Grief

My mother hates this photo, so now I'm taunting her with it.

My mother hates this photo of me (although she agrees Evelyn is adorable), so now I’m taunting her with it.

I took two of my slow release painkillers this morning, instead of staggering them morning and late afternoon. Normally I skip my late afternoon dose because they make it hard to sleep, but oh, the pain today, and the exhaustion. My ribs are sliding around under my skin like they’ve forgotten what they’re meant to be doing, and my knees ache and the bones slip slide slither around, not quite dislocating, but not feeling right either.

So I took two painkillers at once, hoping it would help – praying it would give me enough pain free time I could be motivated to do something, anything.

All of this would have been fine of course, but I’ve had some weird vague nausea, so maybe I didn’t eat as much as I should have today, which is probably why I felt my painkillers hit about 30 minutes after I finished eating dinner, approximately 10 hours after they were meant to start working.

This is why I’ve just finished hanging extra cold-defying blankets over all the windows (it’s meant to freeze overnight) and making a chocolate ripple cake with nutella cream, and maybe I’m about to go and cut the soap I made today. I’m maybe a little bit manic. However I am still in pain, so I’m not really sure what has been achieved.

Speaking of soap: the recipe today, ooooooh boy. I don’t quite remember it being this tricky last time I made it, but there I was, bashing down moulds and trying to poke all the air bubbles out as the soap set in front of my eyes. I tried to smooth it out, but there’s only so many abominations glitter can cover.

Cinnamon Vanilla soap

You can see the rapidly gelling centre (that’s the dark bit) and the weirdly textured top.

Luckily, the recipe is solid – one I’ve used a hundred times before – and the soap smells AMAZING (cinnamon vanilla), so provided it hasn’t separated in the centre, it should be presentable enough once I get it cut.

Soy wax I ordered arrived today. I seem to remember buying it with candles in mind, but I don’t seem to have bought any wicks, so maybe I was thinking of soap? I don’t know. I’m beginning to suspect our family’s tendency towards ADD did not actually skip me.

Anyway. Soy wax is beautiful because it’s actually 87% stearic acid, which means DUN DUN DAAAA, I can experiment with some beautiful high stearic shaving soaps, and maybe a cream soap or two. I steered well clear of pure stearic acid because it is, of course, derived from palm oil and I can’t very well be a palm oil free business if I sneak it in labelled differently.

Three new fragrance oils also showed up with the wax – again, I forgot the fragrance I intended to buy (French Pear – almost entirely sold out in three markets) and ended up with Grapefruit Lime (also sold out within a few markets, although I have some of the previous batch packaged in plastic still which is available online), Lavender Cucumber, which I must admit is my absolute favourite, and I can’t wait to make a few batches and debut it at markets, because the name sounds off putting, but it has to be the best scent. Sweet and slightly spicy, with cucumber notes and I don’t know, it’s just beautiful.

I also ordered 500ml of Cucumber Water, which is also divine, although strangely it arrived in 5 x 100ml bottles instead of one large one, which I’m sure cuts someone’s profit margins down somewhere along the line.

There’s a week until the anniversary of Nan’s death and I am alternately perfectly okay, and perfectly not okay, in equal measure. The weather is cold, our wood is running low (regular wood supplier has rather inconveniently taken himself off for a holiday in NSW, not that I can blame him) and I still don’t know if my attempts to repair the cracked fireplace has worked or not, as we can’t light the fire for another 24 hours. So, there’s that.

Death makes me scatty. Sadness makes me scatty. Painkillers which don’t kick in for too many hours make me scatty.

In any case, I made some soap, cooked a curry, and have managed to keep all my children fed, warm, clothed (sort of, Evelyn is a nudist in the making) and mostly entertained.

I’m going to call that a win for the next week.

Come on Spring.

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Stories and grieving.

by Veronica on June 16, 2015

in Grief

“Mummy! I need you to make me a bottle! And do my iPad! And read me a bedtime story.”

Evelyn’s bedtime routine doesn’t change much, but sometimes she wants a story and other times she doesn’t. She went through a stage of only wanting the same five books over and over again – new books were thrown at our faces in disgust until they ceased to seem new to her – until I was so tired of the same stories that I quit reading to her.

So I instituted a library policy. Now, every fortnight or so, I take Evelyn to the library and she helps me pick out eight new picture books.

Tonight, I had a full library bag of unread books and we spent a happy ten minutes snuggled, reading new books, while Isaac did his home reading and Amy searched high and low for the library book she was meant to be looking after.

