Category Archives: Dog-Our dog Bilbo

Whoops! More Pups.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an urgent text. “My pups” were on the move, and ready for collection. These pups are two 5 week old kelpie pups,  and did I mention something  about being bottle fed? I didn’t think so. You know me. Blunder in where angels fear to tread only to find out about the details by default, when it’s all too late. Yet, it’s not everyday you have the chance to even see such young pups, let alone take them home. I don’t know about legislation where you live, but I think pups need to be 8 weeks old to be sold here. So, despite what should have been a healthy scepticism about taking on such a challenge, I jumped at the chance…the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Welcome to the dog house.

The pups are absolutely gorgeous and about the size of an adult guinea pig and have rolypoly tummies on stumpy legs. I don’t think they’ve been outside before and they wondered about a little like they’d just landed on a new planet. I’ll call that planet: “Do your business”. Although our house has literally gone to the dogs, I am TRYING to get them to do their business outside.

BTW, I know absolutely nothing about how to care for bottle-fed pups. Indeed, I didn’t even bottle feed my own kids until they were old enough that I didn’t have to be pedantic about cleaning all the bottles. By then, whatever was growing in those bottles was good for their immune systems…

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Mr and Yoda.

 

 

Just to fill in a few dots, I have volunteered as a foster carer for a local animal rescue group, Paws & Claws. I’m not sure how long “we” will be doing this. I am loving it and the pups are gorgeous, but we have our own pups to settle in and there will come a point where I’ll get the carpet cleaners in and at least have a break.

Or, more likely, I’ll be exercising the two pups we’ve adopted…Isaac and Rosie. I’m expecting lengthy daily exercise runs down at the beach. Actually, I’m hoping the pups will exercise themselves down at the beach while I bumble along at adult speed, instead of doing the “Flight of the Bumble Bee”. Of course, there’s also the possibility the kids might actually walk the dogs…

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Me and Our Pups.

Meanwhile, our pups went off to be desexed last week. This was done via key hole surgery. Zac was bounding around pretty quickly but Rosie also needed her dew claws clipped and so she returned with her back legs bandaged and a cone around her head. She finally got the cone and bandages off last night…happy days!

So, our house is currently a five dog household, which means us humans are outnumbered. However, before you start thinking we’re facing defeat, beings on bottles don’t have voting rights. So, humans still rule even if it is a case of only just.

Anyway, I’d better keep moving. I think I’m supposed to be sleeping when the pups are sleeping. Isn’t that how it goes?

Have you ever fostered humans or animals? How did it go? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

 

Welcome Back Desk.

After writing on my laptop in the loungeroom for goodness knows how long, yesterday I finally migrated back to my desk. It’s been such a good move, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Almost as soon as I pressed the power button, I could feel my thoughts sharpening and my entire being was ready for action in a way I haven’t experienced for such a long time. Could it be that this small step for Rowena, could be the impetus to finally get the book project done? Right now, I think it could, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. At the same time, we have reverse cycle air-conditioning in the loungeroom and the office is a freezer in Winter and a furnace in Summer.  So, I usually retreat there from the elements, as well as trying to be more social with the family. The desk is much quieter, but it’s also solitary and I am not an island.

The other reason that I wasn’t writing at my desk was also pretty straightforward. Like so many desks and flat surfaces, my desk had become a dumping ground for just about anything and a breeding ground for paperwork. Indeed, it was something like a farm barn overrun by cats with people constantly driving by and dumping more. I needed to erect a large sign:  KEEP OUT. TRESSPASSERS WILL BE EXTERMINATED. However, knowing the folk around here, it wouldn’t make a difference. Mummy’s Desk is not a sacred site. The dumping would continue regardless.

This whole very simple experience at home, has cast a different light on that whole philosophy of: “life is not a journey. It’s a destination.”

As someone who frequently doesn’t make it to their destination, I love this point of view.  It’s also a great philosophy for a creative, because so often what you find along the way, could well transcend your original plans. I particularly love heading to Sydney’s Surry Hills, and wandering through the streets, staring through the lens and finding such treasure! However, these spontaneous discoveries are very different from being unable to use my much faster desktop computer and desk space, because it’s bogged down in stuff. That’s not a destination. More of a catastrophic mess…a disaster zone. Hazmat required.

However, there are times you need to reach your destination, and some of those times, you even need to get there as quickly as possible

So, my whole experience with my desk challenges that philosophy, showing how it can be used as a cop out, as a justification for one of a writer’s greatest sins…procrastination and its twin…distraction.

Indeed, even research, which is ostensibly a means of reaching the destination, can become an end in itself, preventing the completion of the original project. Moreover, much of my research just remains a pile of rubble in my head, aside from telling the odd story at the family Christmas party. It never comes out in any usable form.

This brings me back to my desk.

