Monthly Archives: July 2012

Meant to Be… Whale Beach Revisited.

Recently, I had the strangest experience. One of those freaky coincidence experiences that really makes you wonder how the universe operates and how these seemingly unrelated cogs suddenly end up whirling together in unison.

Whether you believe in God or not is almost irrelevant because it’s hard to believe that God who operates on such a grand scale such as creating the universe, would have time to be bothered with the minutiae of things. But then something happens that makes you question all of that. God strangely seems to have all his fingers in your pie, guiding and directing you in such small and subtle ways that it’s all quite mind blowing.

I use the word “serendipity” to describe these moments. Sometimes things happen that are just too slick for any kind of explanation and I guess you’re just left with what was “meant to be”.

Only the night before, I’d been discussing serendipity with a friend. Since I’ve sort exited the rat race  due to my health issues, I’ve ended up in a spot where to some extent, I can let my life go with the flow a bit. I am a bit more flexible and can respond to changes of direction instead of being stuck on the old railroad track. I’ve had my plans but I’ve also been on some fabulous goat trails which have extended me so far beyond what I ever considered possible. This has included starting to learn the violin this year.

As John Lennon said:

Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans…

Just for the sake of honesty and disclosure, I am a Christian but I’m not a ram it down your throat Christian. I experience a spiritual God who actively guides my life even when I’m focused on other things. I am a human, breathing miracle just like every other person on this planet.

So often we miss what God is doing in our lives or don’t understand that suffering is necessary for growth and as much as we don’t like adversity, it is part of life. Ironically, without adversity, we do not build resilience and we lack backbone, inner fortitude and we fall apart at the first sign of trouble. Adversity is as essential to personal growth as air is for breathing.

That doesn’t mean I like it but life is what it is.

Anyway, yesterday morning my daughter was competing in her first physical culture (physie) competition down at Terrey Hills. She had to be there at 8.30 AM so we stayed at my parents’ place in Sydney the night before and we had a 6.30AM start. That’s incredibly early for a pair of night owls.

Physie is a combination of march, dance and gymnastics set to music. The girls have to remember quite detailed routines and it strikes me as being very precise and disciplined. My daughter does it with her friends after school and our club has a fabulous sense of community and fun as well as encouraging the girls to apply and extend themselves.

As I mentioned before, this was Amelia’s first competition and although we’d had a trial run the week before, it was still quite nerve-wracking as it is when you try something new. I usually chat to my friends during physie and miss the gist of what’s going on. Hence, I had to a buy the regulation leotard in a stressful, last-minute panic. I also remembered hearing something about the hair and curls and being being able to buy some kind of twisty doobywackers to do the job. Not being much of a hair person myself, I didn’t bother filing that thought along with a thousand and one erroneous pieces of paper which are floating around this place like lost swans. You know how it is. You just get completely overloaded!!

In the end, her hair looked  gorgeous in a straight ponytail and I thought I was Mighty Mum just because I’d managed to get a hair ribbon in a matching colour. I’m just trying to keep things simple, especially for our first competition.  You can get dreadful performance anxiety as a mother. Not because you’re worried your kid is going to screw up. You just have this awful sinking feeling you’ve forgotten something and that you will be the weakest link.

The performance part was almost an anti-climax. There was no big catastrophe.  She remembered her routine. She didn’t get a place but she was happy with her pink participation medal. It was all over quite early and we had the rest of the day ahead of us.

Now, any sensible “sick” person would have gone straight home to bed after all of that excitement but not this little black duck.

We were off to Whale Beach.

I know this plan sounds somewhat insane given that I’m currently on 50mg a day of prednisone and my muscles are starting to waste away. Instead, you would think that I would have a nice, quiet day instead. But I am who I am. Carpe diem… seize the day. Tomorrow, I can crash. Besides, on this much prednisone, I’m like a Morris Minor with a V8 engine. I’m zooming along with all sorts of bits falling off. I’m probably about to combust. But I literally can’t stop!!

This was the first time I have driven down to Sydney myself in at least 8 years. I can’t even remember the last time I’d driven down to Sydney myself. So there I was in Sydney with the car halfway to the Northern Beaches and a trip to Whale Beach made such perfect practical sense.  I have only driven past the house once or twice since we sold it over ten years ago. That place was like my heart and soul being turned inside out and painted onto an enormous canvas. I desperately wanted to go back. See the house. Go and sit on my rock and absorb the waves. Share it all with my little girl! It would be so, so special!

Recently, I had realised that Whale Beach has dropped out of our family narrative. We’ve  moved on and I didn’t think the kids knew much about it at all. You can’t live in the past but I want them to know me. Experience me. Whale Beach has been such a significant chapter that I couldn’t leave it out. It’s still etched into my fingerprints, my heartbeat, my very being.

So our adventure began. Driving up Mona Vale Road past the Baha’i Temple, I slipped back in time. I have driven up and down this road hundreds of times before and even though it’s been a very long time, I still know it  like the back of my hand. I am going home. I am so excited but there is a little bit of caution too. What if they have knocked the place down? It’s been over ten years…a long time when you’re a 1960s shoebox shack with million dollar views.

As I park opposite the old house, I notice some people outside and wonder if they’re connected with the house. I don’t know what I was really thinking at this point. I was just grateful the house was still there.

When we first bought the place, it was painted primer pink and the cupboards were filled with all sorts of relics from the 1960s….old Women’s Weeklies, an old porcelain jug, empty Chianti bottles. There was even an ancient bottle of Detol.  There were all sorts of funny bits and pieces tucked away all over the place and we kept them. They were fascinating.

Mum and Dad had bought Whale Beach, well our little patch of it anyway, while I was still at uni. As a uni student, you really couldn’t ask for anything better. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drive at the time so there were grueling trips from Wynyard Station on the 190 bus and a hellish climb over the hill to reach paradise. Of course, there were parties. New Year’s Eve  staying up all night at the beach by the campfire and watching the sunrise over the water…a new beginning. For some strange reason, I still believe that life starts over on January 1st each year. Silly me!

