Category Archives: Chemotherapy

Finding My Happy Feet.

“High heels are like a beauty lift. In a flat, you can feel beautiful, but a stiletto changes your mood, how you move – like a wild, beautiful animal. The idea was always to follow a woman’s wardrobe, her desires.”

Giuseppe Zanotti – Shoe Designer dedicated to providing women with “the most superlative shoes in the world”.

Confession time. While I’ve never fallen head over heels in love with a pair of shoes, I do have a thing for high heels. Indeed, since they’ve become the forbidden fruit, you could even call it an obsession.

Of course, I’m not the first person to believe high heels ooze sex appeal, a sense of fun, glamour and the promise of a glamorous night out. Indeed, anything but a night in with your cat watching re-runs of I Love Lucy.

Unfortunately, some of us are forced to hang up our stilettos long before our time. When even the Stiletto Queen has to hang up her sacred heels, and resort to (dare , I mention the unmentionable) SENSIBLE SHOES.  Or,  as my 11 year old daughter disparagingly calls them, “GRANNIE SHOES”. Whether through disability, accidents, chronic health, we’re left thankful to be alive, able to breathe and even move at all. As trivial as wearing pretty shoes might sound when you’re fighting for your life, they can also represent a broader sense of loss and grief after your life with all your grand plans and dreams, lands on the proverbial snake, instead of the ladder, in the game of life.

“You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

This is the path I tread. I started this journey in my mid-20s when subterranean hydrocephalus in my brain, suddenly became graphically symptomatic. It was hard going to rehab and learning to walk again at 26 when all of my friends were out partying, their careers were still soaring and my life was heading the other way. I’d packed up my apartment and moved back in with Mum and Dad and was off to rehab in very sexy tracksuits, joggers and mixing with the over 80s.

Thanks to surgery, ultimately I largely recovered from the hydrocephalus, but still experienced debilitating fatigue.Moreover, the neurons weren’t firing in quite the same way either. I was fine but not fine.

However, at 35, I developed dermatomyositis, a debilitating muscle wasting disease after our daughter’s birth. It took 18 months to diagnose and by this point, I was in dire straights. As soon as I was admitted, I was put in a wheelchair. That was my legs for the next couple of weeks, followed by a walking frame and loads of prednisone. Despair doesn’t even begin to touch the depths of what I experienced then.  Survival was all that mattered and I didn’t even hope to see my children grow up. That was simply somewhere too far over the other side of the rainbow. I couldn’t even go there. They were still babies and wouldn’t even remember me if I’d passed. Rather, there was only today, tomorrow and each and every day was precious…the sort of precious you hold onto no matter how big the storm, how high the waves. Your life and everything you value, is hanging on by barely a thread and you won’t let go.

“What you wear – and it always starts with your shoes – determines what kind of character you are. A woman who wears high heels carries herself very different to a girl who wears sneakers or sandals. It really helps determine how you carry yourself.”

Winona Ryder

Yet, ten years down the track when the pressure’s eased off a bit, my need for footwear has taken on an element of urgency. The pup chewed up my one good pair of sensible shoes. After trawling round a few shopping centres, I haven’t found anything suitable. Not unsurprisingly, sensible shoes for the younger generation aren’t in high demand. Moreover, as much as my daughter might call sensible shoes “grannie shoes”, there’s still a line. A line I still can’t cross. I can’t. I can’t. I don’t want to turn 80 before my time. Instead, I might just have to go barefoot.

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”

― Helen Keller

So, with my shoe situation becoming desperate, I confess I muttered a prayer…a prayer for a pair of simply black shoes, comfortable, supportive and wouldn’t kill me. I wasn’t asking for luxury but something on your feet is a necessity, perhaps not quite in the vein of needing to eat but protecting your feet isn’t frivolous nonsense.

“I’ve spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!”

Carrie Bradshaw, Sex In The City

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So, after that long preamble, perhaps you can now understand why I was so overjoyed when I spotted a pair of black, Louis Vuitton sandals in the local Vinnies charity shop. They were completely flat and fit me perfectly. I’m not even sure if they’d been worn. Time to do the happy dance, except wait, there’s more. There were also two pairs of luxury Italian leather shoes. These shoes would’ve cost around $3000 new, so I was overjoyed to pick up the lot for $35.00. One pair was a little on the small side, while the others have a small heel and I’m not exactly sure how far I’ll be able to wear them. I might need to use my walking stick or stay sitting down, but I don’t care. I’ll find a way. Find somewhere suitable to wear them, and I’ll be the phoenix soaring from the ashes of disability, chronic health and all efforts to make me old before my time.

