Category Archives: Chemotherapy

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th June, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I don’t know whether I should be apologizing for taking an extended blogging break, or whether you’ve all been grateful for a reprieve. Only so many hours in a day and all that. I get it. Truly, I do. Indeed, that’s why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and have been blogging much more intermittently this year. Real life has overtaken me, and I’m also striving towards what must be a writer’s Holy Grail…finishing a book and getting it published (or indeed, self-publishing).

My contribution to the the great libraries of the world, book shops, op shops, and no doubt recycling bins; is a compilation of short biographies of Australian soldiers who served in WWI and fusing family background, battle details, letters home and diaries where available with a focus on the psychological aspects of war and the inner man. How did they survive physically and mentally? Of course, so many didn’t make it and instead “went West” as the saying went. So, death and dying is also a significant aspect. I’ve been working on this for about 18 months now, especially since the horrendous Australian bushfires and their choking smoke forced me underground, only for Covid to send me back into my bunker not much later. Indeed, I’ve been calling this my “Covid Project.

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on.

On Monday, I attended my dear friend, Lisa’s funeral. We’ve only been friends for just over six months, and yet we connected very deeply and neither of us thought our friendship was going to be that short. Lisa’s been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer for eight years. She’d had three brain surgeries, and after the cancer started eating through her spine, there was more surgery and she had a rod put in her spine. She was married with three boys, and the youngest was only two when she was diagnosed and he’s now eleven. Sometimes, people turn to survivors like Lisa, and be inspired by their strength. After all, they’re a personification of the miraculous. They can also became what my mother calls “a case” where they suddenly become the pet project and helping them out seems to become more about people gaining Kudos that actually helping the person themselves. You can also feel sorry for them. However, when we first met Lisa, she looked relatively well and she had the most beautiful smile. We went on picnics, kayaked, saw in the New Year, the visual overrode the intellectual knowledge that she was already on borrowed time, although I was somewhat prepared to lose her. I made a conscious decision to love her, be close without holding back, even though I knew it was going to hurt like hell. However, we both needed each other and I’m glad I was there to help lift up the last six months and help her feel loved. Indeed, when a friend went to see her, she said she felt “overwhelmed by love”. A friend and I spoke at her funeral, and although we didn’t know her for long, we knew her well. At least, the Lisa she was then which is after marriage, kids, cancer…quite a lot of life.

Have you found that it’s hard to know quite what to do and where to turn after the funeral is over? That’s what I felt last week. There was a part of me which thought going back in time to before we met would be the answer. However, you can’t do that and I don’t want to wipe out our friendship or forget her. I’ve put her photo in a frame. That’s a start. I wrote a song, a poem. I think about her much of the time, and I baked her boys a cake. I can’t change the world, and as Benjamin Franklin and other before him in various variations wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Anyway, dealing with my grief took me to my usual haunt…the op shops. Never knock a bit of retail therapy. As long as it doesn’t take you too far into debt, it can work miracles and if you’re going round the second-hand charity stores like me, you can save a small fortune (not that you’d be able to afford all of this stuff new.) I am particularly thrilled with my new to me fleecy-lined, purple jacket. I also managed to get my mum a beautiful designer top for her birthday.

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By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had to buy our son his first suit to wear to the funeral. I had hope to buy him something smart from the op shop. However, he insisted on something new, and who doesn’t feel fabulous in something special that’s new? He looked incredibly handsome, and I was so proud of him, especially because he’s spent his whole life with his own serious ill mother, and the parallels to our situation were obvious. Why not me? I wouldn’t say I have survivor’s guilt. It’s more a case of survivor’s question marks.

Yesterday, Geoff and I went for a walk. Naturally, I needed to lighten my mood and walking is a true-blue healer. Moreover, we went for a bushwalk where there are some absolutely breath-taking coastal views. So, we were immersed in nature. The sun was shining, although being Winter here, it was a little chilly, but we certainly weren’t rugged up. Indeed, I think it was about 16-18 degrees Celsius. Not bad for Winter, hey?!! One of the highlights was finding a flannel flower, and it looks like there’ll be a carpet of them in about a month’s time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye out. While you’d think I’d be back at this spot at least once a week given it’s alluring beauty, I usually only get here a few times a year. As usual, life gets in the way.

Flannel Flowers

I should mention that I have two dogs up on my lap- Lady and Zac. Nothing like a drop in temperature to attract the dogs to a warm lap, and having my keyboard perched on their backs doesn’t seem to bother them – or the constant clicking. They’re also keepin me toasty warm.

How have you been? I hope you’ve been well. I look forward to hearing from you and catching up.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Thursday Doors – Kirribilli, Sydney.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

Today, we’re heading down to Kirribilli, located smack bang on stunning Sydney Harbour. Indeed, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is parked here with one foot in Kirribilli, and the other planted across the water in Miller’s Point. Not unsurprisingly, the Bridge dominates Kirribilli with its sheer physicality, but also in terms of sound, whenever a train rumbles across all that steel with its echoing, idiosyncratic roar.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from Kirribilli today. In so many way, the bridge is the gateway (or door) into Sydney.