I don’t know about you, but working from my desk feels a lot more like WORK. I immediately felt more organized and “on the job”. Although I can and do write anywhere, I am starting to wonder whether I’m paying too big a price for not writing at my desk, and that it is the best place for me to rev up the writing several notches, and finally get these big writing projects knocked off. There’s quite a swag of them.

At the moment, I’m researching and writing the story of my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, who migrated from famine-torn Ireland, out to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. She was among a group of young women known collectively as “Irish famine orphans”, who were sent out here in part of relieve the financial burden back in Ireland, but also to redress the gender imbalance in the Australian colonies. I first found out about Bridget from her daughter’s birth certificate, which had been sitting in the safe at the family business for over a hundred years. I found the rest out, when a random Google search found Bridget on the  Irish Famine Orphans Database and the facts matched up.

For the past few years, I’ve pictured Bridget as a woman without a face, framed by a white bonnet. Yet, I’ve also wondered whether she looked like her daughter, Charlotte as I do have a handful of photos of her as a young woman. That’s something. More than something perhaps. Although I knew Bridget had married George Merrit and they’d had six kids, that’s about all I knew about Bridget Donovan. Despite my most dogged efforts to fill in even just a bit of her face, she didn’t want to be found.

However, recently I was contacted by a researcher who told me 2-3  of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. This look me back into the online newspapers, and found an actual mention of George and Bridget running a store at Avisford on the Meroo Goldfields, near Mudgee. This was gold.  I’m now going to be chipping away at that, starting with a time line and a photo board. Hopefully, some sort of scaffold or framework will help give this project legs and the kind of solid foundations required for it to take off.

Meanwhile, I’m back on the laptop in the loungeroom. Microsoft Word needed updating and my trust Systems Administrator’s at work. I also just caught a puppy running out of my bedroom with my pink Ug boot. Seems no matter when or where I write, I’m fraught with interruptions, but I’d rather that than being an island.

Where do you do your best writing?

xx Rowena

 

 

Lady, You’re Our Mum!

If you’ve been popping by lately, you’ll already know we’re fostering two Border Collie x Kelpie pups…Zac and Rosie. We’re planning to keep Zac and hoping a friend will adopt Rosie. These two pups love each other so much. Just look at the bite marks in each others’ ears! I’m amazed they haven’t been pierced!

Lady kids coffee

Most of you will already know Lady, our 5 year old Border Collie x Cavalier. AND, that we lost our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo a few months ago. We’d had Bilbo since a pup, and going through so much as a family with him, we’re still grieving. He was definitely one of us.

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A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

Grief affects people differently. Some people lose a pet, and never get another one. Meanwhile, others rush out and seemingly replace that pet straight away without so much as a grieving period. We have been trying to become a one dog family, but it hasn’t been working. It soon became clear that it was just a matter of time, before we adopted another pup. So, when my friend who does dog fostering heard that some border collie x kelpie pups needed a foster family, we jumped onboard. It was a good way for us to get to know our next dog before we committed.

Now that I’m a foster mum, I was kind of hoping that Lady might feel the same way. That she would adopt these pups as her own. After all, we love a series of books called Unlikely Loves, and have read stories of all sorts of random animals becoming friends, family, saving a life. However, the books never mentioned the flip side of the coin…rejection.

I don’t know whether the pups saw Lady as a surrogate Mum or a recalcitrant black sheep, which they couldn’t round up. Either way, she didn’t appreciate their attention and has been growling whenever they’re approached. I think this is dog lingo for: “Get lost! I am NOT your Mum!”

Indeed, after three days of growling, I was starting to think Lady was one of those cranky old ladies you run into on the train when your kid’s are having a bad day. I’m sure you’ve run into these types yourself. They glare right through you with their hoity-toity glares, and you don’t even need to hear the words: “Bad Mum”. You been told. Thank goodness, they don’t have magical powers, because otherwise these stares alone would burn you to ash…Zap!

To be fair to Lady, she never asked to have puppies. Perhaps, she thought she’d had all of that fixed, and never wanted pups. Moreover, with Bilbo gone, perhaps she hasn’t been lonely. Indeed, it could well be that she’s been basking in world domination.

Well, that was until a pup grabbed hold of her tail.

Two pups moved into her bed.

Two pups sat on laps.

Clearly, Lady’s empire has crumbled. Her tiara’s dangling round her paws, usurped by their Royal Highnesses.

I guess when you reach rock bottom, the only way is up. Or, making friends with the enemy and letting them sleep with you in your bed.

Lady & pups sleeping

Lady and the pups…a beginning. 

So, things are looking up. It took a few weeks for Bilbo and Lady to accept each other, so I expect relations will all come good in time.

Have you ever introduced a pup to your older dog? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

PS After the first night of howling and broken sleep, the pups are sleeping through the night. Just a brief cry when I close the laundry door. Just call me the “Puppy Whisperer”.

