Monthly Archives: March 2016

Born To Crash.

Ȕber-pumped, Fangio’s poised in the driver’s seat. His foot’s on the accelerator ready for blast off! Mightn’t have a licence but this is the Dodge Em’s.

What a misnomer! Although the sign states: NO BUMPING, we’re all out to crash.

Caught up in “The Siblings’ Revenge!” my husband and I fight on opposing sides.

Disco lights flash. The hunt begins. Where are they? A hunter stalking his prey, he was born to crash!

Bang! Got them! Again! Again! Again!

“Yahoo!” We’re in the zone… until retaliation hit.

Ouch!

Siren rings!

Adventure over, we’re laughing like a bunch of crooks!

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March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous!

Respond by March 29, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

…..

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Setting out on our big adventure…standing at the entrance to the show.

Yesterday, we went to the Royal Sydney Easter Show and had the best time ever. I will never forget our ride on the Dodge Ems where I teamed up with my son and my husband teamed up with Miss.

My son and I chased them round the track like a crazed stalker. He was driving and a couple of times, I actually grabbed the wheel and tried to get up out on the edge where he could actually drive. He wasn’t interested. Just wanted to crash…especially into Dad and his sister. She was just as bad. The looks on their faces were quite priceless…grinning from ear to ear with the most fiendish smiles. They just loved being legalised villains. All the other drivers were the same. We all just wanted to crash.

I laughed so much my face hurt. Much more fun than driving a stupid car and you don’t need a licence!

This is my second flash fiction this week. After writing about the personification of fear on the rollercoaster, I wanted to write about a happy adventure. Take the topic a different direction.

Hope you’ve had a Happy and Blessed Easter!

xx Rowena

 

A Philosophical Sunday Afternoon.

Writing letters to dead poets has led to a philosophical Sunday afternoon…even after eating loads of chocolate!

You see, this week, I’ve been preparing for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme is: Letters to Dead Poets. Like so many participants, April has crept up behind me and grabbed me by the throat, while I was otherwise occupied. So, this week I’ve been head down, bum up and hard at it.

I can’t even begin to describe the journeys I’ve been on. It’s been absolutely extraordinary. You could just imagine what it’s been like immersing myself in the works and bios of over 26 poets who have inspired me throughout my life. It’s been incredibly uplifting and equally intense. There have also been some macabre discoveries as well!

keats letter

When I drew up my list, I simply chose a poet who had touched me, which corresponded to each letter of the alphabet. Of course, some letters had multiple options and there were other letters where I was absolutely stumped and relying on Google. This was good too because I discovered some incredible poets from Japan and China which helped me out with letters I, Q and Z.

While I’m not going to spill the beans on my selection,what has shocked me is the number of poets who took their own lives. There were also others who just seemed to combust or died as a result of misadventure. There was one who was shot and another who shot himself. How do you make sense of that and what would they say to each other? Nothing because they’re both dead and the past is the past?!!

Yet, there are also others who endured incredible hardship and survived.

Why is this so? I don’t know.

 

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Sea Gulls Flying Towards the Sun….Rowena Newton.

So, when it’s come to writing letters to many of these dead poets, its been incredibly intense. That probably doesn’t surprise you but it did surprise me. I’ve sort of found these poems one by one and hadn’t really discerned any patterns before. In many cases, I had no idea how the poet had died. So, what started out looking like a fairly random selection of poets, has been transformed into themes and variations…alarming ones in many ways.

What has also emerged is that there are people who go through incredible suffering and somehow survive and yet others take their own life. I’m not going to call that giving up because it’s not an easy decision but it’s incredibly hard on family and friends who are inevitably left behind, wishing they’d done more. Tried something else. Somehow managed to save this person they love and cherish. When someone loses a parent or a child, it’s their own flesh and blood… more precious than life itself and their anguish has no end.

couple walking

Walking Together Through the Fog- Rowena Newton.

So, you could say it’s been an intense week but a rewarding one because a these letters are now becoming a book. I’ll be putting more abridged versions up for the challenge as these posts need to be a quick read. After all, the challenge is quite the blog fest trying to make your way around as many blogs as possible hoping some of these relationships will be more ongoing.

Thinking of the challenge like that, makes me think I could have chosen a more light-hearted topic. However, meaning is very important to me. My writing has to have meaning, even if that’s humour but there has to be a purpose. There’s so much rubbish out there and I don’t want to become part of that just to boost my stats. For me, it’s much more important to touch hearts, particularly the hearts of the hurt and hopefully give them a touch of hope. As Emily Dickinson once said:

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”

This approach is reassuring for all of us who want to help others but feel overwhelmed. One person can not save the world by themselves but if we could each “stop one heart from breaking”, that would truly turn things around, wouldn’t it!

Anyway, after all of this, I knew I need to step out but I wasn’t quite sure how. When you’re mulling over details which are speeding round and round your head in a cyclonic yet inspirational vortex, it’s hard to step out. Incredibly hard, at times.

