed.  I was veritably hurtling, turtle-style. The aisles in Whitcoulls do fit a scooter if it is going straight down the middle. Sadly, turning is not optional.  People on mobility devices clearly shouldn’t want to browse in bookstores. There are artfully arranged stacks of merchandise on the floor at the corners of all of the aisles.  The Little Yellow Digger-gift-boxed-set display met Scooter Number One as I attempted to round the corner. Scooter, 1, Diggers, 0.  A mother in the same aisle helped me by picking them up (thank you anonymous mother).

I spent half an hour in Whitcoulls. I looked for help no less than fifteen times.  Help to reach down titles I couldn’t reach, help with the infernal aisle corner displays. Help finding the poetry section.  I saw three more staff members. All three saw me and changed direction. No one offered to help. The crickets chirped.  When your eyes are not at the height of standing people, it is quite hard to get eye contact.  When you are down that low, even a wave can be lost behind a bookshelf. My hundred dollars hid deeper into my pocket. No party for it, today.

I lost my desire to purchase books from that store. I threw the scooter into reverse.  It has a really high pitched reversing beep.  It’s an incredibly annoying sound. I left it in reverse long enough for archy eyebrows girl to give me one last look. I accelerated past one last corner display.  I may have *cough* inadvertently disturbed its symmetry. I left the store.  In my imagination I looked a bit like a speedy hare, leaving a cloud of dust in my wake.  In truth, it was a less dramatic exit.  Think, slo-mo.  But the expression on my face remained steely resolute.  I patted my pocket. That’s a hundred bucks you don’t get today, Whitcoulls.  And then, I was a gone girl, too.

So my post about my birthday books is postponed.  …maybe there is a bookstore out there who wants my custom, even if I am not walking on two feet.

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PS:
I sent the people at Whitcoulls a link to my post as soon as it went up.  Very quickly Diane got back to me.  I am very grateful for such a timely response and so glad that the store will look into ways to improve customer service for people on mobility devices.  Thank you, Whitcoulls.
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This is what she wrote:
Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 4.54.42 pmThanks for touching base and sharing your in store experience with us. It is disappointing that we have not been able to deliver the customer experience you, and every customer, deserves. There is nothing better than browsing books especially in the excitement of birthday present shopping. I will be passing this information onto our Store Manager to ensure they can look into this situation and how they can use this to improve their customer service.

In the meantime, I would love to extend a birthday present to you from Whitcoulls. If you are still interested in the Gone Girl Book, I would love to send you a copy along with a $20 Whitcoulls Gift Card that may enhance your birthday spending money. If you can send us your courier address and we will arrange to get this out to you.

Kindest regards,

Diane

 

Celebrating 100 Posts

Really?  I’ve written a hundred posts?

Maybe it snuck up on me because I get to drive a speedy little mean keyboard machine.  It goes so much faster than the laptop I was driving earlier. It’s a slim little silver number my hubster got me for Christmas.  Oh, I LOVE IT (Thanks BobbyD).  The WordPress dashboard on it lets me know everything I need to know about my cruising altitude, my readers, almost everything I could wish to know about my blog.  And today when I opened my dashboard to post, it said:

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So this is Numero Cento! I reckon, that’s cause for celebration!

My blog was born on May 15th, 2014 (I backdated seven posts I had written earlier) .  I never actually intended to start a blog. I had thought the course I was enrolling in was going to teach me about the art of writing for blogs.  I had previously accepted a little blog writing gig and I wanted to get it right.  But I soon realised that the purpose of the Blog with Pip course is about more than just the writing. It’s about learning how to create your own and the importance of community in blogging.  So I did create one!  This was my first blog post. And whoosh!  A hundy posts, in four months!  And finding all of you! Woot!

I’m super happy about reaching a hundy, because one of the reasons I have always told myself I can’t write a book is that I didn’t think I could write that much.  I know quantity is not everything, but SMASH goes one of my barriers. Yes! Knowing I can write that many words is pretty exciting.  Each of my posts is an average of 800 words.  That’s 80,000 words right there!

If you’ve been with me from the start, or if you are one of the brave souls who has explored all of my blog, that’s a HUGE reading achievement and great loyalty!  Thank you so much!

