Sunday, August 31, 2008

LJ Comes to Canberra

Bridget brings LJ to Canberra
It was so exciting when we heard Bridget and LJ were coming to Canberra for a work visit. I jumped on the next plane and was able to spend two days with them. Ally had set her home up so we were all very comfortable. I had a quick chat with LJ on Thursday night to catch up on all the gossip from Darwin and he had a little play with Grandad before he went to bed and then on Friday Bridget went to work and ally and I took over.
Grandma and Grandad getting LJ ready for bed.

Grandma Gem had to introduce LJ to Oscar and all the animals in his bedroom.

It was so lovely to see how Dante and LJ just played together as though they were friends from way back! LJ quickly recognized that Grandma was his minder and we become good mates. He got a bit upset if I walked away from him!
Dante and LJ teaching each other how to solve the shape and colour puzzle.
Ally and I took them both to Kid City for the afternoon and we had a hectic but fun afternoon. The boys played in all the areas but I think they liked the balls and the tunnel best. LJ had fun inspecting all the wall in the tunnel but Dante just bulldozed his way from one end to the other.

Dante and LJ in the mosh pit with Grandma.

I was on strict instructions that we had to wear the boys out so they would sleep for the babysitting that night. Ally and I did find time to have our lunch and a cappuccino. I also had to each LJ how to do the Grandma Gem dance that I had taught his sisters many years ago! Dante had learnt last month so he was able to do a good impression this time on his own!LJ and Dante having a great time laughing at Grandma in the ball pit!

LJ loved climbing through the tunnel - especially when he found a friend at the other end!

Billy was so excited to have us all there that he had brought tickets to My Fair Lady. We went and the whole five of us thought it was a wonderful show. We were so impressed with the sets and the costuming. I loved hearing all those old songs again and it was great being out with the big boys after our day with the little boys!! We left Ally’s neighbor Anne babysitting and she did a great job. Bridget, Bill and Ally at My Fair Lady - can you find them?

LJ trying to arrange with me to stay in Canberra.

Next morning we took Bridget shopping and then it was time to get her on her plane for Darwin. LJ was quite happy to stay with Grandma but Bridget insisted he go. He inspected the airport for an escape but finally boarded on Virgin and they left. I hope to get up to Darwin to see LJ and the family in Darwin in the next few months.

LJ trying to see if Joe could help with his airport problems.

Virgin Blue have signed up their next poster boy.

All good things come to an end. I had another day in Canberra and Dante quickly made up for lost time and nearly said Grandma for the first time!! He tried to get me to stay a little longer but finallywhen he saw my packed bags he decided to come to Ballina instead.

Dante trying to get a free flight to Ballina.

I guess Ally and Joe were quite happy to see all the visitors go so they could have some time with Dante themselves!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Lovely Weekend

I love Vera Lynn and a favourite song is her “A Lovely Weekend” from the Hits of the Blitz CD. Bill and I had such a lovely weekend this week. I managed to overcome all my fears of driving and had a pleasant trip on my own to Coolongatta airport where I settled in for a little wait with a good book and some fish and chips. It is only an hours drive but it seems so far away when I start off. Bill arrived and I love to see his jaunty cap and business suit walk in among all the surfboarders! I feel myself relax as soon as I see him.

Arrived safe and heading home

Quality time is our drive home together. We catch up on all the family news, work activities and local gossip from each of our environments. We are both so happy to get home to the Shutters and enjoy all the comforts therein!!

On Saturday morning we had a sleep in and a leisurely breakfast. Bill cooked porridge and planned the day. He slipped in to the Gardenia Room next door to read all the papers for a few minutes while I went to my meditation session with Dympna. Then we headed off to explore the local beaches.

