Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Autograph Book

Maybe I'm weird, (I'll accept that criticism) or maybe just sentimental, but just a couple of weeks ago I discovered that I still had my old 'autograph' book which I had 'treasured' while in primary school. It was the fad then to get friends, even teachers, to sign it with their funny/ cute/ maybe meaningful messages. I was surprised to realise that I had packed that little brown-faux leather covered booklet in my belongings when I made the decision to move to Australia. I find that amazing! Why this book?

Yet looking through it, I have remembered so many instances, and the people, ---people I may have forgotten about otherwise. It is just the small things that bring about such large memories.

Looking at the comments, I thought that as an adult, why didn't I keep grabbing those 'autograph' moments from the people who have walked through my life. I think as kids in the 50/60's we had the right idea. We wanted to remember those people, those good times, the times we shared together.

It is with regret that I didn't carry this special little fake leather missile with me through my life---what memories I could be re-living if I had---and there have been some great ones!

I think the moral is, no matter what framework children of today use, be it written or electronic, always encourage them to collect and record their feelings or memories or even just friends names in a format that they will be able to refer to in the years to come. They may be surprised at what they do remember-and a lot of times it is so worth the remembering!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad will be 93 on the 29 July -- just a few days from now. It made me think about all of the memories I have in my life concerning him - but one of my favourites is Christmas morning! I would start waking up my sister at about 4:00 am, which for her was unfortunate, mainly because she had to share a bedroom with me! She would always grumble: "Not yet! Go back to bed!"

So, I would lay there in anticipation for Christmas morning a bit longer, trying to sleep, knowing that I couldn't dare to creep downstairs to see if Santa had been, because if he was doing his magic, he would disappear and take all of the presents away!!

So impatiently I would wait, bother my sister a couple more times, then when I saw daylight creeping in slightly, I would sneak into my parent's room, and whisper "Is it time yet?" If I didn't get a quick response, I would shake Dad's shoulder, and whisper louder-- "Is it time yet?" Usually after awhile, and much loud coughing on my part, Dad would wake up, and I would ask again: "Is it was time yet to go see if Santa has been?"

Dad would always say, "Well, not sure! We'll see if the others are awake, and then I'll check it out. You just jump in bed here, while I check to see.", and I would excitedly crawl into their warm bed. Meanwhile, Mum would be waking up, and my sister would be stirring in our bedroom.

Dad would go downstairs and turn on the lights on the Christmas tree, which would shine so brightly on the still dark morning, and would cry out " Well look at this! It sure looks like Santa has come this morning! What a surprise!" I would be so excited!

I would jump out of bed, run to my room to get my robe and fluffy slippers, make sure my sister was awake, make sure Mum was getting up, and race downstairs to see what surprises Santa had left! I was never, ever disappointed!

To this day we follow that tradition. No one is allowed to start looking at the Christmas presents on Christmas morning, until either Chris or I arrive and say: "Look what Santa has done! What a surprise!" It's all part of the fun--and to tell you the truth--I still get as excited!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Renovations and Life

This is our year of renovations. We are renovating our beachhouse, and have reached the final stages--now it's the landscaping and final clean-up and fitting of curtains etc, and we're done. It's been an interesting journey. There have been so many various tradesmen involved, but the final project will be worth it. Once it is on the market we start on the family home! Hopefully not such a large project---but a project ahead of us all the same.

Part of this renovation process has been a 'renovation' of sorts about us also. We have had a lot of life changing issues these past 12 months, including retirement from our university careers, and then moving into the begining of our life careers! We have had some unfortunate family upheavals, and we are currently suffering through some very sad and perhaps final family illnesses, which we know we will need to steel ourselves for as the months continue... It all weighs heavily. Yet through it all, we try every day to keep focussed, and keep moving towards our goal. We will make it, maybe not in our desired timeframe, but we keep striving. Sometimes we wish we had the strength of some of our more youthful years to carry us through that one day or that one hour longer.

One of my most enjoyable renovations, if you want to call it that, is my re-awakening. I am discovering life again--real life, and enjoyment of it. I treasure my small family and my loving husband, and try very hard every day to show how much enjoyment I am having, usually just in the little things. It has been a new experience for me to wake up each day and decide how I want to spend my time on that day--I don't like to waste any time unless it is justified---sometimes, just learning to relax is a new skill!

I like learning how to grow through each day, and love having the time to appreciate life, and my family, and the world in my environment. We are blessed that we live in a peaceful oasis, full of wild-life and the relaxing, luscious garden landscaping surrounding us. It will be hard to leave it---but it is part of our Life Renovation Plan. Something I am really looking forward to!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Early morning musings

Yesterday I said goodbye to my lowboy walnut piano. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, which had become, just that, a beautiful piece of furniture. It didn't sing or resonate any longer. Its keys were no longer rattled and played. It held a candelabra well, and looked very warm and inviting, but never played much in these last few years.