By the way, ever the storyteller and writer, I also had to cast a thought about how they got there. Whose shoes was I walking in and where were they going to take me now?  We live round the corner from Pearl Beach, which is a bit of a millionaire’s hideout. It’s where Bill and Melinda Gates stayed when they were out in Australia, and its not impossible that they might have belonged to the likes of Nicole Kidman, Cate Blachette although Hugh Jackman might be too big a stretch. It might even be possible that Carrie Bradshaw and her enormous shoe collection migrated there after Sex In The City folded. Whatever, I hope whoever owned these shoes, led a good life and will share a bit of their sparkle with me. After all, I’m still trying to re-climb proverbial ladder, and reach back up for the stars.

Meanwhile, I’m giving thanks for such a spectacular answer to prayer, and I can’t wait to launch into the next chapter. Surely, it has to be amazing! After all, I’m a believer.

Have you experienced any miracles lately? Please share them in the comments.

xx Rowena

PS The featured image was taken at Circular Quay alongside Sydney Harbour.

Dying Diva…Friday Fictioneers: 2nd Feb, 2018.

“They’re not getting these!” Grandma  snapped, clinging to her diamond earrings. “Chopping away at me like I’m some sort of bonsai… Enough is enough!”

Catherine was determined to keep her ear lobes, and she sometimes wondered if that’s all she’d have left after the docs had finished chopping away. The virulent melanoma had spread its poisonous ugliness through almost every vein, artery and cell. There wasn’t much left of her anymore.

Yet, she hadn’t forgotten who she was… Madame Butterfly. She might not be able to walk anymore, but she still had her wings and she knew how to fly.

This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted b y Rochelle Wishoff Fields. We are required to write a 100 words in response to a photo prompt. This week’s photo is © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Have you ever been in a difficult spot where you felt everything was being taken away, but you took a stand. Drew a line in the sand, which you wouldn’t cross? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Back in my 20s, I refused additional brain surgery, largely out of concerns about losing my hair. They’d already hacked hair off the back of my head and this time, they wanted to put a probe in the front and shave more off. I’d had enough. Lucilly, I recovered without the additional surgery and ended up with a full head of hair.

xx Rowena

Never Give Up!

Yesterday, I almost cried with joy…relief. It was a true Eureka Moment moment. Just like you can strangely sink into a pit of despair over that proverbial glass of spilled milk, I found myself close to tears of pure joy, just by having my carpet cleaned. The “new” carpet wasn’t perfect, and still has its battle scars (mostly thanks to the fish tank). Yet, the metamorphosis was UNBELIEVABLE!!

We have wrestled for years about whether to get the carpet cleaned, or replace it. While replacing it seemed the obvious choice, we couldn’t agree on what to replace it with. So, its been  lingering on life support for eternity.  It’s only thanks to the funding I’ve received through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), that this became possible. That’s largely because I didn’ need to think about it. I could just do it. “Have a Nike moment”. Well, to be honest it took a lot more than just a Nike moment. It took a hell of a lot of work to “be prepared”, and that could only happen because the dermatomyositis is in remission and I have this NDIS funding.

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Now that the carpet’s returned from the dead, I have a glimmer of hope that the rest of our house isn’t dead after all. As they say, success breeds success, even when it comes to something as small and seemingly insignificant as the carpet. Slowly but surely, I’m getting my dignity back…and not just in relation to the state of the house, but I’m also feeling the cogs moving much more smoothly within.

Being something of a lounge chair philosopher, this brings me back to something I’ve considered before:

Is your house is a reflection of your soul, who you are as a person or your state of mind? Or, does it stand alone?

Naturally, it would make logical sense that whatever “stuff” is going on in your household or your life, that your house would become some kind of mirror or reflection. However, that can work both ways. Some people seem to throw themselves head long into maintaining the fascade during a crisis, seemingly to hold up the crumbling interior. For us , that hasn’t been an option. I’ve been sick for way too long and even the support crew’s had it. So, at our place, the house and garden have also cracked…along with the mirror.

