Weekend Wandering: Our Front Yard

Summer has come early.


After a long few months of study, surgery recovery, and hubby on night-shift, we came out of winter hibernation this weekend and ventured out into the sunshine for a weekend enjoying all our gorgeous little community has to offer.

Tucked between Bribie Island and Caboolture, the coastal-village of Beachmere has the charm of any other costal township without all the people or traffic. At low tide the sand and mud flats extend out and provide miles of beach to run and explore. Soldier crabs and worms huddle around the edges of shallow pools, the soldier crabs shuffling away before disappearing into the sand. 


Along the white sandy beach there are shells to collect and drift wood to climb. Then castles or pictures to create in the sand, decorating each creation with seed pods, leaves and the other treasures collected while walking along the beach.

When playing at the beach in the sun gets too much, the Beach Shak Cafe is the perfect place to chill out and enjoying a cold drink, a bite to eat and listen to the live local music on offer every Sunday. Or better yet, grab an ice cream, head across the road and let the kids burn off some energy in the playground, while you relax in the shade.

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Heaven Sent

Baby Emma came into the world on this day four years ago. Although, maybe it was four years tomorrow. No one is quite sure if it was the first or the second of June 2012, only that she arrived very quickly… and that the next day her mother was dead.

Arriving at HOH

I was volunteering at the orphanage the day the tiny baby arrived. Dressed in a purple taffeta dolls dress that was too big for her little limbs and wrapped neatly in a chitenje and big blue blanket. Her father had ridden for eight hours, with his mother sitting on the back of the bicycle holding Emma, to come and ask for help. Emma was twelve days old. Her family could not get her to drink the cow’s milk that one of their neighbours in the village shared with them. They could not afford formula. Sitting in Agogo’s lounge room opposite the grieving family and sleeping baby, I was brought to tears. And it was in this moment, as the cliché goes, my life changed forever.

The arrival of little Emma signaled a shift in my understanding of some of the issues faced in Malawi. It cemented my relationship with the orphanage and the vision that one day these children might not end up in an orphanage, instead living their days with their family because their parents weren’t dying from illness, child-birth, malnutrition or disease. The arrival of Emma also brought a purpose back to my life. For the first few days of her arrival she was in my care, until we could arrange another caregiver for her. The first 24 hours were touch and go. She slept almost the entire time and was barely taking in any formula. After twelve days of life she weighed less than 1.5kg. One afternoon, while struggling to feed Emma, my sister suggested using a syringe. We filled it up to 5mL and squirted 1mL in her mouth. She cried out and in doing so gulped the liquid down. We did it again. And finally she latched her little lips around the syringe and guzzled the entire 5mL.

Bath time

Curling up with Emma that night in bed, the smell of soap and milk lingering on her skin, I listened to her breathing. Unable to sleep, in case the soft little puffs of air suddenly stopped. My heart ached. It ached for the loss of a mother who would never see her baby grow up. It ached for a little baby who might not survive until the morning. It ached for all the children I’d met and spent time with at the orphanage who shared a similar story to Emma, or in some cases, far more horrific stories of their own arrival into the world.

That night, my heart also ached for myself. As the intricacies of my life were thrust into the spotlight of my consciousness to finally start to deal with, I realized that I needed to care about something again. I’d fallen off the rails at home: I’d left a few relationships in the space of a couple of years; been in a domestic violence situation; I’d lost an incredible friend to a plane crash; and I drank enough everyday to keep the grief, hurt and memories at bay. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the most pleasant drunk person either. I’d turned into someone I no longer recognized and I couldn’t stand the person I’d become.

Another favourite chill out spot

Maybe Agogo had sensed this and that was his reason for bringing little Emma and I together. Maybe it was God. Or the universe. Or whatever greater force it is that is out there orchestrating these moments that ultimately change our lives. Whatever it was, I’m grateful for it. I am grateful that four years on Emma is healthy and happy and loving life.

