Monthly Archives: July 2017

Weekly Smile… 17th July, 2017.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa

Any motivational guru will tell you, that when you least feel like smiling, is just the time to get out there are find something, anything to smile about.

It’s  mid-Winter here and we recently lost our older dog, Bilbo and to be perfectly honest, I just feel like hibernating. Not so much because I’m feeling depressed. It’s simply my response to the cold. In much of Australia, our houses are not designed for the cold and since we only need the heater on for about a month a year, I tend to tough it out until my fingers and toes are numb. There’s no central heating. So, while the winters aren’t as cold as other places, inside the house could well be much worse.

I’ve had quite a few things, which have made me smile this week. To read the extended version, you can refer back to my Coffee Share Post

The biggest smile I had this week, was watching my son performing in the Gang Show. The Gang Show is a variety show put on by scouts and guides and it was a real delight to see him smiling throughout the entire performance. He danced and acted well too, and I really admire his commitment to rehearsing for something like 4 months. It’s been a big effort.

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

-Doris Day

Our surviving dog, Lady, has also brought me many smiles and much love particularly since Bilbo passed away. I’ve never seen such a happy dog. She wags her tail like crazy, and her entire body quivers with excitement. Naturally, that has to cheer you up!!

Lady kids coffee

Lady with the kids leading her astray. She’s not allowed up to the table. 

Lady spreads so much happiness, that I’ve been thinking of using her as a therapy dog. However, I looked up the stringent requirements, and suspect we’re a bit too laissez-faire. Lady doesn’t always come when she’s called and I also found out that being  “portly”, can lead to rejection as well. Not to be deterred, I noticed how much joy she brings to people simply walking down the street, and thought that could be our thing. That we don’t need to be part of a program or strut our stuff to share her zest for life with people who need it most. We can think global and walk local.

“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”
― Ashly Lorenzana

Bilbo and paw prints

No paw dipping for Bilbo. He stayed well clear of the water…and the other dogs for that matter. He’s the canine equivalent of a bloke standing alone holding his beer in the corner at the pub.

If you would like to read more about the mood-boosting power of dogs, this article is very comprehensive.

If you have a dog, how do they help you smile?

The Weekly Smile is hosted by Trent McDonald at  Trent’s World and you can join in the link-up here.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 16th July, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

There’s a chocolate cake in the oven at the moment, so if you’re patient you’ll be able to have a slice of luscious chocolate cake with your choice of coffee, tea or Bonox. Quite frankly, I don’t recommend the Bonox and to be honest, I don’t think we have any. It’s just an expression my mother’s always used. Have you heard it before?

What have you been up to?

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks and go back on Tuesday. I’ve been running around like a maniac trying to get the house and the kids ready. So, making the chocolate cake wasn’t such a good idea. Cocoa spread all over the kitchen and is a beast to clean up and while the icing was scrumptious, the cake itself was very dry and has been deemed a fail. The fan isn’t working in the oven and it’s clearly time to wave the white flag and put baking on hold until it’s fixed.

The school holidays have flown past. Our daughter’s been doing dance workshops and preparing for her upcoming Grade IV RAD ballet exam. Meanwhile, our son spent the first week at my parents’ place and the second week he was rehearsing for Gang Show, an annual variety show put on by Guides and Scouts. We attended their performance last night and loved it and were so proud of him. He smiled throughout the entire performance and really must’ve been enjoying himself. If you have an opportunity to attend a Gang Show near you, I strongly encourage it. Society is so quick to judge our young people when they do something wrong, but they also need our support when they’re doing something right. You will probably see more polished performances elsewhere, and you might find some of it slow or geared towards another age group, but there’s also a magic in a good, inclusive amateur performance. Something which leaves you warm inside, simply because.

By the way,  I should mention that the theme for this year’s show was holidays and included classics like Surfing USA by the Beach Boys, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. Hearing those classics again, is always good.

