Friday, January 28, 2011

Today, Liljana would have been seven.






Seven years ago today I gave birth to Liljana O’Connor. The only time I’ve managed to slip in the remotest inkling of Slavic heritage in to any of my children’s names.  The Gaelic side soon took over, stomped their feet and it was all I could do to keep the rest from being called niamff, ruadhri or shiovion. All lovely names but they look funny (and I still can't spell them).

She came out, pink and screaming, aims flailing about like she was about to feel pretty pissed about being being yanked out like that. Except that she wasn't yanked. Nor was she supposed to be screaming and pink.

She was born at 23 weeks 6 days. That one day makes a difference. The tipping point of revive-or-not on our Australian shores is generally regarded to be 24 weeks. I went in to labour at 23 weeks and 3 days. I tried my damndest to keep her in but my cervix was having none of it. So out she came. I remember it, totally. I remember it all, despite the shock.  


She was 550g and perfect in her form. The weight of a tub of butter, but I didn’t see that. All I saw was perfect eyes, a head of hair the Kardashians would be proud of, ten fingers and ten toes. She was angelic. It is not what many would expect. I had no preconceived ideas. But I know it is not what many would expect.

She sounded like she had a mighty fine set up lungs on her too. But truth was she didn’t. Lungs are the main reason our premmie babies struggle so much to stay alive…

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I went in to labour not many days before. We were camping.

I’m not a camper. I’m a wrap-myself-in-a-doona-in-a-comfy-bed kinda chick. But it was hubby’s birthday and he was keen.  At 12 weeks I'd climbed Uluru, at 22 weeks I’d completed the Milford trek in New Zealand. For someone with a  bun cooking I was looking and feeling pretty healthy. I refused to eat anything that hadn’t been washed and re-washed 32 times and I’d drunk one Breezer in 5 months. I was serious about doing all I could for the baby on the inside but on the outside, life carried on relatively normally.

And then I felt some pain. An inkling. My back was a little sore. I was at work and I was feeling  strange. Something was wrong. I called the hospital.  I went in. The midwife checked me over. She didn’t check my cervix. But all was fine. She was careful. She was thorough. But she didn’t check my cervix. The doctor came in to have a chat. Looks like all ok she said. But she didn’t check my cervix either.

That night I got everything ready for my trip and went to bed. I woke up with a cramp. Damn constipation I thought. It comes with the preggers. A few cramps overnight and I was proud that I managed to just ride them out. Damn Serbian stoicness.

We hit the camping ground that we were sharing with friends. I wondered off on my own a lot. Damn constipation I thought again. I spent too much time hunched over on a stool by myself.  I complained very very little. All part of being preggers right? Right through to the next day. The pain came and went. Right through til about midday when I walked in to the water and the pain subsided. Strange I thought. I called the hospital again. You should come in they said. My stoicness, my stubbornness nearly held me back. My stupid Balkan stubbornness. But the pain was still there - except for when I was in the water. I couldn’t spend the next 14 hours sitting in the sea. So we packed everything up and got to the car. I lay my head in my partners lap as someone else drove. The car clock was directly in my line of sight. 40 minutes in the car. 40 minutes of watching the clock as I felt that stabbing pain, on the dot, every 5 minutes. 


Wholly fuck I thought. I’m in fucking labour. I’m in fucking labour. I couldn’t talk.

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Liljana spent 2 months in neo-natal intensive care.  I can’t put in to words what it’s like. I could try and say it's a mix of sterile metal, warm bodies and fairy dust. A magical place where magic things happen, and wonderful people come and go.  Where babies come and go. And sometimes babies die.

It is the place where Liljana was cared for, prodded, watched, nudged along, prodded again, held, nurtured, loved. Loved oh so very very much. I have no words to do justice to the compassion and commitment the nurses, the doctors, the other parents showed.

