Toads and Witches and Childhood Angst

When I was a child I had 3 or 4 quite prominent warts on the side of my little finger on my left hand. They disappeared as I grew older, but I can feel them now as I think of it. It was something I was terribly ashamed of, and I despised anyone holding my hand for fear – entirely warranted – they would shrink away, or ask if I’d been touching toads, or scream that I would give them warts. All of those things happened at one time or another, until I was so paranoid that I felt the ‘horror’ of the warts was the only thing anyone could see on my whole hand.

I used to rub them with the thumb of my other hand: not sure why – checking to see if they had gotten smaller, to see if I could rub them away, to focus on my ‘flaws’ because that’s all I could think of – all those things I suppose. I just found myself  rubbing that finger now, unconsciously, even though they have been gone for years.

I tried all kinds of remedies, over the years, to remove them; banana peels, bandaids (to keep out the oxygen), various creams and ointments from the chemist, cutting them out with scissors…nothing worked, and the remedies were frequently painful. The memories of the very specific pain from the cutting, the sight of the blood, the pale, washed-out look of them after removing another bandaid, are very clear, but I can’t remember what ultimately caused them to go. I have a vague memory of a doctor’s implement embedding itself again and again into them, so I suppose they were frozen, but it seems odd that I can remember having them so clearly, but the memory of the removal of them is so fuzzy.

I even hated the word, and I still don’t use it very often (like I’m avoiding it right now). I felt stigmatised, and every time there was a conversation about witches, or toads, or anything else that could be associated, I shrank a little, hoping that no-one would look at me. It seems very silly and overblown now, but I was deeply self-conscious about it then.

Just recently, a close friend and I happened to get to talking about warts and she mentioned that she had had warts in exactly the same place, as a child, and that they, also, had gone away. I was amazed, but even more so when we compared our hands as they currently are, and found a couple of tiny, barely noticeable, warts in, again, exactly the same places as each other.

I have one wart on a finger joint on the palm side of my right hand, that appeared just a few years ago. I often find myself unconsciously rubbing this one in the same way I did as a child, but, this time, strangely, I like it. It’s a quirk that reminds me I’m me.

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Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me: Did you know that on Sunday it’s forecasted to reach 47°C somewhere out in the west of New South Wales, and that will be the hottest place on the planet?

HL: Whereabouts will that be?

Me: I dunno, just somewhere out west, they didn’t mention the place…

HL (masking his American accent with a very broad, ‘put-on’ Aussie accent): Chilaroo? Bullamaridgie? Wubba Wubba?

Me: *silence* None of those are actual places… *silence* But I am glad that you at least know how to make fun of Australian place names…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me: I’m getting something to drink, did you want anything from the fridge while I’m up?

HL: Yeah…um…lemon…um…pob…no…orangely maynoes…

Me: Ohhhkay…

HL: Words not come.

Me: I can see that.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

HL, wandering into the room and picking up a clear plastic bag: What’s this? Where did this come from?

Me: I dunno, probably from out of one of the multiple boxes of ‘new stuff’ that we got for Christmas.

HL: Hmmm…no, I don’t think so…I think I know what it is…

Me: Oh yeah, what would that be?

HL, pulling the bag over his head and grinning goofily: It’s my spaceman helmet!

Me: Well, just don’t suffocate in your ‘spaceman helmet’.

HL: Suffocate? Of course not: spaceman helmets let you breathe…and get dizzy…and see spots in front of your eyes…and turn everything kinda black…

Me: Right, well, spaceman, take your ‘spaceman helmet’ off before you die.

HL: Oh fine…

How To Put Up A Christmas Tree (if you’re an American living in Australia)

1. Look online, in the phonebook, in supermarkets, on farms, in the bush, in the newspaper, and etc., to find a Christmas tree that even vaguely resembles the perfect, purpose-grown, multiple-to-choose-from, Christmas-tree-lot-on-every-corner typical American Christmas tree.

