Christmas with the Smiths

By Lynn Elder – A short story

A feel good song.

She moved a hairbrush through her little one’s tangled strands of long auburn hair. Strains of the Wiggles could be heard from the television in the adjoining room as they jumped about singing “Hot Potato.” It reminded Sarah of the holiday concert she took her twins Annabel and Chloe to last Christmas. There was a red, a blue, a purple and a yellow Wiggle. Times had changed, though, with the arrival of a female Wiggle who donned the yellow skivvy.

The Smith family had survived another Christmas yesterday with the extended family present. Every year there was trepidation as to what the day would bring. Peace and joy to the world were not the first words to spring to mind. Her in-laws were not essentially bad people, but Sarah struggled to find anything in common with Fred and Myrtle. They held extreme conservative political views that did not align with their environmentally minded daughter-in-law.

Buying Christmas presents was not an easy task either, and Sarah’s husband Brett was happy to offload the task to her. It was not something she relished because, in previous years, the response to her gift selections was lukewarm, to say the least.

Sarah braved the crowded shopping centre a week earlier as the dutiful wife she was, searching for appropriate gifts. One positive was the elegant gift wrapping that the shops provided, sparing her from another job in an otherwise busy time of year.

Christmas Day arrived with the in-laws on the front step. As was the custom, the grandchildren insisted that they open their presents before the big, cooked lunch. Sarah thought to herself, let us get this part of the day done with. Brett welcomed his parents with big hugs while the twins tugged at his jumper, urging him to hurry up. Soon they were all settled into the sofas facing the brightly decorated pine tree surrounded by presents. The girls squealed with delight on opening their gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. They were still young enough to enjoy playing dress-ups with their Barbie dolls. Then it was like the game pass the parcel as the various wrapped gifts were handed around.

Fred ripped the paper as he opened his present, which revealed a book about vintage trains. Sarah held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Thankfully, he was gracious enough to say he had almost bought a copy for himself recently. One down. One more to go. The sausage-shaped present was in the hands of Myrtle now. She was more delicate in undoing the pretty wrapping paper and the curly ribbon. A long skinny item fell onto her lap being a posh-looking umbrella. Myrtle exclaimed, “Oh, what a lovely but useful present. Living in Melbourne, you never know when it may rain.” She opened it to display the impressionist art of Renoir. Arty but practical, Sarah thought to herself. The reaction was better than hoped for. The gift-giving ritual was now completed. Lunch was still an hour away, so the adults stood up and stretched as the twins played with their new toys.

Fred surprised Sarah when he picked up the blue guitar leaning against the wall in the living room. Brett had bought it for her last Christmas. Unfortunately, looking after two lively twin daughters and running a business from home, learning to play the guitar was not a priority. Chloe and Annabel were distracted enough to urge Grandpa to play a tune. Sarah imagined him playing something akin to a call to arms for fellow comrades. She did not even know he could play a musical instrument. Imagine her astonishment when the girls’ favourite Wiggles’ tune, “Hot Potato”, was played. Before anyone could protest, all the adults were up and dancing with the twins. Sarah and Brett exchanged a hug and a kiss with her husband, shouting over the music, “Best Christmas yet!.”

12 Days of Christmas writing prompt: Using the following random words, write a Christmas, summer, or holiday themed story. Potato, Guitar, Book, Umbrella, Hair brush

Prompt provided by author Melissa Gijsbers.

The Wish List

by Lynn Elder

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 “For Christmas I wanted…,” “Where is it?” “I hate you all!.”

A mop of wayward blonde curls was tossed hither and thither as the little girl stomped her feet in anger. The angelic demeanour of an hour ago was but a distant memory for her parents now.

Sipping on a Yule-tide mulled glass of wine, the older woman winched as she remembered her behaviour from so many years ago. It was like she was born into the wrong family because no one understood her passion and took her seriously. She smiled while surveying the unwrapped gifts beneath the Christmas tree. Now, she was able to tick off her wish list.

One painting easel.

Half a dozen paintbrushes to suit different strokes and mediums.

A collection of acrylic and oil paints.

Blank canvases of assorted sizes.

Sketchbooks for forays into the countryside.

A tin of watercolour pencils.

A box of pastels.

A giant workbook.

A large coffee-table sized book about Renaissance painters.

She turned around at the sound of her daughter’s voice.

“Oh, Mum, Dad and I and my brothers hope we didn’t forget anything on your wish list.”

Her mother responded joyfully, “ I have everything I need now for my painting trip to Italy in July. Thank you so much, my darling.”

  • Day 1 – The 12 Days of Christmas Writing Prompt. Prompt provided by author and writer Melissa Gijsbers.