It was my haven. It was where I retreated to every day. Where Liljana and I got to hang with each other. Where I got to watch and hold her. As long as I washed my hands every 13 steps and almost always with the confines of a humidicrib between us. I could  spend the whole day there. The whole night there. It was all I wanted to do. Friends were caring, compassionate. But I didn’t want them. I was harsh towards many of them. I wanted my Liljana and I wanted her to grow and get better. She was strong as an Ox. She grew, boosted along by my breast milk which I was expressing around the clock. A regular little mechanical cow I was. Proudly I pumped and pumped and pumped. She was taking the steroids and I felt like I was on them. One foot in front of the other. Not flailing once.  She passed scans, tests. No brain bleeds. No apparent eye damage.  She overcame and came through a stef infection that was supposed to take her in hours. An infection that drew her grandparents from across the country to come and say goodbye. But she defied them and beat that stef infection off with pure tenacity. Balkan stubbornness. Her lungs , her weakest point, were being helped along with steroids.

Neo-natal intenstive care. Fairy dust was sprinkled all around her.

And then she died.

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Liljana was defying the trend of bubs born at her gestation (such a horrible word) right from the moment they pulled her out.

They told me at the delivery that they would lay her on my chest, and if she was took any breaths, at all, they would let her drift away on my chest. The expectation was that she would lay on me for the few minutes that she was likely to survive on her own.

But she defied them. She screamed, she turned pink, she flailed her pretty little chicken arms. “We’re sorry Di, we really want to give her a chance, she is remarkable – let us try and help her”.  A combination of euphoria and panic all around me. For my part there was only euphoria. Help her, yes, yes! My baby. My baby was going to make it.

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Two months in and they were tossing up whether to perform a tiny little operation.  In her favour was that she had doubled in weight. Not in her favour was that she had taken a turn a few days before, where they had to revive her. No-one was sure why but she’d come through. We had said all along, if she was going to be kept alive for the sake of being kept alive we were against it. Support her own fight yes. But force it? No. If she was ready to go, she was ready to go. 

They decided to perform the operation. They had been waiting for her to double her weight and she had. We waited in the waiting room.

The doctor walked in. It had only been 10 minutes. His eyes were red raw, his chest heaved and his sadness was palpable. It engulfed us. He didn’t need to talk. We knew. We went in to the theatre and watched our Liljana leave us. She had passed away during the anaesthetic and they kept her artificially breathing til we got there. Reacted? Too weak? Who knows. Cyndi Laupers True Colours played on the radio. Rory picked up Liljana and let out an almighty scream. He held her and cried a primal cry like I have never heard him cry before ..or since.

You with the sad eyes
don't be discouraged
oh I realize
it's hard to take courage
in a world full of people
you can lose sight of it all
and the darkness inside you
can make you fell so small

But I see your true colors
shining through
I see your true colors
and that's why I love you
so don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
don't be unhappy, can't remember
when I last saw you laughing
if this world makes you crazy
and you've taken all you can bear
you call me up
because you know I'll be there


I sat in the corner and howled and howled like the weak incapable person I was. My baby. My beautiful baby. My beautiful Liljana was gone.

Fuck you god, fuck you universe, fuck you air and earth and sand and all that makes us who we are only to rip us apart bit by bit.

But not those amazing nurses and doctors in intensive care. You cried with us. You did everything with us. For the care and love you showed my little girl. My god. I have no words. NO. WORDS. I will never, ever, forget you. And I will never forget that each of you came to her funeral. 

They might as well have shut down the hospital. 

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They say when you have a baby born too early that your friends will shy away. Won’t know what to say, whether to congratulate you or not. This was not our experience. Our phone did not stop ringing, the flowers did not stop arriving, the love for us and for Liljana came wrapped up at the hospital ward from the moment she was born. From all but one person. Just one out of what felt like hundreds of remarkable and wonderful well wishers. I won’t forget any of you either. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Today I caught up with some friends at the park with Isabella  -  my spunky little girl who I went into labour with exactly ten months later. 12 months to the day after I went in to labour with Liljana. Isabella, who turned 6 yesterday.

Liljana would have been 7 today I said. And then I started to cry.  I rarely cry for Liljana these days.

I cried. And I cry. My little girl would have been seven.

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Rory called me this morning. It’s Lily’s birthday today he says. I know I answer. He rarely mentions Lily either, except for when he has been drinking and he may let out that he thinks about her every day. Do you still do that I ask him. Every day he says. She will be my last thought before I die he says quietly. We don’t know what to say to each other. Each of us feels our pain on the inside.  If he was there with me, I would embrace him. He’s not there. I embrace my Isabella who smiles her magical smile up at me.

