Monthly Archives: July 2015

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnzGlC0Pmfo

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: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/bushwalking-through-the-lens-australian-style/

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: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2012/07/australias-10-most-dangerous-snakes/

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: https://taronga.org.au/education/project-habitat/kincumber-yellow-bellied-glider

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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Tuesday’s Quote #34 – Keeping an open mind

No shame in changing your mind! xx Rowena

Time for my thoughts...

“What is important is that one utilizes one’s intellect and not to be 100 percent sure about one’s convictions. One should always leave room for doubt.”

— Shirin Ebadi

Winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace prize, Shirin Ebadi also has the distinction being the first Iranian to be given the prize. She was a lawyer and judge, and has been noted for her involvement in human rights causes, founded the Defenders of Human Rights Center, but has been in exile in the UK since 2009 since her views on the Iranian government exceeded the government’s very limited tolerance for dissent.

This particular quotes resonates with me quite a bit. I get frustrated with those that think that there is something noble about never changing their opinions in the face of new evidence. Forcing ourselves to look beyond our own bubbles – to see what others see – is so important both…

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Stairways to Heaven: Stockholm, Sweden.

Don’t you just feel like climbing up these stairs would like you on some kind of magical mystery journey through the clouds to the sort of mysterious lands which were found at the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree?

xx Rowena

inte fan gör det det

heaven!

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Acceptance?

For the last few months, I have participated in a monthly blog share #1000speak at http://1000voicesspeak.org/ This is a group of bloggers who are wanting to bring out the best in humanity and somehow make a difference.

This month’s topic is acceptance.

To say that I struggle with acceptance is the greatest understatement. I am outright oppositional, rebellious and fight it with every cell I’ve got.

Not that I’m a bad person or rebellious by nature. It’s just that I believe too much in the power to change our destiny, the future, the world within us as well as the world around us just to accept the status quo. It might be hard work and quite a lonely journey going against the flow sometimes. However, somebody’s got to do it and thank goodness, I’m not alone.

For many years now, I have wrestled with acceptance and, in particular, with the first verse of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

While this prayer is the foundation of the highly successful Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Steps Program, what’s amazed me is how much I could actually change. It was way beyond the realms of what I ever considered possible.

I have a severe chronic illness and yet I was able to learn the violin. I skied. Have now had over 20,000 views on my blog. Yet, at the same time, I found that despite my best efforts, there were things I couldn’t change. Straight after skiing down Front Valley at Australia’s Perisher Resort, I developed pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and I went on to have chemo shortly after. That wasn’t part of the plan but I guess it just went to show me that I can’t control everything. That life does respond to a remote control.

Over the last 12 months, my views towards acceptance have been challenged again by the impact of terrorism in our world. Just over a year ago, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine killing everyone on board. This event silenced the world and we were united in shock and grief. How could this happen? Once again, our sense of security was at the very least challenged and the ground beneath our feet perhaps became a bit more uncertain…especially after terrorist sieges in Sydney, Paris and more recently events in Tunisia.

What can we as mere little people do in the face of such hate? How can we reach out to those who had so tragically lost loved ones and convey our deep love and our sense of solidarity? That although we’re strangers, that we feel such love, compassion and wished there was something we could do? How can we show that we don’t accept such acts of terrorism or violence when we might not have a voice?

It’s a challenge!

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

After the loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, the kids and I made a series of red love hearts which they cut out and taped onto paddle pop sticks, which they could stick in the ground like the red poppies we have on ANZAC Day in remembrance of those who served our country and in particular made the ultimate sacrifice. Quite a few of the Australians on board were either teachers or students and so we sent these hearts to the schools involved.

Our tribute to the victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. We posted these hearts out to their schools and communities where we could.

Our tribute to the victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. We posted these hearts out to their schools and communities where we could.

By sending these letters, we weren’t actively combating evil directly but we were doing something and I guess I made a bit of an unconscious decision not to forget those people who died on board Flight MH17. Not because I knew any of them personally but to say that it’s completely unacceptable for a civilian aircraft to be shot down NO MATTER WHAT.

But how can I do that? How can I just one little speck lost among the hundreds and thousands ever hope to make a difference when governments and political leaders with greater minds than mine struggle?!

The determination in our hearts can move mighty mountains!

The determination in our hearts can move mighty mountains!

That said, I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power of the human heart and how it can move mighty mountains and blow evil right out of the water! What the little people might lack in might, we can have in passion and determination.

Moreover, when all of us little people come together, we become a powerful force. We have days at school which require a gold coin donation and while I might put in a couple of dollars, as a school we might raise $700-$900.00.

That is people power.

Through blogging, I have also been able to see the power of “the pen” in action. Moreover, through 1000 Voices for Compassion, hundreds and indeed a thousand of us write about compassion each month and spend that time thinking and even putting goodness into action.

I have to believe that each of us is being that difference and making a stand against horrors which should never be accepted.

xx Rowena

An Oasis of Gold: Sunflower Seeds MH17

A sunflower
among sunflowers
in a sprawling field,
her face shines
brighter than the sun.
So glorious,
her luscious, golden smile
weaves its magic:
captivating poets, painters, dreamers…
as well as a wee child’s heart.

Stretching her green leaves
ever upwards,
her time has almost come.
Thousands of seeds
all set to burst
into the azure sky.
Spread their wings.
Fly around the world.
Grow new life.

Yet,
in her very prime,
when her seeds were all but ripe,
devastation hit.
Slashed from her roots,
brutally cut down,
all but decimated
by the exploding metal bird,
she was gone.

Seeds of hope.

Seeds of hope.

Her seeds scattered
across the scorched earth:
tears wrenched
from her broken heart,
fused with molten metal.
Once so filled with promise,
now,
they’re just
part of the wreckage.

Yet,
plucked from the ashes
and sheltered in the strangers’ hearts,
those precious seeds
flew to foreign fields.
Found life in the Australian soil,
where they now stand tall:
still captivating poets, painters, dreamers…
as well as a wee child’s heart.

Beneath the Southern Cross,
they stand…
Ukrainian sunflowers blooming
in the Great South Land.

Rowena Newton
19th July, 2015.

To read more about these sunflower seeds, click here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/seeds-of-love-plucked-from-devastation-flight-mh17/

A personal message from Sydney Morning Herald's Chief Foreign Correspondent,  journalist Paul McGeogh & Photographer Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.

A personal message from journalist Paul McGeogh & Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.