Monthly Archives: July 2015

My son, the triathlete…

Hi All,
As you may be aware, I have a neurological condition which severely affected me when I was 25 and had surgery. It was a hellish time, particularly as a young person mixing with the elderly at rehab while my friends continued to party. Please read Nick’s story and respond in any way you can xx Rowena

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo


You may know my son’s story. For once, I have no problem repeating it for those who do not. I have a very good reason for it that I have been bursting to share!

In 2009 my son was 25… a good looking, successful young man with a fast car, nice apartment near the coast and a very promising career. That ended on July 4th when he was left for dead in a Bournemouth alley, stabbed through the brain in an unprovoked attack.

2009 before the attack 2009 before the attack

I have written before of the terror of the next days as he underwent brain surgery to remove the shards of shattered bone from the left hemisphere of his brain. I have told of the weeks of heartache as we waited to see if he would live or die, while his brain bled and swelled, causing further damage to the brain stem itself…

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Awkward Birthday Negotiations.

My daughter went to so much trouble for my birthday this morning making cards, hanging up streamers. The kitchen looked beautiful and she had gone to so much trouble!

Miss did a fantastic job decorating the kitchen.

Miss did a fantastic job decorating the kitchen.

There was only one problem.

She became quite overwhelmed by this sense that I was going to be lonely spending the day without the family. Feeling almost consumed by this sense of my abject loneliness, she wanted to stay home from school and spend my birthday with me.

These were beautiful sentiments but there was just one problem.

A crown of prawns...yum!

A crown of prawns…yum!

I’d arranged to go out to lunch with my friends. We’ve struggled to get together this year and I think this might be the first time the four of us have managed to get together so it was pretty special and we’d booked into a cafe set among towering gum trees, a contemplative fish pond with intriguing carp and scrumptious food.

I can't exactly remember what it was...banana pudding with caramel and toffee ice cream. I was feeling very indulent and even though I've had a big tummy ache for the rest of the day, there are no regrets!

I can’t exactly remember what it was…banana pudding with caramel and toffee ice cream. I was feeling very indulent and even though I’ve had a big tummy ache for the rest of the day, there are no regrets!

Mummy had plans and …awkward moment…they didn’t involved my daughter tagging along.


Birthday morning at the beach.

Birthday morning at the beach.

After much debate, tempers and tears we compromised and I took the kids and the dogs for a walk along the beach. I often talk to them about the various dogs and humans I meet down at the beach and so it was great to be able to share this world with them and I knew they’d have fun. While detouring to the beach on the way to school might seem a bit naughty, my daughter’s emotions have been quite fraught lately and I felt she needed that together time.

Welcome to Dog Beach!

Welcome to Dog Beach!

Moreover, despite being the middle of Winter with bitterly cold nights, the sun was out and it’s an almost balmy 16 degrees Celsius. It’s absolutely beautiful.

So, off we went kids and dogs in tow.

Bilbo appropriating another dog's ball.

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

Bilbo was in his usual fine form ingratiating himself to other dog owners throwing balls and he has trained the humans to throw the ball for him as well.

Bilbo training another dog's Dad to throw the ball.

Bilbo training another dog’s Dad to throw the ball.

When it comes to tennis balls, Bilbo is totally obsessed and the epitomy of a working dog. Every ounce of his concentration is fixated on that ball. One paw raise, ears cocked, he has absolute tunnel vision and sees nothing else. His entire world is a green sphere and even though we were leaving to go home today, he was still staring at that ball. Fortunately, once I mentioned “car” miraculously the spell was broken and he finally came.

The kids found this huge “stick” and Spitz was lucky not to catch it!

Meanwhile, the kids enjoyed climbing over fallen branches and throwing our mate Spitz a tree trunk of a stick. Spitz was very obliging and did give it a bit of a chew and inspection but that hefty lump of wood wasn’t going anywhere.

I sometimes forget that my dog walking world at the beach has become my own private bubble inhabited by characters which the rest of the family have never met. I am there most weekdays just after school drop off and I meet virtually the same humans and dogs down there everyday and have become a part of that community…that world.

Having down the tough love, terrible mother thing and dropped the kids at school, I am about to head out to lunch. I am even going to wear lipstick so this is what I consider formal.