However, is this crumpled wreck of my self or the accompanying shell, the real me, especially when I’m not living alone? After all, a family home is a family home, a canvas each of us paints and even when we live alone, a house isn’t a blank canvas. There are functional, financial and cultural considerations which reign our vision in. Most of us can’t just splat our real selves everywhere. Or, at least shouldn’t!

 

The photo on the left shows me having a transfusion of IVIG. I had these every 3 weeks for five years until my treatment regime crashed with a flare and I had chemo. In the photo on the right, I’m playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata after a chemo treatment. 

Yet, strangely we are resurrecting. I’ve been in remission for 3.5 years. Moreover, about four months ago, I was approved for our National Disability Insurance Scheme and any looking back has only been to celebrate my onwards and upwards progress. Well, that’s aside from my usual bout of severe chest infections, and the operatic cough which hails from the dark side of Hades. Indeed, I’ve been wrestling with all sorts of horrors lately as I’ve barked my way along some grueling, grim tributory of the River Styx filled, which is populated by all sorts of ghoulish spectors and shadows. Just picture the grim reaper, and I definitely believe he’s been stalking me for the last four weeks. However, I’ve become a seasoned veteran of the battle, and his attacks are not as severe as they once were.

 

Anyway, under the NDIS, I’ve been able to get extensive help at home and we’re steadily chipping away at years of neglect, struggle and the too hard basket, which has been overflowing with so much rubble that it’s toppled over.

So, you could just imagine my relief, my exuberarant joy and tears, when I said: “Hello carpet” yesterday.

It was also: “Hello sky”, because I also had the windows cleaned and much to our amazement, they’re clear. My daughter even joked this morning, that the magpie might fly into the glass and hit it.

The state of the windows was just another thing I’d switched off to. I know people do get their windows professionally cleaned, but this was out of our league and in terms of DIY, we’ve been struggling to put one foot in front of the other before NDIS. Windows, to me, is a computer thingy.

So, even though I’ve missed my usual contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share this week, I’d love to invite you round for coffee right this minute. That is, while the windows and carpet are in a blissful state of suspended animation, and you can actually see the floor. I know it won’t take long for trouble to return. We’re moving into Spring here and we have a little black dog who covers our carpet in a layer of felt. We also have two kids and my husband and I are also human.

In other words, we live in the real world…not Facebook or a magazine.

Have you experienced anything like this lately? Something you would call a “Eureka Moment” which has almost had you jumping out of the bath and running naked through the streets like  Archemedes? If so, I’d love to hear it and these stories are so encouraging to people in the thick of the storm, who doubt there’s any way out.

dog in the storm

Stupid me actually drove into this storm in search of “the shot”. I ran to my car which became my “tin can”, while hail the size of a golf ball pummelled the car. Even the sound alone, was terrifying.

On the other hand, if you’re currently feeling trapped in the thick of the storm, know you are not alone. A lot of people have been there or are there right now, and are only too willing to hold your hand either figuratively or in person. I would encourage you to hook up with some people sharing your experience, especially veterans and survivors of your particular battle. I know I’ve certainly found a lot of comfort with “my colleagues”, my “fellow travellers” in the same boat.

Take care and don’t forget to count and even search out your blessings. There’s always something, no matter how small. Or, perhaps it’s so big, you’ve only seen its feet.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Rowena sun

Here I am at Railway Park, Byron Bay. The artwork was done by a mum whose son died in the park from an overdose of prescription drugs. She undertook this art in the park project to help save others.

 

I wish I Had Dance Feet…

People often say to me, ‘I don’t know anything about dance.’ I say, ‘Stop. You got up this morning, and you’re walking. You are an expert.’

Twyla Tharp

As you may recall, I’ve been attending a weekly adult dance class for roughly the last year. This has been a huge step for me, because I live with a severe muscle-wasting auto-immune disease as well as hydrocephalus and let’s just say mobility and coordination are not my strengths.

However, as I’ve mentioned, my daughter dances quite seriously and after watching countless open days, concerts and at times having serious difficulties getting her to class, I started getting sick of being stuck in the driver’s seat. I wanted to dance myself.

My motto – sans limites.

Isadora Duncan

Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.

Martha Graham

At first, I started dancing in my head and was amazed by my grace, poise and ability to jeter across the room.

