Thursday, September 30, 2010

Home and away

For the first time ever, I didn’t send any postcards during this holiday. I did send a couple of emails with photos to family, and made the minimum number of “we’re doing OK” phone calls. I did blog most days (albeit in bulk) and I also noticed a persistent little compulsion to check emails, blog posts, blog comments, other people’s tweets to see if anyone had responded to anything I’d written.

But other than that, I felt relieved of the need to connect with “home”. This was partly because it wasn’t one of “those” trips in that we weren’t visiting for the first time or hitting the tourist traps. But the main reason was that I became powerfully and poignantly aware very soon after we arrived that “home” was where I was: with my family. Perhaps this was due to our little ‘un’s eye infection and the various things we needed to do in response. Perhaps it was because travelling with a toddler required more presence than any travel we had undertaken individually or as a couple. Whatever the reason, it is the thing I am the most grateful for. It was nothing less than a paradigm shift for me, as the ties to my parents and sister, my work, my friends, Melbourne had always been so strong.

Of course, these tied have not been severed and remain a vital part of who I am. But the realisation that I had everything I needed, exactly where I was, suddenly felt freeing. Like I could step beyond my past to fully inhabit my role as a woman and wife and mother… as well as a writer and artist.

But also, for the first time, I did not completely resent “Melbourne” for being inferior or mediocre in comparison to the place that I’d been. I say Melbourne in inverted commas because I don’t think I mean any particular physical location or specific people or events. I think “Melbourne” came to embody all the things in my lifestyle, my routine, and (in particular) my day job that I resented.

This time, after at least four weeks away, I felt ready to come home. To Melbourne, to family, to friends, to my day job. While I was away, I made the decision to clear my week of all commitments other than my little ‘un’s creative dance class. I sent a couple of sensitive emails cancelling out of things, which were graciously received. This was the right thing to do. I have returned to a clear calendar and the smell of glorious Spring but I have also returned with a centeredness based on daily writing and reflection, a practice which was consolidated while we were away.

Somehow the photo above of our kitchen in Brooklyn is the best way of summing up how I feel about the next bit of my life. I had got up early to write and suddenly remembered that I needed to put a new memory card in my camera. This is the first photo I took on the new memory card, and it felt like a new beginning.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


At various moments throughout the trip, I found myself reflecting on my first visit to New York in 1998. It was part of my “big overseas trip”, the one that many young Australians take, a year of backpacking around the US, a language course on a Greek Island, visiting family in the UK and inhabiting various spaces in Ireland and Scotland. I was not long out of university, with two miserable years of full-time administrative work under my belt, and it’s fair to say I was unworldly and naïve.

My first port of call was my dear friend in Maryland. This sweet girl had been my flatmate in Melbourne while she undertook her teaching qualification as an international student. She’d not long returned home and was about to start her first job, but she and her family took me in, showed me the sights, spoiled me with wonderful food, and generally helped me find my feet in America.

My first solo expedition was Philadelphia and it was then that I realised I had no idea what I was doing. How should I fill my days? What am I going to do for food? Are there things that I am “supposed” to see? Without my family, without my friends, without the social structures and routines and requirements of home I was lost and uncertain and severely doubting myself. I may have been the only person grateful for the hostel curfew of 9pm: one less decision to make each day.

Slowly, tentatively, I learned what travelling was about. By the time I got to New York, I was a little more sure of my footfall. I had befriended an English girl in the Philadelphia hostel and we met up again a couple of times in New York. I grew more proficient in reading maps and walked for many miles each day. I learned that walking alone as a woman I was no threat to anyone and no one really bothered me. I organised the next leg of my trip: two coast-to-coast journeys with the Green Tortoise. I stood in the queue for cheap tickets and saw Cabaret on Broadway: a particular thrill as it had long been one of my favourite films.

