Regarding Reality.

Today, while I was updating my professional development log for the year — a required activity that is about as exciting as it sounds — I discovered a quote in a note I had written a while back. 

My first response that I really like the quote. Then, I wondered why I hadn’t written down who said it. I usually do. 

The next step was, of course, googling it to find the source. 
I googled the whole thing. 
I googled key phrases. 
Surprisingly, I couldn’t find it anywhere. It’s just not out there. 

“Reality is what’s left over of the known universe for those who don’t read books.”

Possibly… me?

Is it possible that I said this? Is it possible that the person who came up with the term “face pants” for a mask has actually had more than one episode of lexical genius in her lifetime? 

As soon as I asked that question, cynical self interjected with the observation that I can’t be much of a genius if I said something this good, and then forgot about it. My optimistic self then reminded me about the existence of absent-minded professors and those super-clever scientists who forget about everything except what they are working on at the time. 

So, the reality is that I may have said this, and written down my own quote, or I may not. My genius may be transient, or subtle, or so ingrained that I can’t recognise it, or largely non-existent.

Given that this is the kind of reality that is likely to do my head in, I am rather glad that I am one of those who reads books. 

Possibly said by me. In the absence of any other options, I’ll claim it.

Regarding Reality.
#booklovers #quotes #quoteoftheday

Another Souvenir.

Yesterday, as I was unpacking and sorting the Christmas decorations, I discovered a keepsake that I didn’t even know I had.

Morris the Rainbear

It seemed odd at first when I found one of last year’s Christmas cards tucked into the bag of tinsel and other soft decorations: my elves from Canada, Morris the Rainbear which my sister gave me decades ago, some plush toys in Santa hats, and all the tinsel.
And when I say “all the tinsel”, I’m not kidding.
There’s a lot of it.
I love that stuff.

The thing is, I don’t usually keep Christmas cards. I usually give them to the pre-school or school, where the kids use the pictures on the front or, in the case of the beautiful cards made by my very clever sisters, the whole fronts of them to make cards for their families and friends.

When I opened the surprise card, realisation was followed closely by tears welling up in my eyes: it was the Christmas card my father gave us last year.

Card made by Jenny Greig.

I don’t know why I kept it.

I didn’t know then that it would be his last Christmas with us, or that it would be the very last thing I had with his handwriting on it.

When I saw his handwriting, all those mixed happy/sad feelings came rushing back. Tears from missing him so profoundly were mixed with laughter at how bad his handwriting was.

To say that Dad had lousy handwriting was no exaggeration.

If practically illegible handwriting alone were enough to qualify someone as a doctor, Dad could have been a professor of worldwide renown. It was a problem for as long as I knew him, and there were times when even he had no idea what he had written. More than once, he found that even though he had written a shopping list, by the time we got to the supermarket he had forgotten what was on it and neither of us could read it.

So, my attempt to transcribe what Dad wrote on this card may be inaccurate, but I think it says, “Jesus who came to suffer in our stead to the glory of his Father. For so was his wish.”

It’s such a classic Dad thing to do: just casually pop a little mini-sermon into a Christmas card. It’s such a lovely reminder of his love for Jesus and his desire for us to put our faith in Him, too. Among all the glitz and glitter and parties and feasting and end of year rush and revelry, the reminder of the true meaning of Christmas is as timely and important as it ever was. 

Teardrop is a collectable Charlie Bears bear.

I can tell you now, I’m keeping this card forever. It is on display on my grandfather’s bookshelf next to my chair, safely nestled in the lap of Teardrop, the bear who cuddled me throughout the afternoon and evening of the day Dad passed away, and mopped up more than a few tears along the way. .

It is an unexpected bonus having another souvenir of my Dad on display in my study this Christmas.

This Year, It’s Not Too Early.

My tree, all lit up and spreading a little joy.

Today I put the Christmas tree in my study and decorated it.

I know. I know.

It’s not December yet, and I usually have a very firm rule about that.

2020, though, has not been renowned for playing by the rules. In a year of so much heartbreak, social isolation, separation from family and friends, reinventing careers, and widespread misery, it seems to me that we should celebrate what we can, when we can.

I also have a rule about waiting until the exams are marked and my reports are finished and submitted before I can be ready for Christmas. I finished the marking on the weekend and finalised my students’ reports yesterday, so at least I managed keep that rule intact!

So, given that it’s the 25th of November, I decided this morning that a month from Christmas was as good a day as any.