Am I being ridiculous thinking maybe, just maybe… I could write me a book!? I’m thinking, with an equal amount of discipline, I could maybe get some of my book writing ideas out.  Maybe?  A bit of writing every day….   hmmm?  I’ll let you know how that goes!  I did a little bit of googling about word counts.  If you, too have some books slow-burning their plot turnings through your brain, you might find this interesting too.

Bree Ogden from The Lit Reactor says this:


“Adult Fiction:  Anything above 70k but less than 115k (science fiction and fantasy tend to run up around 100k-115k words). The sweet spot for adult is about 90k.

Middle Grade:  With fun, lighthearted, simple middle grade you’ll want to stay around the 20k-30k word count range. The average middle grade is 30k-40k. Upper middle grade can hit in the 50k word count range (possibly longer, if it’s something really special).

Young Adult:  Young adult fiction allows for a lot of flexibility in word count. And as you’ve probably guessed… it is sitting pretty right in between middle grade and adult. YA manuscripts can have a word count anywhere from 55k to 90k.  

Picture Books:  Picture books are generally less than 1000 words. About 500-700 words is perfect.

Also remember (because there are a bunch of new novel imprints opening their doors), a novella is 40k or less.

Pro tip: Try not to completely tether yourself to word counts. Let your writing take you where you need to go. But use good intuition and follow some of the rules.”

I am writing as often as I can because building a writing discipline is at the heart of most Writers’ advice about the business of writing books.  I read this recently and saved it, because I think it’s so true.
“There are enormously talented people around but the problem is getting organized to use your talents. A lot of people lose it, they just lose it. Life starts turning somersaults over your back and the next thing you know you’re confronting things that seem to you more important than getting organized to do your writing. And if you can’t get organized, then you can kiss your talent goodbye. It happens in so many cases, it’s almost a loss, as though you have a field of flowers and were never able to collect them.”
Bernard Malamud

I think it’s a stretch to think I fall into ‘enormously talented’ category, but I love to write.  Love it. So why not me, too? I’ve wanted to write books since I was a tot.  I read my first book at three. And I was hooked by the magic of it all. Might be time to start picking some of those flowers.

For some novice writers, the road to a writing discipline might be a diary, or a short story series, or poetry or even their first novel itself.  For me, it’s blogging.  I have connection with a real audience, lots to say, and a format for saying it.  It encourages me, gives me confidence.  When you read my blog entries, I feel like writing more.  When you comment, well, that there is blogger’s gold. Pure loveliness.  A shot of ‘keep going’ straight into the brain!

Chronic-ills of Rach, Happy Bloggiversary.  We made one hundred!

If you are new here, you might want to check out some of my favourite posts from the last four months:
She’s Around Me Now (the discovery that my ‘writing self’ was back)
In The Event of my Demise (my strange sort of poem delivering post-mortem instructions for my hubster)
His Heart (all about my man’s heart issues)  and
Grief Music (sudden upsurges of grief, music, and the loss of my Mum)

Look at what my boy made me!  The. BEST stiffificate EVER.  I am a full hearted mumma!

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…and here’s a little bit of schmaltzy, happy music from Phil Collins.  This is how I feel today!

Kissing Frogs

 

my prince by Anita Jeram for TWO BAD MICE
Art by Anita Jeram for Two Bad Mice

 

I remember when I was younger, my Mum would tell me what sort of man I should choose to be my husband one day.  Some of her advice was outstanding. I didn’t listen to it.

“Choose someone who is good with their hands.  A practical man,” she said.
“Don’t marry for money; but don’t love where there is none”.
“Make sure your choice is a man of God”.
I ignored them all, but the last one in particular. I recognised that a man of God wouldn’t choose a girl like me.  I was well away from the church by then, and even if one of those hapless chaps had wanted me, choosing someone from the church felt like choosing to straightjacket myself for time immemorial.  And anyway,  some of the most “Christ-like” people I have ever met don’t have a religious affiliation, but they are warm, giving, loving people.  So I amended that bit of advice to: “Make sure your choice is a good man”.  All three requirements made for a tall order.  Speaking of which, I had also decided that my Mr Right had to be tall, like me. It was my only physical criteria.  It is really hard to find a good man who is practical with his hands and sensible with money, a good person and tall to boot!  Especially when that isn’t what you are really looking for.  See, what I was attracted to was rebellion, passion, poetry and emotional connection.  I wanted excitement and intellectual conversations.  I wanted challenge and heated arguments.  I wanted crazy good sex.  Lots of it.