She went to an aged care home. The same home which had so lovingly looked after my Father-in-law, during his last days. I know it will be enjoyed there, and once again those ivory keys will resonate with music and laughter.

We originally bought that piano for my daughter, Lauren. She had been taking lessons on a portable organ, set at piano aspect, and was doing fairly well. She was about 8 years old at the time. We travelled to the States during this period, for a 10 week holiday, and upon our return to our normal routine here, Lauren was asked by her music teacher to perform in a concert for the Queensland Arts Council the following week, which put a bit of pressure on her, as she had not been near a piano for quite some time.

On the night of the performance, she entered the stage, a small, yet confident little Miss, and settled herself confidently at the Grand Piano on stage. (At this point she had never even touched the keyboard of a real piano--just her portable organ). She played her piece with finesse, stood and took a bow.

She received a Highly Commended award from the Arts Council, and it was at that point that we decided that we should probably take her music interest a bit more seriously. A few weeks later we discovered news about a lovely Baldwin piano for sale. It was a bit pricey, but we settled upon a price and bought it for Lauren, who then continued her musical journey.

And what a journey it was, but then--that's another story!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

" Go ahead -- Make my day!" -Chapter 3

When I was the security guard at Giant Foods, I caught petty little thieves including some young kids who would come in and fill their pockets with sweets and candy bars. As I worked in this store in my high school years, I knew some of these kids, or at least who their Mothers were. Upon catching them I would 'collar' them as they left the store, and bring them back into the store. I would call out to the Manager to call the authorities, and would order the little culprit/s to come with me to the store's back room to wait for the authorities to arrive. I would then sit them down and ask the usual questions like: "Why did you do it? What would your Mother think?" and "Doing jail time for some lousy candy really isn't worth the effort now is it son?" I usually always got promises like "Please! I'll never do it again. I just thought it would be easy--please just let me go! I promise, I really do that I will never do this ever again!"

My only reply would ever be "Well I'm sorry little man, but you broke the law, and that is illegal, and needs to dealt with in the proper manner!"

Meanwhile, while my culprit usually sat there very worried and squirming a bit, sometimes close to tears, his Mum would arrive and would be assisted to the backroom where I held my 'guilty culprit' I knew that in that neighbourhood, any punishment given by the individual Mother would always be more effective than involving any other authority, and in a way, we all ensured that these kids would learn some important lessons. For the most part, the majority did.

At other times I had to chase shoplifters as they left the store in an attempt to catch them before they got away. (The rule was that I was not allowed to leave on such a chase unassisted, but had to always grab a duly appointed guy from the store to assist me)---but on a crazily busy day with a store full of people and action that wasn't always possible. One snowy night, I single-handedly chased a teenager out of the store who had left with some electrical equipment under his jacket--he could run - fast! I was yelling at him saying that he was in trouble--but he just kept running faster--(I knew his family---but I had to catch him for proof). Suddenly I slid on the black ice in the parking lot and slid across the surface, tearing a huge slash in my jeans knee section. It really hurt--both my pride and my knee--I quickly jumped up and yelled out to him, "I know who you are--and now you owe me a new pair of jeans, you jerk! You had better never show your face around here again, or you're gone!" I was probably more angry about my new, now torn jeans than the electrical equipment however! I contacted his Mother--but without proof, we couldn't do much about any follow up--I'm sure she did though!

There were many times when I did catch adults stealing equipment, clothing, food, and one time a complete leg of ham! I used to be amazed at their skills of concealment. These cases always involved the police, sometimes involving two police vehicles, which would turn up at the scene, and a charge would be placed. I would then be required to appear in the City Court sessions to properly identify the suspect, and agree with the charge.

Once I left the courtroom, the accused would then be charged and sentenced or fined by the Judge. The funny part was that for some reason I always got the same judge, and when he would ask me to elaborate on some cases, I would step forward, and in my own style would gesture with my hands and arms, and explain the chase and catch, probably sometimes in wild detail, depending upon the case. He always just looked at me in fascination, and even perhaps in amazement, sometimes--perhaps wondering- Is she for real?

Then I would leave the courtroom. (For future reference, remember this judge and the imagined look on his face on these occasions--he will appear again in a future post.)

Then, one day, on what seemed like a quiet Sunday, while sitting up in my viewing station, I happened to notice a man who was acting a bit strangely--he knew we had security cameras in the store, and he was walking around looking at them and then turning quickly away. I left my station and I started to follow him from a distance, using the mirrors in the store to assist me. I knew he was shop-lifting, and I knew I had to stop him. Before I left the store to go after him, I grabbed the attention of the Assistant Manager who was close to the door, and indicated to him that my 'shop-lifter' had just walked through, urging the AM to follow me--but he was too slow. I quickly followed the man outside and yelled out to him to stop, which strangely, and I thought too easily, stopped him. He had made a small purchase, but I asked him to come back inside the store with me, as I wanted to ask him some questions.