Bill inspecting South Ballina Beach - the South Wall

We crossed the Richmond River in a car ferry and travelled out along the South Wall for as long as we could and walked the final distance to the end of the ‘Wall”. The South Ballina Beach adjoins the South Wall and is a wonderful expanse of open space, gentle white capped waves and creamy sand. It was hard to leave ….but we wanted to see what the fishermen were catching.
We passed a local who had just pulled in a large Jew Fish. He had a few others in his bucket and was just fishing with a little line from the rock wall. I think Bill was excited by the possibility of finally catching one himself.
Billy and I along the South Wall

Saturday evening after picking up Dympna and going to Mass we had dinner with Genie and Laurie – new friends who run a little Bed and Breakfast here. We had a great night and got a chance to relive some of the great gold medals at the Olympics. Gene and Laurie’s son was at the Athens Olympics as a kayaker so we celebrated their enthusiasm with them!!

Enjoying a night out with Gene and Laurie

Sunday we had a quiet morning reading and talking and installing and trying out the new Wii machine that is now attached to my life!! We didn’t like the way it spoke to us – told us we were both OBESE and not very fit – but unfortunately Bill informs me it is here to stay and I need to learn how to make it change its attitude and be more positive!! Wish me luck!!

Mary's new headstone. She loved to dance!!

We drove out to inspect Mary's headstone which had been erected this week. We wandered around the cemetery for a while admiring the magnificent view and feeling lucky to be alive! Probably a common feeling in a cemetery?

We then hurried home to meet our lunch appointment down the hallway with Joe and his family and friends. It was another large friendly gathering and we really enjoyed the conversation with new and interesting people. Joe is 92 and regularly cooks a full roast dinner for up to 12 people on a Sunday. He does a wonderful job and still manages to keep the conversation and wine flowing and lots of laughter. I love it!! It was Bill’s first experience so he is still trying to remember names.

It was then time for Bill’s departure back to Canberra. It was a pleasant drive, reflecting on the weekend and planning the next! The journey seems so short when Bill is in the car, the return on my own always seems much longer. I know I am usually home in my bed before Bill is so I am grateful for that!

This week I am off to Canberra for a few days with LJ and Bridget and Ally, Joe and Dante and of course Bill. We are going to see My Fair Lady on Friday night. We have a babysitter and Ally informs me our job is to wear LJ and Dante out at KidCity in the afternoon!! Bill and Bridget will be at work. Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Family & Friends

Enjoying Dinner at Kaths.

Had a busy week enjoying life at the Shutters and entertaining or being entertained by my family and friends. I thought it was going to be a quiet weekend, time to induct myself to my study discipline and do some serious reading on theology.

Billy and I watching the opening of the Olympic Games.

Then on Friday afternoon Clairie (daughter Claire who is now called Clairie!) phoned and asked if I would like company to watch the opening session of the Olympic Games. Yes, Yes! I forgot I was dining out but I did keep that appointment. I enjoyed dinner with Kath and her friends before running upstairs and welcoming Claire and family about 9pm. We settled in for a good night of TV and then we all went to bed and slept soundly (including Billy) until morning. I took the opportunity to teach Billy how to dance so he could join Dante in some new steps! Next week I will have the opportunity to teach LJ in Canberra.

Teaching Billy to dance.

On Saturday morning I cooked Pufftaloons for them all and watched in amazement as they quickly disappeared from the plate. I used to love Dad cooking us Pufftaloons when I was young. I still find them a real comfort food.
Passing on the recipe for Pufftaloons.

After breakfast Claire and Allan headed for the beach with Jordan and Bill and I set about preparing curried sausages and rice as per request for dinner at home that night. Dympna joined us and we settled in to watch the latest James Bond DVD that Claire had brought down. I watched it till the end but some of the others did not last so long!!

On Sunday morning we all traipsed out to the Macadamia Castle for breakfast. I had wanted to check it out as something to recommend to guests. Breakfast was great and there did seem to be lots to see and do for little ones. The best part for the oldies was the food and gifts shops!!

Some quality time in my study!! Not much study though..