Puppies in a Carpark After Dark…

Last night, my daughter and I were recruited into a clandestine, underground movement, which rescues puppies and dogs from puppy farms and “bad homes”.

As you might have seen on the blog lately, my friend’s been fostering dogs and puppies. I never thought I’d be up for this, and thought I’d find it impossible to let them go. However, I was round at her place with the latest residents, and they were so cute and so much fun, that I thought we’d give puppy rescuing a go.

Then, like well-trained intelligence agent, my friend heard that a litter of Border Collie x Kelpie pups was in the pipeline. Me being me with my usual levels of resistance, I put my hat in the ring for two pups with a view of keeping one. This would be like a test drive where we could try before we buy.

You might recall, that it’s only been two months since our much loved Border Collie, Bilbo passed away. We’re still heartbroken and missing him in all sorts of ways. A few years ago, we adopted Lady thinking that he wasn’t well. Then, he perked up after she arrived and lived another 3 years. As much as we love Lady’s exuberant friendliness, we’re used to Bilbo’s Border Collie sheepdog ways, and she’s a very different dog.  That’s fine but when you’ve been living with the ball chasing champion of the universe and you get a dog who doesn’t fetch, it’s hard to compute…even if Bilbo’s ball chasing obsession drove us mad! I guess it’s a reminder, that you can’t simply replace the one you’ve lost and each of us, is an individual.

During the week, my friend forwarded photos and we selected one pup we particularly liked. Then, we received further intelligence, that the pups were arriving last night.

The pups had been rescued from out near Lismore, 10 hours’ drive away. This meant it was hard for them to give an exact pick up time. It was simply “late” and there were phone calls going back and forth updating their ETA. All I knew, was that we were meeting up in a carpark at a nearby pet shop some time after dark. It started to feel like I’d joined a clandestine smuggling ring, and the whole experience felt like a grand adventure. Yet, at the same time, I was also being drawn out of my comfort zone. I don’t like driving at night, and felt a bit uncomfortable hanging around in the industrial area late at night.

However, soon the other voluneers started to arrive. The scene reminded me of waiting for a country train and watching the cars pull in. We picked up puppy food, leads, collars and chatted to other volunteers and waited… and waited. It was so exciting. The puppies were coming!

Then, suddenly a car towing a dog caravan appeared. It wasn’t quite your movie star camper, but precious cargo was definitely onboard. I’m not entirely sure which other dogs were there, but there was a litter of black labrador pups as well as part of the litter of Border Collie x Kelpie pups. I also saw what looked like a family of semi-grown Maltese Terriors.

Zac & Rosie

At this point, it was about 10.00PM. A floodlight breaks through only a fraction of the darkness, backlighting the puppies. So, we can hardly distinguish which pup is which, and they’re just a squirming, wriggling mass of black and white fur and paws. There was one boy in the litter, who just happened to be the one I’d picked out from the FB photo and my daughter picked out one with a white stripe on her head and “ears like Bilbo”. They had their shots, were wormed, paperwork was completed and they were in the car and on their way home.

Home meant introducing them to Lady. I was hoping Lady might feel somewhat maternal and welcome the new arrivals. On the other hand, not everyone’s excited when a strange, spaceship-like contraption lands in your territory. As for calling you “Mum” and YOUR dogbed “home”, Lady muttered something about having no say in it, and no idea what was coming! Lady wasn’t thrilled and had a few growls. The puppies were disturbing her peace, quiet, and new found stardome as the only dog. However, she did give them a good sniff, and I’m sure she’ll come round.

Pups

Meanwhile, the pups who’d been cooped up in transit all day, did what all kids do after they’re released. They went beserk!!! Indeed, our boy pup, Zac, went psycho jumping and leaping all over the lounge room like he’d just arrived at a theme park. Rosie, his canine companion, wasn’t far behind him. At one point,  they’d converted Lady’s bed into a wrestling ring and were growling like a pair of Tasmanian Devils and gnawing at each other, having so much fun.

We were besotted.

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As a parent myself, I was rather concerned by their wild behavior so late at night, wondering how they’d ever get to sleep. It’s been awhile, but I haven’t forgotten the difficulties of getting human babies to sleep. I even attended a week long sleep clinic with my son out at Karitane, after trying everything from singing Twinkle Twinkle, walking the streets with the pram, prayer and phoning my in-laws. In other words, we’re talking about reaching the end of the road and then some.

Clearly, it was starting to look like a sleepless night.

However, looking at the puppies bouncing off the walls exploring their new environment, I started developing grave concerns about how we were ever going to get them to sleep. Memories of frazzled sleepless nights trying to get our son to sleep, came back like a back case of reflux.

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A pair of rambunctious pups.

What have I got myself into?

By this stage, it was well after midnight and Miss was also still awake. We took the pups into the laundry, and tried closing the door. That’s when the howling began…and continued. These pups had no intention of going to sleep. Couldn’t slow themselves down to anything remotely resembling “tired”, and didn’t like being away from us either.

