Dinner Date

I did not take a photo of a truly momentous catch up that took place on the weekend.

A meal with four women, a tight-knit circle of lifelong friends that have wrapped me in unending love, support, wisdom and wise counsel for some 30 years and counting.

To the onlooker, our waitress, fellow dining patrons, it would have appeared unremarkable. A table of five, sharing a meal, a few drinks and dessert over conversation. A Saturday night text-book restaurant experience.

To the onlooker that is. But the significance of the occasion was not lost on me.

In the hustle and bustle that is daily life, days, sometimes weeks can pass without contact with these precious gem stones. The occasional text, phone call, often scheduled and made whilst driving, hands free, the only time busy Mums and business women seem to be able to chat without interruption.

And the day-to-day grind can be a hard slog, project managing families, children, complex careers whilst prioritising the complexity of the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of loved ones, themselves if they are lucky.

Sitting around the table on Saturday night was a group of women giving a collective sigh that we had pulled of this catch up. One of 2018’s greatest achievements? Most certainly in my books!

And I feel a shift, a deeper understanding and appreciation of just how special our time together is. In the craziness that is the everyday, our ability to connect , despite all obstacles, is undeniable. It is a precious, precious thing, fluid and flexible, accommodating and inclusive. It demands we are the best version of ourselves, and supports and nurtures us as we stride confidently towards our uniquely personal goals and dreams.

Saturday night dinner date – unremarkable to the onlooker.  Yet those women who  shared my table are nothing short of amazing to me.

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Palm Springs – Forever Love

Palm Springs, California – Desert country.

Forever love blooms & blossoms.

Palm Springs, California - Desert Country

Palm Springs, California – Desert Country

I’ve proof, having just attended the wedding of a best friend, an Aussie Wonder Woman who tied the knot with her UK lover boy.

They met in Canada, united Down Under, and got hitched in the USA.

A modern-day fairy tale, a love fiesta with all the trimmings.

I’ve been a friend of the Bride since High School, a beautiful soul who puts friends & family first – always. Bar the time she started dating her now husband.

On that occasion, their relationship was priority number one. She introduced this strapping hulk of a man to countless curious friends on her terms, in her time. I could not have been more proud.

It was the start of my friends journey to putting her needs first, prioritising her happiness.

And in doing so, she became even more selfless. By filling her cup first , the overflow of love, laughter and mischief multiplied, and was gifted to her global posse.

To witness the marriage of two kindred spirits, half way across the globe, was indeed special. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Passport at the ready, when true love takes hold, basking in its beauty is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Palm Springs, California – Desert country.

Scott & Kate’s forever love blooms and blossoms.

 

All my friends are Hipsters……

Two years ago I wrote this post. To this day I firmly believe all my friends are hipters xx

 

When did all my friends become Hipsters?

So Hip it hurts the eye!!

So Hip it hurts the eye!!

Or have I just become so liberal with the use of this word that I brand those nearest and dearest to me as forever ‘hip’!?

I like to think the second question is my stance on this global trend….My….friends…..are …..SERIOUSLY….cool.

Off the richter scale awesome, exuding a confidence and self-belief that money cannot buy. They are as precious to me as gem stones…..one of a kind, beautiful and unique. They shine.

Don’t get me wrong, my friends are human, they suffer from self-doubt, setbacks and life challenges a plenty….

But my mates are troupers…the kind of variety that when life serves them lemons….they make lemonade.

My friends are hipsters….and I love them dearly. xxx

Hollywood Walk of Fame ( Shame)

As Catch up with a Mate month 2017 come to an end – a nostalgic post.

Picture this: a 23-year-old Austinmer girl catches a plane from her temporary home in London, bound for the US, to reunite with a best friend, studying at San Diego University.

After much socialising and sight-seeing, best friend encourages solo travel to L.A, and proposes a nights stay at the Venice Beach Cotel ( Hostel). Girl from Austinmer, via London takes advice to heart and catches a grey hound bus L.A bound.

Girl from Austinmer is lost for words, over come by the sights, sounds, smells and size of the concrete monstrosity that is L.A. Venice Beach is her refuge, along with countless vodka and oranges downed at the hostel bar. Venturing out into the night with new-found friends, she is refused entry at a Santa Monica Bar. Aussie charm open’s doors, but no sooner had she entered the club, that the urge to be sick is overwhelming.

Sitting the gutter, feeling somewhat better, being comforted by ….someone….she is escorted back to the hostel.

‘ Girl do you want a tatoo?’ is the last thing she remembers being asked, before vomiting, into her hostel room bath tub.

Girl from Austinmer, sits feeling so sorry for herself the next morning on a bus tour of Hollywood. Jumbo sized lemonade from 7- Eleven in hand, as the tour weaves and winds its way across the city. She is sick countless times.