There were also many, many hours of deep contemplative reflection, atomic angst and bust ups, broken hearts. The storms weren’t always over the sea.

But ultimately, it was a place of healing. Sewing broken hearts back together. Writing, journaling, working through stuff as I watched the street light twist and turn like a snake shining across the waves down the southern end of the beach.

Anyway, as I get out of the car, this young bloke calls out to me and asks if I could give him a jump start. From my point of view, he’s just asked me to perform open heart surgery on his vehicle. I can feel myself starting to panic a little. I really want to help but this is way out of my league. As anybody who knows me knows, I am not technical. I am certainly not mechanical and I’m really not practical either. The only thing I know about my car is that it’s blue and it has a luggage pod on top and that’s how I find it in the car park.

I am also a reformed nervous driver. I have realised that I have serious spatial deficits and it’s all about parking and manoeuvring the car in tight situations that’s the problem …not the actual driving itself. This doesn’t help me with the jump starting.  I will need to jiggle the car into position and this is looking very tricky indeed. Jump starting this car on windy narrow beach road presses all my alarm bells but I am feeling strangely confident. After all, I am on 50mg of prednisone and it really does make you feel like you can do just about anything.

The bloke senses my hesitation and asks if I’m in a hurry and then asks what I’m doing there. Not in an interrogative way but it’s not the tourist end of town. I tell him that my Dad used to own the house across the road. He tells me that his Dad currently owns the house. Suddenly, we are no longer two strangers passing by daylight. There is this link. Suddenly, the seemingly impossible becomes a reality and I am suddenly standing inside my parents’ old beach house and he is taking a photo of my daughter and I standing on the balcony with all of Whale Beach stretching out behind us. I am in absolute heaven.

I had never thought in my wildest dreams that this would ever happen but I can also  hear my mother saying: “only you Rowena”. I am always meeting strangers and establishing strange coincidences.

But we still haven’t jump started the car yet. Of all the people this poor guy had to ask for help, he must have picked the worst. Just turning the car around was a challenge and I no idea how to open the bonnet. I felt like such an idiot but we can’t be good at everything. I offer an emotional philosophical breakdown service. I’m not the NRMA but I came through. He got his car started and our paths deviated once again.

Mummy on the rocks.

I was on top of the world gushing with so much thought and emotion seeing the old place again but I still wanted to show Miss my rock down on the southern end of Whale Beach. The rock overlooks the surging waves and I just sit there watching them smash against the rocks exploding into a million million water droplets. The waves sound deep like there is some kind of underground cave. I am impressed by the sheer force and power of the waves…the energy. I can almost hear them breathing.

Miss is collecting blue periwinkle shells and lining them up and watches the snails stick their tongues out below and wiggle their tails. She is mesmerised. She runs off with the video camera and starts filming her own documentary. She is wearing a black vinyl jacket and looks very much the film director…just gorgeous.

I find some rock pools filled with squiggly snail trails. I remember photographing these many years ago and show them to Miss. I want to photograph her feet next to them. She tells me that “snails make the best drawers” and she films her feet while I take the photos. I can’t help looking at her and seeing a glimpse of my own reflection. She has told me before that I have stolen her hair and we look quite similar but she also sees the world through the lens and finds herself stranded on a rock surrounded by the waves with the video camera in hand. She is crying. I can’t reach her but a stranger comes to her rescue. She was never in any danger but at that moment, I knew she had the bug. She’d do anything for the shot!!

Anything to get the shot.

It was hard to leave Whale Beach but Geoff and our son were arriving on the Palm Beach Ferry. They’d been to football and were meeting up to go back to my parents’ place for my birthday party.

Family portrait at Palm Beach Wharf

This was my last day of being 42. If you have ever read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you will know that 42 is answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. This day kind of finished things up rather poignantly. I was satisfied…content. I could move forward.

I am now wondering, now that the mystery has finally been unraveled, what I’m going to do with the rest of my life?

That’s right. Now, I just need to find out: “What was the question?”

The Scream

Today, I’m trying a bit of reverse psychology. Instead of regurgitating a motivational textbook to myself, I’m going for the scream…an endless scream from somewhere deep inside my heart, deep inside my soul. A scream something like a cross between Tarzan swinging through the jungle and natural childbirth. We’re talking intense! A real scream!

As much as you would expect such a scream to be spontaneous, it actually takes a bit of forethought and planning. After all, you just can’t stand on some street corner screaming your lungs out and not expect to find yourself in some kind of lock-up facility.

That’s not the kind of time out that I’ve been looking for.

I suppose I could always go bush and find a good cliff face and let my scream waft across some deserted gully.

However, I’ve taken the easy way out. I’ve ordered a copy of Munch’s: The Scream to put on the wall near my desk. That way, when I feel like screaming, I can look at the picture and somehow release those emotions in silence.

I know The Scream might seem a bit “dark” or “intense”, however, I have a lot of “uppers” around the house. Things designed to cheer me up and get me through the day…a cyclamen plant on the kitchen table. There’s the kids’ rainbow drawings and of course, my teacups. As much as it’s great to be positive, I don’t believe you just have to hide all your negative thoughts under the bed. They need an outlet as well. I wouldn’t recommend filling your place up with negative energy but having something concrete that represents your inner pain doesn’t seem like such a bad idea although I’m obviously not professional. I just need to represent both sides of the coin. I have good days and bad days just like anybody else and I want to express and deal with that instead of choking up. That’s not being negative.  Perhaps, in a funny kind of way, it ends up being neutral.

I have a very positive, upbeat attitude most of the time but there’s nothing wrong with getting cranky about our negative circumstances. I know people hate whingers but you can’t just keep pouring all those negative emotions down your throat like a toxic cocktail. After all, where does it all go? How will it get out? Believe me, it does come out and perhaps instead of closing the door and having a good private scream, you’ll go off your head at someone you love who just happened to spill the milk on the tablecloth or left their toy in the walkway, wouldn’t get dressed or put their shoes on.