In a sense, our trip to Kirribilli represents the opening of an invisible door. This door marks the dividing line between the safety of home, and the more risky context of Sydney and Covid 19. Although there hasn’t been a case of community transmission for over a month, clusters have seeming sprung up out of nowhere, but usually connected somehow to the hotel quarantine program. While contact tracing does a fabulous job of identifying potential spread, it doesn’t actually prevent you from catching it. It only tells you after the fact. Due to my auto-immune disease and associated lung fibrosis, I am at a heightened risk of catching the virus if it’s around, and also having a more dire outcome. So, for me, caution makes a lot of sense, especially with the vaccine around the corner so I don’t have to lock myself away forever.

However, there’s also a risk that avoiding medical treatment for these conditions could also be harmful, and all my specialists are located at Royal North Shore Hospital about a 15 minute drive North of Kirribilli, and I often go to Kirribilli afterwards as a reward.

So, that’s how I ended up having lunch with my husband, Geoff, in Kirribilli and comin across this really beautiful and richly ornate door as we walked down to the water’s edge.

Isn’t it something?!!

However, even to the most one-eyed door lover around, it still couldn’t compete with this…magnificent Sydney Harbour.

The thing that particularly struck me about Sydney Harbour today was just how empty it was. It’s usually a hive of activity with ferries criss-crossing the waterways and people moving around on the foreshore. There could well have been one of those towering cruise ships in port, as was often the case before covid. Sydney Harbour isn’t usually this empty, even on a weekday.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Kirribilli, and I apologize for being a one-door-wonder this week, but hopefully this is a sign of things to come and I’ll soon be able to get out and about more and venture further afield.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion.

Best wishes,

Rowena

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

Sunset Walk At Patonga, NSW.

Lately, I’ve been getting itchy feet. Real itchy feet. Not surprising after being in lock down for at least 2 months, and not being allowed to leave the house except for grocery shopping and my eternal arch-nemisis….exercise. I wasn’t too sure whether meandering along with my camera, especially pausing to take in the view or stick my camera up a tree, counted as “exercise”. Or, whether this seemingly innocent escape for a woman with mobility issues, might be considered “illegal”. After all, a girl simply going out on a driving lesson with her mum in Victoria, was pulled over and initially fined $1652 until sense and intense media pressure prevailed. I didn’t want to land myself in that kind of trouble.

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The Jetty at Patonga looking towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach. 

 

Restrictions are really starting to lift here in Australia now, especially considering the exceptionally low transmission rates we have here. However, although our kids went back to school this week, I’m still practicing social distancing and largely staying home. Besides, it’s almost Winter here. I’m as snug as a bug in a rug getting on with my WWI research and writing projects, which I view as my job. At least, that’s the direction I’m working towards. I also have a fairly extensive, global network of blogging friends and we get on really well.

Rowena Patonga 2020

Here I am going for my walk. No selfie capabilities on my SLR. Besides, I quite fancy being a lurking shadow in all sorts of distorted dimensions. 

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk

and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

I don’t really NEED to go out, but that can also become a problem. Unfortunately, my arch-nemesis exercise, along with sunlight and the great outdoors where I can stretch my wings and almost inhale the ocean, are almost critical for my mental health and happiness.

 

So, feeling rather virtuous, I headed over to Patonga Beach on Thursday afternoon. It’s  about a 15 minute drive away, taking us past last week’s Water Tower Walk Water Tower Walk, Pearl Beach, and we keep driving through Brisbane Waters National Park with nothing but bush on either side and the road stretching through seeming nothingness ahead. This area is so untouched and seemingly remote, that it’s hard to believe we’re only a stone throw from Sydney.

Lorikeet in a flame tree

Here’s one of our stunning Rainbow Lorikeets feasting in an Illawarra Flame Tree at Patonga. The tree was full of them chatting away.

The last stretch of the drive passes through some sharp twisting bends as you descend the hill into Patonga. After driving through the bush, the tranquil sea-side village of Petonga, which means “oyster” in Aboriginal, feels like something out of the set of an old movie. Patonga is nestled on Brisk Bay, which is on your left where there’s a rustic jetty heading out towards the Hawkesbury River on the extreme right and Palm Beach, across the other side of Pittwater on your left. There’s also a children’s playground here on the waterfront, which no longer captures my attention now that our kids are in high school. However, before our local park was given a massive upgrade, I used to take the kids to a park located next to the camp grounds at Patonga, which was almost on the beach.

However, today I was fairly rather reflective because my sister-in-law is starting treatment for breast cancer, and my thoughts are very much with her. Not only because she’s family and because what she’s going through is rotten, but I went through chemo a few years back for my auto-immune disease and it’s a frigging rollercoaster, even just from a logistical point of view. This time, it’s my turn on the sidelines, and I want to do a good job of that. Indeed, I want to do a better job of what I’m doing so far, because the card I wrote and it was an extensive message straight from the heart) is still sitting in the loungeroom and I’ve been thinking of a gift but haven’t got there yet. You know, there’s that going round in circles and wanting to get that gift that’s going to hit exactly the right spot, and heaven forbid in your desire for perfection that you actually end up doing NOTHING!! My goodness. Haven’t we all been guilty of that.

 

 

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Frolicking in the wonders of nature, able to walk through the clouds.

