Category Archives: Compassion

Help – Motivational Quotes A_Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers. This series is particularly geared towards writers actively engaged in working on a book, especially their first book. Although I have quite a few manuscripts hovering in limbo, I’m currently fully immersed in writing a compilation of biographical short fiction, which I think will be a good launching pad for the rest. Due to the massive amount of research and writing involved, I wasn’t going to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year. However, motivational quotes seemed like a theme I could dash off and I also thought I might be needing them myself. I wasn’t wrong.

Sop, today we’re looking at reaching out for HELP. Rather than focusing on a quote today, I’m turning to what must be the ultimate song on the subject: : Help – The Beatles.

That’s because what I wanted to say, is that it’s okay to acknowledge that cry for help within…the scream… and put your hand up. Ask for help whether that’s for psychological, emotional or practical stuff, or about writing and publishing matters.

The bottom line is, that whatever you’re struggling with, you don’t have to go it alone.

You have back-up. At the very least, you have the World Wide Web and it never sleeps.

Writing a top-notch book is like wrestling with cats with your foot flat to the floor trying to get somewhere. While so many people talk about writing a book, doing it is something else entirely and I haven’t got there yet. However, from what I’ve experienced so far, I know I should be treating it like a marathon, and yet it’s more like a very intense rollercoaster ride where all your neurones lit up at once, followed by inevitable burn out and loads of other emotions in between, especially self-doubt, which really should be appearing in the largest font size I can find in triple bold with flashing lights.

That’s also why I’m trying to pace myself better, preparing for the long haul instead of a burning sprint.

However, that’s not who I am, but I have to sleep and I still need to be Mum, wife and a functioning human being.

Where we live (in Australia), we have R U OK?Day. It’s our national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask, “Are you ok?” and support those struggling with life.

Naturally, this is simplifying things and it’s a difficult question to ask. Moreover, the next question can be even harder and every bit like sticking your heart in a mincer. However, feeling a bit of discomfort is nothing compared to potentially saving a life or taking the edge off that horrible, angsty state of being. Indeed, just like knowing how to perform basic first aid, it’s something we all need to know. How to be there for a friend or even a complete stranger experiencing anything from the blues to extreme psychological distress.

The irony about the whole help thing, is that helping someone else has actually been shown to help you feel better. So, while you’re seeking help, it is good for you to also help someone else. You don’t need to do much, especially if you’re struggling yourself. However, something as small as a smile might help you both.

Before I head off, I’d really like to recommend one of my all-time favourite books: Daniel Gottlieb’s Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life.

When his grandson was born, Daniel Gottlieb began to write a series of heartfelt letters that he hoped Sam would read later in life. He planned to cover all the important topics – dealing with your parents, handling bullies, falling in love, coping with death – and what motivated him was the fear that he might not live long enough to see Sam reach adulthood. Daniel Gottlieb is a quadriplegic – the result of a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred two decades ago – and he knows enough not to take anything for granted. Then, when Sam was only 14 months old, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability, a form of autism and suddenly everything changed. Now the grandfather and grandson were bound by something more: a disability – and Daniel Gottlieb’s special understanding of what that means became invaluable- Book Depository

In an interview he was asked about how he stays positive, he replied:

Oh my goodness, I don’t stay positive. When I have pain, I suffer. When I experienced loss, I cry. As I age and my body begins to fatigue, I feel great sadness. But what I feel every day is gratitude. And this makes all the difference between a life of well-being and one of suffering. I feel gratitude that I am able to bear witness to nature, to see the beauty and smell the life. I’m grateful that I am able to breathe without difficulty, grateful that I love so many people so deeply. Grateful for my girlfriend, children and Sam. I could go on and on and on!”

Daniel Gottlieb

Anyway, that’s enough from me. What do you have to say about help? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Spiritual Journey…

It’s not very often that I even touch on the spiritual side of my life…my beliefs, my faith or Christian community. That’s not because they aren’t an important. Rather, it’s just that I often see too many shades of grey, and wrestle with so many aspects of my own faith, that  it’s not easy to package it up and present it to anyone else in a vaguely coherent state.

I guess that’s what happens when you’re “beyond the flow”. You’re not usually the sort of person who walks into a place and immediately feels comfortable in that empty seat. Indeed, you bring your own. Ask questions. Wriggle. Don’t quite feel comfortable and look around at all the people who belong and ask: “What about me? Where’s my place? Will I ever belong?”

Above: Barney’s back in my day before it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Although I really struggled within myself while I was there, I was very happy there too if that makes sense. Found my place for awhile.