It’s fraught in our house at the moment. Heidi – almost eight months old and bored with the cold weather and indoor training sessions – has taken to delicately stealing books from my lower book shelves and tearing them to shreds.

This is how I know that books make great firelighters, as I was unable to save both a Readers Digest Condensed Books volume which belonged to my grandmother, and a cookbook of supposedly Provincial French Cooking – although I remain dubious about using canned soups in proper meals.

It was a worrying few minutes as Amy wrung her hands exclaiming that she couldn’t possibly find the book she had lost and couldn’t I just do it for her? I finished with Evelyn, and Amy dragged me to her bedroom to “help” her.

I carefully put the bookshelves back in order, smoothing slightly gnawed pages and tucking books into shelves tightly in an attempt to foil the puppy, while I directed Amy to all the places the book was probably lost.

Making her bed, she discovered the lost book, and I discovered my Sara Douglass books, pulled out and tossed aside. Clearly the puppy is not a discerning book chewer – going for the cheap thrills, rather than the intricate world building Douglass provided, once upon a time.

Death is a tricky thing. Sara Douglass will forever live on in her words, her essays, the snippets of sentences will linger inside my head forever. But her chance to change the world any further is gone, torn away by death.

It’s June again, which of course means death is weighing heavily on my mind again. It’s been almost six years since Nan died, and the hole she left will never be full again. The wind whistles through it sometimes, when the days are cold, long, and dark.

I packed the books away again, remembering where each of them came from. My reduced library is cobbled together from my dead grandmother’s books, books I shamelessly stole from my mother when I moved out, books I bought for my children, myself, my husband.

Ninety percent of my bookshelves hold soap now, not books. There’s no room in my house for books. Under the weight of a business run out of my dining room, where can I find places for books? My shelves are filled with cured and curing soap, and the sight of them gives me pleasure also, a reminder of work done and completed, of potential, of love.

But I miss a houseful of books sometimes.

I institute reading times – the lower shelves remain book filled (I can’t have the soap below hip height because dust dogs children toddlers life) and a magnet for a bored angsty puppy who would really be happiest if I stopped teaching her to sit/drop/stay and instead let her chase chickens and cats all day.

And we go to the library, where I can wander in peace, surrounded by the sound of books and happiness.

People will always die, but their stories live on inside us.

There’s peace in that thought.

 

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Mother’s Day Grief and Disability

by Veronica on May 10, 2015

in Grief, Life, Soapmaking

When I was ten years old, my mother had reconstructive knee surgery. I spent the next few weeks helping my father keep my little brother entertained, playing cards with my bed ridden mother, and helping my father with things around the house.

Mother’s Day that year, my mother and my grandmother got together and took me out for lunch, the three of us together.

I can still remember how special I felt, sitting there in the middle of the dining room with my two favourite women.

Then there was dessert. I watched, eyes wide, as another table ordered the blueberry dessert. One scoop of ice cream in the bottom of a parfait glass, covered in a mass of blueberries, and topped with whipped cream.

I wanted it. I wanted it so badly. Blueberries were a rare occurrence in my childhood. Overly expensive for a tiny amount, I rarely got them. I can remember how large the parfait glass looked when they delivered it to the table. A mess of whipped cream and what must of been nearly two handfuls of blueberries in syrup.

I remember that it was almost too much for me, that the three of us shared it in the end. I remember my mother’s face, that she could give me this, that sometimes, blueberries are enough to make up for weeks of her being in bed, going slowly insane with boredom.

Mother’s day is bittersweet for me. People assume because my mother is still alive I carry no grief on a day like today. But my mother and my grandmother together were two halves of a matriarchal whole which brought me up. Today, while my mother is still alive, my grandmother continues to be dead, and I miss her every day. She would have loved my children so, loved her newest grandson, three weeks old and cute as a button. She would have delighted in them.

But she is not here, and so my day is tinged with grief.

So while many mothers across the world are celebrating today, I’d like to take a moment to recognise all the motherless children, and the childless mothers. To everyone who is grieving today, I hope your day is gentle and with moments of peace.

I don’t write much when things are going well. I have limited energy, and I’m expending it all on getting my business off the ground and successful. People underestimate how much work it is, how much time and money gets sunk into a fledgling business.

My creativity has dwindled, caught in the change of seasons and masses of soap to package. My hands and heart are tired and I need to write more, write harder, remind myself that I am doing okay, that things will grow, that one day the business will pay for itself and more. One day I won’t count every penny and add up which bill to pay this week.

Starting a business is a long term plan, not a get rich quick scheme.