Anyway, I picked up a few shells along the beach to include in my letter to my sister-in-law. I hope she appreciates them for what they represent, and that she doesn’t take me for a cheapskate.

Sea gulls Patonga

Sea gulls might be common but I still love them. They’re such characters and theis flock was just standing in the shallows on the beach looking like they were really enjoying themselves and I had to join in their festivities. Besides, they made me feel like less of a lone ranger and part of a wider belonging. 

So, going on this walk was really good for dealing with all of that, as well as all the fall out from the coronavirus and the kids suddenly being forced back to school full time  this week by the NSW Education Minister. As my walk continued and the sun started to set behind a row of incredibly majestic Norfolk Pines, my footsteps seemed to lighten as all these stresses wafted out to sea and far away.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher

storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

― Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

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Sunset Behind the Norfolk Pines, Patonga. 

Of course, by this stage, I’m castigating myself for staying indoors and not getting outside amongst all this more often. What I appreciated, perhaps, beyond all else,was soaking in that vast expanse of space, and being able to stretch out as far as the eye can see. Even the most minimalist of homes, still has four walls, and I can assure you that our place has a hell of a lot more. You could say that the interior is made of books and tea cups with a pile of musical instruments thrown in.

Meanwhile, the sun has set on another day, but we did make it next door for a chat with our elderly neighbours who are family to us. They live behind us across a back lane way and one thing I’ve loved about lock down, is that is been perfectly acceptable to get around in your pyjamas. I bought a fancy pair of Peter Alexander PJ pants with are hot pink with white circles and are pretty shmick. I had no qualms about wandering out the back gate over to their place in my PJs with my ugg boots on. It was so incredibly relaxing. You could even say liberating. It’s been the same on zoom. At first, I used to get dressed, but now we’re all in PJs, dressing gowns and the other night I even watched an interview with Cate Blanchet and Stephen Colbert via zoom and both of them were in their PJs. It made for such a relaxed and intimate interview.

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What a magnificent sunset and I just love the feathery white clouds floating over the lingering blue sky. 

“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”

― Roman Payne

As tempting as it is to immerse myself in nature and escape the heaviness and responsibilities of life, there’s always that rubber band drawing me back home in both good and bad ways. At times, I really resent having to rush home from my sunset photography jaunts to get dinner cooked for the family. However, I really cherish our family and all that being part of a family entails. Sure, there are responsibilities. However, there’s love, connection, intimacy, belonging along with frustration, irritation, expense, and that sense all round that someone’s clipping your wings. As much as we need togetherness, we also need time apart, space to do our own thing and the capacity to create and be a part of stories which we might choose to share with the family and have something to talk about. Moreover, this sense of family is also what you make it. You can build your own family. You do not need to be alone and these families are just as legitimate as your more conventional families. Blood is thicker than water, but the bonds of experience and caring for each other and especially being in the same boat are also strong.

I’m not quite sure how I reached that point after setting out on a walk around Patonga. However, with everything going on in the world at the moment, for many of us, it’s a time of deep questioning and thinking about just about every aspect of life and it will be interesting to see what life will be like on the other side. I for one am not planning on going back to how it was before and am working towards creating my own new world. How about you?

I hope you and yours are well and staying safe.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Acknowledgement & Gratitude…2020 Revised.

Last night, I was going through my list. I don’t know if everyone has a list. However, I’m pretty sure most of us have that list we go back to when something else goes wrong, and for some of us this list of our misfortunes goes round and round in our heads and conversations like a broken record. Indeed, this list can be a millstone round your neck, and it’s no doubt taken many over the edge.

Bilbo watchin the sun set Palm Beach

This photo of Bilbo seemed to sum up the reflective pre-acknowledgement stage of the process.

While some advocate an almost aggressive, constant state of positivity no matter what, I prefer a different course. Indeed, I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about acknowledging the bad stuff which is the equivalent of popping over to visit a friend, without moving in. Indeed, you ACKNOWLEDGE what has happened, and then you you can sit with it for a bit, grieve, process and try to understand what’s happened and why, learn your lessons and even make some constructive fixes if required. However, at the end of that time, you pack your bags and you’re out of there, although you’ll probably pop back for a visit now and then, but as I said, this is very different to moving in. After all, there also comes a time where you need to leave the past behind. I can groan a bit when I hear people talking about moving forward while there’s still a splinter in the wound and it’s all starting to fester. However, not moving forward at all, even without the smallest and almost invisible baby steps, isn’t good either.

Bilbo and paw prints

However, while acknowledging the crap, we also need to be grateful for what’s gone well, or the good things which have come out of the bad. Take on board the yin and yang.

Thinking more about it, gratitude is also a form of acknowledgement, and that when you put these two processes together, it resembles a process which is very familiar. Stacking up your wins and losses. However, if you’re going through a particularly hard time (and let’s face it 2020 hasn’t been great), you might need to work particularly hard to find anything at all to be grateful for. Or, you might feel that the weight of all you’ve lost weighs down that side of the scales so much, that the wins feel pretty light weight and very much out of balance. Indeed, that the hand you’ve been dealt is mighty unfair.

Jonathon Heart Hands 2011

Holding love in his hands…our son painting when he was about 7 years old. What a beautiful young man. 

