Mum and Dad are still living in the family home. That’s what Dad keeps telling mum. “There’s your tree, Margaret”, he patiently repeats pointing to the towering gum tree in the neighbour’s garden. Or, he reminds her of the huge Steinway grand piano in their loungeroom. They’re anchor points in an otherwise surreal world fueled by vascular dementia, and I make a note to ask her what she sees when she looks out her window next time. Where on earth does she think she is?
At this stage of the dementia journey, I’m more curious than alarmed. She’s still intelligent. Knows who she is and who we are. It’s only Dad who transmogrifies into an incredible cast of characters, including her mother who she mostly knows is dead but keeps turning up then inexplicably disappearing into thin air.
Yet surprisingly, she has new-found serenity. “Darling, I was watching the clouds today and enjoying the sunshine. There are so many beautiful flowers I’d never noticed in our garden before.”
So much doesn’t matter anymore. I’m relieved she’s no longer persecuted by “the Jones’s”, although she keeps asking me if I’ve been practicing my singing. I can’t quite bring myself to tell her that my throat doesn’t work anymore and that’s why I play the violin. Yet, I don’t want to disappoint and I cherish every time she plays “Happy Birthday”, which she still plays with her unique flourish. This is when she’s most herself.
“Strange things are happening around here, darling,” she says. “But don’t worry. We’ll work it all out one day.”
I am not so sure, but I’m borrowing her new-found optimism, praying a miracle will stem the tide.
Goodness knows where those fractured neural pathways are taking her, but this home is where her heart is and she’s happy there. So although we’re no longer looking out through the same window, we’ll keep holding her hand and stay with her for the journey.
My apologies for significantly going over the word limit this week. Perhaps, I could plead dyscalculia. However, the photo this week with it’s mirrored reflections reminded me of some of the visual confusion my mother has been experiencing lately and her corresponding diagnosis of dementia. I felt it was more important for this story to be told than to stick to the word limit this week. So many of us have a loved one who is experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s or has been there. People’s comments can be cruel and disrespectful and going down this path is no reflection of how intelligent or accomplished they might’ve been.
I’ve had two grandparents go through Alzheimer’s and that was very different to mum. My grandparents were always old, and just got older. Forgetting things just seemed par for the course until it took over. On the other hand, our parents ideally have always been our strength physically, emotionally and intellectually and then they’re not and we start trading places, it’s so much harder (at least, for me.)
Anyway, my apologies to Rochelle for exceeding the word limit, but I know she supports a good cause, although she keeps her efforts within the word limit.
Do you have any comments or insights into dementia or Alzheimer’s? Please share in the comments below.
After a rather lengthy absence, I’m back with some doors I photographed at a local Tiny Homes Expo last weekend. If you’re interested in checking out the bigger picture, I’ve written a more comprehensive post: HERE.
Although I’ve been on numerous doorscursions in my time, these door captures are incidental as I was more concerned about maximising space in tiny homes and clever multi-purpose design ideas. There wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before in that department and certainly no magic wand for accommodating a life time of book hoarding and a rather extensive tea cup collection. However, they were incredibly stylish and I must admit my mood plummeted when I arrived home. There’s not one part of our house that doesn’t require extensive work of some kind. However, the expo was also inspirational and by chipping away I won’t be able to turn this place into my dream home, but at least I’ll be content. (BTW the possibility of hosting Christmas here is also firing me into action.)
Although we weren’t focusing on doors, there was one door which really stood out and that was manufactured by Golden Domes. I don’t think I was actually on display at the expo but people were raving about their “Hobbit Door” and the photos come from their website. That would be so cool having that as your front door, don’t you think?!!
Although I’m here to talk about doors, I have a little confession to make. Geoff and I actually bought a new bed with all the bells and whistles and it is becoming our luxurious oasis. What with massage features and being able move your head and feet up and down electronically, it’s bliss. However, there is a pitfall for the perfectionistically pedantic and that is trying to get your bed in the absolutely perfect spot. You could keep moving those buttons up and down searching for nirvana for eternity and never be satisfied if you weren’t careful. That’s why I’m glad I’m a near-enough is good enough sort. Perfection is a curse.
