Monthly Archives: January 2016

Iced Coffee Please!

Welcome to Iced Coffee this week. Or, perhaps you’d prefer Iced Tea. In that case, you’ll have to make your own. Although I’m quite used to drinking cold tea, I’ve never made the iced variety and I gather it’s not the same thing.

Well, I was going to tell you how scorchingly hot it is here and how I’ve sought refuge from the sun’s vicious rays inside the house where I’ve even enjoyed a restorative siesta. I’m not even sure that I’ve really woken up yet. It’s now late afternoon and I’m trying to get motivated. Grab the family and the dogs and hit the beach.

However, it’s Monday tomorrow. Already, that Sunday night check list is starting to churn inside my head…showers, wash hair, shopping, dinner, violin practice. I’m sure the list goes on but I don’t want to know about any extras.

By the way, I’ve been forced into a confession. It’s NOT actually THAT hot today and even the humidity is low. So, I’ve actually become something of a “sun victim”a whingeing Australian. So, I apologise for my excessive use of hyperbole, even though I still feel hot.

Monday, I went down to Sydney to get my crown adjusted at the dentist. My dentist is right near Sydney Harbour, just like the dentist in Finding Nemo and he even has a fish tank. I think the train trip takes about 90 minutes one way and so I packed my writing stuff and a book. As it turned out, writing won and I scrawled out pages and pages of poetry as the combined stress of going to the dentist and the kids starting at their new schools, took its toll. I’ve posted one so far: Modern Day Hero

Tuesday was Australia Day. This commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney’s Botany Bay in 1788 under the command of Governor Arthur Phillip. However, many Indigenous Australians consider it”Invasion Day” and a protest march is held through Sydney. Like many Australians, I do the splits between these two perspectives. I’m proud of my country but I know there have been atrocities towards our indigenous people, including the genocide of the Tasmanian Aborigine. We also had apartheid here. I didn’t even know about that until a few years ago when I heard about the  Freedom Ride which, at least from my small understanding , culminated in Aboriginal children swimming in the Moree council pool. Of course, they left all of that out of our school textbooks. Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether more of our history was left out than put in. After all, where is the line between “History” and “Advertising”?

Just asking.

I have revisited these issues this week after reading a speech by Indigenous Australian journalist, Stan Grant. I have posted his speech and a bit of an intro here:

It’s a long read but an important one in terms of how we as individuals and nations deal with the past in the present and the need to listen and acknowledge what’s happened at the very least.

Learning about anything beyond your thing and indeed getting to know anyone beyond your orbit,  takes a very conscious effort. Putting aside that book you’ve been longing to read and all those things which need to be done and saying I care enough to find out. Read and process that instead. Stop and have that cup of tea and simply listen. Thanks to the Internet, we can at least find some kind of overview or pictorial history. I am particularly thankful for those pictures which tell a thousand words.

I know that’s quite a heavy discussion point for a casual cuppa but philosophising over coffee has changed the world. Changed how people think and what they see. Caffeine is a wonderful thing!

By the way, we went to the Star Wars Movie on Australia Day and watched the fireworks on TV at night.

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Family Portrait outside the High School on the first day taken my the lovely Headmaster! PS: Note my new haircut…almost an annual event!

We’ve also had a huge journey ourselves this week. That’s because the kids didn’t return to school. They both started new schools. Our son started High School and our daughter started at a selective Primary School 45 minutes drive away in a different town. We’ve barely even been and now it’s our second home and an exciting new place to explore.

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So, instead of just throwing on the old uniforms and letting the car drive itself, it’s been a very conscious and anxious process. We’ve been trying to dot the I’s and cross the T’s after being in holiday mode for way too long. By the way, I don’t view this anxiety is an unexpected or bad thing because it’s part and parcel of starting something new. Moreover, it’s better to be thorough…over do it. Once you know what you’re doing, then you can relax.

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However, it looks like being conscious actually helped because we’re on top of it all and the kids have had a great start to the new year!

After such a huge week, we’ve had a quiet weekend.

That was until it was suddenly 5.00PM Sunday afternoon and the list of lists suddenly started sending me alarm bells. Time to get the show on the road but despite all the lists, I’d forgotten to wash my daughter’s uniform. So, it appears that the holiday cogs are still turning and I obviously needed to change gears fast.

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Bilbo at the Beach

Yet, we did manage to make it to the beach for that walk. It was beautiful down there, except that last week’s storm has caused further damage and loss of trees along the beach. Today, we’ve lost a 10ft Banksia tree. It’s currently still alive and like a beached whale, I couldn’t help wondering whether it could be salvaged. Given a new home. We must have lost over a hundred trees at the beach in the last year and it is so disappointing. Just because nature killed them and not a bulldozer, that doesn’t mean it’s not a loss.

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By the way, Bilbo surprised me this week by going swimming at the beach. However, our trip to the beach today that he wasn’t actually enjoying himself swimming but trying to rescue the dogs who were in the water and herd them out.

However, just because I’m thinking deep, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had a great week. We surged with pride when we saw our kids all decked out in their new uniforms. The kids are catching up with old friends and meeting new ones and I can feel things coming together. That’s fantastic. Our daughter has even picked up her violin again after a 3 year break. I’d almost given up but still had a cupboard full of violins. Besides, you’d know I’d never give up. Not once I’ve seen the light twinkle in their eyes. Miss was passionate about the violin when she first started and as they have a violin ensemble which performs at the Sydney Opera House, her interest has been rekindled.

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The family playing violin

I hope you’ve had a great week and thank you for popping round for coffee. It’s been great to catch up. This has been part of the #WeekendCoffeeShare is a weekly linkup hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster, and here is the link: Linky

Best wishes,

Rowena xx

 

 

 

Embracing Indigeneous Australians. .