Alongside these activities, we have still been grieving the loss of our precious Border Collie, Bilbo three weeks ago. The grief is starting to lift now, and writing about him has helped. I’ve also been writing about our first tentative steps without him. This has included being sorely tempted to adopt Stella, a four year old Maltese x Tibetan Spaniel which a friend had in rescue. However, we have decided to wait awhile and get a Border Collie pup in the New Year. In the meantime, I spotted a pseudo Border Collie and brought him home. He’s been christened “FB”, or Fake Bilbo. Having him around, has been unexpectedly good. Perhaps, we could also call him “Clayton”…the dog you have when you don’t have a dog, although Lady just growled at me and reminded me that we still have a real dog.She was most upset.

As it turns out, I’ve been driving the kids around a fair bit over the last two weeks. For me this is a bit on a mixed bag. On the one hand, being in the car is ideal for catching up with them and I love driving them around with their friends in the car. I learn so much and feel part of their lives. On the other hand, it can be stressful driving to unfamiliar places, especially when they’re late. It can feel like you’re putting too much of yourself out there, and it can be quite draining.

It’s just not the driving, but lately I’ve been feeling quite lost. Like I’ve pouring myself out all the time and there isn’t much left. That I’m running close to empty and aside from having a nap, I’m not sure how to recharge myself. The usual sparks like trying to write my book or going out for coffee with friends, aren’t lighting the fire. I had thought of going away for a few days in the holidays by myself, but after losing Bilbo I didn’t want to leave Lady at home by herself. I know these thoughts are leading me in a new direction and I’m currently at that point where you can’t see the dots joining up and the overall picture is still obscured. That it will come. My daughter starts high school next year and won’t need so much taxiing which will be good. Yes, I can see myself finding my feet again in the new year, although there always seems to be something going on  and it’s my job to be the wind beneath their wings. Yet, I also need to fly and it’s a struggle to find that balance. Indeed, sometimes this song comes to mind:

“What about me? It isn’t fair
I’ve had enough, now I want my share
Can’t you see, I want to live
But you just take more than you give”

I have no doubt that kids forget their parents also need to be nurtured, recharged and get that all-important pat on the back. No one can keep giving and giving and keep living. If you’ve ever read Shel Silverstein’s: The Giving Tree, I find that illustrates this well.

Have you ever felt like this as a parent?

On the other hand, these trips often take me to places I wouldn’t go and while I’m waiting, I can go exploring.

Last week, I ended up in Gosford for a few hours while my daughter was at a birthday party. I ended up talking to a bloke I met in the lift for an hour. He turned out to be a musician and a writer, but then started to talk to me about aliens living amonst us and conspiracy theories and I decided to go for a walk.

Gosford is a funny place. It terms of location, it has so much going for it. It’s on the waterfront and has a train station and is 30 mins to Sydney and just over an hour to the heart of Sydney. Yet, it somehow became the old part of town and many parts of it are tired if not derelict. It’s clearly a place which could use and well deserves a good facelift, and this is slowly coming along.

So, after walking to check out some Autumn trees, I came across the skating rink, which had been set up for the holidays. My daughter had been keen to go, but has been too busy. That’s a bit of a shame, because skating outdoors like this isn’t something we’re used to in Australia and it’s rather special. So, it would be good to experience and support it. I want them to keep it up.

To fill you in on recent posts, there have been a few about dogs:

Resisting Temptation.

Our Surrogate Dog

There’s also been my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers: A Shimmer of Moonlight and an account of my first go at cooking with fennel, which is quite an odd looking thing to me: Cooking An Alien Being

So how has your week been?

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Part-Time Monster Blog.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Our Surrogate Dog.

When you lose someone you love, it’s only natural to look for some way of blocking out the grief and relieving the pain, even at the risk of looking silly or finally confirming that you’re weird, bonkers, and totally insane. However, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else and it gets you through a tough time without turning to drugs and other harmful things, I’m all for it.

That’s why I bought a surrogate Bilbo, who we’ve called FB or Fake Bilbo.

As you probably know by now, we lost our beloved dog Bilbo a few weeks ago, and our grief has been raw and painful. Although we have another dog, Lady is very different to Bilbo and not a surrogate…and she’s had to spread herself quite thin getting around four laps now that she’s the only dog.

We’ve also become used to having two dogs and Lady has never been an only dog. So, there’s been quite a lot of “adjusting” all round.

Not unsurprisingly, there’s been quite a lot of talk about getting another dog. In my last post, I mentioned how we’d resisted cute little Stella, and are waiting to get a Border Collie pup down the track.