2. Fail miserably on all fronts.

3. Cry a little bit, because the ornaments are gonna look dumb on a spindly, ugly-ass, holey, sad little tree.

4. Buy the best-looking one you can possibly find (in a net, so you can’t really tell what it looks like till you unravel it), and pay $50 for the privilege.

5. Drag the thing home and unload it into the front yard.

6. Smile a lot, and try to convince your spouse that, ‘It’ll look ok once we set it up and put all the lights, and tinsel and ornaments on.’

7. Fail miserably, as your spouse looks at you with upraised eyebrows, and says, ‘Uh huh, right.’

8. Trek into the back of the garage to find a rusty saw.

9. Spend half an hour hacking at the bottom of the trunk so the thing will soak up water through the fresh wood.

10. Stand aside as your spouse takes pity on you, comes outside and fixes your sawing job in 2 minutes.

11. Stand the tree upright in the Christmas tree stand and screw it in as straight as possible.

12. Stand back and examine the tree for straightness and best-angle-facing-the-front-ness.

13. Scream and jump forward to catch the tree as it overbalances towards you.

14. Sigh as spouse walks out of the room cursing the misshapen ‘Charlie Brown’ tree that’s gracing your living room.

15. Spouse takes tree outside to re-evaluate.

16. Shout at each other a little bit to vent frustration.

17. Apologise to each other.

18. Bring tree back in, straighten it as much as possible and decide to live – unhappily – with it.

19. Come back from work the next day to find that spouse has made tree stand upright without the precarious lean.

20. Feel grateful that tree won’t topple over in middle of night and squish cats.

21. Drape tree in hundreds of lights, four different types of garland, and box after box of the ‘fill-in-the-gaps’ ornaments (you know, the plain, round, ball kind…) in the hope that the holes, twisted branches, and spindly-ness will be somewhat concealed.

22. Stand back, look at the tree, and realise that this is a vain hope.

23. Come back into the room a few minutes later to find both cats sleeping under the tree branches, enjoying the lights and the pine-y smell.

24. Trim the tree that evening with spouse, listening to Feliz Navidad, placing the most special, and memory-laden ornaments towards the front.

25. Add handful after handful of tinsel to fill in remaining empty spots.

26. Sit on the couch with spouse, look at the lights and realise that it turned out pretty Christmassy after all. 🙂

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me, to HL, after he had just woken up and wandered into the living room: I can tell you’re still very sleepy, you only seem to be able to open one of your eyes at a time.

HL: Yeah, they’re awake on a timeshare basis…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

HL, after looking in the bag of food we just bought at Red Rooster: Oh crap…

HL, 3 minutes later, back at Red Rooster, to the girl at the register: Look, I ordered AND PAID FOR a chicken roll, but when I got home and checked in the bag it wasn’t there. Can I have a chicken roll, please?

Register Girl: Ummm…sorry sir, how can I know you’re not just coming back to get another one?

HL: Are you kidding me? Why would I drive all the way back, with the rest of my food getting cold?

Register Girl: Well, can I see your receipt?

HL: You didn’t give me one…

Register Girl, to manager she has just called over: Uh, this gentleman says we didn’t put the chicken roll that he ordered in his bag, and he doesn’t have a receipt.

Manager, to HL: Sir, it’s our policy to give receipts.

HL, to manager: Well, I’m sure it’s also your policy to give the customer all of the food that they ordered and paid for…

Manager, to Register Girl: Give the gentleman a chicken roll.

Under Control, Not In Control

I have a perfectionist streak. I think I get it from my dad, who has always wanted to do things ‘right’. It’s something I continually struggle with, the knowledge that perfection isn’t achievable this side of eternity, and, no matter how hard I wish for it, or plan for it, or work for it, or long for it, it ain’t happenin’.