Dare to dream this Christmas and beyond

To all my fellow bloggers and followers many thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom in a year of many challenges. Regardless of your background or beliefs, Christmas is a sign of hope that there is goodness, love and kindness in a world which can seem devoid of these things at times. How ever you choose to celebrate the 25th December, remember your presence is a gift to the rest of us. Dare to dream that 2022 will be a year to soar above the storm clouds and spread your wings as never before.

The bottle brush is a native flowering shrub found in Australian gardens including mine.

The Decision

By Lynn Elder

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
To stay or leave?
I am torn.
My heart and mind
are at odds.
What is the chance
one whispers,
of fire reaching us here.
The radio crackles.
Emergency announcement.
"If you have not already left,
it is now too late to leave."
Decision made.

This poem was included in a collection of poems published in 2021 as High Country Poets highlighting the works of local poets from Mansfield in North East Victoria, Australia. Proceeds from sales of the book go to the Mansfield Secondary College Welfare Fund.

Horsing around in the High Country

Biscuit and I

I was finally on track to achieve one of my biggest goals and dreams when it all went somewhat pear-shaped. Back in September, I found the ideal horse to build up my confidence again after many years of absence from the saddle. His owner wanted to see how I bonded with him and make sure we were a good match before selling him, which was fair enough. I was upfront that it had been several years since I was riding regularly.
He is a gorgeous 15.2 hands palomino part-quarter horse gelding with a lovely nature and a delight to ride. Biscuit had been used by many a beginner and was soft in the mouth without a hint of pulling. I visited him several times. With the assistance of a curry comb, I got stuck into shifting his shedding winter coat revealing a bronze-like colour beneath. I got to rug him, feed him and watch him being shod. Biscuit is the ideal horse to handle.
We took it slowly to begin with, but we were cantering around the small paddock by the second time. My dream of being a horse owner was about to become a reality. Biscuit and I were working well as a team. I had no nerves while riding him. I joked with my husband that I felt safer on that horse than on our ride-on lawnmower!
After a couple more visits, three of us set out to ride along the grassed roadside near his home in late October. It was a beautiful vista being in the foothills of the nearby mountains and walking past the bushland on horseback. The ground was very wet in places following heavy spring rains, and several small ditches were full of flowing water.
On our return trip, the rider leapt over a ditch on her horse in front of me. So Biscuit and I followed suit. We did this fantastic leap, and his hooves had barely hit the ground when suddenly his backend went up. As I felt the buck beneath me, I remember thinking where did that come from as I tried to rebalance myself. Alas, it was too late, as I parted company with Biscuit and fell with a thud onto the ground below.
I was ever so apologetic to his owner for managing to fall off such a quiet horse. She said it was totally out of character for him, not to blame myself so much. Biscuit didn’t run away, and I intended to get back on thinking maybe I had just winded myself. I held my ribs as I sat on the ground when everything began to swim before my eyes and started to blackout. It dawned on me maybe; I wouldn’t be getting back on after all.
Biscuit’s owner called her husband to come and get me, as I turned as white as could be from the shock. My right side had taken the brunt of the fall with my arm so painful that I couldn’t move it. Back up at the stables, I sat quietly with a bottle of water. I was going to drive myself home, but Biscuit’s Mum insisted that I shouldn’t do that. I let her drive my car, and her husband followed behind to my place.
On hearing the cars pull up, my husband thought Biscuit was arriving at his new home but found his wife in the passenger seat of her car in a world of pain. I found what painkillers were in the house and dragged on my pyjamas. After a terrible night’s sleep and concerns the following day that I couldn’t move my right arm, it was a trip to the emergency department of our local hospital still in my PJs and dressing gown.
COVID restrictions prevented my husband from coming inside the hospital with me. Because I couldn’t use my right arm, he had to put my face mask on for me and learn to use my mobile phone for the QR code required for contact tracing. Finally, I was admitted inside. The nurses found me some strong painkillers before the doctor ordered some x-rays done on-site. I was in so much pain. The hospital staff were worried that my right arm was dislocated, so advised a trip to a bigger hospital over an hour away to get scans.
It was suggested by the staff that I get someone to drive me over there. Since the advent of COVID, our paramedics and other front-line health workers, like many others worldwide, are being overwhelmed by demand. I was loaded up with paperwork to take to the emergency department at the other hospital and a “green whistle” full of morphine to dull the pain en route. A nurse found a triangle bandage to make a temporary sling for my arm. So I go to the other hospital with my husband, still dressed in my night attire. Of course, once again, when we arrived about midday, my husband had to remain outside after we managed to do the COVID-safe check-in. Then more paperwork. The waiting room was full of patients and divided into two with a plastic sheet separating the COVID or potential cases from the rest of us, which I found a bit unsettling although I had recently had my second jab.
Finally, I was taken to another part of the hospital’s emergency section, and the staff did a cat scan of my upper body, including my injured right arm. I then went into a room with other patients, some on beds and others like myself in an upright chair. I had to request more painkillers because the opiates had worn off.
Three different doctors attended me, with one confirming that I had sustained four cracked ribs, a broken scapula (shoulder blade) and suspected nerve damage to my arm. I also learned that the hospital had a three cracked ribs policy which requires hospitalisation of the patient for 24-hours because of the risk of developing pneumonia. Once I convinced the doctors, I understood the risk and had spent the previous night at home after the accident; they allowed my discharge. With several COVID cases presenting at the hospital, I felt it was safer to be at home.
About 5 pm, my husband was able to collect me from outside the main door of the hospital. I had been given some prescriptions, which we then took to the large pharmacy store in the town to be filled. A staff member told my husband at the door that the store was closed for a deep clean following a COVID exposure. The chemist in my hometown would be closed by the time we got back.
I struggled through the night with what pills I had. My whole right side was in so much pain, and the slightest movement triggered spasms. Once I got into a somewhat comfortable position, I wasn’t game to move. My poor husband had to help me out of bed because I couldn’t use my arm and put up with my groans. For several days, he was my wonderful full-time carer, which turned into weeks.
Since then, there have been trips to the local doctor, physio and the hospital for more x-rays. Two weeks ago, I thought I had turned the corner but overdid it because my arm pain flared up badly, and I needed to use a sling again. The doctors recommend only using a sling for about two weeks or so. I am supposed to be doing some exercises to assist in getting more mobility in my arm, which is hard when my ribs are still sore. But almost seven weeks since the accident, and I am slowly starting to feel more like my old self. I still have plenty of work to do to improve my breathing and build up muscle tone in my arm again. I am very weak on my right side and still can’t do any heavy lifting. But I am hopeful that I will be much better soon and able to get back into the saddle again by the early new year. I intend to stay on next time.

