Monthly Archives: August 2017

Sleeping Beauty…Friday Fictioneers.

The dawn light shone magestically over the lake, and Diana miraculously woke up and swam to shore. Droplets of water sparkled in her hair like diamonds, but Diana didn’t look for a towel. She had to see her boys. Nothing else mattered.

“Wombat! Ginger! Mummy’s back. Here I come ready or not.”

But there was no answer, only a haunting, eerie silence, echoing like a maddening scream. Frantically, Diana searched behind every tree, but they were gone.

“Wombat? Ginger?”

Suddenly, the spiralling vortex slowed right down, almost moving frame by frame. Macabre and out of synch, Diana she’d become a character in a movie, where someone else was calling the shots. Nothing was real. She knew the lake, but was this crumbling ruin really Althorp House? It must be, but why wasn’t anyone  home?

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. Hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields and you can read the contributions Here. After reading one if the comments tonight, I’ve dramatically re-written this piece, which has taken it well over the 100 words but I was a bit spellbound by this fairytale of fairytales. Who wouldn’t want to give Diana back to her sons? Not the Diana pursued to death by the papparazzi but their Mum…Mummy!

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 27th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Despite the sun shining outside and the smoke lifting, we’re having a day indoors doing jobs today. That’s what happens when you swan around all week watching your daughter perform. Or, as in the case of our son, spend the week at the snow, arriving home with a wet and stinky backpack. I was intending to go into Sydney today to attend the celebrations at the Irish Famine Memorial. However, they’re doing track work and it was all too hard.

As much as I should be offering you a cup of tea of coffee and something scrumptious to munch on, I could well be asking you to help out. All my research materials seem to multiply, and I’m struggling to find somewhere for them all to live. I say this is the product of an active mind. Or, am I just a scatter brain?

Amelia Showcase 2017 rotated

Last week, our daughter performed in Central Coast Showcase on two separate nights. Wednesday, she sang in a combined schools’ choir and Thursday night, she danced with her school. She wasn’t the star of the show, but we always love seeing her perform as well as being inspired by the other performers. Indeed, some were sensational, very professional acts which knocked my socks off. This is, in addition to very young performers as young as 5 and 6 who, for example, were performing in a junior dance ensemble.

Needless to say, performance = driving. It also = $ + time.

I guess if you wanted to write that as equation, it would read:

P = $ + T + D = joy

Our son had a fantastic week at the snow. I touched base with his PE teacher who took the more advanced skiers and he said: “He smashed it!!”

Well, I was understandibly ecastatic.

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Our son leaving for snow camp.

Living in Australia only metres from the beach, snow skiing is an “interesting” sport. We live 6-7 hours away from the snow. So, even getting there is an incredible effort. Most of the kids around here, have never seen snow. Indeed, many Australians have never seen snow. I was about 12 when I first saw snow, and it wasn’t during Winter either. Our family went hiking through the Mt Kozsciosko National Park in Summer and I had the thrill of sliding down a glacier on a plastic garbage bag. That was some time around New Year’s Eve, when it’s stinking hot in Australia and anything but snow season.

Our family has been skiing three or four times and the kids have been through ski school. This meant our son had a good chance of doing well on this trip and I was praying so hard that it would be his turn to shine. Not that he’s not performing well in other areas but he’s had a rough time lately a needed a boost. I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be 13 and it isn’t easy to navigate your way through the murky depths of puberty.

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Dingo at Fraser Island.

In terms of my writing, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s flash fiction Dingo Attack.  I also shared an amazing piece of street art called  “The Eye”, which mesmerized me and I only wish I could experience it in person. There’s also Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational– an inspiration set of “words”. I also stumbled across an incredible piece of street art: “The Eye”.

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“The Eye” by Cece, France.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get on top of my research. I have a wooden chest next to my lounge chair and the theory is that all the books, folders and paperwork get stashed away in there to be conveniently pulled out as required. All great in theory, but the poor chest is looking like an overpacked suitcase and all my stuff is sprawled across the couch and also in piles on the back of the couch. BTW, there’s also stuff on top of the chest, stopping me from even accessing the “bowels of the ship”.

I should just stop thinking.

Stop writing.

Then, I might just have a tidy house.