Besides, I needed something to do. Abbey the Labby was at the vets having surgery to remove a lump, and while the vets had told me it was most likely completely benign, I wasn’t altogether confident that 2020 wasn’t going to take that as a challenge. Anxious as I was, staying busy was a good thing to do.

Abbey the Labby, resting comfortably tonight after her surgery.

Just after the tree was finished, the vet called and told me Abbey’s surgery went well and that he is really happy with the outcome. When we picked her up, two vets and the nurse all told us how beautiful and well-behaved she is. They commented that she is she is in excellent health and the perfect weight for a Labrador. They congratulated us on taking excellent care of her.

I’m calling that my first Christmas gift of the year.

I won’t be playing any Christmas music untilDecember 1st, though.
I don’t want to push my luck.

This Year, It’s Not Too Early
#ChristmasIsComing #Christmas2020 #November25

There Should At Least Be Cake.

Today would have been my father’s 89th birthday.

My Dad. Photo taken in March, 2020.

It’s the first time in my life that I will not be able to wish him a happy birthday. It’s the first time in many years that I will not hug him, kiss his cheek, and provide the cake, complete with candles for him to blow out while we sing that silly song.

I miss him so much. I miss his big laugh, his cheeky grin, our talks when I got home from work, our hugs, our days out together, shared dinners and coffees, cheeky afternoon teas at the bakery, and holding his hand just because I could. He was part of every day, whatever else I might have been doing.

The “firsts” are pretty awful, to be honest. The absence of someone you love on a day which you have always celebrated with them is jarring. It feels as though the world has tilted again, and everything is just a little more out of kilter. It feels… wrong.

My siblings have all experienced their first birthday without him since he passed away in June: two in September, and one just last week. I called and wished each of them happy birthday, but I also wept for them because I knew what they were thinking and feeling, even if they didn’t admit it. Some things don’t need to be put into words.

And yet, for children to bury and grieve for a parent whom they loved dearly, and who has lived a long, happy and faithful life is also so …right.

Therein lies the awkwardness of it all. We are all glad he is no longer suffering, and we would not have wanted him to linger in a realm of pain or disease or  anguish but, at the same time, I miss him so very much. The emotions are so powerful that they threaten to overwhelm, but not one of us would bring him back to go through it all again. That would be cruel and selfish.

On the first Father’s Day since his death, I chose to do positive things in his memory. Now, on the first birthday, I find myself trying to achieve that again. There is still pain and grief, though. regardless of how I try to window-dress the day, and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and not suppress or deny them. The healthier choice is to experience them and work through them in appropriate ways.

So, a visit to my parents’ grave with flowers was my first priority for the day. I made a video message for my siblings and their families, all of whom are long-distance from me, from the final resting place of our parents. At least that way, they could share in the visit too. I chose yellow roses, because Dad loved his roses. Yellow roses are symbolic of friendship, but also of remembrance and new beginnings or rejuvenation of spirit, so they are perfect for Dad’s first birthday in heaven.

My best friend and I visited one of Dad’s favourite bakeries — the same one where I took the picture of him enjoying his coffee — and drank coffee and ate sweet things in his honour.

Later on, we will be having Dad’s favourite thing for dinner — pizza — followed by birthday cake, because there has been one on every other November 17th that I have known. 

I have also spent some time in quiet contemplation and giving thanks for my Dad. I know I am incredibly blessed to have had such a loving and supportive father with whom I got along so  well, when so many people don’t ever get to know what that’s like. I am thankful for my family, for my husband, and for my best friends, whose support helps make days like today a tiny bit easier. Again, so many people don’t have that, and I know I am incredibly privileged to have those people in my life.

I have thought, too, about what comes next. Soon there will be the first Christmas. The first New Year’s Eve, and the first calendar year that hasn’t had Dad in it. And 360 days after his graduation to heaven, I will have my first birthday without him. And then, soon after, the first anniversary of his death, and then of Helen’s.

These anniversaries and the emotions that go with them may be painful, but they are poignant reminders of deep love and the profound blessings of knowing and sharing life with such amazing people.

On such occasions, there should at least be cake. Dad would have insisted on it.

And People Wonder Why I Have Trust Issues.

This happened today… and I am very unhappy.

Anyone who knows me well enough to be in my front yard knows how much I love my maple trees that I have carefully and lovingly grown as reminders of my beloved Canada. I can’t get there anywhere near as often as I want to, so the least I can do is have a bit of Canada in my own garden. It’s not too much to ask.