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How many children do you have people ask me. 3 I say out loud.

4, I say to myself.

But not today.  Today I will say it out loud. I have 4.

I have Liljana, Isabella, Cormac and Hamish.  They are all so very beautiful, amazing and wonderful.

Liljana isn’t here. But she is here with me. And with Rory. And with all those that remember her. And I know my dear beautiful friends that many of you do.

Today you would have been 7 Liljana. I miss you and I ache for you. I ache for you so very very much.

So very much.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finding yourself back where you began..

I grew up in commission flats. High rise commission flats. I had my first crush there, experienced my first best friend there, my first punch up (I was at the receiving end - til my mum sent me back down stairs from the 6th floor to give as good as I got), my first familiarity with a pub spilling out with happy drunks at 9am.

I was happy.

We were surrounded by other migrant families, lots of - indigenous and white - park bench occupants, families with 9 kids (my best friend Linda came from one of these families - oh how I miss her), and family friends that were counted on across the multiple floors and buildings as parents worked double shifts in low income roles.

My family was one such family.

My dad was a tram conductor before supplementing his income with a taxi driving gig (which he went on to write off twice - yes that is exactly where my driving skills came from). My mum was a cleaner at St Vincents hospital nearby, from where she would often knick a couple of biscuit packets, tucked away in the square pockets of her crisp blue cleaning uniform - to treat us to when she got home. It was from there that she would ring me at 8am to make sure I was up and getting me and my brother ready for school. I was always still fast asleep. On the odd occasion she ran home in her tea break to make sure we were ok, before running back.

My dad just told me the other day that I would often be left at home alone by the time I was 3, with strict instructions on who I was to answer and not answer the door to - instructions I dutifully fulfilled as I stood on three layers of yellow pages and peeped through the peep hole. My now hubby was aghast when he heard this story, but you can't understand what you haven't had to experience.

I was happy.

They, unfortunately, were not so happy.

But they scraped and saved and by the time I was 12 they had managed to buy a house in the Nth West of Melbourne and the next stage of my life commenced. I found my high school love, although we only ever got as far as pashing behind the shelter sheds. I think my hair and shoulder pads got in the way of anything beyond that. I struggled to fit in but somehow I managed to do it, and eventually do it well.

They continued working in the same jobs (though my dad moved up to being a bus driver) and they bought another investment property within a year.

However, without the combined goals of scrimping, saving and their built up communities around them, the seams of their fairly unfortunate marriage (I doubt they ever truly loved each other, actually I know they didn't) fell apart and stage 3 of my life started.

From there many more stages came and went and much of it all I sit and reminisce about today. Especially today.

Fast forward to this week.

I landed back in Fitzroy, Melbourne to attend, quite possibly, the most generous 40th I've been to (I'd flown in from Sydney where I now live). Along with 20 0thers I was treated to a ridiculously divine three course meal, champagne and wine on tap, at a very very swanky restaurant 100 metres from the block of flats I'd grown up in. My girlfriend having the 40th was a flatmate I'd lived with in Bondi, in my very early 30's. A million lifestyles away from where I began.

I sipped the champagne right outside my block of flats. My block of flats. I was in wonderful company and was thoroughly enjoying myself but I couldn't sit still. I excused myself and wandered outside where I stood for what felt like an hour or more.

I breathed in the air, I looked for the monkey bars I'd spent many years swinging on, I saw myself as a 7 year old running down the fire escape and sat wondering if the elevators were still as crapfully slow and vandalised as they were back then.

I remembered the ladies that looked after me on the 17th and 7th floors, and remembered my crush from the 4th floor. I remember my one friend that had Enid Blyton books (my own library was stocked with a handful of Golden books) and that nurtured my love for magical stories. I wondered how long it must have taken me and my brother to walk alone to the local primary school. I remembered Mr Sullivan that always told me off for being late but that I loved with my whole 7 year old heart. I remembered by first call to a radio station - was I about 8? - asking them to play "What about me". I felt lost, happy, strange, wonderful, blissful.

I love where I grew up. I love where I ended up.

They're my childhood memories, and damn if they aren't as wonderful today as they were back then.

The only thing I miss, is not knowing where all my friends of those years are now. Linda, Kathy, Deborah, I still think of you often.