I overcame my resentment of the “friend” (a New Yorker I’d met in Melbourne) who blew me off, reneging on his offer of accommodation in Manhattan. I stayed I three different hostels, exploring different parts of town. I chatted to people. Some days I just stayed in my room alone and read SARK books. Many days it was cold and rainy. I called my friend in Maryland, and emailed my friends at home, telling them that New York sucked. I’d read about so many places in novels, in guidebooks, SOHO, Tribeca, Harlem, Chelsea, but once I arrived there, turned up at the designated spot, it was just me. I wasn’t part of “the scene”. I hadn’t fully inhabited café culture at home, I was usually too busy to “hang out”. I had no idea where daily life happened. I had no idea what to do.

During a brief moment to myself during the journey home this time around, I caught a fascinating little documentary about Cabaret, the musical, the film and the book on which it was based. It was narrated by Alan Cumming, who had starred as the M.C. in the wonderful production I saw back in 1998. I did enjoy the documentary but it also brought me back to my first trip to New York and I found myself reflecting on that raw and lonely time, for the first time ever, with tenderness.

I had always been given to shudder with embarrassment or berate myself for my ignorance whenever I thought of my first big world trip, especially the time I spent in New York. I’d been awkward and foolish, spending too much time writing emails and postcards home, filling up great parcels of candies for family and friends, buying miscellaneous and useless things I “couldn’t get at home”. I gave too much money when asked for it, and didn’t really work out what traveller’s cheques were for until much later. I hardly managed to eat decent, healthy food and carted around all sorts of useless stuff in my [extremely heavy] backpack.

But now I looked back at that girl with tremendous love and a little pride. Wow! You survived all those weeks in a big city on your own! You saw all the sights, you chatted to some marvellous strangers, you didn’t get lost or cheated or hurt. You didn’t know a lot about your self, you had been taught to fear your instinct and expect the worst. And of course there was the strong pull to connect to home. That was all you’d known and was your anchor, your structure, your focus. But you did your best and you kept going and you got by. It really doesn’t matter now that it ended up a little messy. It couldn’t have really come out any other way. And that’s OK.

Sitting on the plane, I sent a little prayer back in time to that fledgling woman who blamed herself for feeling lost and alone. I thanked her for her stumblings and forgave her her fear. I whispered that she was doing important work, that it would take some time, but that she would eventually come home to herself and feel less lost in her own skin. I told her that she would gradually realise that she’d always known where life happened – in the supermarket, the queue for tickets, the laundry, the waiting room, the bakery, the train – and reassured her that it didn’t matter that she was too busy to see it. It would all make sense in time. In the meantime, she was doing her best and that’s all she needed to do.

She would be OK.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The journey home

was slow and exhausting.

involved at least one extremely stressful suitcase situation.

was endured with presence and tenderness and the occasional meltdown.

did include some sleep for all three of us.

saw me quite overwhelmed with emotion (in a good way) when we stepped in the door of our home.

was celebrated with fresh flowers with from Mum’s garden and a full fridge of food courtesy of Mum and my Mother-in-law.

culminated in some phenomenal naps: the little ‘un flaked out at 11am and was virtually unconscious ‘til we woke her at 8pm for a snack and a cuddle, then went back to sleep at 10pm and did not stir until 6am. [She must have been knackered!]

saw us all unpacked and tidied and organised on the first day back, trying to keep busy (thus awake) but also gently assimilating insights gained from our recent adventures back into our home lives.

ended with a glorious splash of spring.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Goodbye New York

This past month has given me:

* the freedom to be myself: overweight, frizzy hair, acne scars, outdated wardrobe and all. Not to mention bookish, chocolate-obsessed and shopping compulsive.

* the courage to open up and be truly seen. And loved.

* a new wardrobe! (OOPS! Favourable exchange rate, fabulous shops, what can I say?).

* the feeling that I am “well on my way” in terms of my writing journey and that this blog is a big part of it.

* a deep-seated sense that we will be living here some day, even if not for long.