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However, all my resistance melted when I spotted this Border Collie in a shop. I had to have him. He looked so much like Bilbo. Moreover, when I picked him up, there was that immediate mix of longing and connection. I could bury my face in his fur and hold onto his paw, and it felt real. There was more than a lump in my throat, but I felt happy and that a layer of grief had fallen away and I could smile.

It reminded me of an old saying:

“If you can’t have the one you love, love the one you’re with. If you can’t love the one you’re with, turn out the light.”

What’s special about FB is that he’s not just an ordinary soft toy. Rather, he’s a “weighted toy” and weighs about 5 kilos. Weighted therapy is used by occupational therapists for people with Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, but it also helps people who are grieving by providing something to hold onto during a time of loss. That added weight makes the dog feel real and the pressure I guess also acts a bit like a massage. While having a weighted dog to ease the grief of losing Bilbo is one application, my friend who had a still born baby was given a white teddy by the hospital to take home. Of course, nothing could compensate. However, that teddy is so much more than a memory, a something and has a place in her heart beyond words.

So, while I might feel a bit silly having a stuffed Bilbo, it works. AND, I can always say he belongs to the kids. Mind you, as we walked a long along the full length of town carrying FB, my daughter wasn’t carrying him. No! She was too embarrassed. It was me.

When I arrived home with the “new dog”, I made sure I warned the rest of the family. From a distance, FB really does look very lifelike and I didn’t want him to have the reverse effect and make them sad.

However, we couldn’t warn our other dog, Lady, who really has been missing her canine companion. When she saw him, she came running up wagging her tail. She was sooo excited and sniffed it all over for what seemed like eternity, before she gave up on it. Her mother was also a Border Collie, and she came here when she was two. So, it probably wasn’t just Bilbo she was thinking of.

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Fake Dog and Real Dog.

By the way, Fake Bilbo has certain advantages over the real thing. He doesn’t need to be fed or walked and doesn’t poop or bark. Doesn’t steal your food off your plate or dig holes under fences to escape. He has very pat-able fur. FB doesn’t lick either, which depending on your point of view, could be a positive or a negative.

However, the bottom line is that Fake Bilbo can’t love you back like a real dog. As much he might look and even feel the same, he can’t look at you with those empathic, puppy dog eyes. He can’t see right through you with such compassionate understanding, that you know he can see straight through to the bottom of your soul. Humans rarely have such vision. Most are only waiting to tell you their own stories. Or, maybe I’m just being cynical. Of course, not every dog is capable of such understanding, but Bilbo certainly was. Mind you, he lived through some pretty intense times with our family and he went through all that as well. So, it’s not surprising that he understood difficult emotions. While Lady is a very loving dog and incredibly warm and friendly, she doesn’t have Bilbo’s intensity, his insight. At the same time, he never had her joie de vivre. I’ve never seen such a happy dog!!

bilbo & Lady friends

Bilbo and Lady when she first arrived.

Meanwhile, Lady is enjoying walks to the shops, although she probably wasn’t impressed when I tied her up outside the butcher’s the other day. She just told me that sniffing lamb chops all the way home wasn’t much joy either.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend and it’s about time I head out into that beautiful Winter sunshine.

xx Rowena

More About Weighted Therapy

Weighted therapy is the use of weighted products to apply weight and deep touch pressure (surface pressure) to the body stimulating the proprioceptive sense enabling those who are “sensory seeking” to relax, focus and have a greater awareness of their body.

The proprioceptive sense gives us information about our body’s position and movement via receptors on the skin, in the muscles, joints and ligaments. Those with a poor proprioceptive sense have difficulty interpreting these sensations often resulting in behaviour that gives them sensory feedback – for example jumping on a trampoline, chewing, spinning, running etc with seemingly limitless reserves of energy! They have great difficulty switching off and usually do not sleep well at night. This “sensory seeking” behaviour can be calmed and controlled by the use of weighted therapy and the application of deep pressure.

http://www.sensorydirect.com/about-weighted-therapy

 

 

Resisting Temptation.

Last week, we stared temptation right in its brown puppy dog eyes and resisted. There’s a first time for everything. I have a rather poor track record with temptation, but I am learning…slowly!

