August began with a bang (my birthday) and we managed to have a number of adventures despite the generally dreary weather. We were knee deep in the ‘building zone’ this month as Tom and Troy, Dave’s school friends, spent hours and hours building us the most beautiful gabled-roof pergola and a multipurpose room with extra storage in the garage. We have grand plans to use the space to connect more with friends and neighbours, as inspired by Sarah Harmeyer of Neighbor’s Table.
Writing was a little slower this month, both on the blog front and with my novel, but I managed to ponder the power of words in the midst of a hospital setting, recount the colourful history of Open House as we spent a weekend away together, process some tough news about Hudson’s development, marvel at the gifts of the universe and celebrate the magic of serenity. The month finished with a not so great day and I wrote my ‘Confessions of a Bad Mum‘ piece in response. It turns out that I wasn’t as alone in the experience as I thought. Five Minute Friday pieces looked at happiness, the power of being lifted up for perspective, a brotherly team and loyalty through the eyes of our dog – Gus.
What I’m Reading
The Long Road Home (Louise Penny)
Another in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, this book was heavily centered around art and the relationship of Clara and Peter. There were interesting elements explored in the human psyche and about what makes incredible art, but I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had the others in the series. Perhaps too much emphasis on the bizarre?
Navigating Early (Clare Vanderpool)
Vanderpool is an exceptional storyteller and I loved this book and the way she wove through threads of different tales. Early Auden is a compelling and lovable character and I was so engrossed in the final chapters of the book that I did not even register that the doctor had called our names. Twice. I came across the book on the What Should I Read Next podcast by Anne Bogel. A definite must read.
The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
This book is a gothic tale, weaving elements of classic fiction into it, such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Margaret Lea is drawn into the life of the famous and colourful author, Vida Winter and her own story becomes deeply entangled in that of the writer’s. A mostly enjoyable read, Setterfield has a true gift with words: “There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith (D.L. Mayfield)
D.L Mayfield is a classic Type 2 on the Enneagram, a helper driven to extremes to craft a meaningful life in the service of others. Her story of awakening to so many sober realisations during her attempts to embed herself into the Somali Bantu community is a beautiful and well-written one. The insights about the love of God, the beauty of seeing everyone as our teachers, and her description of the naively colonialist mindset that tends to drive much of our engagement with those of other faiths and nationalities was very challenging. Loved her conclusions about the mundane and ordinary ministries that make up the Kingdom of God.
The Beautiful Mystery (Louise Penny)
This book will probably get you googling ‘Gregorian Chants’ as soon as you put it down. Set in an isolated monastery in the hills of Quebec, Chief Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir become immersed in the contemplative, musical existence of the Gilbertine monks as they attempt to figure out who killed the world famous choir-master. An interesting read, particularly in light of the author’s notes at the end of her in-depth study into the effect of music on the brain and discoveries in neuroscience.
Moon Over Manifest (Clare Vanderpool)
I ploughed through this book – the story of Abilene Tucker as she is sent by her father to the town of Manifest for the summer. Abilene begins to uncover the stories and hidden history of the town as she becomes intertwined with the enigmatic diviner, Miss Sadie. Vanderpool is a gifted writer, seamlessly travelling between two eras and weaving historical details through the novel with ease.
What I’m Watching
There was a bit to like about this movie, particularly the interesting and quirky characters. It felt a bit depressing at times as though Joy would perpetually have to hold up everyone in her family forever. On the whole, well done, exceptional acting by Jennifer Lawrence and a heart-warming tale of spunk and determination.
The Sound of Music
Our family became a little obsessed by (the first half of) this movie this month. I wasn’t sure whether the kids would be ready for the story and the pace of the movie, but they were absolutely spellbound. I don’t know if it is because they already knew most of the music from bedtime lullabies but they became captivated by the Von Trapp family and the energetic Maria. I loved experiencing the movie as an adult and seeing the story through the eyes of Maria and The Captain. This will be viewed many more times in our future, I am certain.
Surprisingly, neither Dave nor I had ever seen this movie or read the book before, but we loved it. Both of us had tears streaming down our faces at multiple points of the film, and we both appreciated the complexity of the characters and how the line of goodness wasn’t delineated through race. We felt the pain of the help and the indignity of the conditions they were expected to serve under, and cheered along with the people who chose to see (and fight for) value where society told them explicitly there was none. Such a great film.
I know, this one didn’t get great reviews, but we have already seen the first two in the series, why would we stop now? Having not read the books it was a complete surprise to me that there was a world outside Chicago and it was interesting how the characters responded to the new situation and authority figures around them. There was also some interesting commentary about the value of human life in a highly tuned genetic culture. On the whole, a good popcorn movie, maybe not one to analyse too heavily.
What I’m Listening To
Still loving podcasts and I have discovered a few new ones this month.
On Being with Krista Tippett
As always, I find Krista Tippett to be an insightful and illuminating interviewer whether she deals with New Age gurus (Eckhart Tolle ‘The Power of Now’), Zoroastrian Harvard professors (Mahzarin Banaji ‘The Mind is a Difference-Seeking Machine’), theological scholars and poets (Ellen Davis and Wendell Berry ‘The Poetry of Creatures’), Jewish Chancellors (Arnold Eisen ‘The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel’), Zen Hospice directors who only have one limb (B.J. Miller ‘Reframing Our Relationship to That We Don’t Control’), Australian science writers (Margaret Wertheim ‘The Grandeur and Limits of Science’), Immunologists (Esther Sternberg ‘The Science of Healing Places’) or Psychiatrists (Bessel van der Kolk ‘Restoring the Body: Yoga, EMDR and Treating Trauma’). I learned so much about the body and the mind and the power of the elements around us to transform ourselves.
