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2020 has been an odd year 11 November 2020

Posted by Mekekamps in Life.
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I haven’t been entirely honest with you.

I am not unflappable. I have not always got all my shit together. Whilst these statements may sound a bit odd, bear with me while I explain.

I haven’t been as good at reaching out as I have been in the past because I have been in self-preservation mode. One of the things I have learnt about 2020 is things quickly move from fine to overwhelming, and whilst there has been nothing in particular triggering this mode, I have chosen to insulate and focus on family rather than be there for others.

It was triggered by a throw away comment from a dear friend saying (and I paraphrase) “If you were to ever lose your shit, that’s when I would know the world is going to hell in a hand basket”.

Soon after, I did lose my shit.

Even those who grin and bear it, who seem to have it all together, we don’t always. I ran out of capacity to hold up the world this year. My own, and that of others. I came to this realisation when I had my first anxiety attack in something like 18 years in April.

From smoke and the threat of bushfire, to a strange virus and lockdown, juggling children, a full time job, and my sanity, then slowly coming out of lockdown but working from home and basically living in active wear, 2020 has been a strange year so far. April, May and June went on forever, whilst suddenly from August everything seems to have doubled in speed in a mad rush to Christmas.

Mid-this year I signed up for a health and happiness program, and it’s been the most wonderful change for me – I am happier and healthier than I have been in a long time, and it’s been a sustained (and sustainable) effort. But part of the program has taught me to put on my own oxygen mask first before I can be there for others. My basket of being there for others isn’t endless. And I have had to make some difficult choices. I’ve prioritised me. I’ve prioritised my family. I have prioritised my job. In that order.

That’s been a massive learning curve for me. So if you have noticed a silence from me, if you’ve wondered where I went to – I haven’t stopped caring. 2020 has been tough. And I am doing the best I can.

Keep doing you. I still love you. May 2021 be a heck of a lot better for all of us.

Clean air euphoria 16 January 2020

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I’m practically euphoric. Like a lamb released after a long winter. I’m skipping down the street because I’m out and I can breathe.

This was my last Facebook post. I’m texting friends about how happy I am. The kangaroos and feral bunnies are making me smile. I’m not even trying to suppress my occasional skip as I walk along.

You might be wondering what this is all about. Have I finally gone mad?

Let’s rewind a bit.

Canberra has been blanketed with thick hazardous bushfire smoke for weeks. Occasionally, the smoke lifts a bit, but the air quality has been “poor”, “unhealthy” or “hazardous” (times 25) since the start of December.

We’ve been bushfire prepared for weeks. The grab bag and all our essentials have been packed in the car in case the fires will come rampaging through as they did in 2003.

There have been nights I’ve lain awake refreshing the bushfire app Fires Near Me watching those grass fires less than 2km away. Or 6km away. Or the bushfires at 65km, or 55km, or 47km away.

Helicopters flying overhead with water to fight them.

I’m hyper alert. Not scared. Just aware and prepared.

We’ve been hoping for rain. We’ve been watching weather forecasts and wind projections.

Explaining our bushfire plans to little minds without freaking them out. It’s been tough. But nowhere near as tough as those who have lost loved ones, livestock, property, everything.

We are the lucky ones.

We have stayed home without much danger. Just a deep sense of uneasiness.

We’ve been checking in with neighbours and their plans. We’ve been putting clean water out for the wildlife. We’ve been worried for friends with family in the fires, when they haven’t been able to get through to loved ones either physically or on the phone. We’ve rejoiced with them when family is found safe and well.

The community has largely banded together. Millions of dollars donated, goods collected and hand delivered to areas in desperate need.

And today?


Glorious rain.

Sadly, with loads of lightening.

But the rain!

Thick, fat raindrops pulling pollution out of the air, creating a brief and cool respite. I’ve gone for a walk tonight.

Hence my euphoria and comparisons to spring lambs. After all of that, I can glimpse my wonderful old friend; Canberra. A staunch middle aged lady who has been prepared for a hammering who now breathes a temporary sigh of relief.

As I walk back towards my house I see I have forgotten to take some of the Christmas decorations down and I am just happy, contented. I laugh in the street like a mad woman.

Clean air, especially in Australia feels like such a given. The never ending blue of the sky is one of my favourite things about this country. And to not have seen that brilliant deep colour for weeks has affected my mood, my ability to get out and exercise and the kids. They have been cooped up for so long they don’t even know which way is up anymore.

