Category Archives: Compassion

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

louis-vuitton-patent-paradiso-flat-sandals-36-noir-black-00016

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.

Valentine’s Day Hopeful.

It’s not easy being a huge, oversized teddy bear in the minimalist era, especially once love has gone sour.

Once upon a time, Snowy was the personification of love. Basking in the early days of new love, he made her feel really special and sat pride of place on her bed. Of course, she, whoever she was, would’ve splashed  their photo across all social medium platforms: “Look at me! Look what my boyfriend gave me!!!!!”

Back in the day, you couldn’t get a bear big enough!

However, somewhere along the way, the tide turned and Snowy ended up at our local opportunity or charity shop. Worse than that, he was free. Free, yet they couldn’t even given him away. Through the last week,  I’ve seen Snowy sitting in there on his chair. Being a compassionate sort, had to feel sorry for him. Clearly, he was loved and special once upon a time and it had to be rough, even for a bear, to end up homeless and outcast… a dust trap, a space hog and his days as a love token are long gone.

“I used to believe in forever, but forever’s too good to be true”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Anyway, today it’s Valentine’s Day and the volunteers at the Opportunity Shop clearly thought that this was Snowy’s very best chance of finding a new home, new love and live happily ever after. Or, at least until love fades all over again.

Snow Bear 2

I have to admit that seeing Snowy sitting out the front with a red rose on his chest and a tag very reminiscent of Paddington Bear saying “Free”, brought back memories of my own. Not that I recall ever being given a huge, snow bear by any of my ex-boyfriends. However, after my cousin broke up with her boyfriend, and a tribe of snow bears were packaged up and given to my then 2 year old son. His Snowy was about the same size as the one at the op shop and he loved climbing all over him. Indeed, Snowy was so loved, that the stuffing soon got knocked out of him and my son being a theatrical creative type, pulled the rest of the stuffing out and got inside and used Snowy as a bear suit. OMG! He was so cute & absolutely hilarious.

Snow Bear 4

Snowy positioned outside the op shop today hoping to get lucky on Valentine’s Day and find a new home.

So, there could be life after romantic death for our op shop Snowy and that’s why I didn’t bring him home. Having seen how the pups have chewed through one of their beds and pulled all the stuffing out with great delight, I thought he’d be better off with someone else.

I might pop back tomorrow and see whether Snowy found his Valentine.

Meanwhile, hubby gave me a bunch of roses this morning, a stash of gourmet chocolates and after my local bookseller recommended a few philosophical books about love, I gave him a book about Stretcher Bearers through the wars. I know it isn’t exactly a Valentine subject but his uncle was a stretcher bearer in New Guinea in WWII so it had personal resonance. Moreover, I should add that at least it wasn’t the book about Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison. That would’ve been a great Valentine’s Day. Thanks for the last 18 years, darling, but it feels like I’ve been living in prison”. Yes, not buying that book was a very good move.

So, how was your Valentine’s Day? What, if anything did you get up to? Or, is that private?

Before I head off, I should mention that my husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day 2001…17 years ago. Wow! That now feels like another life time ago. Actually, make that two.

xx Rowena

PS When I peered through the op shop window this morning, it seems Snowy had found a new home. His chair was now empty! Thought he might appreciate the Irish Blessing as he embarks on his new life:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Life Was Meant To Be Easy.

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

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

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

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

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

-Christopher Reeve.

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

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

Rowena

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

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

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

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

rowena piano

Playing Moonlight Sonata after chemo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

Leaping into 2018!

Happy New Year!

When it comes to setting New Year’s resolutions this year, I’m as vague as.

While the calendar might be saying we’ve already launched into another year, I’m on Summer holidays and the motor’s barely running. That is, unless it involves leaving the air-conditioned loungeroom, and ducking in and out of the kitchen (which has aptly been renamed: “The Furnace” and that’s with the oven off!) for supplies. My current NY resolution seems to involve indulging in Maggie Beer ice cream. It’s one of those more exclusive gourmet ice creams which come in the smaller tubs, yet costs more than a tub of good ice cream). I’ve also been enjoying a few Ferro Rocher’s. Yum! I blame the dazzling gold packaging for that, along with a chilhood of sneaking teaspoons of Nutella out of the fridge.

Clearly, being naughty seems to be at the very top of my list for 2018!

My New year truly begins when school goes back. That’s when the rubber hits the road and reality hits.

Yellow taxi

Mum’s taxi.

In the meantime, I have set myself a deceptively ambitious project for 2018, which started today.

Being magnetically attracted to the Swedish stationery shop Kiki K, I bought myself two notebooks for Christmas. One is a 365 photo journal where you paste in a photo a day. The other has a blank page for each day. Obviously, they serve a similiar function, but one is just photography while I’ll focus on writing and might even venture into drawing in the other.