That’s why I’ve put these two words together as bookends to give them added strength and weight, and to encourage us to see how these two seemingly opposing forces can actually come together and ultimately get us out the other side.

Today, I spent a few hours writing down my Acknowledgements & Gratitudes. Rather than sharing the extended version right now, I thought I’d quickly list them down so people wanting more of a quick snapshot could take that in, rather than getting bogged down. However, as it turns out, even this is not a snapshot.

Quite frankly, in many ways, I’d like to return to New Year’s Eve 2019 when 2020 was all set to be a year of perfect vision.

Meanwhile, this is the bad stuff I’d like to acknowledge so far:

Rowena bogged Western Australia

Getting bogged in a remote sand dune in WA near the Pinnacles around 1990. I’m smiling on the outside but freaking out and seriously concerned about our well-being. 

Acknowledging the Bad Stuff

1) The catastrophic Australian bush fires. During the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season, 34 people were killed directly while 417 died from smoke inhalation. The impact on our wildlife was absolutely devastating killing around one billion animals, and destroying over 18 million hectares of bush. 5,900 buildings including over 2,800 homes were also destroyed. Despite living well away from these bushfire areas, the dense choking smoke which went on to travel several times round the globe, forced me inside dependent on the air-conditioner to breathe. In hindsight, there were a few times I should’ve gone to hospital, but I didn’t want to be a pest. For awhile there, I was literally hovering in the balance.

2) The Coronavirus. When I think back to New Year’s Eve 2019, it looks like we were like the passengers and crew on board The Titanic feeling utter invincible as it sailed at breakneck speeds through waters dotted with deadly icebergs. When I first heard about the outbreak in Wuhan, China I thought it was going to be like SARS and that it would largely stay over there and leave Australia alone. Our geographical isolation is a blessing and a curse, and means we often miss out. While, our experience has been exceptionally good to date, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an impact. As the number of cases initially started to increase, they matched the same trajectory as Italy, and we were expecting things to be a lot worse.

Here’s how the toll of Covid 19 stacks up today on the 20th May, 2020:

Worldwide                                                              Australia

Cases:                         4.89 million confirmed                                        7 069 confirmed

Recovered:                1.69 million                                                            6 411

Deaths:                       1.69 million                                                            100

3) Lock Down due to the Coronavirus/Covid 19. People isolated, businesses closed. Massive job losses. Everything completely out of synch and out of order.

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Even the poor old park bench was in lock down and wrapped up in red tape.

4) I developed a chest infection in March which developed into a repetitive barking cough, asthma and gasping for air well after the infection itself had  cleared. The timing couldn’t have been much worse, just as cases of coronavirus is NSW were rapidly increasing and starting to match Italy’s trajectory. It was not a time where anyone wanted to be heading to hospital, especially someone with dodgy lungs. There was also the concern that I’d end up competing for one of those rare as hen’s teeth ventilators. Or, given my poor health and disability status, I might just be left to die in the corridor (Thank goodness I gave my lung specialist a Christmas card last year!! Next year, I’d better give him a packet of Tim Tams as well).

5) Our son’s school history through Europe was cancelled on the 2nd March, when the NSW Education department banned all out of state excursions. At the time, there were minimal infection rates in Australia and it was just on the cusp of the spread to Italy. So it was very early in the peace and were were feeling a bit cheated. Was this really necessary? They were due to fly out on Wednesday 8th April bound for Berlin. From there, they were heading to Munich, Rome, Sorrento, Pompei, Naples, the French Battlefields of WWI and Paris. What a trip of a lifetime, just gone up in smoke. At the time, we were also unsure of refunds and they’ve only just started coming in. All up, it was a huge hit.

6) In late February, I had a really nasty fall dropping our daughter off at a dance audition when I tripped over a significant crack in the footpath. While I didn’t break any bones, I was in rough shape for a few weeks. I also suspect that the stress of the fall exacerbated the chest infection as it was just managing to behave itself til then.

7) Work. Although my husband’s kept his job during lock down and is working successfully from home, both of our teenaged kids had been looking at picking up part-time jobs this year and that’s gone on hold thanks to Coronavirus. I’d also wanted to pick up some work, and those hopes have also been dashed.

ballet shoes

Dance Classes via Zoom have involved both acknowledgment & Gratitude. 

8) Our house has gone from being a home, and is now an office, school, Church, dance studio, Venturer hall, cafe. That’s been a lot to process.

9) Rather than social isolation, we’ve had the whole family at home under one roof almost 24/7. There have been times where that has grated, although nowhere near as much as expected.

10) My violin lessons have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

11) Much of my daughter’s dance activities have been cancelled this year.

Sunrise

Sunrise, Bathurst pre-Covid.