In many ways, it’s not the best time for me to be concerned about the house. I’ve been struggling to breathe for the last couple of weeks. I’ve had the flu and a chest infection but these struggles have been stretched to the very limit by smoke produced by bushfires known as “hazard reduction burning”. As much as I support this measure to reduce the severity of Summer bushfires, the smoke has truly bordered on life threatening to me and quite a few locals. I’ve managed at home with three trips to the doctor in the last week. A friend ended up at Emergency with asthma. It’s terrifying. However, the smoke has cleared today and I’m hoping it’s finally gone. PLEASE!! I’m down on my hands and knees…a begger. It’s hard to explain just how difficult it’s been to simply breathe.

Bushfire Woy Woy Bay 2

Bushfire Smoke Viewed from Woy Woy Bay.

These periods of down time, however, provide me with the space to get on with my family history research and I’ve really taken some huge leaps forward. I have been researching my 3rd Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, for a few years on and off. She was an  Irish Famine Orphan who was brought out to Sydney via the Earl Grey Scheme. She had her passage paid for, and each of the girls were given a trunk of provisions for the journey and their time here, including clothes and a Bible. Bridget arrived onboard the John Knox. She married George Merritt and I recently found out that they had a store on the goldfields near Mudgee. I even found her mentioned in an old newspaper clipping. I was stoked. I have been unable to find out where and when Bridget or her husband George died and were buried and it really frustrates me. It seems like such a basic, and yet it eludes me. Anyway, I was contacted recently and found out that three of George and Bridget’s sons intermarried with the Aboriginal community around Yass. This adds a whole new cultural dimension to my research and I also hope to meet up with this side of the family somehow. I have also found out that most of my Irish ancestors came from County Cork and this is now consolidating what appeared a diverse array of names into a much more integrated past. Indeed, I’m starting to think these various branches could well have known each other back in Ireland. I’m also hoping they don’t overlap or interconnect, which is currently looking likely. One of the first unwritten hopes of family history research, is not to be related to yourself!

So, despite not being well, I’ve been pretty busy in both thought and deed.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well and I look forward to catching up further. What have you been up to? 

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. I hope you will pop over and join us for a cuppa.

xx Rowena

The Eye Beside the Sea, France.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”

Paramahansa Yogananda

“Behind the most beautiful eyes, lay secrets deeper and darker than the mysterious sea..”

-yld

Last night, I was trawling through Facebook, when I stumbled across this fantastic image of a big blue eye staring out to sea with a sense of the ocean being swept up inside and the waves crashing within.

Of course, I had to investigate it further. Investigate it via the only means at my disposal…Google. Sadly, there was no spontaneous trip to France for this little black duck. Yet, coincidently, I’m watching a travel doco set in Paris at this very moment. Well, I was until the ads started up.

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French artist Cece painted “The Eye” on a WWII blockhaus on the beach of Siouville-Hague, Normandy, France. The village of Siouville-Hague is located in North-West France, in the department of Manche in Basse-Normandie.

Normandy Landings

These days, it’s hard to imagine the scenes this blockhaus witnessed during WWII. I have no sense of direction at the best of times and it is difficult for me to get a real sense of the geography and the action it actually witnessed. However, I  gather this blockhaus witnessed The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune), which led to the liberation of France from the Nazis.

Getting back to the artwork, Cece explained:

“The basic idea was to revitalize an abandoned place full of history: a world war 2 blockhaus, collapsed, almost lying on its side. At first it was about to humanize this place with some poetry : before, the eye of the soldiers were watching the dead coming from the sea, and now there is this big blue eye, looking at the life and moves coming from waves movements, talks and answers , interactions of two creations coming from man and nature .. and then also I’ve wanted to point out the damage that may make human at some sites (into the pupil, the silhouette of the nuclear power plant from la hague).”

Yet, clearly “The Eye” also stands alone, divorced from the past. The eyes are the window to the soul and with this eye staring out and being washed by the sea, it’s redolent with meaning. I would love to stand there on the sand in front of it, peering deeply almost through the eye, and see what comes back to me. What mysteries would be revealed? Would “The Eye” reveal hidden, inner parts of myself? Or, perhaps even lead me into some kind of dance with its creator? Either way, I have no doubt,  that there’d be magic.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”

– Paramahansa Yogananda

Coincidently, a new TV series is about to start up here in Australia. Seasoned journalist, Ray Martin, will be hosting: Look Me In the Eye in which two estranged people sit in silence for five minutes, looking at each other. I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Although we know eye contact is very powerful, is it enough?

By the way, if you have seen this magnificent artwork in the flesh, I’d love to hear what it was like. 

xx Rowena

Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational.