When I was in my twenties, I moved from the small Lutheran Church where I’d grown up and didn’t have many people my own age, and started going to St Barnabas Broadway. “Barney’s” was the Anglican Church aligned with Sydney University, where I’d literally swung from the chandeliers as an undergraduate, loving and being fully immersed in virtually all aspects of campus life. Barney’s was jam-packed with hundreds of young people, and I thought I’d hit the jackpot. That was until I struggled to run into the same people week after week and missed the intimacy of my home Church. Yet, I persevered and went to home groups and formed a really tight group of friends who were also mostly on the fringe of things to some extent. For example, the women among us weren’t real good at wearing floral dresses, which were a kind of uniform at the time. Over time, we came to see ourselves as the “black sheep”.   Indeed, a friend of mine and I wrote this incredibly sad, cynical story of sheep drowning in their own tears abandoned by the shepherd. This wasn’t so much a comment on Barney’s, but more a sense of the individual getting lost and overlooked. Of course, that’s nothing new, but when you feel yourself drowning in sorrow, it can feel like you’re the only one who has ever been there. However, with the exception of mental illness, it is often something everyone experiences from time to time. Moreover, your teens and twenties can be particularly turbulent as you try to launch yourself out into the so-called real world and search for love. It is difficult for most people to respond to drowning souls. However, if you know anything about life saving, you’ll know that you’re not meant to drown yourself saving someone else. Rather, they recommend using props like a broom, which enable you to save a life and not go down in the process.

Anyway, as it turned out, my sense of drowning in my own tears, wasn’t far off the mark. While I was turning to spiritual and psychological sources of help, I was actually battling the effects of undiagnosed hydrocephalus (or fluid on the brain) where the cerebral spinal fluid (CFS) was building up inside my head and squashing my brain. I didn’t have trouble with headaches, but I was clumsy right through high school  and with the pressure on my frontal lobe, wasn’t just extroverted. Stress was also quite disabling. After all, my brain was already under the pump.

When I was 25, I moved to Western Australia thinking a more relaxed lifestyle would be better. However, I was diagnosed with the hydrocephalus a few months later when I couldn’t touch my nose in a basic medical check up. Six months later, after a serious and sharp decline, I had brain surgery in 1996 where they inserted a VP Shunt from my brain under the skin through to my peritoneum. I moved back to Sydney to recover. The shunt blocked and it was decided I had to stay put and I moved back home with mum and Dad and did six months rehab to get back on my feet. I was off work for six-twelve months and went from being a Marketing Manager in a serious relationship to moving back in with my parents with my life squeezed into my bedroom cupboards. While I was grateful for their support, becoming a dependent child again was devastating. It wasn’t part of my plan, ambition and contradicted every little aspect of how I saw myself as a intelligent,  independent career woman.

Then, the shunt blocked, and my bad luck appeared terminal. Not in a life and death sense, but in terms of my morale. I remember talking to a friend and thinking I’d never get married and have kids. That I “couldn’t even take care of a goldfish”. These were gruelingly difficult days, extending into months which kept crawling along. 

Clearly, I’ve come a long way sense then. I met my husband Geoff on NYE 1998, while I was still in the recovery phase from that surgery. He took me on when I was still pretty much a rough diamond, and loved me regardless. Was part of the ongoing journey which saw me continue to recover and extend myself even to the present day. Thanks to what we are still finding out about neuroplasticity, I started rising back up and getting back into the land of living, even if I wasn’t quite back in the fast lane.

Anyway, I’ve taken you on a massive detour from where I intended to take you today.

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Praying for our son after the baptism.

The reason I’m touching on the spiritual, is that our fifteen year old son, who is known as on Beyond the Flow as the inimitable “Mister”, got baptised yesterday. When I asked him why he got baptised yesterday, he told me today that the baptisms were on so he might as well do it. However, his face told a different story yesterday when he was bursting with excitement, glowing and clearly being touched and immersed not only in the water, but also in the Holy Spirit and God’s love. Please don’t ask me for an explanation. This was clearly supernatural. I live with this character and experience the ups and downs, highs and lows and the clean versus messy bedroom. I know he’s not a saint, and yet he is. Somehow, so am I. Yet, I feel incredibly ordinary even if I’m no longer that lost, black sheep drowning in my own tears.

I am incredibly proud of our son for choosing to get baptised now. He turned 15 on Friday, and clearly this is an age group renowned for making other choices. Fantastic!