Gratitude For The Good

  1. My husband & kids who live and breath everything with me. As I’m coughing my lungs out and gasping for breath, they’re running for water, reaching for my ventolin, asking if I need an ambulance and wondering whether this is going to be it. Even our three dogs get called into the battle. We also have a lot of good times together in between.
  2. My parents who have been my rocks forever.
  3. Like all Australians, I’m incredibly grateful to our bushfire volunteers and their support networks. They signed up to help, but found themselves fighting inside the very heart of an apocalypse, and they kept going at incredible personal cost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  4. Very thankful for the very generous donations from around the world to help save our precious Australian wildlife, and for carers trying to save them.
  5. For the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, chaplains and scientists who are treating people with Covid 19. Or, who are working towards a deeper scientific understanding of the virus and hopefully towards a vaccine or treatment.
  6. That I haven’t contracted Civid and am still here. Also that I recovered from my chest infection and didn’t need to go to hospital during the Coronacrisis.
  7. For our Australian leaders and medicos who responded quickly and efficiently to flatten the curve and provided us with the information and support we needed to get through. Indeed, we’ve far exceeded our grim expectations and I am so grateful for that!!
  8. For the Australian people (and those around the world) who have stayed home, and continue to practice social distancing. This has saved our bacon. (Well, at least, so far.)
  9. Friends and family who have helped me grapple with life, the universe and everything inside my head, and tried to help me accept the mysteries of God and his role in all of this.
  10. A special thanks to the strangers who stopped and helped when I had the fall mentioned in acknowledgements. A teacher from the school went back and found some ice and she dropped me down at McDonald’s down the road where I was meeting my friend, while a man fetched big band aids, saline and antiseptic from the medical kit in his car.
  11. Grateful that my Church has maximized the use of technology during this time to hold Church online and using zoom so effectively to allow us to keep in touch. It’s meant so much for me to keep in touch.
  12. For making significant progress towards researching and writing my books about WWI soldiers serving in France during WWI.
  13. Humour, empathy and understanding  from family, friends, strangers. It’s helped us all get through this.
  14. My Blog and all the friends I’ve developed over the years and the new ones. I typically experience periods of time each year where it’s difficult, impossible or inadvisable for me to go out and beyond my family, you are my social contacts and community. I really and truly appreciate each and everyone of you, all the more so too, because we’ve never met in person.
  15. For the kids’ school for advice, empathy and consideration while the kids were doing school from home, and for putting in strict social distancing practices for the first two weeks where students were back one day a week.
  16. That my daughter’s dance studio has been providing lessons online and she’s been able to dance and keep her dreams and goals of being a professional dancer alive.
  17. Thankful for our son’s venturer leader who thought of ways of keeping the group connected and engaged during lock down.
  18. That we’ve been able to save some money, and clear my credit card.

    Zac & Rosie dogs grass

    Even our grass is greener in lock down.

  19. That we now have a back lawn that’s green and not looking like a tragic lunar landscape after Geoff wrought the backyard back from the dogs.
  20. I don’t want to thank the NDIS because it’s often my bete noir. However, it continues to make a difference and has funded the supports which have also helped me get through this year, and more more personally challenging times.
  21. Surprisingly, we’ve actually been able to save money during lock down and I actually paid off my credit card. Meanwhile, I have also been grateful for a few online purchases. Thinking I’d be in lock down for months, I bought some new Peter Alexander pyjamas on sale…yippee!!
  22. The beauty of nature and being able to go on extended photography walks and experience that beauty more intimately through the lens and back home, through the pen.
  23. Having family time at home without having to rush around. On this point, I’ve also been grateful our kids were teens and I didn’t have little ones at home with the parks and playgroups closed and needing to teach kids myself at home.
  24. Cooking with my kids.
  25. All the people who have helped and offered to help throughout the years.

……

Well, I’m actually rather surprised that my list of gratitude has more than doubled my acknowledgements. So much is really going well for us.That is, despite my health issues, the coronavirus, being in lock down, grappling with the bushfire smoke. It seems we’ve strangely come out of the first six months of 2020 strangely ahead.

However, I am acutely conscious that isn’t the case for everyone. So, I would like to acknowledge those who are grieving, distraught, experiencing PTSD, trauma, and I send you our love. It’s up to those of us further away from the front line, to support those in the thick of it in anyway we can. What you are experiencing is real. You’re not the only one. You’re not going crazy. Well, you’re not going crazy without due cause. May I encourage you to find local sources of support and encouragement and to try to get out for a walk in the sunshine when you can. It’s certainly helped lighten my load, which you can see, hasn’t exactly been lightweight or just been a recent development either. I also have a few key friends I can share with beyond my family, and I do that myself. That’s the value of community…many hands lighten the load.

I would encourage you to do this exercise for yourselves either on or offline. I found it very constructive, especially this was just another one of those blogging ideas I came up with on the fly. That’s right. It all started out with those two simple words: Acknowledgement & Gratitude…another way of looking at our wins and losses.

I would love to hear from you on this and I hope that you’re okay.

Best wishes and much love,

Rowena

Rowena Victory

This photo was taken during chemo to treat my auto-immune disease, where I was at least looking victorious in the midst of some pretty tough times. I hope and pray that we will ultimately conquer Covid 19 with a vaccine and treatment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Saint & His Shadow…Bilbo Continued.

Writing about Bilbo yesterday has brought back so many precious memories. While it’s easy to canonize the dead and turn them into a saint, they’re still human. Or, in Bilbo’s case, canine but believing he’s human, and he was always treated as such.

Newton Feet Jan 26 20147

One for all and all for one…our feet at the beach taken January, 2014.

