Monthly Archives: January 2018

Starting High School’s Eve

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Tomorrow morning, our “baby girl” starts high school. While this is something we’ve been working towards for some time, I still have this sense of impending doom. That we’ve forgotten something. That we’ve forgotten something of earth-shattering significance. The sort of thing that crippling anxious nightmares are made of. Sleeping through the alarm. No uniform. No shoes. What about what’s for lunch, packing and actually eating it?

High school is going to be a piece of cake compared to getting out our front door and as much as I’ve hoped for the best and prepared for the worst, I have this awful sinking feeling, that we’re doomed. To quote someone very dear to me: “That we were born under an unlucky star”.

Indeed, perhaps there’s no point even getting out of bed, and we can try again next year.

Thank goodness my alter-ego pushed that anxious sod off her perch and confiscated her scrapbook of memories as well.

Of course, you can’t turn up at the high school gate with a swag of baby photos and snaps of firsts to share with the other parents…Mum’s Bragbook. OMG! Talk about taking uncool to such unprecedented heights, that even I who is eternally impervious to embarrassment, would be cringing in my boots forever more.

I could never show my face again.

That’s if I was still alive after such an escapade. If my daughter didn’t kill me, I’d have to kill myself…or lock myself up in a crate addressed to deepest darkest Africa, or even post myself to Mars.

I guess this also reminds me that Mummy’s not allowed to cry. Mum has to be strong. Smile, wave and not cling onto my little girl like a limpet trying to stop her from growing up and stepping out the front door without me.

family portrait.JPG

Our Son’s Starts High School Two Years Ago in 2016.

Really, tomorrow’s just another day and it’s not like we don’t know the place. No, her big brother’s paved the way and for better or worse, we’re known at the school. Our daughter hasn’t been going to school locally for the last two years, so hasn’t really been round the traps but she’ll know a lot of the kids from her last school and round about. She’s also in a selective dance class within the performing arts and will automaticlly land on her feet with a few extra moves thrown in just because she can.

So, of course, tomorrow is going to be fine.

 

This is the broken record that I should be playing over and over in my head instead of feeling crippled by this shapeless, formless, sense of impeding doom.

After all, we’ve crossed the i’s dotted the t’s and like a airline pilot, double-checked that the hatches are shut. (See I told you things were a bit skewiff around here.)

How hard can it be to get one kid around the corner?

Or should I say, how easy!

After all:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

footprints on the beach

I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how it all went.

Fingers and toes crossed!

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share 28th January, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Had you arrived last night, I could’ve offered you a Raspberry & White Chocolate Scone straight out of the oven and dripping with melted butter. Personally, I thought they were baked to perfection. However, I had a comment from one about too much salt and not enough white chocolate from two. This lot is way too fussy and we ought to stop watching all these cooking shows before they get any worse. There’s no such thing as tinned spaghetti on toast around here, and sometimes it would be a blessed relief.

Raspberry Scone

Raspberry & White Chocolate Scone made by yours truly.

To be perfectly honest, I can’t even remember the last week. Indeed, rather than thinking about the week that was, I’m actually fixating on the week to come. It’s the start of the new school year here, and this is when my New Year really hits the road and resolutions turn into reality…or not! Gone are the days of arriving back from holidays the night before and winging it with last year’s uniforms and the Christmas tree still up. Our daughter starts her first year of high school on Tuesday and after a few years under our belts with her older brother, we’ve learned that you need to start the year off with a bang. That’s because it’s inevitably a slippery, downhill run from there. Of course, their uniforms will be ironed for the first day. Shoes polished. These kids might even be polished and…pigs might fly!

The one thing I still haven’t quite got my head around, is how to flick the switch from Holiday Time to School Time. I swear this transition leaves jetlag for dead. Late nights and sleeping in, traded in for early morning starts, activities after school and trying to push for early nights. Thank goodness for coffee!

I should also mention that Friday was Australia Day. We didn’t celebrate Australia Day, but we didn’t not celebrate it either. You see, there’s a growing movement in Australia to change the date because it’s  celebrating the day British settlement was established with the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay on the 26th January, 1788. However, some Indigenous Australians have rebadged Australia Day, “Invasion Day”. This acknowledges that Australia wasn’t “terra nullus”, but inhibited by Aboriginal people and a treaty should have been signed. I personally would like to keep the date but change the meaning so that celebrations acknowledged these sentiments.

Sailing on Australia Day.

On the other hand, our son sailed in an Australia Day Regatta with the Sailing Club. He sails in a Flying 11, which is totally beyond my comprehension. I’m more familiar with Lasers and only then as ballast and making sure I don’t get hit in the head by the boom! This takes a lot of concentration.