Vale Max Stahl, 1954-2021

An exceptional journalist who documented a huge historical event which continues to impact on the Timorese people today. Thank you for your fearless pursuit of truth telling Max Stahl.

Timor Archives

A legendary figure in Timor-Leste’s struggle for independence, the film-maker Max Stahl has died after his own long battle with illness. CHART’s chairperson, Prof. Michael Leach, reflects on Max’s contribution to, and place, in Timor-Leste’s history.

Timor-Leste is in mourning with the news that Max Stahl, filmmaker and journalist, lost his long battle with cancer in a Brisbane hospital on 28 October 2021 .

Stahl’s film footage of the infamous 12 November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, in which Indonesian soldiers killed as many as 250 young Timorese protesters, shocked the world. Coming after the well publicised visit of Pope John Paul II to East Timor in 1989, the footage put Timor-Leste’s struggle for self-determination back on the international map. This occurred just as the Cold War was ending, shifting international politics in favour of the Timorese.

Originally known as Christopher Wenner, Stahl had been a British television host…

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Spring has sprung

By Lynn Elder

Spring has sprung in all its fullness.
A fickle season it brings abundant dampness,
But also cloudless days
Of warmth and soul-restorative sunshine rays,
Coaxing buds from their tight embrace
To bring blossoms and petals in a race
Against the changing seasons.
The daylight hours brightens
As a harbinger of shedding off the cocoon
Of winter sloth to welcome the spring none too soon.

Ruling the world on International Cat Day – August 8

Rambo my fur baby

Well my cat Rambo does on every day of the year and especially during this COVID Pandemic and the numerous lockdowns. We have become a permanent fixture in his world. My world has shrunk but his still offers lots of scope for exploration and patrolling outdoors on our 25 acres when he is not hogging the bed or sofa. He also loves finding other hidey spots just to change things up a bit.

We lost his mate Friskie almost two years ago, so he is a solo cat in our home. At times I call him the world’s most annoying cat when he wants out at 3am! Even on a cold, frosty night we leave the French door in our bedroom open and then later I will find a warm, little body snuggling up in the small of my back. Like us he is craving some warm sunshine to bathe in and when he can’t an electric blanket or a spot in front of the wood fire heater offers a substitute. He is over 16 years old now and feeling his age (he is not the only one). From the time I was a little girl, there were always cats in our home and I always feel bereft if I have to live somewhere without one. I am fortunate that my husband is a cat lover like me but he does have a hankering to be a dog owner once again.

Our pets have been vital for our mental health during these challenging times and deserve our love and proper care for all they give us. Happy International Cat Day to felines everywhere.