For all my friends today...how did I manage to continue to get so lucky?

Dovic xx
PS Has your road travelled moved in directions you least expected? Or always on course?






Monday, August 2, 2010

Pomodoro. Not just a tomato (Warning: this post may change your life)

I'm going to try and make this a quick post tonight - it's gonna have to be to prove a point I'm trying to make.

And what's that?

That there is a lot that can be done in 25 minutes.

Yes, yes, I can hear you ask - if that is so, why has there been so much time between blog posts? Could I not have whipped one up in 25 minutes? The answer is perhaps. Infact, I'm about to test that theory now.

Fact is I used to be a brilliant multi-tasker. I could be found holding drink, getting a phone number (oh, the days...) and planning out a work paper all at once. But those days are long gone - at least the ease with which I could balance it all in a single minute. My ability to multitask dissapeared with each placenta I lost. And yet my responsibilities grew and grew and grew...

So I read with interest when I went over to a blog I'm feeling a lot of love for at the moment. It belongs to Sarah Wilson (of Sunday Life) and she seems to write about a bunch of stuff that verges on tree hugging and generally makes me want to hug a tree - her stuff is all about steering towards a sweeter life.

I read with interest as I stumbled upon a time management technique she'd tried out.

She gives a thorough descrption, but it basically goes like this:

  • Set up an online timer. Pomodoro is the recognised brand, but she pointed me towards Focus Booster which I have continued to use and love it ('tis easy - I even drag it around with me on the laptop).
  • Timer runs for 25 min, tick tocking in the background the whole time (I have used it at work and don't recommend having it on high volume unless you're not afraid of security).
  • Buzzer goes off at end of 25 min for a 5 min break.
  • You stop what you're doing right then and there. You get up and do something else. Hop on twitter, call your best friend, make a cuppa. I like to take a walk. They're all ace. Basically, whatever tickles your fancy.
  • At end of 5 min (and 5 min only - no dragging it out) you hop straight back on for your next 25 minute hit.
  • You continue this for about 3 x 25min lots before taking a longer break.
Here's the thing. As a technique, it works a treat. If you've got a to-do or wish list as long as mine, or just want to churn out some writing or work, try it out. Ideally, the universe would hand me over an extra 3 hours a day to work/play/procrastinate away at my leisure (which is code for spend time online) but in the absence of such generosity I simply have to do more in less.

So is chunking in to 25 min lots now the answer? It most certainly helps. It's not a habit yet, but I'm trying. And it's working. And that's why I'm sharing.

Obviously I love comments (*batters eyelids*) but would genuinely love to know if you've ever done anything similar or plan to? Do you ordinarily get distracted or manage to stay on course?

Dovic xx

PS In the interests of true disclosure this post ended up taking two lots of 25 mins. But I had a nice yummy rice cracker with cream cheese inbetween. And now? Off to read a book....See. Lovely.















Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 and why the Jetsons have much to answer for


It's 2010 folks.


Isn't that a strange number when you see it looking out at you like that. It looks like the sort of year you would expect to be a Jetsons year - aka flying cars and saucers even.

More importantly, a year where gadgets prevailed, leaving many many hours to play happy joyful families without household conflict, knowing that the cooking, cleaning, shopping, light switching, clutter decluttering, fridge filling, billpaying, etc was all being miraculously taken care of by some happy joyful robot somewhere. And with hair piled high you could carry on balancing that happy joyful family with all the happy joyful interests you could dream of. I truly pictured this would happen one day. I may have been 7 at the time but those smiley Jetsons set me up for future feelings of failure.


Yes, there are many new gadgets. Some help undoubtedly - the washing machine will indeed wash clothes, but truth is I still have to fold them, all 73 pieces per day (this may not be the case in other families - you listening Rory?), and some don't seem to help at all - the internet, which sadly gives me joy also gives me absolute time wastage in almost equal parts.


I'm not whining about gadgets. I love them. What I'm really whining about is the fact that despite them, and partly due to them, life doesn't seem to have gotten easier.

Infact, I feel for the most part that I'm running on empty. I feel, for the most part, that I can only give 30-70% to anything at any one time. With more choices, more guilt, more gadgets, more social responsibilty, more helicopter parenting, more friends, more work, more interests, more access to technology, more memberships, more travelling partners etc, my head feels like it's going to explode and there is never enough of me to go around.

