“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude” AA Milne

Gratitude, according to my Compact Macquarie Dictionary, is the quality of feeling or being grateful or thankful. It is also a word which seems to be used more and more frequently. Being grateful appears to be a trend. There are downloadable gratitude journals and diaries – I even have a gratitude app on my phone. I used it diligently for the first week or so and then lost interest. However, life lately threw a few curve balls which prompted me to ponder on everything I am grateful for. I’m a list maker, so here is a very short list of the main things I am grateful for:

  1. I’m grateful for having been born. This might seem a no brainer, but my birth was never a given. A few years before he died my father admitted I was a mistake. He had never wanted children and, despite my mother’s protestations, had forced her to agree. Luckily for me the only birth control they practiced was the rhythm method.
  1. I’m grateful for my parents. This might seem strange for those of you who know how much I have complained about them. But if I hadn’t have had the parents I did, I never would have become the mother I am as I tried very hard not to make the same mistakes they did.
  1. I’m grateful for my three sons. I really couldn’t have asked for any better children. Of course they all had their moments and there were times I would have happily thrown them into the woods with nothing but breadcrumbs… but in the end they have become wonderful young men, who I love dearly.
  1. I’m grateful for my friends. There is no way I would have survived life without my friends. Not every friend has been with me from the beginning, in fact the friends I made in kindergarten and the first years of school have faded into the mists of time. But I do still have friends I made at school, which is pretty amazing when you consider I finished school thirty-nine years ago. Those friends and those I’ve made along my journey are all pretty awesome. Friends are not necessarily in our lives forever. Like the ocean, they ebb and flow through your life. I’ve always noticed the friends I need always seem to be there right when I need them. And I hope I’m always there when they need me.
  1. I’m grateful for my life. All in all, I have had a pretty easy life. Of course it has had its moments, a life would be pretty dull if it was constantly smooth and pretty. But those moments were reasonably small and insignificant if you hold them up in comparison to other people. First world problems. I just have to watch the news to know how well off I am. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and a job to pay the bills. I might not be joyful every moment of my life, but I also have the ability to make decisions and change the path I’m on. Which is more than many other people have.



I have always enjoyed reading letters and other forms of correspondence. Reading another person’s letter is like eavesdropping on one of their personal conversations. I think it is this which attracts me to letters over narrative. Narrative tells the reader something, letters speak the same something in the writer’s voice. It is the difference between reading:

“The view from her window framed a few tree branches wearing their autumn colours, gently bouncing in the breeze, distorting the view of the hotel’s swimming pool on the other side of the road.”


“Dear Mom, from my living room window I can see the prettiest leaves hanging seemingly in midair, although I know they are attached to the overgrown tree at the front of the apartments. The leaves have turned the colours of autumn, although some of their summer green is desperately trying to hang on. As they wave up and down in the breeze I get a distorted view of the swimming pool across the road, with its empty table and chairs indicating winter has indeed begun.”

Both pieces describe the scene outside of my window but, if I were the reader instead of the writer, I would always prefer the second.

Some of my favourite books have been based on letters. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, for example, which was based on a twenty-year correspondence between the author in New York and one of the buyers of a bookshop in London. The letters are quaint, full of life and interspersed with both comical and human touches, giving us an insight into the lives of the correspondents and the time they lived in.

In my research for my own manuscript, I came across a book written by Kerstin Lieff, entitled “Letters from Berlin”. In it she writes about her mother’s experience of World War II and includes letters her mother wrote during the final days of the war. This is a truly poignant book and one of the few I have found which is written from the German perspective.

Another book I discovered in my quest to know more about Germany and the lead up to WWII, was “Address Unknown” written by Kathrine Taylor in 1938. In letters written from 1932 to 1934, between a Jewish art dealer in San Francisco and his business partner who returned to Germany in 1932, the author has attempted to expose the dangers of Nazism.

While cleaning up my father’s house after his death I found many letters written to him by various family members, friends and other people I do not know, as well as copies of letters he wrote to others. Most of them are in German so I envisage spending numerous hours in translation. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is the content of the letters and what they can tell me about a man who I only knew in the present tense. I look forward to uncovering his past and finding out more about him and his life before me.

Fifty-six Birthdays

Today I celebrated my fifty-sixth birthday and have embarked on my fifty seventh year here on earth. It got me thinking of the many things which have happened since I was born.

In the 1960’s Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. Construction began on the Berlin Wall. The Beatles released their first single – “Love me do”. John F Kennedy was assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr moved the world with his “I Have a Dream” speech and, keeping to his belief of peaceful demonstrations, led the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. The mini skirt hit the fashion world. The very first game of the Super Bowl was played. Marin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Richard Nixon became president of the USA. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to arrive on the moon. Woodstock took place. Sesame Street began.

One of my first memories, when I was three, is watching JFK’s assassination on a black and white television in my grandparent’s apartment in New York.

In the 1970’s the Beatles split. The TV show MASH began. Terrorists attacked the Munich Olympic Games. Watergate made headlines. USA brought their troops out of Vietnam. Mikhail Baryshnikov defects from Russia. President Nixon resigned. The Apple Computer was founded. Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin. Elvis died. The Star Wars movie was released. The first test tube baby was born. Margaret Thatcher became the first woman prime minister of Great Britain. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1970 we emigrated to Australia. We came by ship, departing from San Francisco and stopping at Vancouver, Hawaii, Fiji, Auckland and somewhere else which I can’t remember.

In the 1980’s John Lennon was assassinated. Charles married Di. AIDs shocked the world. Personal computers were introduced by IBM. The movie ET was released. Argentina invaded the Falklands. Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Ethiopia suffered with famine. Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. There was a nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed over Lockerbie. The Berlin Wall fell. Students were massacred at Tiananmen Square.

By the end of the 80’s I was married and had had my first son.

In the 1990’s Nelson Mandela was freed from years of imprisonment. We heard about the Milli Vanilli lip sync scandal. Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. The Soviet Union collapsed. Apartheid laws are repealed in South Africa. The Cold War officially ended. Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa. Rwanda suffered genocide. Ebay was founded. OJ Simpson was found not guilty. The first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, was born. Hong Kong was returned to China. Princess Di died. The Euro became the new European currency. There was a massacre at Columbine High School.

By the end of the 90’s I had had two more sons and was separated from my husband.

In the 00’s – that looks really strange when you write it – we lived through the turn of the millennium. The dot-com bubble burst. Putin was elected president of Russia. The Concorde crashed in France. Sydney hosted the Olympic Games. Four coordinated terrorist attacks in USA became known collectively as 9/11. Michael Jackson died. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Barack Obama was elected the first African American president of USA. East Asia was hit by a tsunami. Pluto was declared to be no longer a planet. The Global Financial Crisis hit. London was bombed.

In the early 2000’s I began a new life in a new place with a new job. It was tough but rewarding.

In the 10’s Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake. Pakistan was flooded. Japan is shattered by an earthquake and tsunami. Osama bin Laden died. South Sudan became an independent nation. London hosts the Olympic Games. The Mayan calendar ends and the world continues. North Korea holds nuclear tests. Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history.

In 2015 my first grandchild was born.

Of course this is just a snapshot of all the important and not so important things which have happened over my lifetime. It’s pretty incredible to think I have been around for so many changes and so many memorable happenings in our world and all while I’ve been living through my own ups and downs. As John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”