You can only take so much!

If you are a ticking clock, one day you will either explode or implode. I know I have imploded and all that energy went into my body…kaput! Too much! My body couldn’t take it.

I expected too much of myself.

Why do we insist on being super heroes? Putting on our capes and leaping off tall buildings and getting upset when shock horror we finally realise we can’t actually fly?

Somehow we need to stop running around being all happy happy joy joy all the time. Be honest about how we really feel… especially to ourselves. We don’t need to broadcast our business to the world but we can bring someone else inside our grief, our disappointments and frustrations.  They’ll cope. Helping other people actually helps people feel better. They usually love to do it.

Yesterday, I caught the train down to Sydney. I was struggling but I had my walking stick with me and people understood and gave me a hand.  They didn’t know my story. They were just happy to help in their own small way. I felt a bit like Paddington Bear and half expected to find a half-eaten jar of marmalade in my bag but that was okay. It was lovely to enjoy a touch of human kindness!

I know it takes a lot for me to reach out and ask for help and I only do it when I really, really have to but…

  1.  I’m not a super hero. I don’t have to be.
  2. I am human and that’s okay.
  3.  I don’t need to go through this alone.
  4. People love me.
  5. They are happy to help.
  6. I just need to let them.
  7. I can also help myself.

This all sounds great. Only one obstacle remains…me! I have to let myself go.

Postscript

Writing this post has actually been quite cathartic. I’m currently on 50 mg of prednisone , which is enough to turn a meditation guru into some sort of crazed axe murderer.

It certainly does nothing to build your sense of inner peace and tranquility.

I’m also angry because my auto-immune disease has flared thanks to a bad case of the flu. All the warning lights are starting to flash and there’s talk of hospital admission. On top of all of that is life…getting the kids to put their shoes on, the dance concerts, physie competitions. Life doesn’t stop because you’re struggling. Life and you go on.

But it’s only human to want to stop, scream and explode sometimes. That’s okay.

I’d like to share what ultimately happened to my inner scream. It is a bit quirky and even I think it’s “out there”.

I had been thinking about Munch’s The Scream all day and looking at it on my computer. I was also thinking about where you could actually go to have a good scream. Let it out without being locked up. Through this process, I actually visualised myself standing at Echo Point  at Katoomba and watching myself screaming all the way across the Jameson Valley. (I’d have to do that after dark because the place is jam-packed with tourist buses all day and these moments do need to be private!!)

Then the most amazing thing happened and I wasn’t consciously trying to turn these negative emotions into a positive. I was just angry. However, while I’m watching myself standing on the edge of the cliff, suddenly a black crow flies out of my mouth and soars across the Jameson Valley and disappears.

We had seen a lot of black crows down at Perisher recently. It was quite a macabre and liberating experience. Crows are the weirdest looking birds and if I had to choose my inner bird it would be something like a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, a Rainbow Lorikeet or even a Galah. How bizarre! How bizarre! How bizarre!

How can you possibly stay mad when you see this crazy image?

The last word goes to Homer Simpson. When I looked up The Scream on eBay, I found this version with Homer Simpson in it. That definitely turned my anger on its head. I had to laugh.

Any comments? I would love to get some discussion going on my blog!!

xx Rowena

Just Another Manic Monday!

As the song says, “it’s just another manic Monday.”

I don’t know whether “manic” is quite the right word to describe this morning. “Normal” comes to mind although a so-called “normal morning” around here is manic, frenetic…exhausting.

What I call “the domino effect” was also in force. One thing goes wrong and then there’s this huge chain reaction and suddenly everything has fallen over. Everything except the kids, of course, who are still functioning on all cylinders and are off looking for their next “adventure”.

This is our morning and just bear in mind this all took place before 8.55 AM.  That’s when the school bell goes off.

Step One this morning, Geoff’s alarm didn’t go off. Geoff pretty much operates like clockwork. No matter what is going on around here, Geoff keeps going. He gets up. Catches the train. Gets to work on time. He is Mr Reliable…dependable and most of the time, he has nerves of steel even though he isn’t perfect. He is completely and utterly exhausted!!

Well, Geoff woke up around 7.30am this morning. I was still asleep and wrapped up in my dooner cocoon with the electric blanket on. I was so, so snug. But it was action stations.

Miss wrote up this checklist for the dog. We use checklists to get through our morning routine.

We have a check list and a rock solid routine. Wake up. Breakfast. Get dressed. Make bed. Homework. Music. Playtime. I encourage them to speed up by telling them that the faster they do their jobs, the more play time they get. Our other incentive is pocket money. We offer them $5.00 per week. I worked out that’s $1.00 per school day. We are still fine tuning the system. We are always fine tuning the system because maintaining these systems for the long haul isn’t easy. It’s like staying on a diet for life. Most of us just don’t do it.

But the trouble with our situation is that the kids are really quick off the mark in the mornings and I am incredibly sluggish particularly in winter.  It can take a crane to get me out of bed and just about every muscle and joint seizes up. I don’t function before I’ve had my coffee and even the kids comment about me staring blankly out the window. I am trying to get to bed earlier but I can’t stop. Like so many people, I am trying to live at least three of four lives simultaneously and I’m just about to combust. I know I’ve added blogging to this list and that is another very time-consuming thing but I need this outlet both for my writing and my sanity. I don’t know who I’m talking to out there in cyberspace but I feel so much better since I’ve met you!)

Bearing all this in mind, I very strongly believe I can be forgiven for not being with it in the mornings.

Anyway, just because I’m not with it, why do the kids have to make so much mess and trash the joint? What are they thinking?

The dog really must be sick…he is sleeping in the trail of dog food Miss left for him.