Speaking of bed, I’d better head off. I hope you’re all going well.
Thursday Doors is hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities. Please come over and join us. You’ll be surprised what you can learn and how much pleasure you can experience simply by checking out a few doors.
Departing for the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, 16 year old ballerina and proud Ngemba woman, Stella Donovan was asked what inspired her to dance.
“When I was five, I found a jewellery box at the tip with a ballerina twirling around inside. She was deadly and I wanted to dance like her. All me friends and aunties were into netball, but ballet was my thing. I hope to encourage other Aboriginal girls to pursue their dreams.”
Then, the tragic news came through.
Stella had broken her foot moments before she went on, but she wouldn’t let it ground her dreams.
I learn a lot writing these pithy 100 words of fiction. Many of you will know that our daughter is an aspiring ballerina and that things haven’t been easy over the last couple of years with covid and she recently snapped a ligament in her foot, but she’s back on deck again although not about to compete in Switzerland. She has the end of year concert coming up soon and next year will be onto auditions. To add a bit of a twist, I made this ballerina an Indigenous Australian a Ngemba woman from the outback town of Bourke where my Great Great Uncle, Herb Bruhn, was the head of the Bourke Dramatic and Musical Society and put on Cleopatra and Oklahoma under rather challenging circumstances and then had his pianist move away with no replacement. I admire his pluck! Anyway, I was delighted to find out that we have an Indigenous ballerina in the Australian Ballet, Ella Havelka, a Wiradjuri woman from Dubbo with a very encouraging story: What It’s Like To Be The First Indigenous Dancer in the Australian Ballet
My apologies for a bit of an absence. Let’s just say that time runs away from me and I’m staggering along breathless in its wake.
How are you all and what’s been going on in your neck of the woods?
Well, it’s still Spring here on the Australian East Coast. While there’s the odd roasting, much of the time it’s been unseasonably cool, and we’ve had a bit of rain. I haven’t braved a swim at the beach yet, but did get down for a delightful walk last week on a perfect sunny day and felt so much better for it.
Meanwhile, we’ve had quite a bit on.
Firstly, last Saturday a close friend of ours got married. I also had my 35th school reunion at same afternoon. So I splurged on a new dress, some strappy wedge heels and an overnight bag to stay with my friend, Glenda. Couldn’t believe that Mum was actually going to be staying with a friend for a sleepover. How could that be? Had I escaped into the realm of miracles? Of course, it’s not just responsibilities on the home front which have kept me grounded, but more likely covid and the dreaded lockdowns. So, it felt particularly good to get out there in my glad rags, see my friends married and catch up with the girls at the reunion.
Secondly, Miss Ballerina is back en pointe after snapping a ligament in her ankle a few months ago which had her hanging up her dance shoes for about six weeks (or at least the right one) and having weekly physio appointments. Before all that transpired, she’d done her Grade 8 ballet exam and received a High Distinction. Last Friday, she finally did her Intermediate Foundation exam after being stuck in suspended animation for the last three years, while she was also doing Advanced. Clearly, she’s been busy! The end of year concert is coming up now, along with the inevitable farewells which are getting harder and harder as each year goes by and they’re all getting older and leaving school. Two close friends will be leaving at the end of this year and moving away. Miss has one year left at school and the local dance school and then she’ll be fleeing the coop as well and heading goodness knows where.
Thirdly, Geoff and I headed off to the Tiny Homes Expo at Tuggerah yesterday and had a very interesting day where our minds were opened up to a host of incredible possibilities. However, rather than buying a tiny home, we ended up buying a new bed with all the bells and whistles and I can’t wait for it to arrive. If you’d like to read more about Tiny Homes, here’s a link to my post: Explorations Into Tiny Homeland on Australia’s East Coast.
Well, that’s all from me for now and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.
Transformed to he realms of Alice in Wonderland, the illustrious Bilbo Baggins or even Gulliver’s Travels; Geoff and I arrived at the Tiny Home Expo in Tuggerah about an hour’s drive away from home. We were greeted by an array of tiny homes and exciting possibilities if only we could shift all the crap in the backyard and find enough room for a tiny home. Being close to the beach, we could also generate serious income or house a teenager out there and it would be much cheaper than knocking down and rebuilding the house.