Emma 3 years

While we live in different countries, and I don’t get to visit as often as I did in her first two years of life, Emma and I will forever be linked. She may not realize it yet, and every time I do visit I have to work to regain her friendship and trust, but Emma inspired a dream that will, one day, improve the lives for lots of other babies and children in Malawi. Each year a team of dedicated people, that grows daily, come together to change the lives of women and children in Malawi. Firstly, through the sewing project to teach secondary school graduates sewing skills that could allow them to generate income, which led to the sanitary pad project, and now the Emergency Baby Home. Each step has been devised in partnership with the young women of the orphanage, providing them with support to make the choices in their lives. The Emergency Baby Care Home is not just a place for orphaned babies to live, as ultimately the next generation of young women would like to live for a long time and watch their children grow old. It’s a safe space for women to meet, to learn about pre-natal and ante-natal care, nutrition and health for women, and baby care. It’s a safe space for babies whose mothers perhaps cannot look after them because the mother needs support and care herself or the baby comes from a particularly vulnerable situation and requires high-needs care.

By the time Emma grows up, hopefully she will have the opportunity to choose for herself how the rest of her story goes. Hopefully she will be educated and able to step up and question the choices available to her. Deciding what is best for her future and re-writing her families ending, so that she too doesn’t die in child-birth leaving a baby motherless in this world.

Emma 19 months

Happy 4th birthday Emma. May your life continue to shine brightly upon this world. xx

If you would like to help mothers in Malawi to live long and healthy lives, or babies – like Emma – in emergency situations please consider donating to the Emergency Baby Care Home fundraising campaign.

em and em

Weekend Wandering: Bribie Island

Dear parents everywhere,

I salute you! You guys are the most amazing people in the universe.

Yours in complete awe,

Emma x

This past weekend our house was home to three little ones all under the age of six years. Two sisters staying for a few days and my friend and her little one visiting overnight. After a big day on Saturday, Sunday started with a 5am wake up call after a dummy was thrown out of the cot. 

I like my sleep. I don’t function well without it, and it appears neither do little people. By 8am the world was ending. Toes were crossing imaginary lines into someone else’s “side of the couch”, doors were shut leaving one out of the shenanigans going on inside the room by the other two, and the toothpaste was the wrong colour. There were tears and cries of “it’s not fair”. And there were screams of “no”, although, in the end I’m not sure what the no’s were about.

It was time to get out of the confines of the house! Time to get some sunshine and chill out. We loaded three children into the car, protesting that they didn’t like the beach or swimming, and headed to Bribie Island. 

Bribie is a great spot to visit with kids. On the eastern side you can 4wd and camp along the beach. On the western side the beaches are protected from big swells and a perfect place to fish or for little ones to swim. There are shops and cafes, and, on weekends, markets to explore. There are playgrounds or shady patches of grass to spread out on and enjoy the view. 

We found a little patch of grass under a eucalyptus tree, in Bongaree, and spread out a picnic blanket. Within sixty seconds all three kids were pulling on swimmers and racing towards the water. So much for hating the beach!

  
We found soldier crabs and chased fish in the shallows. We chased seagulls and buried our feet in the sand. And after they’d splashed around in the gentle waves rolling in off the boats and jet skis going past out in the channel, three smiling children laughed together and enjoyed a picnic overlooking the beach. 

  
My 36 hour experience with three young children gave me a new found appreciation and respect for parents everywhere. You guys are amazing!

Weekend Wandering: Sunshine Coast

My days as a solo traveller are a thing of the past – well, for the time being anyway. The way I travel has adapted to become more inclusive of my new family. Instead of flying off to some distant location with very few ideas of what I’ll do once there, now I negotiate how many stuffed toys are required for a weekend camping trip. Family travels are squeezed in around work and school, so the destination must be close to home to make the most of the limited time. Which has inspired me to start a new little series on the blog… Weekend wanderings: because travel is anywhere outside of home, no matter how long or short the trip. So on Friday afternoon we headed north to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast for a weekend of family-friendly fun.

Learning how to catch waves with Dad

Learning to catch waves with Dad

After our two camping trips earlier this year to the Yuraygir National Park, camping in a designated spot with limited space felt a little claustrophobic, however, having an amenities block with clean flushing toilets and hot showers on demand does make life a little easier. The key to any good camping destination though is the distance to the beach, because its the sound of the ocean you want to fall asleep too and not the sound of traffic on the main road. Tucked in behind the dunes, we could head to the beach before the heat of the day kicked in, or the kids could ride bikes and play around our campsites. And at the end of the day we took chairs and drinks down to the beach to relax in the shade and admire the view.