Of course, I felt very inspired by these journals when they were battering their eyelids at me from the shelf, even though I could see right from the start, that committing to print out the photos was going to be an obvious hurdle. After all, I don’t think I’ve printed out any photos in the last six months and I’m terribly behind. Clearly, there’s a problem Houston. Everybody taks about setting realistic goals. Not goals that said you straight over the top of Everest barefoot in your bikini.

The next obstacle might seem silly to you, if you’re one of those very good little urchins who really does have “a place for everything and everything in its place. However, losing the journals is a serious concern for me. Indeed, it’s only January 1 (well it is in some parts of the world and I’ve decided to migrate there for a few hours because I haven’t got started yet and I’ve already misplaced the books. Indeed, I’ve even managed to misplace the books while I’m home alone. Well, home alone with three dogs. Before you go blaming the pups, despite continuously chewing anything in and out of reach, they leave plenty of evidence in their wake. So, if they’d eaten my journals, there would’ve been proof…loads of scrap paper alongside the disembowled cushion, which was clearly deceased.

By the time I reach the third obstacle, you’re probably thinking I should wrap these journals up and give them away. Spare myself 365 days of angst bordering on anguish, while I struggle to live up to yet another unattainable dream. Yes, for yours truly, the simplest things in life, usually turn out to be the most complex. After all, who else has a simple electrical cable blow up in a puff of flame and smoke while their husband and ultimate Mr Fix-it is way on holidays? I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m jinxed. I already know.

However, despite all of these short-comings, I am an optimist. I am an optimist to the core and despite all evidence to the contrary and although it might be piled up all around me and starting to teeter and totter, I still believe that I can do it. I will do it and I’ll love doing it and possibly even better still, will love reading back on it down the track and seeing what 2018 was all about.

Yet, when it comes to 2018, at the moment, all but the first page remains a blank.

I’m not sure whether I should be excited or terrified by that. While the last couple of years for us have had their ups and downs, it’s been awhile since we’ve had what the Queen so aptly termed an “annus horribulis” A year so bad, that you’re catapulting into the next with no turning back. That door is shut. Shut shut.

There’s much we can do to improve our chances of having a better year, as well as things we can do to make it worse. At times, it is too easy to forget that we have quite a lot of agency and aren’t just hapless victims of fate. However, it is much easier to take our chances and wing it and complain when the house of cards topples over.

Anyway, as I said, all  but the first page of 2018, remains a blank book. I don’t know if that’s how the rest of you see it, but that’s how it seems to me.

Our daughter starts high school in a month.

That’s a fresh start, at least for her and it will free me up, because I’ll no longer be running her to and from the station everyday. She’ll be local.

That is itself is reason to jump and leap in the air.

That’s liberated me to think about returning to paid work. Well, as long as my health doesn’t pack it in. I’m going to contact a recruitment agency which specialises in disability placement. I think I’m my own worst enemy on this front and need to start talking myself up, rather than regurgitating exhaustive mental lists of all my inadequacies. I’d be fuming at anyone else who talked themselves down like this, and yet I do it to myself. So many of us do.

Perhaps, “be nice to self and throttle that inner critic” could be a very good goal for 2018. Not just for myself. I know so many people who are being held back by themselves in this way. Shooting themselves in both feet before they’ve even walked out the door! Perhaps, we all need to get some bullet proof shoes AND to make sure we wear them!

I’m also trying to keep a clear head and house this year to keep focusing.

Strangely, I actually managed to get about 6 bags of household rubbish out beside the road tonight and booked a council clean up. This has been much easier with the rest of the family away. It simply needed to happen. BTW a few bags of kids clothes also headed North with the family, so I’ve actually made quite a bit of headway.

I also managed to give the dogs their worm and flea treatments. We’re going to be on top of that this year. 1st of the month every month.

Indeed, in 2018, we’re going to become a clockwork family, with all of our components working in synch…a well-oiled machine.

Oh no we’re not!

That’s why we write, dance, sing and sail off against the wind.

We don’t want time to be our master and we don’t want our hearts to beat like a clock, but with expression.

While that might take us against the flow and we might miss a few beats and wander right of track, that’s what it means to be human and perhaps that’s the best resolution each of us can make for 2018.

I am going to be a human being.

Rowena escapes the maze

What are your thoughts about routine, schedules and goals? How do you try to reach a balance?

I look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

Our Son and the Rescue Pup.

This afternoon, I was tapping away on my laptop, when I glanced over and spotted a priceless moment. Our son was snuggled up on the couch with our Border Collie pup, Zac (ie Isaac Newton)  watching The Good Doctor. It’s Sunday afternoon, which quite frankly should be declared a “snooze zone” before having to return to the realities of “The Week” on Monday. Hence, I’d slept in, and was still in my PJs. That explains how I managed to capture the moment. I didn’t need to leave the house, or even my chair. My camera was sitting faithfully by my side, just waiting.