Recently, a landmark speech spoke out about racism towards Indigenous Australians and I wanted to share it with you.This is a long post but I ask you to persevere with it and reflect. It’s not an easy topic to address but not something I could walk away from either.

While I am not an Indigenous Australian myself and haven’t experienced racism, I do know right from wrong and I think all Australians need to revisit how we view our Indigenous Australians and own up to the rampant racism which still grips hold of this country. It’s definitely not just something buried in the past. As a nation, we haven’t even begun to delve into what happened. To acknowledge the wrongs. No wound ever heals unless the infection is treated.

I realise that I’m stepping into a veritable quagmire even raising this issue and am wary in a sense of speaking out about something I know so little very about.

One of the first things you learn about writing is to write about what you know. Yet, I have never experienced racism and I’m not an Indigenous Australian and don’t walk  in their shoes, feet, skin or soul.

However, as a person living with a disability, I have experienced exclusion, discrimination and injustice. Metaphorically speaking, I know what it’s like to be the only kid in the class not to be invited to the party and how that feels. Imagine how you would feel if that same party was being held at your very own house and you still weren’t invited? You don’t need much empathy or compassion to know how that feels. It hurts like a knife cutting through your heart, leaving horrific and permanent scars.

I have experienced that sense of injustice when I go to pick my kids up from school and someone able-bodied without a permit parks in the Disabled Parking spot and when I ask them to move, give me flak. What the?!!

As soon as I read Stan Grant’s Speech, I knew I had to share it. Keep the fire going and even spread the flame. While Australians like to view themselves as the “Lucky Country”, we have quite a chequered history, including the genocide of Tasmanian Aboriginals. Instead of acknowledging our own crimes, we point the finger overseas: at the Germans over Nazi atrocities, at the South Africans over apartheid and Americans for their guns.

We’re just fine, totally neglecting the log in our own eye.

That as much as we like to paint ourselves as the “lucky country”, we have an appalling record in the treatment of Indigenous Australians. Our track record is too extensive for me to go into here but it’s very, very dark and I’m sure the average Australian over 30 doesn’t have a clue. Moreover, they don’t even consider the long term consequences of what has happened. After all, how would you expect anyone to respond when you take away their land, culture, community and even their children? It creates a sort of living death and who wouldn’t do just about anything to try to numb that pain?!! Wouldn’t you?!!

This week Australia celebrated Australia Day on 26th January while for many Australians, it was a day of sorrow…Invasion Day. Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788, which was the first European settlement here. I am a bit conflicted about Australia Day these days but we’ve also been flat out getting ready for back to school. So, we had a very low-key Australia Day. Indeed, we went to see Star Wars and by-passed Australia Day until watching the fireworks on TV.

Around Australia Day, I heard about a ground-breaking impromptu  speech by Indigenous Journalist Stan Grant. Referring to the speech, respected Australian journalist Mike Carlton tweeted:

Honestly. I think this Stan Grant speech will one day be viewed as a Martin Luther King moment. via

Here is the transcript of Grant’s speech:

Video

Stan Grant: ‘But every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history’, Ethics Centre IQ2 debate – 2015

27 October 2015, City Recital Hall, Sydney, Australia

This speech was delivered in an IQ2 debate with the topic, ‘Racism is destroying the Australian dream’. Also for the affirmative was Pallavi Sinha. For the negative was Jack Thompson and Rita Panahi. The full debate is here

Thank you. Thank you so much for coming along this evening, and I’d also like to extend my respects to my Gadigal brothers and sisters from my people, the Wiradjuri people.

In the winter of 2015, Australia turned to face itself. it looked into its soul and it had to ask this question. Who are we? What sort of a country do we want to be.

And this happened in a place that is most holy, most sacred to Australians. It happened on the sporting field, it happened on the football field. Suddenly the front page was on the back page, it was in the grandstand.

Thousands of voices rose to hound an indigenous man, a man who was told he wasn’t Australian, a man who was told he wasn’t Australian of the Year.

And they hounded that man into submission.

I can’t speak for the what lay in the hearts of the people who booed Adam Goodes. But I can tell you what we heard when we heard those boos.

We heard a sound that is very familiar to us.

We heard a howl.

We heard a howl that of humiliation has echoes across two centuries of dispossession, injustice, suffering and survival.

We heard the howl of the Australian dream, and it said to us again, you’re not welcome.

The Australian dream.

We sing of it, and we recite it in verse.

Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free.

My people die young in this country, we die ten years younger than average Australians and we are far from free.

We are fewer than three percent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 percent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons, and if you are a juvenile it is worse, it’s fifty percent. An indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school.

I love a sunburned country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains, we were shot on those plains, disease ravaged us on those plains. I come from those plains. I come from a people west of the Blue Mountains, the Wiradjuri people, where in the 1820s the soldiers and settlers waged a war of extermination against my people. Yes, a war of extermination! That was the language used at the time, go to the Sydney Gazette, and look it up, and read about it. Martial law was declared, and my people could be shot on sight.

Those rugged mountain ranges, my people, women and children were herded over those ranges to their deaths.

The Australian dream.

The Australian dream is rooted in racism. It is the very foundation of the dream. It is there at the birth of the nation . It is there in terra nullius.  An empty land. A land for the taking.

Sixty thousand years of occupation.

A people who made the first seafaring journey in the history of mankind.

A people of law, a people of lore, a people of music and art and dance and politics, none of it mattered.

Because our rights were extinguished because we were not here according to British law. And when British people looked at us, they saw something subhuman, and if we were human at all, we occupied the lowest rung on civilisation’s ladder.

We were fly blown, stone age savages and that was the language that was used.

Charles Dickens, the great writer of the age, when referring to the noble savage of which we were counted among, said ‘it would be better that they be wiped off the face of the earth’. Captain Arthur Phillip, a man of enlightenment, a man who was instructed to make peace with the so called natives in a matter of years, was sending out raiding parties with instruction ‘bring back the severed heads of the black troublemakers’.