He started to argue, " Why should I? What can you do?" He started shouting abscenities at me, and turned as if to walk away. I yelled out, still trying to speak calmly: "Sir, I'm sorry- but I believe you have just left this store with more items than you paid for, and I would like to discuss this with you" The next thing I knew he was throwing electrical items, packets of food and other items at me and the ground. (The Assistant Manager still wasn't anywhere near me for my assistance.) The shoplifter then reached into his jacket and pulled out a large knife and started waving it at me, yelling "Do you want me to use this on ya? I can!Don't think you are going to stop me!" He was yelling and his eyes were flaring. As he was still a bit distant from me, I replied, perhaps stupidly: "Go ahead, you fool. Stab me! That will prove a point--kill me for some stuff laying here on the ground--what kind of loser are you?" He lunged towards me--trying to grab my shirt--I quickly jumped back, yelling "My God! You are a true idiot!" He suddenly stopped and with real anger in his eyes, he just turned and started running. By this time, the Assistant Manager had finally arrived. I yelled "Danny--quick call the police. Get them here NOW!" I then ran after after the culprit, trying to keep an eye on his position.

Within minutes about 4 squad cars pulled up---I yelled out to them, pointing the direction that the culprit had been running towards. They caught him within about 20 minutes. (I didn't have to go to court for that case, apparently he was wanted by the FBI and Department of State).

Now--that was an adventure!

(Footnote to this story - At night-time I was usually being followed by strange vehicles when I left work. I had to resort to driving home in varied routes in order to shake the follower. Sometimes I drove a different car to work so that it would appear I was not there. When I was really concerned, I would be picked up by my Dad for a while--eventually life went back to normal.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Things you may want to earlier years - Chapter 2

In my last blog I mentioned the fact that I had worked for a grocery/department store--don't even know if it still exists. It was called Giant Foods and had been developed from the Benner Tea Company--owned by Charles Fitsmorris--(remember that name)...

Anyway, I first started working for this company when I was 16, and still in highschool. It was a great training company, and as a result I became someone in that store who was confident and really enjoyed my job--I don't ever remembering any negative management issues. At one stage, when Mr Fitsmorris was developing and selling his computerised ordering system to overseas companies, he and a group of Swedish businessmen happened to be in 'my' store--and happened to go through my grocery lane. In those days, regulations were followed strictly, and when he tried to write a cheque to pay for purchases, I, of course, asked him for identification. He was a bit shocked, but handed over his driver's licence. (I always hated doing this process, felt it was an invasion of privacy, but understood why it was necessary at the time.) Anyway, I looked at his driver's license and wrote down the necessary license number details on the back of his cheque. While doing so, I commented that not only did I come from Swedish heritage to his guests, but that this man's name was also the same name which appeared on my paychecks--isn't that the strangest coincidence!

They all stood and looked at me for a few seconds, then smiled, took their purchased items and moved on. I wished them a good day, and cheerfully moved onto my next customer. I did not know that he really was my boss-just thought it coincidental.

Apparently I impressed Mr Fitsmorris, as he made comments to my Manager on how I was to be commended for following store policy regardless of the person in front of me. In the years to follow, he presented me with many good opportunities and always looked after my employability status during the months I was back in my hometown from study at the university. As the years rolled on I would always have a job 'created' for me for the Summer months.

One particular Summer I was the official store security guard, who was responsible for catching shop-lifters. I had a 'spy' room, complete with video cameras and screens, in my special loft above the store, and as I dressed in normal street clothes for this job, I would then walk the floors as a shopper. During this time I caught some very funny cases---but also some very scary ones. My next story will be about one of the scary ones...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"...Start from the very beginning - a very good place to start..." -Chapter 1

A dear friend of mine suggested I supply more background stories about my life and my associated adventures. At first I hesitated, as family and friends had probably heard many of my stories before, but then I decided that maybe there are 'stories' of my adventures that are fun to tell again. So hang onto your hats, we are about to begin this journey!

One story that sticks out in my mind is my interview process for the position of secondary school teacher in Australia. After graduation from university, and while trying to pursue a teaching position, I had settled back into life with with Mum and Dad and was filling in time by working as a security guard in a grocery/department chain store (lots of good stories there!) and then later as an all-night check-out chick in the same grocery/department chain store (again more great stories there!) Then one day, my Aunt Kay phoned me at my parents home, with an interesting proposition. She said she had read about teaching positions in Australia, and told me how to find more information regarding this new adventure!