On a more positive note, I have managed to put together a post about living with adversity: Life Was Meant To Be Easy. I hope you might find it encouraging.

Our pups Zac and Rosie are now about six months old and dear Rosie is chewing everything in sight and even contraband that’s out of reach. We left them inside while my husband manned the scout BBQ at local Australia Day celebrations in case they freaked out with the fireworks and got home to find they’d murdered the tissue box and spread it’s entrails all over the loungeroom. It was obviously very dead and this episode reiforced yet again that as much as I try to exercises the forces of good and cleanliness in this house, there are forces of mischief working against me at every turn.

Once the kids are back at school, I’m planning to indulge in a ferry trip to Palm Beach once the heat has settled down a bit. I also have a very long backlog of coffees to catch up on with friends. Thrown in with all of that, I’ll be sussing out for some paid work. Not just any paid work, but somehow getting my marketing communications path onto some kind of track.

All these thing seem pretty unexciting, but I’m pleased to report that the cough is much better. It’s still there and my ventolin is always by my side but the light on the horizon is getting closer. Thank goodness!

Hope you’ve had a good weekend!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Life Was Meant To Be Easy.

According to the “Feel Good School of Thought”, life is meant to be easy. Adversity is a transitory thing that we can simply power through, as long as we “think happy thoughts” and “stay positive”. “If it feels good, do it. If it feels bad, give up.” However, from this perspective, we might as well pull the pin when “shit happens”. There is no reason to live.

Yet, ironically humans thrive on being challenged, using our problem-solving abilities, and overcoming adversity. We’re meant to use what we’ve got, even if some of the equipment isn’t in peak form. Indeed, adapting to these challenges stimulates the mind. After all, we were never designed to be couch potatoes, or even worse, liquid mash. Rather, we were meant to grow roots and broad branches, and stand tall on the inside, no matter what our design. Just think about how often you hear heroic stories of everyday people overcoming huge setbacks and surging forward in a new direction. Indeed, their curse can even become their blessing. The Paralympians embody such triumphs.

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

-Christopher Reeve.

At a more basic level, I remember my Dad encouraging to overcome fear and have a go. His big line was: “it’ll put hair on your chest”. As a little girl, I didn’t quite get what he meant and took him quite literally and I didn’t want hair on my chest. However, these days, this sort of grit has been rebadged as “resilience”. This school of thought poses that we need to experience the bumps and knocks of life to grow stronger and prepare us for the big hit. This isn’t as much fun as thinking happy thoughts and only doing what feels good, but we do emerge more rounded and as the Scouts would say: “prepared”.

While that all sounds great in theory, it’s quite a different story when you’re lying face down in the mud with no known way of getting up. At this point, it’s quite natural to feel overwhelmed by shock, disbelief, anger and self-pity. However, if you want to move beyond subsistence, you have get yourself out of the quagmire and start thinking about taking those first few critical steps, be they literal or somehow figurative.  Staying put isn’t an option.

Rowena

This isn’t theory for me, but my own, personal experience. I have walked the talk, sometimes needing assistance.

When I was 25, I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and six months later had brain surgery to insert a VP shunt. The hydrocephalus was pretty freaky. Although it was largely dormant for the first 25 years of my life, it rapidly became symptomatic and for the six month period in between diagnosis and surgery, I lived the bizarre and traumatic life of Oliver Sacks’s: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. I had 6 months of intensive rehabilitation, learning how to walk and had occupational therapy to manage my life again. This all culminated in moving back in with Mum and Dad and a year off work. That in itself felt terminal. After all, when you’re living the story, you don’t know how it’s going to end. I slowly got back on my feet. Returned to work. Got Married. Had two kids. Then, the thunderbolt of medical misfortune struck for a second time. The birth of my daughter, triggered so much more than maternal joy. My hands turned raw. As it progressed, I couldn’t sit on the floor and get up again, dress myself. Eventually, 18 months later, I was finally diagnosed with dermatomyositis (DM), an exceptionally rare auto-immune disease where your muscles and skin cells attack themselves. As soon as I was diagnosed, I was put in a wheelchair and spent the next week or two in that and the next couple of weeks in a walking frame. I was only 36. Treatment made a vast improvement, but I went on to develop Institial Lung Disease with fibrosis, and affiliated chest infections nearly take me out most years. The Cough has now become such a permanent fixture, that I’ve called him Fergus.