Strangely, my invitation to join Mensa, must’ve got lost in the mail. However, I strayed across The Washington Post‘s Mensa Invitational, which asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing of one letter, and supplying a new definition.

A friend of mine put me onto this and I’m wondering whether you agree that some of these coud really take off.

Here are this year’s {2005}1 winners:

  1. Cashtration (n.):
    The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
  2. Ignoranus:
    A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
  3. Intaxication:
    Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
  4. Reintarnation:
    Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  5. Bozone2 (n.):
    The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  6. Foreploy:
    Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
  7. Giraffiti:
    Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
  8. Sarchasm:
    The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
  9. Inoculatte:
    To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
  10. Hipatitis:
    Terminal coolness.
  11. Osteopornosis:
    A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
  12. Karmageddon:
    It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
  13. Decafalon (n.):
    The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
  14. Glibido:
    All talk and no action.
  15. Dopeler effect:
    The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
  16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.):
    The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a! spider web.
  17. Beelzebug (n.):
    Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
  18. Caterpallor (n):
    The color you turn after finding half of a worm in the fruit you?re eating.

1 I’ve run across at least 1 reference stating that this list, under this same name, has been running around since 1999.

2 This one sounds like a near rip-off of one of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons. Check out page 37 of this Photochemistry Manual(PDF

Do you have a particular favourite? I really liked them all.

xx Rowena

PS I might keep this list handy for when we next play Scrabble. I’ve been known to be a bit inventive with some of my offerings.

Dingo Attack!…Friday Fictioneers.

Perched on top of the ridge, the dingo pack was salivating.

“Fi fy fo fum  I smell …” Papa Dingo paused for dramatic effect.”Lamb chops infused with  rosemary and mustard.”

“Gourmet tonight!” Mama Dingo replied.

“All systems go.” The dingos howled. Right on cue, the humans were zipped inside the tent.

In a flash, the lamb chops were gone.

“Dingos??!!!!” Sally screamed.” When I agreed to go camping, you said NOTHING about dingoes! How are we going to see that “magical night sky” now?”

Suddenly, Jack remembered dinner.

“OMG, the dingoes got our lamb chops.“

“And my Nikon camera!…HOTEL NOW!”

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT© Jan Wayne Fields.

It’s very late here and I plan to come back and polish this tomorrow. Although the tent in the photo prompt this week is quite modern, I was reminded of the tragic case of baby Azaria Chamberlain who was taken from her family’s tent in 1980 while they were camping at Ayer’s Rock or Uluru. This was one of the most debated and controversial court cases in Australian history.

Azaria Chamberlain (11 June 1980 – 17 August 1980) was an Australian 2-month-old baby girl who was killed by a dingo on the night of 17 August 1980 on a family camping trip to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory. Her body was never found. Her parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, reported that she had been taken from their tent by a dingo. Lindy Chamberlain was, however, tried for murder and spent more than three years in prison. She was released when a piece of Azaria’s clothing was found near a dingo lair, and new inquests were opened. In 2012, some 32 years after Azaria’s death, the Chamberlains’ version of events was officially supported by a coroner.Wikipaedia

I was 11 when Azaria Chamberlain was taken. Everyone not only talked about the case, but debated and had a stance and Lindy Chamberlain was vilified. I also remember jokes going round school at the time. Racist jokes were equally popular back then so there wasn’t alot of consideration on many, many fronts.

Dingoes, which had seemingly passed under the radar, were also vivified and would’ve starred in “Australia’s Most Wanted”.

The difficulty is that humans and dingoes in Australia have been co-existing for thousands of years and dingoes are Australian natives.

Here’s a bit more about the dingoes:

“Dingoes know that humans are an easy way to get food, and you will often see a dingo watching fishermen, and waiting for free fish. Dingoes also occasionally tour through campsites and sit of the periphery of a camp, watching and waiting for an opportunity to be given some free food or to find some left over scraps. In most cases dingoes simply sit back beyond the light of the camp and watch. If a dingo chooses to sit near you feel very honoured and enjoy its company but do not try to approach the animal, and don’t try to lure it with food. Dingoes do not like to be patted so please never reach out you hand to pat them, especially over their head. This is seen by dingoes as predatorial behaviour and very threatening.

Dingoes are shameless thieves, and will take any opportunity to steal whatever they can from you. This is not because the item has your scent on it and they see it as a food item, it is because they love to play with whatever new and novel item they can find. Do not leave your thongs outside your tent, or leave anything out of your vehicle that you can’t afford to have stolen. This obviously includes food, but also includes sleeping mattresses, which they love to tear up into small pieces, and anything else you own including expensive camera equipment!”