However, that wasn’t why we were there.
Rather, as you may recall if you have a very good memory and pay close attention to my posts, I completed a course in freelance journalism recently and I wrote one of my assessments on what it takes to fit inside a tiny home and how they work. As I’m sure you can appreciate, there are a few principles involved with maximising space in these seemingly tiny spaces where you can’t even swing the proverbial cat. So, after reading and writing about these tiny homes, I was busting to really explore every nook and cranny, understand more about the construction process and why anybody would want to go small when most of us would freely admit “bigger is better”.
The first thing I have to say about these tiny homes is they are sweet.
The second thing I’ll say is that they are rather expensive.
Even a quick look at the styling inside many of these homes tells you they’re geared towards the top end of town not someone down on their luck. Indeed, perhaps the idea is that when you go small you can afford those extra luxuries. They’re a completely different story to the shack my grandfather-in-law used to take tin mining on the backblocks of Tasmania. They have toilets, showers, washing machines, microwaves, flat screen TVs and you guessed it. They even have a kitchen sink. Oops, I also forgot to mention they have beds and I’ll get to more of that later.
Yet, more affordable options were available and I was particularly drawn to a Golden Dome. I forget how big the demonstration dome was and it was so relaxing with a beautiful bed and stunning accessories. I could just see our “kids” really enjoying it. Indeed, we could even afford a smaller version and somehow fit it into our backyard, although there are the dogs and random boats and kayaks to consider. Indeed, I would love to escape into one of these and read and write all day. How lush! Mind you I could also do that at the beach which is just down the road too but for some reason I don’t.
Despite all that temptation, somehow we walked away empty handed and perhaps it’s a good thing my husband is more cautious or we might’ve had a few tiny homes crammed into our backyard like sardines with the dogs stuck up on the roof.
The funny thing is that although we went to look at tiny homes, we actually came home with a new bed. Not any new bed either. We bought a dream bed which comes with all the bells and whistles…massage, goes up and down, the works. The only thing it doesn’t do is provide breakfast in bed but hey that’s what we have teenagers for, isn’t it?!!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy some of the pics, which weren’t taken under studio conditions. Goodness knows how many people had tried out the beds by the time I came along. and it’s pretty hard to get a bit of distance in a tiny home to get it all in especially with loads of people coming and going. However, they do look at least a little lived in despite being on display.
Lastly, it was rough returning home yesterday. Naturally, there are no photos provided but I’ll let your imaginations do the work and picture goodness knows what is piled up on the couch.
Meanwhile, we’re dreaming of the day we can afford a block of land with our own tiny somewhere and our perfect escape hatch.
Do you have any experiences of tiny homes? Do you think you could live in one? I’d love to hear from you!
PS After writing my observations, I read the catalogue and it focuses more on the housing shortage, the need for more affordable homes. Indeed, there’s plenty of scope for those on a beer budget as well as the chardonnay set. Tiny homes are also a great option for those living in flood or bushfire prone areas. I’ll get back to that.
“Cars have feelings too,” it said. “You think I like being luminous green and an absolutely laughing stock? Of course not. I hate it. I used to be fade into the background grey, but then Harry lost a bet and obviously HE wasn’t the one who got painted green! Now, I stick out like a wretched neon sign and everyone calls me Kermit the Frog.
However, it wasn’t all bad. Daphne, a pretty pink 2CV, has a thing for bright green. Turns out, for every Kermit, there’s always a Miss Piggy.”
Humph…a talking car. Perhaps, I need a stronger coffee!
Thought you might like to hear Kermit’s views on being green. I’ve never forgotten when I first this at the movies and it was so sad. Such a touching song.
Meanwhile , my mother and her family have had an almost phobia of the colour green and felt it brings you bad luck. Well, I thought I might just Google that and as it turns out, that wasn’t all just superstition as green paint and clothing dyes used to contain arsenic. Here’s a link to a great story about it: Scheeles Green .
