Last year, two close friends of mine died of breast cancer, while my sister-in-law was fighting a rather gruelling battle with it and facing obscure complication after obscure complication and a run of very bad luck. One of those friends never told me she was sick and I found out after she’d died. The other was seemingly cancer free and after a gruelling eight year battle, the cancer came back with a vengeance and she was gone in a week. It was like one of these fierce Australian bush fires, and it consumed her. They both had teenage children, and the loss was obviously focused on them. However, grief rippled out. They were much loved, and it’s still so hard to believe they’re no here.
I hope you’ve had a great week!
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!
Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?
I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.
Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.
In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.
However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.
Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.
So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.
Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.
So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.
Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.
Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.
This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:
I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.
Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.
“Forget a Hail Mary, Mike. Make that a Bloody Mary, with an extra shot of Vodka.”
“Hair of the dog, eh Meg? You okay?” Tim the barman asked. Bloody Marys were a well-known hangover cure. Meg was sous chef at their two hat restaurant, and she’d been on a bender. She knew he knew, but neither of them said a word. However, she’d never hit the bottle this early before, and it wasn’t going to happen on his watch. He left out the vodka, made a Virgin Mary to go, and grabbed his keys. “Meg, I’m taking you home.”
I don’t know whether I should be shouting: “Hip Hip Hooray” today, or in mourning. Today, Great Sydney finally came out of its extensive 106 day lockdown now that we’ve reached a vaccination rate of 70%. After a peak of 1603 on September 10, we were down to 496 cases today. That’s not a perfect world, and not yet a safe space for vulnerable people like myself to enter yet. I was about to say it offers hope, but it could also demonstrate reckless abandon after being careful for so long. It’s interesting too to see where people head as soon as they break out? Is is to see friends and family they’re been shut away from for so long? I can’t blame people for possibly wanting to get to the hairdresser first. I was planning to have at least a friend over to christen the new table today, but of course, it rained and being an outdoor table, that’s not much fun unless you’re a woolly Border Collie with thick, protective coat. For those of you who still remember Bilbo, he was a great one for standing out in the rain and getting soaking wet.
Well, I know there’s been a lot of table talk going on around here, but this week I’m proud to announce that the table has been sanded back, restored and in situ. I have well and really rung the brass bell over that, as it would’ve been easier to move heaven and earth. I’m sure those of you with real homes can testify to that as well. That a seemingly easy decision to put a table out the front can require so much work, negotiation, acceptance and maybe even grief! Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to leave alone and just be able todo what I want, when I want and not have to consult ANYBODY – or have someone else scuttle my plans, especially due to a lack of planning on their part. (Speaking of which I’ve had two pairs of ballet pointe shoes and a sewing basket left beside my chair. One of the downsides about coming out of lockdown, is that the pointe shoes needed to be replaced. However, one pair is heading back to the ballerina to do herself. BTW She’s very excited because she managed to get a Billie Eilish ticket today).
Tis week, I slowed down over at my new blog: “Tea With Ethel Turner” this week with only adding one post. However, it was a post that meant a lot to me. I was reading her somewhat autobiographical novel, Three Little Maids, when almost at the end I found what I’ve dubbed: “A Writer’s Prayer”. Through this prayer, Dolly (who is said to represent Ethel Turner) tells her sister how she prayed to get a book published and that her calling might be to write books that “do some good”. As a writer with the same heart-felt desire in mind, it meant the world to me and perhaps you would love it too: https://teawithethelturner.com/2021/10/07/a-writers-prayer-ethel-turner/
By the way, I had quite a few technical issues with the new blog, and ended up changing format to sort them out. So, I apologise if you had any difficulties last week.