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly me. Taking a leaf out of the bower bird’s book, I sub-consciously “borrowed” or perhaps you could even say, that I moved into Miss Larissa’s feet and became a legend inside my own head.

That’s when I first started feeling like a dancer, even though I was unable to dance and to be perfectly honest, often struggled to walk, especially on public footpaths, which are forever trying to trip me up. In what felt like a very bold leap at the time, I gingerly approached my daughter’s teacher and confessed. Naturally, this felt rather “weird” and I wondered if I’d finally tipped the scales of madness to the point of no return. Dancing was light years away from “me”…a writer, photographer and someone living with a chronic illness.

writing

So, it was from this very tentative and reticent corner of the room, that I arrived at my first adult ballet class fully expecting to spend most of the night sitting in a chair. From where I sat, this wasn’t so much a position of defeat. Rather, even being in the room as a class member was an achievement and it felt incredible just to be a part of the inner sanctum. As I didn’t know what to expect of myself,  I simply hoped to have beautiful, ballet hands at the end of the six week course.

While I clearly didn’t have much in the way of personal expectations, even turning up was brave and courageous. That being there in itself, represented a huge gear shift I could be proud of. After all, wasn’t most of the world parked in front of their TV, computer or mobile phone screens, while I was stepping out and being challenged by something completely out of my realm.

Sometimes, you deserve  a bit of praise and enthusiastic applause simply for getting out of bed. and if you make it out the front door that’s a bonus.

That’s where I was coming from. So, my expectations of being able to dance weren’t great.

So, you could just imagine my delight when I was somewhat keeping up with the class. That I didn’t spend the entire class in a chair and wasn’t as uncoordinated as I’d thought. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of brain surgery and tinkering away in your head to get the cogs moving.

Those early nights of adult ballet classes, almost feel like a dream a year down the track. I’ve since done two short contemporary/lyrical classes under Miss Karina Russell. She’s not only been teaching us about dance and choreography, she’s taken us on a journey through various choreographic styles and given me something to Google when I get home. I was as proud as punch of my research and the growing list of dance quotes I’d compiled, until she asked me if I’d actually watch them dance. Of course, not.  Yes, I was still very much the writer and researcher than a dancer…a woman of action. Yet, it was still early days.

Last night, we had our last contemporary class for the time being and next term, we’re switching to tap. So, last night was special and a bit like performing at the end of year concert. I wanted to put my best feet forward and perfect our routine. Or, at least, be facing the right direction at the right time.

However, after going on our long walk on Sunday and obviously overdoing it round the house yesterday, my systems were overstretched and I couldn’t get it together. For the very first time, I was struggling with left and right as we attempted pirouettes, and was facing all the wrong directions doing our warm ups and stretches. This was so bad and as much as I laughed it off, there was also that frustrated, annoyed dancer stuck inside me trying so hard to get out, yet battling the mortal realm.

Why couldn’t I have dance feet? A dance brain? I was feeling like someone had switched all the wires over and when I meant to go left, I went right. Or, I just ended up in a mental knot…a spin which was anything but a shanay turn.

Aside from the fatigue, there was another sound explanation for my brain-body confusion.

While watching Miss Karina so intently, I was absorbing her moves as my own and couldn’t understand why my body wouldn’t cooperate. Why didn’t my foot point like that. Why couldn’t I stand on one leg while rotating my hands and foot without wobbling and falling over like a house of cards? It was like I was having some kind of massive computational error…Miss Karina in, Rowena out. There was a definite bug in the program!

However, I’m not that hard on myself that I didn’t know I was tired. That I wasn’t dancing at my best. Or, that Miss Karina not only has natural talent, she’s also worked exceptionally hard for a very long time. As  she will testify, there’s no fairy Godmother and no magic wand either.

“Destiny, quite often, is a determined parent. Mozart was hardly some naive prodigy who sat down at the keyboard and, with God whispering in his ears, let music flow from his fingertips. It’s a nice image for selling tickets to movies, but whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work. Without learning and preparation, you won’t know how to harness the power of that kiss.”
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Yet, I am simply grateful to be a part of it, find acceptance even on an off night, and to be able to see Miss Karina dance up close and appreciate all the detail that goes into being a brilliant dancer. Not only for my own benefit, but also for my daughter. Since I’ve been doing these adult dance classes, we’ve been able to share a common language and last weekend when I saw her draw a semi-circle in the sand with a pointed foot, I knew exactly what she was doing.