We don’t entertain too much, partly due to my dissatisfaction with our house, our yard, our lack of hospital-grade cleanliness, and etc.; the contrast between the picture that I have in my mind of how it (and I) should be, and how reality (bites) actually displays itself, grates.

So, preparing for having people over is always more of a big deal than I know it should be. I always over-plan, over-provide, over-panic.

This Thanksgiving (which we celebrated yesterday) was a bit different. Yes, I planned a bit more efficiently, and, consequently, was able to paint our spare room and mow our big back yard in the last week, as well as working full-time and fitting in all the ahead-of-time baking and table-preparing and vacuuming and bathroom-cleaning and etc. But, that wasn’t really what was different.

The morning of the day we have people over always looks a bit similar – getting up at a moderately early time, thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m in pretty good shape, I can fit it all in.’, which morphs into ‘Ah…perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.’, which graduates into a slight panic attack about 4 hours before guests are due, which becomes a grumpy, resentful attack on HL when I feel he isn’t ‘steppin’ up to the plate’ and helping, which rises to a feeling of impending doom as the hands on the clock spin faster and faster, inexorably dragging me towards ‘Battle Stations, all hands on deck, take that to the garbage, move those shoes from the hallway, help me with this platter, make sure the cat litter’s scooped out, you know you have to carve the turkey, right?, ‘. Stupid, huh?

Yesterday morning was starting to look a bit like that. I felt a little panicky and out-of-control by about 10.30 (guests arriving at 1.30pm) as I had so much to do, and I said to God, ‘Please, stop this. Make time slow down a bit, or help me to feel like I can manage to get it all finished in time. I’m not in control here.’

About half an hour later I noticed that everything felt smoother, I felt calmer, and I mused to myself, and God, I guess, ‘I feel more in control, I can manage.’ A minute or so later, though, it occurred to me that I wasn’t, in any way, in control, I didn’t have anything in hand by myself, on my own, no matter how hard I tried. More truly, I was under control. When I stopped, for a moment, in my rising panic, and asked God to take the lead, I surrendered my feeble attempts at being in control.

The rest of the preparations, while still busy and a bit crazy, seemed to shrink into proper proportion. Not everything got done perfectly, but it didn’t matter: there was much turkey and wine and laughter and true joy.

Thanksgiving was awesome.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me: This Australian processed cheese in our Thanksgiving celery sticks is pretty good, almost tastes just like Easy Cheese. (This isn’t exactly what I said, more like the gist of the comment, with extra details to put it in context.)

HL, taking a big bite: Yeah, pretty close.

HL, 2 seconds later as he pulls a cat hair out of his mouth: Only with more hair…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

HL, wandering into the computer room with a breakfast sandwich he picked up while out this morning: Mmmm, this sandwich is really good…fresh-made, sausage egg muffin…yum!

Me: Harumph. I had a bowl of Weet-Bix, and you bring your yummy, hot breakfast sandwich in here and make the room smell tasty.

HL, snickering: Oops, sorry. *grin*

Me: Out. Get out. You and your yummy sandwich, get out.

HL (and his sandwich) shamefacedly slink out.

2 minutes later…

HL, plaintively: I’m lonely in my banishment.

Me: Oh fine. Bring you and your sandwich back in.

HL: *grin*

‘I love the nightlife’ – not so much these days, actually

Our Saturday night consisted of Chinese food and Fiddler on the Roof…and I enjoyed it so much more than our staff Christmas party last night (think alcohol, screeching laughter and much estrogen).

Christmas – bah humbug?

Christmas is coming.

Around this time last year I didn’t really want Christmas to come. Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year; the high point of the year’s arc. But, at this time last year, my life felt a bit crappy, and Christmas – the hoopla of it all – seemed so overwhelming.