Then, this morning, my incredibly happy Black Dog, Lady, greeted me with such enthusiastic gusto, that I felt good. My spirits lifted. Lady is such a happy little dog who  wags her tail with such vigor, that she whacks it on the floor. Then, as she hears you walk closer, the whacking speeds up. Well, when she saw me this morning, it was like I’d risen from the dead. She was THAT happy. The tail was wagging and her entire body was quivering and she was jumping all over me.

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Those big brown eyes say: “I love you!”

I think she was hoping for a walk.

As soon as I saw her, though, I thought: these poets didn’t have a dog. I don’t know whether that’s true but my dogs certainly cheer me up and do their best to keep me on an even keel.

Also goes to know that just because Lady is a “Black Dog”, that she doesn’t have to be depressed. Rather, she’s as happy as…a dog!

While I found serious depression revisiting my favourite poets, I also found much encouragement, resiliance and amazing determination to overcome the odds.

Issa-snail

The Haiku writer Issa survived incredible adversity and yet still still appreciated and honoured the incredible beauty found in nature and pushed on. I shared this Haiku with the family last night:

O snail

Climb Mount Fuji,

But slowly, slowly!

You can read more about it at: Snailing Up the Mountain

Out of interest, thought I might ask you all to share your survival strategies for getting through a tough week?

I have quite a complex web of survival strategies. There’s my family which gives me so much motivation to overcome anything which crosses my path and my friends, some who are like family. There’s my faith and that knowledge that God is with me all the time no matter what. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that I don’t ask him questions and wonder why things pan out the way they do and that’s why community is important. That you need to be part of something bigger than you. I have my puppy dogs who give me so much unconditional love and that huge crazy tail wag every single morning and if I’m having a sleepless night, they are also happy to join me. I could almost hug them to death and they’d never tell me to leave them alone. That said, they can drive me a little crazy pestering me to throw the tennis ball and every time I’m going out is somehow perceived as a “walk”. Yet, this also reflects their undying optimism, faith and hope. They never let a setback stop them from believing that the next time the door opens, they’ll be off.

Exercise, socialise…these are really important.

As an over-arching principle, I strive for balance. If I am going through a hard time and immersed in the dark, it’s really important to take myself the other way and find the light. I do that by viewing the world through my camera lens and particularly love photographing the clouds at sunset. They are so beautiful and just watching nature, calms and restores my soul. Nature is such an incredible tonic.

I also believe you need to have a sense of humour and being able to laugh at yourself and your adversity can be strangely very therapeutic.Don’t know why but it’s worked for me.

That adversity doesn’t hunt you down.You’re not the only one going through hard times. Although it might look like others have the perfect life, you usually don’t know them well enough to know their truth.

chair Umina Beach

Rather, life ebbs and flows. There are ups and downs and we just need to learn to swim, improve our stroke and build up those muscles to survive. Alternatively, we build a boat and learn to sail. The how doesn’t really matter but do nothing and there’s only one result. You sink.Drown.

When you live a very rich and varied life, you’re much better prepared when adversity knocks. With your eggs spread throughout multiple baskets, you’ve spread your risk and you’re not sunk in the first strike. You have something left  in reserve.

This is why I was off at the beach with the family and the dogs yesterday afternoon and off to Church this morning. I also specifically spoke with my Pastor about my Dead Poet Project as well as some friends. I am dealing with some very tough philosophical questions and I know this isn’t something I should be doing alone. I need to go into that space of solitude to write but I also have to come out and get back into life, the universe and everything. Hug and be hugged by both humans and dogs!

These are important issues for our creative community. Too many creatives have been swallowed up by all-consuming darkness or the brilliance of the flames. Somehow, we need to reach out to each other and truly hold on. Hold on when we’re sinking and hold on as our neighbour goes down. Likewise, we can also go up and I’m all for flying a kite..just as long as I can get down once again!

Father & Son

A Helping Hand- Rowena Newton

When I was back at university, a friend of mine shared the analogy of the rock and the kite. The rock and the kite are friends…buddies. Yet, they are also opposites. The kite with it’s tendency to fly away and get carried away by the wind,  is tied to the rock and grounded. Meanwhile, the rock has a tendency to get too heavy and sink into the ground. Get depressed. However, the kite lifts it up out of the ground and cheers it up. I have always seen this as an explanations for why opposites attract in relationships. We help balance each other out.

It’s funny how I’ve known this analogy for over 25 years yet writing this now has given me a whole new perspective. I’ve always thought of the rock and the kite as separate people but but they are also opposing forces in ourselves…the light and the dark, which wrestle each other within to determine our mood, outlook, the status quo. There’s a  constant, grueling tug of war within, as the rock and kite fight it out while we manage the battle. While all light and no darkness or heaviness might seem like the goal, we need depth, reflection and even sadness or we will, in effect, float away. All froth and bubble without any substance!

I’d be really interested to hear your feedback about all of this. I am not a mental health professional but I am a survivor. There are no medals or public acknowledgment for most survivors but we have more than learned life’s lessons along the bumpy road.

