Don’t worry if you’re the only one in the audience who got the joke

The audience was full of women including my mum and my piano teacher. The hall was familiar to me. With nearly ten years of daily practice under my belt, nerves were not likely to get the better of me. 

I sat at the piano and began to play. 

Footballers, tennis players, singers and other performers usually get to warm up before they start the main event. Year 12 music students, who are about to perform Chopin on a piano in the local district hall, don’t. 

I struck the first five notes. Chopin died on those keys. My fingers were used to playing that piece. They’d moved along the keys of my piano every day in the same sequence for the past two years. Yet it wasn’t my fingers that were the problem.

The piano played as if someone had stuffed it full of cotton wool. The piano had no resonance. Even though my fingers knew what to do and where to go, I relied on my ears to tell me what came next.

I heard nothing. 

My fingers faltered. 

The music stopped. 

Embarrassed, I began again. I got to the end of the first page of three that were in my head but not on paper in front of me. But no sound reverberated to remind me of what came next. I stopped. I bowed. I left the stage. 

I don’t remember what happened after that, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling of playing on a piano with no feedback. It’s much the same as playing on an electronic piano that has not been switched on. 

A brand new musical

Last night, I went to the World Premier of a brand new musical. From the moment I walked into the foyer I was transported into the 50’s.

I met my family there and we entered into the auditorium–early for a change. The theatre was decorated magnificently. While we settled in and chatted to each other and those around us, characters came and interacted with us. It was such a warm, inviting atmosphere. We could hardly wait for the beginning of the show. 

The show was great. An accomplished band, very talented performers and choreography that enabled anyone to join in the fun, told a story. Though the story lost me a little, so did ‘Cats’ which I’ve seen four times. So that doesn’t signify the level of my enjoyment. 

I can still hear the songs this morning. I can still remember the jokes. I can still remember seeing the faces of the performers as they realized that they were in front of hundreds of people and that it was a good place to be. 

But, from where I sat, it felt as though someone had stuffed the auditorium full of cotton wool. The music resonated around us but was not applauded. The performers urged the audience to join in. 

Nothing. Well, nothing until I clapped as loudly as I could, quickly joined  by my husband and then slowly joined by others spread throughout the auditorium. 

Either the jokes went over the tops of the heads of those around me or the people in the audience thought they were in church. It seemed as though the audience needed permission to enjoy themselves and give back to the performers.  

When I commented on this at the end of the show my comments were not very well received. Understandably, I guess. But having been a stage performer virtually all my life, I know how important it is to get feedback from the audience. If it’s funny, laugh. If it’s good or demonstrates effort, applaud. If you really enjoyed it, cheer. 

The Conductor handed over his baton

Twenty years ago, I went with my children and their pre-school to an orchestral performance in our then-home-town of Memphis, Tennessee. A clown wanted to be part of the show. 

The Conductor gave the clown a chance to play a violin, a cello, drums, a trumpet. None of them at all successfully. 

Then the Conductor handed over his baton. That was even worse. A very obedient orchestra played according to the whim of a very uncoordinated, out of time, clown. 

The clown looked miserable…until the Conductor told the clown that there was a place within the auditorium that the clown hadn’t yet tried. Every orchestra and every performer needs an audience. Without an audience, a performer has no purpose. 

So the clown sat with us, and we all practiced being the audience together.

Maybe that’s what the audience needed last night–Practice at being the audience at the theatre. 

Performers need feedback from the audience. It is what encourages the performer to continue, to try a little harder, to soften their pose if necessary, to know which jokes are funny, to perfect their timing. Performers need us to be brave enough to laugh, clap and cheer – even if we’re the only ones.

Don’t worry if you’re the only one who got the joke. If you laugh, you give permission to others to search harder to find the joy. If you clap when no-one else does, who cares? It encourages the performer. It’s like saying,

‘Yay! Well done! Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this!’

It’s not the last of the performances for this musical. But I really hope that  future audiences relax a little and allow themselves to become part of the performance. 

If not, perhaps the parents of those performers should quit paying for their music, singing and acting lessons, and enroll them all in tennis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How an Icecream Won the War

What our five-year-old daughter wore to school each day had become a battle – so much so, that every morning we’d have another screaming match.

“You will, I won’t … I will, you won’t”.

Every morning at least one of us would end up in tears, and often one of us would end up with a spanked bottom.

One day an experienced grandma advised me to ”choose your battles.” Her wise words encouraged me to take a step back to see what was really happening.

A look from a different perspective enabled me to see that my daughter was trying to assert her independence as a part of growing up. But I was afraid that she was leaving me, so I tried to control her, in every aspect of her life.