I didn’t respond well to treatment for the DM, and five years ago, I had seven treatments of chemo. My specialist also changed my meds and I’ve been in remission ever since. Not smooth sailing, but still a relief. My kids are now about to turn 14 and 12 and still have their Mum. Moreover, I’m still an active part of their lives, even if I’ve had five years off work. I am so very thankful to be here. Yet, there are still times, especially when the cough flares up, that I get fed up. After all, I’m human, not invincible.

With the New Year, I’ve been rethinking my status quo and wondering how to get back into some paid work, while coughing like a mongrel dog and feeling dreadful in so many ways, that it’s tempting to sink underneath the waves and give up.

Prior to chemo, I had been employed as the Marketing Manager for a local IT Company one to two days a week. I’d also been working towards a motivational book about turning your mountain around. I had it all planned out. What had started out with a rather feeble New Year’s resolution to vaguely improve my heath through green smoothies, evolved into a surprisingly productive year. I lost 10 kilos, took up the violin and performed at the end of year concert, started the blog and tackled all sort of challenges at an adventure camp run by Muscular Dystrophy NSW…quad bike riding, sand boarding, para-sailing. It was incredible. I’d pulled off so many things I’d never thought possible, and was almost on top of the world.

 

All of these breakthroughs and successes were definitely book worthy and I thought my story could encourage others experiencing the hard knocks of fate, to give living a go. Living with two debilitating, life-threatening medical conditions and consequent disabilities, I was proof that it was possible to carpe diem seize the day even through times of serious adversity. However, my story wasn’t going to end there. The icing on the cake, which I intended to be the finale of the book, was skiing down Perisher’s Front Valley, in effect, turning my mountain around. Yahoo!

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

Skiing in Perisher. You can see my instructor, Tom, in the background…the wind beneath my wings. I went as a member of the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association.

That was the plan. However, while I triumphantly skied down Front Valley, my “victory” didn’t match my expectations. Rather than the exhilaration of triumph, I felt my gut sink with unbridled terror as I perched precariously over the edge, with a huge drop off down the slope to the village below. I felt like fleeing straight back to the safety of the “magic carpet”. However, I had my ski instructor with me and Tom went backwards down the steep start and held my hands to ease me down. By the time I finally reached the bottom after a few spills, I was more relieved than jubilant and I was just glad it was over.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Triumph soon did a terrifying back flip, and even before we left Perisher, I’d developed a nasty chest infection, which turned into life threatening pneumonia. Indeed, one night in between coughing bouts, I actually stopped breathing.

rowena piano

Playing Moonlight Sonata after chemo.

At this point, I also found out that the auto-immune disease was in a serious flare and was attacking my lungs. The Institial Lung Disease had become active and I had marked fibrosis in my lungs. Moreover, the report on my lungs read like the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag…ground glass, honeycomb. I was actually surprised there wasn’t any dog hair in there. Anyway, they started me on chemo (cyclophosphamide) a week before Christmas 2012 and I’ve got to say, I didn’t expect to be alive for Christmas 2017. I am a living, breathing miracle, which has been a comprehensive and intensive team effort.

As you could imagine, pneumonia and chemo weren’t the grand finale I’d planned for the book and the book is still on hold as I wrestle with what it really means to be a survivor, grappling with my numerous battle scars and LIVE on. I don’t merely want to exist.

This isn’t something I think about all the time. However, with the new year, I’ve revisited all of this. I’m still wrestling with THE COUGH, while also trying to get back to some kind of meaningful paid work. The two of them are looking very incompatible at the moment, but surely I can find something?

Pursuing this question further requires me to accept my weaknesses, but also to acknowledge and embrace my strengths. Know that I am not a dud. Rather, I’m human. We all make mistakes and have strengths and weaknesses. Of course, that’s something I would say with conviction to anyone else, but I struggle to find that in myself.

So, I guess this takes me to George Bernard Shaw:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.”

When you’ve experienced adversity, how have you kept your head above water? Please leave your thoughts in the comments and links through to any posts.

Best wishes,

Rowena

This post was published on Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life.

Weekend Coffee Share 21st January, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’d better hold your horses and psych yourself up. We’re not having coffee this week. Rather, we’re piling into the dog mobile and heading off to Dog Beach. I hope you’re feeling brave, because you’re taking our 6 month old Border Collie x kelpie pups, Zac and Rosie. They have such raw energy, that you could end up flying along behind them like a kite. On the upside, just think of all the energy you’ll burn off!  Meanwhile, I’ll take Lady, but I will give you a hand.

dog beach zoom

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This week’s been a bit of a struggle for me in some ways. I’ve still been battling The Cough, which I’ve now christened “Fergus”. No offence to anyone named Fergus, but it sort of sounds like wheezy creepings within my lungs. I went back to the doctor again and am on another round or two of antibiotics, but am finally on the mend. Enough to shout a yahoo, but not quite enough to leap in the air yet.