Take care and if the dark side is eating you up, please reach out. Keep reaching out. I promise we care!

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Happy Easter: Church, Chocolate, Coffee!

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share and we wish you all a very Happy and Blessed Easter!

It’s already Sunday here in Australia. Would you mind please waiting for a minute. I’ve been to Church. Had a coffee but I need to bite into the Cadbury Crunchie Bunny that’s calling my name. Actually, that might be the other way round. After all, if I  was a chocolate Easter rabbit I wouldn’t be calling out to get eaten. Oh no! I’d quietly exit stage left without making a sound.

Yum! That’s soooo good. Nothing like biting a bunny’s ear off, although now that my daughter has live rabbits in her class room,  I’m supposed to be nice to rabbits. This is a crisis of conscience for me. As much as I love those cute fluffy bunnies as individuals, as a species, they’re not my friends. They’ve done catastrophic damage to the Australian landscape and are a pest. They do not belong here.

So what are you doing over Easter?

lady and Easter Egg

What do you mean I’m only after your Easter Egg?

So, far we’ve been hibernating. I was going to try to work in some kind of scientific or technical term for hibernation but while reading through Google, I only confused myself and thought I’d better stick to plain English. Being Australian, hibernation is a foreign concept. That is unless you include falling asleep on the beach, which could be re-classed as suicide these days. People have been hospitalised for sunburn after falling asleep on the beach. In the longer term, Melanoma loves Australians and looking at the way Aussies bake themselves, the feeling is mutual.

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Oops! I almost forgot to mention that we went for an afternoon beach walk yesterday with the dogs. It was so good and I don’t know why I don’t get down there every day like I used to. It was right on sunset and while the sun doesn’t set over the water here, it was still very serene. We also came across three baby bronze whaler sharks lying on  the sand, which had been caught. We kept the dogs out of the water, not that they needed to be told. Lady occasionally goes for a brief swim but Bilbo not only stays out of the water himself. He also barks out to other dogs who are swimming and tries to round them up out of the water…without getting his own paws we…of course!

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The kids at the beach- Easter 2016.

This week, I’ve been preparing for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme is: Letters to Dead Poets. Like so many participants, April has crept up behind me and grabbed me by the throat when I was busy elsewhere. So, this week I’ve been head down, bum up and hard at it.

So, you could say it’s been an intense week but a rewarding one because a these letters are now becoming a book and I’ll put more abridged versions up for the challenge as these posts need to be a quick read. After all, the challenge is more of a blog fest where fidelity has nothing to do with trying to get around as many blogs as possible hoping some of these relationships will become an ongoing concern.

Are you taking part in the A-Z Challenge? If so, please let me know in the comments and provide a link through to your theme reveal. Here’s a link to mine.

Tomorrow, we’re all heading off to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I’m really looking forward to it. This is the first time we’ve taken the kids to the Show.

Going to The Show was such a part of my childhood and I went every year without fail when it was out at the Sydney Showground which was out at the Sydney Cricket Ground. There are so many memories out there of the laughing clowns, Kewpie Dolls (which my husband just called crappy dools…Gee! No respect!) Dagwood dogs, Showbag Hall and walking around looking at animals and cattle, dogs, horses and seeing all those Christmas cakes and incredible embroidery. I can’t wait but at the same time, it’s going to be a huge day. It’s tiring for anyone but when you have a small engine, big events are daunting.

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Bilbo is not so sure about the kids’ engineering exploits. “Hey, trying to fight the ocean is futile guys!”

So, how was your week? I hope you’re had a great one!

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster and you can click here for the “Linky“.

Love & Easter Blessings!

Rowena

PS Just found a great article: Life Lessons of a Speeding Train.

 

 

Snailing Up the Mountain.

O snail

Climb Mount Fuji,

But slowly, slowly!

-Issa

Yesterday, I felt the entire universe quake when I discovered  this incredible Haiku. Of course, I am not alone in my response. This Haiku is widely known in Haiku circles. However, that doesn’t stop me from feeling that Issa wrote it just for me. That despite living long before my time, he knew me so intimately that he actually heard the silent cry in my heart.

Ever since I developed a muscle-wasting auto-immune disease ten years ago, I’ve felt the need to climb a mountain. After all, isn’t this what everybody does after they face a serious setback? Of course! Naturally, I never felt this compulsion when I was capable. That said, I have climbed Australia’s tallest peak, the Mount Kosciuszko which at  2,228 m barely scratches Everest’s knees.It’s not what I consider a serious challenge, even though I couldn’t do it now.

Given my disability and other interests, I put my mountain climbing dreams long ago and instead, turned my energies towards a more achievable challenge…skiing down the mountain, which I achieved in 2013.

Anyway, tonight over dinner I decided to share the snail Haiku with the rest of the family. Indeed I couldn’t wait. When something hits you straight between the eyes like that, it’s hard to concede that anyone could interpret it any differently. Surely, they would be equally blown away and appreciate how slow and steady can get you over the mountain…be it physical, psychological or spiritual.