I’d been working for the previous 3 years at a local software company, and, I say this with no exaggeration, it was the most demoralising, draining, hurtful, undermining, confidence-stealing, soul-destroying employment I have ever had. At the end of the 3 years I didn’t feel like myself; I wasn’t even sure of what my skills and gifts and abilities were anymore. My manager would tell me I ‘wasn’t as talented as I thought I was’, blame me for mistakes he made, set up staff against each other, play favourites, treat many hard-working, honest, loyal, clever, mature, wise, trustworthy, responsible, long-term employees as naughty, deceitful children – worst job I’d ever had.

I lost myself. Depression was always lurking, and frequently close to the surface. The problem was that I was so beaten down that I couldn’t see a way out, couldn’t believe that I would be able to find another job because, apparently, my skill set was so low (read: under-appreciated) that I should just be grateful to have a job.

Inertia was my enemy. I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything, particularly not finding a new job, and, Christmas? Who could be bothered to prepare anything? It was just all too much work. So, I didn’t. I just sat at my desk every day, sinking, and came home at the end of each day and sank into both my couch, and a depressive coma. I couldn’t be bothered to prepare meals, let alone write the annual Caradoc Christmas letter. Any Christmas planning was forced and joyless.

This from a freak who so completely ‘discovered’ her childlike Christmas glee while living in beautiful and Christmas-crazy Seattle, that she shipped back to Australia 4 huge boxes of affectionately-named ‘Christmas crap’, can’t walk past a store with ‘Christmas crap’ in the window without pressing her nose up to the window and sighing wistfully that she can’t own it all, and who normally begins planning ‘Christmas crap’ decorating sometime in October. So, I was dreading Christmas.

And then, a miracle. I was fired. There was a ‘restructuring of the business’ and almost my entire department (a dozen or so) were, ‘regrettably’, no longer required. It was a shock…but it wasn’t. It was scary…but it wasn’t. It was a ‘sucker punch’ to the gut…but it wasn’t. It was a relief…yep, pure relief. My situation had been changed for me, when I no longer had the capacity to change it for myself.

And, at that point, HL didn’t have a job either. So, there we were, heading to Christmas, neither of us working, and I was just so grateful. Christmas was a bit lean last year, but so much more joyful than I had expected it to be.

Both of us, also miraculously, ended up falling into work that is right and appropriate for each of us at this present moment (HL driving cabs, and me working at a school, which I love) and I’m planning for Christmas, joyfully.

Dorkiness Will Out

I was kinda a moderately dorky kid; different enough to be on the dorky side, but perceptive enough to be aware I had dorky tendencies, which, surprisingly, dials down dorkitude.

When I was in primary school there was already clique-iness stirring, even though our class, school and town were all so small that we’d grown up with each other. I was well aware of my social standing – amongst the ‘smart’, middle-classy kids – so when a ‘cool’, rebel girl, from well outside that group, made friends with me, I was pretty stoked (well, I wouldn’t have used the term ‘stoked’, being only 8 or 9, which would have made it about 25 years ago, and ‘stoked’ wasn’t so big then, but you get the emotion). Let’s call her Kelly.

So, when Kelly invited me to her birthday party I understood that she’d gone outside the ‘norm’ to do so, and I felt like my whole social status was on the cusp of morphing into something more interesting.

The day of the party I spent time getting ready, wrapped a carefully-chosen present, and made certain that my mum drove me to the caravan park where Kelly lived, right on time. After Mum parked, she and I walked to Kelly’s caravan and tentatively knocked on the zip-up awning. There didn’t seem to be a lot of activity, which was a bit worrisome, but I figured that maybe I was just the first to arrive.

After a couple of knocks, Kelly’s mum came out to see us, with a question in her voice and a quizzical eyebrow raise. I, haltingly, stumbled out that I was here for Kelly’s birthday, had I got the time wrong?, was I too early?

There was a little laugh from her mum, ‘It’s not till next Saturday.’

‘Oh. I’m sure the invitation had today’s date, I’m sorry to bother you. See you next week.’ And then I hurried my mum back to the car, shamefaced, red-faced, and having lost face. I was hugely relieved that Kelly hadn’t been there – apparently she was at the pool – but also aware that there was no way that her mum would keep to herself what had transpired.