“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.”

Martha Graham

 

dance feet

Secret dance business. We only reveal our feet.

“My feet are dogs”.

Rudolf Nureyev

So, last night at the end of our class, I lined everyone up for a few photos. I’ve really been hanging out to photograph all our feet. While this might seem strange, for me our diverse range of footwear reflects who we are. There were socks, joggers, toe shoes, jazz shoes… as well as me wearing my pink satin ballet slippers with the satin ribbons to a contemporary class. We are a motley crew who take our dance seriously and work hard. Yet, there’s also this constant laughter, good humour, fun personalities as well as the joy of belonging and being part of the dance, which is an incredible feeling all by itself.

I don’t know why more creatives don’t cross-train and do some painting, dance, try some artistic photography with an SLR instead of their “camera phone”. While cross-training has become standard for athletes, I get that sense that creatives are still very much absorbed by their thing and it’s a rare soul who ventures beyond the usual streams which go together. In the performing arts, you hear about being the “triple threat”. That means you can dance, sing and act. Yet, I’m not aware of an equivalent term for someone who can write, do photography and say graphic design.

There’s so much to be gained from stepping beyond our comfort zones and what we’re naturally good at and enjoy. Instead of every writer writing about what it means to be a writer, you can write about the exhilaration of dance from an inside perspective instead. You’re not just a voyeur watching life pass by through the keyhole. You’re living it too.

That is, even if you’ve only got duck feet.

Do you dance?

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 26th March, 2027.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’ve struck it lucky this week. After weeks and weeks of torrential rain, today I can finally offer you a cup of sunshine, which, when you’d been deprived of sun for so long, is pure gold and way better than a measly tea or coffee.

The sun is shining. So, why on earth am I sitting inside on my laptop when I should be outside seizing the rays?

It’s okay. I’m working on it. I’m still waking up and trying to psyche myself up for my “twenty minute walk”. Now that the rain’s stopped, I’ve run out of excuses for the physio. So, I’ve gotta: “Move it! Move it! Move it!” I almost feel like praying for rain. And for all of you motivation types, I know I’ll enjoy it once I get started and that it’s about time I went and checked out the beach before Winter sets in, but the power of the couch is very alluring.

I am finally starting to get a bit of direction and focus at last.

About a month ago, I received a rather generous assistance package through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This included a physio, Occupational Therapy and psychology combo as well as a personal mentor, 9 hours of cleaning and a budget to really Spring clean the house and get it back in order. Ten years of chronic illness have truly swamped the place!! So, at the moment we’re getting started. Friday, I began the dreaded process of sorting through about 5 in trays, hoping that by now, all that paperwork was well and truly redundant and headed straight for the WPB (waste paper bin AKA recycling).

Woy Woy March 20

Taken on one of my recent “ten minute walks”.

The other advantage of getting rid of this excess paperwork, is that it distracts the mentor from culling my collections. After all, if anything is well into that endangered category of “not being used for the last 6 months and collecting dust”, it’s my collection of antique and vintage tea cups. Moreover, even I have to admit there’s considerable “excess”. However, before I do the hard yards sorting through my beloved “old ladies”, I’d much rather throw out the old school notes.

1936 Eunice in London

Meanwhile, I’ve been head down tail up transposing newspaper articles about my grandmother’s career as an international concert pianist. These started going online the week of her funeral, which was rather freaky at the time when articles from 1935 suddenly started rising to the surface. I am viewing her career through a much broader social context, which is much more time consuming but has created a much more interesting story line. For example, there was a review of a London performance which she’d kept as a clipping in her scrapbook. However, when I found it online this week, I read the full article which mentioned the arrival of Sudeten Jews in London in 1938 and how Jewish children were being adopted by English families. It’s fascinating reading history forward instead of reverse, which, of course, is how it was experienced.