As you may be aware, our much loved Border Collie, Bilbo, passed away a few weeks ago. I have already shared our unfathomable loss  and what it’s been like seeing him accelerate from a tiny pup into an old dog, in the time it’s taken our daughter to almost start high school. It’s been weird. Like two parallel clocks operating on different speeds. His clock was set on turbo-fast, while he probably wondered why it takes an eternity for us humans to grow up.

We already had another dog. We adopted Lady two years ago so that when this moment came, we were prepared. There wouldn’t be that echoing silence of a household without a dog.

However, we’ve become used to having two dogs and Lady has never been an only dog. She cries when we get home, even if she does sleep a lot when we’re here and isn’t omnipresent. So, we have been thinking about getting a Border Collie pup next year, after we’ve had a bit of time. I’m wary of getting a dog on the rebound as a dog is a long term commitment you can’t send back when you make a mistake.

Stella with shoes

You can see from these photos just how small Stella is…a real ball of fluff.

However, Little Stella caught us unprepared. A friend of ours belongs to a pet rescue group and they were taking care of Stella after she’d been rescued from a puppy farm and had been desexed. This meant that this incredibly cute white ball of fluff was looking for her forever home. I knew as soon as my daughter saw her, that we would be perilously close to taking her home, and that I’d have to mount a very effective “NO!” campaign to walk away. My daughter doesn’t understand the meaning  of “No”, especially if she can sense any kind of leeway or waiver and I must admit that Stella was very hard to resist and it took quite a lot of of self-control to walk away.

stella shoe 2

Almost Irresistable. 

As easily as it might’ve been to get swayed off course, we are looking at getting a Border Collie puppy sometime next year. On the other hand, Stella was a 4 year old Maltese x Tibetan Spaniel from a puppy farm. We knew nothing about her history and we’re not in the market for high vet bills. Stella has since found a wonderful home with a lady looking for a rescued dog, and has had experience with all that could possibly entail. Indeed, she even paid for Stella to be flown inter-state, and so she’s found a home which was a much better match. Our lives are so unpredictable and potentially precarious with my health issues, that we can’t really take on unknowns. Indeed, the timing will need to be right for a pup.

As much as I would like to encourage people to take on rescue dogs, it needs to be with your eyes open. There’s a massive distinction between giving a much loved family dog another home, versus taking in a dog from puppy farm where its been caged, and seen as a breeder rather than a family member. We had an Old English Sheepdog which had been abused, and much as he was loving, he was incredibly highly strung and went for my husband a few times. He’d clearly been hit and I now wonder whether he’d lived in a cage. We’ve had other two re-homed dogs, including Lady, and that’s gone well. I just think it’s important to consider the enormity of dog ownership and all it entails. Not every dog recovers from abuse…just like people.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the ease of having one dog and Lady is a really beautiful, happy dog. I’ve never seen a dog who wags their tail more.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Introducing FB…Fake Bilbo.

 

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

DSC_5791

Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

A Shimmer of Moonlight…Friday Fictioneers.

Engulfed by a grief which knew no bounds, Bernadette refused to light the candle for Jim. No point. Whether God was dead or asleep, he wasn’t there. Otherwise, he would’ve stepped in. Plucked her husband right off the road before the truck hit. He came to rest on the banks of a creek…too late for the kiss of life, let alone a goodbye. She could still feel his arms wrapped around her in an unbroken chain.

The candle stood as still as a statue, while an owl peered through the window, eyes glowing in the moonlight.

…..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt © Janet Webb. 

xx Rowena

The Little Red Book Box.

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

― Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

Do you remember those snazzy red telephone booths from back in the day? Well, that’s what I thought of, when I stumbled across the little red book box at our local park. It was drop dead gorgeous. Indeed, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to take it home with me…along with the book. Designed to withstand the weather, it houses an arm full of books. The concept is, that you take a book and leave a book. So, it operates as a free, community-minded, book exchange.

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How good is that?!!

Well, I guess the system is only as good as it’s “clientelle”. Like those roadside food stalls with an honour box to leave your money, this system depends on trust. Integrity. Honesty. You need to be a giver and a taker.