For much of the day, Bilbo could pass for a glorious designer floor rug sunning himself in the backyard or sleeping under my desk. However, he had his triggers like the rest of us and the posty was the most predictable one, along with anyone riding a bicycle or walking past with a dog. As a younger dog, he was also a real villain on the lead and he must’ve thought our local footpath was a racetrack to the beach. I’m most surprised we didn’t become air born. He was also particularly protective of the kids. At least, that’s what I blame for his metamorphosis into a lunging, barking, snarling menace when the school bus pulled up. Indeed, it got to the point where we couldn’t take him. He was vicious. He also wasn’t happy when my friend Clare used to pick up the kids and take them to school, while I was recovering from chemo. She did that for at least a couple of months, and yet his manner never changed. He stuck to his guns.

Bilbo feel the fear

Bilbo wasn’t overly inspired to fight his fears.

It’s hard to understand how such a placid, loving dog could change so much. However, like the rest of us he’d also been traumatised by my severe health battles, and we couldn’t explain things to him. Like us, he also knew he was fighting against an invisible force, and he rounded up his own list of suspects however misguided. He’d spent many nights comforting me, and knew something awful was out there somewhere. However,  I couldn’t tell him that with an auto-immune disease, the enemy was within.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Anyway, looking at the photo of me with Bilbo and Lady in the kayak last night, reminded me of another one of Bilbo’s epic stories. A few years ago, my parents had this idyllic place on the waterfront at Palm Beach. It was on the Pittwater side where it was flat water and very tidal. The bay would fill up and empty like a bath with methodical clockwork which we couldn’t ignore. Indeed, we were very much controlled and directed by the tides, and at their mercy. That was fine because we adapted to the rhythms. At low tide, you could go for a walk and at high tide, you could head out on the kayak or the Laser, the little sailboat the previous owners had left behind.

The very first time we headed out on the kayaks was unforgettable. Not just because we were out on the water. We were some distance from home, when we spotted a Border Collie standing on the shore. At first, we were merely excited to see another Border Collie, as you are when you see another dog that looks like yours. However, as we got closer, it soon became obvious this Border Collie was also watching us. Indeed, he was following us along the bank.

Oh no! Our precious, docile floor rug had decided once again, that the sky was falling. It was the end of the world, and he had to save the day. The only trouble was that being totally averse to getting his paws wet, he couldn’t leap in to save us. He was painfully stuck and doing all he could…barking!

Amelia & Bilbo

By the way, I should also point out that Bilbo had gone to great lengths to get out. He’d shewed through the side gate and gnawed through a paling and he’d also run through quite a few backyards to reach his lookout post.

Oh dear! Geoff was off to the local hardware store to buy tools and carry out repairs. Mum and Dad had only just bought the place and we didn’t want to be known as “The Wreckers”.

Of course, this wasn’t Bilbo’s only tale of mass destruction. I might’ve mentioned this before. However, I was in hospital for about 8 weeks when I was first diagnosed with my auto-immune disease The kids were staying with my parents and Geoff kept working while I was in hospital so he could take time off when I got home. Again, not being able to explain things to the dog caused issues. Indeed, it’s hard enough to explain things to the dog at the best of times, let alone when you don’t know what’s happening yourself!!

Well, like so many of us, Bilbo took matters into his own hands. Or, in this scenario, it was more of a case of chewing and digging his way towards enlightenment. He started digging and chewing through the computer network cabling under the house, which was clearly getting in his way as he dug wombat holes perilously close to the foundations. It appeared that he only stopped when he started on a power cable and might’ve had experienced more than a slight tingle.

Geoff arrived home after work, after driving round to see me in hospital and visiting the kids at Mum and Dad’s (which had become his nightly routine) to find out he had no connectivity. Fortunately, the reason we had such an elaborate home network going back about 12 years ago, is that Geoff is a senior network engineer and back in the day when Novel mattered, he was a Certified Novel Network engineer. However, that didn’t mean he wanted or needed to rebuild our home network even though he could, and Bilbo’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Moreover, Bilbo’s complaints to management had clearly gone much further than the usual puppy antics of chewing shoes and disemboweling the stuffing out of his bed. Let’s just say Geoff wasn’t happy and while he was re-installing the network, he also blocked the said pup out from under the house.

Bilbo Jonathon & Amelia Rabbit Ears

However, to be fair to the dog, he’d gone from having me and the kids at home much of the time where he was with us constantly. He was one of us more than the rest of us could ever be, and was the glue at the heart of our family. To go from that, to suddenly  being alone without rhyme or reason must’ve been a huge shock. So, I don’t blame him for staging a four-legged protest. I wasn’t too happy with the situation either.

Bilbo Rabbit Ears

The strange thing about all of Bilbo’s antics and so many of our own, is that once we’ve worked through the initial response and allowed the dust to settle, we actually find these catastrophes funny. They make us laugh. Indeed, life would be so uneventful without the things which give us nightmares. I’m not sure how he psychology or mechanics of all of this works, but perhaps someone out there can enlighten me.

Wet Bilbo

It didn’t happen overnight, but Bilbo eventually conquered a degree of his fear of the water. I look at it now and think how hard it would have been to swim weighed down by his heavy coat.

