Of books and children

I have lived in Putaruru for a whole year. Sometimes it seems like 15 minutes and sometimes it seems as if I’ve always lived here. It takes a year to ‘grow’ into a new house, you need to find out what the garden does in all four seasons, where the prevailing wind comes from, whether you are happy with your décor and how to cope with the heating and cooling.

This is a gorgeous house in summer. The trees are all in leaf and they sway in the wind and the sun streams down onto the big decks around the house. I have a swing seat and I can sit in it and drink in my view.

It has been a life-changing year in many ways. On the ‘work front’ I have graduated to an author whom people take seriously. I travelled to Europe for research, I wrote a whole book, I went through a long and detailed editing process with it and I am extremely proud of the result. The cover is evocative and haunting. It is called Rachel’s Legacy and it will be released March 1st 2016 with a major launch party planned for March 7th. And PaperPlus, a big bookstore chain here, are taking me on a nationwide signing tour. Even Harpers Australia have committed to get right behind this book. So we shall see what happens…

And of course “Blood, Wine and Chocolate” came out in March and went straight to number one on the Neilson New Zealand Adult Fiction best seller list. It sold very well, it stayed on the list for 16 consecutive weeks. And I took it to a couple of wonderful and hilarious literary festivals. LOVE speaking at festivals and there are some more planned for next year.

I signed a contract for my fourth book, Levi’s War, which will be the third, and last, in the Horowitz Chronicles. It will be a new challenge, a novel in the first person. The story is full of promise and emotion and passion and I look forward to some serious writing in the next six months.

I have launched myself on a health kick. I am on insulin, injected every night and it is levelling out my blood sugars and giving me energy I didn’t know was possible. Early next year I shall have an MRI scan and then a balloon valvotomy to open up my pulmonary valve. I shall be on the path to more years of fulfilling life than I ever expected to have. Which tends to change your outlook on life.

The other part of me that has blossomed this year has been my faith, my church life and what I know now is my ministry. I love St Paul’s in Putaruru. It’s an Anglican/Methodist co-operating parish and it hums with life and the Holy Spirit. The people are delightful and welcoming and I feel at home there. I go to a wonderful weekly Bible study and I do the newsletter for the Sunday services, I sometimes read one of the readings during the service and we have spectacular morning teas (not that I eat anything I shouldn’t).

But the greatest part of St Paul’s is the children. Through the ministry of a wonderful woman called Mary we have been allowed to help so many families. Some people in this town are doing it tough, as they are all over the country, all over the world, and often the children can suffer. They come to us every Sunday and do craft work and laugh and sing and eat! Last Saturday evening was a glorious example. It was our nativity “Messy Church.” My craft table made “Jesus rocks” nativity scenes out of painted rocks – cold glue gunning at it’s best. I was the narrator for the most wonderful, almost impromptu play. Where else would the donkey hold the star over the stable and Joseph have his face painted? Then we all feasted on ham and potatoes and peas and coleslaw, followed by mountains of Pavlova, jelly and ice-cream and huge strawberries.

This morning I helped to wrap and label shoeboxes full of gifts for our children. We will deliver them on Christmas Eve. The parish and the wider community have combined to double the number of shoeboxes we have this year, not to mention the bags overflowing with goodies.

It’s not a hand-out, it’s not charity. It is a parish caring for its own. These families, adults and children, are, as we are, part of the body of Christ.  Some of our farming families have had it tough this year and the parish is there for them too, quiet help and lots of prayer. That’s one of the wonderful things about believing in God. It brings you peace and joy like nothing else, but it also brings you a supportive church family who will be right beside you no matter what.

On Friday it is Christmas Day and two years to the day since my darling Mum passed away. I will celebrate the day with family and then, later, with good friends, and there will, no doubt, be a glass raised to her. I still miss her and I wish she could be part of all that has happened in the last 24 months, but if she was, it wouldn’t have happened. She’s there, she can see and she is happy.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and all the very best for 2016, if I don’t come back here before New Year’s Eve. I never know when the urge to blog will come upon me! It is a time of children, books, cows in the paddocks, a cat asleep on the deck rail, ham and pineapple sandwiches with cranberry sauce and love. Merry Christmas!