This morning Miss was a bit upset because our dog wouldn’t go into her room. So being creative, motivated and an innovative problem-solver, she put a trail of dog food from Bilbo’s bowl almost to her room before I caught up with her. It was very clever. She had obviously read Hansel and Gretel and applied previous learning to a current problem. I should count my blessings. She’s smart. Moreover, Bilbo eats dry dog food and so I didn’t have sloppy, stinky canned dog food spread all through the house. It didn’t take long to clean it up.

However, while I was marveling at all my daughter’s amazing creativity, my lungs were constricting and I was struggling to breathe. The pressure was building up inside and I felt so overwhelmed. Last week, I spent what for us was a fortune getting the house cleaned and here she was messing up the floor. I felt like going ballistic: “Don’t you have any idea how much effort goes into trying to keep this place tidy?”

Of course, she doesn’t. She is only 6 years old.

Besides, how could I get mad with her? She just wanted the dog to play with her and as we all know, the way to Bilbo’s heart is through his stomach!!

I should also point out that this sort of thing doesn’t happen when your kids are watching TV, playing computer games or at before school care. Well, it’s what happens with my kids and if I could only get them out the door earlier, I would delegate some of that energy to breakfast club at school (run by the Red Cross) or running in the playground and then I wouldn’t have to clean it up. (Made mental note to self to action this at least one morning per week!!)

Compounding this was the usual battle of trying to get the kids dressed. Nothing was working on this front but we somehow pulled it all together just in time. They were dressed but I was really stressed.

Writing about our morning has, of course, has raised all kinds of issues. If they make a mess, they should clean it up. I enjoy or should enjoy spending time with the kids before school and having smart kids who are wondrously creative is such a blessing. They look beyond the square. Isn’t that what I’ve been encouraging?

Yes, but why does it have to be at my expense?

Well, we were a few minutes late for school this morning but I think I snuck them into assembly without needing a late note. That’s one point for Mum.

Since arriving home, I have made myself a cup of Twinings English Breakfast tea in my beautiful cup and saucer with the red and yellow roses and gold trim. These cups and saucers just aren’t for old ladies. I can sit in my kitchen and be just like the poet John Keats and glut my sorrow or frustration on a morning rose. I can focus on the flowers and ignore everything else around and sometimes even inside me. I can feel my breathing slow down and my body starting to relax. This is indeed a miracle!

I am now flicking through Reflections by Ken Duncan drinking what will be my third cup of tea (this one is now Camomile. You can have too much of a good thing!)

So what is my inspirational quote for today going to be?

Well, the first quote I opened up to was one of my favourites:

Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans…. John Lennon.

But then I found this one:

Stumbling blocks are stepping stones to victory… Ken Duncan.

That one is going on the white board. I love it. It gives me hope and hope not only opens doors. It gives you vision.

PS A few hours after writing this post, I went into Jonathon’s room and found out why he was taking so long to get dressed. There were three plates of dogfood in there and it was all over the door. Grr!

When the ordinary becomes extraordinary…

Last weekend, we had the privilege of catching up with a very close friend for dinner. Now, surely that isn’t something blogworthy? It’s possibly not even worth mentioning on Facebook. It’s like issuing a press release announcing: “I had a Vegemite sandwich for lunch”…blah, blah, blah, blah.

Well, I disagree. It’s been a good five years since we last went out for dinner with Emma. That’s not because we’ve been slack, lazy or had “good intentions”.

Sometimes, just getting out to dinner takes military planning. My friend has two young kids with special needs and she had escaped for the weekend “on respite”. That’s what it takes to have dinner with Emma. Things at our end weren’t that much easier. My auto-immune disease has flared. My prednisone has gone up and if things don’t turn around soon, my specialist is talking hospital. The pathology lab has also rung us twice lately concerned that I’m about to have a heart attack. After one stressed trip to Emergency, we are attributing those results to the auto-immune disease which seems hell bent on getting more attention. It’s wanting star billing and wasn’t happy just appearing at the bottom of the trailer. This means I’m not really about to have a heart attack. It just looks that way…I hope!

Considering how little we see Emma, I shouldn’t have felt guilty about going out but for a moment, I did. As much as I believe in seizing the moment, I still hesitated. Our kids had just come back from Camp Breakaway and I felt pretty bad about going out and leaving them behind. I also wondered whether I should be “resting” instead of going out. Actually, I knew I should probably be at home taking things easy but I wasn’t going to do it. I really wanted to see Emma and have a fabulous night out and celebrate. Emma has a very special place in our hearts. She introduced the two of us and our world might have been very different without her.

You can also see from the photos just how close Emma and I are. We are even wearing matching outfits and as I said, we don’t get together often but it almost always happens. I will point out that I gave her the owl necklace for her birthday so that matching bit was intentional.

So you see our dinner was really rather extraordinary. The fact that the three of us could sit in a restaurant and just talk was truly amazing!!

Not a care in the world!

Emma and I met up again for coffee on the Sunday and were joined by my daughter. Having coffee with your daughter is something so many people take for granted but with my health situation, I don’t. I haven’t seen Emma’s kids for a long time but I gather that going out for coffee isn’t possible at this point in time. They do lots of things together and Emma is an awesome Mum. She loves her kids to the very depth of her heart and fights tooth and nail to help them reach their potential just like any other parent. However, most of us don’t have to lobby, campaign and fill out 500 forms to pull that off!

I had the feeling that Emma and I both wanted to stretch the day out as long as we possibly could. We were just around the corner from the beach and I suggested that we pop down for a last look before we left. I wasn’t sure whether she would go. She was already on borrowed time but she did.

Ordinary…Extraordinary.

Again, it was a very ordinary thing for the three of us to go to the beach. No one looking at us would have had any idea just how amazing it was for us to be there. Emma made a few remarks about the extraordinariness of a little girl walking along the beach collecting shells with her Mum. I had my camera with me and I was photographing Miss doing cartwheels in the sand in her petit skirt. She was so pretty. I watched her looking at her hand and footprints in the sand as she cartwheeled down the beach. She also collected star shells and little bits of bright pink coral. Emma showed Miss the crab bubbles in the sand as the waves receded and I couldn’t help wondering why life had to be so complicated. Why should going to the beach with your Mum be such a privilege and why do so many people just take it all for granted? I know I don’t.