* space to stop doing and just be.

* insight into how my family truly completes me, how when they are with me I have all that I need and there is nowhere else I need to be.

* the revelation that if I stop and listen, really listen, to my body, it will tell me everything I need to know.

Maybe I didn’t need to go all the way to the other side of the planet for these learnings to happen. But somehow I think it rather helped. And although New York City mightn’t be the first place people think of when they conjure a “relaxing” or restorative holiday, there’s something about the sheer mass of humanity, the daily reminders of history, the range and variety of experiences available, the possibilities and contradictions that I found exhilarating.

Anonymous in a massive, complex city, I was lost in my surroundings but found in my body, in my family.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Body of knowledge, awakening

The body is not only where we live, but also how we live. Because the condition of the body (or lack of aliveness as in depression) will determine the manner in which we relate to the surrounding people and circumstances of our lives; the condition of the body will determine whether we live lives of openness, generosity and tempered optimism, or instead lead lives that are constrained, cynical, perhaps even hostile.

Many people, my younger self included, find themselves uncomfortable in their own skin, awkward, uneasy and anxious. Never quite sure of how to be, how to behave, trying to pick up clues and cues from studying the behaviour of those around us - we basically suffer from an underlying sense that something is basically
wrong -- that we ourselves are somehow defective, that we have no real right to be here, but live under suffrance.

The New Jerusalem
Gabrielle Lord in Home Truth, edited by Carmel Bird

You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won't discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself. The Sufi poet Rumi, writing about birds learning to fly, wrote: "How do they learn it? They fall, and falling, they're given wings."

If you wait [...] to respect yourself until you are at the weight you imagine you need to be to respect yourself, you will never respect yourself, because the message you will be giving yourself as you reach your goal is that you are damaged and cannot trust your impulses, your longings, your dreams, your essence at any weight.

Geneen Roth
Women, Food and God

Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Magic at MoMA

* Having just shy of two hours to myself.

* Soaking in Matisse and Mapplethorpe.

* Quirky treats from the gift shop.

* Taking silly photos of myself with Rodin's Balzac.

* Leaving a wish on Yoko Ono's wishing tree in the sculpture garden.

* Learning that my husband and little 'un had a fun time in Central Park.

* Juicy strawberries (and the unexpected gift of seaweed sheets as a snack from another little 'un in a pram) on the subway journey home.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frankies 457: Brooklyn

Dear Sir,

My husband and I enjoyed quite a pleasant dinner in the courtyard of your Brooklyn restaurant this evening. The food was of considerable quality and the wine selection excellent.

However, we will not be frequenting your restaurant again and will be srongly encouraging everyone we know to eschew your various dining establishments.

We understand that you may have a preferred "type" of client, and that a bedraggled set of late thirty-something Australians with a restless toddler in tow may not fit the bill. What we do not generally expect is surly and perfunctory service that leaves us in no doubt that this is the case.

We did not mind refilling our own water and wine glasses all evening. However, we do find open derision and mockery on the part of the Maitre d' and two waitresses as we leave the premises to be hurtful and unappreciated.

It is certainly the sort of behaviour that gives a customer cause to regret leaving a generous tip.

This unprofessional and unwarranted attitude reflects badly on the name you have lent your dining establishment. May we suggest that you consider investing in some professional development for your staff, by way of basic courtesy and customer service ethos?

Sincerely yours,
etc etc.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No place but here

This sign reminded me of something that the lovely and wise Karen Maezen Miller once wrote to me in a comment on one of my blog posts.

It also had a lovely resonance with something that the equally delightful and clever Andrea Scher said today, namely:

I listen closely to my intuition, live my real life as much as possible, and write in bursts from the richness of my actual life. This is how I nurture my creative spirit. I listen for when there is a story that wants to be told.