One thing which has been quite interesting about researching my grandmother’s journey, is that I am reading all these facts, stories etc as her grand-daughter, a writer-storyteller and researcher and NOT primarily as a musician. I read the list of her performance pieces like a shopping list, yet without the  recognition. I’ve been ploughing through the articles and trying to get through them all and so stopping to listen to the music itself hasn’t been a priority. However, I finally Googled Beethoven’s Waldstein and a few others, and they were as familiar to me as breathing. They were such a part of my childhood and I remember falling to sleep to them on my parents’ laps. It’s so precious to relive these moments, even if it is through the exceptionally humble speakers on my laptop. So, I am inspired to listen to these more and to get the stereo operational. That is, if that thing is still called a stereo!

Meanwhile, real life realities always beckon me back from the joys of research and discovery. I’m finalising my daughter’s application for the local high school, while we wait on the results of the selective schools’ test. This involves an academic test for selective class and three auditions for the CAPA or performing arts stream. These auditions are filling me with dread. STRESS x 3 is not something to look forward to and I am becoming quite an adept motivational coach as she does various auditions. It’s just lucky that I’m a natural performer. It’s just an ironic twist that I don’t have an act, unless you include stand-up comedy after my latest trip.

dancer box

Just as well I have my own creative and stress outlet. Tomorrow night, I have my last contemporary/jazz dance class for this term. I am truly going to miss these classes. We have so much fun. Not only with the dancing, but with the hilarious commentary, my pink satin ballet shoes with ribbons attached and the way so many of us seemingly “breathe out” during these classes. I know this sounds like a paradox, because learning dance as an adult sounds very intense and it’s such a perfectionist thing, but we’re not trying be prima donnas. We’re wanting to stretch ourselves physically, psychologically and philosophically and laugh from head to toe. It’s magic…even if my dancing has a way to go!

I have cut back on writing on my blog this year. However, I am still enjoying writing my weekly flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers. You can read this week’s effort here.

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been great and that the week ahead goes well for you too!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Nerd In the Brain. You can join in the  Linky.

Xx Rowena

Return of the Dancing Queen.

“I like attractive people who aren’t so terribly aware that they are attractive… people who aren’t afraid to roll on the floor and make fools out of themselves.”

Bob Fosse

Watch out world! The Dancing Queen is back.

Tonight, my dance class kicked off again for the New Year, and I was there with bells on. Well, I was actually still wearing my pink satin ballet slippers, pink ballet tights and a new addition…the black “tutu” I picked up from Vinnies (charity shop) last weekend.

While this might all sound pretty “normal”, it was a contemporary/jazz/lyrical class. For the uninitiated that means you DO NOT WEAR BALLET ATTIRE!!! However, I’ve created my own space with my pink satin slippers and they’ve sort of become “me”. Besides, they really are too pretty to hide away in my cupboard, now that we’ve changed codes. By the way, I’m not the only one who’s turned up to class with a certain je ne sais quoi either. Our adult dance class has a few subversive elements.

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While you might find someone with limited mobility is an unlikely dancer, perhaps that’s why dancing has suddenly become so important to me. That when something gets snatched away, you realize how precious it is and you want to grasp it with both hands and swing from the chandelier. Moreover, I’ve also found a safe and accepting place to dance and we’re a great bunch of people!! That has certainly made a world of difference! I can simply have a go. Do my best and hold onto that sense of sheer exhilaration for as long as I can.

I’ve also realized, now that I’m nearing 50, that I’m finally stepped out of my metaphorical cage. Indeed,  I’ve finally found my wings.It’s such a shame, in a way because I’ve lost a lot of time and they were always there waiting for me. However, I guess that’s why you have to earn your wings. They need to be appreciated, valued, treasured and used. They’re not just pretty ornaments.

Like so many, my reluctance to dance and my paralyzing self-consciousness,  wasn’t self-imposed. The cage came from outside. That constricting peer pressure, which decreed that only the cool girls could dance. That anyone as “unco” as me, shouldn’t be seen dead on the dance floor. Rather, you had to hide yourself away.

Yet, dancing is for everyone and by denying people the opportunity to dance and set themselves free in the physical realm, you’re cutting them off from their soul.

That’s not just rhetoric either.

While the context is a bit different, I still remember that dreadful scene in Dead Poet’s Society where Neil’s Dad wouldn’t let him perform in the play and pursue a career in the theatre, and he took his life. He couldn’t live being so estranged from himself.

That’s an important scene to keep in mind as a parent for a multitude of reasons.