Meanwhile, I bought myself two bunches of fresh daffodils. My grandfather and I almost share a birthday and he once bought me a daffodil in a pot for my birthday. From my response, you’d think he did it every year but daffodils always remind me of him.

Mister gave me a fabulous cookbook by Masterchef, Matt Preston. I am wondering whether I now need to buy some loud outfits to reproduce the recipes!

Mister gave me a fabulous cookbook by Masterchef, Matt Preston. I am wondering whether I now need to buy some loud outfits to reproduce the recipes!

So my birthday continues. My husband wished sleeping beauty Happy Birthday as he left this morning. My present is on the kitchen table but I’ll wait til he gets home tonight. It’s nice to know he remembered. I almost forgot myself things have been that chaotic and over the last few years, my birthdays have lost the pomp and ceremony they used to have. I feel like a broken down jalopy who just seems to make it to the finish line each year and don’t quite have the zest and enthusiasm leftover for any rah rah!

Just making sure they still love me when I'm 64.

Just making sure they still love me when I’m 64.

Happy Birthday to me!!

My husband gave me this gorgeous platter designed by David Hart, son of artist Pro Hart. Such a thoughtful gift and I just love those bright yellow flowers! So very Rowie!

My husband gave me this gorgeous platter designed by David Hart, son of artist Pro Hart. Such a thoughtful gift and I just love those bright yellow flowers! So very Rowie!

xx Rowena

My First Haiku

Being a rather verbose writer who prefers rambling along in free verse and isn’t even good at counting when it comes to playing my violin, let alone at counting syllables, I’d never even considered writing Haiku.

That’s the trouble with bthinking “never” because God, serendipity, fate or whatever you call the convergence of forces which plucks you out of your current journey and plants you somewhere else, seems to be conspiring against you.

Last week, I attended an Author/Illustrator event at our local library and I was astounded to find out that we had a Haiku writing guru just around the bend at Pearl Beach…Beverley George. Hearing her talk about Haiku and other Japanese forms of verse, aroused my interest and I started thinking about how many of my photos would suit Haiku… particularly the one of the seagull taking flight in front of the rainbow, which I’ve titled “Seagull Ascending” (a play on words with a violin piece called “Lark Ascending”.)

Anyway, tonight we were attending open night at the high school where our son will be attending next year. These open nights are a very impressive, inter-active affair with all sorts of activities for upcoming students and parents. I guess it’s all aimed at bridging that terrifying gap between the relative safety and security of Primary School and the shark-infested waters of high school.

Now, even I’m almost convinced everything is going to be okay. That’s a real achievement!

Anyway, while Mister was off in the science labs undertaking all sorts of investigates, which I hear included dreaded dissections, I hooked up with the writing teacher who was running a challenge to write Haiku. What a surprise!

Although Haiku might be the flavour of the month, I must say that I felt a “call to action”. That this was more than coincidence and it was time for me to cross the bridge and dip my wee little toe into the deep and scary waters of Haiku.

So, in case you can’t read the text clearly in the photo, my Haiku read:

Rainbow skies dance
above the noble bird
Thunder rumbles.

I was pleased. Stoked actually because, as I said, counting isn’t my thing and neither is working in syllables or a few words.

So, I guess as I face my 46th birthday tomorrow and begin another year, perhaps this is a sign of things to come and I hope that I like that seagull, can keep finding the courage to take flight mid-storm and never give up.

xx Rowena

Tuesday Trivia ~ July 28, 2015

Here are some informative and fun canine facts for the dog lovers out there xx Rowena

Tails Around the Ranch

It’s Tuesday so that means…it’s Trivia Day. Check out the latest fascinating facts I recently discovered.

IMG_1522 Did you know that the wetness of a dog’s nose is essential for determining what direction a smell is coming from? I expect all of you with hunters will have known this, but this was completely unknown by me.

And why are dog’s noses wet? Dogs secret a thin layer of mucous that helps them absorb scents. Licking their nose help them sample the scent through their mouths.

When English poet Lord Byron was informed that his beloved dog, Boatswain would not be allowed to accompany him to Cambridge Trinity College, he retaliated by bringing a tame bear instead. There being no mention of bears in their statutes, the college authorities relented.  Byron also suggested that he would apply for a college fellowship for the bear.

Puppies have 28 teeth and normal adult dogs have 42. If that’s…

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Beach Bandaid.