As you could well understand yourselves, something like a cough or cold which is chronically annoying but not necessarily serious, can still be a pain in the neck. Moreover, you still feel you have to keep doing life and stuff, while feeling entitled to your own private nurse and a good strong dose of TLC. I also want to be a part of life and do things with my husband kids, family and friends and not be shut away in the house all the time. So, I feel like I’ve swallowed Dr Dolittle’s classic Push-Me-Pull-You and it’s been hard to juggle it all.

Image result for Dr Dolittle's classic Pushmepullyou

Both of the kids have been away at different camps this week. Our daughter was on a Young Carers Camp at Camp Breakaway and our son has been away with scouts. While you’d think this would’ve given me a breather, I still had to provide some transport and our daughter had to pop back for a dance workshop. So, there was more driving. Packing for Scouts, was also an ordeal. They provide such easy to follow check lists, and yet the kids inevitably leave something behind at both ends. Trying to get His Lordship’s bag packed was also like pulling teeth. Indeed, I’ve seen him more compliant going to the dentist.

As they say, never work with children or animals.

Geoff & Lady 20 Jan 2017

Indeed, it was quite a deal piling all three dogs in the dog mobile with three humans tonight. The pups were so exuberant. Zac even ran over the rocks at a sprint, and I could see how these dogs could walk over the backs of sheep. They’re unstoppable. Meanwhile, Lady has this way of surruptitiously wandering off, and at one point was heading for the sand dunes, which are known to house rabbits and  other critters. This area runs up to the road and as Lady has zero traffic sense, Geoff had to bolt after her. Meanwhile, Rosie started to follow Lady. Humph! Out came the leads!

Amelia & pups dusk Jan 20 2018

 

By the way, I almost forgot to mention that after dropping my daughter back at camp, I went on a bit of a detour. Indeed, I am the Detour Queen. The camp was on the coast about two hours North of Sydney and there are some wonderful beaches up there. So, I puttered down to Budgewoi where I had half a dozen battered prawns for lunch and then spotted a sign for Norah Head. My friend’s family had a holiday house there when I was at school, and I still remember a few very special birthdays in the sand dunes. Those sand dunes were revegetated years ago and have in effect disappeared. However, the lighthouse is still standing. No one’s buried that along with my youth.

Norah Head Lighthouse

Norah Head Lighthouse, NSW Central Coast, Australia. 

With school going back in a week, I’ve been working desperately hard to get the house sorted out. However, progress took a huge step back in a sense today when we finally got the Summer clothes down from the roof. I have been known to frequent the local opportunity (or thrift) shops on a rather regular basis and have spotted more than the odd bargain, especially when it comes to my daughter. She could become a jetsetter and have what looks like a year’s worth of outfits without spending a cent. However, her wardrobe couldn’t possibly house all of this, so we’re having to do a cull and I’m thinking garage sale. Meanwhile a Mt Everest or two of clothes is choking up the loungeroom and my husband’s peering through fabric and crates to watch the cricket.

It’s become very clear that never of us need to go clothes shopping for a very, very long time. On the other hand, there’s some scope for me in the shoe department, especially after Rosie ate my favourite shoe for lunch. They’re nothing glam. Rather, they’re shoes for people who work on their feet or need added support. Or what my daughter condescending refers to as “granny shoes”. But they worked for me and sensible shoes is where I’m at these days.

Speaking about fashion, it’s an exceptionally rare moment that I even think of fashion. However, I was getting to the point of shooting The Cough, and spotted a very glamorous Vogue magazine and decided buy it and stick my face over the top. I haven’t gotten around to that yet but here’s the photo and perhaps it can ignite a few dreams of your own. I’m getting more and more interested in fantasy these days. Reality is over-rated.

Reality is only limited by your imagination!

As I’ve been reading back over this coffee share, I’ve detected a note of melancholy and wondered whether I should zoop it a bit bit. Add a bit of razzle dazzle and make it more positive. But, we don’t have to be all happy happy joy joy all the time and sometimes we do just need to move into what I’ll call a minor key, before we can reach the high note.

So, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a good one. Please let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments. 

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli ,  Here’s the Linky Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!