At midday, the bus tour sees her alight at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is underwhelming, it is dirty, it smells. The glitz and glamour of the movie industry is nowhere to be seen.

She walks up and down the boulevard, glancing over names in pavement,  Michael Jackson, Shirley Temple, but the heat of the day forces her to take shelter under the cover of a shop awning.

Then a voice: smooth, velvety, deep, croons in her direction:

‘ Girrll, you qualified!!’

The effects of her hangover takes hold, muddled head, slow comprehension – did he mean her?

The voice comes at her again ‘ Oooo Girrrlllll, yes, you, You qualified!!’

The girl from Austinmner realises the man’s comments are intended for her. He points at her lower back, smiling broadly, revealing a sea of white teeth.

She swivels at pace, turning her back towards the reflective glass of the shop front, pulls up her t-shirt.

Bunnies, two humping bunnies, making sweet sweet love have been drawn in thick black texture at the base of her spine.

Face red, she pulls down her t-shirt, hikes up her pants, holds head high, composes self and heads to towards tour bus.

Bestie greets girls from Austinmer at San Diego Grey Hound Bus terminal. The ‘ tatoo’ and the story surrounding its origins are retold.  Camera lights flash – paparazzi. Laughter, plenty of laughter.

Yet all I could hear was that  deep velvety voice ‘ Girl, you qualified’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 hour Party People

Having returned home for the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend, over a red wine at Headlands Hotel, Austinmner with the parentals, the subject for another nostalgic post took hold.

The discussion was around music, and my extensive collection of ticket stubs from late 90’s, early 2000’s concerts. I think I made the comment that ‘It wasn’t always fun and games back then’….

It was December 98. Main characters assembled : Kate S, Jess, C- Ron and movie extra Chris Hopkins. We were attending UK electronic music act ‘The Prodigy” at Selina’s, Coogee Bay Hotel. We were overly excited, ill-equipped, naive, from Wollongong.

The gig was EPIC. Like nothing we had ever experienced. The gig was a mosh pit from start to finish and I feared for my life on many occasions. The big beat music exhausted everyone, sweat dripped from the roof, body heat reached fever pitched. It was a life affirming.

The next morning we awoke from our temporary resting place at the YHA Sydney city , and rallied the strength to do it all again. Our next musical adventure was to be Homebake, an all Australian outdoor music concert in Hyde Park.

We were overly excited, ill-equipped, naive, from Wollongong. Having underestimated the energy zapping nature of the gig the night before, we had little in reserves for an all day outdoor festival.

And it rained. Homebake became Mudbake. I recall very little of the festival other than Jess had a plastic water bottle, filled with vodka, that she had offered to C- R0n who was thirsty? He took a large gulp, eyes widening as he did – and not one to waste, the alcohol was swallowed – followed by anger, silent treatment and Jess’s laughter.

We packed it in early – the rain, the mud, our depleted energy levels, the Prodigy drum and bass from the night before outclassing the more conservative Aussie music scene that day.

We boarded a city rail train at Central and accepted our fate – the long train ride South.

Some 20 minutes into the journey, in our carriage full of festival misfits, coming down from chemical highs, the train came to a sudden halt.

Jolted out of my slumber, I recall thinking the train had run over a bike, collided with a metal object on the tracks.

Time passes and we de not move. We look out the window of our carriage to see men in forensic uniforms walking up and down the train tracks.

I am not longer sure who forms part of this movie of memories – Kate S, Jess are surely with me, C- Ron and Chris Hopkins, are they in the other carriage?I remember seeing the men in what appeared to be white space suits thinking – is this really happening, has our train really collided with a human being on Saturday night at Allawah Train station?

It was 1am before us Gong girls and boys get home.

The next morning, or was it a few days later, I read in the paper that our train had indeed hit a person, and that he remained unidentified, the John Doe of Allawah train station.

Fast forward to last night and it is some 19 years after Kate S, Jess, C-Ron and Chris Hopkins had been 32 hour party people. I did on online search to see if the John Doe Allawah case had ever solved.

The search revealed nothing.

Sometime when I think of all the adventures I had in my youth I almost have to pinch myself and ask ‘Did that really happen’?’

When an internet search does not verify my version of the truth I am left wondering….

But I will always have the music….

 

 

 

 

 

Catch up with a Mate Month 2017

Out for dinner last night, a home cooked meal at a friend’s place,the conversation turning to my blog writing and the concept that each June I would embark on a month-long campaign of solid catch ups.

My friend asked ‘ How is Catch up with a Mate month going?’

‘ This is it in action!’ was my response ‘ You are part of it!’

Shared laughter – she had no idea!