Cartwheels in the sand.

Footprints.

I was also having my own thoughts quite grateful that Emma knows me. Knows the real me that I’ve always been long before I had kids and she could share “me” with my kids if required. I know that all sounds a bit intense but nobody knows the future and that’s what makes the present so, so precious. I’m not talking about being morbid. It is just a reminder to seize the day, seize the moment and squeeze out every last drop. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

My daughter took this photo of me and you can really see the connection between us. Mummy playing up for the camera.

That said, even I don’t do it.

I really wanted to raise these issues in light of a recent blog I read by Stella Young on Mamamia. Stella Young is a disability activist, comedian, knitter and the Editor of Ramp Up, the ABC’s online space for news, opinion and discussion of disability issues. I recommend reading her post at

http://www.mamamia.com.au/health-wellbeing/stella-young-says-were-not-here-for-your-inspiration/

I liked some of her comments but I really believe we should be doing more to encourage others- not less. So what if we are celebrating the mundane, the everyday? For some of us, it really is extraordinary, inspirational…especially for people living with “invisibilities”. Just think about people living with anxiety, for example, who might be too afraid to leave their home. They need some inspiration!! If you can do it, I can do it. Seeing is believing. Moreover, I’d much rather have Stella as a role model than so many trashy celebrities.

I have people tell me I inspire them and I am so grateful because they look beyond my messy house, my parenting imperfections and they see what I do well. They understand that I face some hidden obstacles yet still manage to live life to the full. I say bring it on!!! We need so much more of that and so do our kids!

Thinking about seizing the moment and being inspired, I’ll just finish this off with this last little postscript because this week Miss was really inspired and I am so grateful.

Miss had had a term of violin lessons and gave up after too much screeching. Understandable perhaps but disappointing because I’d seen how much she’d loved it, connected with her violin and I thought she’d regret it. I just didn’t know how to ease her over those initial speed humps of learning a new instrument. I have practiced the violin almost daily and persevered myself to be an example to her but it wasn’t working. I have also been attending her violin lessons and keeping her spot warm. We had also tried switching her over to piano but she was still reluctant and getting very, very naughty in lessons until I decided to go it alone. It was all too hard and I was really loving my violin lessons with my beautiful teacher!

Well this week, Miss performed in Central Coast Showcase with the school choir and heard a young girl who was totally sensational playing her violin. She came home completely unprompted and said: “Mummy, I want to play my violin again.” I was so excited. Of course, I saw this as turning the corner…a new beginning. I’m not a cynic and sometimes it pays not to be because today she practiced. She was the one asking for her violin and we went through the pieces together. She actually played quite well and there weren’t that many squeaks after all.

That’s what inspiration can do! Bring it on

A Blank Canvas…

I don’t know whether I would call it procrastination, avoidance, hyperactivity or just too much prednisone because today I actually managed to clean the fridge.

There has to be some psychological term to explain my latest cleaning frenzy…a category all of its own in DSM IV or whatever the good book is called. I am quite ideologically opposed to cleaning and I only do it when I really have to. That said, I have also realised that now I’m a grown up, I can’t just throw all my crap in my cupboard, force the door shut and believe it’s all just going to magically self-sort. These days, it turns out, I have become the proverbial fairy, wielding my not so magic wand…clunk!

I think I might just blame the prednisone. I’m blaming it for everything right now! It’s a bit like being pregnant!

Anyway, before you get all excited about what rotten remains I’ve “discovered” in the fridge, I haven’t reached the inside of the fridge yet. I’m just talking about the fridge door.

So I’ll get you to sit down with your cup of tea and just think about fridge doors for a few minutes…

The more I think about it, the fridge door is actually something of a canvas. It’s blank. It’s white. You can let your imagination run totally wild.  Sure, like any canvas, of course there are boundaries…limits…a frame. Yet within that space, anything is possible although I would just advise against a completely literal interpretation of my “fridge door as canvas” concept. I strongly advise against painting on the fridge door itself. My daughter has written on our fridge door in permanent marker which at this point of time, is looking way too permanent. After all, the whole point is to be ephemeral. Your canvas is constantly changing, evolving…a melting pot of things past, present and maybe even future.

However, this “fridge door as canvas” concept is a long way from where I started out this morning. This morning my fridge door was looking something in between a dog’s breakfast and a very chaotic whirlwind. As I looked at everything stuck on top of it, I’m sure I could even detect whirly patterns. It was rather disconcerting as I wondered what the state of the fridge door actually said about me? Was this my reflection?

Then I got a bit stuck. I didn’t quite know how you are supposed to arrange all those fridge magnet thingys. It seems a bit anal having them all lined up in neat little rows like Monopoly houses but my ephemera was looking like it had been in a whirlwind. You know how it is. The magnets fall off and you just put them back anywhere before they get stamped on by the hoardes.

In an act which could only be described as desperation, I pulled absolutely everything off the fridge until it was completely and utterly naked…bare. It was actually quite a strange sight and all that white actually looked pretty glary. I needed my snow goggles on to deal with such vast expanse of white. I was in very unfamiliar territory. I, as you will come to know, am the Clutter Queen!

I re-discovered this message from a friend who had helped declutter my kitchen a few years ago.

As much as my fridge door might be messy, it is also glamorously eclectic and bursting with meaning, history…just like me! My entire life story is on that fridge door much of it preserved in the actual fridge magnets themselves. Not that I officially collect fridge magnets but maybe I do after all.

After

Perhaps, the oldest fridge magnet I have, is a hand-painted ceramic painting of a border collie. I bought that at Glebe Markets about 15 years ago when I was living in a converted warehouse apartment just off Broadway and I thought anywhere beyond the inner city was the outback and to avoided at all costs. We are now onto our second real Border Collie.