Although I remembered that you stick a ticking clock in with puppies to help them sleep, who has ticking clocks these days? Obviously, its digital descendants wouldn’t do the trick. Apparently, the radio’s the go these days. Oops! That reminds me, that I forgot to set up the music player for tonight.

Needless to say, just like a new Mum, I didn’t get a great night’s sleep.

The big difference was, however, that no one drops round with a meal when you have a new dog! The grandparents haven’t turned up either. Indeed, I haven’t quite mentioned the puppies to my parents…even though I’m obviously a grown up now and they’re in no position to say “no”. It’s just that given my health issues and a very busy family, adding a new pup to the mix and fosteringit’s sister, isn’t a logical decision. It doesn’t make sense, but the heart has its own way of thinking, which might not add up but usually makes sense.

Well, at least it makes sense to me.

Do you have a special dog and dog story to share? I’d love to hear it.

xx Rowena

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Let sleeping pups lie.

Puppies!

As you may recall, a close friend of mine volunteers for a pet rescue organization. Well, she messaged me during the week and mentioned they had PUPPIES!!! Of course, I invited us round for a playdate. Indeed, we were there in a flash and my husband even came along to supervise procedings. He had grave concerns about us arriving home with a pup! I wonder why????

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My daughter with one of the pups.

Coco and her sister, Daisy, are apparently black, curley-haired retrievers and are six weeks old. They are pure black, except Coco has a small splash of white on her chest. Both of them looked like miniature versions of our Border Collie x Cavalier, Lady, only they have shorter ears.

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The puppies up on the trampoline with the girls.

Not surprisingly, these pups were irresistable, and it’s amazing how I can find them trying to chew up my shoes and even my good jumper endearing. Of course, there was that typical Australian; “she’ll be right, mate” nonchalence, but they were so cute that I almost couldn’t care. I even let them chew on my finger.

We will be getting a second dog in the not to distant future. Indeed, my friend has told me there are some border collie puppies coming up and I’m thinking about joining up as a volunteer and hosting these. See if one of them clicks. So far, I haven’t been seriously tempted by any of my friend’s lodgers. They’ve been wonderful dogs but I still feel lie we’re hanging out for another Border Collie pup.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pics.

xx Rowena

Heaven or Earth? Reflections from the Dark Side of the Moon.

Before I get started, I thought I’d play Alleluia sung by Ed Sheeran. Get you in the mood. The last week has been deep, dark and philosophical punctuated by blasts of Spring sunlight and tail wags from the dog.

Actually, the last couple of months have been “challenging” after the death of our Border Collie, Bilbo. We’ve had him since our daughter was crawling and he’s seen us through so very much.  Moreover, I’ve also had another brush with severe asthmatic coughs and chest infections, which get me every August.

Not unsurprisingly, the kids have been distressed and shaken up. They’ve had questions, and I’ve had to come up with the answers. This included a particularly curly question, which I decided to share. It’s big and it’s important:

Why should we stay alive when life is painful, when we could be in heaven where there’s no pain, no troubles?

I hadn’t quite thought of heaven as the ultimate “grass is greener” before. However, I suppose it is. Otherwise, why would it be called “HEAVEN”? Furthermore, why wouldn’t you, I, want to get there on an express trip? Why do we fight so hard to stay alive, when we could be living up there in the clouds? Even Cloud 9?

While I’ve had my dark moments, and even extended interminable stretches of raw anguish, I haven’t really thought of heaven as my greener pasture. At least, not in the here and now.

I’ve known too many people who’ve lost someone to suicide and am very conscious of the anguish suicide leaves in its wake… an anguish which has no end for the multitude of people who get touched by even one death.

So, I guess for me, particularly when I’m in a  level-headed state of mind, knowing that I’d be going to my ulimate happy place when everyone who means anything to me gets to suffer, doesn’t add up.

At the very least, it’s not a very nice thing to do.

However, that’s not something I would share with someone who wasn’t in a particularly level-headed state of mind. That’s something I might now start putting out there on one of my routine drives with my kids, now they’re my son’s 13 and my daughter isn’t far behind him.

As a parent, I’ve been wondering how to talk about sex, dating, periods, condoms, relationships, drugs, but amongst all of that, I’d forgotten all about the other fairly “normal” aspect of puberty…the E-word. EMOTIONS. Thinking back to being a teenager myself, I don’t believe there was any such thing as “an even keel”, being “level-headed”, “grounded” as as for balanced? HA!!

Moon bike

At least speaking for myself, my emotions were extreme, even turbo-charged. Well-intentioned comments like “there’s more fish in the sea” fell flat. My parents meant well, and believe me, I’m getting a better understanding of what it’s like to be a parent scraping the bottom of your psychological and philosophical barrell. When your child is combusting and you’re trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Trust me. That whole “bird and the bees stuff” is a veritable piece of cake compared to discussing emotional equilibrium.