The other thing I’ve been working on lately, is the story of my friend’s father who was a Polish Bomber Pilot serving in the UK during WWII. It’s been my friend’s quest to write a book about his father’s experiences of escaping Poland and into Romania where he was interred, and smuggled out into France where he served before arriving in England. Roland’s father never taught his children Polish, and unfortunately the Polish pilot’s records in England are all in Polish. So it’s been a beast to sort anything out. Google translate has helped with clarifying online resources, but otherwise its a slow and laborious process. I had a bit of a breakthrough this week, when I found a pdf in Polish online. It was written by one of his Dad’s friends an was a story of the “Three Muskateers”. It even ad a few pages just about Roland’s dad. It was wonderful, except it was all in Polish. So, I tried a little experiment. I typed up the Polish and pasted it into Google translate. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. Well, it was like magic. There really was a story behind all those words which made absolutely no sense to me. Indeed, I thought the start of the story was very touching. There is this old Polish man with all the photos taken in his entire lifetime contained in a biscuit tin his cousin brought back from England. It was incredibly poignant but also pretty heart wrenching to all the photos of a lifetime can fit into one biscuit tin. It’s nothing for me to take 200 photos in a day. However, it would do me good to put the most precious ones in a tin so I can see the the trees. By having so many photos, we might as well have none in a way.
Anyway, who would’ve thought I’d be typing up Polish like that? In some ways my life feels incredibly random, and yet my insatiable curiosity won’t just let me settle with a fragment of such a good story even when I’m immersed in so many other gripping stories pursuing Ethel Turner and my WWI stories. I’m not going to be very good at interacting with people about the mundane realities of daily life if I ever make it fully out of isolation!
So, how are are things for you? Have you had a good week? I sure hope so!
How are you? How are you really? Are you fine and everything’s going along with the flow? Or, are you a bit like me and a few of your own cogs aren’t quite moving smoothly and those around you are doing it tough?
That’s where I’m sitting at the moment. I haven’t got my own house in order, but I’m being much more constructive helping a few friends who are doing it tough and it’s so much easier to see the necessary steps for them, but so much harder for myself. I’m staring too close to it and it’s gone a bit blurry. Actually, it’s not really my stuff I’m trying to get sorted. It’s my son and his choices for his last year of school. He wants to do sound engineering when he finishes up and has a good aptitude for it, and he’s gaining good experience at Church, especially when you consider other options have closed down. He wants to put his foot down on the accelerator and get on with it. I’d just like him to slow down and finish school. Have another year before he heads out into the big wide world. I am trying not to blow up like a firecracker and am saying very little, while I try to do my research and get my head around what he wants to do.
Meanwhile, I took my elderly neighbour to the specialist today. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which had got into his bones. He’s 90 so we know he isn’t going to last forever, but we love this couple dearly and they have always been a second set of grandparents to our kids and were such a help when they were small. Now, it’s our turn to look after them. They said they were right, but I said it’s always good to have someone else to listen and take notes. Moreover, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been through a bit medically so I’m well versed on these things. Well, at least, I knew to take pen and paper and write everything down. I could work out what was important later. It was also good that I could drive them there, and take that pressure off. It was only later on tonight that the reality of his situation really sank in and how incongruous it was that we were talking through cancer treatment very matter of factly. No tears. No emotions. It was business. This is what needs to be done. However, there are emotions and it’s only now that I’ve stopped for the day and am unwinding for bed, that the reality has sunk in. By the way, it’s no trouble to be there for them. It’s just what you do. Besides, my grandparents’ neighbours took very good care of them We were living 1000kms away and couldn’t be there for them in that day to day way. In fact, I don’t think I ever drove any of my grandparents anywhere. So, this is rather nice and while we were waiting, I listened to his stories. They both lived through the London Blitz and were also sent away to the countryside as children were. They’re a fascinating couple, and they walk down to the local shops together, and are so sweet. You rarely see a couple still living at their age, let alone walking around and still living in their own home.
Tomorrow night, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party and I’ve offered to make the cake. I’ve been having better luck of late, H owever, I’m concerned about how this cake is turning out. I’ve made a caramel mud cake with caramel icing. I’m hoping it’s okay. My friend lives in a pole home perched high upon pillars like telegraph poles and set among the gum trees. He calls his place: “The Treehouse” and its beautifully decorated with vintage and antique ephemera and he’s a fabulous host, especially when you bring the food and cake. So, so his cake, I’m wanting to build a treehouse. Fortunately, I have a mould for a small chocolate gingerbread house. I haven’t used it before but I’ve poured in the chocolate and I’m just wanting for it to set. I’ve also got ini Violet Crumbles and chocolate sticks and I’ve going to set up an invading hoard of Tiny Teddies. It’s going to be a lot of fun assembling all these ideas. I’m just not quite sure how we’re going to transport it there and whether to assemble it there. Finger crossed it works out well.