But it took me a long time to realise the kind of person I actually should spend my life with.  It was a lot more like my Mum’s set of criteria. By the time I was 27, I had been divorced and back on the dating scene for four years.  I was afraid I would never find someone. But I was a proactive searcher! I went along with one of my friends to a desperate and dateless ball.  It was Valentine’s Day.  And as I gathered my nerves and walked in I recognised I was definitely desperate… to be anywhere else!  My heart sank.  I made a beeline for the bar.  The only man among the crowd that even tickled my attention was talking animatedly to a Morticia lookalike.  I thought ‘if that’s his taste in women, he won’t look twice at me in my LBD and french chignon’.  And proceeded to drown my sorrows.

After about five plastic cups of chateau cardboard, I returned to the bar for my sixth. And there he was, Morticia’s mate.  He smiled.  I sidled up to him and said hello.  He spoke back in the most delicious English accent;  “Where did you disappear to? I saw you at the start of the night but couldn’t find you again!” He followed me out to the steps and we sat there until the wee small hours, talking. Even when the couples were emerging from the hall like it was the ark, in two by twos; we were still talking.  We watched them stagger out and off into the night.  He told me about his ex, he learned about my History of Men.  We were both divorced.  Both of our exes had cheated on us.  We talked until even the organisers had filed out of the hall. And carried on talking all the way to another nightspot.  Then, when it looked like time to go, he called me a cab. I had hoped he was going to make other suggestions (!) and so, when he called me a cab, I felt sad. I wondered if he hadn’t felt the connection I had felt.  I was a bit taken back by the gentlemanly approach.  He told me he would call me the next day.  Yeah right, I thought. I didn’t believe him.

But he did.  He rang!  We went out for dinner together the very next night.  Our eyes locked, we talked about books we loved, we covered the contents of the whole universe! We talked about love and loss and the language of trust. We laughed and ate great food and somewhere in that memory of that night is a moment.  He is looking into my eyes and I am knowing.  Knowing that he belongs with me. He felt that moment too.  We return to that moment whenever we are alone together.  It was the beginning of something important. Even now, we sometimes talk about how easy it would have been to miss each other.  To be living in Auckland at the same time, but never crossing paths.  I am grateful for the desperate and dateless ball.  For the cheap wine.  For Morticia (who turned out to be his flatmate). For the aligning of stars and the convergence of fates. And I’m glad that I didn’t give up searching.

But I wasn’t the smartest girl when it comes to love. I second guessed myself, as any serial dater would: was he right for me?

After we had been going out for some time, an ex boyfriend of mine came back to Auckland.  This guy told me that he was certain we were supposed to be together.  It threw me into a tailspin.  I told my man about what was happening and how I didn’t know what to do.  Had I taken the correct path?  Was I on track for happiness, or poised for disaster?  He nodded his wise head and suggested that we should break up. I should take my time and go and work it out.  So, that is what I did.  My Mum was horrified.  “He won’t wait for you to work it out Rachel” she said, “You’ve lost a good man there”.  During the whole time that I was figuring things out, that good man would invite me out for coffee.  We’d talk. A ten am coffee date would turn into pre-dinner drinks.  But he never pushed beyond friendship. We just talked. As the months stretched out I began to wonder…

He was always kind, always available to me. He talked to me with respect and felt comfortable talking about his feelings. He was sensible, cautious, careful.  He was reserved, but when he laughed it boomed out of his six foot four frame and shook the ground.  His natural tendencies were the opposite of mine.  Where I was spontaneous, he was a planner, when I was loud, he was quiet.  Where money ran through my fingers like sand, he was fiscally responsible.  And his values were solid. He prized trust above all things.  He spoke my language.