I admit that in the seven years I have been writing this blog, some years with a steel gaze on June, an unwavering focus on catch ups with anyone and everyone, and some years, only noticing in August that I failed to celebrate friendship at all!

Truth be told – Catch up with a Mate month and the concept that shapes my writing, has cross pollinated, manifested into all aspects of the life I live. I no longer spend one month focused on friendship, it has become part of my everyday. My friends, family, loved one, pets are my world.

To honour all that is great about catching ups, to give you an idea of the person I am, the person I am becoming, the person I aspire to be….I came across this passage by Dr Brene Brown, an US based Research Professor in Social Work.

” I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”~ Brené Brown

Ms Rainbow

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There is no one in the month of May that has made me smile more than Ms Leah Kate.

So joy filled is this little person, she exudes happiness and everyone she comes in contact with is immediately affected.

I love spending time with her, no more so than on her day of days – her birthday.

Painfully aware that her request from Santa had recently gone answered, remote control fairies were out of stock the entire Christmas period, I commissioned a very talented lady to make a crochet fairy doll. Though not remote control operated, I thought it to be the next best thing.

As I handed over my gift to my pint size mini best friend, I was unaware that I was to receive the most wonderful of presents that day. Leah Kate was to share her career aspirations, hopes and dreams. At just four years of age she had set herself a very clear path.

Her Mother prompted Leah Kate to share what she had announced to her pre-school teacher earlier that week.

‘When the teacher asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up, what did you say Leah? ‘

‘That I want to be a rainbow’

I am speechless.

I beam in the direction of my pint size mini best friend. I am caught up in the magic of this career aspiration. It is priceless.

Leah Kate is laughing. Everyone in the lounge room that afternoon is too.

I do not have the heart to break it to my pint size mini best friend that to those who love and adore her, she is already that rainbow. And as she grows, she will be that rainbow to countless others.

Red and yellow and pink and green

Purple and orange and blue

I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow

Sing a rainbow too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optimism

This week my lack of this quality has been centre stage. It it makes me smile. Laugh out loud even, because I don’t actually agree.

I consider myself a pessimistic optimist, otherwise known as a realist. I’ve been dealt my fair share of hardships, so much so that when dealt yet another blow earlier in the year, I accepted it.

This was a somewhat new phenomena, the acceptance thing.

My track record with acceptance was dire….having always opted to ignore heartache and trauma. I’d shield myself from pain with layer upon layer of denial, ignoring my human capacity to self-heal.

I’ve come a long way, have begun to accept things on a daily basis, for what they are and not shy away from complex feelings that may surface.

But to be told that I’m not an optimist – it’s just not true.

I’m a pessimistic optimist, other wise known as a realist.

When my best friend called me this week, before she was to board a flight, bound for the  UK, Italy and Iceland. I answer the phone and utter down the phone ‘ I hate my life’.

I’m part way through the delivering an orientation program to group of international students….but I can’t say these four words with enough seriousness and we both start laughing.

‘You are too funny’ smirks my bestie.

‘Just do little things each day that remind you of holidays’ states the beauty who is about to be spa side in Iceland. I swallow hard on that advice and truly mean what I say next ‘ Have the best holiday’

The following day my personal trainer asked post orientation ‘ How are your student group’?

My response ‘ I hate them all’

We both laugh – that is also not true, in fact, this is the first group that I feel totally at ease with. After doing this role for close to 2 years, I finally feel like I have got my role as internship coordinator down to a fine art.

Reflecting on the week that was with my Mum, her advice was to take a bit of optimism from those in my inner circle. Perhaps what she was really saying was to choose my words wisely. Comments such as ‘ I hate my life’, especially to those who don’t know me would be truly confronting. They would not have points of reference for such jaring remarks, that would enable them to appreciate my black humour.

So I’ll take from this self-reflective practice that one must know their audience. And upon careful consideration I am a pessimistic optimistic realist. And a very happy one at that!!

 

 

Surprise

With a keen interest in the recent birth a primary school friend’s third baby this story surfaces.

I was 11, turning 12 the very next day ( oh the elation!!) and an all girls Friday night sleep over had been organised. Everyone was invited, all 8 of us Year Six girls.

There was to be popcorn, a horror movie, ghost stories and very little sleep. Our excitement was palpable. The school day could not finish quick enough, and when the school bell tolled, heralding in the weekend, I recall party invites squealing.

But not me….for some reason I was not walking with my girl pals to the party venue – it was to be a pack of 7 not 8. I first had to go on a shopping expedition with my parents, which was to include a long stint in the local bank.

Then I could join my friends.  The host knew this in advance but neither of us knew how long it would eat in to party time.

