Sunday, January 27, 2008

A glimpse into the past ... origins

This is me as a wee child on a swing. I found it amongst my fathers memorabilia (brought tears to my eyes when I asked him if he had anything from my childhood and he brought out a shoebox overflowing with ephemera including photos, graduation leaflets and some of my first published articles - a seriously touching memory in itself). It conjures up a time in my life that is bittersweet. I spent few years with my parents. My father gained custody of his daughter when I was a babe. Not the usual thing, especially in those days and I understand he received a lot of pressure to return me to my mother because "a girl needs her mum".

My Dad today looking handsome and fine for 60.

Poor old dad, he really did treasure me but trying to raise a daughter, hold two jobs and relying on his critical family for childcare proved very difficult. My mother recollects coming to Wellington to pick me up. It was heartbreaking for her because she was a stranger to me, and I screamed all the way back to Auckland (a 12 hour train ride overnight in those days). It is still a very emotional memory for my mother to this day.

THIS IS MY BEAUTIFUL MOTHER - see I told you so. Absolutely stunning. So glad she is still very much a part of my life.

... My grandmother insisted my mother travel to Wellington and 'bring her moko home'. For the remainder of my early childhood I was raised by my grandparents in a small town called Ahipara, on the 90 mile beach called Te Oneroa A Tohe. As Maori it is not unusual for family to 'whangai' children, similar to being a fosterparent but without the formalities. These 7 years were the most stable of my childhood. My grandparents were already retired and their world revolved around me and keeping a house. A post-war couple, they made everything they had. Clothes were reconstructed from op-shop finds, furniture built and repaired, preserves and jams bottled, fish caught and the most beautiful flower gardens in the settlement. I walked for miles over the years along the beach, learned to beachcomb for shells, stones and driftwood; and leftovers from the summer tourists (how we scored our surf label clothes). I was taught to write my 'ABC's" on the sand and could write and read by the time I started school at FOUR years old (yes, four years old -I was 9 years old when I started Intermediate and 11 when I started college). My grandmother had baking days, washing and ironing days, going to town days, garden days, and visiting days. Sunday we went to our Maori Ratana church, a cool 5km walk from home along a gravel road.

My adorable grandmother and I in Brisbane a couple of years ago.