Sure, I needed to have my daughter’s respect, but I also needed to show respect to my daughter and allow her to grow up and take on more responsibility and choices as she grew.

***

 

We soon solved the “clothes war”.

We went for our first ever “date” –which became a family custom and we continued with all of our children, individually.

Over an ice-cream, we made a mutual decision: My daughter could choose what to wear from Monday to Saturday.  But I had final say on Sunday mornings and special occasions, and I chose the clothes to weddings.

***

Grandma’s words helped me to realise that if I were to continue to fuss over every aspect of my daughter’s life, there would  come a time when I would really need to “make a point”. Then how would my daughter distinguish between what I believed was really important and what was “just a fuss”?

Ultimately, fussing over little things did not gain my daughter’s respect – just her resentment.

The difference between life and death

Little things like whether her shirt matched her shorts, or how she wore her hair did not really matter in a world where decisions about drugs, alcohol, sex and fast cars can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Saving my “fussing” for those issues that were important helped my daughter learn how to make wise choices.  And as she entered the pre-teens, equipped her to face the “grey issues”. As she grew older, the grey issues became still greyer, but she became more confident in her decision making, having had years of experience.

***

Twenty-plus years after the “clothes war” we still talk about the big and little issues with great respect and much love for each other.  We still have different tastes in clothes, and ice-cream is still our favourite date.

 

First published in The Lutheran

The Elves and the Quilt Makers

 

By Julie Hahn 2017

‘Twas​ ​the​ ​first​ ​night​ ​of​ ​Quilt​ ​Camp​ ​when​ ​all​ ​through​ ​the​ ​hall  

The​ ​shriek​ ​of​ ​a​ ​quilter​ ​stopped​ ​work​ ​by​ ​us​ ​all  

The​ ​quilter​ ​had​ ​sewn​ ​all​ ​her​ ​stitches​ ​with​ ​care

But​ ​her​ ​shriek​ ​echoed​ ​out​ ​‘All​ ​I​ ​need​ ​is​ ​one​ ​square!’ —

The​ ​quilt,​ ​not​ ​yet​ ​finished​ ​to​ ​place​ ​on​ ​her​ ​bed

Because​ ​of​ ​one​ ​lousy​ ​square-inch​ ​of​ ​​that​ ​red!

 

 

Her​ ​dorm-mates​ ​assembled,​ ​each​ ​with​ ​a​ ​night-cap,  

‘Twould​ ​be​ ​better,​ ​we​ ​think,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​took​ ​a​ ​long​ ​nap.’  

So​ ​they​ ​guided​ ​her​ ​out​ ​and​ ​put​ ​her​ ​to​ ​bed  

While​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​quilters​ ​scoured​ ​the​ ​hall​ ​for​ ​‘that​ ​red’.

 

To​ ​their​ ​tables​ ​the​ ​quilters​ ​all​ ​flew​ ​like​ ​a​ ​flash  

Tore​ ​open​ ​their​ ​luggage,​ ​and​ ​​combed​ ​through​ ​​their​ ​stash  

All​ ​hopeful​ ​they​ ​surveyed​ ​the fabric ​out-spread  

But​ ​alas​ ​there​ ​was​ ​not​ ​a​ ​faint​ ​sign​ ​of​ ​‘that​ ​red’.

‘It’ll keep until morning,’ the quilters then said,

‘It’s been a long day so we’re going to bed.’

But while they were sleeping, there arose a great sight

The last thing you’d think of in a quilt hall at night.

Three not-so-miniature elves did appear:

Three quilting elves and their well-used quilt gear.

 

The elves made short work then of checking the hall

For projects unfinished, stashes, threads…and quilt stall.

At last they encountered that problem ‘fore-said

The quilt not yet finished because of ‘that red’.

 

‘Tis a problem, that’s true!’ said the first quilting elf.

‘But I have a solution. I’m quite proud of myself.’

‘She may have run out of the red that she blames

But this block in the middle has a square that’s the same.

 

If we took our unpickers and unstitched with some care

We could just change the fabric to replace this red square.’

With neat, tiny actions, so lively and quick

The elves saved the quilt with their old quick-unpick.

 

‘But now what?’ they said to each other, when done.

‘We’ve hours to go ‘til the rise of the sun.’

So to tables and projects the quilt elves returned

To help one more quilter before they adjourned.

 

And there on a table, some blocks they did spy.

The squares were all muddled so the quilt was awry.

At the end of the night then, the elves solved a muddle

Of pieces kerfuddled like a quilt jigsaw-puzzle.

