Proud

Daily, I find myself getting all worked up over the smallest things. They are good things, and it is a good working up, like when my daughter does three levels of stairs herself, and I celebrate her on every turn (breathless, lugging a gigantic baby). When she did a twelve-piece puzzle alone the other day, my voice hit such a high note when I found it, it was borderline choral. I think I was essentially shouting by the end of it, and she was so thrilled she couldn’t stop grinning and slapping the puzzle with this adult-like satisfaction. Recently, I watched her take her place at a play table at the doctor’s, while we waited for the baby’s appointment, among a few bigger kids. She held her own, observed, participated, and all the while I thought I would cry. My husband and I nudged each other constantly, as she did what billions of humans do everyday and interacted on the most basic level. These are such small things that our children do, and yet my chest puffs with such pride sometimes I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

Do you know why parents are so proud of their children, so proud of the smallest things? Because we have known them since their first breath; we have seen them at their utmost helplessness. And it is that utmost helplessness we always return to when they do something new; use a spoon themselves for the first time, ride a bike, read, finish school, show a stranger kindness, travel. It is this smallness we always remember. Their useless little arms and legs, their big bobbing heads. Their wrinkly skin and milky, unfocussed eyes. We have known our children since they could not do anything at all, except cry and fill their bellies. When my son sits there and reaches for toys to inspect and experiment with, I remember how small he was when the midwife gave him to me, how tiny his legs were, how big his eyes. When my daughter tells me something with actual words, or solves a problem herself, or jumps so high on the trampoline she surprises herself, I remember when she was small enough to balance on my chest, curled up like a tiny, peachy bug – and I compare her, in that moment of flying hair and grinning face and twenty centimetres of air beneath her feet, I compare her to that tiny peachy bug. The memory of their smallness, their quiet beginnings, it feeds the pride. It inflates it like a balloon until I am certain no other child in the history of children has done what my child is doing right now, before my very eyes.

And that pride, that balloon that seems like it could burst at any moment, that is also the fulfillment; bearing witness to the smallness becoming, all too quickly it seems, even on the longest of days, competence and knowledge and understanding. Watching on as the world absorbs them and they absorb the world. It is simultaneously so very, very basic and so very, very big.

30

My birthday, year after year, has always been scorchingly hot. The middle of January in Australia is high summer; the grass is dry and crunchy, feet bear strong thong tans, and noses a few extra freckles. Days are lazy and long, but there is a freshness to the new year that’s grinding to a slow start. It’s lovely. It’s my favourite time of year.

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As a child, we were often by the beach on my birthday. Photos show us kids damp-haired, as brown as berries and smeared with zinc, crowded around a cake bought from the local supermarket. On my 13th birthday, my parents took me to Melbourne for my first Australian Open. I was, and remain, completely tennis mad. In 1998 Martina Hingis was at her searing best and I was her biggest fan. We watched very young Williams sisters in the doubles, and Martina demolish Anna Kournikova. I remember being furious at my father as he cheered on Anna Kournikova to provoke me (and because, really, every middle-aged father was cheering on Anna Kournikova in the 90s. Gross Dad.). My parents let me pick out a professional outfit at the merchandise store, one I could wear to the tournaments I had started entering. Despite playing with a Head racquet, and being staunchly loyal to it, I chose a navy blue Nike top and skirt combination, with matching white bike pants. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember thinking those white bike pants just topped it all off, made me as good as professional.

When I got older, and bars became an option for celebrations, no matter how many sickly sweet cocktails I was down, tradition dictated an annual blister-inducing run in my high summer heels, between the bar where I’d be celebrating with my friends, to the nearest sports bar that was showing the Open. I never missed the game that was showing on the evening of my birthday – I think my feet still bear the scars – and I will always remember screeching into some dingy place, out of breath and sweating in my party dress, to find a seat among the revellers and scream at the screen.

To me, January 24th is high blue skies, shoulder-burning sun, and tennis. Always has been.

I turned thirty this year. As I lay in bed watching the Aussie Open with my daughter, it started snowing outside. Without warning, big, fluffy flakes pirouetted frantically past my window. The sky was white, as white as the ground. It stuck, for the first time this winter, the snow stuck. It was as if the universe was having a laugh: expecting blue skies and shoulder-burning sun? I’ll give you white, white and toe-burning cold. Messages coming in from the other side of the world spoke of 35 degrees, a typical middle of summer day. A typical birthday day.

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In the next room, my husband worked, shrouded in secrecy. The snow fell thicker and faster, the city outside disappearing beneath it. One match finished and Djokovic, my current Hingis, came on. I told die Lüdde to watch him carefully, and that when she was a little bigger, I would give her a racquet and teach her how to play, just like Martina’s mum did.