I can still feel the burning, roiling humiliation in my stomach as we drove home, knowing I would have to go to school on Monday and hear about it. I looked at the invitation when I got home and realised that I must have just been excited about going, and not checked too closely, because the date, very clearly, said next Saturday’s date.

When Monday rolled around there wasn’t a lot of joking at my expense, just a bit of teasing, but it was obvious to me that any burgeoning social status change had been shelved, probably due to my clear (to fellow primary-schoolers) display of dorkiness. I don’t recall a lot about the actual party the next Saturday, just a vague feeling of awkwardness, as the reality of spending a few hours with a party’s-worth of ‘cool’ acquaintances manifested itself.

Kelly and I were polite, even occasionally friendly, with each other through the rest of our concurrent schooling, but we never really got past the awkwardness.

Life is Capricious

I love cicadas. When my brother and I were children, we used to collect their discarded shells from the trunks of the many palm trees at our grandparents’ house, and my mum would tell us about the Green Grocers and Brown Bakers and Black Princes. There’s lots of happy memories associated with cicadas, for me.

A few days ago, after days of bucketing rain, I noticed a cicada, upside-down in his water-filled tunnel, vaguely struggling. After walking past, thinking ‘Hmm, poor thing, shouldn’t interfere with nature.’, I decided that it would be such a simple thing to go back and dig him out of his hole and rescue him. So I did.

Yesterday, after coming home from the grocery store I saw a little blob of squished stuff near where the car usually parks, and had a closer look to see what it was. Sure ’nuff…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Poem by HL 

My toys don’t sleep at night
They give me such a fright
Maybe they’re not really moving
Maybe it’s just a trick of the light

My toys don’t sleep at night
And neither do I

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me, to Other Kitten as she’s sniffing around the front tyre on our car: Hey, what you doin’? What can you smell on our car?

HL: She’s got on her ‘vestigatin’ nose…

Travel Nightmare

Sigh, going nowhere
New Zealand trip is postponed
Passport expired

My parents were supposed to be in NZ today. They got to the airport and were informed that my dad’s passport had expired. Fortunately everybody was very nice; the passport office hustled and organised a new passport within 4 hours, and the airline rescheduled their flight for tomorrow morning, so, not too much of a loss, but, boy, that is a literal nightmare for me.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

It’s been quite grey and rainy here, recently, at the tail end of winter.

HL, after driving out from a covered parking lot into unexpected afternoon sunshine: Mother of pearl! What the hell is that?

Me: That? That would be the sun…

Childhood was a long time ago, and far away

Yesterday I was playing around on Google maps, street level, and I had a sudden inclination to ‘wander’ ’round the small town I grew up in. I ‘walked’ past my high school, down to the corner where I used to linger with the boy I liked, along the main street, looking in shop windows, past my church, from my house to the pool… The internal reaction was surprisingly visceral.

I was physically back there a year ago, just driving around with HL and a friend, and it was nice, and a bit nostalgic, but not a particularly deep response. This ‘visit’ was different. I felt almost physically ill from the assault of a million, million early memories. The smell of the chlorine, the pebbly feel of the post office foyer, the coffee shop where I had my first ‘grown-up’ birthday party, the crunch of the gravel under my feet as I walked past the 3rd last house before home, the steepness of the hill that I rode my bike up, the tall gateposts at school I would sit on and swing my legs…

I don’t, in any way, want to move back there, or ‘go back to childhood’ in any way, but the gut-wrenching realisation that all of that is past, gone, not even ‘visitable’, was affecting. The linear nature of living is hard.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me, after HL playfully tried to poke my nose: Hey! You’re not allowed to pick my nose! I’m the only one allowed to pick my nose.

HL: God is allowed to…

Me: Well, I don’t think God really wants to pick my nose.

HL: He picked it once, before you were born.

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