Meanwhile,  if you’d like to read about laughter’s capacity to get us through the toughest of times, I encourage you to read this very uplifting though very difficult post from Aimee Foster who lost her baby girl when she was a day old: Why It’s Essential to Find Humor At Your Darkest Hour. 

Bilbo watchin the sun set Palm Beach

Do you have any funny dog stories you would like to share? Or, perhaps you’re more of a cat person. Or, perhaps reading this has reminded you of a cherished person you have lost? I would love to hear from you in the comments. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Tough Questions About Self-Isolation.

There’s no doubt that here in Australia we’re poised on the edge of a precipice. It’s now a question of how long the corona-crisis will last, and how we can best protect ourselves and our communities.When it comes to this, the anticipated duration makes quite a difference, because you prepare for a marathon in quite a different way than a sprint. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for a marathon. So, perhaps isolation in its severest form, is something only to be pursued when there is no choice.

The message has been very clear that social distancing is the obvious response to the Coronavirus. Moreover, it’s a no-brainer for people like me with rotten lungs and compromised immunity. However, what that self-isolation entails is somewhat semantic and more a matter of isolating from people. In other words, you don’t necessarily need to stay locked up in your box at home to be isolated. You could be on a boat. Walk well away from people or go and camp out in the bush. Indeed, I saw quite a few different ways of being outside yet self-isolating while I was down at the beach.

 

So, although I’m largely self-isolated at home, the main reason I decided to go for a walk along the beach was to exercise my lungs and try to build up some strength and resilience. My lungs are quite weak at the moment just from my regular lung condition, but they do improve with exercise which clears them out a bit (even though it makes me cough like a trooper). After all, I need to be in the very best health I can muster in case I catch this thing and being under the weather beforehand, I’m playing a losing battle.

Fortunately, our local beach, especially late in the day, is relatively unoccupied. This is quite a contrast to Sydney’s Bondi Beach which was packed on Friday and Saturday with idiot Australians just begging to catch the damn thing. Indeed, as you may have heard, Bondi Beach was shut down on Saturday as a preventative measure. If people aren’t going to think, then law enforcement needs to do the thinking for them.

DSC_8987

Even parts of our beach were looking over-populated. I walked the other direction which was sparsely occupied. 

At our beach today, there were still a few people down between the flags. So, I drove down to a more remote access point where I could stay within my protective bubble of space. No patting dogs or talking to dog walkers and thank goodness I only saw one friend a few metres away who well understood that I could only wave and keep moving. This was all very out of character for me, because I’m usually an absolute social butterfly given half a chance. I had to hide myself away.

DSC_8989

Idyllic and away from the crowds.

I was pleased I went, and immediately felt the psychological benefits. While being locked away inside much of the last couple of weeks has felt okay when I’m there, I felt so liberated to be at the beach again and out of the house.  Indeed, basking in the sunshine, inhaling the sea air and watching the ocean, I felt a surprising sense of exhilaration and well-being. A certainty that this was good for me and to keep looking for safe ways of getting outside, especially at the moment. We live a bit outside of Sydney and while this provides no certainties, it does provide more secluded exit points.

At the same time, I understand that leaving the house at all, goes against the strictest interpretation of advice.  However, if you’re only in self-imposed isolation, there’s no reason why you can’t go bush. You just need to hope you don’t start a movement.  After all, it’s people and public places which are the problem, not the trees.

Of course, once the virus spreads further, I will be bunkered down like a soldier in their trench, except I won’t be throwing any missiles, pineapple bombs or other incendaries over at the enemy. I certainly won’t be hopping over my trench pursuing it with my rifle and bayonet drawn either (been doing too much WWI research). Rather, my strategy is focused on withdrawal and getting myself as fit as possible by eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg, taking my vitamins and getting what exercise I can.

Family photo

Family photo taken 18 months ago.

Unfortunately, my greatest threat is my family. While my husband is now working from home, my son has been home with a cold and our daughter is still going to school and seeing a few trusted friends. She has been self-isolating from the family for some time. So, unless whatever she has can escape under her door like some bubonic slime, we’ll be safe. I’m sure if you have teens you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anyway, as you might have read in my previous post, that’s why we bought a caravan so we can isolate within our family.

I don’t know what the way forward will look like, but for the time being it looks like we need to pull together by staying apart.

How are you and your communities getting on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes and blessings for protection,

Rowena

 

The Countdown to 50…Yikes!

Tomorrow, which is currently approaching faster than a Japanese bullet train, I turn 50 and in so many ways am happy to chant “Fifty not out”, even though I’m not a cricket fan by any stretch of the imagination. After all, when we rewind six years ago before I found out they were were going to give me chemo to combat my rampaging auto-immune disease, I was in dire straits. I was potentially looking down the barrel of 12 months to live. That’s serious stuff for anyone. However, at the time, our kids were nine and seven. They were along way off independence and being able to fend for themselves.

So, I am absolutely exuberantly happy to still be here. I truly appreciate the frailty and transience of life and the need to grab onto it with both hands and carpe diem seize the day.

However, in addition to this gratitude, there is also disappointment. A disappointment which can feel like an arrow straight through my heart.