There is another series of fridge magnets, also from Glebe Markets by artist Liza Paizis. They are heavenly inspired. I love, love, love her work. She has subsequently moved back to South Africa but she is online. I was seriously distracted looking her up!! You can check her work out at http://www.zhibit.org/lizapaizis

Last year, I discovered the Flower Fairies by Cicely May Barker. You can see that I live in my imagination but her illustrations of local village children as flowers as so beautiful…more superlatives! See: http://www.flowerfairies.com/ I have a series of flower fairy fridge magnets which I picked up in Sandford, Brisbane when visiting my cousins.

I also have not one but three Kombi magnets. I have very fond memories of my first visit to Byron Bay back in 1995 and seeing rows of Kombis parked beside the beach. I had sold my artistic soul out to the corporate sector back then and had found visiting Byron so liberating!! Byron was still fairly  hippy.

I have been dreaming of running away in a Kombi ever since. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ultimate midlife crisis vehicle. I mean if you’re really going to run away from it all, you can’t fit everything into a teeny red convertible. Moreover, a sports car towing a trailer just isn’t a good look! You could literally fit the kitchen sink in the back of a Kombi. It’s my kind of vehicle!

Back when I was still breastfeeding and an active member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), we made our own fridge magnets as a fundraiser. We brought in photos, which were turned into fridge magnets in much the same way you’d make badges. That was about 8 years ago and I thought they were so cool. There’s one with my son and aunty posing in front of the laughing clowns at the Marburg Show when he was only weeks old.

Just like getting married, there’s something old and something new…

It seems I have added quite substantially to the fridge magnet collection this year. You know that fabulous feeling when you’re on holidays and buying a fridge magnet has been my way of letting that moment extend… or even last forever.

In January, on our way to Byron Bay, we visited the Pet Porpoise Pool at Coffs Harbour. I just had to buy a couple of magnets there so I could look at the seals and dolphins when I got home. We’d been so up close and personal that we could almost smell their fishy breath from the stands. We all enjoyed seal and dolphin kisses as well although I can assure you, we all washed our faces thoroughly afterwards.

There are also some postcards from Nelson Bay. I went there on an adventure camp with Muscular Dystrophy NSW and went parasailing, quad-bike riding, dolphin watching and chatted and chatted with an inspirational group of people.

Lastly, just a few weeks ago, I bought a couple of fridge magnets from the National Gallery in Canberra, on our way back from the snow. There’s The Rose 1958 by Salvador Dali. I really liked this painting with a huge reddish rose hovering in the sky. I have always been a fan of Keats whose Ode to Melancholy suggests:

“But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud…
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose…”

I particularly liked Dali’s less conventional take on the classic rose. I stuck that on the fridge as a reminder to bounce back when the going gets tough (which it inevitably does for everyone eventually).

I also couldn’t resist Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly 1946. This painting shows a rear-view of Ned riding a horse and there’s a “window” cut into his helmet and you see the clouds in his head. This surrealist image has always appealed to me, as my own head is often in the clouds. We took the kids to see the Ned Kelly Series while we were at the gallery and our son tripped over the protective gutter and literally crashed into Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly. Fortunately, no alarms bells went off but a copy of painting is also plastered on the side of the fridge. I’m a bad mother!

There is also a magnet from Questacon. We all loved Questacon!!

I also have a few magnets with motivational sayings. There’s the Footprints poem. “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. – Joe Ancis and a photo of an elephant’s foot about to step on a mouse with the caption: “It could always get worse!”

I did throw a few magnets out today but even though our son is 8 and Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t quite so cool anymore, I couldn’t throw poor Thomas out. He stays.

I also added a photo of our family taken down at the snow as few weeks ago.

Our daughter’s artwork

But no fridge door is complete without artwork…especially when you have young kids. Our daughter loves drawing rainbows and they really are very good at turning your mood around. How could you ever look at a rainbow and feel sad? I have a self-portrait by our son up as well as something he calls the never-starting never-ending picture. He ended up putting a bloodshot eyeball in it. He’s rubbed dirt in his eye that day and ended up off at the doctor and returning looking like Pirate Pete.

Our son’s drawing: The Never-starting, Never-ending Picture”

As much as I’ve been steadily collecting these fridge magnets over the years, I’ve never thought about them like this before. Done an inventory and joined all the dots. It’s quite amazing really when you consider what a simple fridge door can say about who you really are.

Well, just one last word about what isn’t on my fridge door.

I have a magnetic whiteboard beside the fridge and it is the organiser albeit with a huge paper sunflower made by our daughter stuck to one side. I just can’t seem to stick to the straight and narrow!

What do you have stuck on your fridge door? I’d love to hear your stories too!

Adventures of A Cheesy

You could be excused for thinking you’re having flashbacks to the 1960s when you see a couple of purple cows grazing beside the road.

Don’t worry. Be happy! You’re not hallucinating. They’re real… albeit plastic… another quirky marketing gimmick. I don’t know why they couldn’t just stick a sign out the front saying Old Wyong Dairy? It’s not rocket science. After all, that is where we are!

Rustic signage at the Old Wyong Dairy

I am a woman on a mission. I’m sure you’ve heard of “foodies”. Well, that must make me a “cheesy” because I’m mad about cheese and that’s why we’re here. I’ve heard about a boutique cheese making operation and I got here as fast as I could.

Must have been a mouse in a past life!

I’m a seasoned cheese tourist. A few years ago, we visited my husband’s homeland, Tasmania. While other tourists were climbing Cradle Mountain, we were driving from coast to coast chasing the mighty cheese. There was the Pyengana Cheese factory in the North-East followed by the Lactos Cheese Factory at Burnie on the North-West Coast and followed by Ashgrove Farm at Elizabeth Town again in the North-West. I was in heaven.