As you might be aware I play the violin. Well, I played the violin right up to the start of covid. It is a relatively lonely instrument unless you belong to an orchestra or ensemble of sorts while guitar is much more social at least where we live.
BTW I mixed up the photo prompts this week and responded to last week’s by mistake and it’s too late to add it to the link but perhaps you’d still like to check it out, especially if you have views on minimalism versus hoarding.
An evangelical minimalist, Sylvia Nolan is known as “KCD” – a brutal clutter-busting force preaching “keep, chuck, donate” to millions on TV. Meanwhile, her nemesis Junkyard Jenny draws crowds of hoarders on a rival network.
No one knew Junkyard Jenny was her Mom.
As much as Sylvia had tried to convert her mother through subtlety or force, Jenny was unrepentant:
“Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure and my trip to Tahiti.”
Last week, Mom had a heart attack and died in the shop leaving Sylvia with a million decisions to make…keep, chuck, donate.
What are your thoughts on the great minimalist-hoarder divide? I must confess that I’m more down the hoarder end of the spectrum but I do like my mother’s view on this that you just need a bigger house. Meanwhile, my dad says staying put in the one house for 20 years in our case and 40 years in theirs is also fatal. I used to be able to fit all my stuff into one or two car loads back in the day. Hard to believe now!
Last night the prodigal son flew through the front door and in a miraculous flash, he was transformed into Vector from Despicable Me. His friend was having a villain theme for her 18th birthday. Although we’d almost busted a gut, I was thrilled. He looked amazing and was grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
In case you haven’t heard of Vector, he’s the son of bank president Mr. Perkins and an aspiring supervillain voiced by Jason Segal. He’s decked out in an orange track suit and flies around in a wing suit, which could be described as a modern incantation of the traditional superhero cape. He also wears a white helmet with an orange stripe down the centre, black rimmed glasses and has a rather nerdy bowl haircut.
While Mr 18’s villainous ambitions initially didn’t seem too lofty, complications soon escalated and there was no chance of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a seamless transition like Clark Kent into Superman.
Trouble began when we couldn’t buy a Vector costume and had to make it ourselves!! Panic stations!! While there are those parents who seemingly whip up book week costumes out of thin air year after year, that’s not us. Moreover, despite over ten years as an active dance mum, I’ve never had to sew a costume and have only ever been asked to sew ribbons on shoes. That’s been hard enough. Making this Vector costume posed an extremely steep learning curve.
Of course he could’ve gone for an orange tracksuit and made do. Not on your life! He had a grand vision of being Vector with all the bells and whistles and almost being able to take flight in that wing suit. What’s more he had absolutely no doubt that Geoff and I could just pluck this suit out of thin air and not only make it for him, but do a decent job. Not have the wings sewn on backwards or have it fall apart as soon as he arrived at the party. Yet with only three days to go his expectations were even more unrealistic. Indeed in hindsight a classic quote from The Castle comes to mind: “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin'”. Added to this mix, was the fact he was totally unavailable to assist. He was volunteering on sound for three days at the church conference. So, all of this takes us back to plucking a rabbit out of a hat when we’re not magicians. We’re mere mortals…Mum and Dad. Yet as we’re found on previous occasions, we somehow rise to the occasion and exceed our meagre expectations in leaps and bounds.
The first step was to source an orange track suit. Understandably this was a challenge in itself. After all most of us wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange tracksuit and doing the rounds of the charity shops confirmed that. Orange was never the new black despite what the fashionistas preached a few years ago. Moreover the cheapest orange tracksuit I could find online was $43.00. Who wants to spend that on a one-off orange tracksuit? Besides, by now it was too late for anything to be posted in time. Then, just when I was close to conceding defeat, Google came to the rescue. There was an orange prison jumpsuit for around $21.00 at our local Spotlight store. You beauty! They stopped off there on the way to conference and Geoff returned home with white and orange fabric for the wing suit and white ribbon for the stripe.
By now, you’re probably thinking we were on the homeward straight and we could just whiz the whole thing up on the machine in no time.