Wombat welfare concerns

Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare on Pexels.com

Life is a gamble for many of our native wildlife species in Australia. Wombats are often fatal victims on our busy country roads and have succumbed to the scourge of mange in more recent years. It is believed the mange is spread by introduced species such as foxes and rabbits as well as wild dogs.


Farmers have a love-hate relationship with these animals due to their ability to burrow underground and create cavernous tunnels. Our country house and shed are built on a concrete slab, so they don’t try to dig under our buildings, but neighbours with weatherboard houses on stumps are forever trying to keep them out. City people may think wombats are cute animals but have never seen the damage caused by their powerful digging prowess. They are also nocturnal mammals, so they are out and about during the hours of darkness when most of us are indoors. I often find piles of scats around our property the following day marking their journey.

Suppose you happen to see a wombat wandering about during daylight hours. It is usually a sign that the animal has serious health issues related to mange which is an infestation of mites. They get under the skin of the wombat and cause unrelenting itchiness and loss of hair covering. Constant scratching creates red raw sore patches on their body and in the worst cases open wounds. The loss of hair covering forces the wombat to graze more to keep warm and to come out during daylight hours.

Mange causes this crust to form on the skin of the affected wombat which has been wandering onto our property during the day to graze grass.

Another sad aspect is the impact on their hearing and sight. I have a wombat on my property at present who I can get very close when it is out eating grass during the day. I am careful not to get too close because wombats are wild animals and can get distressed. But I did get close enough to take some pictures and a video as a record of the wombat’s condition.

My husband and I thought we had discovered where the burrow of this particular wombat is on our property. We put some small sticks in the entrance to test this theory. Unfortunately, they remain undisturbed. Other burrows are waterlogged due to the heavy winter rains we are having this month. So we think its home must be on one of our neighbours properties. We had hoped to treat the wombat as per the instructions from the Wombat Mange Welfare website https://mangemanagement.org.au/.

It is not always easy to know when the wombat will be out and about. We have contacted the welfare people to see what can be done. It is heartbreaking to see them suffering this way so we need to encourage more action to eliminate this mange and return our wombats back to full health. Hopefully as more people are aware of this serious issue the more that can be done for them.

I haven’t seen the wombat this week probably due to it being so cold and wet, but will continue to keep an eye out for it. Follow the link to the website to learn more about what is being done to manage mange in wombats

Seen on the rail trail while I was out cycling

Passport to nowhere?

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Given I’m lucky to get out of the state let alone travel abroad, posing for my photo for a replacement passport seemed such a frivolous thing to be doing during a COVID Pandemic. Today, my shiny new document arrived with what I consider the world’s worst passport photo but hey aren’t they all? Now I have a very expensive book with several blank pages that need filling.

I lovingly look at my old passports with pages of stamps of foreign places I have visited and the memories come flooding back. First time backpacker adventures, island escapes to the sun, trips to visit family and a three-month honeymoon on bicycle.

My new passport is good for the next 10 years so I’m hoping to get some good use out of it! Here’s to happy travels post pandemic!

Disruption…the new normal

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

Welcome to day 4 of a hard seven-day lockdown in Victoria. It is the fourth time since the COVID Pandemic started in March 2020 here in Australia. We had managed 87 days free of any new community infections, but now after several weeks of relative freedom, we are begrudgingly resigned to “here we go again”. Vaccine rollout has been slow, and still many of our most vulnerable are still waiting. Today nursing homes are back in the news, sadly, but no deaths at this stage.

I am fortunate that I live in a rural area without any cases but the way people have been moving around the state and interstate as well, it doesn’t pay to be complacent. The central state vaccine hotline for bookings has foundered under pressure, with walk-ups not allowed at most sites. I have heard that our local country town’s vaccine site is booked out until the end of the month!
If you are lucky enough to have a local doctor looking after you, then you can get a jab that way. But for those of us without a local doctor, unless it is an emergency, you could take your chances and travel out-of-town to a bigger centre. Travelling to receive a COVID injection is one of the five reasons you are allowed to leave your home during this current lockdown.

My Facebook memories keep reminding me of where we were this time last year. Not too far from home, I can tell you! But here we are again in lockdown. A week ago, I was busy with many different commitments and activities, and now I am in stay-home mode. At least my husband and I got to celebrate our birthdays and wedding anniversary this year. I did manage a trip over the border to visit my Mum for Mother’s Day this month.

Although we are in a better situation than other parts of the world, constant disruption to our lives seems to be the new normal. Take care all. I’m off to listen to the latest press conference. We had five more cases overnight, which is better than double digits but still infection cases causing concern. It is anyone’s guess if this lockdown will end after seven days.