Not a cheat and book thief like yours truly, who took a book without leaving one behind. Well, I didn’t have a book with me, and I do plan to drop one back. I truly do, even though I find it exceptionally hard to part with any of my books. Indeed, they might need a crow bar to pry the book out of me.

So, what was the book? It was Alexander McCall Smith’s: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I have other books in the series, but not the first one. So, it was a good find.

Now, I just need to read it.

Looking at my book pile, that could be a problem…along with parting with a book.

Humph…no one said that it had to be one of MY books, did they? That definitely puts a different slant on it.

Do you have anything like this book exchange system where you live? It’s a great idea!

xx Rowena

PS Just a little coincidence. I’m currently reading Markus Zusak’s: The Book Thief. Obviously, it’s led me astray.

PPS: It turns out that the little red book box in our local park, has “friends”. Known as “little free libraries, they’re the brainchildren of our local library. What a great idea. Sounds like I should be investing in a new trench coat to transport my book choices in appropriate attire. Wouldn’t that be great! Much better than a brown paper bag.

 

Weekend Coffee Share Catch Up.

Welcome to an Extended Catch-up Coffee Share!

I’d better offer you a rather comfy chair today and at least some kind of snack (if not a meal) in addition to your beverage of choice. The last couple of weeks have been full-on. So, this coffee share gets quite philosophical.

Sorry, I’ve been MIA the last couple of weeks. While the saying goes that “no news is good news”, the reality is often quite the reverse. That no news is bad news and it takes time for you to emerge from your rock and return to the land of the living.

Bilbo going home

Bilbo leaving the beach for the last time. 

On Monday 26th June, our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo, who has featured on Beyond the Flow, passed away in the early hours of the morning. We’d taken him to the vet on the Saturday and found out he was severely anaemic and most likely had a severe auto-immune disease. The vet hoped for the best and didn’t write him off. However, when a ball-obsessed dog stops chasing his beloved ball, you are prepared. While in a sense losing Bilbo could seem like the worst, he passed away peacefully at home. It was his time and felt like part of the natural order of things. I’m also relieved we were spared making difficult decisions and didn’t have to weigh up expensive treatment for an elderly dog because we loved him too much to let go. Ever a considerate dog, he spared us that and I’m incredibly thankful and relieved.

Meanwhile, we go on.

For better or worse, we are not “Keep Calm and Carry On” people. Yet, at the same time, we’ve had things to do and places to go. No doubt, you’ve also had those times where you’ve wanted to switch out and hibernate. When, although you know it’s beneficial to keep going, that’s about as palatable as a spoonful of liquid antibiotics. No matter how much they try to disguise the taste, it still tastes “yuck”.

Unexpectedly, the kids went off to school on the Monday and Geoff and I stayed home. Monday night, our daughter was in the local Dance Festival with her school and that worked out well. I kept thinking about the dog throughout the performance, but dance is such a tonic. Tuesday, the kids stayed home and we were all subdued by an overwhelming blanket of sadness. I personally believe in indulging your grief when it happens, as I think that actually helps you to let it go. You go deep in and you come out of it faster rather than expending energy trying to keep the door shut while the monster’s trying to bust its way out.

What do you think?

lady walking in clouds

Lady has been pretty quiet without Bilbo.

We have another dog, Lady. So, we won’t be rushing out to buy another dog. Indeed, we adopted Lady 3 years ago thinking Bilbo wasn’t well and she gave him a very strong second wind. I’m not sure if he was trying to impress her but he lost weight, got fit and learned how to socialize with other dogs. He was quite an introvert, but he gained a lot more confidence. Lady, on the other hand, loves everybody, aside from the odd dog and wags her tail like a maniac.

Jane Grover

Jane Grover: Photo from her website.

That Thursday night, I attended a cooking demonstration by chef Jane Grover at Church. I really wasn’t sure about going and felt like I was dragging a sack of potatoes a hundred miles to get there. However, I had a nap and when I woke up, the clouds had lifted and I felt so much better. Going to see Jane, was such good medicine and without the awful aftertaste I mentioned earlier.  She had me in stitches and I felt very much in synch with her sense of humour and general zanyness. Of course, I had to buy her cookbook  Our Delicious Adventure

Here’s a link to her promo video.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

This Monday, was the first day of school holidays. I drove the kids to my parents’ place in Sydney and Geoff and I stayed for dinner. Our daughter came home on Wednesday night to attend dance workshops on Thursday with Daniel Russell  from West Side Story International Tour. These were such a blessing. It is hard for me to introduce Mr Daniel in a few sentences. His parents are the Principals at the dance school and quite aside from his professional success which has taken him to Broadway, he has a special place in our hearts. Our dance school is a close, loving family and we count on each other.