They were smoothing the dying pillow.

My people were rounded up and put on missions, from where, if you escaped. You were hunted down, you were roped and tied and dragged back, and it happened here, it happened on the mission that my grandmother and great grandmother were from, the Warrengesda on the Darling Point of the Murrumbidgee River.

Read about it. It happened.

By 1901 when we became a nation, when we federated the colonies, we were nowhere. We’re not in the Constitution, save for ‘Race Provisions’ — which allowed for laws to be made that would take our children, that would invade our privacy, that would tell us who we could marry and tell us where we could live.

The Australian dream.

By 1963, the year of my birth, the dispossession was continuing. Police came at gunpoint under cover of darkness to Mapoon an aboriginal community in Queensland, and they ordered people from their homes, and they burned those homes to the ground, and they gave the land to a bauxite mining company. And today those people remember that as ‘The Night of the Burning’.

In 1963 when I was born, I was counted amongst the flora and fauna, not among the citizens of this country.

Now you will hear things tonight, you will hear people say, ‘but you’ve done well!’

Yes I have, and I’m proud of it, and why have I done well?

I’ve done well because of who came before me.

I’ve done well because of my father, who lost the tips off three fingers working in saw mills to put food on our table, because he was denied an education.

My grandfather, who served to fight wars for this country when he was not yet a citizen and came back to a segregated land where he couldn’t even share a drink with his digger mates in the pub because he was black.

My great grandfather who was jailed for speaking his language to his grandson – my father – jailed for it!

My grandfather on my mother’s side who married a white woman who reached out to Australia, lived on the fringes of town, until the police came, put a gun to his head, bulldozed his tin humpy, and ran over over the graves of the three children he’d buried there.

That’s the Australian dream. I have succeeded in spite of the Australian dream, not because of it; and I have succeeded because of those people.

You might hear tonight, ‘but you have white blood in you.’ And if the white blood in me was here tonight, my grandmother, she would  tell you of how she was turned away from a hospital giving birth to her first child because she was giving birth to the child of a black person.

The Australian dream. We’re better than this.

I’ve have seen the worst of the world as a reporter. I’ve spent a decade in war zones, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We are an extraordinary country, we are in so many respects the envy of the world. If I were sitting here, where my friends are tonight (gestures to opponents] I would be arguing passionately for this country.

But I stand here with my ancestors, and the view looks very different from where I stand.

The Australian dream.

We have our heroes.

Albert Namatjira painted the soul of this nation.

Vincent Lingiari put his hand out for Gough Whitlam to pour the sand of his country through his fingers, and say ‘this is my country’.

Cathy Freeman lit the torch for the Olympic Games.

But every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history.

Of course racism is killing the Australian dream! It is self evident that it is killing the Australian dream.

But we are better than that.

The people who stood up and supported Adam Goodes and said, ‘no more’, they are better than that.

The people who marched across the bridge for reconciliation, they are better than that.

The people who supported Kevin Rudd when he said sorry to the Stolen Generations, they are better than that.

My children and their non indigenous friends are better than that.

My wife who is non indigenous is better than that.

And one day I want to stand here, and be able to say as proudly and sing as loudly as anyone in this room, Australians all let us rejoice.

Thanks you.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEOssW1rw0…

For those of you who have taken the time to listen, much appreciated. I have pasted a link below to some further interviews with Aboriginal Australians about their reactions to Stan Grant’s speech. Also, if you are not aware of the racist bullying Adam Goodes experienced on the football field, here’s a link: Racist Attacks on Aboriginal Footballer, Adam Goodes

Best wishes and much love,

Rowena

Further reading:

http://www.ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/january-2016/stan-grant%E2%80%99s-speech-broke-your-heart-%E2%80%93-here%E2%80%99s-what

The Marina is Closed. Also Known as a Bit of Snow.

Talk about polar extremes this time of year. You could fry an egg outside in Greater Sydney today but here’s snow on the waterfront in USA and a hilarious photo! xx Rowena

The Sailboat Tara

unnamed-5 Part of our dock has been shoveled and the boats are iced in. 

So there’s a blizzard going on in the mid-Atlantic this weekend. They’re warning people to stay off the roads, whiteout conditions, threats to life and property, potential wind gusts of up to 60 mph.

And the marina is closed. We received this email from the dockmaster:

“The snow is still coming down here and wind is brisk, but not really bad. The plaza, the pier and the docks are closed to all. There appears to be close to a foot of snow on the pier. Boats that I could see looked to have less than 6 inches on them. It was very difficult to see most of the boats.
With the current forecast, it will probably be Monday before the plaza, pier and docks are reopened and cleared for pedestrians. Nobody should attempt to go to their…

View original post 32 more words

Character Undefined.

You have to watch out for characters, both real and fictitious.

Just when you think you’ve painted their portrait, they grab the brush, slap on a moustache or some other undesirable addition and ruin all your hard work. Change the picture.

No matter how careful you are, there are no guarantees. They could still develop a life of their own and escape from your clutches.

Moreover, if you’re writing about your dog, don’t be surprised if that darn dog doesn’t run off with your precious paintbrush and play fetch with it…even if they’ve never chased a stick before.

It can happen to the best of us.

Indeed, this morning it happened to me and I even have photographic proof.

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In middle ocean, doggy is swimming…

My dog Bilbo, who has found fame but not fortune on my blog, is renowned for being afraid of the water. Yet, this morning he went for a swim at the beach and totally messed up his character sketch.

I was absolutely flabbergasted!!

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Abraham Lincoln

While parents might discuss their human children, dog parents hold nothing back. Indeed, they discuss the foibles of their “offspring” in embarrassingly personal detail, even comparing notes about their intimate mental health issues. Indeed, they name and shame their dogs, even posting photos of their most extreme mental health moments, without any shame at all. No sense of betrayal. That just because they’re talking about a dog, that it doesn’t mean it’s heartless gossip…even bullying!