I’m hoping for more rain overnight.

It’s been hard to remain level-headed and optimistic, but tonight’s 30-minute walk has refilled my cup and I want to share it.

Whilst it may not last, I want to enjoy tonight. I want to feel the euphoria.

Sending all my thoughts to the coastal communities who have lost so much. I hope the rain has given you room to breathe as well.

Airplane rambling 3 April 2019

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She listened with disdain as the women in front of her slowly became louder and more oblivious to their surroundings.

“God, I hate people,” she thought to herself as she strained to focus her thoughts on Mary Shelly’s words, but her brain kept wandering to listen to their inane conversation. She found herself frequently at a loss as to what the page was telling her, as her eyes had followed the straight, tight lines of prose, but her attention was elsewhere.

She retraced back a page, where some of the text seemed familiar.

A loud burst of laughter from the cackling group of women had her gritting her teeth, and she involuntarily rolled her eyes when they moved from wines to vodka orange.

“Please stop serving them,” I pleaded mentally at the flight attendant walking past, but he just stopped and gave them more tiny plastic cups filled with alcohol.

They cackled at an old episode of Friends, clearly already familiar with it. She’d never heard anyone laugh out loud at Friends, let alone the stale reruns 20 years later. Benign, but not exactly comedic genius. When the conversation turned to recent movies they had seen, it confirmed her suspicions they did not share her view on what constitutes good entertainment.

Despite herself, she found herself wondering who they were. Australians, obviously, based on their accents. On their way to Vietnam (as was everyone else on the plane). Other than that, it was her own judgemental mind filling in the gaps; probably not a hens night; too old. They were all similar in age, possibly a girls trip. They were clearly familiar with each other, seemed to know each other’s quirks, the kind of relaxed interaction learnt from years of friendship.

She guessed from Sydney. She wasn’t sure what made her think that, possibly the cross between the natural tans and the brazen way they were spending money – one of them bought a bag from inflight duty free, the price of which made her eyes water.

She also guessed Sydney by omission – they didn’t have the air Melbournians have, of vague self righteous importance in the world, the kind that comes with being passionately environmentally conscious, smug in a way that only someone with a bamboo toothbrush (ban all plastic) and a sour dough culture living on top of the fridge (named Magnus) while driving an enormous SUV can be.

They also seemed too full of themselves to be from Brisbane, she thought, thinking back to the city where people moved as if nothing really mattered, a hangover from the surrounding beach culture and the slow living of Queensland overall. People from Brisbane do not like people highnoting themselves – tall poppy syndrome in action.

This extends to the self in a way that means no one takes themselves very seriously or thinks themselves above others. These women clearly thought highly of themselves, and had a self important air that ruled Brisbane out.

Adelaidians? No.

Although they could be from Perth – new money (as most money in Australia is) and plenty to burn. And one of them was wearing double denim after all, she could be a country type turned city slicker. Although the mishmash of these women made me settle back on Sydney. One of them had the distinct feel of disappointment for not having been born into flower power glory and was making up for it by wearing billowing floral pants. The kind you might find on the northern beaches, where hippie attitudes meet very large amounts of money.

So one double denim, one new age hippie and a third she hadn’t seen but definitely heard. The latter had a deep, raspy voice, as if she was recovering from a cold or was a heavy smoker.

The thing that bothered her most about the women was the imposing way they were taking over the airwaves of the plane and the alcohol made them giggly. Everyone else was quiet, some were sleeping. A baby wailed up the front, but was quickly shushed by someone and went contently silent again. The man next to them across the aisle was trying to write a journal, but he also seemed distracted by them.

After a short lull, a gentle reprieve from idle chatter and the infernal cackle at nothing, one of the women worked out the call button. Duly pressed, she asked the flight attendant how much longer the flight would be.

She rolled my eyes – if you can’t work that one out, should you really be asking for what comes next, she thought.

“About 45 minutes, ma’am,” the flight attendant was the type of woman who oozed patience, professional and courteous. The kind of woman you couldn’t even imagine talking about passengers behind their backs, although all flight attendants do.
“Is there anything I can get you?”

More wine for two of them. Then when the flight attendant returned with the wine, the third one wanted another glass as well. Whether she’d been overlooked or changed her mind was unclear, but she resisted the urge to tell her she was a disgrace, instead trying to focus on Frankenstein.