Working from home is a beautiful thing, mostly. On one hand, if my EDS is playing up, I can take a nap, work on social media, do label design, research, paperwork. On the other hand, it means I am always working. From the moment I turn on my computer at 7am, to when I switch it off at 11pm, I am constantly tweaking recipes, researching, writing lists, emailing suppliers, marketing.

I don’t stop working, ever.

EDS is an interesting beast, in that I can hold it at bay for a time with good painkillers, diet, vitamins, and adrenaline. But the gates only hold it so long and eventually, if I don’t practise a strict self care regime, I crash and end up spending a fortnight mired in brain fog, with pain the painkillers don’t touch.

So I harvest my energy. I spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of each action. Will this market be worth the four days I’ll be unable to function afterwards? Can I attend this birthday party? What about doing that other thing I want to do?

It’s a juggling act, and it never stops. Sometimes too, events show up at the end of a long month and I just have to say no, I cannot do it. I am too sick, too tired, too broken.

I’ve been making a lot of simple soaps lately, because my hands won’t hold the jugs to do multicoloured swirls. I’m taking pleasure in their simplicity and trying not to frustrate myself over my inabilities.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing. Simple soaps, simple plans, simple ideas.

It’s the small things which get you through the day.

I am looking at my curing shelves and I have lots of soap to package, samples to put together, soap to make. I’m behind on restocks, on marketing, on everything.

But that is life, and it will be okay.

 

 

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Darkness and light

by Veronica on June 24, 2014

in Cancer, Grief, Headfuck

Five years ago, we clustered around a bed in a palliative care ward, waiting. Holding hands, talking, but mostly, waiting.

It didn’t take long in retrospect, although the hours felt interminable, waiting for the next breath to come, the death rattle heavy in the room.

Until the next breath didn’t come and it was over. Months of appointments, of waiting, of saying goodbye over and over, culminated in one sharp moment when it stopped.

And then we all breathed again and had to go on without her. She stopped, but we failed to stop with her, and the hole of her leaving grew bigger as we missed her.

The first sign: wild ducks fleeing, circling frantically overhead like a crowd of mismanaged school children, no one sure where to go next. They hide in the trees and fall silent.

Not a bird in the sky, until we look closer, and see them, circling. Hunting maybe, or courting.

Round and round the eagles go, my eyes spotty from looking up at the bright sky, a cup of tea warm and heavy in my hands. The undersides of their wings glint gold in the sunlight, bright enough to make my eyes tear up as I look away.

We watch until they disappear over the horizon.

The crows return first, flying over, cawing their life loudly. Then the sparrows. A rosella. Our neighbours pigeons.

Life goes on, even with the shadow of death hanging over us.

Forty minutes to make three kilos of soap. Twenty minutes standing outside. Ten minutes reading. Today is broken up into blocks of minutes as we count down.

For a moment, everything will stop.

And then I’ll draw breath again and on we’ll go, into our sixth year without her.

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June has stolen all my words

by Veronica on June 21, 2014

in Grief, Headfuck

After five years, it feels strange to come to this place, here, and talk about grief. About how it changes, and yet doesn’t. About how grief never leaves you, the great whistling hole through your centre never closes right over.

Grief is grief is grief.

Missing someone never quite stops. Things happen and I wish, I wonder, I want.

It’s been almost five years and I don’t have words anymore.

A series of events conspired to send me into a place mentally I haven’t been for a while. I feel raw, the bandaids torn off with no warning. I think about writing and stop. Turn away. Do something else.

Do you really want to write about that? Open yourself up for more judgement?

I don’t know.

I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling like I need to defend my life, my choices, my right to be here.

On Stateline last night, a family of acrobats twisted and twirled through the air, circus tricks and stunt work. They glossed over the fact that the house has no running water, limited solar power, there’s no money. Focus instead on the happiness, the family togetherness, the joy that living an honest life brings.

I watched and I laughed and laughed, feeling a kinship with a family I’ve never met.

How dare we be happy. How dare we choose a life outside of the suburban normal, nine to five, a salary and prospects of more debt to keep up with people we don’t like.

How very dare we.

I can see them, the unhappy people, hiding in the corners here, judging, waiting and watching like a dog waiting to be thrown a bone.

I’m disabled, I have to right to happiness. I ought to be miserable, a loser in the genetic lottery.

But really, I wonder, why does the life of one small Tasmanian family offend them so much?

It’s all tied to grief, to missing, to yearning. Someone came in and stomped around, tore down my walls; my defences. I need a thicker skin.

Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so sick when I think about writing about my life still.

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