Save Fraser Island Dingoes

Hope you’ve enjoyed something of a trip to Australia this week.

xx Rowena

 

 

Heaven or Earth? Reflections from the Dark Side of the Moon.

Before I get started, I thought I’d play Alleluia sung by Ed Sheeran. Get you in the mood. The last week has been deep, dark and philosophical punctuated by blasts of Spring sunlight and tail wags from the dog.

Actually, the last couple of months have been “challenging” after the death of our Border Collie, Bilbo. We’ve had him since our daughter was crawling and he’s seen us through so very much.  Moreover, I’ve also had another brush with severe asthmatic coughs and chest infections, which get me every August.

Not unsurprisingly, the kids have been distressed and shaken up. They’ve had questions, and I’ve had to come up with the answers. This included a particularly curly question, which I decided to share. It’s big and it’s important:

Why should we stay alive when life is painful, when we could be in heaven where there’s no pain, no troubles?

I hadn’t quite thought of heaven as the ultimate “grass is greener” before. However, I suppose it is. Otherwise, why would it be called “HEAVEN”? Furthermore, why wouldn’t you, I, want to get there on an express trip? Why do we fight so hard to stay alive, when we could be living up there in the clouds? Even Cloud 9?

While I’ve had my dark moments, and even extended interminable stretches of raw anguish, I haven’t really thought of heaven as my greener pasture. At least, not in the here and now.

I’ve known too many people who’ve lost someone to suicide and am very conscious of the anguish suicide leaves in its wake… an anguish which has no end for the multitude of people who get touched by even one death.

So, I guess for me, particularly when I’m in a  level-headed state of mind, knowing that I’d be going to my ulimate happy place when everyone who means anything to me gets to suffer, doesn’t add up.

At the very least, it’s not a very nice thing to do.

However, that’s not something I would share with someone who wasn’t in a particularly level-headed state of mind. That’s something I might now start putting out there on one of my routine drives with my kids, now they’re my son’s 13 and my daughter isn’t far behind him.

As a parent, I’ve been wondering how to talk about sex, dating, periods, condoms, relationships, drugs, but amongst all of that, I’d forgotten all about the other fairly “normal” aspect of puberty…the E-word. EMOTIONS. Thinking back to being a teenager myself, I don’t believe there was any such thing as “an even keel”, being “level-headed”, “grounded” as as for balanced? HA!!

Moon bike

At least speaking for myself, my emotions were extreme, even turbo-charged. Well-intentioned comments like “there’s more fish in the sea” fell flat. My parents meant well, and believe me, I’m getting a better understanding of what it’s like to be a parent scraping the bottom of your psychological and philosophical barrell. When your child is combusting and you’re trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Trust me. That whole “bird and the bees stuff” is a veritable piece of cake compared to discussing emotional equilibrium.

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I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

How do any of us venture and and carpe diem seize the day and all that entails, without getting hurt? We can’t live our lives in bubble wrap and while you can have safe sex, there is no condom you can quickly wrap around your heart and it’s way too easy to get burned.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m no statistician either. I don’t know what it is which causes one person to take their life, while others persevere. What I do know, is that it’s not straight-forward. I also know that we can’t control someone else. We can’t stop someone else from taking their life. And yet, we sometimes can. Here, I’m speaking about the more collective we, but sometimes, it does come down to the individual. At times, we do become that person staring despair in the face, and it is up to us to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Or, I guess if I was some kind of professional at this, you’d be trying to get the person to find their own reasons for living. Or, at the very least, find a shift in gears.

A friend of my parents used to call the teenage years: “the swirling vortex of pubescence”. He was a very charasmatic gentleman and he’d roll this phrase out like a showman on stage. I always pictured these wild churning seas with the damsel in distress thrashing around in the waves. Never sinking, but not getting out either. I always found that phrase rather entertaining, although on reflection that note of humour, has it’s sting. Tony also put me onto a poet who knew those waves. Knew that intensity of emotion. That was Nan Whitcomb in her “Thoughts of Nanushka” and I’ve since found another kindred spirit in Australian  poet and cartoonist, Michael Leunig. Of course, there was also Keats and I’ve always questioned the merits of studying his Ode to Melancholy while studying for our HSC (final school exams = HUGE stress!!)

“That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”
John Keats, Ode to A Nightingale.
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, 
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue 
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; 
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, 
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
John Keats, Ode to Melancholy

I also remember listening to Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody. That song needs no introduction.