Anyway, I digress. Getting back to tonight’s class…

Tonight’s class was inspired by the choreography of Bob Fosse. Fosse was born in 1927 to a performing family and hit the vaudeville stage at a young age. In addition to his more traditional dance education, Fosse had first-hand experience with the burlesque style of dance, and this informed much of his choreography. One of his earliest dance creations, choreographed at the age of 15, was a suggestive nightclub number featuring girls wearing ostrich feathers. This early moment hints at the larger thread of sensuality that would run through all of his work. However, his work isn’t purely burlesque. It is its own unique amalgamation that results in cool jazz movements.

“Live like you’ll die tomorrow, work like you don’t need the money, and dance like nobody’s watching.”

Bob Fosse

However, Bob Fosse was another world away tonight, and my eyes were glued to my teacher, Miss Karina Russell, who translates professional dance into something I can almost follow. By that, I mean something I can almost write about. The actual doing needs a lot more work. My  arms and legs were all over the place, which is to be somewhat expected with a new routine but I’m still trying to take in what I see  and am a long way of translating that into my own movements. Yet, not to be too hard on myself, I am on the way and it was only the first take.

Moreover, despite my struggles, I received nothing but encouragement. We had fun, laughed and I stretched myself beyond my comfort zone and also extended my body and mind beyond the width of my laptop. That’s important in itself. I spend hours writing, researching and not stretching my body beyond my chair.

Have you ever attended an adult dance class? Why or why not? How did you feel about it? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

 

Christmas Post.

We hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas.

Ours was a wonderful Christmas. Indeed, what I think was my best Christmas in quite a few years. My health is really good. I’ve been in remission for almost 3 years now without having the blood transfusions of IVIG I’d been having every 3 weeks for the preceding 5 years. Finally, I was actually able to raise my head off the tarmac and enjoy take off…yippee!

I obviously don’t know what Christmas was like at your place, but it was chaos at ours. Yet, amidst the multifarious layers of ripped Christmas rap rolling around like tumbleweed underneath the Christmas Tree, there was some structure, tradition and a respect for the true meaning of Christmas.dsc_5189

I won’t go into all of the presents but my husband bought us a double hammock each in a frame for Christmas. This will be great for getting through all the books I gave the rest of the family, some I must confess with a vested interest. After loving The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, I gave my husband The Best of Adam Sharp. Of course, he was cynically wondering whether this book was going to live up to his first two novels. I bought my daughter an intriguing book with some text but largely drawings which had been recommended by my friend’s teenage daughter. My Dad thought the book was a crock and that her “gums were flapping”. However, when it comes to picking a book for my daughter, a girl a couple of years older is a better judge in my mind.

Gee, isn’t Christmas fun?!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself because we haven’t left the house yet and I’ve accelerated right through Christmas lunch, afternoon tea, the pool, the royal splinter. I’d better watch out. I’m accelerating so fast, that I’m about to get a speeding fine and double demerits are in force. Just as well Santa’s already been, or I’d be at Number 2 on his Naughty List. That is after Lady, who is still sitting at Number 1 after devouring our home-made Christmas Cake last week.

Somehow, we managed to force the front door shut without the rising tide of pre and post Christmas whatsymecallits falling out the door. Actually, make that a tsunami, not that I’m being melodramatic and pushing the limits of exaggeration beyond all credibility. I’d never ever do anything like that!

Our approach to cleaning up for Christmas? Abandon house!

The dogs didn’t even get a bath and did I hear the roar of lawn mowers somewhere in the distance? Well, they mysteriously by-passed our place as well. Then again, you need to have a lawn to mow. I haven’t had time to give our lawn much of an inspection lately, but I think it’s been burned to a crisp. Incinerated by the hot Australian sun… a bit like a snag on a BBQ. They’re supposed to be charcoal, aren’t they?

Next, we all piled in the car to drive down to Sydney via the M1 Freeway.

Every year, we regret leaving late and think about the dream run we would’ve had if only we’d left an hour earlier. However, it turned out that leaving our neck of the woods, was pretty much as bad as it got apart from a small stretch of bumper to bumper traffic right near my aunt’s place. By this stage, the turn off was in sight and we could cope with that. By the way, I’d packed two books by Dodinsky for the trip, and they were done and dusted by the end. Have you ever read Dodinsky? I highly recommend it!