How awful is that? Being bullied by your own Mum or Dad?!!

Well, I must confess that even I’m a bit guilty. I could have mentioned Bilbo’s water phobia. I might even have posted photographs of the same sorry mutt staring helplessly as his ball drifts out to sea because he’s too chicken to fetch it. I might have even called him a “scaredy dog” behind close doors or implied it on previous posts.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

So, even I have probably said more than I should about my dog’s “quirks” but there’s no mistaking how much I love my dog! Besides, I should also point out that he’s also jumped on my blog a few times and spilled my beans as well!

All that aside, just because Bilbo has issues, it doesn’t mean he can’t change. That just because he’s a dog with very strong inbred character traits, that he can’t grow. Extend himself. Or, indeed, be an old dog showing off his new tricks.

He can.

Indeed, he did.

This morning, Bilbo went swimming at Dog Beach. He actually not only got his paws wet but ventured in and actually SWAM!!!

HOWZAT! (This is Australian cricket slang for “How’s that? Meaning: “It’s out!”)

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Almost Surfing.

Of course, now that the dog’s actually gone swimming, I’m not quite back to the drawing board but I’m definitely back in my philosopher’s chair and asking: “Why is it so?”

Professor Julius Sumner Miller famously coined that phrase in his children’s science show. However, I doubt he ever looked at how or why animals and people suddenly change their stripes like that. Or, at least, act out of character now and then. He was more of a physics man famous for being able to get a boiled egg inside a glass milk bottle.

Bilbo’s swim was, in effect, the reverse process… taking a dog who was set in his ways and setting him free from the confines of his self-imposed glass bottle…just like letting a genie out!

Unfortunately, I’m no expert in dog behaviour and indeed, this mutt has been testing all my philosophical and psychological powers lately what with him fretting with the kids being away. Let’s just say he’s been in a bit of trouble.

Anyhow, like any good detective, we return to the crime scene and examine the evidence. Investigate what actually happened. Move over Sherlock Holmes! Here I come.

On the morning of Friday 29th January, 2016 at approximately 9.30 AM Bilbo, a nine-year old Border Collie was running along Dog Beach with his sister, Lady, a three year old Border Collie x Cavalier and Mum, a They met up with a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Boxer who were energetically jumping and chasing each other through the surf. Bilbo immediately started barking at the other dogs, we believe, warning them to get out of the water…the canine equivalent of “Danger Will Robinson”. Having too much fun, the other dogs didn’t respond, ignoring him completely. They kept playing.

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One exuberantly happy dog!

Meanwhile, Lady being more cavalier, joins the dogs in the surf. After all, it’s so hot, that you could fry an egg in the sand. It’s the perfect day for a swim, except you could potentially boil in the water! That is, unless you’re wearing jeans and a few too many Christmas chocolates around the middle.

The next thing I know, Bilbo’s gone from barking on the beach to wading into the water and even swimming, while still barking occasionally. Bilbo is swimming! I suspect he’s actually herding, rounding up his mates more than actually swimming but he’s still in the surf.

“My goodness!” a friend exclaims, totally stunned. “That one NEVER goes in”.

I have a group of dog walkers I usually meet up with in the mornings. I don’t know whether we’ve oversimplified their characters or whether dogs are just more straight-forward than people. However, somehow the dogs have all been categorized…ball chaser, stick chaser, swimmer, non-swimmer, introvert, extrovert, problem dog…unconsciously, of course. Then, there’s Lady who I’m now pretty sure pretends to be daft to do her own thing. She dabbles in a bit of everything but seems to love stick her head down sniffing the sand and running along. and wandering I’m pretty sure she’s hunting. She used to live on a farm but as the saying goes “we’re not in Kansas anymore”! No more rabbits.

Anyway, I doubt Bilbo’s suddenly developed a love of swimming. Rather, I suspect that he’s just trying to be the Good Samaritan, attempting to herd his crazy mates out of the water and back onto dry land. Who knows? Perhaps, while he was out there, he found out that he wasn’t going to die and that he even liked it? Was having fun? The other dogs sure were and who hasn’t experienced the thrill of the moment when someone else’s fun is so infectious that it carries you right outside yourself and all your pre-conceived ideas and sets you free? All of a sudden you realise, that you’re standing somewhere you never thought you’d be and you don’t even know how you got there!

That’s what happened to me yesterday when I was driving my daughter to school. It was a 45-60 minute drive in the rain and I wasn’t even nervous. I felt calm, capable and in control. Indeed, I was standing, or in this case, sitting where I never thought I’d be and I was fine.

My inner fortitude was further tested this afternoon when yet another nasty storm hit right before picking up our son locally. The heavens were falling down and of course, there was lightening, thunder but fortunately no hail. I looked out there, at what almost looked like the end of the world. As much as I wanted to stay at home, I braced myself and figured the sooner I left, the better the car space. I threw on my raincoat, grabbed my golf umbrella and drove off, arriving in one piece, albeit through floodwaters about 20 cm deep in parts. It’s very flat where we live.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller

Of course, driving through all of this, I’ve become Captain Courageous. Not quite Captain Invincible but I’m working on it.

So, as we write our characters, both real and fictitious, while also getting to know ourselves, we should always leave that gap. Room for doubt. Space for growth. No one is set in concrete. They can still wriggle free. Take on a life of their own.

Just ask my dog!

AND…

You can ask ME!

xx Super Ro!

PS If you are interested in character development or are a bit of a people person, you could well find the Proust Character Questionnaire useful:Proust Character Questionnaire It’s been used by writers, actors etc for character development and I’ve been going through it for the Book Project…albeit very slowly.

 

 

Lazarus Returns: Back to School.

We did it!

  1. Hair cuts.
  2. Uniforms ironed and labelled.
  3. New shoes.
  4. Lunches made.
  5. On time!!!

What an absolute miracle!