Hot chocolate & book

How will the story play out?

The trouble is, that when you’re caught up in the more turbulent passages of that “swirling vortex of pubesence”, you have no idea how the story is going to play out. Speaking of myself, I was so caught up in the immediate present, the current devastating disaster, that I lost all sense of perspective. That it morphed into some kind of hellish bubble, my world. I couldn’t see it was a storm in a tea cup. I couldn’t see, that perhaps being dumped by “the bastard” was the best thing for me. That it really was a case of there being millions of fish in the sea, and I only needed to find one. That I wasn’t trying to catch the one, last surviving fish in an empty sea.

I never saw my life as a novel back then. Indeed, it’s only been this past week, that I’ve appreciated the close parallels between real life and the structure a novel or play where the main character (protagonist) has their difficult person, adversary (antagonist) but after a few rounds, they come through. There’s usually a twist at the end, and more than likely, real life doesn’t turn out quite like you expected either, but you can still live happilly ever after. Well, at least until the next challenge fires up. Bearing this in mind, you have to make the most of those high notes. Carpe diem seize the day. Gobble them up with a cherry on top. Yet, you also have to be prepared for troubles. Expect storms and rainbows, as well as sunny, blue skies.

If I was going to talk to my 13 year old self. Or, in my case, it was more my 16 year old self which was really doing it tough, what would I say?

Firstly, what I would say, wouldn’t be something eloquent, well-written, or an outstanding piece of philosophical writing with all the answers. It would be more of a stuttered, muttered and garbled story about how if I’d pulled the pin then, I wouldn’t have gone on to experience the highs of my life. For me, like so many others, the school days weren’t the best days of my life. However, they were the necessary precursor to getting into university which I loved on so many levels. I went through many relationship ups and downs and had way too many friends run off with the guy that I liked. I also spent all the years from my birth until I was 27, living with undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on my brain, which really did make me “different” in a myriad of ways I am still trying to get my head around. Yes, I wasn’t “unco” and more than likely, the intensity of my emotions weren’t just puberty either. The inside of my brain had been flooded, and I was under an entirely different kind of “pressure”.

So, if I’d pulled the pin at 16, I wouldn’t have known that I had this underlying condition which was greatly relieved through surgery. Yet, even if I hadn’t had that or if there had been no “magic fix” to my problems, I still believe that it’s worth persevering through the very darkest of challenges and fighting hard to find any glimmer of light which will lead us out of the tunnel. Why? Because there just might be something better ahead. That you could well resolve your current troubles through whatever means. a change of curcumstances, meeting someone else. Another door opens.

Indeed, I still remember the night I met my husband. A friend of mine was holding a New Year’s Eve Party in another friend’s apartment in Wollstonecraft, which had a view over the back end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was supposed to going to that party with the boyfriend I’d had throughout the whole brain surgery saga and as you could imagine, things were rocky on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Anyway, he dumped me just before the party and I really didn’t feel like going. However, it was only more of a soiree with only a few of us going and so I went. My husband opened the door. Now, I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight. However, we talked a lot that night and he gave me some really good advise  and I thought he was wise. Obviously, it was that old thing of crying on someone’s shoulder. I also remember standing out on the balcony together and I would’ve been photographing the fireworks, and he told me that he was also into photography. I clearly remember making a mental tick in my head. He also drove an Austen Healy Sprite, which he described as “English and tempremental”. I remembered that when we were driving through the Tenterfield Ranges in pouring rain to avoid the Grafton floods, and the exhaust pipe fell off on a pot hole. BTW, we’d been wearing raincoats in the car on that trip and had been soaked by the time we’d reached Newcastle. (We had been driving from Wahroonga in Sydney to visit his Mum and sisters family in the Byron Bay hinterland. It’s about a 10 hour drive.)

The ironic thing is that it can be these very worst moments, our greatest disasters, that we turn into our funniest stories. It’s often these moments which we’ll share around a barbeque laughing our heads of and entertaining the crowd, rather than the good times. I am now thinking that part of that is that we later find out these disasters weren’t so bad after all. Indeed, sometimes they proved to be a blessing in disguise. Or, they were a necessary step to get us to a better place, or to our ultimate destination.