I was my grandmothers shadow. I went everywhere she went. I slept in her bed, I ate when she did, played on the floor beside her and watched her work with her hands in the evenings crotchet, trichem painting on fabric, sewing, darning, ironing, unwinding secondhand jerseys for wool, etc. We loved to trawl the op shops and my grandfather would take us to the tip (rubbish dump) where we would scavenge for treasures. I owned lots of novels, playing cards, ornaments with chips, clothes, high heels. My grandfather gave me some shelves in the garage for my treasures and I am still a gatherer today. This time came to an end and I spent five years with my mum in Auckland. My mother was young, beautiful and lived a full on life. While all my friends mothers were baking and attending committee meetings, my mum was dyeing her hair purple, cutting up her sweatshirts like Irene Cara, wearing stilletos, attending university and going nightclubbing. It was a very bohemian time and we lived in a funky house with black and gold wallpaper. I could decorate my room any way I wanted. Mum would give us kids $5 at the fleamarket and tell us to meet her back at the car in an hours time. I would fill large rubbish bags with cool clothes from second hand stalls, outrageous jewellery, shoes and anything else I wanted. At one time I was wearing a tiger skin fur coat to school with red suede winkle picker boots, a million silver bangles and lace fingerless gloves with crucifix just like Madonna; mini skirt and black net stockings. Some mornings Mum would tell us we were having a "Maori day off" and we would skip school and head to the beach for all day swimming, not leaving until the sun went down and we were shivering. I cannot go to Auckland without visiting Eastern Beach, Bucklands Beach and Mission Bay. I think my desire to give my sons a fun, adventurous childhood was inspired by my mother's out-there approach to life. Who gives a damn about housework when we could be having fun at the beach. Unfortunately the friends she had were not always healthy. I applaud my mum for raising three kids and doing her best to raise us. No easy feat in those days when we were the only Maori family in our neighbourhood. A lot of negative attention with people not wanting their kids to play with us cause we were Maori. In my country, being Maori was to be the underdog, the underprivileged. Basically low class. Even now the prisons are full of my Maori brothers. That is where our fathers are. I ended up in state care as a 'Ward of the State' at 13. This was a dark time in my life. My first and only suicide attempt. A family friend had been taking advantage of me when my mother was away from home (he wasn't the first but the most significant because it triggered a landslide effect in my life). I was an insecure girl, seduced by a smooth talking, good looking man. Eventually I didn't know how to handle the very adult situation I was in. I was lying to try and cover up what was happening but everything caved in on me. I have never felt so lonely nor so in 'survival mode' as I did during this time. The other fosterhome girls hated me because I had nice things. I was always clever and no one likes a know-all. I think because I was a loner with no history, I became a target for anyone looking for a fight. I got tough with my mouth but I was also very afraid and scared inside. I mostly hung out with the English Dept teachers because they were cool, bohemian and treated me like an equal. I met my father again for my first conscious time when I was 14. By that time I was hard, bitter, twisted and terribly insecure. I hated my past and was angry at everyone. I went to live with my uncle Steve and his family. Again because I was already formed, I did not fit in to this established family and struggled terribly with my aunt and my cousins. It was hard for them too. I am grateful they took a chance because it cost them to have me. Its a funny story, my story. It changes each time I tell it, not because I am lying but because the emphasis shifts depending on what is happening in my life. I have spent years as an adult trying to untangle myself from the more negative aspects of my childhood. I am no longer angry although I find myself incredibly moved when I hear stories of abuse and prejudice. I still have trouble 'fitting in' with most things. Most of my close friends are people like myself who tend to be slightly bohemian and walk to beat of their own drum. I like my life now although I find myself being my biggest backer still, I have had to believe in what I do or I would just crumple up and cry. I remember a friend who had a tough childhood say that when her kids were born, it was her chance to create the kind of family she wanted to be a part of. No doubt my kids will be p***ed about the things I do too (cause I make mistakes all the time), but I hope they will also know they are so loved and supported by theMan and I. I know that my passion for creativity and adventure was born in my childhood, as was my empathy for those who struggle with abuse, mental illness, single parents, minority groups and anyone who suffers. I think it's why I became a counsellor. My own desire to help others overcome their situations and learn not just to survive but to thrive.

My own wonderful family - theMan and theBoys in our backyard. You can see a glimpse of the harbour and hills in the background.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Sunday in this home involves my husband and sometimes my children disappearing for the morning service of our church while I take time to reflect, catch up on rest, or bury myself in some form of creativity.

Until recently I was involved in a local church with my family. For five years we have attended, worked hard with and basically sunk ourselves into the fibre of this organisation. However I never really felt I fit. No matter how I tried. No matter that they tried. So I stopped trying because I felt I had to become someone else to gain approval. My fault for not sticking to my guns and remaining authentic throughout but I honestly didn't know differently and every time I stuck my head up, I felt someone else push me back down again. I really wanted to belong. To participate and be a part of something great. Bottom line, I became miserable in church. Weird huh, cause I don't think that is the desired outcome. So I left. No easy thing when I have been singing a certain tune for years and suddenly I want out. But I cannot stay if I am no longer convinced. Conviction is vital and I just couldn't back what we stood for anymore.

I have come to the conclusion that church is not one-size-fits-all. I do not believe that when God talked about church community in the bible, He meant an organisation, a business, nor a corporation. Rather that folk be in relationship with Him, their lives transformed by His Spirit and then effecting the world around them. Our families, our communities, our friends and those we come in contact with. Not forcing it's way onto every given platform, but gently permeating the atmosphere with fantastic lives and a humble, loving attitude for those around us. Respectfully for we have no right to speak into others lives without permission. Without relationship.