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How the Day Went…

6.30 AM Alarm.

6.45 AM Out of Bed.

7.45 AM Deposit No. 1 son at High School and take photos.

8.00 AM Start Driving Miss to School.

8.45 AM Arrive at my daughter’s school.

9.30 -11.30 AM Print Photos…just the tip of an enormous ice berg!

12.00 Noon – Had lunch at Gloria Jeans. Writing beat reading. Wrote in journal.

2.00 PM Headed back to school. Traffic not the best.

2.15 PM explore shops next to the school and buy an Apple Crumble Cake for afternoon tea.

3.00 PM School Pick Up.

We successfully made it through their first day of school for 2016.

 

However, it still remains to be seen whether we can keep it up. At the same time, I see myself as a new creation.

New School Year = Clean Slate.

For better or worse, my watch is back on my wrist and I’m back to living to the beat of tick-tock time, instead of meandering well and truly off the grid, which is the real beauty of holidays. Not having to be someone, be somewhere stuck on the proverbial train track. If you have ever read a gorgeous Little Golden Book called Tootle The Train, you’ll now know what I mean.

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So, our journey continues…

Tomorrow is another day!

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Poem: A Modern Day Hero

There’s a tick-tock,

tick-tock tension

shooting through my veins…

a mighty strong caffeine,

poisonous toxin,

I can not contain.

 

Giddy,

almost delirious,

my head’s spinning.

The entire world’s

spinning round superfast

in an absolute blurred haze.

 

I’m staggering down the plank

as rom pom kettle drums

herald my demise.

Moving further & further

until my calloused toes curl

right over the very edge.

They’re now clinging on for dear life.

They won’t let go.

I’m not going anywhere.

 

Meanwhile,

my alter-ego

sips champagne watching the sunlight

dance across the harbour,

weaving a dazzling, diamond carpet

across the blue.

More champagne,

life is so good!

 

Yet, through my lens,

the water’s freezing.

Hungry sharks

with huge, wide jaws

& razor-fangs are poised,

just waiting for my foot.

Thunder roars.

Huge lightening bolts crack

the heavens open like an egg

with its insides oozing out.

I’m a pile of broken goo splattered

all over the pavement.

Hardly a modern hero.

 

Yet, despite this picture I paint,

there is no raging ocean.

Indeed,

my little boat’s still

tied up to the pier.

Life jacket on,

I can swim.

No reason to fear.

With barely a ripple in the water,

I am fine!

 

Yet, though I’ve somehow

conquered the world,

I balk at each new hurdle.

No longer the rock,

I’m nothing

but a pile of

quivering sand.

 

Yet, if only my inner hero

accepted my quest

without question,

without hesitation,

the deed would just

have been done.

Ticked off the list.

Instead of crashing

in a choked up roundabout

inside my head

and never getting out.

 

No longer weighed down

to the earth with

my leaden-eyed despairs,

I’d be soaring like a bird.

Not just any old bird either.

I can almost hear a sea gull

calling my name…

 

“Come fly with me!”

 

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

Rowena Newton

25th January, 2016

 

 

The Importance of My New Hair Cut!

Since every human and their dog is giving life lessons these days, I thought I’d share my latest little piece of wisdom.

Neglect your hair long enough and when you finally get it cut, you’ll look like an absolute movie star!

I should know. My transformation’s been so dramatic, I’m off to Hollywood. Move over Nicole! Trouble has arrived!

Not that I intentionally neglected my crowning glory. Indeed, after all the wows I’d had after my last haircut and being told I looked ten years younger, I can’t believe I let it go. Indeed, I should’ve booked straight in for my next appointment before I’d even left the salon. “See you in six weeks”, instead of turning up six months later.

Why is it so?

Indeed, to be precise…why wasn’t it so?

How should I know? What makes you think I have all the answers? Don’t be silly! I was only given the questions. Someone else, only goodness knows where, has all the answers. That’s their responsibility.

However, there’s one question I can answer.

That is, why did I finally get my hair cut today when I’d managed to avoid it for so long?

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Straight from the salon….an SLR Selfie. Not ideal!

I mean any sane, normal person gets their haircut for Christmas and for my role as Stage Mum. There was her big audition for The Sound of Music, her appearance in School Spectacular (albeit as a speck in a huge choir) and the end of year concerts. Aren’t I supposed to dress the part as well, darling?!!

Well, apparently my script got lost in the mail. Or, so I believe!

My hair was sadly and repeatedly neglected. Indeed, you could say that I barely even knew it was there but I’m sure I would’ve known if it wasn’t. At least, EVENTUALLY!

My justification is that if I could’ve dropped my hair off at the dry cleaners and picked it up that afternoon, I would have done it. Moreover, it wasn’t my fault that my hairdresser moved and I couldn’t quite find her again. As we all know, changing hairdressers is more serious than swapping lovers because nobody else quite knows how to cover up all those things you’re covering up in quite the same way. Do they?!!

Sorry! Yet again, I digress.

There is one very simple reason that I’ve had my haircut this week.

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The ghosts of school years’ past. The kids in their old uniforms.

It’s called the start of the New SCHOOL Year. With the start of the new school year, I’m putting my best foot forward and leaving that other foot well and truly left behind. I know I’ve just given a perfect description of the splits but I’m still hopeful.

As we all know, you can ride your moral high horse through New Year’s Eve and renounce New Year’s resolutions. However, you can’t get away with such outright rebellion or   even apathy, when it comes to your New SCHOOL Year Resolutions.

You see, schools have not only invented reports to test the students and keep them accountable, they’re also for the parents. I’m not saying that you get marked when you do your kid’s project because as we all know, you didn’t do it. You let your kid sink or swim through their own efforts. All you did was provide a set of floaties, a life raft, a bucket hat and some sunscreen. That’s right. You might also have set flags up at the beach and gone on surf patrol. No! You’re definitely not that interfering parent!