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I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

How do any of us venture and and carpe diem seize the day and all that entails, without getting hurt? We can’t live our lives in bubble wrap and while you can have safe sex, there is no condom you can quickly wrap around your heart and it’s way too easy to get burned.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m no statistician either. I don’t know what it is which causes one person to take their life, while others persevere. What I do know, is that it’s not straight-forward. I also know that we can’t control someone else. We can’t stop someone else from taking their life. And yet, we sometimes can. Here, I’m speaking about the more collective we, but sometimes, it does come down to the individual. At times, we do become that person staring despair in the face, and it is up to us to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Or, I guess if I was some kind of professional at this, you’d be trying to get the person to find their own reasons for living. Or, at the very least, find a shift in gears.

A friend of my parents used to call the teenage years: “the swirling vortex of pubescence”. He was a very charasmatic gentleman and he’d roll this phrase out like a showman on stage. I always pictured these wild churning seas with the damsel in distress thrashing around in the waves. Never sinking, but not getting out either. I always found that phrase rather entertaining, although on reflection that note of humour, has it’s sting. Tony also put me onto a poet who knew those waves. Knew that intensity of emotion. That was Nan Whitcomb in her “Thoughts of Nanushka” and I’ve since found another kindred spirit in Australian  poet and cartoonist, Michael Leunig. Of course, there was also Keats and I’ve always questioned the merits of studying his Ode to Melancholy while studying for our HSC (final school exams = HUGE stress!!)

“That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”
John Keats, Ode to A Nightingale.
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, 
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue 
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; 
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, 
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
John Keats, Ode to Melancholy

I also remember listening to Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody. That song needs no introduction.

Hot chocolate & book

How will the story play out?

The trouble is, that when you’re caught up in the more turbulent passages of that “swirling vortex of pubesence”, you have no idea how the story is going to play out. Speaking of myself, I was so caught up in the immediate present, the current devastating disaster, that I lost all sense of perspective. That it morphed into some kind of hellish bubble, my world. I couldn’t see it was a storm in a tea cup. I couldn’t see, that perhaps being dumped by “the bastard” was the best thing for me. That it really was a case of there being millions of fish in the sea, and I only needed to find one. That I wasn’t trying to catch the one, last surviving fish in an empty sea.

I never saw my life as a novel back then. Indeed, it’s only been this past week, that I’ve appreciated the close parallels between real life and the structure a novel or play where the main character (protagonist) has their difficult person, adversary (antagonist) but after a few rounds, they come through. There’s usually a twist at the end, and more than likely, real life doesn’t turn out quite like you expected either, but you can still live happilly ever after. Well, at least until the next challenge fires up. Bearing this in mind, you have to make the most of those high notes. Carpe diem seize the day. Gobble them up with a cherry on top. Yet, you also have to be prepared for troubles. Expect storms and rainbows, as well as sunny, blue skies.

If I was going to talk to my 13 year old self. Or, in my case, it was more my 16 year old self which was really doing it tough, what would I say?

Firstly, what I would say, wouldn’t be something eloquent, well-written, or an outstanding piece of philosophical writing with all the answers. It would be more of a stuttered, muttered and garbled story about how if I’d pulled the pin then, I wouldn’t have gone on to experience the highs of my life. For me, like so many others, the school days weren’t the best days of my life. However, they were the necessary precursor to getting into university which I loved on so many levels. I went through many relationship ups and downs and had way too many friends run off with the guy that I liked. I also spent all the years from my birth until I was 27, living with undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on my brain, which really did make me “different” in a myriad of ways I am still trying to get my head around. Yes, I wasn’t “unco” and more than likely, the intensity of my emotions weren’t just puberty either. The inside of my brain had been flooded, and I was under an entirely different kind of “pressure”.

So, if I’d pulled the pin at 16, I wouldn’t have known that I had this underlying condition which was greatly relieved through surgery. Yet, even if I hadn’t had that or if there had been no “magic fix” to my problems, I still believe that it’s worth persevering through the very darkest of challenges and fighting hard to find any glimmer of light which will lead us out of the tunnel. Why? Because there just might be something better ahead. That you could well resolve your current troubles through whatever means. a change of curcumstances, meeting someone else. Another door opens.