So, now I would say that instead of pulling the pin, who have to keep breathing so you can keep living the book. Find out how you’re own story unfolds. Just one point here, too, and that is that you are not a passive player in your story. You are helping to write the script, as well as all the other characters. This is a team effort. You are empowered. However, you are empowered to do the best for yourself, AND the worst. Too often, it’s not the bully or our nemesis we need to watch out for, it’s our own selves. We shoot ourselves in the foot way more often AND we need to own that. Take responsibility. Not necessarily in a guilt way, but in an empowered driver’s seat way. JUst like if you were driving and made a wrong turn, you’d do a U turn and try again. You hopefully wouldn’t just sit in your car hoping it would magically take you where you want to go.

The ironic thing for me these days about people taking their lives, is that I am fighting with all I’ve got to save my own. This July marked 20 years since I had the brain surgery which saved and changed my life. This coming Tuesday, marks 10 years since I was diagnosed with a systemic auto-immune disease, dermatomymyositis which has left me with 60% lung capacity on a good day. I am getting through flu season again this year but again it’s been a battle. Three years ago, I had chemo to knock the disease on its head and fortunately that worked. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve been staring death in the face, and trust me. Not once was I thinking: “Heaven, bring it on!” No, despite being a Christian, all I was thinking about was my kids, my husband, my Mum, Dad, Brother and my friends. Giving them that kind of bad news, is devastating. The fact that I’ve survived, doesn’t negate that. We have lived through it and we continue to live with it.

So, this brings me to the very real need to talk to those we love about those times when the swirling vortex has taken hold, and give them concrete proof that they can get through it. That it’ s not only worth persevering through the hard times, that it’s possible to get there. Achievable. Moreover, they are not alone. Not only in the sense that we are with them now. Not just us as an individual either, but us as a community. The many layers of the onions…family, friends, teachers, pastors, the person you need down the street while walking your dog. But, we also need to make that time available. Leave enough space inbetween the words, the lines, the busyness that someone can sit along side us and be without being rushed, sped up, or brushed off.

I am not someone who has ever professed to have the answers, but I’ve always had the questions and I guess this is where they lead me now. But before I head off, another word just popped in my head. That is gratitude. While it’s not often possible to feel grateful for our let downs at the time, that can change through hindsight…especially with many of those heart breaks, which were the end of the world at the time. I wouldn’t be where I am now and while some of those guys were great people and simply not right for me (or me for them), I’ve been married to Geoff for 16 years now. We’ve survived some extremely hard times and miraculously stayed together. We hae two beauti ful children who can stretch us beyond the very brink at times, but who we love more than life itself. Sometimes, when things have been so hard, it’s hard to comprehend how the sun still rises in the morning and how life goes on. Yet, I’ve often found that very annoying and harsh reality, provides the momentum to keep me moving, which is ultimately a good thing.

I didn’t intend to write about this when I woke up this morning. I haven’t edited more than a couple of words and this is how my thoughts have landed on the page, or to be precise, my laptop screen. All of a sudden, in bright neon signs, I’ve realized that we as a society don’t talk about hard times. The cultural rhetoric is all about making it happen. Being whoever you want to be. It’s almost like you’re expected to find happiness in a fizzy drink…or a pill. Rather, what happens WHEN your journey through life hits the big snake just when you’re about to reach your goal and your sent straight back down to the beginning again? What happens when you’re a marketing executive and you’re diagnosed with hydrocephalus and you end up having brain surgery, getting a blocked shunt and requiring more brain surgery, the person you thought you were going to marry, dumps you because all of that’s too much and you’ve moved back home living with mum and Dad and going to rehab with the elderly at 28? BTW, that was also when I went to my 10 year school reunion. That was two weeks after the second brain surgery and I had no hair under one half of that bob. Indeed, there was a scar. I made it through that reunion and I was triumphant. Despite brain surgery being a much more sensitive embarrassing thing that the bad haircut.  I also had friends whose lives were picture perfect either. Some had divorced and one of my class mates had tragically died from cancer, which shook me to the core.

The fact that I’m still here, isn’t because I have some uber-amazing coping mechanism and I’m “Tonka tough”. I’ve had breakdowns. I’ve fallen face down in the mud and refused to get up. I’ve had days where I’ve stayed in bed and wrapped myself up in my doona and refused to get up. I’ve thought about how. I did jab myself with a pair of kindy scissors once when I was struggling to learn how to drive and fighting my brother for access to the car. That’s the closest I’ve come in a physically crossing the line sense, but these lines resonate: “hello darkness my old friend”.