Almost everyday, I take the dogs for a walk at “Dog Beach”. It’s a section of beach between Ocean Beach and Ettalong Beaches where dogs can run off the lead. Not only do the dogs run off the lead but so do the humans.
Somehow having a dog breaks down most of those social barriers and we almost all chat to each other and at least know the dogs by name.

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

I am quite surprised by the array of dogs which wag their tails, growl, run, chase balls dog along the beach but it’s like Sam the Old English Sheepdog and his mate Hamish, the Lassie Collie really call this stretch of sand home and the rest of us just come and go. They are such character dogs and you don’t see those breeds often in Australia and I’ve never seen them together before so they really stand out. They have such long, adorable coats, that they’re not the sorts of dogs you usually see at the beach either.

I used to have a Lassie as a child and we had an Old English Sheepdog before Bilbo. He was a rescue dog and much of the time we had him, I must admit, we felt like we needed to be rescued what with the flying slobber and his food thieving ways. He’d steal food off the kitchen bench and swallow it bag and all. As if that was crazy enough, he’d run round and round in circles during a storm, huffing and puffing like a freaked out canine locomotive. His name was “Loopy” before we got him and although we changed it to a more dignified “Rufus”, it didn’t change the nature of the dog!

Anyway, if you’ve been following the misfortunes of the beach since “The Storm”, then you’ll know it took a beating. Trees had been ripped out by the roots and scattered like matchsticks by the violent surf along the beach and the place was looking like a war zone.

Here’s a link to a post written during the storm:

Then there was Walking Along the Storm Ravaged Beach:

I even wrote a poem: Beach Storm:

A vagrant tree branch on the beach after the storms.

A vagrant tree branch on the beach after the storms.

Well, now it looks like a building site. Part of the beach is blocked off with a row of roadworks cones and there’s a roadworks sign in the middle of the beach and often you can see the bulldozer at work moving mountains of sand to try to save the road. Sandbags have been ordered but this situation is very complex and like any ecosystem, there are things you don’t even consider which are somehow part of the picture and there is so much to consider.

Umina Beach just after the storm in April.

Umina Beach just after the storm in April.

That said, you would be surprised how many engineering experts know exactly what to do down at the beach. Everyone has an opinion. No doubt, even the dogs who have turned all the council paraphernalia as yet another “telegraph pole”.

Isn’t it funny how the less you know the more certain you are? Sometimes, we joke about our son who is only 11 but still has his opinions: “Often wrong but never in doubt”. His peers are much the same so it’s nothing personal. Yet, how many adults are much the same? After all, it would be reassuring to have those certainties but a complex problem is a complex problem and usually ends up needing a multi-disciplinary approach to take in at least most of the angles. There is definitely no quick fix!

So, in the meantime, our beach hovers in a kind of life support but it is receiving intensive care and a lot of love.

We wish it a speedy recovery!

xx Rowena

National Tree Planting Day: Meeting Taronga’s Zoomobile!

When you think of Australian animals, koalas and kangaroos have hogged much of the limelight. However, today we met a few unsung characters when Taronga Zoo’s Zoomobile came to town.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure what we were at this morning. I was just tagging along with my daughter and her cub scout pack. There was tree planting, running through the bush with her mates and meeting a real cast of characters from Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo. I was about to say cute and furry characters but if you’ve ever seen an echidna, you’d realise they’re more along the lines of rough and spiky. Indeed, I was told their spines can easily puncture through car tyres, although I’ve patted a few and survived unscathed. Also, I wouldn’t exactly describe the Eastern Shingleback Lizard as “cute” either. That is, unless you go with the definition: “ugly but interesting!

Our daughter pats a Shingleback Lizard

Our daughter pats a Shingleback Lizard

Mind you, in terms of cuteness, it is hard to overlook this baby Ringtail Possum.

How cute: Baby Ringtail Possum.

How cute: Baby Ringtail Possum.

Personally, the star of the show had to be a somewhat obscure marsupial called the Yellow-bellied Glider, which arrived in a rather intriguing wooden contraption that reminded me a bit of a miniature phone booth. I didn’t hear this critter make a noise and was just admiring its photogenic qualities and the softness of its fur when an almighty din erupted from the DVD player. Can’t even begin to describe what its call sounds like but you can listen to it here:

Feeding the Yellow-bellied Glider.

Feeding the Yellow-bellied Glider.