Sisters. My god, they were sisters. She hadn’t picked it at all. One of them had asked the one sitting in the aisle (double denim) whether she still wasn’t talking to ‘Dad’.

She wasn’t, and apparently dad hadn’t noticed and it had been three months. That upset her. In a blessed turn of event, obviously dad had to be whispered about and the conversation went from loud abandon to drunken hissing. Feeling uncharitable, she thought the man might quite enjoy being out of favour with such a miserable bunch of women, even if it was just for a very short time.

It was quite the reprieve to have them not talk to each other for a bit.

She picked her book back up and the guy next to them found renewed fervour in his writing. They were going in for landing, and she felt relief at the prospect of getting away from the rabble.

A loud squeal followed by the smell of white wine told her one of them had spilled the content of her glass all over at least two of them. The cabin crew was moving through the cabin to prepare for landing and double denim declared “excuse me, am I ever going to get my glass of wine please!?”

The flight attendant clarified “white wine? Two glasses?”

“And a glass of red please!” The one in the window seat piped up far too loudly.

In the middle of landing, double denim got up to go the the bathroom revealing a set of Birkenstocks with very large golden buckles that made her reevaluate whether they were from Sydney after all. Double denim overshot the bathroom and crashed heavily into the door frame with her shoulder. The alcohol made her stagger and flout the fasten seatbelt sign, but none of the flight attendants seemed to care, much to her chagrin. She wanted these sisters to be put in their place, humiliated into compliance.

After landing, she was taking in the sights around Hoan Kiem lake, when to her horror she spotted the three sisters sticking out like drunken sore thumbs in the middle of a crowd of Vietnamese selling wares and services, positively mobbed and looking a bit overwhelmed. She quickly ducked around the corner out of sight to head away, hoping to never encounter them again.

Writing for fun 1 February 2019

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I was scared. The darkness was frightening, impenetrable. The chicken coop, normally familiar, loomed and creaked. The wind tore at the walls, rattling the window panes.

The lightning had struck nearby and the ensuing thunder was louder than any sound I had ever heard. It was deep, growling, long. Menacing. The sole lightbulb suspended from the ceiling had gone out.

Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the dark and the impenetrable thickness gave way to forms around the room, the hay bales, the sacks of feed, the little ramps and chicken nests. I could make out the shapes of the chickens, huddling together on a raised bar along the back wall, turned away. They were seeking warmth and comfort from each other.

I had never stayed at grandmas farm before, and quite enjoyed the little chores around the place like picking strawberries and feeding the animals. I had come to the chicken coop with scraps from dinner, then got distracted as ten year olds do, looking for eggs in the hay, watching the chickens. They had been acting strange, probably feeling the storm coming in a way urban humans no longer can. I hadn’t noticed the rains’ increased intensity, lost in my day dreams and chatter with the chooks.

I’ve always been a dreamer, time slips away unaccounted for.

I opened the door to the drifts of rain and whipping wind, and saw the power was also out at the farm house. Through the kitchen windows, I could see several lit candles but not the shapes of my family.

Mum and uncle John stepped outside and scurried across the farm yard towards the barn, each with an umbrella, leaning into the wind. I called out, but I could barely hear my own voice over the wind howling and the cracks of thunder. The old oak trees lining the driveway and the farm yard were groaning, swaying dangerously. The rain pelted down.

I stayed put, and waited for the storm to pass. The chickens continued to huddle, but their stoic patience provided me with a sense of calm reassurance.

This storm would pass.

When I finally made it back to the house, mum and John were relieved, and grandma didn’t admit to feelings, but fussed over me and peeled mandarins for me after my ‘big adventure’ as she called it. Uncle John showed how when you squeeze mandarin peel next to an open candle flame, it made ‘mini-fireworks’, crackling and spitting.

Mum bundled me off to bed thinking I’d had enough excitement that day, and I probably didn’t need to also burn the house down. She carried a candle for light and let me go to bed without my pyjamas for a change. I guess we probably wouldn’t have found them in the suitcase in the dark anyway.

As she kissed my forehead goodnight, I drifted off into a sleep filled with round, feathery chickens huddling. I was never scared of storms again.

Practice 14 September 2018

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I’m practicing my writing sometimes, little vignettes that don’t mean anything and don’t necessarily go anywhere. Here’s an example.