Then on Sunday evening my friends Marion and Graham arrived. We had all done our Leaving Certificate at Darwin High School together. We had an early dinner and then a long evening chatting over old times and discussing how to grow old successfully. In the morning we breakfasted, chatted some more, did a quick tour of Ballina and then went to Shelleys for morning tea before they headed for home in Brisbane. It was a lovely way to end the weekend.Marion and Graham at Shelley's Beach.

Then on Monday night I received a call from Nephew Mark to say he was going for a drive on Tuesday and would like to call in to Ballina for a visit. I encouraged them to stay for lunch and we had another lovely family day. Mark and Tanya inspected The Shutters and the Crowley complex and seemed quite impressed with it all.

Dympna explaining to Ruby that she is her Great Grand Aunt!

Baby Ruby was interested in travelling and being outside but she objected when we expected her to be quiet while we had lunch!! Tanya and Mark seemed to know how to manage her beautifully. Dympna joined us for lunch and she was able to pass on some family history to Mark and we went over to inspect her home and some old paintings of Great Grandad Ryalls property at Ben Vale. I hope they come again.

Mark & Tanya with their little treasure


I have finally taken the plunge and signed up for a Certificate IV Course in Theology. It is an accredited course described as a systematic introduction to contemporary Catholic theology.

My Collins dictionary describes Theology as ‘the systematic study of religions and religious beliefs ‘ – the new course handbook quotes St Anselm as describing Theology as “faith seeking understanding.” I am interested in all that and am lucky to find myself in the situation where I have the time and the inclination to study it seriously. This all means I will have to put some discipline around my time and energy and read something other than the wonderful novels I am devouring at the moment.

Why am I doing this? I have often wanted to understand more fully what the link is between my faith and how I interpret my religion – the Catholic religion; To understand how faith and reason can exist together. I am wholly supported and enlivened by what I describe as my faith. I know my faith has contributed significantly to my positive interaction and enjoyment of life and I would like my children and their children to have such an experience. This course promises to help me understand all that and to engage confidently in theological discussion and reflection.

Side benefits are the participation in group study with some people I really like; gaining the qualification to work in a paid job in a Catholic School or Parish at some time in the future; an opportunity to put my thoughts into writing at some time; and the hope that the discipline of study might stop my brain from its rapid deterioration into jelly!!

It is suggested that the study of Theology will allow me to become “philosophical, long-suffering and magnanimous”. You can be the judge!!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What does RETIREMENT mean??

Our last days at Newland St. - The Contractor and the Retiree

Bill and I considered a lot of things about our retirement. They included:-
When will we retire?
How much money will we need to live on comfortably – and how will we get it?
Where will we live?
What will we do when we do retire etc?

The first question was the hardest – the ‘when ‘question. T hen we fudged the second question because we knew we were never going to have enough money if we wanted to retire in our lifetime!! Where to retire happened by fortunate mishap - or God’s blessing - and we both feel so fortunate to be here at Ballina. However we are still planning ‘what’ to do when we retire.

Family visiting at Ballina

At the moment, having been the first to retire I am avoiding doing too much at all. The roses smell beautiful up here. I certainly didn’t want to retire and be ‘too busy’ for the things I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to take on a lot of things that I would regret later. I had to think about what I did want to do but I wanted to wait for Bill to join me here so we could plan that part together. So I have a plan - to enjoy quietly what I have here, not to get too involved in anything and to be ready to travel where Bill or the kids suggest I am needed at the time. With the recent death of Bill’s mother I am more conscious that my own mother is very frail and I would like to spend more time with her. That is happening slowly.

Sunday lunch in Byron Bay with family.

I want to share my experience of the early days of retirement – still not sure what that word means?? For me retirement meant the time to not have to attend a workplace, to be responsible to someone else and/or to keep to a timetable. It also means not earning money!
My first experience didn’t last long but it was so enjoyable. I think I celebrated the fact that I had finally arrived at the time when we were financially secure enough that I could even consider the idea of retirement!!

Family fishing on the North Wall at Ballina.