I love these reminders that there's nowhere else we need to be rather than here and now, and that the moment will bring us untold richness, provided we are prepared to slow down and watch and listen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Enough, The cry of

Yesterday, our little 'un let us know in no uncertain terms that she wanted to take her midday nap at 10.45am. I'm not sure if it was the heat or tiredness or teething or hayfever or cabin fever or just an early onset of the "terrible twos". But as soon as we stepped in the door from an exasperated trip from the playground, she cried, "ENOUGH! ENOUGH!".

Later in the day, she and I returned home from yet another exasperated trip to the park (her third for the day). This time, it was all about time out for my husband, repaying the favour he'd bestowed on me earlier in the afternoon by taking the little 'un out for an hour so I could nap. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself: we'd managed an hour and a half of fairly convivial time together, a short play in the park, a sweet unexpected burst of shopping, picking up Chinese take-out for dinner. But we returned to a sullen and grumpy Daddy and husband, who also informed us (albeit in a less dramatic fashion) that he'd "had enough".

He later confessed that he'd been a bit restless once we'd been gone for a while, and that the heat, the tiredness, the tag-teaming every activity, the relentless playgrounds, the curtailed activities due to naps, the trantrums were all starting to get to him. "I've just had enough," He said. And I heard that.

I tried to let him know that I heard him, without panicking but without trivialising what he was feeling. I half wanted to congratulate him on his stamina: my ENOUGH moment arrived during the first week, so he was doing magnificently to hold out 'til the fourth.

But it also occured to me that this was a sign of how far I'd some as an individual and a partner, and how much we have grown as a team, largely since our little 'un has arrived. A couple of years ago, I would have taken his comments as an indictment on my ability to make for a perfect holiday, to be the perfect companion, overcome any inconvenience, obviate any dissatisfaction. I would have scrambled to the phone, calling airlines to ascertain the feasibility of changing flight arrangements so we could return home early. And all this "damage control" activity -- doing too much, asking too much, being too helpful -- would have totally exasperated him and dissolved me into tears of angry, victimised unworthiness.

And only then would I see that trying to fix things only made them worse -- despite my good intentions -- and that all he really wanted in the first place was to stop, say something quietly and be heard.

So, last night I told him that I thought he was doing a wonderful job of looking after us, that I appreciated him sharing the responsibility for the little 'un, and that we were doing our best as a team under some trying circumstances. We agreed to see how we felt in the morning and, sure enough, some possibilities for doing things differently presented themselves.

Sure, the heat, the tiredness, the teething, the tantrums were still here today. And I'm not saying that we were suddenly more sanguine about it all.

These may not be the moments that we choose to remember when we look back on our holiday. But we're doing our best to savour them for what they are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I get it.

Even when you become Something because they were right, you really were Going Places -- even when you arrive at being Someone because you are where you were going -- your life may not be any better if you haven't learned to be awake, alive, now. To take this moment for what it is.

It's just as easy to be miserable when you are Someone Special as when you are No One in Particular. Because even Someone Special still has to live in her own skin and deal with boredom, rejection, loneliness, disappointment. Even Someone Special comes home at night and does what the Nobodies do: falls asleep alone.

You might as well learn how to pay attention now. How to inhabit the life you've chosen. How to take up every inch of your skin. Occupy the space in this body you were given. It's your place. Only yours.

Geneen Roth
Women, Food and God

Monday, September 20, 2010

Our last week in New York

With thanks to Tinnie Girl for the inspiration.

It is possible for me to

feel good in my skin.

choose and prepare food mindfully.

push past my baggage and enjoy eating.

feel like I do when I am high on a couple of glasses of champagne -- warm, light, safe, unworried, open to delight -- without alcohol or any other form of medication.

no longer be a slave to complusion.

dance in this body.

be happy just where I am, just how I am.

love myself.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Starting to see

1) the connections

2) the relationships

3) the possibilties

4) the hope

5) that some prisons really are of our own making

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The tornado

... was not as scary I thought it would be, although the warnings on New York One for residents of Brooklyn and Queens to stay indoors and keep away from windows were starting to give me the willies.