After investigating, I made an application for the position, and was informed that the interviews would be held in Des Moines, Iowa--the State's capital city. I was a bit nervous about the 3-4 hour drive on the icy, snowy freeways to get there, and after arriving tried to give myself enough time to appear relaxed before going into the interview room. I wanted this opportunity, and entered the room with as much bravado as I could muster.

The interviewing session was held in a large room, with 3 separate interview 'stations'. As I entered the room, two other interviews were quietly taking place at the various tables within the room. However, upon entering, I was welcomed by the two panel members at the table in front of me. I settled into discussion with them and then noticed out of the corner of my eye, that the other interviewees were leaving the room. At some stage it became apparent to me that I was just talking in a relaxed manner with all of the interviewers in the room. The previous interviewers/panel members had settled into my interview station, dragging over chairs to sit down. We talked for a very long time, and the Australian representatives kept stating that with my blond hair and fair skin I would need to be cautious, and aware of sun damage. We discussed living conditions, and what I could expect. As the afternoon was drawing to a wintery close, and the sunlight was disappearing, we all shook hands, and I walked out of the room fully aware in my heart of hearts that I had been approved for this new adventure. It was a wonderful feeling--somewhat scary due to the unknown, but awe-inspiring at the same time. I danced and laughed all the way to my car--I was on my way to Australia!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why I am enjoying this

I was hesitant to start blogging. However, I had friends who were writing their blogs, and I enjoyed reading them. So when I took the first, to me, brave step and decided to start playing with this, I happily sent my blog link out to friends and family, so that maybe they could enjoy some of my thoughts, and maybe even respond.

Some friends have responded with encouragement and have said that they really enjoy reading what I have to say, and that I write from the heart. I have received comments like: 'They are beautifully written. Keep it up.' 'I love it. It is easy to read and says much about your life. Keep going.'

My relatives in the States to whom I have sent my blog link, may be tougher critics. Perhaps they are too busy to take time to read anything I may send. Out of sight out of mind perhaps. However, one of my cousins sent me a message: "You need to fine more things to do do, to stay busy!" (Her exact quote) ..oh well, I have loving family and friends here--and heaps of happy memories.

What this blogging has allowed me to realise is that I do love writing, and it is something I will continue to do--my writing stalled for a while because of personal issues--but I am feeling alive again, and despite any negative comments, I will continue to write in this format or any other perhaps published format that I choose.

I hope my Followers and my Friends will continue to read what I write. When my work appears in other formats, they will be the first ones to know.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Today was a good day!

I have had such a good day today. You know the kind...when you talk with people while in town, and somehow just because you cared enough to take time for others, you know that there was a connection with everyone. Genuine smiles, laugher, and good conversation.

I started off today by finding a good home to give my lowboy Baldwin piano to. When the ladies (from the aged care centre that had cared for my Father-in-law) came to my home to view the piano, I knew straight away that I had made the right decision. My piano will really be used and enjoyed, and I know my 'gift' was really appreciated. We had a good time talking and reminiscing about Jay and his remarkable life, and it started my day with a positive buzz.

My bestest girlfriend gave me a very nice and positive compliment on MSN today--and it is in writing--so I can always look at her sweet words, when I have a need to remember that I do matter to people.

Maddie's boyfriend, Jase, texted me today to say that he was planning to cook dinner and dessert for us tonight here at home. What a great treat for me--meant I could just sit back and enjoy the night--what a nice surprise! He loves cooking and planning new menus and we love tasting his newest creations--I'm working on a dinner party menu that we will both prepare for guests, who can then score us - best out of 10---Come Dine with Me! What fun! Of course, we'll win, as we will be the only contestants! Good idea, huh!

Chris came home from our beachhouse renovations this afternoon, to report that it is really 'looking better all the time'. (You could write a song about that!)

The new deck is almost complete---the wire surround was being completed today--and what a difference. The painted and freshly carpeted rooms are really all working well should make a potential buyer a great 2 storey home to call home!

I know it is all just a combination of small things all strung together--but for me, today was great--I'm glad I was here to enjoy it all!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Umbrella of Secrecy

At one stage, after my daughter Lauren died, and I was at home trying to come to terms with how in the world I could continue living, I had two very close friends who would come out to my home at lunch-times and sit with me and talk, while they made sure I ate food. (Yes, guys, I finally figured out that subtle tactic...)

Anyway, as we all worked in the same area, we established an 'Umbrella of Secrecy' ( which was aptly named - coincidentally, as we sat under one of the large table umbrellas on my front deck).

To date, it has stayed code--and whenever the need is there, we instigate the secrecy umbrella--it is nice to have people like that in your life---not meaning secret and spy-like--but caring and loving--people who are not afraid of the hard times--and will always be there to ensure that life does go on...a bit heavy for this early morning post--but, I love these guys!!