Monday, March 26, 2007

More Clouds Over the Harbour

Well, the clouds well and truly came through for us this weekend. Not only were there beautiful clouds over the harbour, but they brought us lots of rain and some rather spectacular lightning. And, just to top it all off, some of it actually fell over the catchment so the dams will go up a couple of fractional percentage points.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Fred Story

My dad's birthday was on Tuesday and he would have been 74. I still miss him and thought about him a bit more than usual this week. And, as often happens with my dad, I was reminded of a Fred story ...

From the time I was born and through the first couple of years of school, my dad was going to graduate school and getting first his Masters degree and then his PhD in Mechanical Engineering while also teaching at uni and working full time. Part of the unfinished basement was fitted out as a combo den and office so he could study. The old TV and lounge were put down there as was an old Franklin stove (cast iron wood burning stove) to keep the cold Connecticut winters at bay. He had an old china tea pot, white with royal blue swirls and gold accents, that sat on top of the Franklin stove to keep the tea warm. I've never been able to find a teapot that looks anything like that one from the basement.

My dad worked hard at everything he did and our family life in those years was organised around his very busy schedule. As a family, we still celebrated birthdays, but always in the middle of the night. Dad would get home from uni well after we'd gone to bed. So we'd be rousted out of bed in the dead of night and sit around the kitchen table in our jammies singing 'Happy Birthday' and waiting for the lucky parent or kid to blow out the candles before tucking into cake and ice cream. When we were finished, we had to brush our teeth AGAIN and go back to bed. The family dog must have thought we were nuts.

It was years before I found out that normal families celebrated family birthdays during the day. I felt a bit sorry for them.

We always used the backs of my dad's draft thesis and discertation papers for drawings and writing stories and colouring. I remember when his final draft discertation was stolen out of his car at uni. This was well and truly in the days before computers so the entire document had to be recreated from the previous drafts and notes and stuff. I'm not sure who I felt sorrier for, my dad or his typist!

Finally, the big day came and my dad was going to get his PhD. I was in the 5th grade, so I was about 10 or 11. My brothers and I were kept home from school, a very rare event because at my house. The ONLY way you got to stay home from school when I was a kid was if you were projectile vomiting, going for both accuracy and distance, or had blood squirting on the walls or had a temperature of over 107F. Otherwise, off to school you go. But today was special and we going to the commencement ceremony at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Storrs.

When I was in primary school, the classes were overflowing with kids. Each class was full to the gills. The only exception was the class for the mentally retarded kids. They did lots of things together with the other kids in the school, called 'main streaming' at the time, but they still had special classes every day that were just for them and there were about a third of the kids in their special class compared to my 5th grade class.

So, back to my Fred story.

We sat upstairs in a huge hall; I can still remember looking down at all the little people in their caps and gowns. We sat there as groups of UConn graduates get their diplomas. First they do the Associate degrees ... gowns and mortar boards (those flat graduation hats) ... calling out the names, handing over the diploma case and shaking hands. Then, group after group of Bachelor degrees ... gowns and mortar boards. They went on forever. Then a couple of small groups of Master degrees ...gowns and mortar boards. Then, finally, the PhD gradates ... just a couple of people (including my dad) with gowns but, instead of mortar boards, they wore funny baggy beanie hats.

I was devastated. My dad was retarded! That was why it took him so long to graduate. All the other kids on my street had a black&white photo at home of their very young-looking dad in a gown and mortar board. My dad was old in comparison, really old. So, my dad was retarded. Small class, funny hat ... the proof was overwhelming. No denying it. My dad was retarded.

When I went back to school the next day, all my friends asked where I'd been. I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth so I lied and told them I was sick.

I figured out the truth later and don't know if I ever told him this story. But it makes me laugh now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Clouds #1

You probably think that I am obsessed with clouds. Well, I sort of am.

When you live in a place that is in drought, every cloud hold the hope of rain. And we've had some clouds lately that look fantastic but haven't delivered the goods.

But I still like to look at them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

From the Garden #3

Welcome to my 300th blog posting.

Two more shots from the garden, not mine of course. Thanks to Lisa for lending me hers.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Gathering of Friends

After their appalling performance last night, I cast aside my depression at yet another Waratahs loss and spent the afternoon with a group of very good friends. Good food, good talk, rude jokes ... what more could you ask for?

I'm still a Waratahs Tragic, but think that I now have the energy to face next week.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pre-Birthday Celebrations

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is celebrating its 75th birthday tomorrow so today, in anticipation of such an auspisious event, we had some wonderful rain that lasted for most of the afternoon.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Was I Thinking?