We'd just emerged from the subway and it was still early. My husband suggested that we take the little 'un to the park, but the smell of rain in the air made me reckon otherwise. We headed upstairs and as we closed the doors, the sky started to blacken.

Not ten minutes later, the wind picked up. The huge old jacarandas outside our window keened horizontally and the rain pelted against the window. It felt like a strange midnight at 5pm.

A long ten minutes later, a short quiet was replaced by the wailing of sirens. Not much damage in our immediate vicinity, but a number of old trees that had struggled in the recent heat toppled taking houses, cars, powerlines (and one life) with them.

I gather it made the news back home but despite the media pandemonium -- and though there are some homes in Queens still without power -- it was just a small, intense storm and thankfully all is well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Messages from the Universe

Message on wall from Brooklyn Industries.

"Children are gone before you know it. I would advise artist parents to remember that their work is always there, ready to be resumed, but those first few years with your child can never be replaced. Through the fog and frenzy, remember to relish the moments and not worry about being “productive” unless your livelihood truly depends on it. Children refresh us. Having them is the one truly great nearly-universal human experience. Listen to them, let them affect you and inspire you as deeply as possible, and just watch how your work takes off."

Marian Henley, as told to Summer Pierre.

Gemini: This is an excellent time for you to revamp your relationship with your body. All the cosmic rhythms are aligned to help you. How should you go about it? The first thing to do is formulate your intentions. For example, would you like to feel more perfectly at home in your body? Would you revel in the freedom of knowing that the body you have is exactly right for your soul's needs? Can you picture yourself working harder to give your body the food and sleep and movement it requires to be at its best? If you have any doubts about how to proceed, ask your body to provide you with clues.

Horoscope for this week from Free Will Astrology.

"The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. No matter how sophisticated or wise or enlightened you believe you are, how you eat tells all. The world is on your plate. When you begin to understand what prompts you to use food as a way to numb or distract yourself, the process takes you deeper into realms of spirit and to the bright center of your own life. Rather than getting rid of or instantly changing your conflicted relationship with food, Women Food and God is about welcoming what is already here, and contacting the part of yourself that is already whole—divinity itself."

Geneen Roth, discussed in a blog post by Danielle LaPorte.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When we first arrived

We stood in the queue
for a taxi and I thought
"Oh no! Why did we

get the old banger
with no A.C. and crappy
uncomfortable seats?

Our luggage won't fit!"

But sure enough it did and
we were on our way.

And as we sat in
a traffic jam, the cool air
started flowing in.

And once we'd squeezed through
the single lane of rubber
neckers, we began

to fly high over
bridges, deep under tunnels,
and soon we arrived.

Driver patiently
waiting through our long detour
to borrow a cot.

Suddenly I was
so grateful for his silence,
his lilac turban,

his not switching on
the meter... that I tipped him
some thirty per cent!

We'd arrived safely,
if somewhat ragged, but open
to learning what our

journey had to teach.
Sometimes the old banger will
be just what you need.

PS The caption for this photo is "Talk about mixed signals!" Ha ha! Get it? [Stop groaning.]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The holiday that I wanted...

... is exactly the one I'm getting.

It has been the perfect mix of: doing things; doing not much; socializing; time to read, write, reflect; walking; adventures on public transport; good food; delightfully wicked food; cooking; eating out; museums and landmarks; local haunts; honouring routines; relaxing the rules; reassurance that all is well at home; distance from home.

With some drinking imported proseccos and sampling local wines and ciders and, of course, shopping thrown in for good measure.

And, of course, there's the great playground tour of New York City.

I feel so blessed.

Now that we're halfway through I find myself reflecting on our experience on the Upper West Side, pondering what Brooklyn will bring, and also considering the question I posed before departing home, namely, "How should I live?" and the various answers that have presented themselves.