Hell, I can't even relax properly. I try hard, but living life in 2010 is a bigger beast than I have managed to comfortably chew on each day.

Is it me? Quite possibly. I seem to have come from the 'not happy unless I'm doing a double shift' mould. I do try and keep it in check but, frankly, life around these here blocks seems to beat to its own hectic drum regardless.

The parenting gig is one that I undoubtedly invest the most energy, juice and time into - without regret. I love kids and I especially love mine. If I could give even more, I would.

But life didn't start when I popped them out. Before they came along I was very happily doing, and enjoying 300 other interests. Having kids didn't change that. Having kids just took an 80% slice out of me, and shifted my perspective somewhat. Those other interests remained, hovering in the background, crowding out whatever white space there may have been there previously.

And that is where all the mental conflict starts. Your story may be slightly different, but 'same same' different no doubt.

I work. Passionately, even managing to think about it all of the time whilst only being paid for it a tiny percentage of the time.

I write. This actually translates to I often love to think about what I could be writing.

I am a partner. The 7 day challenge validated that there is plenty to be gotten from giving, but giving takes energy and my energy bank runs low. Always.

I am a friend. One where I am often cut a lot of slack. Thank God.

Conflict. Conflict.

What else crowds that white space? Probably a lot like you, I am a person with a gym membership, a lover of sleep, a person who loves to retreat, a wonna be cooker extraordinaire, blogger, twitterer, people lover, wonna be student, lover of good causes, someone with a unibrow that needs to be waxed (ok, maybe that's just me) and hair that needs to be coloured far too frequently, lover of books and all things news, and still much much more. None of this, and plenty more important stuff rarely gets much of a look in (except for, ahem, twitter and that's another post). The 'me' bit, from the brain to the unibrow and back down to my fingers, all of that gets pushed to the back of the line. But truly, it is everything that is pushed and shoved and nudged around just to try and make it fit in.

Conflict.

I know I'm not alone.

Infact, I need to know I'm not alone. Where do you sit? Have you mastered your own universe? Do you have family to help with the load (we don't)?

Or, like me, do you have a sliding scale of where you give and at the bottom of that scale is you. And scattered throughout is conflict.

Yep, please tell me - I'm not alone.

Dovic xx



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dry July and beyond

I have a headache kids. And sallow skin.

I don't always feel and look like this. Infact, a spray tan tends to work wonders, including knocking off a few kilo's in the swoop of a spray gun. But tis what lays beneath that matters, and what's been lying beneath has been mighty murky.

After what should have been a fantastic break in China in May, which in all other ways it was, I came back to Sydney with a thud. That would be a thud to the ground due to the excess weight I was now carrying in my belly, and the dull thudding occuring in my head.

After China? How? Why? Let me explain.

First stop, Cocktails. Next stop, Bailey's. Third stop, Bloody Mary's for brekky. You get the picture.

For six whole days (and just quietly, I think I may be talking about myself in the main here) we drank. And drank. Slowly but surely. Not enough to get pissed. Just perpetually merry.

But...there is a but...and here it comes.

A couple of girlfriends landed in China looking better than I had ever seen them. As it turns out they had both completed a 30 day challenge, that included amongst other wierd and wonderful things, refraining from drinking alcohol for 30 days straight. I was intrigued.

Could I get myself a piece of that magic they were exuding? I decided to contact the guru of said challenge, Chris Walker and find out.

After a nothing short of amazing meet up he...rejected me. I am led to believe for the loveliest of reasons, but I suspect tis because he suspected I needed to find my inner beauty in other ways. Like by stripping away bad habits one by one.

Infact, and without skipping a guru beat, he still encouraged me to go dry on alcohol and a few other goodies for a month. I walked away from that meet up feeling like I was floating on air. And did something I never do. I went to the supermarket and bought sunflower and other seeds I can't remember the names of, all manner of beans and colourful vegies, and lots and lots and lots of soda water.

With Balkan determination I set straight forth on my 30 days all by myself and didn't look back. No alcohol, no coffee, no diet coke, no meat.