 

As the first glimpse of daylight appeared from the east

The elves found the place for the last jigsaw piece.

The quilt elves looked over their work with delight.

Their elfing was finished. Good work for a night.

 

When the quilters returned to the hall for the day

The work of the quilt elves they found on display;

No more muddled pieces and no tangled thread,

And no longer a hole for a square of ‘that red’.

 

 

 

If you ever attend a Quilter’s retreat

And your work turns to porridge

You’d best get some sleep.

Though our quilts all begin with do-it-yourselfing

Our problems are solved with communal Quilt-Elfing.

 

 

How To Make A Christmas Birthday Memory

A few years ago, my entire side of the family gathered in Brisbane – to visit our brother and family, and to celebrate Christmas together.  For three weeks our three generations buzzed around Carl and Kylie’s home, shuffled between the airport, car hire companies, accommodation, shopping centres, and everything else that busy families do at Christmas time in and around Brisbane. Chris’s birthday is just before Christmas, so remembering to celebrate it became my special task.

Chris and I with three of our children house-sat in a home that was perfect for our needs. I discovered they had an extra freezer in their garage so I devised a scheme to make Chris a birthday cake made of ice-cream–his favourite type of birthday cake. The house was across the road from a large supermarket, so it wasn’t too tricky to gather the goods I needed, or to hide them in the garage freezer.

Whenever Chris disappeared, I added another layer to the ice-cream cake. The cake had layers of vanilla and salted caramel icecream with frozen raspberries and blobs of nutella mixed through. I even piped whipped cream over the top, just like one of those birthday cakes you buy from the supermarket.

Several days before the birthday, my sister-in-law Kylie and her daughters called in to spend some time with us.

‘Great!’ I said. ‘It would be so much easier to surprise him if you could take it home with you.’ We smuggled it out to Kylie’s car, safely surrounded in its lined cake tin and snuggled in between layers of ice-packs in a $2.99 Coles cooler-bag.

Chris’s birthday was possibly the funnest birthday he’s had for ages, travelling all around the sights of Brisbane. The entire family planned to get together early in the evening to celebrate.  But the timing blew out, as it often does.

During the course of the afternoon, Kylie texted me about several changes of plans. She seemed to be most concerned about Chris’s birthday celebrations. I texted her back – that timing didn’t matter. As long as the cake was okay,  all would be good.

As I arrived at Kylie’s later that afternoon, she and my sister Annie were fussing in the kitchen adding the final touches to the cake. They’d gathered inspiration from a Family Circle magazine and the cake had gone from an almost-like-a-supermarket-ice-cream-cake, to ‘A Christopher’s Super Special Deluxe’ with golden toffee castles towering above crushed Crunchie bars, caramelized pop-corn and Maltezers, all smothered in a rich, gooey caramel sauce. I barely recognized it – but was so very proud and thankful of their extra efforts.

The family gathered and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ Chris blew out the candles, made a wish, and giggles erupted from behind me.

I sat close to Chris while he cut the cake, eager to see the layers. He drew out the first cake wedge.  Annie and Kylie hovered above my head still giggling.  At the moment that we could see layers, they burst into laughter and retreated to the kitchen.

I followed them, put my hands on my hips and didn’t say a word, except perhaps ‘Don’t you want any cake?’

Kylie blushed and pulled a squirmy face.

‘It was such a hot and busy day when you smuggled that cake into the car,’ she said. ‘I dropped the girls off here, there and everywhere, and we got home really late. The next morning I went to my exercise class, and there, on the floor by the front seat of the car was the Coles cooler bag. It had been there all night.’

Despite the near disaster and an extra-hot Brisbane summer, the ice-cream cake was perfect. Every layer was distinct from every other layer. There were nutella blobs just big enough to melt in your mouth in between spoonfuls of ice-cream and the tangy surprise of miraculously-still-frozen raspberries. And the mountain of gold, chocolate and caramel on top covered a ‘meltitude’ of sins.

Hopefully, Kylie realized long ago that all was forgiven instantly–that’s what Christmas is about. We’re really thankful to her for being a wonderful host …and especially for a great Christmas birthday story.

And, especially that Christmas, we were also thankful to Coles for very effective cooler bags.

Oops! And Happy Birthday Chris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Possum, We Miss You

DEAR POSSUM,
Could you please come for a visit?
That little cat that you used to scare off of your territory on our roof is now paying visits day and night. And it leaves its mark on our backyard.
And now, I’ve just turned on the Evaporative Cooler – and it has obviously left its mark on there too! The house smells worse than when your Grandma Possum died in our roof and Uncle Poss died in our wall cavity several years later.
I know we made you feel unappreciated, but could you please come and visit? We’ll even leave some fresh lettuce plants on the roof for you if you like.