I know I will be writing about all of these things for some time to come but in many ways I feel that the biggest gift of this trip is seeing that what I have here -- what I have brought with me -- is all I'll ever need anywhere.

And that is: my husband and my daughter.

They truly know me. They see me. And they love me for who I am... which is helping me to see who I truly am.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today in the rain

We were walking towards the subway carrying umbrellas, the little 'un strapped to my husband's chest in the sling.

An elegantly dressed forty-something African American woman caught my eye. She was walking towards me and although it was about 4pm on a Sunday, she was dressed in smart business attire. And although there was a gentle yet insistent breeze blowing the misty rain under our umbrellas and dampening our clothes, she was grinning from ear to ear. That was what made me notice her (that and her smart close-cropped hair and ornate gold-rimmed glasses).

"YES!" She exclaimed, and it got me wondering. She had been looking square at me. Was it at my stripey new cardie? My cheerfully patterned green umbrella? My new earrings, made by a local artisan?

Perhaps she was happy the rain had come, finally breaking the heat wave.

But, most likely, she was delighted for reasons known to no-one but herself. And I couldn't help smiling back at her, in affirmation.

Monday, September 13, 2010


So I asked this fellow if he'd mind me taking a photo of the slogan on the back of his shirt while I was waiting for my pizza to go. "No," he said, "Go right ahead."

The chap dining with him laughed out loud. "Him?! What's so important about him? Nothing!" They both laughed and he continued, "I"m WAY more important than him!"

So I took his picture too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Things I loved about Harlem this morning

Emphatic conversations, overheard.

Buxom, robust mannequins modelling women's clothing in shop windows.

Street stall hustlers, highly individually dressed.

The smell of fresh peaches at the farmers market and the earthy aroma saturating fresh ears of corn.

Tribes of brightly swathed African women twittering (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) on street corners.

Elegant brownstones in various states of renovation.

The subway took hardly any time at all.

Tolerance of the full spectrum of world views (no matter how bizarre!).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

And then there was more magic

Like my little 'un wanting to stop look at the Greek urns and marble busts of figures such as Apollo at The Met.

Like ticking off all sorts of errands: shopping, shoe repair, laundry, banking, exchanging erroneous purchases.

Like my husband talking our little 'un through his favourite Van Gogh painting.

Like shopping for treats at Sephora (not available in Australia).

Like dark chocolate covered pretzels (also not available in Australia).

Like the view from the roof of The Met.

Like sampling a new prosecco.

Like being gob-smacked (or "God-smacked", as my Mum would say) at the names appearing at various literary events in Manhattan and Brooklyn over the next month. We'll miss virtually all, but just looking at the line-up blew me away.

Like pretending Zabar's is our local supermarket.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Overheard at the Central Park zoo

While watching a Llama being fed...

Big 'un: Is your Mama a Llama?

Little 'un: NO! She's a cow.

This 'un: Er, thanks.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why I loved the Blind Tiger Ale House

It appeared as if by magic. Something like the "Room of Requirement" in Harry Potter. We'd been traipsing around Greenwich Village, our attempts to make it to Chelsea Piers and Chelsea Markets thwarted once more by sands diminishing from the pre-nap hourglass.

We were also coming from a short and unsatsfactory spell in a city playground, where older kids had dominated the toddlers' playgym. They'd played fast and furious, all gangling arms and gravity-defying legs, oblivious to smaller mammals in their path. The playgym designed for older children had evidently been ruled out-of-bounds by parents for reasons I can only surmise related to its being surrounded by sand and the dry-cleaning costs of designer childrenswear.

