well, they've gone now

Well, sister Betty and her little family have made the move and life is settling back into a more regular kind of groove again. The last couple of weeks were so intense and although I'm sad that they've gone, it's kind of a relief too. In the sense that the actual leaving bit is over. The whole family assembled at mum's place to help convey them (and the luggage that goes with two adults and two small people) to the airport and then we all hung around to say goodbye. Except that Gerard nearly spent the time waiting in the car and being pissed of at the surly airport security because they discovered a pair of scissors in his backpack. Later I found out that my mother's handbag contained not only scissors, but a nail file and a fruit knife, but obviously she looks a lot less like a terrowist. Anyway Cam rang him and suggested he join us, without the scissors, and finally we were all together again and made our way to the departure lounge.

There was lots of passing baby Maeve around for one last cuddle, time to look at the aeroplanes and time for Grace and Ruby to go a bit nuts. When they finally boarded, I took Grace to the window to look at their plane and had a little cry. I didn't think I would cry but there it was. An era had ended and another one  hadn't begun yet. The whole time I've been trying hard to be calmly accepting, to look at the positives but all of a sudden I could only see Grace growing up without her cousins in casual contact, my mum with a lot less to do as a grandmother and me without my sister close by. And all at once it seemed to matter once again that Grace is an only child. Last week at one point I felt angry and pissed off in a kind of non-specific way and started counting other things that were lost to me now: dancing, children that might have been, friends, houses, skiing, a certain lifestyle not really desirable for a middle age woman, youth, blah blah blah. By Wednesday though, I was feeling a lot better about it all and by Thursday was sounding quite positive at my shrink visit. Because, on the whole, life really is going quite well. And I will have to have a holiday in Queensland soon, which is a lovely thought. Like it's not even as if they've moved that far away or to another country.

Still, I've come down with a yucky cold, or rather a cold that I caught when we were helping Betty and Cam pack just hasn't gotten any better. And I've been soldiering on, busy, busy, busy. Work, community (the pool may be under threat again), trying to do some work on my other web sites, gardening, life. The cold was making me super tired and I started finding it hard to breathe, hard to sleep. On Sunday, after coming home with Grace from a butterfly fairy party, I just fell onto the bed and stayed there, awake but unable to move. I didn't sleep well that night and lay there feeling panicky and anxious. Anyway, I decided I needed to take a couple of days off and recuperate. So I caught the bus to a convenient but dismissive doctor (not my usual one who is lovely) who treated me like a fraud but wrote me a certificate for two days. I would have preferred three, but didn't really get a chance to explain why it is such an issue for me to stop sleeping properly. Luckily work were understanding.

I'm glad I took a lot of photos this month. It's taken me ages to sort through them and put them on flickr. There's a whole lot more I'm going to put on disk for the family and friends. At the time it seemed a bit like I should be doing other things, but now they seem more important. Grace really likes them too, she has started to notice things and relate them to what really happened, like in the top one, she said, but we were at gate six mum! I think that's a funny thing to notice, but seems important to her. She also recognises that she took the photo of me and Ruby. I think that's where a lot of the future photos with me in them will come from. Cute.

moving states

This weekend has been a blur of people, of conversations interrupted by children and life. Of drinking it all in and trying hard not to think too much about what's really happening. Next week, that's next week folks, my sister and her family are moving to Queensland. To settle. As in forever. This has been coming a long time, so it's not as if I haven't had time to prepare myself but well, knowing something is going to happen and it actually happening are two very different things. For some reason I'm thinking of childbirth here, but that could just be because I sat around with some beautiful new mothers and their babies.

I overheard Betty say to someone when they commented on how hard it must be for her family, that we were just trying to help and do practical things. And it's true, G and I have pretty much committed ourselves to helping where we can this week. Things like loading the container, car shuffling and child minding. I've also pushed hard to get a flex day so I can help Betty pack up her kitchen. But in all honesty, my motivations are selfish. I just want to be spending time with her and the littles before they go. Doing things together really seems like the only way this is going to happen in any meaningful way.

In between all the fun bits, I'm having the odd moment of being close to tears or tense with a kind of fearful anxiety. None of my immediate family has ever moved away from Melbourne, except as a temporary thing and that was a long time ago. We just don't do that kind of thing. Until now. Although I did actually think about moving to Tasmania when Gerard and I were first together and we thought we might be able to buy a house, but not in Melbourne. Surprisingly (or not) I was more keen on this than Gerard. For me it represented a new life and new possibilities but for him it would have been something else entirely. My family, especially my mum, were aghast at the prospect. Nonetheless we talked about how we would make it work.