However I’d forgotten that the kids had studied Japan at school and might have their own perspectives.

My daughter, who has a long history of asking difficult and lateral questions, didn’t disappoint.After I’d finished reading the Haiku, she asked:

“How does the snail climb up Mt Fuji if there’s snow? It wouldn’t stick.”

Of course, this necessitated yet another Google search. I sweart hat site could well be re-named “The Dumb Parents’ Salvation”.

In the past, kids’ questions like this were admired, considered rhetorical and left unanswered. Parents were let off the hook, although there could well have been the “Go ask your Father/Mother” to pass the buck. After all, nobody likes to be outsmarted by their ten year old kid even, if we do appreciate their intelligence!

However, you can’t get away with that any more. If you don’t know the answer,  you’re expected to find out, even if that means exploring the very frontiers of human understanding to get the answer…the intellectual equivalent of landing on Mars.

While I realised that my daughter’s question focused on a more literal than symbolic interpretation of Issa’ s Haiku, I still decided to follow through on her question. How could a snail climb to the top of Mt Fuji? I’d never even considered how a human could do it, let alone a snail, so I really did need some help.

That’s when I stumbled across a fabulous and very human account of climbing Mt Fuji and I thought that anyone who appreciates the Haiku, would also appreciate their journey: Climbing Mt Fuji

That’s helped me formulate a sort of answer to my daughter’s question. That the snail would need to climb Mt Fuji during the Summer months but given the huge number of human climbers, it could very well hitch a lift to the summit…even if that’s cheating. I also made a mental note to warn the snail to be careful. With that many climbers about, it would be all too easy to get stepped on.

If you are interested in Haiku, you might want to check out my previous posts:

My First Haiku

Haiku & Mash

Haiku for Four Seasons

Roses Aren’t Blue

Do you have a favourite Haiku? If so please share it and likewise, if you have climbed Mt Fuji, I’d love to hear how it went.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

The Only One Out- Flash Fiction.

The historic terrace house was gone. Firemen unable to extinguish the blaze, the neighbours were all out in the street in their undies, nighties and nothing at all. Desperate to help, a naked man was using his garden hose. Absolutely impotent, it needed more than a strong dose of Viagra. Another was screaming, his hands and feet burnt. They all knew the family. Their kids all went to the local school.

“Anyone get out?” Reporters asked.

“Just one. Wife and kids didn’t make it. Poor bugger.”

“I’d rather be dead, mate.”

“Yeah but sometimes, you don’t get a choice.”

 Rowena Newton

March 16, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the idea of “just one.” If all it takes is just one, what is the story? Explore what comes to mind and go where the prompt takes you. Bonus challenge: eat cake while you write, or include cake in your flash.

……..

While this flash is fiction, it is was inspired by a true story.

On Boxing Day 2011, Australian Celebrity Chef Matt Golinski lost his wife and three daughters in a devastating house fire. I doubt there was anyone who heard about his plight who didn’t feel incredible compassion and horror for what he had been through. Love poured out to this man we may or may not have seen on TV but that didn’t matter. We cared. We loved him. It was truly hard to imagine how someone could go through anything much worse. We just didn’t know how anyone could survive the loss of his family plus his own horrific burns…or even if he should. As a teenager, I thought breaking up with someone I’d dated for 6 weeks was anguish. This was off the Richter Scale. I followed his progress for several weeks as he fought against the odds to survive, supported by his medical team.

Here’s a newspaper excerpt about when he woke up:

Speaking at a charity breakfast, Golinski has revealed he struggled to understand why doctors kept him alive.

Seven News reports he had lost 22kg, had 17 operations and survived lung infections and kidney and liver failure before he came to.

“I clearly remember the very first thing when I was able to communicate with my dad… I asked if he wouldn’t mind giving me a mobile phone so I could ring my wife, Rachael,” Golinski said.

“(Dad) didn’t hesitate to tell me that Rachael and my girls had passed away.

“From that moment, I found it pretty impossible to comprehend why those doctors and all the medical staff had bothered to keep me alive…

“I wanted to ask them ‘why on earth would you think that I would want to live now?’

“Before too long, I started to feel more sorry for (dad) than I did for myself because I realised I wasn’t the only one suffering.”

Seven News reports that during his 13-minute speech, Golinski acknowledged the community support he received after the tragedy which he believes kept him alive.

“As I said, I had hit a point where I really didn’t want to live but it was hearing (stories of public support) from my dad, and there was that outpouring of generosity and love that actually got me through that time and made me want to survive,” he said.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/entertainment/a/17594254/chef-matt-golinski-tells-of-learning-of-familys-death-in-fire/

Matt Golinski is making a heroic recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

Theme Reveal: Blogging A-Z April Challenge

Once,

April was so far away

like a distant star in remote galaxy.

But time has flown

faster than an eagle

and now the theme reveal

was yesterday!

While I’m still beavering away on other projects, April has snuck up behind me like a thief in a dark alley and grabbed me by the throat.

“What is your theme?” It asks in its menacing, threatening tone.