It bought the joy of waking in the morning and not having to rush to work; coffee on the verandah just enjoying the view, time to smell the roses and rub the lavender as I hung out the washing; re-learning the art of slow-cooking using herbs I was nurturing in my garden and with rich aromas in my kitchen; there was time to read and listen to music; time to visit my family and friends; time to be with my children - and their children; time to be at the birth of my latest grandsons; time to be more attentive in the evening when Bill and I discussed his work; and time to consider the meaning of life. I loved it.

What did I miss? To begin with I didn’t want to do anything…I quickly fell into withdrawing from most of my social outings, just wanting to be with close family and be home…even home alone. I read a lot of books, had afternoon naps and walked up the mountain to keep fit. Many days I went into town to meet Bill for lunch and every night I went to bed early and slept so well. I would never have described myself as bored but sometimes I wondered if I was depressed??? I based that on the fact that I didn’t want to go out to meet others, didn’t want to join groups etc. and stopped entertaining at home as I used to do. I was so happy just being on my own and waiting for Bill to come home.

Visiting Canberra.

Soon I began to miss my friends at work. I always enjoyed the cut and thrust of office conversation. Mostly my work teams were very intelligent, interesting people and the broad range of ages meant lots of interesting conversations - from the politics of the day to the health policy issues we were currently dealing with or the varied relationships they were experiencing! It was all drama and excitement and I missed that! Obviously we missed the cash flow as well. I found my little super pension was nothing like my generous salary but I think it was an easy adjustment to make – especially with Bill still working and paying all the bills!

Then as I read the paper or ran into someone from work I began to miss the opportunity to deal with issues that I was reading/hearing about. I wanted to discuss solutions for things we should be addressing in some policy situation at work or I wanted to clarify something with someone at work! I think what I really missed was not having the authority/power to just make it happen..anymore!

I had taken the time out to smell the roses and they did smell beautiful. Soon I was offered an opportunity to do some part time contract work with two good friends who I had worked with previously. They were setting up a new organization and I was offered a role that was hard for me to refuse.

I quickly got back into gear and loved the busy-ness, creativity and the challenge of the job, especially as the work environment was so interesting and supportive and I felt my skills were being well utilized. I felt valued. My three month contract there extended month by month until I had to leave after seven months to attend to my new grandsons and an overseas trip!!

After our holidays and tripping around we suddenly made the decision to buy the unit here at Ballina and I was quickly thrust into the packing and moving mode. It was a very busy, exciting if stressful time. Sorting out all my treasures; downsizing from a big home to a unit; planning for a new environment, and farewelling friends and family. I had come to love Canberra and we had made a wonderful group of friends and Ally and Joe had had their first son and we had lots of family time together. That is what I missed most when I first arrived in Ballina, and still do.

Shopping in Ballina - enjoying my Grandma days!

Bill wasn’t ready to retire just yet, and had been offered an exciting contract position with a team he liked which he accepted. He decided to help me settle into Ballina and then he would move in with Ally and Joe and live with them and we would commute between Ballina and Canberra. And that happened.
So suddenly I found myself alone in a wonderful home that I was able to furnish and fit out with all our precious belongings. Bill visits regularly and I make the occasional trip to Canberra. I am establishing a new social group here and have picked up a few commitments in the community. Most of the children have been to visit and I have travelled to Brisbane, Canberra and Perth and a wonderful trip to Darwin where we met our latest grandson Lincoln Jed and our two daughters and their families there. I am feeling very fulfilled and relaxed, happy and loved - but - I don’t feel retired yet??

Canberra is still a special place for us!

There will be more…..if you can persevere as the story unfolds.

The pictures that I missed

Hello Dear Internet, I have had so much trouble for not putting in all the pictures from our very eventful weekend. Here they are now!! So Sorry.

Princess Clairie with little Lord Billy from the court of King William.

My table setting with a special wooden bowl from the Wood's in Canberra and the birthday brolga from Ally and Joe.

Our chinese dinner party after Mumma Mia - for Bill's birthday.

Mum and I celebrating Rose's birthday.