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Daniel Russell, West Side Story. Photo: © Johan Persson

I have mentioned before that my grandmother was an International concert pianist and this has given me a different appreciation of what it means to be a star. That while you have that stage and professional life, you are still human. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you still have the everyday and you are still somebody’s son, cousin, friend who’ll always know you without all of the trimmings. Personally, I think that’s critical for some kind of balance. After all, the clouds roll in, and you can’t always see the stars. Everyone needs some kind of grounding.

Eunice 1948 USA

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She juggled having seven children and a successful career as a performer, critic and professor of piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There’s almost too much to fathom. 

Anyway, I really appreciated Mr Daniel and Miss Carley putting back into the kids and giving them such encouragement and for giving us parents a smile, as we were treated to a brief performance at the end. We deserve it, you know. As much as I love and support my daughter’s dancing and love dancing myself, it is a sacrifice. While I spent hours working on her knotted hair last night, I can’t remember when my hair last got seen to. Unfortunately, I just can’t drop it off at the dry cleaners and pick it up later.

Today, my daughter had in-house dance exams…ballet, modern, jazz and tap all in one day. One day was great, as they didn’t take up the entire school holidays. However, this was very stop-start and loads of deadlines and this is not my thing. Time to leave the house, arrive, exam start time, pick up multiplied by four. This was exacerbated by disentangling a bird’s nest the night before, despite weeks of coaxing to apply the treatment sitting in the bathroom to her hair, me not sewing the elastic into her ballet shoes until this morning and finding out when I dropped her at the studio that she didn’t have a hairnet, hairpins or any organization whatsoever. I did ask her last night. I have bought it all before. But, who am I? Mum is about as useless as those flaps of skin hanging off the side of her head…ears. I don’t get worked up easily and I was fuming. I am also going back to the drawing board and devising: “Standover Mum”. This is anything but a helicopter parent. This is tough love on steroids.

Yet, we survived.

Being a dance mum isn’t a glamourous occupation. While the swan’s shining like the sun up on stage, you are the feet madly paddling in the dirty pond, doing all that hardwork behind the scenes. However, you can rise to the surface and there’s nothing quite like seeing your own up on stage…any stage. It doesn’t have to be Broadway. It could be your loungeroom at home. You don’t care. This is your child, your star and not even the most discerning of audiences, could ever love them quite as much.

Speaking of performances, our son will be appearing in The Gang Show next week, an annual variety show put on by our local Scouts, Guides and their leaders. They rehearse for months and really put heart and soul into it. I almost split a gut laughing through last year’s performance, which incorporated Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was fantastic. Our son is singing and dancing and I can’t wait to see him up in lights.

This leaves me searching for a light.

My next challenge is writing a short story for the local short story competition. I don’t write short stories and had been meaning to get some practice in after last year’s story didn’t place. That said, I have been writing flash fiction almost weekly so hopefully I can expand on that and put out a winning entry with a 1500 word count.

I’m sorry this update has sprawled on for so long. It’s a cold Winter’s night here. The heater’s on and the neurons are defrosting, and starting to fire up again. So, you could say I’m clearing the backlog. Indeed, it’s been good to share the last couple of weeks with you as I’ve been feeling bottled up on so many fronts and after almost 1500 words, the cork has popped off.

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you.

xx Rowena

 

 

The Boss

The Boss was THE Boss. No one dared challenge company policy, which demanded staff only used triangular paperclips, not the usual ones with rounded ends. Despite our degrees, our role wasn’t to question why. Actually, we weren’t there to question anything.

That came much later, when I found a photo of him and his wife in the paper. She’d fled with the kids, charging him with domestic violence. His former secretary, I remembered how her office was chaos, and his was anal.

Sure, opposites attract. Yet, somehow I knew, that using the wrong type of paperclip, must’ve caused their demise.