Indeed, I still remember the night I met my husband. A friend of mine was holding a New Year’s Eve Party in another friend’s apartment in Wollstonecraft, which had a view over the back end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was supposed to going to that party with the boyfriend I’d had throughout the whole brain surgery saga and as you could imagine, things were rocky on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Anyway, he dumped me just before the party and I really didn’t feel like going. However, it was only more of a soiree with only a few of us going and so I went. My husband opened the door. Now, I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight. However, we talked a lot that night and he gave me some really good advise  and I thought he was wise. Obviously, it was that old thing of crying on someone’s shoulder. I also remember standing out on the balcony together and I would’ve been photographing the fireworks, and he told me that he was also into photography. I clearly remember making a mental tick in my head. He also drove an Austen Healy Sprite, which he described as “English and tempremental”. I remembered that when we were driving through the Tenterfield Ranges in pouring rain to avoid the Grafton floods, and the exhaust pipe fell off on a pot hole. BTW, we’d been wearing raincoats in the car on that trip and had been soaked by the time we’d reached Newcastle. (We had been driving from Wahroonga in Sydney to visit his Mum and sisters family in the Byron Bay hinterland. It’s about a 10 hour drive.)

The ironic thing is that it can be these very worst moments, our greatest disasters, that we turn into our funniest stories. It’s often these moments which we’ll share around a barbeque laughing our heads of and entertaining the crowd, rather than the good times. I am now thinking that part of that is that we later find out these disasters weren’t so bad after all. Indeed, sometimes they proved to be a blessing in disguise. Or, they were a necessary step to get us to a better place, or to our ultimate destination.

So, now I would say that instead of pulling the pin, who have to keep breathing so you can keep living the book. Find out how you’re own story unfolds. Just one point here, too, and that is that you are not a passive player in your story. You are helping to write the script, as well as all the other characters. This is a team effort. You are empowered. However, you are empowered to do the best for yourself, AND the worst. Too often, it’s not the bully or our nemesis we need to watch out for, it’s our own selves. We shoot ourselves in the foot way more often AND we need to own that. Take responsibility. Not necessarily in a guilt way, but in an empowered driver’s seat way. JUst like if you were driving and made a wrong turn, you’d do a U turn and try again. You hopefully wouldn’t just sit in your car hoping it would magically take you where you want to go.

The ironic thing for me these days about people taking their lives, is that I am fighting with all I’ve got to save my own. This July marked 20 years since I had the brain surgery which saved and changed my life. This coming Tuesday, marks 10 years since I was diagnosed with a systemic auto-immune disease, dermatomymyositis which has left me with 60% lung capacity on a good day. I am getting through flu season again this year but again it’s been a battle. Three years ago, I had chemo to knock the disease on its head and fortunately that worked. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve been staring death in the face, and trust me. Not once was I thinking: “Heaven, bring it on!” No, despite being a Christian, all I was thinking about was my kids, my husband, my Mum, Dad, Brother and my friends. Giving them that kind of bad news, is devastating. The fact that I’ve survived, doesn’t negate that. We have lived through it and we continue to live with it.

So, this brings me to the very real need to talk to those we love about those times when the swirling vortex has taken hold, and give them concrete proof that they can get through it. That it’ s not only worth persevering through the hard times, that it’s possible to get there. Achievable. Moreover, they are not alone. Not only in the sense that we are with them now. Not just us as an individual either, but us as a community. The many layers of the onions…family, friends, teachers, pastors, the person you need down the street while walking your dog. But, we also need to make that time available. Leave enough space inbetween the words, the lines, the busyness that someone can sit along side us and be without being rushed, sped up, or brushed off.

I am not someone who has ever professed to have the answers, but I’ve always had the questions and I guess this is where they lead me now. But before I head off, another word just popped in my head. That is gratitude. While it’s not often possible to feel grateful for our let downs at the time, that can change through hindsight…especially with many of those heart breaks, which were the end of the world at the time. I wouldn’t be where I am now and while some of those guys were great people and simply not right for me (or me for them), I’ve been married to Geoff for 16 years now. We’ve survived some extremely hard times and miraculously stayed together. We hae two beauti ful children who can stretch us beyond the very brink at times, but who we love more than life itself. Sometimes, when things have been so hard, it’s hard to comprehend how the sun still rises in the morning and how life goes on. Yet, I’ve often found that very annoying and harsh reality, provides the momentum to keep me moving, which is ultimately a good thing.

I didn’t intend to write about this when I woke up this morning. I haven’t edited more than a couple of words and this is how my thoughts have landed on the page, or to be precise, my laptop screen. All of a sudden, in bright neon signs, I’ve realized that we as a society don’t talk about hard times. The cultural rhetoric is all about making it happen. Being whoever you want to be. It’s almost like you’re expected to find happiness in a fizzy drink…or a pill. Rather, what happens WHEN your journey through life hits the big snake just when you’re about to reach your goal and your sent straight back down to the beginning again? What happens when you’re a marketing executive and you’re diagnosed with hydrocephalus and you end up having brain surgery, getting a blocked shunt and requiring more brain surgery, the person you thought you were going to marry, dumps you because all of that’s too much and you’ve moved back home living with mum and Dad and going to rehab with the elderly at 28? BTW, that was also when I went to my 10 year school reunion. That was two weeks after the second brain surgery and I had no hair under one half of that bob. Indeed, there was a scar. I made it through that reunion and I was triumphant. Despite brain surgery being a much more sensitive embarrassing thing that the bad haircut.  I also had friends whose lives were picture perfect either. Some had divorced and one of my class mates had tragically died from cancer, which shook me to the core.