I knew I shouldn’t, I really did not need the calories, and the slight chance of a migraine in the morning. I had been flat out all week – actually, make that all month, and I was standing in the little kitchenette at work, waiting for the lights on the coffee machine to stop flashing so I could make my first coffee of the day. I knew there was a distinct possibility I would be back for a number more as the hours dragged on, it was shaping up to being one of those days. I had stepped back from the machine to stand with my back in the sun – it was slowly starting to get warmer after quite a nasty winter, and the light flowing in through the window behind me was warm and yellow and cheery. I didn’t quite match the feeling of the light, but I appreciated it for trying.

I had been rounding my back to the warmth like a cat, trying to practice ‘mindfulness’ (all the rage at the moment and supposedly good for stressful moments) where I would breathe in deeply through my nose for four counts, feeling my lungs fill and open, then breathe out in a slow and purposeful way through my mouth. I had opened one eye mid-breath to check the little flashing lights when the colourful wrapping had caught my eye.

Large, joyful Lindor balls were sitting on the counter. A little yellow post-it note was declaring in all caps:

“FEEL FREE TO HAVE SOME!!” followed by a smiley-face.

It might as well have been screaming “EAT ME, EAT ME NOW!!”

Before I knew it, I had picked up a red one, and I was unwrapping it, watching the perfectly delicious brown chocolate underneath unfurl in my hand. And I knew full well in that moment if I had one, I would have more. And chocolate is a migraine trigger for me. So not only was I eating calories I did not want or need, but I would most likely have to call in sick tomorrow and stay at home with the curtains drawn, like a teenager after their very first BNS ball.

I was full of self-loathing as I placed the round ball in my mouth, feeling for the little indent on one side and the little protrusion on the other with my tongue as it dissolved. It melted over my tongue and down my gullet. In for a penny, in for a pound, and I soon had five differently coloured wrappers on the counter, chocolates devoured.

The little lights had stopped flashing, so I pressed the button next to the ‘macchiato’ setting, and watched my cup fill with deep dark, smoking coffee and milk. I quickly gathered up the wrappers, disgusted with my lack of self-control, and stuffed them into my pocket so no one would see them. I tried to rearrange the remaining chocolates to look more plentiful, but eventually had to resort to grabbing a smaller bowl. I transferred the post-it and placed the bigger bowl back in the cupboard.

I grabbed my cup of coffee and headed back to my desk, wondering if I was going to make it all the way through the day. I really did not have time for this, what on earth had I been thinking eating those chocolates? I don’t even like Lindor.

Different children 2 August 2018

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I knew my children would be different. You know that as a parent, in theory at least. And then they come out, these marvellously, intricate, perfect little human beings with personalities bigger than themselves. And then you just can’t reconcile the fact that they are the same genetic make up, the same womb, the same environment, yet so incredibly different.

My eldest is caring, he likes to cuddle (always has), is inquisitive and will currently not take no for an answer (he’s also a toddler).

It took him forever to start talking, but he could easily communicate through grunts, noises and pointing. Now he’s found his words, and the only time there is not a story on his lips is when he’s asleep and I’m not even certain he might not be sleep talking. He has always been measured, cautious, if not a little clumsy.

He had blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile that can melt anyone’s heart. He hates me touching his hair, and won’t have it brushed, washed or cut. I have had to cut knots and dreadlocks out of his hair while he sleeps to keep it manageable. He hates water in his face.

My youngest is loud, rambunctious, with no fear. She will take a while to do something for the first time, but then she does it well – like crawling. She was just off one day. I assume she will be the same with walking. She climbs and gets in the water, head under, no drama. She’s my water baby, crying if I won’t let her get in the shower with me (because she is fully clothed).

She only cuddles on her terms, so I can count on one hand the times she has tucked her little head into my chest. I savoir those times even more when they happen. She’s fiercely independent, won’t want me to help her with anything.

She had brown, curly hair, which I can wash and brush as much as I like but which is always unruly. She, of course, pulls clips and hair bands out as soon as they are in. She’s got spunk.

The best thing about them both is their love for each other. They play together and adore each other and light up when they are reunited at the end of the day.

They are different those two and they are teaching me so much about life. But they are both great little humans and I can’t wait to see them grow up together.

Norwegian strawberries 13 July 2018

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My baby smells like strawberries.

I normally hate it when she doesn’t smell like herself – I dislike baby products and even strong smelling washing detergent.

She normally smells sweet after a bath. Or salty when she’s had a sleep. Sweaty, delicious, milky baby.