No! It’s your job as parent to provide the optimal conditions for your kid to reach their ultimate potential and if you can give them a rocket boost along the way, why not?

However, while you might hear about parents’ hot-housing their kids, what you don’t hear about quite so much is how parents’ sabotage their kid’s future through neglect, disorganisation, mis-management and all the usual things you find in your average workplace or home.

I don’t want to be that parent.

I also don’t want to be that parent who has let themselves go either. Not that I need to be that fashion plate exuding wealth and success but there’s a happy medium.

Indeed, when the kids start at their new schools this week, we just want to blend in with the Joneses…no more, no less.

However, that in itself takes an incredible amount of work behind the scenes and definitely no dashing back into town the night before like we used to.

This year we have lists on lists on lists and yet I still have that awful sinking feeling that I’ve forgotten something.

This afternoon as I was catching the train back from Sydney, I ended up writing about three poems about having the guts to believe in myself. Know I can do this because I can. I know I can! I am prepared. We are prepared and now all we need to do is make the final preparations. It’s not that hard. The kids have been going to school in some capacity for seven years. Although the schools have changed and high school is a whole new ball game, we can do this and I know it. I have to switch off that annoying little voice which keeps trying to undermine me and stand tall. I also have to stop it running completely amok throwing things all around the room and cowering in the corner. Let my stronger, more sensible self prevail.

So, I had my haircut. My new haircut may or may not win friends and influence people but it’s helped me feel better. More organised. On the ball. That has to be worth something.

Now, we just need to get the kids’ haircuts organised. BUT first things first…

I’m sure you know what I mean!

Or, perhaps your kids have never scratched their scruffy heads!

Something to look forward to…or maybe not!

Yet, these indestructible critters seem to be a hidden bonus of “community”. Hugging friends, feeling your child rest their head on your shoulder while reading a book and knowing the nits are on the march but reading on regardless.

They’re a sign of true love!

If you have kids going back to school soon, I wish you all the best for the New School Year!

May the Force be with you!

xx Rowena

May the force be with you

Coffee By the Sea

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share chez moi. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a tail in your face or a dog on your lap, especially if you’re joining me for Tim Tams. The doggies can’t seem to read “Not suitable for dogs” on the side of the packet. Don’t worry. I don’t feed my dogs chocolate, although there have been times when their thieving paws have helped themselves. “Go to jail. Go directly to jail puppy dogs!”

While it might seem like I’ve had a busy week, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been a bit of a Homer Simpson glued to my armchair as the alternating heat, rain and chill took its toll. Need to muster up some energy to finish off my son’s room. I emptied out more cupboards while he’s off at my parents’ place and lost my mojo somewhere along the way. Wasn’t such a good idea after all!

Jonathon shark Umina Beach

Monday afternoon, some sort of crane must’ve plucked my son and I out of our respective chairs and plonked us down at the beach with the dogs. Almost straight away, I spotted a fisherman doing battle with a mighty fish and was spellbound. I’ve since realised that the ocean is one of the last unknowns on this planet. After all, Google Earth must have documented nearly each square inch of land. Hidden cameras seem to capture our each and every move. However, who knows what’s on the end of that fishing rod? Who knows what’s swimming around your feet while you’re hanging out at the beach? Yes, the ocean is one of the world’s last mysteries… the last frontier.

I manage to inject a fair amount of suspense into The Boy & the Shark .

For better or worse, I found out we had sharks at our beach. They were baby sharks but who’s to say the rest of the family wasn’t out there as well?

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Captain! oh my Captain!

Tuesday, we went sailing with my Dad at Palm Beach. We motored down to Newport and then sailed passed Scotland Island and then motored back. Although I barely know port from starboard and am more likely to get hit in the head by the boom, I do make good ballast and I did have a go steering. Overall, I found the whole sailing experience very liberating and almost an out-of-body experience. There was such freedom out there and so much space.  Just a vast expanse of water, sky and the sunlight sparkling over the water like a diamond carpet.

Shark Smile

Not sure whether it was Wednesday or Thursday my time but I participated in Trent’s Weekly Smile Share. I must admit that I was a little cheeky because I posted a shark smile. While my son was poking and prodding the gasping shark on the beach, I noticed that the underside of the shark’s mouth either resembles a frown or a smile depending on the angle. It was at this point, too, I must admit, that I also realised just how much blogging has taken over my life. I’m an addict.

Although the rest of the week has been fairly quiet, I have participated in 1000 Voices for Compassion’s monthly blogshare. This month’s theme was forgiveness. I decided to write about the difficulties of forgiving Dermatomyositis, the severe auto-immune disease which remains a formidable foe.

Forgiveness turned out to be an incredible theme. Most of us live with something we’d love to exterminate, delete, replay and it is a real struggle to know quite how to deal with all that angst without imploding. I read some incredible stories where writers have ripped open their hearts, souls and minds and let me in. Shared those very painful moments in slow motion frame-by-frame. Sharing such intimate details, naturally brings closeness, intimacy, trust. After all, if you don’t truly know someone, how can you call them friend?

I really recommend you read as many of these posts as you can.

The rest of the week has been a blur.

All I know is that I only have 5 sleeps until the new school year begins. I am hoping that all my preparations haven’t been in vain but we could well see the birth of Frankenstein. Both kids are starting at new schools so we’ve been organising uniforms right down to checking the colour of their socks. Of course, this is all been a conscious process which is such a contrast to arriving back from holidays the night before and stepping right back into familiar shoes. Hey, even the car knew the way! I tell myself I can do it and Geoff will still be on holidays and yet I still feel like I’m about to walk the plank and did I mention something previously about SHARKS??

Deep breath Ro! Stop catastrophizing!

Does anyone else argue with themselves like this?