……..

This has been another contribution to  Friday Fictioneers  hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields. Photo prompt Copyright Claire Sheldon.

I would love to hear your comments on the whole opposites attract thing too. Most people I know, marry their opposite and yet it is also fraught with tension. 

xx Rowena

Lady: On Becoming An Only Dog…

Greetings Friends,

This is Lady, Rowena’s dog. Mum’s ducked off for a cup of tea. So, I’m doing some fast typing before she gets back. If you’re lucky, I might even include a selfie or two. I’m getting very clever these days. Well, clever might be a bit of an exaggeration. At least, I’m getting high tech.

No doubt, you’ve heard our devastating news that my canine companion, Bilbo, passed away on Monday morning. It’s hit us all very hard.

That’s when I first realized how much Bilbo did around here. That he wasn’t just chasing his ball and barking at anything with wheels. Rather, he was responsible for emotional support, and now I’ve inherited the job.

Quite frankly, being a relatively little dog, trying to support the rest of the family is beyond my capabilities. Of course, I mean well and do my bit, wagging my tail like mad trying to cheer them up. I’ve also tried splitting myself four-ways and giving them a paw each. However, I was being seriously over-stretched and thought I might snap. Unfortunately, I’m not real good with this grieving business. The humans are wearing their brains out with all their questions, and all that’s beyond me. I follow the KISS Principle instead… Keep It Simple, Stupid. That works well for me.

Obviously, I am not Bilbo. Yet, I feel those expectations.

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Bilbo with his thoughts.

Bilbo was philosophical like the rest of the family and got caught up in his own questioning. I remember how he was forever trying to work out whether he was human or a dog. Indeed, he was so hung up about it, that his brain pumped enough steam out his ears to power a machine. I warned him that all this overthinking was going to kill him, but did he listen to me? Obviously, not!!

Then, as if that wasn’t enough stress to burn his brains out, he kept telling me, that he wanted to find his real Mum and Dad. Find out where he came from. As if I knew! We dogs don’t have Facebook or Google…only telegraph poles, but they only record scent. There’s no quick way of matching DNA. So, I told Bilbo to live in the now. Accept what is, but he couldn’t help himself. I guess that’s one of the downsides of having a turbo-charged brain. You can spend way too much time tying your thoughts up in knots, rather than letting them flow.

By now, you’ve probably gathered that Bilbo was the philosopher, not me. Indeed, I’ve been called “simple”, but I prefer “straightforward” or “uncomplicated”…even if they are big words I plucked out of the thesaurus. Once, I even caught Mum Googling about dogs with special needs. At first, I thought this was something to do with fussy eating. However, Bilbo explained that I was simple. That there was nothing wrong with being simple, just as long as I didn’t get any bright ideas about trying to rule the world or being the Boss. Indeed, Bilbo was the boss and just like I’ve been doing my entire life, I played second fiddle. I was the underdog. Bilbo made all the decisions and I just followed (That is, unless it involved numerous escapes, escape attempts and food thieving rampages. Bilbo was such a goody four paws. However, there were a few instances, where he did consume the proceeds of crime.)

So, after this rather exhausting preamble, I thought I’d share a bit on what it’s been like to be an only dog. Or, “THE dog”.

Lady kids coffee

I’m still getting my head around what it means to be an only dog. Like most kids, you always think you’re going to be better off on your own when your competition is “gone” (in whatever sense of the word). However, I hadn’t factored in the extra workload. Indeed, I hadn’t realized how needy humans can be, and how busy Bilbo must’ve been…a real unsung hero. Although he had what must’ve been a very heavy pat-load, he never complained. Even when he was fast asleep dreaming, he’d hear the call and climb up onto Mum’s lap. He was good like that. Never put himself first.