But right now, she smells like strawberries and I’m loving it. She had handfuls at dinner time, and apart from a quick wet towel over her hands and cheeks, we didn’t have a bath.

And Norwegian strawberries are the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Not particularly large, but sweet, ripe, gooey and dark red. Juicy, too. And a bit sticky.

So the baby was covered in gooey smelly strawberry juice, smiling in a joker-a-la-Heath-Ledger kind of way. Only adorable.

She ate so many I thought she might get a tummy ache. But now she’s asleep and snuggled in for the night, and I’m loving that her whole being exudes the most wonderful, sweet, strawberry smell.

Sleep tight my strawberry girl.

Norway 11 July 2018

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I am back in Norway for the first time in years, and it is an oddly visceral experience.

I’m struggling to put it into words, it’s long forgotten memories, a deep knowledge of the place, laced with the beauty of this country. It’s the smells, sights, flavours. Even the flora and the fauna. I’m trying to explain, but my attempts are disjointed. Yet it perfectly describes my brain at the moment – skipping around, never fully settling on an idea or an experience. On to the next input.

I used to live in Norway for many years growing up, but left to study. I have been back since then, but only to visit friends and family. This time around, I am not catching up with many people and I am actually seeing a part of the country I haven’t been to before, holidaying. And that’s why it’s so different this time – my sojourn is conjuring up memories of summer holidays long forgotten.

Endless summer days away from school, swimming in the fjords, mosquitos, the smell of ocean, the deep green hues of deciduous trees making the most of short summers. Scabbed knees, the pain of standing on a bumble bee barefoot, clover in your hair, newly mowed grass.

My brain is flooded with memories, long forgotten but brought right into the forefront of my mind, ready to be touched, smelt, experienced. People I haven’t thought about in years pop up in my mind and I wonder how they are. The feeling of flying down a hill on a pink rickety bike, fast enough for your eyes to go misty with tears. The front wheel catching in a groove made from the rains the night before, sending you flying. The small bits of gravel stuck just under your skin on your knees.

There is a knowledge of the land, too – not my land, but through school excursions and teachings, it’s country I know the most intimately in the world. I know these trees and birds. I recognise the flecks of sparkles through the sea, fools gold, shimmering in the gentle waves. It’s familiar even though I’ve never been here before. The wild strawberries, fragrant almost perfume like, brought back glimpses of school camps in forests far away.

Laced through all of this is the presence of my brother. With me every day through those summers of yore, whether at home or on holidays in the mountains or at the beach. Schlepping through tidal pools looking for treasure, lying on our bellies on a jetty fishing for crabs with a broken mussel, gooey orange insides exposed and irresistible to a crab, a peg and some string. Sleeping in tents together, spending our pocket money unwisely. He is here as well, and although we are both grown up, there is a shared knowledge with him I will never have with anyone else.

My brother is the only person who has the same odd mish-mash of countries, languages, cultures, as me. It’s the most wonderful gift to have someone I’m so connected to and who understands my experience the way he does. We are different people and vastly so, but my visceral reliving of this Norwegian holiday wouldn’t have been complete without him.

Little girl 8 February 2018

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Putting away another size

My baby is growing fast

I‘ve made her wear these too long

Putting clothes away

Means time is slipping

From little baby to big girl

The tiny booties someone knitted

The little Christmas dress

All those things she never wore

The teeth she’s cutting

The nappies she’s outgrown

All mark the time marching on

The new things she’s learning

I hardly recognise her

She changes so much each day

But there she is my miracle

My perfect little girl

May the world be good

It is better for having you.

Irritable baby 17 December 2017

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The baby is irritable. One of those days.

She doesn’t want to be up or down, she’s hungry but doesn’t want boob.

She is tired but won’t sleep.

Wants to be with her mum, on her mum, attached to mum.

Mum is not allowed to sit or lie down, mum must stand up and bop her.

She doesn’t want to face inwards, she doesn’t want to face outward.

No toy is good enough.

She might be a lot of things. In need of emotional support. Teething. Tummy aches from recently going on solids. Tired from a bad night sleep. Too hot. Simply grumpy.

Mum tries everything under the sun and then cycles through those options again. Nothing works.

One of those days.

Mum knows it’s just a phase.

Then suddenly, after a catnap, baby looks up at mum and coos. Reaches out to grab mums face. It won’t last today, but mum savours these moments.