“But it’s not April yet,” I reply.

“What is your theme?”It repeats, more forcefully. There is no way out.

Feeling like a kid bluffing their way through a half-concocted assignment, I’m trying to request an extension but time waits for no one…especially dithering writers who are trying to rise above their station with seemingly clever theme ideas which don’t quite come off.

I mean, let’s be honest here. Who really has a bone fide, stimulating and equally riveting subject for each and every letter of the alphabet? You can’t all tell me that you have something riveting planned for x and z and that you don’t have at least one “forced” or dreary consolation “prize” just so you can conform to the rules and deliver!

Inspired by the iconic movie Dead Poet’s Society and Rilke’s Letters to Young Poet, my theme is:

Letters to Dead Poets.

Although to be fair, I couldn’t leave out two brilliant Australian poet’s and philosophers who are very much alive…Michael Leunig and Nan Whitcomb. Moreover, just to be difficult, I also added in an artist who I believe very much had the soul of a poet…Vincent Van Gogh. So, you could say that I’m cheating or that my theme should really read:

Letters to Dead Poets With Exceptions.

I have also chosen a bit of flexibility when it comes to fitting these characters into the alphabet.

You see, strictly adhering to the rules has never been my thing. My criterion for these poets, rather, is that they have had a significant impact on my life at some point, helping to make me the person I am today. That they have spoken to me. Not just in a cerebral sense but deep inside, like a watchmaker breathing life into those secret inner parts and making me tick or at least keep ticking often during some very challenging times when it was tempting to give up. These poets were my personal friends, mentors, motivators and life savers. As such, they were too good to be kept to myself. They had to be shared.

At this point, the project is still rather fluid. I don’t want to fence it in. Rather, I want to see where it takes us because it really could take us somewhere very exciting. After all, when you immerse yourself in the words and ideas of some of the greatest poets and thinkers of all time, you have to emerge changed in some way. It’s a must.

So, I ask you to join me on this unchartered, experimental journey back through the poets who helped make a poet…just like grain upon grain of sand being deposited on a river bed, their words and ideas have accumulated, been inhaled through my eyes and planted somewhere deep in my soul, sprouting leaves and roots which have grown up into my own voice.

I still don’t know how it’s all going to work out but please come a along for the journey!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Happiness Through the Wars.

For the last 12 months, I have been in the compassion business and yet, so often I feel like slapping people straight in the face because they refuse to be happy. Instead, they’ve buried themselves in a deep hole and I’m starting to wonder whether they actually prefer it there. You see, all the means of escape are within easy reach, but they completely ignore them.

There are many reasons for this. Perhaps, they don’t feel they can change their circumstances. They have been given a diagnosis, or label, that supposedly renders them helpless. Or, they are just a bit overwhelmed, shocked and befuddled and might need a bit of assistance. After all, when you are going through a hard time, it’s easy to forget that you might only be passing through and this isn’t actually your destination.

If you are currently submerged in a crisis, you probably think it’s easy for me to say and that I just don’t get your situation. That I don’t know how bad it is. However, can you be so sure? What do you know about me? What’s my story?

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Me in my fancy red dream shoes. I’m usually barefoot, especially in Summer.

I’m not in your shoes. That’s a good thing, too. There are times when we need  that external tough nut who doesn’t give us what we want but what we need. That tough cop you don’t want to meet when you’ve decided everything’s hopeless and you’ve settled for a living death.

You see, as much as you might think you want someone to come along with a blanket, tucking you in and bringing you meals for however long it takes for you to die in a physical sense, that’s not what you need. Instead, you need that really annoying, irrepressible coach who tells you to: “Move it! Move it! Move it!”

You need action and probably even the proverbial boot up the you know where!

So, my question for you is this: “Do you want to stay where you are or do you want things to change…even if it is only those little annoyances you haven’t followed up?”

What we sometimes forget when we’re intensely focused on what’s gone wrong, is that it can always get worse.Somehow, we manage to shoot ourselves in both feet in addition to whatever adversity has come our way. Sadly, this happens way too often and while it’s tempting to play the blame game, we also have to look to ourselves.

What are we doing to actually improve our lot? To give ourselves the best chance?

You see, we are actually so much stronger than we think and have the means within ourselves to improve our lot. Moreover, as we feel more and more empowered, we in effect shrink whatever beast is bringing us down. Through these victories, however small, we also find a sense of happiness which can help us overcome further setbacks. This is what’s called resilience.

Of course, if you’d told me all of this when I was having a “dooner day”, I would’ve promptly slapped you in the face and retreated even further into my bed. I have to admit my Mum was pretty keen to get me moving again after those many colossal teenage break ups and I really thought she didn’t get it. Didn’t understand me. However, at the same time, when you’re older and you see the long-range, bigger picture, how can you let your beautiful daughter go up in smoke over a stupid boy? How could I do it to myself? That old phrase: “there are always plenty more fish in the sea” might seem heartless but it’s true. You just don’t appreciate that when you’re in it.

“When we are helping someone, it is so important to enable them, NOT render them disabled.”