Weekend Coffee Share 14th January, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If you were to come over to my place for coffee this weekend, I’d be apologizing for the preponderance of crates, and random flotsam and jetsom all over the loungeroom , and recommend we head out for coffee today. I’m sure you know how it is. Once you let all that compressed clutter loose, you have a monster on your hands and it’s a massive effort to divide and conquer and finally get rid of the piles. It feels like this is all I’ve been doing in January, but that isn’t quite the truth. At least, I hope it’s not. What a way to spend the Summer holidays!

dog beach zoom

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

Just in case you’re living in the land of snow and ice, you might want to get changed into something a little more comfortable, and we could well head for the beach. If you’re feeling energetic, we coud also take the dogs…Lady, Zac and Rosie. Zac and Rosie are 6 month old border collie x kelpie pups and they’ll definitely raise your heart rate. They love running and are so sleek, graceful and beautiful to watch speeding through the sand. From this, you’ll understand that they’re off the leash and truly able to let themselves go. Fortunately, they are well attached to us and haven’t disappeared chasing a seagull down the far end of the beach. It happens often enough down there and it is quite a challenge to retrieve your charge. .

We’re not planning to foster any new pups at the moment. The new school year starts in a fortnight and I’m working flat out to get the kids and the house ready for the new school year. Can we get it sorted this year? We’re in much better shape than previous years, when we’ve arrived back from holidays the night before and winged it.  That was much easier back in primary school, when the kids were younger. Our daughter starts high school this year and that’s all new uniforms and we’ve had to wait for the skirt to come in. Yes, I have made myself a note. With so much going on, I’m sure my brain’s run out of RAM.

I don’t know if you’re into research at all. However, as much as people talk about being focused to succeed, research is more like following a random goat trail through the wilderness. That said, you need to leave some flags, markers or pebbles along the track, so you can find your way back to the fork in the road where you darted off.

This week, I’ve dug out my research on the Johnston’s of Islay, which I haven’t touched much for the last 15 years. This is an exploding file and I’ve achieved quite a lot on this line. Yet, there were still quite a few deadends all those years ago, which were worth revisitnig now that so much material is available online.

Of most general interest, the Johnstons of Islay were whisky distillers, and dare I suggest, heading back into the not so dark ages, that they were whisky smugglers as well. Now the story is really starting to get interesting, especially when you start hearing about distilling operations concealed in deep limestone caves. No pirates required. These were my ancestors. By the way, the Johnstons founded Laphroaig and Tallant Distilleries.

I’ve never been to Islay and a trip isn’t on the cards any time soon. So, I’m doing my best to try and get a feel for the place. Part of that, as an Australian, is getting my head around what it’s like to live in a small island community, when we live on an island CONTINENT…a land of sweeping plains.

Image result for Islay historic photos

Above: Map of Islay, Scotland. Ireland is to the South.

Trying to get some appreciation of Islay’s size, I did a bit of a comparison. Islay has an area of 619.6 km² Now, here in Australia, we think Tasmania is small. It’s also an island and Geoff’s grown up there and so we have a reasonable understanding of what it’s like to live there, adjcent to the Australian Mainland, and infamously being left off the map. Moreover, when we were taught to draw the map of Australia, I’m pretty sure that Tassie went into a one cm gap. That’s small. It’s much larger when you get there and realize there’s a hell of a lot squeezed into that deceptively small space. However, compared to Islay, Tassie’s a giant…a whopping  68,401 km². Not a useful comparison after all. Even Bali’s  more than double it’s size at 5,780 km². This leaves Singapore being the closest size comparison, measuring in at 719.1 km².

Aside from chasing whiskey smuggling ghosts and trying to get ready for the new school year, I did watch a great movie…It’s A Wonderful Life. I hadn’t heard of it before but it was on display in the supermarket and I’ve been enjoying re-watching my stash of DVDs, some of which, have never made it out of the plastic.

Have you ever seen the movie? Despite my ignorance, it’s considered a classic Christmas movie and one of the most watched American films. Well, I’m Australian so maybe that’s why I haven’t seen it. Or, perhaps I’ve just been living under a rock. ore likely, I was out celebrating Christmas, and not stuck at home watching the box. After all, Christmas is in Summer here.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t focus on the Christmas aspects of the film. I was more interested in the plight of George Bailey who is among the town’s brightest and can’t wait to leave this one horse town and explore the world. He has big dreams of world travel, going to college and he worked dime by dime to put the money away, but there was the competing pull of the family business and helping people out. This is a pull I relate to myself. The need to be here and look after the family versus writing, travel and becoming all that I could be in myself, which could very well come at a high price. Relationships versus achievement? Do we have to make a choice? Or, can we have it all? That, I believe, is one of the great questions of our generation.