The fact that I’m still here, isn’t because I have some uber-amazing coping mechanism and I’m “Tonka tough”. I’ve had breakdowns. I’ve fallen face down in the mud and refused to get up. I’ve had days where I’ve stayed in bed and wrapped myself up in my doona and refused to get up. I’ve thought about how. I did jab myself with a pair of kindy scissors once when I was struggling to learn how to drive and fighting my brother for access to the car. That’s the closest I’ve come in a physically crossing the line sense, but these lines resonate: “hello darkness my old friend”.

Somehow, the collective “we” needs to have more of these conversations. The “where I was, how I found my way out and some of the joys of life we’ve experienced since” type. Talk about how life is ups AND downs. That we have to keep  walking, dancing, flying, dragging out feet, sleeping, talking, dreaming.They’re all part of it. Share and model that there is no magic pill, which will give you perfect, lasting happiness. However, there could well be multiple pills of darkness, which we need to approach with caution. Walk away from jealousy, envy, wanting to be someone we’re not, putting our value on stuff instead of relationships, replacing people with work. The list goes on.

Now, I’m turning it over to you. What has your experience been? I would like to invite you to share as much as you like in the comments below. What would you say to your teenage self about the dark times you’ve experienced? I could even see these becoming a series of posts. It would be truly beneficial to get a swag of letters together on this very important subject.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just had to drop my daughter off at meditation of all things (our dance school is running a session for kids followed by a session for parents so I’ll be heading off next). Funny how walking and driving gets you thinking. Pops something so obvious into your head, which you’d missed entirely while tapping away into the screen.

My other advice to my teenage self, is not to put all my eggs in one basket, and to remain diverse. I had very good friends out of school and I’ve encouraged this with my own kids since dot. However, as someone with a fairly obsessive, driven personality, I’d like to share that focusing all your energies on one thing, isn’t a good idea. If something happens to that one thing, whatever it is, then you’re devastated. You’re left with nothing. There is no “Plan B”. You have no identity left. Naturally, I was devastated when I couldn’t work after the brain surgery. I had grief counselling where I was told “We’re human beings, not human doings”. It’s taken me a long time to get that. In the aftermath of the brain surgery, I turned to photography and although it wasn’t making me any money, I found it was a great topic of conversation. Far more interesting than work. These days, writing  is my main thing followed by photography. What you might not know, is that I started learning the violin four years ago, and last year I started dance classes and have made my way through short adult courses in ballet, contemporary, lyrical and tap. I’m not even keeping up in the dance classes, but dance is now part of my psyche. Who I am. It’s added another string to my bow, and exercised more than a few neurofibres as well. It’s very important not to get stuck in what I’ll call “bubble worlds”…becoming “a dancer”, “a lawyer”, “a mother”, a “father”. Rather, ideally, we’d be more of a spangled web or texture, colour, sound, taste and smell stretching somewhere over the rainbow and back again. We must wear many hats, to be fulfilled, and really just to survive.

The End.

That's All Folks

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I’m inviting you to join Lady and I for a walk. We’ll be retracing yesterday’s footsteps, when I moved down the main street like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. After dropping my daughter off at dancing, my next stop was the Bremen Patisserie where I bought a few slices German Beesting Cake and this mega rich chocolate “thing” to take home. My next stop, was the bookshop cafe, where I had a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Fortunately, that’s where my conspicuous consumption ended.

Hot chocolate & book

Well, I tell a lie.

Before I knew it, I’d ducked into a boutique. This has become a frequent haunt lately. I blame this on filling in time each week during Madam’s dance class. Mostly, I’m just looking. However, the new Spring stock has just arrived and after being rugged up all Winter, it was like walking into Floriade, not that everything was floral. It was fresh, bright, vibrant and being a little kid at heart, I could’ve hidden behind the racks of lush fabric, and wrapped myself up in a cocoon.  It wasn’t long before I spotted the dreamy blue, silk top with a blue rose on the front. Being some kind of fusion of sky and the sea,  it truly captured my imagination. Moreover, the wafty, moody, blue silk top felt so light against my skin…and it was aerodynamic and cast a fantastic shadow in the wind. How could I resist? I also bought myself some large dangly, silver earings. I rarely bother with earings, but while I was in the shop, some long-silenced being within shouted: “Look at me. I’m still here. I’m so small and almost completely lost and obscured in the overall scheme of things, but I still have a voice. I still need to be fed, watered, attended to. Please don’t leave me alone.”

I’m pleased she called out, because I needed some TLC. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and even my shadow needed a lift.

