The Reason for the Season

It was just before Christmas, 11 years ago, that Women’s Refuge saved my life.

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The Last Yellow Hibiscus

It’s a day late for Thanksgiving, but I want to just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this flower is.

Yes, after buying another hibiscus (labelled as yellow) which bloomed a vivid, fiery orange, I went to another store and bought the yellow one I’d always intended to get. See, it’s going to be part of the tropical section of my garden. It will tie in nicely with the banana palm, and the gardenias, and the papaya, and the white Bird of Paradise. I’m aiming for a mix of yellows and whites in this garden, which will eventually lead the eye to a big, flouncy, pink magnolia at the far end of this section.

I do have an ulterior motive for picking a yellow hibiscus for this garden – it’s not just about the color match. I used to have a yellow hibiscus, many years ago, which I grew indoors in the bathroom. I remember the last time it bloomed, in the summer of 2005-06. That was such a hard summer for me – what with Bad Boyfriend ruling my life.

He showed a momentary, vocal appreciation for the vivid yellow flowers on my bathroom windowsill. And then one day he killed it. He killed anything that made me happy.

I hadn’t bought another hibiscus up until this spring. Everything in my life has recovered from that bad year, so it was not an intentional avoidance, but when I saw the hibiscus plants in the store a few weeks back I remembered that last one. In a weird way, I wanted a yellow hibiscus to make up for what happened to the last yellow hibiscus.

It thanked me by blooming in the rain. And one day I’ll be able to look out from my dining room window, in Imaginary House, and see it bloom again. And it will make me happy again. Because the future has a lot more flowers to come…

The Things I Carry

Someone asked me the other day about my necklace. Then they apologised and suggested it was too personal a question.

But it’s not. I’m more than happy to talk about my necklace, it’s just that no one ever asks.

What I wear is a silver matchbox on a long chain. I wear it every day and with all outfits. I sleep with it on. I only take it off when I bathe. Usually the matchbox is hidden in my cleavage, so people don’t tend to even notice it. It’s similar to this one, from


The matchbox is hallmarked for 1910, and belonged to my great grand-uncle. He was a pipe smoker, but I don’t use it for matches.

What I keep inside it is mostly rocks. Tiny rocks.

There’s a piece of basalt from outside my childhood home in Flagstaff, AZ. Basalt is one of the most common, most basic rocks on Earth – kind of a building block of both the Earth and the Moon.

There’s a piece of amethyst, which the ancient Greeks believed would prevent intoxication and give you clarity of mind.

There’s obsidian, for protection, and tiger eye, for courage.

There’s turquoise, and a piece of sandstone from the Grand Canyon. There’s iron pyrite from Meteor Crater, which I cherished at the age of 6 because I truly believed it was gold.

Then there’s a poem about a friend I lost in my childhood. There’s a claw from my cat, Turtle. who died 14 years ago. There’s the silver ring that my husband first gave me (which is actually too big to fit my fingers).

What I carry with me is strength and foundation. I carry the memories that keep old loves alive, and the symbol of new love. I carry home with me, and faith, and a sense of the wonder and mystery of the world.

I carry with me everything I need.


Trick or Treat

I’ve never understood Trick or Treating in New Zealand.

When I was a kid in Arizona, part of the fun of Trick or Treating was that it seemed like we walked down the street and knocked on everyone’s door. Nice house, scary house, possibly-empty house – it made no difference. All the neighborhood kids were out in the dark, like gangs of tiny muggers, robbing random adults of their candy. It was a community activity and gave you a chance to meet your neighbors (while dressed as a werewolf or Asterix the Gaul). And before anyone suggests that it was a different time and we lived in a safer community: we lived in a poor neighborhood next to the railway lines, with hobos and drug dealers and semi-regular acts of attempted murder. One of our neighbors across the road (an address I’d visited several times, as for some reason we kept getting their mail) got raided by the FBI for being part of a big-time cocaine trafficking ring.

Yes, it was a different time. We collected a big haul of candy and then went home to check all the packaging for needle marks.

However, there is some kind of weird resistance to Trick or Treating in New Zealand. Part of the resistance, no doubt, is because it’s seen as an American thing and therefore bad and a feature of some sort of ubiquitous cultural avalanche. But part of it, I think, is because people just don’t know how to do it right. They’re terrified of pissing off their neighbors and disappointing their children.

Every year, I see tiny handfuls of kids out Trick or Treating – maybe 2-3 kids per street. They are generally under the age of 10. They toddle down the road dressed as witches or vampires (because nobody here seems to be bored of the scary costumes and chooses to dress their kid as Tinkerbell or a fried egg, yet) and only seem to knock on pre-selected doors on a pre-determined route. Nobody ever knocks on our door, and I suspect it’s just because our neighbors don’t know us and therefore can’t be sure that we’re not child molesters (or cocaine traffickers). The parents direct the kids towards the neighbors they know, just because they know their kids will be safe…

Seriously?!?! What’s the point of that? Trick or Treating actually should be a chance to meet your neighbors in an innocent and bizarrely amusing exchange. It’s the one time that the drug dealer probably won’t pull a gun when somebody knocks on his door, because the person knocking on his door is 3 foot tall and cute and dressed as Humpty Dumpty, and only there to steal his Milky Way bars.

Or perhaps I’m just grumpy because now I have to eat all these Milky Way bars myself…



It’s starting to feel like a really long time ago.