Here are afew great quotes from the movie:

Pop: I know it’s soon to talk about it.
George: Oh, now Pop, I couldn’t. I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office…Oh, I’m sorry Pop, I didn’t mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe…I’d go crazy. I want to do something big and something important.
Pop: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
George: I know, Dad. I wish I felt…But I’ve been hoarding pennies like a miser in order to…Most of my friends have already finished college. I just feel like if I don’t get away, I’d bust.
Pop: Yes…yes…You’re right son.
George: You see what I mean, don’t you, Pop?
Pop: This town is no place for any man unless he’s willing to crawl to Potter. You’ve got talent, son. I’ve seen it. You get yourself an education. Then get out of here.
George: Pop, you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy. [to Annie, listening through the door] Oh, did you hear that, Annie?
Annie: I heard it. About time one of you lunkheads said it.
Clarence Oddbody
  • Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
  • [Inscribed in a copy of Tom Sawyer] “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”

Mr. Henry F. Potter

  • [to George] Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world! You once called me a warped, frustrated, old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk, crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help.
-+-

Anyway, I clearly enjoyed the movie and got a lot out of it.
Any thoughts?
Well, it’s Sunday night here and I have one pup chewing a pencil to bits and the other up on my lap. He’s managed to cohabitate with the lap top and is draped over the right arm of the chair while the laptop is perched on the left with a good gap from my cup of tea.
This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. Eclectic Alli is hosting a coffee share and Here’s the link up. Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!
How  has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great week and I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to in the comments.
Best wishes,
Rowena.

Weekend Coffee Share 7th January, 2018

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share & A Belated Happy New Year!

Today, I’m not even going to ask if you’d like a glass of water. You need it. While the official temperature outside is 35°C /95°F, I swear they’re taking the temperature in the shade because it’s a furnace outside and our poor air-conditioner is sounding like a train struggling to cross Mt Everest…”I think I can…I know I can’t!”

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a good one and a great start to the New Year.

My week could best be described as “The Cough”. I don’t know what possessed The Cough to use my lungs as a BnB, but surely there’s somebody closer to the beach who could have provided ocean views? Our place is a few blocks back. An easy stroll. That said, the cough is so virulent it could reach the beach from our place in an instant. BTW, I”m not exactly sure what’s causing The Cough. I took some precautionary antibiotics, but I have fibrosis in my lungs, a “complication” from the auto-immune disease. I only have 60% lung capacity as a rule so the slightest irritation to the lungs, is more noticeable and potentially serious. meanwhile, the dogs are complaining because I’m a better barker. I’m also thinking the antiobiotics might’ve upset the balance in my stomach and the cough is more about heartburn.

Anyway, enough about the Cough. Coughs are like serial killers. They’re publicity craving sponges, and you don’t want to fuel their narcissistic demands.

Just before Christmas, Geoff and the kids drove up to Queensland for a family wedding and I stayed at home to tend to the coughs and mind the dogs. It was the first time since we’ve been dating that he’s visited his family up North without me, and as much as I wished I’d been there, I also think it was good for them to spend time with Geoff’s people without me there as a distraction for a change.

As a special treat, Geoff took the kids to  Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast with their cousins. Apparently, it’s the Warner Bros version of Disneyland. Not having been there, I’m harranging the rest of the family for details. They, on the other hand, are more interested in playing Minecraft. Don’t they understand that it’s feeding time at the blog, and that they have a moral and social obligation to cough up! Not ust to make their mother happy, but also to promote Australia and encourage more visitors.  Obviously, not. Yet, after much heavy-handling, I did manage to extract a few spartan details about riding the Scooby’s Spooky Rollercoaster. They were telling me about sharp twists and turns, which would have you holding onto onto your false teeth. Then, they tell me about speeding down a hill backwards,  which would have my own teeth falling out. It took quite a lot of prodding, to actually find out that the Spooky Rollercoaster is an indoor ride, and is actually in the dark. Yikes! However, theat was not enough to deter Geoff and our son from going on the DC Rivals Hypercoaster. That either takes courage or insanity and both could apply here.

They also went to the Macadamia Castle at Knockrow, located in the hinterland behind Byron Bay. I just happened to call them while they were there feasting on pancakes at the cafe. I had a bit of a moment then, because we usually go there as a family and we’ve been taking the kids there for around ten years. Some years when we’ve had a few trips up, we’ve gotten to know the keepers and had such a personal experience of the place. Even though the kids are getting older, they’re not too older for the Castle and still loved interacting with the animals.

Speaking of animals, I did hear that they had a few close encounters with snakes at the farm. I prefer not to think about that, although while I’m there I try to remember to watch where I’m walking. Snakes are far from tourist hype in these parts and not uncommon.