While you can’t buy self-esteem, sometimes you do need to care for that small voice inside, which you too often ignore, put at the bottom of the priority list or kill off completely. Feel that it’s okay to buy yourself flowers sometimes. Buy a fancy top at the end of a hard week..and even buy the earings at the same time. I haven’t done this for some time. It was my birthday money. I might be on bread and water for awhile, but I’ll feel like a sea goddess in that top. Well, I’d better.

 

 

The last week has been quite difficult. Indeed, the last couple of months have been challenging for our family. We are still grieving over the loss our beloved dog, Bilbo who was a regular here on my blog. It’s been about six weeks, and that intense grief is easing, but the kids still have their moments. They also have questions about life and death. My daughter’s frequently asked me why Adam and Eve had to eat the apple.

Since then, I’ve also been having my annual battle with chest infection and flu. I’ve had my vaccinations and am eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Yet, I still succumbed to some extent and after two rounds of antibiotics, am now at that annoying dry cough stage and asthma diffculties. I’ve had some severe coughing attacks, some in front of the kids, where I’ve been gasping for breath. Even though we’ve been through these attacks before, they’re still terrifying. You’re not quite sure how it’s going to pan out. However, I’ve been really bad a few years ago, and this isn’t even close. It’s just annoying and I know many other people are in the same boat. Flu season’s been bad here this year.

Not surprisingly, all of this has knocked the kids about. I’ve been fielding the hard questions from my daughter, but my son imploded. I should’ve headed it off at the pass. However, you can only do so much, when you can’t do much. I have long been preparing my kids for the worst, and I’m still here but that doesn’t mean they don’t get affected by what can be some pretty stressful hurdles along the way. Yet, we make the most of life.

DSC_6288

Our son at the V8 Supercars at Eastern Creek, Sydney.

Indeed, today my husband took my son our to see the V8 Supercars racing at Sydney’s Eastern Creek. I’m so pleased they went. They had a fantastic time and burst through the door talking about fast cars, flying rubber and how close they were to the finish. I downloaded the photos and my son played me a series of videos they’d taken. I must admit that I struggled to share his enthusiasm for loud engines, which he played for me the same way he’s shared an Ed Sheerin song. He had enough enthusiasm and excitement for the pair of us and my husband also chimed in.

 

 

The irony was that my daughter and I had each done a Kelee meditation session at our dance studio. I’d never heard of Kelee before, and am keen to find out more about it. I felt quite energized afterwards, and just had this sense of needing to speak out. To share how I’ve been grappling with growing up with undiagnosed hydrocephalus and how that affected my personality, identity  and things like my basic coordination. Even though I’ve had a shunt inserted 20 years ago, I still grapple with its impact and how to interpret myself. It makes for a good story, but I still have to live with it. Grapple with bits and bobs. All the conversations with my son this week, have brought some of that back and I guess it’s ust a matter of revisiting it, but rather than putting it back in the closet, to write about it. Finally, get it down.

I hope you don’t mind me getting rather deep this week. That’s who I am anyway and while I don’t like to dwell on the negatives, I also don’t like this whole culture of needing to be happy all the time. We all have ups and downs. That’s life.

If you’re looking for a bit of a laugh this week, you could read my contribution for Friday Fictioneers this week: Minding the Dog

 

Before I head off, I’ll just mention that I’ve been beavering away on my Irish Family history research. This is something I pick up and put down. However, it tends to work best when I can set aside a slab of time and just beaver away at those loose and dead ends. Five years ago, I set up a blog about my 3rd Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan who was an Irish Famine Orphan brought out to Sydney, Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. A monument has been set up at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks, where the women first stayed on arrival and next Sunday is the annual celebration. Anyway, Bridget married an Englishman ten years her senior, George Merritt and aside from giving birth to six children, was largely invisible. Despite my most dogged efforts, I haven’t been able to find out where and when Bridget or George died and that’s saying something. I’m VERY persistent! Anyway, last week, I received a message in relation to this blog site from someone researching on behalf of some distant cousins. Cousins who turn out to be Aboriginal Australians. It turns out 2 or 3 of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. One of them at least, moved into what was known as the Yass Black Camp. That intrigues me. That contact also led me back to my research, which wasn’t as organized as I’d hoped and so I’ve been beavering away. This led to another discovery, that at least four branches of my family came from County Cork. This seems to suggest that they stayed within their county group after arriving in Sydney. Not surprising when you think about how immigrants tend to stick together now, but of course, I was researching events in reverse order, instead of living them forward.

Do you do family history at all?

Anyway, it’s time for me to put down my coffee cup and keep moving. Our son leaves for the snow tomorrow for a few days and there’s still a lot of last minute bits and bobs which need to be done.

lady reading book

Lady reading Geoff Le Pard’s: “My Father & Other Liars.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk and all the people we’ve met while walking with Lady.  We always meet so many chirpy, happy people on our walks and she opens so many doors… and not just the bathroom door (see the Flash fiction!)

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can check out the other posts Here.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena xxoo