So you could just imagine my excitement when I heard there was a cheese factory locally on the Central Coast. It was still about an hour away but I was busting to get there. I’d also heard they made their own yogurt using jersey milk and that sounded great too.  My husband grew up on jersey milk and raves about the stuff. So on the way home from dropping the kids off at Camp Breakaway, I managed to divert Geoff and we were in heaven.

Now, I always prefer rustic to commercial and the Little Creek Cheese Factory was quaint, intimate, filled with cheese and yogurt and then there was John. I always love somebody who can tell a story and John really draws you in with his down to earth character, his enthusiasm and a good yarn. Just ask him about how he started the business. It’s a great story.

I’m not going to go into a running description of all the cheese and yogurts. Personally, I can’t understand how all those food and wine critics come up with all those weird and wonderful descriptions of things. The cheese looked like cheese. Smelled like cheese. Tasted like cheese. Thank goodness it did. I mean would you really want to buy cheese that smells like a pair of old joggers? Don’t answer that. This cheese fit all the cheese requirements but it also had lots of extra bits and pieces such as garlic, chilli and wasabi. They were all beautiful. I’ll just let you know that we bought a box load of the stuff to take home. That’s a pretty glowing endorsement! I can assure you, we’re not the last of the big spenders. I even bought a couple of wax cheese candles. They had definite character a bit along the lines of the purple cows but I’ve never claimed to be normal!

Cheese Candle

As a bit of a postscript, I should let you know that I fried some of the BBQ Cheese, a cow’s milk Haloumi, tonight and served it on top of lamb shanks, mash and hommous. It really gave my dish a bit of finesse. As we all know, you can’t just dish anything up these days. You have to “plate up”.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with BBQ Cheese, roast tomatoes, mash and hommous

I have also been eating my way through their range of yogurts. First, there was the chocolate yogurt, then the toffee yogurt and I’ve had a day off today to squeeze in a slice of home-made Iced Vovo Cake for dessert.

I’m enjoying a great cappuccino at Cinnamon Beans Cafe

Back to the Old Wyong Dairy… John was happy to mind our cheese stash while we headed next door to Cinnamon Beans for lunch. This was another great “find”. The food was out of this world. Now, I know I shouldn’t be eating chips and it sounds like I am on some kind of high-fat, see-food diet but my husband and I rarely go out on a date so this was pretty special. Anyway, I don’t eat the chips unless they’re good…very good! These were possibly the best chips I’ve ever had and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m already thinking about ways and means of driving up the freeway to get some more. We had a serve of mixed chips with our open steak burger which filled the plate, by the way. The whole thing was excellent value at around $12.00 and just beautiful! This cafe was a real find!

I’ve always liked to share those unexpected experiences… real “finds”. I’d arrived at the cheese tasting with a heavy heart. I’d spent the previous day having tests at Royal North Shore Hospital and we’d just dropped our kids off for respite at Camp Breakaway. Even though I knew they were going to have a fabulous time, I couldn’t help feeling “emotional” leaving them behind.

Our visit to the Old Wyong Dairy really cheered me up and left me feeling completely recharged. It has a really positive energy and comes highly recommended.

Enjoy!

Xx Ro

The Old Wyong Dairy 141-155 Alison Road, Wyong.

Little Creek Cheese Factory  www.littlecreekcheese.com.au

Three Magic Wishes…

Photo: the Chocolate Block. That’s what the amboes (ambulance drivers) call Royal North Shore Hospital.

This week my three magic wishes were actually granted…

  1. Alone.
  2. Doing nothing.
  3. Asleep.

This should have been amazing…a real Eureka moment…but it wasn’t.

You see, I didn’t just find some old genie bottle washed up on the beach and rub away. I had to go into hospital to receive my three magic wishes.

I was on the gastro ward at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney having a camera shoved down my throat to photograph my stomach and everything in between.

That was how I ended up alone with nothing to do and plenty of rest.

Was it worth it? There are easier ways to get a break…grandparents, vacation care, play dates. The list goes on. Did I really have to go through all of that?

Believe me, next time I’ll take up one of those other alternatives instead.

I only had the procedure because I didn’t think they’d find anything…at least, nothing new! It was all supposed to be routine and if I’d thought they were going to find anything more than last night’s pizza, I never would have agreed to the procedure. Ignorance is bliss.

I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to actually look in there in the first place. Surely, it wasn’t mine? No, definitely not!  I was just the passenger going along for the ride. I’m not driving this thing. Actually, I’m not sure who or what is in the driver’s seat but that’s another story…

Also, I have to admit that being alone was over-rated too! I suddenly felt so incredibly alone when my husband had to leave. I didn’t know how long I was going to be just lying on the bed waiting but I’m not very good at sitting, or even lying still. Perhaps, he could have stayed a bit longer but I felt like such a baby wanting to hold his hand. This procedure was nothing. I’ve had it done before and all I remember is having a very deep and relaxing sleep.

The procedure itself wasn’t the problem. It was all the other stuff. Just wearing the white hospital gown was freaking me out. I was Cinderella unravelling all the way home from the ball as I madly struggled to hold all the bits together. You know what those hospital gowns are like and I really didn’t want my undies smiling out the back. It’s not a good look!

It’s bad enough that the gown is white but the bed and the sheets and everything to do with the place are white as well. There is something quite ghostly and chilling about being around white on white on white even if I can’t smell antiseptic. I am now lying in all this white with a doobywacker attached to my finger which tells me whether I’m alive (beep, beep, beep) or dead. The nurses did warn me not to panic if the machine alarms. More than likely, I won’t be dead. Apparently, these doobywackers have a nasty habit of falling off. That’s good to know. I’d hate to have a heart attack because I’m dead but not dead!

I’m now starting to wonder whether hospital humour really is quite so funny after all.

Anyway, the nurses were just beautiful and so understanding as I talked more and more and more…an anxious mess. Against the odds, they actually helped me to relax.