Without the family at home and having a break from all our activities, I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve got done at home. While it’s very boring to say you spent the Christmas holidays cleaning the house when you could be at the beach, starting a new year has inspired, dare I say driven me, to sort out the accumulating piles around the house and return to bare earth. With the rest of the family out of harm’s way, I booked a council clean-up and 6 bags of rubbish went along with quite a stash of miscellania. It felt so good. Yet, it was only the beginning.

However, my time alone at home wasn’t all work. I also got stuck into some reading. I’ve been reading a gripping trilogy by Brendan Graham, who also wrote the lyrics for You Raise Me Up. I’d met Graham at the Irish Famine Commemoration Day in Sydney and he came across as a warm, gentle man. Through his books, I’ve appreciated that he’s also a thinker. A man who asks questions and doesn’t just accept the status quo, which struck a chord with me. If you are a writer interested in the source of creative inspiration, I recommend you read this interview.

messy

I also managed to finish Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to be Creative & Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World. I’m actually disgusted with myself that it’s taken me so long to finish what I consider to be one of the best and most useful books I’ve ever read. Somehow, I stopped with about 30 pages to go and didn’t get back to it. Part of the reason, is that I haven’t caught the train for awhile, and that’s my preferred reading location. Along with that, there’s also been all the end of year stuff, which has kept me right away from my teetering book pile in general.

Lastly, I’ve started reading Harry Potter. My daughter’s been badgering me to read Harry Potter for the last month and I keep promising and yet haven’t managed to open the cover. I’m not sure why I’ve been resisting Harry Potter all this time. When it first came out, there was very strong opposition in some Christian circles and that definnitely played a part. In that regard, reading Harry Potter felt tabou, very much like reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover back in the day. However, as a writer, it’s also important to read and analyze very successful literature to either accept or reject its influence in my own writing. I also wasn’t sure that I’d like Harry Potter and reading it strangely felt like a chore. I don’t know why because millions upon millions of readers have loved it. Yet, I’m not sure that I would necessarily relate to all these millions of readers and clearly, they are not me. I have my own opinions, likes and dislikes and I’m anything but a conformist or sheep. As the blog title states: “I’m beyond the flow.”

Harry Potter is quite different to what I’d expected with complex characterization and moves at a delightful, fast-pace where you’re constantly turning pages and looking forward to the next one. What I haven’t picked up through my casual glances at the movie, was that Harry spent his early childhood as the bullied underdog, living with his aunt, uncle and horrid cousin, when within Hogwarts circle, he was revered as a a hero. This, at least to me, adds quite an interesting dimension to the plot. Ramps it up. I guess this plot, or what I’ve uncovered of it so far, is about Harry finding himself, when everyone around him already knows. That is intriguing because most of us would like to think we know ourselves better than other people, but i guess that isn’t always the case.

Given the extreme heat and the cough, I’ve also been getting stuck into my research. This moves around a bit, but I’ve made great headway. While I’m still researching the Irish Famine Orphan Girls from the Midleton Workhouse who came out to Australia, I ended up revisiting the McNamara’s from County Clare and moving back onto the Johnston’s. The Johnstons have been a gripping area of research. My ancestors on that front were whiskey distillers on the island of Islay, Scotland and owned Tallant Distillery. The brother and his son, Donald and Alexander Johnston, went on to found Laphroaig Distillery. I’ve never been to Islay, but I did find a fantastic blog which has almost taken me there and I’m grateful for that. I we’re always saying it’s a small world, but it’s not so small when you’re trying to visit somewhere on the other side of the globe and trying to finance it.

By the way, while we’ve been chatting, the temperature outside has soared. The Ashes Cricket test is on TV and they’re saying it’s now 41°C/ 106°F in the shade and 50°C on the field and the pitch temp is 55°C. Personally, I reckon the cricket should be called off in weather like this, but it appears the cricketers are made of tougher stuff than I. (Humph! You could say that. If a red cricket ball was heading my direction, I’d duck. There’s now way I’d even think about catching any cricket ball, let alone one moving that fast. BTW, the Aussies are winning but it looks like England is trying to stretch it out for a draw.

That’s the full extent of my knowledge of the cricket.

Meanwhile, the dogs are all enjoying the air-conditioning and snoring away. We’ve ramped their training up a notch now that Geoff and the kids are home and have been training them on the lead. Thy need to be able to walk on a loose lead without using interventions like a Halti collar which has been our go to in the past. Perhaps I’m deluded, but I’m thinking we can harness puppy power and produce a pair of easy walkers.