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Our family after the baptism

The other thing I was really stoked about, was that despite the last minute notice, we had a good contingent of family there. That even included Geoff’s sister and her boyfriend from Queensland, who just happened to be down. It was actually a very rare situation where Geoff’s family outnumbered my side. With my Dad being one of seven, that doesn’t happen often. Mister also had a few of his friends along and our Church (Hope Unlimited Church) also has a strong youth group and they were there literally cheering him along. Indeed, four of the youth were baptised yesterday.

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Lastly, although it spent the service out in the car, the family Bible made it inside afterwards and I managed to share it with a few people. It was published in 1872/74 in Philadelphia and originally belonged to my grandfather’s grandfather, Heinrich August Haebich who was a blacksmith in Hahndorf, South Australia. His wife’s family included the Hartmann’s and Paech’s who were among the first German immigrants to come to South Australia. They migrated to under Pastor Kavel, because they didn’t believe in changes to the liturgy back home.  On one hand, you could say they were very devout and fought to defend their faith (which for Pastor Kavel included going to prison at the time). On the other hand, you could describe them as stubborn and resistant to change.

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My grandfather photographed at his retirement service.

My grandfather became a Lutheran Pastor. A shepherd in the very meaning of the word, he told stories of driving out through the mud to reach families and connect them with Church and salvation. He and my grandmother worked tirelessly in a ministry capacity, but also as what we’d today would view as social work. While serving in Wollongong in the 1950s, their congregation was mostly made up of European migrants known as “New Australians” who were struggling to adjust to a new country, language and culture and deal with having to start over again with perhaps little more than the shirt on your back. These legendary heroics of migrant Australia, didn’t come without a cost. My grandparents and their kids, lived in a tiny matchbox-sized manse next to the Church where their door was always open and they gave more than really was a good idea. My grandfather would marry a couple. My grandmother would be the bridesmaid and my mother or aunt would play the organ. At the larger weddings, the family would have to leave before the dancing could start. These were interesting time, so different to how I have grown up.

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The Walker Family after their release from the Japanese. 

This is just my Christian and spiritual legacy to our son. Meanwhile, Geoff grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist Family in Scottsdale, Tasmania. In his twenties, he moved to Sydney where the home group he attended broke away, becoming Dayspring Church. Going back in time, his family included a Methodist lay preacher and another branch of his family, the Walkers and Brookers were active in the early days of the Salvation Army. Indeed, his grandfather Herbert William Brooker played the cornet in the band which we’ve inherited. Actually, I just found out last night that Herbert William’s cousin, George Walker, was a Lieut.-Colonel in the Salvation Army and was interred by the Japanese during WWII while serving as a missionary in China.  Geoff’s Great Great Grandfather, Robert Sleightholm,  actually built much of the historic Church of the Good Shepherd at Hadspen in Tasmania. I know that’s different to pastoring a Church, but he was still a Church builder. Incidentally, that’s far better than being a Church seller and wrecker. The Anglican Church has put  the Good Shepherd up for sale. Read here. What did I say about the shepherds and the sheep?

While we are very proud of our strong Christian heritage, that is not to discourage people my kids refer to as first generation Christians. While it can be quite encouraging to come from a Christian family and there can be that internal cohesion, it can also be quite different if your Christian walk goes off on a tangent to your family. Christian communities have seemingly become more tolerant in recent years, there are tensions between different expressions and interpretations of faith. This legacy might not always leave you with a blank slate or room for your own faith to grow unimpeded and without perhaps being pruned too harshly. So, whatever your family situation might be, that’s okay. We are all God’s children and valued members of God’s family. Jesus loves us.

Funny I should write all of this, because I usually don’t speak up and it’s been really hard for me to feel an ongoing sense of belonging and commitment to Church. As you’re probably aware since my battle with the hydrocephalus, I was dealt another whammy when I became progressively immobile following the birth of our second child, Miss, and was diagnosed 18 months later with dermatomyositis. For awhile there, I felt like God didn’t love me any more and had channelled his wrath my direction and was zapping me with thunderbolts. I was really angry, hurt and just bereft that I had a second very rare, unpronouncible disease and I hadn’t even turned 40. Of course, I was mad. Mad with God. Mad with life, but mostly petrified of dying and leaving my then three and 18 month old children without their mum, especially when they were too young to even remember their mother or what it was like to have a mum.

My ongoing struggles with chronic health and disability also made it difficult to get to Church regularly and build those ongoing, continuing relationships where I could be a part of things. Me being me, I was also radically overthinking everything. Plus, I was fighting to stay alive, particularly after the dermatomyositis started causing fibrosis in my lungs. I developed bronchitis, pneumonia. I really should wear a mask out in public during fly season, but I am who I am and that isn’t me. I want to be with people, not behind a wall of any sort.