As I mentioned before, I’m not good at sitting still, lying still or doing nothing. Geoff has my phone so I can’t phone a friend, surf the net or check out Facebook. However, I did manage to keep hold of a book and a pen. I start blogging in the back of my book. You know those couple of pages they leave blank. They’re like the back of a business card. They’re meant to be written on. You could even start writing your own novel in there. Well, after filling up the back of the book and then filling up whatever blank space was in the front, I decided I’d better actually use the book for its intended purpose. I’d deliberately brought along a distracting book written by some goofy safari guide. I mean, Africa is such a long, long way away from Royal North Shore Hospital and I really was doing my utmost best to take my mind off of things. Usually, I’d be reading something really D & M, philosophical or by another survivor when I’m going through something like this. However, lately I’ve resorted to humour and distraction instead. The author is a safari guide in training and the book is filled with funny stories. Under normal circumstances, I’d be laughing my head off but right now, I’m really struggling to focus. You know where you find yourself reading and re-reading the same words over and over again and you get stuck on the same line of text but you can somehow convince yourself that you are actually reading. Even though you really haven’t digested what you’re supposedly reading, you still turn the page just to convince yourself that everything is okay when clearly it’s not.  Well, that’s what this was like. I just couldn’t switch off from where I really was and pretend that I was on a safari in deepest, darkest Africa.

An eternity later, the doctor appears. A device goes inside my mouth to keep it open and a cannula goes into my hand. It won’t be long now. I’m looking forward to slipping into a deep, relaxing sleep. I’m out to it.

It’s all over. I slowly wake up and the nurse gives me a sandwich and a cup of tea. There are about 6 patients all lined up to get our reports. I’m quite blasé the report because I already know what is going to say…heartburn, hernia. There’s nothing at all to worry about.

Ha! I should have known better. Every routine test I’ve had lately has brought fresh disasters. I am told I have a nodule. I don’t know what a nodule is but there’s a colour photo of it on the report. I’m usually hungry for information and love a photo but this is different. I’ve taken a few lessons in avoidance and denial lately and I just don’t want to know.  But I am weak willed. I have to look and I’m now staring almost through it. The report says that it’s tiny…only 6 mm but it looks more like a mountain to me. It’s nasty…very nasty and if it isn’t terminal, it’s definitely radioactive or worse. Sure, I know they’ve zoomed in and made it look a thousand times worse than it is but I can’t get that image out of my head. This thing is a mountain…an Everest-sized mountain and I’m not going to climb it.

The doctor, however, seems quite relaxed. He’s taken a biopsy and I’m to follow it up in the clinic.

Geoff is also quite relaxed about the results. He’s my rock.

I’m still unconvinced. The report tells me that they will contact me within 7 days if it’s nasty and I wonder how they will reach me if I forget to charge my phone.

You would think that this would be enough drama for one day but now I am waiting for the rheumatology registrar. We live more than an hour’s drive away from the hospital and so as much as I can, I try to multi-task. That means squeezing as many appointments as I can into one day. The registrar arrives with my Professor in tow. There is no guess work involved here. I already know I’ve had a flare. As much as I might be in denial and thinking a mild flare isn’t an emergency, it is starting to look like the makings of an emergency. My prednisone has been jacked up to25mg and I’ve been put on weekly blood tests. As bad as 25mg of prednisone sounds and take it from me 25 mg of prednisone is going to do its very best to turn me into a Michelin woman with a very bad temper, it could be worse. If this doesn’t work, I’m looking at 50mg of prednisone and a trip to hospital was also mentioned. So unfortunately, this time I am not over-reacting or being some kind of hypochondriac. This is what it is.

I know it’s going to take a lot of positive motivational talk to get me through the next couple of weeks. I have been through this before and they have managed to get my auto-immune disease under control and reduce the prednisone to manageable levels. This is temporary. It isn’t forever. I can get through this. I can do it. The sun will rise. Stay tuned.

Sunrise    Jindabyne 2012

As luck would have it, I had booked the kids in for a Siblings and Young Carers Camp at Camp Breakaway  and we dropped them off yesterday morning. It was perfect timing and exactly what we all needed. I marvel at the timing of it all. When I had booked the kids in for camp, I was quite fine and had wondered whether they really needed to go. Our kids are only 8 and 6 and haven’t even been for a sleep over with a friend yet. It was quite a big deal to ship them off with strangers but I had actually met the General Manager at nippers and she was so lovely…so compassionate. I took a deep breath and I went with it. By the time the camp had come around, I was off having tests in hospital and my auto-immune disease had flared and we all really needed it.

I was super impressed by how much trouble the team at Camp Breakaway had gone to create a fun, party atmosphere for the kids. The theme is Under the Sea and they had made a mermaid and merman and you even walked through a decorative shark’s jaw when you arrived. I could literally feel the love in the air and I was so pleased my kids were going to be a part of that. It was a really happy place. Our kids were so entranced, they barely said good bye. That was something for our 6 year old daughter. She struggles to let go of my hand when I say goodnight so that was a very positive sign. I’m so relieved the kids have the opportunity to get away from all of this and just be kids for a bit. Have fun. Enjoy themselves without constantly running into shadows.

I also have the chance to rest and recuperate a bit. That said, I am also thinking about the kids and wondering what they’re up to. I wouldn’t even mind a phone call but I have to be strong. Let them go. They will be home soon enough.

I know it’s rather heavy writing about this sort of thing. People don’t usually talk very much about life, death and everything in between. I don’t usually talk about it either. As you can see from my previous blogs, we lead a pretty active life and we’ve been up to all sorts of fun activities during the holidays. However, we also live with a shadow just like so many other people live with all sorts of shadows. Things aren’t always easy but they’re not always hard either and we enjoy life. I try to squeeze the last drop out of every day and yes, quite often I over do it but what is the point of living if you do not live?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on living with adversity. How do you get through?

Camp Breakaway can be found at http://www.breakaway.org.au/