SONY DSC

During the day we escaped the stifling stillness of the campground and went to Bli Bli Wake Park. A feature in more than a few memories from our not so distant past. Instead of jumping on the cable for a wakeboard, dads and daughters explored the aqua park. Jumping, slipping and sliding along the inflatable playground, splashing in the water and squealing in delight. When 50 minutes was up and they stumbled out of the water with big giddy smiles, we retreated to the shade of the deck and reminisced about summer days spent working and riding at cable parks and living to wakeboard.

Sliding at the Aqua Park

Sliding at the Aqua Park

Whether you are camping for two days, two weeks, or two months, on the last day – as tents begin to collapse and you try to remember how to pack the car so everything fits back in – mumbles and overtired cries of “I don’t want to go home” and “I wish we could stay here forever” escape both adults and kids. And we all plot and plan our next miniature escape… or how to turn the weekend wandering into a permanent lifestyle.

 

 

Instant Mother

* This is the start of an extended piece I’m working on about my experiences in Malawi.

Allendo. Linda, office,” she said. Her scrawny arm bending in and out as she pointed wildly. As if it would speed up my walk.

“Yeh, I know. I’m meeting Linda at the office,” I said. I wasn’t meeting Linda for the administration staff photo until 2.00pm. But this was Malawi, and it ran on its own time. Friday at 2.00pm, could mean anywhere from 7.00pm Friday through to 10.00am in a months time. Malawi time means anytime it happens.

I rounded the corner of the hall. Linda, with her short stature, tightly wound braids, and ample bosom was trying to run towards me in a pair of wedge-heeled sandals while avoiding tree roots, rocks and potholes in the dirt.

“Emma, I have been looking everywhere for you. Come, Let’s go,” she said. Turning back in the direction of the office, her pace slowed, while her back heaved as she gulped in air.

Linda led me up the path, but turned left to Agogo’s house, instead of right to the office.

Agogo, or grandparent in Chichewa (the main language of Malawi), founded Home of Hope, a children’s home in Mchinji, Malawi. It’s a village currently home to 490 children, and provides schooling and two meals a day to another 100 children through an outreach program.

Every so often, Agogo would call me for an unexpected meeting. It was a chance for him to talk about the needs of Home of Hope, ask how my stay was going, and talk further about my plans for setting up a charity in Australia. But following Linda into the lounge room in his house, I found Agogo, his wife, and an older woman cradling a bundle of blankets on her lap. Two men sat at a table, behind the lounge chairs.

“Ah Aunty Emma, come in please. I want you to meet Baby Emma.” Agogo said, reaching out a hand to point towards the blankets. “I feel that it is important for you to see how people bring their children to Home of Hope looking for help. It is one of the many challenges we face everyday, as we can not always provide all of the help required.”

Tucked inside the thick bright blue blanket, and brown and yellow patterned chitenje on the older woman’s lap, poked a tiny baby’s face. Baby Emma. A crotched yellow beanie loosely covered the top of her head. Little lips pursed together, her tiny nostrils barely flared in and out as she breathed, eyes closed peacefully as she lay, wrapped warm and secure.

I sat beside Linda on the remaining lounge chairs. Tears welled up as Agogo began sharing baby Emma’s story. She was 12 days old. Her mother had died one hour after giving birth. The family could not afford to buy formula to feed the baby, instead trying to feed her with cow’s milk from a cow in a nearby village.

He was interrupted by a knock at the door. The three other volunteers at Home of Hope shuffled in and quickly found a place to sit.

Agogo continued, “This is a challenge faced by Home of Hope. A family brings their child here after the death of a parent. With Baby Emma, we are unable to take her, as we already have many young babies being cared for by the mother’s. We are able to provide Baby Emma with formula though. The family then only has to come back once a month to collect more formula, as it is a long way for them to travel.”

“Agogo, what would you need to be able to keep Baby Emma at Home of Hope?” I asked.

“For a little baby like this, she would need more attention from a caregiver, so we would need another house-mother.” Agogo said.

I looked to Ann, a regular volunteer at the orphanage and my sounding board for every crazy idea I had in this place. “What if the baby came to stay with us at the house for a few days? Just until a house-mother could be found?” I whispered beneath the Chichewa conversations taking place across the lounge room.

“Yeh. That could work. Where are they going to get a house-mother from?” Ann said.

“Agogo?”

“Yes, Aunty Emma.”