Today, though, someone who was in my front yard — unbeknown to anyone who lives here, of course, heartlessly ran down one of my maples.

The victim.

Yes, it was a fairly small tree. That is irrelevant, because it was on its way to being big. Big maples cost lots more than smaller maples in Australia, and small ones cost more than enough. More importantly, it was my tree.

The only notification they left of the destruction of my tree was the tree itself, now horizontal rather than vertical. No note. No phone call or text. No apology. No identification of the culprit.

I am so sad. I’m sad for the loss of a tree that actually meant something to me.

I’m also sad that whoever is responsible felt it was okay to not be honest with me.

If I knocked over someone’s tree or broke something that belonged to someone else, I would be guilt-ridden and desperate to replace it.

Apparently, not everyone I know is quite so principled.

Fortunately for them, I have absolutely zero clues as to who is responsible.

Unfortunately for me, that means that my already cynical INFJ mind will not just go “oh well…” and let it go. Self-destructive as it may be, a little voice in my head will wonder ‘Was it you?’ every time I see people I should be able to trust. The question will probably never come out of my mouth, but it will be there, nevertheless.

The group of people in whom I have  absolute trust was already  a very small group indeed.
And people wonder why.

A Much-Needed Break

COVID-19 restrictions were recently eased in our area, just in time for us to make the most of us both having four days off work.

We took the opportunity to sneak away for a break and headed down the coast with our friends, caravans in tow, phones switched onto silent, and four days’ worth of food, drinks and comfy old clothes ready to go.

At this point of 2020, we fully realise what a luxury four days away from home really is. After months of staying home, teaching from home, and only leaving home when absolutely necessary, the change of scenery was most welcome. Of course, Melbourne and its surrounding area are still under restrictions, so this is a privilege most people in my state do not have. I do feel sympathy for them, but not sufficiently to forgo the pleasure of my first real break since January.

We are camped at the little coastal hamlet of Yambuk on the south-western coast of Victoria. It’s a picturesque little spot, overlooking a lake that is kept separate from the ocean only by sand dunes. We can see the ocean beyond the dunes, hear it murmuring all night as we rest, and easily walk to the beach whenever we so desire. The lake has a bird population of a dozen gulls and one magnificent pelican, while our campsite has several blue wrens that keep us entertained.

Not that I need much for entertainment. I’m happy to gaze at the sea, or the birds, or watch the sun dip behind the dunes as dusk cloaks the countryside with a blanket of almost-but-not-quite-darkness, illuminated by stars and a full moon so bright you could almost read by it.

I had planned to record and upload a couple of spooky stories for Halloween, but the phone signal is so low, I can’t even upload images to Instagram unless I drive twenty minutes to a bigger town. This would usually frustrate me but, this weekend, I really don’t care. So, I put my phone down and decided I would also take a good break from screens.

I have taken the opportunity to walk, to nap, to read books, to do puzzles, and to sit in companionable silence with my friend. I have managed to get a few nice photos. I have taken time to contemplate the huge differences in my life between last January and now. I don’t know if this year has changed me, but it has changed lots of things for me.

I suppose I am stronger, but I don’t feel it. It’s going to take more than four days to heal that amount of damage, but at least I’ve made a bit of a start.

I’m very thankful for this beautiful place and the time off that made this little getaway possible.

Most of all, I am thankful for the people who are willing to nourish me physically and spiritually, and to hold my hand or encourage me while giving me time and space to work on myself. I am blessed to have some of those people right here with me this weekend, while others are still on the other side of closed borders. It may have been one of the most rubbish years ever, but I am richly blessed to have some amazing people in my life to help me get through it.

This post and its pictures actually uploaded after who-knows-how-many attempts. I had actually given up and put my phone down again, and noticed some time later that it has uploaded. And they say miracles don’t happen!

Shadows of You

Today is Helen’s birthday.

This poem says it all.

Image by Karen_Nadine on Pixabay

There are so many things
I wish I could tell you,
So much I want to say:
I love you.
I miss you.
I want you back.
I wish you were here today.
Life is not what it used to be,
My wishes are nothing but air,
The emptiness aches.
The quietness moans.
Shadows of you are everywhere.
I weep with depth of longing,
Miserable, lonely, bereft:
I love you.
I miss you.
I want you back,
And the memories are all I have left.