Somehow, the collective “we” needs to have more of these conversations. The “where I was, how I found my way out and some of the joys of life we’ve experienced since” type. Talk about how life is ups AND downs. That we have to keep  walking, dancing, flying, dragging out feet, sleeping, talking, dreaming.They’re all part of it. Share and model that there is no magic pill, which will give you perfect, lasting happiness. However, there could well be multiple pills of darkness, which we need to approach with caution. Walk away from jealousy, envy, wanting to be someone we’re not, putting our value on stuff instead of relationships, replacing people with work. The list goes on.

Now, I’m turning it over to you. What has your experience been? I would like to invite you to share as much as you like in the comments below. What would you say to your teenage self about the dark times you’ve experienced? I could even see these becoming a series of posts. It would be truly beneficial to get a swag of letters together on this very important subject.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just had to drop my daughter off at meditation of all things (our dance school is running a session for kids followed by a session for parents so I’ll be heading off next). Funny how walking and driving gets you thinking. Pops something so obvious into your head, which you’d missed entirely while tapping away into the screen.

My other advice to my teenage self, is not to put all my eggs in one basket, and to remain diverse. I had very good friends out of school and I’ve encouraged this with my own kids since dot. However, as someone with a fairly obsessive, driven personality, I’d like to share that focusing all your energies on one thing, isn’t a good idea. If something happens to that one thing, whatever it is, then you’re devastated. You’re left with nothing. There is no “Plan B”. You have no identity left. Naturally, I was devastated when I couldn’t work after the brain surgery. I had grief counselling where I was told “We’re human beings, not human doings”. It’s taken me a long time to get that. In the aftermath of the brain surgery, I turned to photography and although it wasn’t making me any money, I found it was a great topic of conversation. Far more interesting than work. These days, writing  is my main thing followed by photography. What you might not know, is that I started learning the violin four years ago, and last year I started dance classes and have made my way through short adult courses in ballet, contemporary, lyrical and tap. I’m not even keeping up in the dance classes, but dance is now part of my psyche. Who I am. It’s added another string to my bow, and exercised more than a few neurofibres as well. It’s very important not to get stuck in what I’ll call “bubble worlds”…becoming “a dancer”, “a lawyer”, “a mother”, a “father”. Rather, ideally, we’d be more of a spangled web or texture, colour, sound, taste and smell stretching somewhere over the rainbow and back again. We must wear many hats, to be fulfilled, and really just to survive.

The End.

That's All Folks

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I’m inviting you to join Lady and I for a walk. We’ll be retracing yesterday’s footsteps, when I moved down the main street like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. After dropping my daughter off at dancing, my next stop was the Bremen Patisserie where I bought a few slices German Beesting Cake and this mega rich chocolate “thing” to take home. My next stop, was the bookshop cafe, where I had a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Fortunately, that’s where my conspicuous consumption ended.

Hot chocolate & book

Well, I tell a lie.

Before I knew it, I’d ducked into a boutique. This has become a frequent haunt lately. I blame this on filling in time each week during Madam’s dance class. Mostly, I’m just looking. However, the new Spring stock has just arrived and after being rugged up all Winter, it was like walking into Floriade, not that everything was floral. It was fresh, bright, vibrant and being a little kid at heart, I could’ve hidden behind the racks of lush fabric, and wrapped myself up in a cocoon.  It wasn’t long before I spotted the dreamy blue, silk top with a blue rose on the front. Being some kind of fusion of sky and the sea,  it truly captured my imagination. Moreover, the wafty, moody, blue silk top felt so light against my skin…and it was aerodynamic and cast a fantastic shadow in the wind. How could I resist? I also bought myself some large dangly, silver earings. I rarely bother with earings, but while I was in the shop, some long-silenced being within shouted: “Look at me. I’m still here. I’m so small and almost completely lost and obscured in the overall scheme of things, but I still have a voice. I still need to be fed, watered, attended to. Please don’t leave me alone.”

I’m pleased she called out, because I needed some TLC. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and even my shadow needed a lift.

While you can’t buy self-esteem, sometimes you do need to care for that small voice inside, which you too often ignore, put at the bottom of the priority list or kill off completely. Feel that it’s okay to buy yourself flowers sometimes. Buy a fancy top at the end of a hard week..and even buy the earings at the same time. I haven’t done this for some time. It was my birthday money. I might be on bread and water for awhile, but I’ll feel like a sea goddess in that top. Well, I’d better.