As Djokovic battled through an opening set tie break, the top secret wrapping work finished, and we were summoned to the living room. The tennis was on the big screen, that familiar blue court and the evening Aussie sun bouncing off it. A cake sat on the coffee table and, propped up next to it, wrapped in candy-striped paper, a familiar shape. That candy-striped paper, I am not ashamed to say, was ripped off there and then, with the glee of a child a tenth my age. My own child watched on with far more composure than her thirty year old mother.

So this year, the sun wasn’t scorching and the skies turned blue a day late. But the tennis was on and my brand new Head racquet is beautiful.

 

Like Me

Right, I have gone ahead and done it. After much um-ing and ah-ing, dismissing the idea because it ‘wouldn’t be worth it’, I have bitten that bullet and created a Facebook page for the blog.

It’s another way for me to be able to connect with readers, Germans, fellow foreigners in Germany, anyone who has any remote interest in anything I say (totally cool if you don’t, I get it). We can also share pictures and events and other blogs and such internet discoveries with each other. Hell, sometimes I may even whip out my appalling German and post auf Deutsch. It will be marvellous!

So if you’re interested, if you have, as the Germans say, lust to connect with me over on Facebook, then pop on over. I am currently sitting at 2 followers, so feeling pretty amazing.

Making Space & Starchy Fresh Days

The lure of writing something about the fresh, shininess of a new year, proved too strong. I was going to wave it on, insist it skip me, and soak in some other people’s words about progress and improvement. But I am sitting up at the beach house, a place where the opening days of fresh, shiny new years have traditionally been spent and thus a place that is naturally associated with reflection. And I have poured a coffee, a beverage that seems to lend itself nicely to introspection and resulting swathes of indulgent words. So I won’t wave on this changing of the guard. At the very least 2013 and all of its possibility – is there anything more thrilling than possibility? – needs to be acknowledged. And the excesses of 2012, the parts not currently in use, the lessons not currently being worn, and its abundance of ‘ch’ words – change, challenges, choice – need to be packed gently away. I need to make space in my head to be thrilled by possibility, to soak in my own words in these unmarked, starchy-fresh days of the new year.

So, 2012. You brought with you a surprise 27th when a dear friend from the other side of the world walked, jet-lagged and exhausted, into my bedroom and said ‘I’m here for your birthday.’ You brought a move across Germany to Weiden, that tiny town near the Czech border. A new home in Bavaria with a very Significant German. You brought mini and day-trips to Dresden, the Czech Republic, Rothenburg, Regensburg, Munich, Kiel, Münster, Nürnberg and to Küpferzell, where I walked around the village of my Great Great Great Grandfather. Two weeks in Santorini with SG, Mum and Dad.

But you also brought terrific homesickness. Fatigue. A sense of disconnectedness from home. So there were more goodbyes, another move, a temporary one, back to Australia, just two weeks too late to say goodbye to an old, beloved dog. There was a long distance relationship. More settling in. More waiting. A teaching course and qualification. A new job. Teeth pulled, a ten year reunionWeddings of old friends, bridesmaiding, meeting a new baby, hearing news of another one, family birthdays to be present for and to celebrate.

SG made his maiden voyage to Australia and got the context and clarification that so often strengthens a cross-continental relationship. Together we saw Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation, the Blue MountainsSydney, Melbourne, the Hunter Valley and Central Coast. Christmas was huge and the last one held in our family home which is currently on the market. 

I kept writing features for Peppermint Magazine, something I am so proud of, and started writing for Daily Life, with one of my articles coming in at number 6 on the 2012 top 20 listWhat I Know About Germans went thoroughly viral, all over German and Swiss mainstream media and national papers and an e-book was born. O&S Publishing launched and with it a series of lessons in e-book creating and publishing. You all kept reading this blog and buoyed me with comments and emails and contact and I was even able to meet a few of you in Germany and Sydney for coffees and lunches I will always treasure.

2012, you were solid. You were exciting and tricky and interesting and full. There was family and love and friends and joy. There were tears and a little heartache. Your successor is already proving to be something of a show-off, although chickens shall not be counted before they hatch. It boasts a birthday and Australia Day in Sydney, a subsequent move back to Germany, a relocation to the northern city of Kiel for 6 months, and with it the prospect of trips to Scandinavia. There are planned jaunts to Istanbul and Italy’s Lake Garda. There’s a second relocation in the same year, back to Bavaria. There are two exciting babies to be met, an impending little Aussie and a teeny little German. There are more words to be written, photos to be taken, projects to be developed, mistakes to be made, crushing disappointments to be wept through, butterflies to be let loose upon nervous tummies.