Missing you

Julie and The Hahns

A Solo Adventure: Another Way To Leave Your Mother

Number four child left on his first ever solo adventure a couple of days ago. After 27 years of having at least one at home, that was bound to create some upheavals in his mother’s heart. But not quite in the way I expected.

He was supposed to make sure his room was ‘sparkling’ clean before he left.

He didn’t.

Instead, his sister visited and created somewhat of a loving distraction. We left early for the airport, and I didn’t check his room – or even that end of the house, where his room is adjacent to my office.

The next morning, as I went to my office I couldn’t help but notice through his wide-open bedroom door that his room looked like a train-wreck.

So, I did what mothers who are left with a suddenly empty house might do. I ignored my writing and went into his room to do a bit of a tidy–a rare event in this house.

I headed towards his bed to change the sheets to summer-weight sheets. But a grocery bag at the end of the bed stole my attention.  In it were two bottles of Coke.

I hate Coke.

Possibly a remnant of living in Memphis for long enough to discover that a typical Memphis breakfast was Coke and donuts, I have developed an aversion to Coke – much to the disdain of my sons. They know I hate it. They know I’ve banned it from bedrooms. And if they want to bring it here into my house, it’s on rations – like wine or beer or anything that to me should be a ‘sometimes’ thing.

So, grumpy me grabbed the bag, pulled the two two-litre bottles of Coke out of the bag and took them to the kitchen. One of them was full.

Unfortunately, it was the full bottle that I chose to up-end first into the drain of the sink. As the top of the bottle neared the lowest part of the sink, I loosened the cap.

What I probably should have realized was that the Coke was warm. And travelling from one end of the house to the other, it was slightly shaken up. And tipping it upside-down into the sink exacerbated the shaking up process.

But I didn’t think about that until…

Let’s just say that an exploding, previously unopened, warm and shaken up two-litre bottle of Coke sprays E V E R Y W H E R E !!!!!!

I had only just had my shower. But now Coke was in my hair and up my nose; in my eyes and trickling down the inside and outside of my glasses; my shirt was soaked through–my trousers were too.

I dripped all the way down to the bathroom where I had my second shower and shampoo in five minutes.

And then I returned to the kitchen.

WHAT A MESS!

Coke was on the bench and on the walls, all over the ceiling and the floor, over the windows and the door. I returned at least seven times to the kitchen only to find more splashes of Coke over cupboards and utensils up to three metres away.

The walls and everything else is splattered

and my will is shattered.

My desire to clean is diminished.

From now on I’ll make sure

That he closes the door

When he says that his cleaning is FINISHED.

 

Julie Hahn 25/10/2017

 

 

 

LOVE in a Plebiscite: The Argument or the Victim

Those who know me well know that in most things, I can see both sides of an argument. On this plebiscite, I am sitting with one leg either side of the barbed-wire fence. I’m precariously balanced – a change in the direction of wind, a bird that flies past and distracts me, a call for compassion—from either side— or a well-expressed argument contribute to pain in one form or other.

What I wasn’t counting on was how LOVE would be the argument from both sides – Yet LOVE seems to have become the victim.

So, don’t tell me that LOVE is selfish, or love is cruel. That Love has rules that fit one but not another. That love sticks to one person or group’s definition. Don’t come up with your own set of moral standards about love – about whose ideals I should or should not accept. And don’t tell me what my marriage should or should not look like.

Above all, do not tell me that being LOVING is weak – or I’ll know straight away that you have never given birth, nor held your father’s hand as he died, nor held your child’s hand as they fought for life, nor reassured teenagers that they are loved regardless of what their parents have told them, nor held women in your embrace who have been hurt by those who should have been their protector.

Don’t tell me that being loving is weak unless you have held dying children in your hands and their sobbing fathers in your arms; unless you have wandered through wards in the middle of the night to give a cup of warm cocoa, or listened to tales of long ago, or have given a back-rub and a sponge-bath in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t tell me that love is weak unless you have sat in the gutter with real women who desperately want to keep their baby but are forced to decide between an abortion or food for their other children at home.

Don’t tell me that Love is anything but kind, and patient, and selfless, and always wants the best for another.

Because if you tell me that Love makes demands or looks a particular way, or fits within a particular neatly bound book of rules, you do not know Love.

And Love is all that ever matters.

 

 

 

STOP, THINK, ACT: The ABCs of what to do next

I used to give a STOP, THINK, ACT handout to parents.  Initially it was so they could remind kids to STOP, THINK then ACT before rushing into things inevitably got them into trouble.