Rowena

When we are helping someone, it is so important that we enable them, and do not disable them. While we can gallop in on our white horse and save the day on their behalf and be the hero, wouldn’t it be better to teach them how to ride so they can experience the thrill of not only overcoming their particular adversity, but also gain the strength and pride of learning a new skill? Having a new experience which gives them a sense of victory and achievement rather than reinforcing: “You can’t do this. Let me do it for you.”

Well, this is all very well unless you’ve taken a direct hit. Sometimes you need intensive, ongoing assistance or you might know that someone who does. No amount of wishful thinking, prayer, medical intervention is going to change what’s happened.

Or, is it?

Rowena Quad bike

Here I am riding the quad bike. Of all the activities, this one took me most out of my comfort zone.

What I would like to suggest is that you try to find a way around the hurdles and see what is possible. A few years ago, I went away on an Adventure Camp with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Beforehand, I wasn’t very confident about my physical capabilities and was very wary of trying new things. Of course, given my diagnosis, I had every reason to pull back. However, I knew that the staff knew and understood my limitations. This provided a sort of safety net, which allowed me to take on all sorts of unexpected challenges which took me way beyond my comfort zone. Ironically, probably the most challenging activity was going down a waterslide on the boat without my glasses on. I am so short-sighted that I’m literally blind without them and yet I went flying into the water and pulled myself back onboard. Did I feel weak, powerless and useless after that? NO! Of course, not! Rather, I felt triumphant…even after smacking the water nose first and getting water up my nose. That success propelled me onto further physical successes including riding quad bikes and ultimately skiing down a mountain (an Australian mountain so it wasn’t Everest but it was Everest to me).

These were huge monumental changes for me as I’d never been a physical person and was much more comfortable living inside my head and being the writer.

So, being in the compassion business but also being a survivor, the most compassionate thing I can say to you is… NEVER GIVE UP! I’m not talking about reaching dreams like becoming a millionaire or even one that’s very important to me…getting a book published. What I am talking about is never giving up on YOUR SELF and your ability to pull yourself out of the rabbit hole. This is not to deny the power of prayer and God’s strength but God didn’t make us powerless. He didn’t want us to be victims. He said pick up your mat. NOT… I’ll carry it for you and keep carrying it for you. We are so much stronger than we ever thought possible but we need to use and exercise that strength. Not let it go to waste.

While tough love might seemingly fly in the face of compassion, building strength instead of weakness is an incredible gift of love and what ultimate leads to a more enduring form of happiness.

P.S. The Back Story.

Sometimes I wish I had badges or scars which acknowledge the challenges I have overcome and survived. They would give me the credibility to share my story without people thinking: “What would you know? She’s happily married with two kids. She even has two dogs for heavens sake…and a roof over her head.” You probably wouldn’t even notice any physical proof of my struggles at all.

Yet, if you touched the side of my head, well camouflaged underneath my hair of course, you’d find a bump. That’s the shunt which manages a neurological condition, hydrocephalus. When I was around 25, I had brain surgery and it took a good 12 months just to get back to square one again…let alone fly. The doctor had marked my file with “full recovery” at the time and after six months, those words almost seemed cruel. What was he talking about? I still wasn’t back at work and that’s what a full recovery meant to me at the time. AND…it meant now!! This instant. I was stuck in a dreadful state of suspended animation, which is hard enough for anyone to deal with let alone when you’re young. I picked up photography in a very serious way during this time and looking through the lens, you see what you see and somehow become absorbed into it and out of yourself and your problems. I have no doubt that it helped my recovery. It also bridged that gap with the rest of the world who was working. It turned out that when I went to parties, people were much more interested in hearing about photography than work! I was interesting. Moreover, my stories about the flip-top head were also fairly entertaining.

Throwing humour at your bad luck, also turns things around. Prior to my surgery, I was living in a veritable twilight zone straight out of Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat. Even the horizon moved up and down when I walked, so it’s no surprised that I walked like John Wayne with a broad gait just to keep my balance! This wasn’t the kind of poise you wanted as a young woman or teenager! However, once I was on the mend, these stories were quite funny.

However, as much as we like to believe lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice, it can and it does. Just because it only got your head last time, doesn’t mean that it can’t try and claim the rest of you as well.

Following the birth of my daughter, my immune system went haywire, as it usually does. However, instead of returning to normal, my body started attacking itself when I developed an exceptionally rare auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. It took 18 months to finally diagnose this beast. By then, most of my muscles had wasted away and I couldn’t dress myself, roll over in bed or put my daughter back in her cot. Ironically, she was still being breastfed and due to the nature of the muscle breakdown, I was still able to look after the kids and get them dressed. Because this thing had snuck up on me and we had no idea what it was, I had no appreciation of just how incredibly hard every single move had become. My feet felt like concrete trying to lift them upstairs and my body felt like a bag of rocks trying to lift myself out of the car yet I just kept going. That’s what you do. It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had two kids to look after so I was also fighting with all that I had, to keep them As soon as I was diagnosed, I was put in a wheelchair. Full stop.