My Dad is one of seven and we celebrate Christmas with his family at my aunt’s place. While you’d be excused for thinking there was no structure or order amongst the throng, our day runs like clockwork. My aunt sets the arrival time and the rest of us operate on our own clock. Yet, we somehow conform to the same routine every year. There are the lunchers, the afternoon tea crowd, the early departures, and the lingerers. Among the cousins, there’s also the turn taking now they’ve got married. My husband’s parents have passed away, so we spend Christmas with my extended family every year. A small Christmas isn’t Christmas to me.

I’m not going to go into a blow-by-blow account of Christmas Day, but there were a few stories worth a special mention.

Firstly, beyond the dinner table, my aunt’s swimmhumouring pool becomes the epicentre of our Christmas. Funny that, because it’s been at least a decade since I last made it into the pool. I did take my swimmers yesterday, which was a step forward. However, for some reason, I couldn’t get in.   Didn’t even try. Although it was a hot day, I seriously didn’t want to get wet. Moreover, I wasn’t too sure about revealing so much of my royal whiteness either. Some things are meant to be left covered up.

However, my kids had a ball in the pool. Two of my cousins do a great job entertaining them every year and there’s loads of rough play, horsing around and they really appreciate their exuberance. Naturally, Geoff and I are always most grateful for this…my parents as well. We are well and truly past all of this and much in need of deck chairs instead.

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My cousin approved the use of this photo.

After all my discussions lately about Christmas traditions, Christmas tree decorations and even Christmas Decoration OCD (CDOCD), I thought I’d share my cousin’s addition to the family Christmas Tree. We’re a creative family and a few years ago, my cousin did a course in making theatrical props. By the way, we’re not talking about making sets out of MDF and slapping on a coat of paint either. I don’ t even know what you call it but he make a few hands  and painted them up and over the years, they’ve found their way into the Christmas decorations. So, I wasn’t surprised to spot the hand at the top of the Christmas Tree this year. Apparently, it’s become tradition. I like that because Christmas can become so stiff and stifled by perfectionists getting it uber-right that it’s tied Christmas up in a straight jacket and has no sense of fun. No place for anybody even slightly lateral-minded. This tree was like a celebration of the individual, being yourself and accepted no matter who or what that might be, and almost giving the judgement crew “the bird”.

I’m proud to be a part of this family with all its flotsam and jetsam where we’re all accepted for whoever we are in all our creative or otherwise glory.

So far, we’ve covered the pool and the Christmas tree and next we’re moving onto the royal splinter.

A splinter? How does a splinter become newsworthy?

Well, when my son is involved, even breathing can easily be turned into a drama of epic proportions. Since he was not the recipient of the royal splinter, there was bound to be some form of “interesting” live entertainment. As he’s now almost thirteen years old, it takes more than a small splinter to get the waterworks going. Yet, oh ye of little faith, there was still plenty of scope for drama. Well, he was actually rather restrained, especially for him but there was still the matter of getting the splinter out and not being at home, this was naturally more complicated. We needed implements…needle, tweezers and we were in luck. After my aunt offered to remove the splinter, we announced “we have two doctors in the house, why am I doing this?” So, the royal splinter, which was a couple of millimetres in length and lodged at the very end of his finger behind the fingernail, was to be removed by my uncle the plastic surgeon borrowing my aunt’s reading glasses. My son was in good hands. This uncle is a plastic surgeon who’s known for reattaching and no doubt detaching all sorts of bits and pieces in very extensive operations. Yet, although the royal splinter was obviously well beneath his capabilities, he approached it with the very same thought and concern. We were given a thorough report and advised to apply antiseptic when we arrived home. It was touching to see my uncle at work and appreciate his bedside manner and compassion. That we’re never too big or too great to help out with life’s splinters with love, compassion and respect.

By the time we went back to my parents’ place for “dinner” and presents we were more stuffed than the Christmas turkey itself. So, all I managed to squeeze and I mean SQUEEZE in was a small slice of pudding, with Mum’s homemade hard brandy sauce and equally homemade custard.

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Aside from the long drive home, Christmas 2016 was done and dusted. Well, we still had a Gingerbread House to demolish but that could wait.

How was your Christmas? Hope you had a great one but if yours was reflective and touched by sadness, I send my love and hugs. Take care.

Love & Christmas Blessings,

Rowena