So, life is complicated and as frustrating and exhausting as it might be, I have to keep rising back to the surface and being not only part of community, but being something of a shepherd and caring for the flock from my seat somewhere out the back and not quite out the front. That’s my place. Meantime, Geoff can be found either up the front playing base, setting up and packing up chairs often with our son in tow. Our daughter went to her first meeting of Church dancers last week. That’s quite development compared to when my Mum was growing up.

Well, although this is the extended version of the baptism, it really is very much a fleeting overview of our spiritual journey and we’d love to hear from you. Moreover, if you have written any posts along these lines, please include links in the comments below. I’d love to read them.

Love & God Bless,

Rowena

Lt-Col George Walker Dies

Lieut.-Colonel ‘George Walker, commander of the Newcastle Division of the Salvation Army, died in Newcastle last night at the age of 61. Lieut.-Colonel Walker became an officer in the Salvation Army’s Burwood Corps 37 years ago, and then joined the China and India mission service. During the Second World War he was interned by the Japanese, and is remembered by many prisoners as welfare officer in a number of internment camps around Peking. After the war, he served as a travelling evangelist in New South Wales and Queensland, before taking up his Newcastle post a year ago. Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), Wednesday 16 April 1952, page 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Awareness.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my much loved school friend, Kirsten, who was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND).
Having known Kirsten for much of my life, it’s hard to find the words to do her justice. So, I will hand over to her and her most recent post about the efforts of her daughter and niece, to educate and fund raise at school to support MND.
On a personal note, I live with a chronic autoimmune disease, which attacks my muscles and lungs. Prior to treatment, I was severely ill and spent around nine weeks in hospital on diagnosis. However, there was treatment, even if there was no cure. The importance of treatment is something we should never take for granted.
Now, I’ll let Kirsten speak for herself…

Best wishes,

Rowena

Kirsten Harley

My gorgeous niece Susy is in the high school leadership team that decided to organise an MND fundraiser. In lieu of me speaking – because, y’know, the whole no-larynx-bed-103 situation – Kimi and Iwrote this for Susy and her to read in assembly. To say I’m proud of these two doesn’t come close!

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We were going to ask Kirsten Harley, my auntie and Kimi’s mum, to come and talk to everyone about motor neurone disease. But in November she had her voice box removed as part of life-saving surgery to connect her to a ventilator, and she is still in hospital.

So she and my cousin Kimi have written this and weI will play some video from 2 years ago.

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Everyone, put your hands in your lap. While this is being read, imagine that even if you try your hardest, you can’t move your arms.

Now, imagine…

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Step-Daddy’s Little Princess…Friday Fictioneers.

 

“Sweetheart, we love you so much. Pleeeeease come home, ” Sue desperately begged her daughter. “There’s lasagna for dinner… your favourite.”

Alice kept her gaze fixed on the floor, refusing to make eye contact. Seeing her mother again was like soaking in a warm bath, reminding her of how things had been once upon a time. Yet, the anguish in her soul, burned like a red-hot poker. That’s why she jabbed herself with the needles… to numb and forget the unforgivable.

“Alice, Emily misses her big sister.”

The heartstrings tightened until she could barely breathe.

No escape, Alice grabbed her bag.

….

100 words.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Hospital Cheer…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

This week’s Featured Door is attached to the Respiratory Investigation Unit at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney.

When you think about having a Merry Christmas, the last place you want to end up, aside from the local morgue is in hospital. That also applies to the weeks leading up to Christmas where it seems like the rest of the world is floating in bubbly and doing the Christmas party circuit, while you’re shuffling from appointment to appointment. That’s not all bad if it’s all routine, good news and you can wipe all that off your radar.

However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Six years ago, after my auto-immune disease flared up again and was resisting conventional treatment, I found out that they were bringing out the big guns and I was having chemo for Christmas. Yet, while this might seem like the worse Christmas present EVER, we actually viewed it as a blessing, a heaven-sent answer to prayer, and not a curse. They could do something.

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I wasn’t intending to revisit this journey today for Thursday Doors. Although I had lung function tests followed by an appointment with my lung specialist, I was intending to focus on my apres-appointment trip into the city (Sydney) where I photographed oodles of intriguing, eye-catching and even historic doors.

However, before I sorted them out, I wanted to acknowledge the efforts hospital staff have made to brighten up the place, trying to lift your spirits through what are often very traumatic, bleak and desperate times. News you don’t want at any time of year, but especially not at Christmas. Bad things aren’t allowed to happen over Christmas. That should be written into the fine print. Moreover, you wouldn’t be the first person to try to sue God either. Do you remember Billy Connolly in The Man Who Sued God?