Later, I tweaked it a little to incorporate feelings. I learnt that before any child can think clearly,  they need to be able to acknowledge what they’re feeling.

Many of the dads came up to me several weeks after their handout  made it onto the fridge in their home.

‘You know that “STOP. FEEL & THINK. ACT” thing you gave us for the kids? It works for me too. It reminds me to stop before I yell or smack. Thanks!’

 

The more I deal with parents, the more I discover that parenting kids involves learning about ourselves in the process.

So, here’s the adultified version of the ABC’s of Stop, Think, Act.

The ABC’s of STOP, THINK, ACT.

How do we continue with life when so many things around us are too horrible to contemplate – but they don’t actually affect us?
When dozens are massacred in a place we know of; When shots are fired at a house on the next block; When lives have been shattered through motor vehicle accidents; When someone else is diagnosed with cancer; When arbitrary decisions made by people who should know better affect families who deserve better; When jobs and the economy are unstable.

We can climb into our shells and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Or we can:

STOP.

FEEL, ACKNOWLEDGE, THINK.

ACT

STOP.

Before you do anything else, especially if it’s going to lead you or someone else into trouble, STOP – long enough to take a breath.

FEEL & ACKNOWLEDGE. THINK & PLAN

What are your feelings?

Are they coming from now?  Are they protecting you and telling you to run for your life or to seek shelter or care for others?

Then fight or flee, or tend and find others to be with. 

Or are they coming from the past? Are they protecting you – or are they paralysing you in panic, causing the child in you to fear something you have never been helped to deal with?  Then make an appointment with yourself to sort through them when you’re out of the current situation. But NOT right now.

But What to do now? Think and PLAN

Identify what is outside of your control. Be aware of it, but hand it over to someone bigger, stronger, wiser or kind for the moment. Pray. Dig down deep and dump it in a place where you can pick it up and be helped to deal with it later.

Worrying about something outside of your control cripples you from doing what you CAN do.

Concentrate on what is within YOUR control?

What CAN you do?

 

ABCs of what you CAN do:

  • A – Acknowledge – ‘All I can do is all I can do, and all I can do is enough’
  • B – Breathe
  • C – Create something beautiful or useful
  • D – Donate your time, talent or treasure
  • E – Encourage others with your words, your presence, your attitude, your actions
  • F – Find help to deal with those emotions from the past

You may not make a big difference in the whole scheme of things,

But you can make an enormous difference in the life of another.

ACT.

Put your plans into action. Take tiny steps forward into doing something positive. And you’ll take your thoughts under control in the process.

Ideas: 

Volunteer in a local op-shop; or Meals-on-Wheels; in a hospital or nursing home; mow a lawn or weed a garden; take immigrants/students for driving practice;  sell sausages for charities at your local hardware store; take a dog for a walk; hang up washing or sort clothes for an overwhelmed mum or dad; hold a baby; bake a cake with a teenager; cook a meal for a neighbour; listen to kids reading in school; sweep up in a Men’s Shed; grow fruit & vegetables for a Grow Free cart; work in a community garden; join a choir; teach a child to play an instrument; make costumes or props for a school concert; edit a newsletter; write to your politician or newspaper; join a quilting group …

Please add your ideas in the comments section below.

 

As adults we have the ability to determine what is within and outside of our control. Stop. Feel & Acknowledge, Think & Plan helps us to remember that we CAN take control of the next moment.

Inspired by: Ephesians 5:15-17

‘Live life then, with a due sense of responsibilitiy, not as people who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. 

Make the best use of your time, despite the evils of these days. Don’t be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord.’  Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage… My response to someone’s post about whether to stick at it.

Twenty years ago my husband and I faced this (decision about whether we stick it out), except that we had both committed to each other for life. We are both really, really, stubborn.
We had a practice of holding hands while we argued–you can’t throw things when you hold hands.
Life was awful for both of us and our 3 kids.

One day, we held hands, and I told him that I couldn’t continue as we were…and I was stuck with him…we could not separate due to our circumstances and our commitment.

We realised that we could continue miserably, or make changes together.

We scrubbed out the ‘d’ word from our dictionary, thus removing exit strategies. And we intentionally laughed and restored positive things into our lives.

20 years later, the changes mean that we’re more in love than we thought was possible. Our 4 kids have grown up in a loving AND FUN home. And we are SO thankful that we were Stuck in a situation we couldn’t get out of, way back then.

Our experience tells us that life can improve. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
But to change together gives more strength to change successfully.