ⓒ2020 Joanne Van Leerdam

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Horror-ween Week

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

It’s one week today until Halloween. The shops are full of costumes, accessories, and big bags of treats to hand out.

Australians are once again protesting about it being an American thing (it’s not) while they gladly binge-watch American TV series on Foxtel and Netflix, listen to predominantly American music on commercial radio, and argue about whether Coke or Pepsi is better. (It’s definitely Coke.)

Despite the protestations of those Aussie nay-sayers, it’s a week that I quite enjoy. It reminds me of my first Halloween season in Canada, where I learned more about the background of the holiday and started to appreciate it in a different way. I like seeing kids and families out together, dressed up in costumes and walking around my small town, spending time together and having fun that doesn’t involve a screen.

It’s also a time when, like many other horror authors, I’m hoping to put my books in front of people and maybe get a sale or three.

I write spooky short stories, among other things. I work hard to build the right atmosphere, to lure the reader in, and then shock them with a macabre turn of events. I try to appeal to different senses so that they hold their breath while their skin crawls. It’s not splatter for splatter’s sake, and the monsters generally don’t hide under the beds or in the wardrobes of little kids. The monsters I write about are, more often than not, people who seem ordinary in most ways— until they prove they are not.

So, why not try a creepy story? You might enjoy it more than you think!

All in ebook and paperback. Signed copies available.

Horror-ween Week
#Halloween #horror #Halloween2020

A Little Kindness

This afternoon, while I was in the supermarket, I saw the lady who used to do my father’s in-home care until he moved into residential care in May.

We started charting, and it became evident that she didn’t know the details of his passing in June. Somewhat surprised by that, I told her of his decline over the last few days of his life, and of my honour and  privilege in holding him in my arms as he died.

As the conversation wound down, I thanked her again for taking care of Dad, and for taking the time to stop and chat with me about him. We both blinked back tears, and then we parted ways.

I had held my emotions together while we were talking, but had a bit of a cry to myself in the otherwise empty pet supplies aisle a couple of rows over.  I told myself I should not feel silly,  nor should I try to hide my feelings. It had been a while since I’d had a cry, and it was probably healthy to let it go.

Still, standing among the bags of cat and dog food and kitty litter in the supermarket probably wasn’t the best place for it.

I thought I had got away with out anyone else noticing, but a lovely young man who worked in the store approached me and asked if I were okay. I told him I would be, I just needed to pull myself together. I managed a weak smile, hoping it would be enough to reassure him.

He smiled back and handed me a little purse pack of Kleenex. I realise that may not sound like much, but it was an act of kindness that brightened an otherwise  miserable moment, and one for which I am very thankful.

I’m also thankful for the reminder that it doesn’t always take much to make a difference in someone’s day.

As the popular saying goes, “in a world where you can be anything you want to be… be kind.”

It occurred to me as I was writing this post that this is the second time  in recent months that I’ve been surprised by the kindness of a young person when they’ve seen my tears. That thought made me smile again.

A Little Kindness
#kindness #ChooseKindness #KindnessMatters

6 Things to know about Invisible Disability Awareness

Everything this post says is true.

I, too, suffer from chronic, invisible illnesses.
I have fibromyalgia. I have a permanent back injury. I have depression and anxiety, and I work hard to keep those under control. I strive to take good care of myself, and to manage my conditions. I avoid aggravating them. I also make every possible effort to stay positive and to do the things in life that I enjoy doing.

The fact is, though, no matter what good care I take care of myself or how positive and proactive I am, I cannot heal or cast off my invisible disabilities.

The debilitation is real.
The exhaustion is real.
The misconceptions are real.

And the judgement? Many people would not be willing to believe how real, and how consistent, and how very, very toxic that is.

The critics are only right about one thing: I don’t look sick.
That’s because I’ve been faking being well for years.

Brainless Blogger

This year Invisible Disability Awareness Week falls on October 18th to 24th.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, the term invisible disability refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction, brain injuries, learning differences, mental health disorders, as well as hearing and visual impairments. They are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person

Invisible Disabilities You ShouldKnow

6 Things to know about Invisible Disability Awareness

Unseen

Because Invisible Disabilities are not visible to the eye it can cause issues. Some of these issues are judgments when we use disabled parking or disabled bathroom stalls and others feel the need to make an issue out of it… because we do not Look disabled.

1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) have a severe disability, while only…

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