The impact was immediate. I got a headache and craved a glass of wine. Yet I persevered, and by day 5 my partner was commenting on the whites of my eyes, and work colleagues on the fact I had cheek bones.

Losing weight and looking sparkier were not the only benefits. My back stopped aching, my mind was sharper and my wallet was heavier. All in all, I was feeling and looking hotter than I had looked for ages.

Of all the things I had cut out, it was the my first glass of wine I craved most and I counted down the days towards it one by one.

Infact, I was convinced that what the challenge had surely assured me of, was that I want alcohol in my life. I've never been a binge drinker (or even a big drinker), just an accidental semi regular drinker, so I set forth on my accidental semi regular drinking with gusto. I wonder now whether I was testing myself.

One week in I crashed. I felt like crap. Two weeks in and the spring had sprung out of my step and my sleeping had stopped being sound. Three weeks in and there is no denying the goodness (and godliness) had slipped out of my bod. And I have only one place to lay blame. It is squarely at the foot of that now empty bottle of drambuie on the benchtop.

So I'm quitting folks. Yep, you heard it here first (or maybe second if you're on my facebook - see you lot get all the news first). I am done with alcohol. If we catch up, I'll suggest it be over that other beverage befitting of our (that would be my) age, tea. Now don't snuff your nose, I'm not averse to you slipping in the odd shot of Baileys. And I so totally totally get that drinking a glass here and there is fun. I'm just talking about me, at home, and as a general rule.

Don't think I can do it? The guru made me realise I could. Infact, I'm already there. Besides, like the nutcase/clever cookie that I am, I just posted it publicly.

I think husbands (even the goodies that just like sharing a drink with you) and the craziness of kids, tis what drives many of us to that corner of the pantry for a little bit of magic. Nothing like that glass or two to help you get through a ball juggling day. And there is ofcourse nothing like a glass or two for social lubrication. But ditching it for a month at least can be fun (and kilo squashing).

I am sober, hear me roar (and snore - coz I know I'll be sleeping better).

What's your story when it comes to those lovely glass bottles? Are you friends or foes? I'd love to know....

Dovic xx
PS Tis dry july in a couple of days...if you feel inspired, you know where to find me (I will either be right here, or at the tea house).

Friday, May 14, 2010

naked faces



What did it take to draw me out of hibernation I hear you ask?

It was nakedness. Naked faces in all their lined glory.

I happen to love skin. I think it runs in the family. Caught my mum flipping through some People mags she bought when I was about 14.

Me: "Um, mum, why did you buy People magazine?"
Her: "Luk et doze bewdiful boobiz. I lovit tu luk et dem!"

Whilst I don't restrict my lovin to 'boobiz', I do find beauty in skin and the physical form- all the way from the tips of toes to crinkly eyes.

So here are my crinkly eyes just for you :)

The wonderfully clever Jodie over at mummymayhem came up with the idea that all us blogsters (I use that lightly in reference to, ahen, myself - since I've clearly been MIA) should ditch the makeup and glam piccies and put up a pic of our faces up close and personal, sans all that pruning. I rekon I could dig all the way to the south pole and be hard pressed to find a glam piccie.... but I love the idea of bearing our souls by baring our faces.

In the spirit of it being real, the first pic of me on my own was taken with my new smancy dancy camera (no bluring of that shiny forehead or missing that whopper pimple) 5 min ago. Post school/daycare drop off, pre any smidgen of self lovin, no hair wash, no nothin. Just me :).

BUT I couldn't make myself smile (that was wierd clicking the camera and trying to laugh..at um..nothing - no future in modeling for me) so I've added the other too. Coz this lovin our faces business ain't much glory 'less you can enjoy the wrinkles too, esp those grinning ones. And love em I do!

Dovic
xx








Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cheating

It's April and I'm not quite back yet. I want to be, I really do but with fam in town, ideas swishing around in my head so quickly that they swish right out again (before I get a chance to do anything with them), and no laptop/iPad in my hot little hands to write on the hop (oh how cool that would be - that's a hint Apple), I'm a little lost in the timing.

And then I felt a little reflective of an older post I did today - my Christmas post. It's Easter, and my dad sounded only only slightly bemused when I got my Serbian Easter greeting wrong and wished him a happy Christmas by mistake. So I thought I could cheat a little and reflect back on that other festive season as I warm myself up for the next post (and damn it if I'm not feeling warmed up already...)

