Signs

I believe in signs. You might call them co-incidences or wishful thinking.

It’s my first day in Budapest in 24 years. I’m learning how to live without Zoe. It’s a stiflingly hot central European summers day and I find the cafe in what was once a glamourous department store, with frescoed ceilings and gilded embellishments. It’s a cool dark respite from the blazing sunlit day and I’m drinking a home made lemonade. There’s a grand piano and the pianist starts playing Isn’t She Lovely. It’s the song I would put on and sing to Zoe while I danced around the house with her when she she was a refluxy baby who couldn’t sleep. It’s the song I told her was my song for her because she’s lovely. She replied it was her song for me because I’m lovely. It’s the song we played at the beginning of her funeral. I’m in the right place.

ceiling fresco Budapest Continue reading

A map of Paris

Map of Paris

Paris had always been the romantic city I dreamed of returning to. I had spent just four days there one December when I was 22, travelling on a backpackers budget. Bundled up inadequately against the bone chilling cold, we trudged the streets of the City of Light, admiring the Christmas lights, standing on the banks of the Seine watching the Eiffel Tour light up, drinking cheap red wine, eating from prix fixe tourist menus and seeing as many art museums as we could fit in. The day we left, we woke to snow.

So I was delighted when Zoe started to read and was captivated by the book Thea Stilton and the Mystery in Paris. It follows the adventures of five um… amateur detective mice as they solve the mystery of some stolen haute couture designs while tracking the thief around all of the Paris landmarks. As you do. Continue reading

Improbable gratitude #1000speak

Zoe and one of the anaesthetic technicians

Zoe with one of the anaesthetic technicians, She improbably looked forward to seeing the team every day of her six weeks of radiation.

How can you learn gratitude from something that wreaks havoc, turns lives upside down, tortures children and families with unbearable treatments and choices (that are somehow borne anyway) and takes lives?

On the day of Zoe’s diagnosis, I could never have imagined that I would owe childhood cancer any gratitude. But in a strange and improbable way, I do. Continue reading

Letter to myself as the mother of a newborn

Newborn Zoe

Dear Zoe’s mama, in 2006

I know you know she is a miracle and you love her fiercely. But I know how you struggle every day with mothering. With getting it “right.” When your refluxy baby screams night and day and cannot get the sleep she needs – and you cannot get the sleep you need – you feel like a failure. When listening to her cry feels like the deepest pain, like listening to the little girl inside of yourself cry, and there is precious little you can do to soothe her. Continue reading

The space to write

Notebook and laptop

The physical space I write in is nothing special – usually I just take my laptop into bed or park myself on the sofa, sometimes following the sunny spots around the house like a cat. But the mental space to write in is something else.

If you’re a regular reader, you may notice I’ve written more this year than I have since beginning this blog. Continue reading

Always wear the sparkly shoes; a life lesson

Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz

Here’s how my daughter Zoe and childhood cancer taught me not to wait til tomorrow to wear the sparkly shoes.

At the beginning of 2012, Zoe was excited to be going to Camp Quality, a camp for kids living with cancer. One of the activities planned was a dress up party based on movies. Zoe and her camp companion were going as Dorothy and the good witch Glinda from The Wizard of Oz.

We looked all over town for red sparkly shoes to serve as Ruby Slippers for Zoe’s Dorothy, but there were none to be found. We had to decide what was most important – red or sparkly. “Sparkly” was Zoe’s unequivocal answer. Continue reading