As we walked along the narrow leafy streets bursting with book stores, clothing boutiques, and bakeries, I took a peak inside my head to see where the adrenaline was coming from. Why was I so edgy? The little 'un had had a chance to play, she was well fed and well slept and happy enough. I was fine, if a little weary, and my husband was quite cheery. It was sunny and only a little hot. A bus ride would take us home when we needed to return, in the meantime we were enjoying an unforeseen stop in a delightful quarter of a longer journey downtown. "Deep breath," I told myself, "There's no hurry, and no place to be. Just be here. Everything is OK."

As we wandered and pondered our next move, I spotted a small, inconspicuous pub across the street and read out the name on the sign. My husband murmured, "I've heard of that one!" . He has a quiet, deep appreciation for boutique beers and had spent some time researching microbreweries that we might encounter on our travels. Although he wouldn't have insisted we make a detour, I suggested we go in, thinking it would give us all a chance to regroup.

What we found was a small, cool, tidy little pub. With a small number of locals who, mostly, kept to themselves. With helpful, unobtrusive staff. With a spare table once a couple of college kids cheerfully obliged and collected their obliviously-strewn belongings. With two crisp, tasty salads. With a locally brewed beer and a chilled cider. With tall tables for a little one to explore like her own indoor forest, including bar stools that swivelled around and around and around, much to her delight. With the cleanest restrooms ever.

And, just like that, it just so happened that everything really was OK.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In case you're thinking it's all magic and mojitos

At least ten things that gave me the shits today:

1) The eye infection I've caught from the little 'un.

2) The little 'un thinking it's really funny to go "Boink!" and head-butt me in the nose every time I pick her up.

3) Period cramps.

4) My husband being indecisive and/or indisposed to communicating clearly.

5) Having to stop and dish out slices of apple every five effing seconds.

6) Feeling fat and frumpy in the heat and humidity.

7) The fuckers upstairs making A LOT of noise, all hours of the day.

8) Obsession that my little 'un is not getting enough calcium.

9) A friend's sook via email and its implied criticism.

10) My Mum's sook via SMS about how much she misses the little 'un.

11) My husband's sook about his blocked sinuses.

12) All of my tedious sooking when I'm on bloody holiday and am supposed to be flipping enjoying myself.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More magic from the past couple of days

* The view from our friend's apartment (yes, that's it, above).

* Our little 'un pointing to a stone dragon gargoyle high on a building and exclaiming, "Tweet! Tweet!"

* Catching the bus home after walking down town over 60 blocks to experience the highline.

* Our little 'un's soft toy owl whispering secrets in her ear "Psss! Psss! Pssssssst!"

* The view and the vibe from the highline.

* Our little 'un's fascination with our friend's souvenir shopping bag fridge magnets from The Met museum.

* Impeccably shone two-tone patent brogues on the bus.

* Our little 'un taking in her first subway experience with wide eyes. She's never been in such close proximity to so many people in such a rickety, noisy space before (but I couldn't help but wonder if she found the fact that so few of these people had any interest in her the strangest thing of all!).

* Sweet treats from the Grandaisy Bakery.

* All three of us completely sleeping through the night.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The sign

Sitting on the bench, inhaling the cool breeze, I thought, "I wish I had someone to talk to, someone who understands what it's like to have a little 'un this age. I want to feel less alone."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman about my own age, struggling to get her toddler to the top of the play gym. The sloped walkway was a favourite among all the kiddies in the park, but I knew from experience that the incline was deceptively steep and the wood rather slippery. The woman had managed to walk her little girl about seven-eighths of the way to the top when her flip-flops had started to twist and slide. In panic, she froze and, in limbo, her little girl started to cry. I saw that she was unable to free herself from her mother's grip to climb to the platform at the top; I also saw her mother gripping tighter as she started to slide backwards.

Without thinking (I realised later that I even left my handbag on the bench!) I rushed over and secured the little girl under her arms and said, "Can I help you with this last bit?". I walked the little girl to the top and made sure she had her footing as her mother backed down and put her shoes on, thanking me.