Anyway, I must confess that as much as I loved my original dog family and Bilbo, I’ve been dreaming of becoming an only dog. Not unsurprisingly, I’d envisioned some kind of dog utopia where I’d be getting double the treats, eat both our meals, and get twice as many pats. I also dreamed of having the warm, smugly dog bed all to myself, without needing to evict my snoring mate. I also thought I could chill out, without having to bark like a maniac all the time. I don’t mean to defame the recently departed, but I have wondered whether Bilbo just loved the sound of his own bark. After all, he was rather OTT. He went off at bikes, the posty and whenever we dropped the furless kids off anywhere. He also made a real nuisance of himself down at the beach. He was so obsessed with chasing the tennis ball, that he rounded up other dogs’ parents to throw the ball for him as well. If they dared to pause for any kind of breather, he got on their case and started barking, being incredibly pushy. I was so embarrassed that I sought camouflage, rolling in dead anything to hide my scent. I’d never seen him before.

dogs

We were a great team.

However, as annoying as Bilbo’s constant barking and ball addiction could be down at the beach, he had my back. We were a team. Of course, I still have Mum and she means well. She keeps an eye on us at the beach, and thinks she understands us dogs. Indeed, she’s even had the audacity to write stories from a dog’s perspective. However, that doesn’t make her a dog. It doesn’t mean she gets us from the inside out. No matter how hard she tries, she never will. That’s just how it is. After all, she doesn’t bark. She doesn’t have a tail and she never sniffs anyone’s bottom to get acquainted. That’s just the beginnings of being a dog.

However, I humour her. Let her believe she’s an expert and I’m a few planks short of the pile. You can achieve a lot more when you’ve been flagged as an under achiever. No one sees you coming…or going…especially when you’re a rather well-camouflaged little, black dog with only the barest touches of white fur.

Anyway, I digress. As you can see, Mum has taught me how to write. She’s the master of digression.

So, here I am writing about life after Bilbo and what it’s like to be an only dog. Unfortunately, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.

Firstly, I actually miss Bilbo. I miss having another dog around here. Not that I’ve had much chance to get lonely. Mum hasn’t left me home alone yet. Instead she’s taking me everywhere with her in the good car. Well, that’s everywhere except the beach. As much as I love running around dog beach and catching up with my friends, none of us are quite ready to go back without him yet. Bilbo loved the beach. Indeed, he loved the beach so much that when he was a young whippersnapper, he tugged so hard on the lead, that his walkers became airborne, flying along like kites.

Secondly, I am feeling rather overworked without Bilbo looking after the family. They’ve been terribly upset and have gone on a real pat-fest since Bilbo passed. Obviously, they’re missing him terribly and I’ve become something of a surrogate. While it’s great to be so popular, I’m feeling very overstretched with everybody wanting me on their lap. It’s not easy trying to be egalitarian. What with giving everyone a paw each, I’m starting to snap, especially when they’re not in the same room. So, for now, I’m retreating to my bed, trying to wean them off me a bit.

Apparently, that’s why they got me when they did. Not because they loved and wanted me, but because they loved Bilbo so much, that they needed a surrogate. They needed another dog here in advance so that when he passed away, they still had a dog. None of this cold turkey business and fully embracing their grief, I was their emotional plug.

Well, I guess many dogs have a vocation. There are sniffer dogs, rescue dogs, Guide dogs, cadaver dogs. So, being a psychological support for my family, isn’t much to complain about. Love is a wonderful thing.

“Diet is “die” with a “t.”

– Garfield

Then, I received quite an unexpected shock. Rather than receiving double the treats and Bilbo’s food as well as my own, Mum’s put me on a diet. It seems that without “Big Dog” to make me “Little Dog”, I’ve become “Fat Dog”. Mum even pointed out that they could pick me up when I first arrived here and now they can’t. Meanwhile, I’m grazing the kitchen floor in search of scraps like a mad cow. So, reluctantly, even I concede that I might be just a little food obsessed. But who doesn’t indulge in a bit of comfort eating, especially during such a difficult time.

“Odie, let’s talk effort versus return here. You know, you can still lead a pointless life without all that running around.”

– Garfield

So now Dad tells me it’s my job to protect the house. Yet, since Bilbo passed, I haven’t felt like barking or defending anything. I even heard Mum talk about me losing my bark. I guess it will come back. Well, it better come back, because I don’t want to be plagued by Bilbo’s ghost. He was relentless in life. Goodness knows what he’s going to be like in the after-life. I’d better watch out.

Before I head off, I just thought I’d ask you if you have any tips of how to perk up humans?   Obviously, I’m not an expert and I’d really appreciate your help.

Love & paw prints,

Lady