Actually, it could well have been a full stop but it wasn’t. I had treatment and while there is no cure, I am better.

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This disease has been a determined blighter and I’ve had several close calls. I live with about 60% lung capacity and had chemo two years ago. I am still here. Not just the shell of who I was, but ME. I am very much alive. Life isn’t perfect. I am content but I am also reflective. I am conscious of my journey and how different things would have been but I’m equally conscious of the depth and wisdom I have gained, which I believe can only be gained through adversity. I also know that I am not the only one. That pretty much everyone has their lot, their burden to carry. So, now the question for me is less about the nature of the load and much more about how I’m going to get to the other side.

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Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

How about you? Can you be happy in the midst of adversity?

xx Rowena

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on Compassion and Happiness. And, our monthly link-up date aligns perfectly with International Day of Happiness. How perfect!

Write your relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

 

 

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Much More Coffee Required.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

Not sure whether more caffeine is required or some herbal tea. Do I shock my body with increasing doses of caffeine until it jolts back into action? Or, do I just go with the flow and fall asleep? While I let my droopy eyes decide, I’ll start writing. Writing releases my inner tensions and the aftermath of a stressful week, better than anything else.

It is now Autumn here. While I might have been complaining about the scorching Summer heat which was continuing unabated, I definitely did not request torrential rain and localised flooding. Moreover, I certainly did not ask to be driving through floodwaters, just to get my son to school around the corner. After all, when it comes to exciting adventures, this wasn’t what Mum’s Taxi had in mind!

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However, I guess it builds character. Gives me bragging rights. However, I don’t recall signing up for another episode of Survivor!

While these heavy rains made driving around difficult and potentially dangerous, they created some fantastic photographic opportunities.

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Driving home from dropping my daughter at Cub Scouts, I veered home picking up my camera and headed down to the beach. I’d spotted huge billowing clouds over the rooftops and being right on sunset, I dashed off in pursuit of golden glory. I wasn’t disappointed, capturing stunning reflections in the receding surf. Yum! That might sound like a odd description of a sunset but I’m currently watching an interview with the judges from Masterchef and it just seemed to fit. Can something be that beautiful that you can actually taste it? I’m not sure but this had to come close.

I had great fun blogging about my cloud chasing adventures at Clouds! Camera! Action!

However, this week wasn’t all about dashing through floods and cloud chasing.

Monday night, I attended a dinner celebrating International Women’s Day held by Business & Professional Women.  This included a candle-lighting ceremony honouring women around the world. The guest speaker was Mahboba Rawi from international aid organisation organisation, Mahboba’s Promise, which delivers food, shelter, medical attention and education to thousands of women and children whose lives have been destroyed by war in her native Afghanistan. She also tells her story in her book: Mahboba’s Promise.

I was very touched by meeting Mahboba. There was something exceptional about her. A real sense of peace. That if she put her hand on your heart, all those storms and inner turbulence would instantly settle and there would be peace. Unfortunately, this quality is usually borne out of great suffering and incredibly challenging personal experience and subsequent growth. It’s such experience which changes your focus from the everyday and mundune to some kind of different plane.

Not only did Mahboba go through great loses as a refugee but she went on to lose her eldest son in a tragic accident, which subsequently led to the breakdown of her marriage and great financial hardship. So, when it comes to helping others and showing genuine heartfelt compassion, she has been there. You can read more about Mahboba’s Promise Here.

On Thursday, I had a rather intriguing trip down to Sydney to have a neuro-psychological assessment. This tests the functionality of your brain looking at words, numbers, memory, multi-tasking, thought processes, spatial ability and no doubt things I haven’t even considered. It’s a very challenging test. Not in the least because you need to know the name of the Australian Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister. With the  revolving doors down in Parliament House, this isn’t easy. I’d actually heard that paramedics have removed this question from their neurological tests. In reverse order, we have Turnbull, Abbott, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd. That’s 5 changes in six years. I don’t think anyone could lock you up for getting that mess wrong.

I’m pretty sure the test went well. Struggled a bit on the spatial tests but that didn’t surprise me. After all, reversing Mum’s Taxi isn’t a pretty sight. Indeed, when that rear bumper bar is on the move, entire car parks have evacuated! Sorry, folks!

After surviving heavy rains, floods and neuro-psychological tests, yesterday we finally had our daughter’s belated 10th Birthday Party. For some reason, she kept forgetting to take the invitations to school and also had a few days off with stomach aches. So, we come to Thursday morning and as we’re pulling up at the station, silly me asks whether she has packed the invitations. Why didn’t I think to ask while we were still at home when there was still a chance to pack them? Stupid, Mum. Of course she’d forgotten to pack them. So, I ended up sending her teacher a desperate email asking her to print the invitation out and give it to all the girls in her class. Surely, they wouldn’t all turn up with only 2 days’ notice?!! Besides, I preferred the idea of inviting all the girls anyway and being more inclusive. As you may recall, our daughter moved to a new school this year. It’s a class for bright kids pooled from the regional area and they’re all new and just getting to know each other. Moreover, the parents don’t know each other at all. With the kids taking public transport long distance to get there, we rarely go near the place. So, the party provided a much needed opportunity to help us all get to know each other better.