Of course, it’s only natural that reflecting on my 50 years really intensifies both the good and the bad. It brings out the stuff you don’t think about very often as well as the stuff you leave right at the back of your closet hoping there might just be an imaginary land out the back where it could disappear altogether never to return. Of course it doesn’t though, does it?!! Instead, it sends you a huge birthday card. One of those ones which play a song when you open it up which is too loud to ignore.

Of course, I’m not the only one you has had disappointments. Indeed, while mine have been pretty intense at the time, others have been through worse and even much worse.

Moreover, since I’m still here to tell my tale, I’m considerably lucky. Blessed. Whatever you call it. My glass is more than half full. It’s literally overflowing.

Yet, there is the tear. I’m not going to deny it’s there. Or, wipe it away so no one else can see it. Life is full of ups and downs and I don’t believe we should ever deny those times we’re face down in the mud unable to surface. It is what it is. However, acknowledging that, is very different from getting stuck there.

I haven’t got time now to take this any further at the moment. The clock’s just past midnight and so I’ve already passed from my 40s into my fifties and moved on.

Now, it’s time to get to bed because some wise owl thought it would be fantabulous to welcome in the new day by watching the sunrise with the family. We’re heading off to Pearl Beach about 6.00am when I’m usually snoring and dreaming away.

However, I’ll leave you with this great hit from the Uncanny X-Men:

Stay tuned for more reflections.

Meanwhile, you might want to share how you felt about and experienced your most recent milestone birthday in the comments below.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

G: Goals – Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge

Today, our journey continues through an alphabet soup of motivational quotes especially geared towards writers and creatives working on a big project.

Of course, all of us know that goal setting is important. Indeed, many of us also know that goal setting needs to be SMART:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable 
  3. Achievable 
  4. Relevant
  5. Time-based 

Developing SMART goals is all about removing that fantastic dream-like quality from what you want to get done, and creating an actionable plan for results.

For many creatives, no doubt terms like goal setting and SMART goals sounds way too business-like and we’d prefer to go with the flow.

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can

spend your life running up and down the field and

never score.

– Bill Copeland

However, for me there comes a point where your credibility is at stake. Not just when it comes to other people, but also with yourself. If you’re not even striving towards your life’s goal, what are you waiting for? Life is short. Not only that, it can be shorter than you thought. After all, not everyone receives their full entitlement of four score and ten. Not that I want to be morbid, but I do live under the shadow of a nasty auto-immune disease and I’ve already slipped through the net a few times. That has made me think, but it hasn’t always led to action!

The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is

too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach

it.

– Michelangelo

However, I don’t believe that goals need to be rigid and stuck in the ground like football posts. They can and do change, and it’s important to be responsive. Intuitive.

To be perfectly honest, this is probably something I need to put some more time and focus into. I have worked in small business and been to quite a few seminars and one of the big catch phrases for small business owners is about spending time on the business as well as in the business.

As writers, writing is our business. The same goes for artists, photographers etc. However, we still need to work on our business which includes things like goal setting, planning, keeping our desks and computer files sorted and backed-up. Having the best goals in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have the wherewithal to carry them out and see them through to the end.

Otherwise, they’re just dreams!

Well, so far I’m somewhat keeping up with the annual Blogging A-Z April Challenge again this year and am finding there’s much I need to action from these posts.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Merry Christmas – Weekend Coffee Share.

This is just a brief message to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a Happy, healthy and Wonder-filled New Year.

As you may be aware, I live in Sydney, Australia where it’s looking like we’ll be having a scorchingly hot Christmas and Boxing Day. We’re heading out to Church tonight for Christmas Eve and will be heading to my aunt’s my parents and extended family for Christmas Day. We’ll be catching up with Geoff’s sister from Boxing Day.

I’ve written a few Christmas posts in the last week which may interest you:

Silent Night

A Stinking Hot Christmas (written 2015 for Solveig Warner’s Advent Calendar)

A Sydney Christmas

Christmas Door – David Jones

St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

 

We would like to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Happy Holidays isn’t a phrase we use here in Australia, but I understand it’s used a lot in USA and has its place.

Yet, at the same time, we understand that this time of year is very difficult for many for a variety of reasons and we would also like to acknowledge that. We hear you and I put my hand on your heart and stand alongside you. It’s not easy and while I’ve experienced the most amazing miracles myself, they haven’t come about like clockwork. I haven’t clicked my fingers and hey presto, pulled a rabbit out of my hat. I’ve also found there’s a lot I can do to both improve my lot and also completely shoot myself in the foot and make things worse.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

-TS Eliot

Well, that’s a rather large dose of philosophy and reflection for what’s supposed to be a coffee share. However, so much is shared over a cup of tea or coffee in the real world. Why shouldn’t that be a part of our virtual coffees?

“Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”

-David Letterman

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

PS The photo of me as the elf was taken in the Cancer Centre at Royal North Shore Hospital. I popped down there to pick up some resources for a friend. However, 6 years ago I had a round of chemo (cyclophosphamide) to treat my auto-immune disease, which had started attacking my lungs. Treatment began the week before Christmas with my second dose on Boxing Day, when there was plenty of parking for a change. The treatment worked and I’ve been in remission for 6 years. So, I have much to be thankful for and it’s a reminder not to take the seemingly hum drum and every day for granted.