I was also stoked to meet their echidna. You might recall that we chanced across a few echnidas on a bushwalk locally which I wrote about here:

Talk about a sticky beak!

Talk about a sticky beak!

Even though we’ve seen echidnas in the wild, I was still stoked to see theirs, who was also a lot more sociable and willing to show off a little and give us a few more insights into the life and times of the echidna. Apparently, it locates it’s food using the tip of its snout or nose, which is sensitive to electrical signals from an insect body and this is how it searches and “sniffs” out ant and termite nests. Echidnas then normally tear into the mound or nest with its sharp front claws while its snout exposes the ants or termites. These are then caught with its fast-flicking, sticky tongue. Because they have no teeth the Echidna crushes the insects between horny pads in its mouth.

That all sounds like a lot of hard work just to get a feed…especially when you could just pop into the supermarket!

This lizard looks quite accustomed to the camera!

This lizard looks quite accustomed to the camera!

In addition to the cute and furies, the sharp and spikies, there were the reptiles…always popular at any animal show. I must admit I was quite relieved not to run into any of these on our recent bushwalk…especially any SNAKES!!

Miss intrigued by the Children's Python.

Miss intrigued by the Children’s Python.

The Zoomobile wimped out a bit today on the snake front by only bringing what’s known as a Children’s Python. After all, it’s not a good idea to introduce Australia’s deadliest snakes to a whole lot of kids. “Mummy, look at me,” as Little Johnny’s clutching an Eastern Brown, Australia’s deadliest snake. That wouldn’t go down well on Facebook at all!

Yes, Australia is full of deadly snakes and if you’d like to read more about them with going anywhere near them, click here:

In contrast to the Eastern Brown, the Children’s Python is like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all rolled into one user-friendly snake.

Actually, maybe not.

I just did a bit of quick Google research and found out that the Children’s Python isn’t some docile relative of a jelly snake, which makes a suitable pet for kids. Rather, it is named after the scientist John George Children, who first described them. Humph! That’s the last time I go playing with one of those things. Yes, they actually do bite but are non-venomous.

Yes, I’ll stick to eating jelly snakes!

Back on the cute list, we also spotted this frog which seemed to change colour to match its habitat. Clever!

Well, returning after school drop off this morning, I have finally found out what yesterday was all about.

It was the 26th July and National Tree Planting Day and we were planting trees to protect the long term habitat of the Yellow-Bellied Glider, which actually lives locally at Kincumber. This is a joint project between Gosford City Council and Taronga Zoo. One thing I did pick up was the these gliders live in tree hollows, which are formed when the branches drop off and the wood rots away to form the hollow. It takes at least 120 years for a tree to be mature enough for these tree hollows to form so we really need to protect our older trees as well as planting new ones for the future. Here is a link to more information about the project:

Meanwhile, as the cubs were planting trees and enjoying the Zoomobile, our son was away on camp with the Scouts. We managed to enjoy a snapshot of the bush when we picked him up. I particularly loved the pink Boronia flowers. They have a beautiful fragrance and I used to pick them and make potions out of them when I was a kid.

Beautiful Boronia Flowers.

Beautiful Boronia Flowers.

Anyway, just thought I’d share this impressive shot of him carrying his pack. I don’t think it was an heavy as it looks or gravity would have done its job.

Glad I'm not carrying that pack.

Glad I’m not carrying that pack.

Our boy Scout is rapidly growing up!

Our boy Scout is rapidly growing up!

It’s been very encouraging working on this post and realising the limitations of my knowledge and pushing those boundaries out. Of course, we never stop learning and most of our greatest lessons take place out of the classroom.

xx Rowena

The End of a Great Weekend.

The End of a Great Weekend.

Dancing Away the Rain.

The last week has been pretty intense for our daughter.

Last week, I finally managed to get her to see a vocal speech therapist about the vocal nodules which were picked up a few months ago when her gastro-intestinal issues were diagnosed. These nodules are like calloused blisters on your vocal chords and by the time we finally reached the specialist all that yelling at brother and mother not to mention stomach acid, had created quite a hurdle. Sure, we knew her voice could be quiet but there was also the shouting and we’d I guess just become accustomed to her squeaky little girl voice which my friends considered “cute”. My daughter loves singing and so having trouble with her voice, indeed, being diagnosed with severe vocal nodules and talking about how her voice is already struggling to produce full words was alarming, catastrophic. In essence, I was told that her voice was badly broken and needed the vocal equivalent of a wheelchair. At the moment, that is temporary and there are exercises and quite a lot of restrictions. Failure to cooperate will have serious consequences and I don’t think she’s just talking about “down the track” or “in the long run”. We’re talking NOW!