Lastly, I know we don’t usually advertise the unwanted critters we find lurking in our homes, but last night Geoff finally caught the rat which has managed to elude multiple traps and three dogs. Lady’s been pretty keen to hunt it down, but unfortunately couldn’t climb up the bookshelf. The pups ran away and hid and I’m not going to dob myself in on that front. Dealing with the semi-dead rat was definitely a “Geoff job”.

Well, that’s enough from me for now. How was your week? I’d love to hear from you!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. Eclectic Alli is hosting a coffee share.  This week’s share is here. and the link up is here. Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!

xx Rowena

PS: I just came across this very funny post about the Great Australian Emu War: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/1699685/posts/1725886161

What It Means To Be Human.

G’Day Humans!

This is Rosie-Roo, Rowena’s adorable and geniously smart puppy dog. I’ve jumped onto her blog to end her interminal screen-gazing. Put her out of her misery. I know she’s always teaching me stuff, and thinks she knows it all, but her brain’s now gone into park, and won’t budge. So, seeing that I’ve now worked out how to pull the string on my toy mouse and make it run all by myself, I figure I’m now ready to step into Bilbo’s paws and  be the brains trust around here. After all, that goes with the territory when you’re the Philosopher’s Dog.

Rosie & Zac BW

That’s me on the left.

So, here I am paws to the keyboard.

Rewinding to last night, you might’ve already read all Mum’s philosophical, new year ramblings about turning Chaos Central and it’ s inhabitants, into clockwork robots. Have a place for everyting and everything in its place.

Of course, we who know Mum better than she knows herself, know better. We know she drank too much pear cider over the holidays. Was dazzled by the fireworks. It’s all gone to her head, and now she thinks a  new year makes her a new person. That her DNA myseriously changed overnight.

I might only be six months old, but I’m a great observer. Not only that, I’m smart. Scary smart. Only this morning, I learned how to pull the string on my toy mouse, but I’ve been pulled mum’s string a lot longer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being creative. However, I’m a working dog, and that means getting on with the task at hand and not writing about it instead.

Anyway, we working dogs are adaptable. I can herd humans, and I can philosophise like a human as well. After all, as you’ve always suspected but have never been able to verify, we dogs can read your minds. Well, at least, that is the more astute of us canines.

Moving forward, I’m going to pick up from Mum’s last post where she concluded: “I am going to be a human being.” Shortly, after signing off there, she quickly typed “What It Means to Be Human” into a new post and went off to bed.

Who did she think she was? Professor Stephen Hawking? Why couldn’t she just be happy with 42 like everyone else, and leave it at that? Why did she feel the need to tackle a question whose answers spread the full length and breadth of the World Wide Web. How did she think she was going to reduce all of that verbosity into 500 words, or even a 1000?

It didn’t take me long to work out Mum was a dreamer, and nothing like a working dog.

 

Anyway, this leaves me to explain what it means to be human.

Firstly, humans are always telling us dogs to “sit”, while I figure all humans do is sit. They need to get out of their chairs. Switch off the TV. Turn off their laptops and mobile phones and walk, Run. Go outside. Smell the roses.

Secondly, humans seriously over-complicate things. We dogs keep it simple. We wear the one coat for life, and we’re always ready to go out. Adventure awaits. None of this hair, makeup, clothes, can’t find my shoes, wallet, phone. I don’t even need a lead, but I did get in trouble last week for what turned out to be a pre-emptive run.

But, while I can be a little critical of the humans and would like to give them some really thorough training, my humans have loved my brother and I unconditionally. We were homeless and had been taken away from our Mum, Dad and sisters and didn’t know what would become of us. Then, Mum and Miss turned up there in the middle of the night to pick us up and gave us a home. We had so much to learn, leaving puddles and piles all over the house and even chewed on the furniture, but they still loved us. Humans have big hearts.

A big heart is mum’s biggest trouble. Of course, she’d like to be uber-organized and have everything running like clockwork, but her heart gets in the way. She cares too much. I also understand that she can’t move around as easily as the other humans and then lets the other humans and us dogs get away with things we shouldn’t. Please don’t tell her that. That can be our little secret.

Well, I don’t know if I’ve answered the question, but I’d appreciate a bit of understanding. This is my first dog, I mean, blog post, and I’m still only a pup.

What do you think makes humans human? Perhaps, you could enlighten Mum!

Love,

Rosie-Roo

PS: In case you’re wondering why I’m called “Rosie-Roo, it’s because the humans reckon I look like a kangaroo. I don’t know why they’d think a dog looks like a kangaroo. Perhaps, poor eyesight and confusion are further aspects of what it means to be human.

The featured image was drawn by my teenaged son many, many moons ago.