I don’t really want for much this coming year. Just more family, love, friends, joy, experiences, travel and words. I have learnt the best resolutions to make are the ones that allow for more of something, not less, or require small changes, not enormous ones. But I am excited, excited and aware that the only way to tackle this coming behemoth is one day at a time. And now that I have indulgently reflected – thank you for your patience – ready to face it all.

2013, come on down.

 

 

 

Summer Issue

If the heatwave wasn’t enough, or the TV switched to ‘cricket’, or the Christmas lights that appear a little brighter with every passing evening, then there is another reason to know Summer has signed the lease and moved in … Peppermint’s Summer issue is OUT.

It isn’t often, as a freelance writer, you can be truly proud of the publications you write for. You can like them, you can not have a problem with them, you can be completely apathetic towards them. You can hate what they stand for, what they pedal, what they value. Most of the time you are just pretty happy to have a commission that pays and a byline for the portfolio.

But I can say, hand on heart, teacup raised, I am bloody proud to write for Peppermint. It is Australian. Independent. It has a message and it has values and neither are anything to do with celebrity culture or dated, one dimensional ideas of womanhood. It is full of men and women trying to live sustainable, kind, interesting lives. It is 100% carbon neutral. It gives back to various organisations and charities as committed as it is to a fairer, more sustainable future.

And each issue is a thing of absolute, soul-soothing beauty.

In issue 16, I talk to philosophical environmentalist Tim Silverwood, the man behind Take 3 and Rechusable. He is trying to get Australia to wake up to our willful misuse and overuse of plastic, to how it is strangling an earth we can no longer treat with such appalling disregard. He knocked my socks off when he said:

We have to learn to live simply, or at least simplify things. We are coming out of consecutive decades of growth and prosperity across the world with the dominant theme being to consume more. It’s clear when you look at our current situation of an environment in utter disarray and economies collapsing that something is wrong with this model. We have altered our atmosphere, we’ve decimated terrestrial habitat losing untold species forever, we’ve tampered with every natural process to help humans do the ‘impossible’ and in the process we’ve treated the ocean with incredible disrespect – taking from her all that we need and feeding her back all that we don’t.

Isn’t that the truth. Want to read more? Get your hands on Peppermint magazine in any good newsagent, book shop or Mag Nation. Or find a stockist near you.

 

 

A new address (but business as usual)

I moved. Not too far away, just far enough so as to feel homogenous, a little more streamlined, a little more together. I have been meaning to do it for once, raid two or three websites and drag my wares to a new place entirely, but life gets in the way of the most intended of plans. Anyway, I finally did it and here we are. A new address. Same blog, same writer, same themes. But here you can also find my writing portfolio and projects both completed and in the works. Everything in one tidy little place.

My blog, A Big Life, which has documented all of the choices, changes, travels, frustrations and tribulations of the past two and a half years will continue doing just that. It’s just that www-abiglife.com will not be updated from here on in, this here site will. So, please, follow, sign up, do what you have to do to ensure there is no pause in the programming. Because SG is about to touch down in Sydney and tales shall unfold with alacrity and humour. I wouldn’t want you to miss you.

Onto a little news; something I have been working on with Überlin was casually announced this week – an illustrated e-book based on What I Know About Germans which went viral earlier this year. You’ll find some eerily similar lists doing the rounds at the moment (what does one do when ideas, material and content so clearly poached from, you know, one’s own, start showing up all over the internet with nary a reference to what inspired it?) but the original is here and so help me, original it will stay.

The book is being illustrated by the wonderful Mischief Champion and this little sneak preview became available this week. It goes with point 24, Germans are always prepared for the rain.

 Isn’t it brilliant?

 

 

On Singing Pigs and Straddling Tuna Fish

I have written a little something for Daily Life on the latest campaign from Animals Australia, against factory farming, and the recent one from Fishlove.co.uk, against over-fishing. One features a singing, flying pig dreaming of escaping his factory farm and the other a bunch of naked celebrities canoodling with various marine species. Which one is more effective? You tell me.

In the realm of Naked Women Sell Everything this campaign is fairly standard. The main images from the Fishlove, an initiative designed to raise awareness of the dangers of overfishing, ticks all the boxes. And when I say main images, I mean the ones hand-picked by various media outlets. So, the ones with women. They feature good looking women. They feature nude women. They feature boobs, a nipple (and a cuttlefish) and an artfully draped pubic region (with an octopus). They are over-zealously photo-shopped (as all naked women must always be). They are tenuously linked to the cause they are supposed to be about.

Keep reading it here …

I also cannot stress enough how much I think you should watch the Animals Australia ‘Make it Possible’ campaign. And how much I think we need to join in and keep working on making Australian farming factory-free.