 

 

The last week has been quite difficult. Indeed, the last couple of months have been challenging for our family. We are still grieving over the loss our beloved dog, Bilbo who was a regular here on my blog. It’s been about six weeks, and that intense grief is easing, but the kids still have their moments. They also have questions about life and death. My daughter’s frequently asked me why Adam and Eve had to eat the apple.

Since then, I’ve also been having my annual battle with chest infection and flu. I’ve had my vaccinations and am eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Yet, I still succumbed to some extent and after two rounds of antibiotics, am now at that annoying dry cough stage and asthma diffculties. I’ve had some severe coughing attacks, some in front of the kids, where I’ve been gasping for breath. Even though we’ve been through these attacks before, they’re still terrifying. You’re not quite sure how it’s going to pan out. However, I’ve been really bad a few years ago, and this isn’t even close. It’s just annoying and I know many other people are in the same boat. Flu season’s been bad here this year.

Not surprisingly, all of this has knocked the kids about. I’ve been fielding the hard questions from my daughter, but my son imploded. I should’ve headed it off at the pass. However, you can only do so much, when you can’t do much. I have long been preparing my kids for the worst, and I’m still here but that doesn’t mean they don’t get affected by what can be some pretty stressful hurdles along the way. Yet, we make the most of life.

DSC_6288

Our son at the V8 Supercars at Eastern Creek, Sydney.

Indeed, today my husband took my son our to see the V8 Supercars racing at Sydney’s Eastern Creek. I’m so pleased they went. They had a fantastic time and burst through the door talking about fast cars, flying rubber and how close they were to the finish. I downloaded the photos and my son played me a series of videos they’d taken. I must admit that I struggled to share his enthusiasm for loud engines, which he played for me the same way he’s shared an Ed Sheerin song. He had enough enthusiasm and excitement for the pair of us and my husband also chimed in.

 

 

The irony was that my daughter and I had each done a Kelee meditation session at our dance studio. I’d never heard of Kelee before, and am keen to find out more about it. I felt quite energized afterwards, and just had this sense of needing to speak out. To share how I’ve been grappling with growing up with undiagnosed hydrocephalus and how that affected my personality, identity  and things like my basic coordination. Even though I’ve had a shunt inserted 20 years ago, I still grapple with its impact and how to interpret myself. It makes for a good story, but I still have to live with it. Grapple with bits and bobs. All the conversations with my son this week, have brought some of that back and I guess it’s ust a matter of revisiting it, but rather than putting it back in the closet, to write about it. Finally, get it down.

I hope you don’t mind me getting rather deep this week. That’s who I am anyway and while I don’t like to dwell on the negatives, I also don’t like this whole culture of needing to be happy all the time. We all have ups and downs. That’s life.

If you’re looking for a bit of a laugh this week, you could read my contribution for Friday Fictioneers this week: Minding the Dog

 

Before I head off, I’ll just mention that I’ve been beavering away on my Irish Family history research. This is something I pick up and put down. However, it tends to work best when I can set aside a slab of time and just beaver away at those loose and dead ends. Five years ago, I set up a blog about my 3rd Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan who was an Irish Famine Orphan brought out to Sydney, Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. A monument has been set up at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks, where the women first stayed on arrival and next Sunday is the annual celebration. Anyway, Bridget married an Englishman ten years her senior, George Merritt and aside from giving birth to six children, was largely invisible. Despite my most dogged efforts, I haven’t been able to find out where and when Bridget or George died and that’s saying something. I’m VERY persistent! Anyway, last week, I received a message in relation to this blog site from someone researching on behalf of some distant cousins. Cousins who turn out to be Aboriginal Australians. It turns out 2 or 3 of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. One of them at least, moved into what was known as the Yass Black Camp. That intrigues me. That contact also led me back to my research, which wasn’t as organized as I’d hoped and so I’ve been beavering away. This led to another discovery, that at least four branches of my family came from County Cork. This seems to suggest that they stayed within their county group after arriving in Sydney. Not surprising when you think about how immigrants tend to stick together now, but of course, I was researching events in reverse order, instead of living them forward.

Do you do family history at all?

Anyway, it’s time for me to put down my coffee cup and keep moving. Our son leaves for the snow tomorrow for a few days and there’s still a lot of last minute bits and bobs which need to be done.

lady reading book

Lady reading Geoff Le Pard’s: “My Father & Other Liars.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk and all the people we’ve met while walking with Lady.  We always meet so many chirpy, happy people on our walks and she opens so many doors… and not just the bathroom door (see the Flash fiction!)

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can check out the other posts Here.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena xxoo