“How much does it cost for a house-mother?”

“It is 12000 Malawi Kwacha per month.”

Ann and I bowed our heads to calculate the currency conversion in whispers.

“I could somehow afford $40 US a month.”

“Agogo, if I pay for a house-mother can Emma stay here? She can live in the house with us until you can organise someone over the weekend.”

“Aunty Emma we are truly blessed to have you as a friend of Home of Hope. God has provided through you to help this needy child.” Agogo said.

Chichewa conversations flew across the room. Many zikomos, or thank you’s, were said, and then we prayed. Thanking God for his hand in what had occurred, for my likeness to Moses or Pharaoh or some other person in the bible’s sister who cared for a lost and needy child, and for a whole list of things we had to be thankful to God for. I don’t remember the details of it. I was concentrating on holding back tears, as I looked at the precious little baby in the bright blue blanket.

“Amen.” The room chorused.

“Now let us go find some clothes for your new baby.” Linda said, taking my hand and leading me out of the lounge room.

 

The first 24 hours had passed without incident. Baby Emma, after some coaxing, squirting a 5mL syringe into her mouth, had begun to drink the powdered formula. Swapping to the bottle not long after. She took little drinks. 10mL here, 25mL there, so on her first full night in the house with us, I’d estimated that we had plenty of formula to last through her feeds.

At midnight, she finished off her bottle.

New to this mothering business, I’d neglected to bring her tin of formula from the caregiver’s house. Emma would not last the next six hours without a feed.

Wrapping my new little baby up in an extra blanket and slipping into my Ugg boots, we set off from the guesthouse to trek 400 metres across the village. Baby Emma swaddled tightly in one arm, her bottle hanging from a plastic bag around my wrist, and my iPhone torch app glowing in the darkness to light up the rocks and pot-holes along the way.

A growl seeped out of the darkness behind me. A few steps later and two more growls joined somewhere to my right. I froze.

The dogs that lay around all day, actually went on guard at night, and now me, my new baby, and iPhone torch-light were standing in the middle of the dark village, at least 100 metres from the nearest house.

I took another step. Several sets of paws moved closer. One dog barked.

I shone my light around, but they were just outside its reach.

Don’t be scared, Emma, just keep walking and they will leave you alone.

Several dogs started barking, while more were running out from the midnight black surrounds, to add their voice to the chorus of growls.

“No!” I yelled, setting off at a brisk pace towards where I thought the house was. “No! No. No.” I growled back at the dogs.

Surely someone would hear the dogs and come out to see what was happening. Or maybe they’d hear my attempts to frighten the dogs away. I kept walking towards the doorway I could make out in the light thrown from the porch, a little way out in front of me.

I felt like I was drunk, trying to walk in a direct, purposeful line to my destination, but tripping and stumbling over rocks, potholes and tree roots in the shadows of my torch-light. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or run at this point. My arm was shaking, loosening Baby Emma’s blankets.

Stepping over a drain pipe, the dogs stayed just beyond the trees surrounding the village, still growling, but not moving towards us anymore. I’d crossed some invisible line that the dogs wouldn’t cross.  A few more steps and they still stayed where they were. I ran. Straight to the doorway, never have I been so glad to arrive inside the house, as I was at that moment, I knocked quickly, but opened the door without waiting for a reply.

The house-mother, fast asleep, jumped up out of bed. Somewhat startled by my sudden appearance in her room, but seemingly understanding that I needed another bottle of formula, as she fetched the tin and thermos of hot water from under her bed, before I had time to remove the empty bottle from the plastic bag still dangling from my wrist.

The house-mother prepared a bottle for us and I asked her how to shoo the dogs away. She smiled and handed me some more cloth nappies, then went and climbed back into bed.

From the doorway, all I could see was darkness mixed with shadows, and the light of my front porch 400 metres away. I looked around, desperate for another person to emerge and rescue me.

I was failing at this mother business.

With no one in sight, I tucked Baby Emma in closer to me, took a deep breath and set out into the dark. I walked as close to the house as possible, before going across the village and running the last few steps towards a house with the TV blaring. I knocked loudly.

“Shinghai, hello? It’s Emma.” I called.

The door opened and a young boy stood inside.

“The dogs are following Baby Emma and I and I’m worried about them biting us, cause they’re growling. How do I make them go away, I don’t know what Chichewa words to use to make them stop?” I said.