This was the era before mobile phones- 1990. If I had been carrying a medium-sized brick in my back pack, it would have been ringing off the hook as I stood side my side my parents in the bank queue : ‘ Where are you?’ ‘ How much longer are you going to be? ‘

But there were no phones and the bank teller explained that it would that 48 hours to get currency for our impending Fijian family holiday. It was an explanation that felt like it took 48 hours – ‘ I had a slumber party to get too’ I wanted to scream, instead I opted to slump in complimentary waiting chair , head in my hands, nervous energy surging through my body.

‘ Where have you been? It doesn’t matter!! Surprise!! Happy Birthday!!’

The host closed the front door behind me and I was swept up into a celebration just for me.

A sea of friendly faces all looking in my direction, a birthday cake, complete with candles, beckoning me to make a wish.

I am overwhelmed, taken aback, that my friend had gone to so much effort to make me, humble, unassuming me, feel special, centre of attention special.

My mind could not compute- but this is YOUR party I wanted to say, please don’t shine a light on me, I just want to be a wall-flower. Just being part of this social occasion elevating me to levels of social anxiety never previously experienced. And now this…..

‘ Make a wish Kate! Happy 12th Birthday’

I have never forgotten this brief moment in time. This person made me feel special, signalled me out for some undivided attention with only the best of intentions. The fact that is made me feel a nervous wreck, second guessing my self-worth, a cascading downward spiral of emotions she could never have known.

This young girl has gone on the be an inspiration to many, successful on oh so many fronts. None more so than as a Mother, to three beautiful, most cherished children.

This story is written to thank that person for noticing the beauty within, long before I became aware, let alone comfortable with it.

You have an amazing capacity to bring out the very best in others.

Thank you. I am lucky to have crossed paths with you all those years ago.

To Be With You – Mr Big

Down South yesterday for the quarterly hair cut and colour, the drive from Austinmer to Shellharbour, the perfect amount of time for a nostalgic post to take shape.

The South Coast, or ‘ Coal Coast’ as it is now referred to by the bearded and the hip, was in fine form yesterday, the sun shone, the ocean glistened blue and the Illawarra escarpment, bursting with an autumnal glow.

I was listening to the Coal Coasts band of choice , ‘Shinging Bird – Black Opal’ . I had down right refused to take the 45 minute drive without there cd and song six and seven were on repeat. But in between the repetition, my mind drifted to a moment in time, some seven years earlier when I received an out of the blue phone call.

It was the beginning of 2010. I was not in a particularly happy place. When consumed by sadness, such was the tendency to shut people out, decline invitations in favour of my own company.

That was how I came to decline the invitation of my life long friend, one of my most supportive allies – Mim – and her Hen’s weekend. I just could not face it. I was an anomaly in guest list – 6 years older than most of the girls and not part of her close-knit group of school mates. But like all on the guest list, I loved and admired the hen. Reason enough to go?

The invitation was declined and I busied myself with the blues.

The phone rang.

Was it Friday or Saturday night?

The fact that I answered it took even me by surprise as often when faced an inner battle with black, the phone rings out, goes to voice mail.

‘ Hello’

Laughter, lots of it can be heard down the phone.

‘ Kate, I had to call you’

It is Mim.

‘ We are playing the first pop song YOU introduced me to – I had to call you’

Coming down the phone line is the tune ‘ To Be With You ‘ by Mr Big – a sure-fire hit from the mid 1990’s.

‘ Kate, are you there?’

I am in shock, had I know idea I had this kind of influence in Mim’s musical education – if I had known, perhaps I would have introduced her to David Bowie, a Whitney Houston classic, Michael Jackson – Mr Big???

‘ I love this song because it makes me think of you’

I don’t remember what I said to Mim, I just recall the joy in her voice,  the laughter of the group of girls in the background, singing at the top of their lungs ‘ I’m the one who wants to be – with – you’

Mim’s call induces intense feelings of guilt – I should be there, celebrating in person instead of home alone on the couch with Flora. It was as if the call snapped my out of my sadness, if only temporarily, to remind me that I did matter to people, people like Mim.

The phone conversation ended – a champagne bottle had popped in the background and I had encouraged Mim, who does not drink, to go and at least have a sip for me.

That conversation was 7 years ago, I have never forgotten it. That bolt from the blue, totally unexpected, shaking me out of my head, and piercing my heart. Whilst it did induce guilt, the overarching feeling it left me with was one of connection. It has never left.

I have no idea why this story surfaced yesterday, it took even me by surprise. The Coal Coast has a way of doing that I guess, the more time I spend South of Sydney, the more I find myself reflecting on my past in order to make sense of it all. Write it down, get it out there, move forward.

Note this Coal Coast chick is currently answering the phone, accepting social invitations and being much more careful on my musical influence on the young.

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