Zac is almost 4 months old, and we’ve had him since he was a little 6 week old pup, along with his sister Rosie. Rosie was meant to be a foster pup, and simply passing through. That was before she got caught in our heart strings. Zac and Rosie have also become inseperable. After all, they’re more than brother and sister. Now that the rest of their litter has dispersed, they’re “twins”.

Rosie & Zac BW

Rosie (left) Zac (right). Not quite identical twins.

Of course, with such young pups, you don’t know anything about their personalities, psychology or outlooks on life. You can only base your selection criterion on things like markings and which pup comes to you first. I was the one who chose Zac, because he had distinctive black and white markings, which I thought looked more like Bilbo. Our daughter chose Rosie as she has a broad, white stripe on her face, which she thought looked like Bilbo. Rosie also has black spots on her legs, which I wasn’t too sure about, but others loved. Both dogs were looking short-haired and Bilbo and every other dog I’ve ever had, has been long haired. However, I reasoned that short hair is better suited to our beach lifestyle. It was a tough choice.

Zac was instantly “my dog”, and he was also the pup most determined to turn a  recalitrant, growling Lady, into “Mum”. Rosie palled up with the rest of the family and was a little more cautious about turning to Lady for love. It soon became clear that Zac and Rosie were inseparable, and that having both dogs could be much less work than the one. They could occupy each other.

Back at the end of June before the pups came along, our beloved Border Collie Bilbo passed away. He was 11 years old and we’d had him since a pup. Back then, our son was 2 years old and our daughter was crawling. So, not only had Bilbo seen the kids go through the childhood years, he’d also been with us through each and every up and down with my severe health struggles. I don’t know whether all of that made him a sensitive soul, but he certainly was a very special dog.

And, Bilbo was also a survivor himself. Indeed, he was only a young pup when I was admitted to hospital for about eight weeks and he went from having the kids and I at home almost every day, to me being in hospital, the kids staying at my parents’ place and Geoff getting home super late from work after touring Sydney seeing the rest of us every day. On top of that, the pup also lived through the trauma. A stress beyond stress.

 

Above: RIP Bilbo.

At least, that’s how we explain Bilbo’s act of determined destruction, which could have killed the wee pup. Bilbo went exploring under the house chewing the the wifi and computer network cables. When an exhausted and irate Geoff retraced his paw prints under the house, he found that Bilbo had even started chewing on an electrical cable and must’ve received a slight zap, which made him stop.

Obviously, that wasn’t the best of times for us.

So, when Bilbo passed away, he took a lot more than memories along with him. There was also the deepest and most compassionate empathy, and an understanding of us which came with walking through the valleys and mountain tops with us and in our hearts.

Lady kids coffee

Lady.

While we have another dog, Lady, she doesn’t have that same sense of empathy or emotional depth…and isn’t quite so melancholy either. She’ll greet you with an uber-enthusiastic wag of the tail, which could almost take your leg off. She has different talents, but she also doesn’t fetch which was a rather difficult gap for us to ignore. We are a ball throwing family and that requires a dog to fetch, even if he was an annoying, obsessed maniac  more often than not.

Zac & Rosie

Zac & Rosie when they first arrived, aged 6 weeks.

Wanting to let our emotions heal before we adopted another dog, we were going to wait until next year and get another pure-bred Border Collie. However, I got word through the pet rescue group that some Border Collie x puppies were coming in. I could also see that our son could use another dog  now. At the time, this was more of a vague hunch than a neon sign.  although until Zac settled in, I had no idea that he had such a special capacity to heal. A capacity not unique to him, but not universal among dogs either. That he has a gift.

Reversing up a bit, not long after Bilbo died, I caught the flu and a nasty respiratory infection. With my underlying health issues, such infections become life threatening and I developed a powerful, incessant cough which was absolutely terrifying. After losing the dog, the kids were particularly concerned this year and didn’t have Bilbo for support.  After all, it was hard times like this, that Bilbo had always been there for every single one of us. Shaken by such fear on top of grief, our son in particular needed the love only a special dog can give.

DSC_6977

That’s why I was so stoked to see our son so snuggled up and entwined with the dog today. As a parent, we so often feel like we’re flying blind.Even when we know we’re doing our best, it’s all to easy to feel like we’re floundering. That despite our best efforts and utilizing every single resource we’ve got, that we’re still getting sucked into the vortex and drowning…along with our beloved child. Seeing our son so relaxed, content fused with the dog and knowing we’ve all made it through the storm, was such a relief. An answer to prayer in a way that made so much sense and yet seems hard to put into words on the weekly praise list…RESCUED DOG SAVES TRAMATISED CHILD.