The Road Back to You: Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram
This is a fairly new podcast and I have been devouring all the episodes I can get my hands on. Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile are Enneagram experts, having written a book together which echoes the title of the show. I love their insights and wisdom on all of the types, and I feel like I am getting to better understand those around me each time I listen. The interview format works really well (despite a couple of audio issues) and I’ve listened to interviews with Shauna Niequist (Type 7), Science Mike (Type 9), Nadia Bolz-Weber (Type 8) and Hunter Mobley (Type 2). I’m really looking forward to the interview with a Type 1.
Ann Kroeker – Writing Coach
Still going strong on this great (and very short) show, using the podcasts to spur me on in my writing goals.
Like I’m a Six Year Old with Tom Ballard
I was introduced to this podcast by a friend from Open House and he specifically told me to listen to the interview with Jarrod McKenna. It is a long one, but there was so much gold in that hour, so much so that we are using it as the content for our conversation starter this month. Language warning for those who get offended by that stuff.
Straight & Curly
This is such a practical and helpful show for day to day tips on how to do life better. I listened to the episode entitled ‘Our 10 Best Time Management Hacks’ and there were quite a few great tips in there. Worth a listen.
‘Oh my word’ I’m loving this series with Pete Rollins (anyone who has listened to Rob Bell in the past will get that one). Pete is a philosopher and storyteller (with a very sexy Irish accent) and his way of talking about the framing of God and the universe is mind-blowing. This is a four part series and it is so compelling and interesting, I can’t wait to listen to the final two episodes.
Eli is either neck deep in worlds of his own imagining or enthusiastically playing basketball on the deck. He is obsessed with practicing his dribbling and shooting and will plead with Dave to put on a basketball game, only to dash outside around five minutes later because he can’t wait to practice again. He received a belated birthday present of a Wild Kratts costume from Nanny and Pa and he hardly takes it off, even to the point that he has a special box by his carseat to put the costume into so that he can wear it as long as possible before heading into Kinder. He is growing up so damn fast.
Hudson is his own person, drifting around the house with his newest prize possession – Dave’s bum bag – donning his black sunglasses and singing along to the songs on the Wiggles keyboard we picked up at Savers. We have been avidly focused on his learning this month after getting some news that he has a lot of work to do, but we have seen signs of progress. Apparently anything on a screen serves as engaging and he is more than happy to learn colours and shapes if he can do it on the iPad. Let’s just hope it translates to real life later, somehow.
Ivy is beginning to become very involved in the imaginary games that the boys create and she loves being included, crawling under a blanket in the playroom and pretending to go to sleep when they are camping, and chasing the boys throughout the house. She is very independent and spends ages trying to put on her shoes by herself – refusing to accept any form of help. Ivy is a cheeky girl and she is beginning to warm up to people outside the family, slowly distancing herself from the moniker the ‘Queen of Suspicion’. We sing Sound of Music songs at bedtime every night and she chimes in with gusto when we sing the words ‘sad’ or ‘bad’, waiting with anticipation the entire song. She loves to perform, dance and sing already, and it is even better if she can dress up as well.
The month began with a visit to Holly and Nathan’s farm, a beautiful property in the hills with chickens, ducks, sheep, pigs, quail and even some tiny chicks that had just hatched. Holly is amazing in the way she throws herself into life on the farm, making delicious blackberry jam from the wild berries sprouting everywhere, managing numerous bee hives and harvesting rich, golden, raw honey. She has bountiful gardens providing fresh produce, fresh eggs from the chickens and they have just experienced the birth of six new lambs. We always love spending time on the property – it feels like stepping into a place of peace, balance and beauty. The kids played remarkably well together and relished getting to visit all the different animals. If you are local and interested in the idea of fresh produce you can check out Holly’s Facebook page here.
On a particularly chilly weekend, we trekked out to Ballan with a group of families from Open House for a relaxing weekend away together. We spent the time warming ourselves around the open fireplace, catching up on the Olympics, cooking good food together and visiting the local Farmer’s Market and op shops on the Saturday morning. It was crazy, fun, enjoyable and memorable and the kids wore out all their jeans sliding down the makeshift indoor skate ramp and coming up with imaginative games to play together. So much fun.
It was a beautiful Thursday, unseasonably warm and delightful and I decided to pack the kids up and take them to Healesville Sanctuary. We had such a great time wandering around and discovering cool exhibits and animals. The kids loved the Future Vets play area and Eli got to feed a bird that perched on his hand. To read more about our experience and some discoveries about mindfulness, see here.
After watching all the hard work put into creating our new pergola, we were so excited to be able to hold our first dinner party in the space – an early celebration of Father’s Day and Mum’s birthday. We feasted on Antipasto, a Sri Lankan Beef and a Brinjal curry, and a delectable Apple Tart from Brunetti’s for dessert. It was so nice to experience hospitality under the gabled roof and we have lots of plans to make the space even more welcoming.
As for the rest of the month, it was nice getting to know neighbours a bit better with the Real Housewives of Aspect/Arcadia dinner and other chances to just hang out together. We had some enjoyable dinner parties and coffee dates with friends. The kids were very disappointed to learn that our home wasn’t to be a permanent building site. They have been avidly playing with their tools ever since.
August, you have been filled to the brim with (mostly) lovely memories. Here’s to the warmer weather and the coming adventures of September.