This time, it really is happening. I can't imagine what it will be like. On one hand, I'm full of fear that the planned visits will be too hard or too expensive, that I'll never get leave during school holidays (a distinct possibility) and that relationships will slip in the business of life. I know that happens anyway, but Queensland just seems so far away in more ways than one. We'll be living really different lifestyles, the things we complain about will be different. Or maybe not. Then the optimist in me thinks about holidays in the sun, quality time, having them as house guests in our new extended house (and what an incentive to get moving) and talks on the telephone and parcels in the post. Hell, there is even the internet. It could be OK. We just have to move through those big moments of change. Sigh. Breathe.Yep.

not only am I an echincea flower*, I am also a lynx....

Found this over at Frogdancer's, I do love a quiz.... And apparently, although I can't see it myself, I am a pixelated lynx**....

You Are a Lynx

You are a quiet observer of the world around you. Your wisdom comes from listening carefully.

You've always been extra sensitive and aware. And it's made it difficult for you to fit in.

You see past people's outward personas. You are able to penetrate a stranger's soul.

What you've learned about people is both beautiful and ugly. And you keep these secrets to yourself.

What Big Cat Are You?

I would write more, I would read more and go around commenting but I am being head butted by a four year old who has obviously had too much honey on her pancakes this morning. Or something.

*In the last quiz, I was an echinacea flower.
** Despite, or perhaps perversely because of, being headbutted by a small child, I felt compelled to play about with the snippet of code that came with the quiz results, just to see what I could change. Yeah, I know, the things we do to amuse ourselves. heh.

one of those days at work

I wrote this post last night after I had sorted some photos and was still feeling a little sad about work. Not sad in myself, just sad about some of what I see. The kind of sad you feel when you remember how it felt to worry about having enough for the rent or a big bill, constantly pushing money from your next payment around in your head. Sometimes when I am starting to feel all whiny, this job jabs me in the side and reminds me how lucky I am. Despite having had the security and backup of extended family, I can see just how easy it can be to fall from having a home and a life into something entirely different. And some people, because of the circumstances they were born into, or whatever happens later, well, they seem to never have a chance. Leading to lives of struggle and constant interaction with the the government and its agencies.  And I remember very well from my time on the other side of the counter how it felt to deal with heartless, thoughtless or just plain incompetent bureaucrats (but maybe that's another whole post).

So now I am one of those bureaucrats and it does my head in sometimes. Last night I ended up publishing some thoughts (after issues with typepad and windows - they do not like each other at all) and then became all self conscious and pulled the post. Thinking, I really shouldn't write about work. But today I remembered that it is OK. Sigh. Yesterday was one of those days when I just seemed to be seeing sadness and despair all around me. And different kinds of kind of broken-ness too. If people can be described that way.  I had more than one interview where the tissues were out as the queue backed up. Sometimes it isn't right to move someone along, just not right at all.  Luckily the people I work with all understand this (not everyone does, I have met some people with very disturbing attitudes - at other offices) and others stepped in. Later after one customer had gone and I gone out to the tea room to compose myself, I reflected that perhaps one of the biggest challenges a big service delivery agency faces is how to be efficient and personal at the same time. As customers and workers we all want things to be quick, easy and streamlined. Yet there are times when we need someone to be the opposite, to take some time, to listen, to consider our particular and unique circumstances. Not an easy task for either the customer, who doesn't want to be the one holding everything up, or the worker, under pressure and feeling that we all need to be rushing through the work, meeting all those KPIs.

I'm seeing some shifts in the way we do things at work. A softening around the edges perhaps. There has always been a genuine desire to do better by people, especially those that are most vulnerable, but there seems to be a higher expectation that we will. It's hard to put into words, but I feel surer these days that what right minded people in customer service have been instinctively trying to to do for a long time is better supported now. Perhaps it has to do with the change in government as it's been coming a while. I just hope that the good things will not be so bound up in complication that there isn't still a degree of flexibility. And that "help" isn't foisted on people when it's not appropriate. A comment I've heard quite a few times from customers is that the government has spent far too much money on programs or courses that have been of no practical help to them.  And that the only ones to benefit are the providers themselves. It is horrible to think that there is an industry out there that is dependent on poverty and hardship. That said, I hear the opposite too, that there are some really good programs and courses out there.

Today at work, a whole lot of things changed. Australian social security legislation and policy recognised same sex relationships for the first time. There were bins and bins of old forms out in the store room awaiting destruction today. We have new questions to ask people who share accommodation and I asked the questions for the first time today. I was nervous, but I explained the change and that I'd never asked this set of questions before. The customer took it in his stride and gave me some good feedback on how to put things. A new batch of employment service providers have come on line, there are changes to activity test requirements and to what's known as the compliance framework (ie what happens when you don't do what you're supposed to). And everything has a new name and a new acronym. Of course. And while the computer system didn't crash, it was pretty slow at times. Lots of white screen (non) action. And we were light on for staff.  Of course. But tomorrow, my weekend, or home time begins. And  suddenly we are at the beginning of a new financial year and the year is sliding by rather quickly. Before you know it, it'll be Christmas.