A few moments later, the little girl came up to where I was sitting and put her hands on my knees. Her mother seemed surprised the little one was so affectionate with a stranger, but sat down next to me to introduce them both. It turned out the little girl was exactly the same age as my little 'un (who was, at that time, enjoying the swings with her Daddy).

"Isn't eighteen months an incredible age?" I ventured, "One moment: delight; the next: frustration!"
She laughed tightly but then exhaled. Her daughter, like mine, had always been a good sleeper, but recent teething had seen the whole family wake every two hours. I threw our jetlag, eye infection and fever into the mix and I have to confess it was rather heartening to see her shudder in response.

Extracting my little 'un's Maisie book from her daughter's hands, she recommended two other excellent parks for us to explore then said it had been nice to meet me and wished us a pleasant stay.

"Thankyou," I said, as they walked off. Silently. To no-one in particular.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The sound


Little 'un and big 'un napping.

Gentle hum of airconditioner in the distance.

Reclining and reading Travelling Mercies, sipping Rosé.

Dark bitter chocolate with a John Donne love poem printed inside the wrapper.

Sun streams through the blinds, perfectly symmetrical lines glow on the ceiling.

Somewhere, outside the window, someone whistles The Sound of Silence.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

More about enough

"It's funny, I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had come kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools -- friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty -- and said, Do the best you can with these, they will have to do. And mostly, against all odds, they're enough."
Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Anne Lamott

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jet lag is...

* feeling the ground move beneath my feet in an only slightly unsettling way (or is that the subway?).

* inspiring some sweet and mildly hysterical conversations between 12pm and 4am.

* making iced coffee taste like the best thing ever.

* heightening my sense that I really am on the other side of the planet and far, far from home... in a good way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The turning point

Waking up today
I suspected it would be
the worst day ever.

Hot and humid and
no sleep for us, disrupted
sleep for the baby.

Eye still red and puffed,
fever not abating and
still no appetite.

But then, a mouthful
of cereal and a laugh
at Pingu's antics.

Iced coffee and a
walk, playing with the empty
cup and straw, content.

Swings and slide and play
equipment including a
bucket full of sand.

A bikkie or two.
Stocking up supplies, then home.

Playing with her toys.
Delight at new "big girl" cup.
Glimpse of her old self.

Managing eye drops
and paracetamol. A
two hour midday nap.

We are settling in.
Doing our best, as a team.
Easier from here.

So proud that we planned
for eventualities
like this but also

that we can roll with
the tickles and cuddles as
well as the punches.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The welcome

By the time we had joined the closest of the lengthy immigration queues, I was starting to despair that my back would not withstand another half an hour with a 10kg littlie strapped to my chest. I caught my husband's eye and exhaled slowly.

A pashmina and laptop pressed against my arm, accompanied by a confident woman's voice: "Excuse me, can I get past?". I looked straight ahead and dopily registered a customs official opening the fabric barrier and beckoning. "Excuse me please!" The laptop and pashmina were becoming more insistent but something about the official's face made me hesitate. He was looking squarely at me.

I pointed to my chest, in question, and he nodded. The pashmina and laptop froze. Warily, we walked forward to the official, who was by now seated behind his desk.

As he studied the little 'un's passport, I scrutinized his features, wondering why he had singled us out for this little act of benevolence. He had a kindly wizened face that seemed perpetually and mildly amused although ready to deny it at a moment's notice. I was deliberating whether to ask him about the origin of his unusual name when I noticed him smiling at my little 'un, who was by now tapping her hands on the rippled stainless steel of his desk. He handed her back her passport, then set about the business of taking our photos and fingerprints.

"Sank-you!" She sang out. Then he really did smile.

Everything in order, he handed us back our documents, welcomed us to the United Stated of America and wished us a pleasant stay. "Bye bye, Isabella" he said quietly to our little 'un as we made our way past the desk.

She looked back at him seriously and waved.

My husband laughed. "We really don't pay her enough."