And, so I’m happy.

In addition to sharing my joy, this photo marks Day 4 of the Seven Day Black Photo Challenge, which a friend roped me into on FB. The idea is that you post a B & W photo every day for seven days and you nominate someone new to take up the challenge every day. Today, I’d like to nominate Trent from Trent’s World.

Have you have a special dog or pet who has whispered magic into your life? Please share.

xx Rowena

Family Life Lessons in a Game of Cards.

Today, we had a family game of three-handed 500 and had so much fun. Moreover, we even invented a new lexicon, which I’ll blame on the cards rather than the players. They could be incredibly uncooperative!

Although playing cards might sound like an activity for a rainy day, it was windy outside and we could even see the Spring allergens in the air with the naked eye. So, we were hibernating inside. Moreover, it’s not only school holidays here, but also a long weekend. While for some, this would signal an increase in activity, for us it meant doing as close to nothing as possible, which as it turned out, didn’t even come close. Our daughter needed to be picked up, and my husband and son went off to see a movie together. So, we aren’t such miserable sloths after all.

Anyway, with our daughter in Sydney, that left the rest of us playing three-handed 500. I know I’ve played this before, but it never seemed so brutal and unforgiving before. Today, it seemed that the person who won the bidding and played out the game was almost destined to fry and burn, and very promptly end up in negative territory. Naturally, the player most likely to hit rock bottom, was Mr 13 whose teenage love of taking risks got him into considerable trouble, which we ultimately dubbed: “The Minus Club”.

Even now, I still remember what it was like to play 500 as a 13 year old with my friends at school. I still haven’t forgotten the allure of winning the kitty…the curiosity. It had to be a pot of gold and I couldn’t possibly let anyone else pick it up. It was mine. Of course, it helped that we didn’t score our games. So, it didn’t matter if I went backwards faster than a speeding bullet.

However, with my husband, being one of those mathematical counting types with a mental calculator stuck inside his head, after a few practice rounds, we were scoring. Well, HE was scoring. I was jotting down some priceless family gems,  and as this game progressed, the pickings were ripe.

Now, this takes me back to Mr 13 who has been asking me to play 500 for weeks, but didn’t really know the rules. Moreover, he has no idea just how brutal a three-handed game can be, when your rivals pair up and you’re fighting for life on your pat malone.

So, when asked which suit he was going to bid on, he replied: “I’m playing eenie meanie miney mo”.

That didn’t sound like a good start.

Then again, I somehow managed to bid the wrong suit. I blamed that on the coffee not kicking in.

Meanwhile, my husband who is very difficult to beat at cards, Scrabble and chess, was having a bad day. We hadn’t taught our son Masare, so even though he probably had great hands for that, we just stuck with conventional bids. So, my husband’s gems for today included:

“Wanna play snap?”

“Who dealt this mess?”

“Blerk! Waiter bring me a bucket”.

My husband only bid about once throughout this game, which lasted a couple of hours what with my son and I returning time and time again to the minus club and my husband’s score creeping along at a rate of 10 -30 points a hand. That made for a long and very slow road to 500.

I reached my PB or personal best when I romped home getting 10 hearts. Those 250 points just managed to get me out of the sin bin at the time.

Anyway, all of this is leading me towards the grand finale…

I was the Champion!

Of course, I immediately jumped around doing the victory dance, singing “we are the champions”. Not because I’m a bad sport. Rather, it’s a rare moment that I beat my husband at anything. As for the whole thing of needing to beat my 13 year old son instead of letting him win, I say it was good for him. Will put hairs on his chest, as my Dad used to say. One of the most important things you can do as a parent, is to teach your child how to win and lose gracefully. Moreover, as he struggles to beat my husband and I, we’re training him to compete well against his peers. This is his training ground.

Yet, at the same time, nothing beats winning.

Well, that is unless you’re writing some mamby pamby piece about families spending quality time together and learning how to interact and communicate when devices are switched off. Then, it would all just be about bonding, creating memories and you wouldn’t need to keep the score.

Humph! We must be talking about someone else’s family!

Do you have any games you play to the death in your family? What are they? 

xx Rowena

Captain Clean – Friday Fictioneers.

“Mum and Dad built this place after the war,” Muriel said. “Lived in the garage, while they built the house.”

Captain Clean was very tempted to add that nothing had been thrown out since, but bit her tongue. Condescending self-righteousness never worked with hoarders. So, she stuck to the script.

“Keep or throw? Keep or throw?”                                                                                                                                                                     “There you are,” Muriel smiled.

Captain Clean screamed, bolted and drove away.

Muriel had finally found her spare set of teeth, playing hide & seek in her husband’s old shoes.

“I could’ve handled a dead body,” she told the psychologist. “But not false teeth.”

…….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

xx Rowena