The other guy, my ex, was exciting.  A bit reckless even.  He had a capacity for needing me that made me feel important, even essential, to his life.  He wrote poetry and could turn a phrase into a thing of beauty.  He was deep. World-minded. Political. Complex.  But somehow, I couldn’t rest with it.   It occurred to me that I had spent so much time falling in and out of love with men I was attracted to;  and I was attracted to the wrong sort.  I had to make a decision with my head, not my heart.

And that’s what I did.  I chose the hubster.  With all of my head. And you know what?  The heart followed swift behind.  This time I knew without reserve that I had made the right choice. I was so fortunate that he was prepared to wait for me, to give me the respect and freedom of time to choose.  He was a good choice for me for all the right reasons, and none of the old reasons.  He was the start of something entirely new for me.  A relationship on equal terms, spoken in the same language of trust, built on a solid foundation. A healthy relationship.

My Mum was happy too.  

I’m glad to know that she approved.  I’m glad I made that decision when she was still with us.
She was right you know.  It’s a good thing to be married to a man who is good with his hands, responsible with money and who carries good values.  I have been so cared for, so nurtured by his magnanimous heart.  I know I made the right choice.  By then, I had kissed more than enough frogs in my quest for my handsome prince.  And I found him, there on the steps of Hopetoun Alpha. My prince. My happily ever after.

I’d love to know your love story.  Even if your story is about finding a love you haven’t met yet.
I am a sucker for love stories and I love finding out what brought two people together.
How did you meet your main squeeze?
How do you hope to meet them?
How did you know?
What was the clincher for you?

Let’s talk about love.

And honey?  Here’s to you:

Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs

Book Review

This book was published by Penguin in 2005. It is the first novel from Linda Olsson, a New Zealand author of Swedish origin.  She uses both of her national “belongings” to stunning effect in this book of vivid description.

Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs by Linda Olsson

Linda Olsson wrote this book during a year of postgraduate study at the University of Auckland, under the much revered tutelage of Witi Ihimaera and Stephanie Johnson.

In the novel, her protagonist, Veronika, is an author who has retreated to the countryside of Sweden to write her second novel.  Veronika’s neighbour, the strange and reclusive Astrid, against all odds, becomes her friend.  The secrets and sadnesses they carry become the dialogue of their unlikely friendship.  Their kindnesses to one another forge a pathway for them both to return to a place of acceptance and love for themselves.

Bo Bergman ‘Sleepless’

Veronika, has run all the way from the hard light and treacherous coast of New Zealand.  Astrid is still running, from the terrors and loneliness of her youth.  Together, they walk the forests and fields of a gentle rural idyll in companionable silences; sharing only what is necessary, relieving each other of burdens as they come to know one another. Marking the passing of each season.  Their own growth follows the cycle of the natural world. Then, one full year after Veronika arrives, decisions for the future must be made. The shifting scene will change everything, for both women, forever.

This novel is a delicately woven tale of the strength of two women, solitary unique souls who have found love, experienced loss and lived, alone, on moments of memory until stumbling into a need of sustenance.  It is a tribute to the importance of community, of sharing.  Of feeling comfortable in the company of like-minded, non-judgemental souls.  I found Linda Olsson’s writing to be a warm and comfortable read; the wrapping around of soothing sounds.  Her style is itself a gentle song.

I liked her portrayal of women at different stages in their life, in this I felt she handled the subject of grief with deep understanding and respect.  Her description of summer-time country Sweden was evocative.  I felt I could see the quality of the light, the wildflowers, the little hillside hamlets and running rivers.  The words around the swimming in the lake made me feel like I too might float, for the first time, looking up into the great dome of blue.

I particularly loved the use of Swedish poetry throughout the book.  Poets like Karin Boye, Dan Andersson, Bo Bergmann, Edith Sodergran. I enjoyed reading them in Swedish and in English, sounding out the unfamiliar words; as the melody of the Swedish words seemed to hold just as much pleasure/ pain/ poignancy as the meaning.  Linda Olsson has woven them into her narrative with skill and artistry.

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This book is a beauty to look at.  I particularly loved the matt green of the inside covers, peeping out as I read.  But don’t judge the book only by it’s cover.  It is also a beauty to linger over the words.  I look forward to the author’s next foray into writing.  She has something special and I want to read more.