Anyway, when I turned up for my lung function tests today, they’d decorated the doors for Christmas and clearly I had to take a photo for Thursday Doors.

I still remember when I walk out of those doors when I was first diagnosed with the fibrosis, and was absolutely distraught. My kids were only seven and five at the time and obviously needed their Mum. I felt bad if I was even five or ten minutes late to pick them up from school, and it was incomprehensible that I wouldn’t be there to pick them up at all. I left the lab with a single tissue and ended up in the hospital chapel sobbing my heart out, and there wasn’t a single tissue in the place. As hard as that tissue tried to cope with the deluge, it was overwrought. I ended up having to sneak back into the hospital toilets, get myself together and buy some tissues. I distinctly remember saying I had hay fever. What a duffer. A year or so later, when things deteriorated, I burst into tears in the hospital shop and the pink ladies rallied around me with such love. They were beautiful.

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Christmas Decorations in the Northern Cancer Centre. I think they’re Santa Kangaroos.

Anyway, as I mentioned, my specialists decided to treat the flare up using a chemotherapy drug called cyclophosphamide, which then introduced me to the Northern Cancer Centre on level 1 for my treatments. While I was there, I found out they had a resource centre and I came across a series of work booklets put out by the Cancer Council. These were really helpful for dealing with those really hard questions around death and dying, especially for families with kids. I was mentioning these booklets to a friend recently and that’s what brought me back to lvl 1 today. _DSC7625

Christmas Raffle at the Northern Cancer Centre downstairs.

Having photographed the doors upstairs, I asked the staff if I could photograph their Christmas decorations. I felt like a bit of an idiot, but I wanted to back up the doors upstairs with a another example of how the hospital was getting into the Christmas spirit. Anyway, much to my delight, they upped the anti and asked me if I wanted to have my photo taken in their elf frame. Being an irrepressible extrovert, of course, I jumped at the chance. It was a lot of fun.

 

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Before I head off and while we’re talking about the hospital’s Christmas celebrations, when I was there on Tuesday, a jazz band was playing the foyer and it’s something they’re doing during December. I couldn’t thank them enough. I’d actually just been to see a friend and it was an emotional time. So, it was really therapeutic to listen to the beautiful music and feel soothed. It was so thoughtful!

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Well, I realize that talking death, dying and hospitals is a rather gloomy subject at this time of year, when I reflect that I’m still here six years later and in reasonable health, it actually becomes a celebration. A good news story which might touch somebody else’s troubled heart with a touch of hope. After all, as much as we might not want to be in hospital, the alternative is far worse and rather permanent.  So, I’d better close off this Thursday Doors with a huge shout out to all the doctors, nurses, physios, OT’s and support staff who help get us back on out feet and out the door.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Silent Night by Rowena Curtin | Advent 2018 Day 5

Once again, I’ve participated in Solveig Werner’s annual Advent Calendar where people from around the world share their different experiences of Christmas and their various traditions. As a proud Australian, I do my bit to share what it’s like to celebrate Christmas Down Under where it is Summer btw and not a snowflake in sight. Indeed, Santa attends our local Christmas festivities onboard a fire truck.
This year I wrote about Silent Night and my mother’s experiences growing up as an Australian within a migrant community where everyone sang Silent Night on Christmas Eve in their native tongue.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Solveig Werner

Silent Night

By Rowena Curtin

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Mother Teresa

Two hundred years ago, on a cold Christmas Eve in 1818,Silent Nightwas sung for the very first time at St. Nicholas Catholic Church inOberndorf, Austria. As the daughter of a church organist, I remember how hymn numbers used to arrive at the last minute and Mum would dash off to the piano to practice. However, it never crossed my mind thatSilent Night, one of the world’s greatest Christmas carols, was also thrown together at the last minute. Or, that the words and music were written…

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Between Heaven & Hell…Friday Fictioneers.

Fred had never seen a chess set made of cheese before, and couldn’t resist chomping into the rook breaking at least two teeth and his pride.
“Oh, Fred!” gushed his wife. “I leave you for a minute, and more trouble. That’s going to be another couple of crowns. I’ll call the dentist.”
Yesterday, he’d overheard her talking about a babysitter, even sending him to a home. Darn this blasted whatsy-me-call-it! He was gunna shoot it.
Mary gave him another orange juice. The blur only deteriorated, and he no longer cared what it was called. Just as long as it hurried up.

…………….

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

Best wishes,

Rowena