The boy came out onto the porch he looked out to where the dogs stood a few metres away.

“Come, let’s go,” he said, leading me down the front steps.

 

 

 

 

There was a knock at the door, before it squeaked open.

“Good morning,” my sister Sarah said, “I’ve made you some breakfast.” She placed a bowl on the chair beside my bed.

“Thanks,” I said, groggily shifting to look inside the pile of blankets beside me. She was still sound asleep.

“I did run out of formula last night,” I said, then rehashed my midnight adventure and the dogs.

“I did ask if you would have enough formula for the night,” Sarah said.

“Well, I grossly miscalculated how much she would drink, based on her previous feeds. Lesson learnt ok? I’m going to pick up the tin of formula today.”

“Some girls already dropped it over this morning, along with a few sets of clean clothes.” Sarah said. “Do you want me to take her for a bit so you can have a little bit of a sleep or eat your breakfast, before we have to go to church?”

I nodded, extremely grateful to have a moment to sleep. Between the midnight run for formula, the six dirty nappies during the night, and waking up in a panic at every noise Baby Emma made, I was exhausted. Worse than the noise was the silence. My heart leapt, certain that she’d stopped breathing or I’d smothered her in her sleep.

I changed her nappy, adding the dirty one to the pile in the plastic bag on the floor.

Wrapped in her chitenje and blankets, sound asleep, I passed Baby Emma out from under the mosquito net.

I lay staring at the ceiling, eyes heavy, but thoughts raced around my head, keeping me awake. It was Sunday, so a day of rest and church. Except Baby Emma had gone through all but one of her cloth nappies, even using the extras we’d picked up the night before, which meant I needed to wash them all, before we ran out completely. She needed a bath and clean clothes for church, and I had to be at church early to take photographs of the children in their Sunday best, dirt free and where possible, in shoes.

I slowly rolled out under the mosquito netting and sat on the chair eating my breakfast. I could always catch up on sleep later.

 

 

Malawi is close to the Equator, but in June and July, chilled southerly winds sweep across the dry, dusty plains. Baby Emma cried every time I changed her nappy. It didn’t matter how much I rubbed my hands together before touching her skin, they were still icy cold on her tiny little body.

So when it came to bath time, she screamed the house down.

Her twig like frog legs kicked out, as she desperately tried to push away from the water. She arched her back and twisted her head, all the while her high pitch cry echoed off the concrete floor and walls of the bedroom. The laundry wash bucket was big enough to fit her small limbs and pot belly, and I squatted beside the bucket with her cradled in one arm. Sarah looked on with a video camera over my shoulder.

I had only ever bathed older babies, babies that can sit and hold their heads up. Holding my squirming baby with only one forearm running the length of her spine, my thin little wrists balancing her unstable neck, and round little head in the palm of my hand, I felt awkward. That at any moment she would kick out those skinny frogs legs and topple into the bucket of water.

Somehow, I managed to wash all of her.

“That was the longest baby bath in the history of the world,” Sarah said.

“Hey, new mother remember. I’m learning as I go.”

The day before, one of the villager’s had ridden a bicycle into the nearest Boma, market, to buy talcum powder, cloth nappies and pins, and waterproof nappy covers, since all we had for Emma were over sized jumpsuits and towels cut up with a razor into nappy size pieces.

Dry and naked wriggling around on the towel on the bed, Baby Emma had stopped crying. Her curiosity turned to the piles of clothes and folded nappies stacked around her. I tipped the talcum powder upside down and with a flick of my wrist, out puffed enough powder to cover her entire body. Her stomach resembled a marshmallow, white, round, and soft to touch. No matter how much I rubbed the powder in, spreading it around into her armpits, along her shoulders, onto her bottom and legs, I couldn’t get rid of the white.

“Whoops, that was a bit too much. Silly mummy, but at least now your skin will be lovely and soft,” I cooed.

Dressed in her last clean nappy, two newborn jumpsuits that were twice the size of her and wrapped in two fresh blankets, Baby Emma was ready for her first Sunday church visit.

I left her on the bed, in between two pillows to stare at the ceiling, mosquito net and anything else in sight, while I took the bag of nappies out to the front yard. Everything in this place takes far longer to do, than at home. There wasn’t a washing machine I could just stuff her nappies into, press a button, and 30 minutes later clean nappies were left in the machine to hang out.