By the way, sign up starts for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge on Monday 25th January. I strongly recommend taking up the challenge. I participated for the first time last year and loved it but will be doing things differently this year. Last year, I wrote my posts every day and didn’t really have a tight theme. It was something loosely based on my world. While it was fun, trying to write and read so many posts really took over and the whole thing became quite intense. This year, I’m aiming to have all my posts written well ahead of time. Of course, for most of us, there are letters where you have too many options and there are a couple letters which cause such angst but I’m on my way.

Are you planning to sign up? You can sign up here.

Finally, it’s Sunday and we’ve finally returned from picking up the kids from my parents’. Had a great afternoon there where I inevitably ended up in the pool. I can’t believe how quickly I’ve turned into an old lady and all that’s missing is the swimmers with the skirt. Indeed, that would be more flattering. It was after dinner by the time I finally got into the pool and when it came to getting wet and even dipping my lower half in the water, it was painful and took forever.

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Not getting my face wet!

Eventually, finally…I did a lap of breaststroke which must have looked more like dog paddle as I obstinately stuck my head out of the water like a little kid. “Don’t like getting my face wet!!” I tell you. Sometimes, I wonder about this other half. She is such a chicken while the other side throws caution to the wind.

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Swimming with the kids was really good for me because the water enabled me to be much more physical than I am on land.I was even able to give both kids piggybacks because the water takes their weight. I can’t tell you what this meant to me and to them to be able to play together. For Mummy to be awake. Involved. Not having a nap. Not too unstable on her feet to have a go. Mum could be Mum.

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Firing the canon…Photo taken by Geoff (well done!)

Tomorrow, Mum is off to the hairdresser’s at long last. I won’t know myself! Yippee!

By the way, Tuesday 26th January is Australia Day, known by at least some Aboriginal people as Invasion Day. It celebrates or commiserates the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788. That’s 228 years ago. Mind you, this 228 years is just the tip of Australia’s history. It is an ancient land.

We’re not going to be that patriotic this Australia Day. We’re planning to finally see Star Wars 7 and we’re dreading another night consoling a dribbling, shaking mutt as the fireworks go off. However, you can read about the Bicentenary here

Speaking about the dogs, a bit of forgiveness has been required in Bilbo’s court over the last couple of days. Miss has been away for 2 weeks and Mister a week and he’d had enough. He’s been getting quite stressed. Fortunately, they’re back so hope he settles down. By the way, they were both very exuberant when they arrived home today and greeted them with much tail-wagging and paws…no cold shoulders this time!

Forgiveness

For the last two days, I’ve been living and breathing forgiveness as I participated in 1000 Voices for Compassion‘s January link up on forgiveness. I very much feel like a new person and have grown so much. Thank you! It’s been tremendous food for the soul!

As Trent pointed out, you could easily write a book about the nature of forgiveness and what it means to forgive.

However, after all that I’ve read, to me forgiveness is climbing straight up that rugged, almost vertical mountain where you’re dragging yourself along covered in mud, dirt and scratches but when you finally get to the top and look out, you have found the promised land. You are living in green pastures. Of course, it doesn’t last. We have to keep crawling back but the journey is more than worth the costs.

Ideally, however, we catch our issues before they have reached such insurmountable heights.

As I concluded in my own post: it doesn’t matter who or what is hurting you, you need to forgive and quite often this forgiveness is all about the little things. Overcoming the everyday. It’s less about that big one-off apology. It’s a daily thing. Just like breathing, eating, thinking, we forgive.

Over the last two days, I have read over 20 different journeys of grappling with forgiveness: the struggle, the setbacks, the jubilation and the status quo. I have walked in so many different pairs of shoes. Seen and experienced tremendous struggle through those eyes  and feel so incredibly privileged to be a part of those. To hold hands with my friends and share the innermost beating of our hearts and very painful memories and to find acceptance, understanding, love…and COMPASSION!!

This is such a treasured gift! Thank you.

In terms of feeding my soul, it’s been like indulging on super foods…a veritable feast (and if you are anything like me, you have to include chocolate in there, of course!) Each and every person has brought something unique and valuable to the table, which has become something of a gourmet pot luck dinner.You open the lid and WOW!!!

I would like to encourage anyone who is struggling to forgive and still feeling whatever kind of angst, to persevere. Keep walking. Even if you only change your position ever so slightly, you have moved. Have a new perspective. Never give up!

If you haven’t already visited the  Link Up, I highly recommend it. It’s food for the soul.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

 

Forgiving the Unforgivable.

What if you were called on to forgive something you can’t see, can’t touch yet it stalks you 24/7 year after year after year, never releasing its grasp?

Welcome to my blessing and my curse.

Dermatomyositis is a severe, systemic auto-immune disease where your muscles attack themselves and self-destruct. It also, as the name suggests, attacks your skin and can also cause fibrosis in your lungs. Treatment is available but can be tricky. My case is considered severe and has been somewhat resistant to treatment but I’m lucky that my doctors keep plucking rabbits out of their hat, coming up with something new. I have been in remission for 2 years and am currently doing very well for me.

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A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007. This was taken 6 months before my diagnosis when I was already quite ill.

As I said, dermatomyositis is my blessing and my curse.

My blessing because most of the time I live my life to the very fullest appreciating each and every moment. I know life is short. Although I get sidetracked probably more than most, I do know what matters most to me and I do try to put these people first. Not always successfully but I love my family and my friends but I also love my writing, photography and helping others.

This, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a complex balancing act. However, dermatomyositis doesn’t understand love, relationships, priorities dream or goals. It just stampedes over the lot of it and when it flares up, even the best time management in the world, can’t save you.

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Getting my infusion in the brand new hospital.