There was another hitch which I’ve already alluded to… me!! I have very limited dressmaking experience along with zero spatial awareness. Indeed, I even have a doctor’s certificate to prove it along with multiple scrapes on the car. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Mr 18’s wavering tone when he said he didn’t have a costume or a present and couldn’t go to the party, I’d never have been sewing any kind of costume!
This is what the hero’s journey is all about, isn’t it?! Along with the role of a parent! There are times you just have to front up and have a Nike moment. Fortunately, there was also Plan B. Getting help from Geoff or a friend. Whatever! This was not about ego and doing it all myself. Come hell or high water he was going to have his Vector suit!
That was all very noble-minded, but I hadn’t factored in an outright rebellion by the sewing machine. While it’s been mean, nasty and cantankerous for me before, like all machines, it’s always been good for Geoff. He has a real knack with machines which he calls “mechanical empathy” . Indeed, on my last encounter with the sewing machine, Geoff accused me of having “no mechanical empathy”. However, this time the machine wasn’t even working for Geoff, and a whole new pressure cooker was threatening to explode. Recalcitrant, rebellious and cantankerous…the darn thing kept unthreading and we’re not sure whether the machine, the thread or the fabric, but the machine is lucky it hasn’t been put out for council cleanup or worse!
Eventually the wings were attached. As Vector started to emerge, we were now feeling chuffed although we still had a way to go and time was running out. By now, it was late afternoon and I’d only managed to get in a piece of toast motoring along as fast as I could. Mr 18 had such grand visions of this costume and I wasn’t going to let him down. I wanted him to make that big entrance at the party. Be Vector and add to the fun and festivity. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. No, I wasn’t about to break his heart. Anything to avoid that – even self-destruction!
The next step was the collar. Vector’s collar stands straight up and in a rare moment of resourceful creativity, I nabbed the almost empty Rice Bubbles’ box and cut out a strip of cardboard, unstitched the side of the collar and stuffed it in. Wow. I was proud of my uncharacteristic resourcefulness. I pinned on some white cotton fabric on the inside and tried to machine it together. Possibly overwhelmed by the number of layers, the sewing machine spat the dummy AGAIN. Grr! I was back to hand-stitching but thrilled to be moving surprisingly fast. Indeed, I’d become a machine myself!
With the wings attached, the stripes down the side and the collar done, the suit was really coming together. Meanwhile Geoff painted an old cricket helmet white for his head gear. Wow. We even had enough time to add a white stripe to the wings.
Again the sewing machine played up and I gave up and handed it over to Geoff. By now, we’d renamed it: “The Beast” and even Geoff who can make any machine work well, was asking how much an industrial strength machine would cost!!
Finally, I’m catching my breath and able to text Mr 18 for an ETA without having a heart attack. He was getting close but I had just enough time to steam the packaging creases out of the suit and then perfection.
It was done.
Geoff and I as well.
We forced him to stand still just long enough to get a photo and then we were off to drive him to the party.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that we picked up a pizza for dinner on the way home. We were beat.
Now, I’ll leave you with a thought I’m going to come back to. So often we stridently defend our right to be ourselves. Refuse to conform or blend in. Or, we go looking for ourselves. Yet on the other hand, we do whatever it takes to be someone else. Sure, in this instance Mr 18 was just dressing up for a party. When you’re going in character, you want to be authentic and you’re also just playing a role. However, how often do we do whatever it takes to hide who we are behind makeup, fashion and or being seen or photographed at the right places? How many of us are leading a fake life especially on social media? You have to be pretty strong to resist the temptation. Yet, it’s something to consider…
Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear from you and any of your efforts making costumes. How did it go? Do you think being yourself is over-rated and you’re better off at least appearing to be someone else? I’d love to hear from you.
“Mummy, why do Charlie and I look the same on the outside, but are so different on the inside? You said we’re identical twins?!”
The twins were chalk and cheese. Charlotte was always staring out the window at goodness knows what…birds, the clouds, maybe she could even see something in the seemingly invisible air. Captivated by the old oil lamps, she found meaning in their flickering flames. Bridget loved to run. Charlotte’s side of the bedroom was pink with her books neatly filed in rainbow order. Bridget’s was a cyclone.
Sophie couldn’t offer any explanation and simply said: “Ask God.”