 

 

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A Christmas Blog

It’s nearly Christmas and my mind is awhirl with so many different emotions.

I moved from Cambridge to Putaruru about a month ago. Due to a high level of organisation and an award-winning number of lists, the move went very well. Nothing was broken and between the house, a garage and three sheds, everything fitted into somewhere.

This is a sleepy little town about 30 minutes south of Cambridge. People are very friendly, kids grin and say “Kia Ora” to you as they pass you in the street. The local radio station has a great copywriting team, they tell you what to do if your tractor falls down a tomo or a cow makes a banana of your gate and I love the travel agent who voices his own ads and says, “Unfortunately Richard Branson has cornered the market on space travel, but I can book you on a train to Auckland.”

I adore the house I bought and I still can’t quite believe I live here. I have a glorious view of tall trees and paddocks and (sometimes) cows. My neighbour has chickens. The birdsong is constant and fascinating. I love the inside of the house, with all its art deco touches and big windows and light, open spaces. Chloe, my cat, is in seventh heaven. She takes a running leap and climbs tall trees. She disappears into overgrown garden and reappears with a mouse in her jaws. She sits on the rails of the decking and watches the birds for hours, telling me regularly that she could catch that bird if she could be bothered going down into the garden.

There are other cats around and she is slowly educating them to the fact that this is now her patch. Not without some strife. I had to call the on-call vet out on Sunday morning to give her antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory injection because of an impressive bite in her rear thigh. But she has assured me that the other “bloke” came off far worse.

I’ve joined my local church, the parish of St Paul’s. It is alive and dynamic and has a great ministry with local kids. Vicar Jan is wonderful and funny and the congregation are very welcoming. Last Saturday we had lots of local kids and adults for “Messy Christmas.” We did craft for an hour, then dressed the kids up for a very spontaneous Nativity play and then sat down to a ham/lamb/potatoes/peas/coleslaw/Pavlova/ice-cream/jelly feast, crowned by a chocolate fountain and lots of dipping things. I was head to toe in glitter then covered by a layer of melted chocolate.

Last night I went to a singing rehearsal and at the midnight mass on Christmas Eve I am singing with four others. We are singing three songs (none of which I had ever heard before) during Communion and all the congregational carols. This is new for me. I haven’t sung in public/church for a very long time and my voice is still a bit suspect when it gets tired. But I’ll give it a go, because that’s the kind of church St Paul’s is, everyone gives everything a go.

I’ve had family visiting to see me in my new house. Sunday my niece and two great-nieces came and yesterday another niece and two great-nephews came. It was lovely to see them and to share my house, my garden, my food and my joy with them.

Next Thursday, Christmas Day, I am off to Lake Tarawera to spend the day with my brother and all his family. I’ve never spent Christmas at this house and it will be wonderful. I am taking the chocolate fountain and all the dipping things and my great-nephews have offered their services as ‘tasters’ to make sure everything is just so.

For Christmas Day is an anniversary. Last year Mum died on Christmas Day. I am not entirely sure what the day will be like, but I will wake up in a new house and go to church with people who never knew her and then go to the Lake where I never spent Christmas with her. My mind tells me it will be fine, I talk to her every day and I feel her with me every day, so why should this day be any different? Does the passing of a year alter anything? No more ‘firsts’ without her. Next March I will launch my next book and I strongly suspect that that will be harder to do than Christmas Day. I know how much she would have loved this place, but if she were here, I would not be living here. That’s what moving on is all about. The walls of this house are covered in new art, there are new ornaments on the mantle piece and it is all mine, all my taste.

I go out on my deck every morning and I listen to the birds and (sometimes) the cows and the chickens and I breathe in the clear country air and I wonder what my characters will do today when they emerge from their pages. I feel content. I feel very blessed. I feel complete. I live here. Happy, happy days.

Merry Christmas one and all, may you have a safe and lovely holiday, and all the very best for 2015, may your dreams come true and may they be as wonderful as you knew they would be.

Love from
Julie