Hence, it’s my curse. Almost since the birth of my daughter, I’ve been haunted by dermatomyositis and we are actually surprised but exceptionally grateful that I’m still here. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to have your two year old son look up at you with his huge blue eyes and blond curls and ask: “Mummy better?” Worse than that, I couldn’t answer him. We didn’t know. To fall at home and knock your 16 month old toddler over on your way down but not being able to reach her and also to strangely to find that you can’t get up again yourself, is perplexing at best. What on earth was going on? In the end, my husband was carrying our sleeping daughter off my lap and into her cot. He even had to help me get dressed and cover me with my dooner each night. My parents were stepping in more and more to look after our kids and even me… their 35 year old daughter!

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Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

It’s hard to believe that the same person who has subsequently developed a love of adventure  (albeit within my limitations) was ever so sick. Or, is still affected by this snoring giant which is kept under control through medication. I have been left with 60% lung capacity and some mobility issues but these are no match for my iron will. I am incredibly determined and have the best inspiration in the world…my family, my friends, my writing and my life.

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Sailing this week.

That said, I am lucky there is treatment. No amount of determination can help you beat a disease without treatment.

The life I am living is good, even if it isn’t anything like what I’d planned or expected.

I could focus on all that I’ve lost but going down that path, really is the road to ruin…just like unforgiveness.

amelia heart painting

We have more choice in how we paint our own picture than I ever thought possible.

Seizing hold of all the good in the life I have now…this is the road to happiness. Do we call it forgiveness? Acceptance? I don’t know but whatever you call it, it certainly took me a long time to get here. I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis 9 years ago and I certainly didn’t reach this point overnight. I was angry and didn’t know who or what to blame. God? Bad luck? Genetics? Indeed, it was only after I had chemo 2 years ago almost to the day, that I have let it all go and finally learned what it means to be a human BEING…not just a HUMAN DOING.

I still haven’t got it down to a fine art nor do I have all the answers. However, I’ve made radical progress possibly through letting go. I had to walk away from my job a few years ago but I am now at the point where I’m about to step out there again.I’m yet to work out where I’m going or how. However, that can wait. My kids are starting new schools next week and for the next few months, I make no apologies for putting my kids first. The rest can wait.

So, how have I been able to forgive dermatomyositis and move forward?

Fight back and don’t be a victim. This means doing what I can to give myself the best chance of managing the disease and trying not to make things worse. This also means taking responsibility for my health and not delegating my life to anyone else. I take my medication. Have regular blood tests. Exercise. Could eat better but could eat worse.

Have fun. Enjoy!

Extend my limits. If you can’t go through the front door, how about trying the side door? Think laterally and be resourceful. It can be very easy to shrink inside your shell where it is warm and cosy but do you really want to live the rest of your life at half-mast?

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Violin Concert 2015.

Everyone needs a reason to live. A reason to get up in the morning. A reason to go through all the tedious bits and pieces in life when the going gets tough, boring or too painful to go on. It doesn’t matter what that reason is but without that, how to you keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Find support. I’ve had considerable counselling over the years and that really helped. I had some training in mindfulness techniques which I really struggled to take on board at the time but probably use more than I realise. I also went on a low-dose anti-depressant during a serious setback a few years ago and stayed on them. I am looking at re-visiting this in the next few months. I’ve been on so many other drugs that I let it be but they’ve come down significantly so it’s time for a review. My life is no longer hanging on by a thread.

Find a way of releasing your anger. I have written journal after journal burning off angst, deep sorrow, anger and anxiety throughout this journey and it’s really helped…both through venting and also being able to look back and see how far I’ve progressed.

Get out of your box. Sitting at home alone, it’s too easy to feel sorry for yourself and focus too much on how things how gone wrong for you. However, you only need to step outside your front door to realise that everyone has their lot…the blessings and their curse. You are not the only one. Even if you have a rare disease like me, there are still people in the same boat. For me, that’s either other parents battling health issues or others fighting different auto-immune diseases. I am far from being alone.

Most of us know if our glass is half-empty or half full. If you’re a pessimist, you’ll probably need to work harder to maintain your equilibrium. Write down something to be grateful for everyday…your What Went Well or WWW Book. Focus on that instead of the bad stuff.

Help someone else. Helping someone else has been shown to do wonders for your mood.

I have always seen dermatomyositis and a separate being, not “me” or even a part of myself. This means I haven’t internalised it. I am still myself.

Watch your language. Never call yourself a “sufferer”. I don’t have dermatomyositis. I am living with it. It might have moved into my body but it hasn’t taken over my soul.

 

Before I head off, I just wanted to address forgiveness when it’s someone you love who is living with a chronic illness or disability, which is a very different experience from being the person directly affected.

From my experience, it’s much harder for those around me to separate me from the disease. So, when I’m too tired to listen, be attentive, play, join in or can’t go bushwalking, go to the shops or invite friends over, they don’t usually see dermatomyositis. It’s more a case of Mummy being asleep again. Mummy can’t be bothered or…Mummy doesn’t love me.

After all, while I might have an over-abundance of words, don’t we all know actions speak louder than words!

So, I also have to forgive what can be a lack of understanding and compassion by those who I love the most at times. Deal with their anger and disappointment that Mummy is somewhat broken and there’s a gap between the concept of what a mother should be and reality. As my health goes up and down quite significantly, this can also be the contrast between well Mummy and sock Mummy. They don’t need to look any further afield to make that comparision.

When my kids are angry about things and playing up, they’re actually needing more love, not less and it’s not the time for me to retreat, which goes against any concept of self-preservation but that’s what it means to be a parent. Somehow, you need to be thick-skinned and thin-skinned all at the same time but who is immune to being hurt, especially by those you love the most?

This all brings me to this point. It doesn’t matter who or what is hurting you, you need to forgive and quite often this forgiveness is all about the little things. Overcoming the everyday. It’s less about that big one-off apology. It’s a daily thing. Just like breathing, eating, thinking, we forgive.

This post is part to the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Please check out the link  to have your mind truly blown away by such personal journeys of grappling with forgiveness. Each month writers come together to post on compassion often within a theme. This month’s theme is forgiveness. 

xx Rowena