I was going through some of my stuff recently and came across this ...

I was so excited to find it as it is from one of the very first fabric collage workshops I did, well, I don't know how many years ago. But then I actually looked at it.

I can't believe how unbelievably bad it is!

My first impulse was to toss it into the nearest bin and pretend that I'd never seen it, but I'm now thinking about keeping it. Next time I'm feeling a bit insecure about the work I do, I'll just pull it out and, voila!, my current work will look so much better by comparison.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Not What I Expected

I was on the wharf waiting for the ferry, the sun was reflecting off a whole column of windows from one of the high-rise office buildings in the city.

When I looked at it, the shimmer seemed to run smoothly across the water, but the waves were bigger than I had thought.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Am The Queen.

I came across this in 1999 when it was posted to SCQuilters by Joan Vancouver. It is originally published on 23 August 1996, by Susan Reimer who writes for The Baltimore Sun and it is a relevant now as it was then. Maybe more so as HRH has so recently discovered. I've included it here with Susan's permission.

"I am the queen," she said. "Everything you need to know starts with that fact."

Standing over her kitchen sink, her anger and agitation churning the soapy water, she was washing the dishes and recounting to me the moment when her relationship with her children changed.

Not right away, perhaps. It occurred to me that they might have recognized the scene she was describing as the periodic price of doing business with Mom and kept their heads down until it was over.

But for this woman, it was life changing. She was Copernicus, telling the world that the sun did not revolve around it, but it around the sun.

"I am not a doormat or a domestic servant. I am not a helpmate or a handmaiden. I am not your personal cheerleading section," she had told them.

"I am the queen of your world. I am She Who Must Be Obeyed. I am the straw that stirs the drink. I am Da Man. I am the be-all and end-all for all of you."

That is what she told them the morning she found clean clothes in the hamper, the results of sartorial indecision someone was too lazy to return to the dresser.

The morning she found the cap missing from the root beer and the carton of melted ice cream in the cupboard where she kept the drinking glasses.

The morning she found all those plastic sleeves from freeze pops littering the carpet in front of the television.

The morning she realized that her family (like that of the heroine of Anne Tyler's novel Ladder of Years) might not be able to describe her for a missing person's report.

"I am the reason there is always more toilet paper under the bathroom sink," she told them. "I am the reason there is always more ketchup in the pantry.

I am the reason none of you has measles, mumps or rubella," she said. "I make it happen around here. I grease the skids in your happy little lives. I feed you, I clothe you, I comfort you. I sign you up and then I drive you there, and I am not waiting any longer for you to notice.

You guys will worship the ground I walk on, and it will start now."

She demanded that they do what she could not get done and express their gratitude for what she did. She no longer asked for "help" because that implied the job was hers, done by them only as a favor or an act of generosity.

So she assigned tasks, and if they whined, or did them too poorly or too slowly, she assigned more tasks. They were indentured servants for weeks before they realised that she wasn't kidding.

These were not chores, they were responsibilities. And there were no cash bonuses, no praise, no good-job kisses for their completion.

For years, she had hustled to meet their expectations of her. Now they would live up to her expectations of them, or no one would ever go to the movies or horseback riding ever again.

Her face turned the color of her hands in the hot water as she remembered the scene. It had been no outburst, but an epiphany, the moment when she realised that she was a parent, not a character from Remains of the Day.

During a weekend visit, I saw that the queen's new law had been written on the hearts of her people. Tasks were done without complaint, and the family machine worked relatively smoothly.

I also saw a mother who was no longer a martyr but a manager -- delegating, not doing it all.

My own children, the little Prince and Princess for whom I played chambermaid for so long, did not see these things, and they flinched with surprise when, upon my return home, I declared:

"I am the queen. Everything you need to know starts with that fact ..."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Finally, The Rain!

We've finally had some rain and this time, some actually fell in the catchment.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Moon Rise over Bruce Stadium

So, what does a Rugby Tragic do while her team is being smacked all around the paddock by some team from South Africa? Why, watch the moon rise, of course.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Smoke on Lake George

Quick trip to Canberra for more disappointing rugby (as if the game in Sydney on Friday night wasn't bad enough) this weekend. Somewhere on Lake George there was a small bushfire and the smoke stretched out across Lake George forever.

This is what Lake George usually looks like:
... and this is what we saw on Saturday:
This wasn't a 'real' bushfire, probably the RFS/SES taking advantage of the recent rains to do some tidying up. And the glints of water in the tyre tracks across the lake bed is the most I've seen in Lake George for years.