It was not all in vain. I learned some valuable lessons about myself, about God and about others. I was definitely a better person for having gone in the first place but it no longer remained a healthy place for me to be. I am not angry just sad that things couldn't have worked out differently. It was such a large part of my life and remains as such for my husband. A shame we never really shared in it together. We had such separate lives in church, his experience being vastly different to mine. He felt supported, inspired and continues because it is helpful for him. I love my husband dearly and I am glad his experience of church is positive. I will always support his wishes and dreams.

Faith is such a private thing. It is not proclaimed through my clever use of words, nor through my works but rather how other people experience me I'm guessing. I have become abhorrent of manipulation - something I watch for in my own life. I must say, I don't believe I am a great billboard for my Heavenly Father. But faith is a given for me. Like breathing. I do not spend every conscious moment concentrating "inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale" but still, I breathe and remain breathing. This is my relationship with God. It just is. I don't need to qualify it, I don't need to advertise it, and I certainly don't always understand it. At best it is a deep sense of purpose and security, at worse it is filled with potholes of doubt. For faith to exist, doubt must also abide I'm thinking.

My own life and my own personal understanding of where I am with God is based on what God says and what Christ did for me. This is where it started for me and for now is enough. It always has been.

Do I want another church? No thanks. I don't think they vary much. And the one I went to is awesome and if I was to do church, then this would be the place. The people are cool, the teachings are great and the purpose is worthy. The pastors are genuine in my opinion. As are the leaders in Auckland. In a personal setting, I loved their hearts. So godly, loving, respectful, NORMAL and generous. Somehow this doesn't translate to the body of the church. It felt legalistic and impersonal.

I don't know how big churches survive. Perhaps people get used to being shepherded like sheep to whatever corner suits the agenda. Perhaps (and I'm hoping so) there is another way of being in church that leaves one satisfied and inspired. If I could find it, I'd probably go back. I am becoming convinced that the church God has formed for me includes all the people I've ever known, those that have loved me and helped me grow and, those who I can love and help grow too.

Well I am praying and reflecting on this one. I know my spirit will not settle until it is satisfied. But thankfully I have a deep peace and this is enough. This is a ramble but given that today is always a poignant one, perhaps that is enough. It is time I cleared out the attic, aired some things and made room for new growth. God willing ...

New Beginnings

A quiet day, perfect for my first post on my very own blog. After months of viewing other wonderful blogs, I have finally found both the time, momentum and courage to create my own space. Apologies as I have yet to discover how to download my photos, which remain too large. Any suggestions as to how I might overcome this would be much appreciated.

So ... after a busy week at a eco-dyeing workshop with Australian textile artist India Flint, I welcomed a quiet day at home with my boys. Why is housework never pleasant? I am constantly at war within myself - to order, sort and clean vs runaway and do something fun instead. I think my creative side wins but alas, the house requires a genie to appear and whip it into shap. I am lucky to live with a man who loves me and can handle my randomness. Nonetheless, the kids still fish for their socks from the 'to be folded' mountain of laundry each day. How does Martha Stewart do it???

Funny, theMan entered the house yesterday with his nose in the air detecting cooking in the air. Unfortunately it was a pot of onion skins and another pot of eucalyptus being prepared for dyeing. Then tonight I asked him to finish the dishes so I could use the sink to wash out my paint brushes. The only time I am happy in the kitchen is NOT when I am cooking or cleaning. Yes, I am constantly experimenting with my art these days. I can't wait to figure out how to upload photos so I can show you my work.

It all sounds merry but honestly, I have a few major decisions to make and I find myself dragging my feet. My spirits fluctuate - four seasons in one day. One moment I am excited with all the opportunities before me, the next I am fearful and scared - mostly aware of my hopes and dreams, coupled with the very real limitations that surround me. Sometimes are me.

I pray for the courage to be honest. To be real. To be helpful and gracious.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all. - emily dickenson