It was the middle of the night in New Zealand. I was rather rudely awoken by my boyfriend’s clock radio at a weird hour of the morning. He wasn’t even there.

Now I had a clock radio of my own – it dated from the late ’80s and was hot pink. It also only got AM, so I just used the buzzer as an alarm. But the buzzer sounded like the drone of a thousand angry bees in your sinuses, so my then-boyfriend decided that he needed something gentler to wake him up when he stayed over. Hence the fact that he had put his own clock radio UNDER MY BED. And the buttons on it were all in Dutch, so I couldn’t figure out how to work it. It had developed the random tendency to just go off in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Which is what it did that night. At about 3am.

…”plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Authorities are warning of the possibility that this is a terrori…” which was about the point that my stumbling hands found it and bashed it back into silence.

Continue reading Distance

I Even Have the T Shirt

It’s officially reached the point of my Mortgage Depression where I must put on loud, happy, very familiar music as I drive home. Like Open Up & Say Ahh…, which was the first Poison album I ever bought and which (thanks to an obsessive adolescence) I’ve listened to approximately 43 million times. Yet it still provides the welcome escape it always did…

Ahh, the 1980s. When their concert turnout was massive and we were all skinnier with a lot more energy. It must be a sign of reaching middle age but it still astounds me that I can talk to a fully grown adult (like a bill-paying, car-driving, married adult) who wasn’t even alive when this video was made. “What do you mean you don’t remember the fall of the Berlin Wall? What are you, five?… Oh wait, you’re twenty-six?!?” That’s about the age these boys were when they made this video.

It also proves that there used to be a time when Bret Michaels would appear in public without a bandanna around his head (did I just say that?).


No Rain

It’s been one of those days where you’ve barely exercised but still just feel knocked around by life.

We’ve been trying to sort out some way to get our mortgage moving forward again. After an entire afternoon on the phone – banks, builders, parents, brokers, more banks – we have out fingers crossed that we have a solution. Maybe. Hopefully. It’s been 95% bad news with only this 5% of “maybe”. It’s starting to feel like we’ve been lied to right from the beginning, and the mortgage we were promised back in February never existed. By the time I’d finished all these calls, neither Rob nor I were hungry for dinner. Both our stomachs are in knots now.

However. Optimism. Everything will inevitably proceed forward because backward just isn’t an option. And so far both Rob and I have a 100% success rate in surviving shitty days.

When I am full up with soulful longing I tend to crawl back to people like Janis Joplin. She was wonderful at capturing the pain of desire.

But perhaps there is too much history there now. She has seen me at my worst times. And I have spent my life avoiding those who can remind me of times I want to forget.

Yet there are many others who understand desire and depression – who lived painfully and died early. I sit quietly and listen to the words. I don’t know why that gives me hope, but it does…

The Power Illusion – A Reprise

12 Women Share The Most Ridiculous Thing They’ve Done To Get A Guy To Leave Them Alone

I’ve written before about the power dynamic between men and women when it comes to dating. It’s not exactly what people tend to think it is. Either way.

As more than a few people have pointed out today, the actions of the women in this story are in fact far from ridiculous and completely reasonable when faced with dangerous psychopaths. But, you know, no one would click on the article if it was titled “12 psycho men and the women who struggled to get away”. As a subject, “Crazy Women” probably draws a wider range of traffic than “Evil Men”. But in this case, the term “Ridiculous” doesn’t really imply humourousness, but rather the insane lengths that are required to ward off people who won’t take no for an answer. Trigger. Trigger Trigger.

Continue reading The Power Illusion – A Reprise

Dog Whistle pt 2

This goes back many years, but I once received an anonymous letter slipped under the door at work. My office had a door to the outside world, so anyone could have put the letter there. I also had no full-time colleagues at that venue – spending most of my working days alone.

The gist of the letter was simple. “I saw you at the supermarket and what you were wearing was disgusting.” “I am the father of three girls.” “You have nice tits which you like to show off.” “You are a disgrace to womanhood and ought to be taught a lesson.” My name was spelled correctly, and this person obviously knew where I worked, so it had to be someone I knew (or at least someone who had met me through work). It also scared the bejeezus out of me. Anonymous rape threats tend to do that.

Continue reading Dog Whistle pt 2

Dog Whistle

As I arrived home from work tonight, our street was pitch dark and quiet. Our street is almost always quiet -a dead end that finishes at the water. I struggled, Bridget-Jones-like to exit the car with my jacket, four bags of groceries, my handbag, and my laptop. And as I locked the car, someone whistled.

I looked around, blindly in the dark, and they whistled again. There are no streetlights. Perhaps someone was trying to get my attention. Perhaps they were calling a dog. I’ll never know.

As I stumbled inside with my load, I told my husband that there was someone out on the street whistling. Quietly, he went out to check the mailbox.

“There’s no one whistling at me,” he shrugged.

It was the perfect response. A reaction but not an overreaction. A slightly comical twist to lighten the tension.


When people are really, really afraid, and you just tell them not to be afraid… I’m not sure that it helps much.

That’s no reason to stop saying it though. Franklin Roosevelt did very well with the “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech. It was a very relevant message then (Great Depression, everyone who still had money suddenly terrified of investing it, which gave everyone less money overall). Economics is weirdly built on intangible things like feelings and belief. But his speech is also an equally relevant message now. Frightened people make very bad decisions.

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