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'Tis the Season

Howdy all.

Well it's been a coupla weeks coz it's that silly season where we all go off to drink, eat, be merry and buy a ridiculous amount of stuff.

Christmas nearly killed me this year. I'm not good at it, at least not til Jan. I grew up in a house that didn't acknowledge santa except for in the plastic form in the $2 shop. We got a small kmart christmas tree some time in my early teens. No pressies, just a 2 foot tree with some gold tinsel and some wrapped up empty boxes sitting beneath it. I didn't mind, hadn't picked up in all the years leading up to that christmas tree that we were ever supposedly missing out on anything. Now we'd moved to a street full of Aussies and I think my parents had cottoned on to the fact that this festive season came with festive bits and bobs.

Before then, whilst my migrant parents were still mixing with migrant friends, there was non of the colour enhanced christmas we see today (hello China :)). Yes there probably was in other families, even probably right next door to us but they didn't speak Serbian so it didn't count. We were still doing the orthodox thing of going to church on the 7th Jan (the day good old Jesus was born according to the old testament calender or something like that), visiting friends, sharing food and solemn stories and .80 alcohol content 'Rakija' shots, and then heading back home in the Kingswood for a rest - christmas, beginning to end over in a single day. Was always a day I remember very fondly, no tinsel needed.

So, no fuss, no pressies, no 12 month saving accounts to support the season. All that was needed was a pressed polyester suit for the fellas and new frock and a good perm for the ladies. Having graciously farewelled communist Yugoslavia not too many years earlier, church at Christmas and Easter was a good opportunity for folks like my parents to have a twice yearly chin wag and meet up newly welcomed Aussie Serbs and rejoice in their roots and faith. And us kids? We just had loads of fun running around in our new frocks and pressed suits too.

There was, ofcourse, probably more to it than that, but not in the storeroom of my (possibly not greatly reliable but can't be far wrong) memory bank.

Now my kiddies are here and I struggle to find the christmas mojo that was never cemented in my own make up. No big family gatherings, no extravagance, no reels of wrapping paper, no pork roasts to reflect on and gain insight from. And so now I fail dismally every year in the traditional Aussie Christmas sense. Hopefully my kids don't notice and R doesn't seem to mind that I'm crap at it (though he reminded me this year about 13 hrs too late that reindeer eat carrots and santa appreciates a glass of milk and cookies - there you go, one additional childhood memory my kids miss out on). To be honest, I crave the simplicity of the days my memories feed me with.

What I do get about Christmas is that it is an opportune time for lots of people to get together where it may not happen otherwise. A season with abundant opportunities to reflect, share and love. It should happen all the time of course, and doesn't. And sadly, far too many miss out on the opportunities for joy. But we know it's the aim, so this year, with none of R's very christmassy family around we decided to take our family christmas spirit down south to Melbourne, which is quite possibly the most glorious city on the planet and my home town naturally.

We started off hanging with the gorgeous godparents to my middle child (who I am pretty certain have since been prescribed Valium to help with the post traumatic stress disorder triggered by having 5 under 5 for 5 days in their otherwise organised home) and then we had our final night at my dads. And wasn't that a hoot. Crazy chaotic household like one big jigsaw puzzle where you are sure the pieces couldn't possibly fit but they all strangely do.

In Rory's words...

"um, Di, do you, um, realise that we have just spent the evening in a room with my 7 yr old brother in law, a fiesty Serb, my Chinese mother-in-law who is younger than my wife, a Sri-Lankin refuge who rents a room somewhere in the house, an ex drug user, a Swedish Iraqi Moslem who is now the husband of your other brothers ex girlfriend and has arrived with your brother whilst I bounce my little girl with Down Syndrome on my knee as we wait for dinner to be served at 10pm".

And I hadn't even noticed. Diversity. Aint it sweet when it hits you in the face and just looks normal to you. Coz it is folks, it is. And that's Christmas too. It doesn't have to be one size fits all.

Hoping you enjoyed yours however you spent it. And hoping 2010 turns out to be your best year yet. It's gonna be a goodie. I can feel it.

For me, next year I promise I'll try and remember the carrots.

Dovic xx

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