Of course, after all of that bad news and feeling like I’d been zapped with a stun gun, we succumbed to retail therapy. I can’t even remember what I bought her but I bought myself an adult colouring-in book with motivational quotes inside as I felt myself being sucked down a very long drain pipe.

As a kid, I could never understand why my mother became so distraught when something happened to me but now I finally get it.

Our little dancing star!

Our little dancing star!

When something happens to your kids, you actually feel 1000 times worse because you wish it had happened to you and you KNOW that you are somehow part of the problem and there’s that incredible, crippling stomach-churning guilt. Either you should have stopped it. Acted sooner. Jumped in your private ambulance and pushed the accelerator flat to the floor and driven like a bat out of hell.

That’s what my grandmother did after my uncle sustained third degree burns to his hand while she was changing his brother’s nappy and I think her pressure cooker also exploded that morning leaving beans glued to the ceiling.

Miss as Gretel from the Sound of Music.

Miss as Gretel from the Sound of Music.

Anyway, Miss isn’t supposed to sing at all at the moment and I can’t quite remember the speech therapist’s exact words. However, essentially her voice needs to pack its bags for a bit and sit on a beach and read through that stack of books which is falling down beside my bed. Being a kid, there will be so cocktails but I’ll allow her a lemonade with a slice of lemon and one of those cool and groovy little umbrellas on the side.

However, let’s get back to the real world.

My little girl is growing up but for a precious moment, time stood still!

My little girl is growing up but for a precious moment, time stood still!

Last Sunday, Miss had her mid-year dance concert and she also does Musical Theatre. Not even a week after being told not to sing at all, there she was, crime of crimes, up on stage singing…singing a solo even. It was only one line but just like you pinch the last chocolate and hope you don’t get sprung, I knew this was a stolen moment. That one line was no doubt doing damage but when I saw her up on that stage in the baby-pink satin dress being Gretal from The Sound of Music, even if it was only an excerpt and they were only in the school hall, I was so incredibly proud!! It also made me tear up a bit as they sang: “So long, Farewell”. With my bad health over the years, these dance concerts are emotionally confronting but this time when I saw her dressed up as a little girl and knowing she is growing up so fast, I couldn’t help but feel I was waving goodbye to her. After all, next year she turns 10!

My gorgeous girl!

My gorgeous girl!

We returned to the speech therapist this week and had good news. She had noticed an improvement just in that first week. She has been given more exercises and appointments are shifting from weekly to fortnightly. I know I can be a master of denial but I was very relieved. After seeing my grandmother lose her voice after a series of debilitating mini-strokes and what that meant to her, knowing that my daughter had already lost much of her voice was devastating. Therefore, ever the faintest glimmer of hope and improvement is such a relief! We are actually turning the tide.

Just to elaborate on this “we” business a little, my voice is also struggling at the moment and I am doing my daughter’s exercises as well not just to support her but to also let my own voice out of jail. It’s very hoarse as well.

So what with dance concerts, musical theatre and good or at least, improved news from the speech therapist, those dark, heavy rain clouds lifted and a rainbow appeared!

How do you feel when your children experience similar setbacks?

xx Rowena

Thoughts on empathy, self-compassion, and acceptance

Most of us know somebody whose struggles with the “black dog” can become crippling and the worst case scenario can almost seem inevitable and yet perhaps there is a way out and I thought this post was a must read. xx Rowena

Time for my thoughts...

“Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?”
— William Blake, “On Another’s Sorrow”

The theme of this month’s #1000Speak post is acceptance. I’m not sure if I’ve quite managed it this month. I began the piece that follows only a couple of days after the suicide that precipitated it. It was weighing on my mind, for the impact to my daughter and her friends, and because it brought back mixed emotions for friends that I’ve lost over the years. I think that, perhaps more than any other type of death, suicide bears down on those left behind with a stream of mixed emotions, including anger and guilt, in a way that an accident or an illness doesn’t. It brings out our empathy (too late), and our guilt (we should have been prevented it). But of…

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