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As it turned out, the party was a brilliant success! It was held at the Hidden Courtyard Cafe, which is out the back of a florist shop. My Mum and Miss go there for afternoon tea every week when Mum picks her up from the station. It has quite a fusion of flowers, art and up until the party started, a live band. They sang Miss Happy Birthday before they finished up. We invited the kids to “High Tea” and about 12 kids arrived ranging from dressy to pretty casual. That’s one of the things I really like about where we live. While there’s some cloning, you can largely be yourself and that’s just fine. By the way, I should also mention that the cafe is dog-friendly, so Lady came along. (That, of course, meant a bath. We decided to leave Bilbo at home as he can get a little narky around strangers at times).

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Not too sure whether Lady was wondering how many balloons it would take to fly and whether that was from a view of hope or dread?

I have to say that I was exceptionally grateful to the cafe. I’d been in a real spin about where to hold her party without sending us bankrupt. Kids parties can get so expensive and yet they really are such an important part of growing up, making friends and feeling special. Conversely, when they implode the child feels awful and they just reinforce any negative vibe the child has about themselves. Knowing how to navigate your party through those potential minefields, is a serious concern but worth it when you pull it off.

Anyway, given the hectic week and the troubles getting the invitations out, this party ended up flying by the seat of it’s pants but came together exceptionally well. The cafe had covered the tables in drawing paper and I’d also brought textas and some drawing paper. I’d also written out a motivational quote for each child (largely from Dr Suess, Helen Kellar and John Lennon) and left it on their plate. Also, I made name tags or everyone and stuck a glittery smiley face on each one. This was also inspired as I didn’t know most of the kids and there were kids from various activities and it just helped break the ice. Marianne, the Proprietor, is an excellent event manager and helped keep things moving with the appearance of cake plate filled with little morsels, to the chef appearing with milkshakes and then the lighting of the cake. It all had a certain amount of theatre and came across really well. We all had a fabulous time!

Phew!

Phew! Phew!

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Miss and Lady.

Now, my son is asking abut his also belated birthday party but we’ll be heading the Royal Sydney Easter Show next week. So, it can wait. We might have his mates over for a video night. Do they still exist? I wonder. When I turned 13, I had a slumber party and we all watched Grease on video.  Video nights were actually  incredibly trendy at the time, and not the last resort of the desperate and dateless. Oh how things change!

Meanwhile the school work keeps coming. I’ve glossed over my son’s upcoming Maths Exam and am much more interested in my daughter’s assignment. Following on from her project on Natural Disasters, she has to write a newspaper article about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. I am now engrossed in reading a series of personal accounts. They’re riveting: http://www.sfmuseum.net/1906/ew.html

Anyway, that just about sums up last week and by now, it’s Sunday night here and I really don’t feel ready for another week. It’s been bucketing down with rain again tonight and once again, I feel like curling up in my cave and hibernating.

Indeed, the kids have been asking for blankets.

Humph…last week it was Summer!

I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at http://parttimemonster.com/ and please click through to the

xx Rowena

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A mural outside the cafe. It could be my daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What a World, What a World,” cried the Wicked Witch~

Welcome to the wonderful world of Butterflies in a Northern Spring. Beautiful!

Thank you Cindy Knoke for this incredible insight. I absolutely love butterflies and would just love to shrink so I could perch on top of their wings and fly!

Maybe one day!

xx Rowena

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Remember, she said this when she was melting. (Orange Julia)

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She was too selfish,
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to care about anything beyond herself (Orange Julia, Blue Morpho, Cydno Longwing)
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and so she melted. (Side-Striped Hairstreak)
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Poor wicked witch.
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She could never find joy in a butterfly. (Monarch, Longwing)
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Joy finds those, (Postman)
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who care about nature, (Gulf Fritillary)
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and all her creatures. (Cattleheart)
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May our beautiful butterfly world bring joy to you~ (Starry Night Cracker)

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Everyone’s clock runs out…eventually.

This post is a great take on the transience of life and the ticking bomb which is our human body. If you are looking for a read that will get you thinking, you’ll enjoy this xx Rowena

Rethinking Life

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Picture from Pixabay

I think we’re a lot like watches…we have delicate parts that need to work together, if we are to run properly.  If one part wears out, we don’t keep proper time.  No matter how well we care for our watches, something always goes wrong.  Parts are replaced and things run smoothly until the next time.  Each second ticks away, adding up to minutes and hours, months and years.  Newer models come along, models with fewer movable parts, but they seem short lived and are replaced more frequently.

Once our watches start losing time, we might be surprised to find they no longer make the parts needed to fix the problem.  And when someone tries to sell us a new watch we frown because we simply want the watch we already have, to keep running.  Somewhere in our minds we wonder why things wear out, instead of just…

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