I filled the saucepan as high as I could in the little sink then emptied it into the laundry bucket on the ground below. To get enough water in the three laundry buckets I had to fill the saucepan at least 10 times per bucket. Then there was the large pot on the stove heating some water to also add.

I carried each bucket out the front onto the grass, emptying the dirty nappies from the plastic bag into one of the buckets. Scrubbing yellow stains out of white cloth with a bar of Nu-clean laundry soap, the absurdity of the situation hit me. Here I was living in a place where the power went out on a regular basis. If I wanted clean drinking water, I had to boil it then add purification tablets to it. If there was washing to do, it was all done by hand. There were no mirrors in the house, so I couldn’t see how I looked after my sleepless night, and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn’t care, because there was a tiny baby, warm and comfortable in my bed. She had a full belly and clean body that was growing stronger with each feed. I would stay awake in the middle of the night listening to her breathing, happy in the knowledge that she was still alive, when she had arrived a few day’s earlier so close to death.

Knuckles red from scrubbing, I wrung out the nappy and dropped it in the next bucket to rinse the soap out. A little boy, walking past on the road, called out and waved. I waved back and called out a hello.

A cry escaped from the inside of the house.

Shaking the soap off my hands, I wiped them dry on my skirt and went inside to my baby.

 

 

 

 

Baby Emma

The day before my little girl turns 2 months and I’m a very proud foster mummy right now. That she is still alive is impressive on her part. That she survived at all, well, it makes me wonder what is really out there guiding us all to these exact moments in time and space where things change forever and we become entwined in something so much bigger than ourselves.

Baby Emma arrived at the orphanage at 12 days old. She is the last of 11 children (8 surviving) and born at least one month premature. I’ve never seen anything so tiny. Weighing less than 1.5kg (3.3lb) when she arrived it broke my heart to even think about letting her go back to her village. For starters they were over an hour bicycle ride from the nearest clinic if she needed emergency medical attention. They had no way to feed her and with a newly widowed father caring for 7 other children, he had realised the need to seek help in caring for her.

One month after her arrival at the orphanage and we took Baby Emma back to her village for a visit, to show off her progress and find out more about her birth and family history. Her grandmother was incredibly grateful for the care provided to Emma, as she said she had thought the baby would surely die if they had kept her in their care.

It’s a humbling experience to be a part of. So to share a small snippet of the experience I’ve added a few photos of Baby Emma’s first 6 weeks of life…

My Dad

They say that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. She makes him feel like Christmas. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.
~ Anonymous

It’s been the week to celebrate my parents.  Today is my Dad’s turn.  Once again we are not in the same city, we are not even in the same country.  And in Ethiopia, where my Dad currently works, it will not even be his birthday, I think.  Ethiopia follows the Orthodox calendar and therefore I am not sure what day or even year it is there.  But since I’m in Australia and today is the 6th May, I will celebrate my Dad for all he is to me.

Dad’s are different to Mum’s.  Dad’s pick you up by your ankles with one hand and hang you up side down tickling you on your sides with the other.  They carry you on shoulders when you are tired from walking or to give you the best view of fireworks.  They miss birthdays and special events in your baby years, because they were working long hours to save money for your future.  Dad’s are ATM’s for daughters, midnight chauffeur’s, security guards at parties and spring boards in the pool.  They are the final say, even though it’s a joint parental decision and cop the most hate from disgruntled teenager daughters, because that’s just the role Dad’s were made to fill.

My Dad is my partner in long-winded deep and meaningless chats about the world and how we can save it from all its problems.  He is the one I sing with in the supermarket, much to the embarrassment of my Mum and sister who walk several aisles over from us.  He is the one who dressed up as a gymnast for my gymnastic end of year concert and when Christmas rolled around would give thoughtful practical gifts, such as a brick to go towards my first house (with a lotto ticket taped to the underside).

He is there to bail me out when I make mistakes and loves me regardless of how left of centre I might be.  And in his words “Em is very different to Sarah–I call her a free spirit.”  Only a Dad could put that kind of positive spin on the way his daughter chooses to live her life.

So today I count down the days until we catch up in Africa and wish you a very happy birthday, with many more spent somewhere around the world!!

Dad’s “Birthday Cake” with cigarette candle in Switzerland May 1995

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