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing on with my research and it’s taking shape, which is a relief. I have so many stories but am getting them structured and it’s all heading the right direction.
Anyway, I’d better head off and get to bed. I hope you’re going well.
All James ever wanted was to eat a bowl of ice cream. However, James was severely lactose intolerant and ice cream was forbidden. Now a teenager, he was sick of everyone asking why he he had to have soy milk. Why can’t you have ice cream? What’s wrong with you? To compound his troubles, his mother hovered over him like a hawk. However, she wasn’t going to be at camp, and James had forged her signature on the medical forms. Finally, James indulged in his very first bowl of ice cream. All good until he got stuck on the bus.
“Over my dead body! Dot thundered. “You won’t get me into a nursing home!”
However, the good Lord had other plans. Sent a blood clot to her brain. It wasn’t strong enough to take her out, or destroy her mental faculties, but it had left her paralyzed in a wheelchair.
Dot was sure she could manage at home. Yet, her daughter had her assessed and off she went. Worse than jail, and she’d committed no crime.
However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Her daughter locked her up, but her grandchildren set her free.
Grannie was on the run.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. Every week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT Linda Kreger.
My take on this week’s prompt was inspired by my husband’s aunt who was a strong-willed, intelligent and independent woman who lived at home with her son for many years after a stroke left her in a mobility scooter. Unfortunately, she had another fairly massive stroke which didn’t kill her but she couldn’t go home and it was hard for all of us when she had expressed her wishes so clearly but there was nothing anybody could do. That was her lot. This stroke, by the way, had again only really affected her mobility and she was still as bright as a button and it was a tough cross to bear. I would’ve liked to set her free.
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull wasn’t in the mood for mindfulness, meditation or even having some kind of a chat down at the beach this morning. Usually, he’s quite happy to pose philosophically and even stands statue-still for the camera as though he’s had a bit of modeling experience. However, this morning he was either out to carpe diemseize the day or might’ve been late for an important date further down the beach. On the other hand, perhaps, he was simply trying to raise his heart rate after absorbing more of my physio’s wisdom than I (who was slowly wondering along the beach absorbing life through the lens).
You’ll also notice that a bit of a breeze was ruffling his feathers. It was a brisk 17°C down there today, which might have some of you leaping for joy shouting “Summer!” However, that’s considered cold here. That said, over the last couple of days the weather’s been awful with temperatures around 9°C, chilling winds and rain. Of course, these near blizzard conditions forced many frost-bitten locals to rug up and stay home, especially of the teenage variety. So, with the sun back out and the mercury rising, the whingeing Aussies were back out singing the Alleluia Chorus.
“Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect. –
And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at
the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t
have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
I’m pleased I snatched a few moments away from my research to get outside and stretch my wings. I’ve lost myself somewhere in between the lines over the last couple of months and am slowly recalibrating myself for a marathon, not a sprint, on the book project. Darn it. I want to get something finished. Published. Done and dusted. Grr. Could I possibly write a book about trying to write a book? Would it take off? I’m getting desperate.
However, in the meantime, it’s good for the soul to get out there, inhale the ocean air and the beauty all around me and return to the present for a bit. After all, I’m sure it’s quite possible to get buried alive in the past and that doesn’t sound good.
Thought I’d better show you the bigger picture. Ocean Beach on a beautiful day.
What do you do to relax and unwind while working on a bit writing or creative project? After all, all writing and no unwinding makes for a wrung-out soul. Indeed, we do have our casualties.
Welcome back to my series of motivational quotes for writers and creatives for this year’s Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Today, I’ve decided to focus on three words which, at least in my mind, go hand in hand…Dreams, Doubt and Determination. Indeed, they’re all part of the production process which take us through to the finish…The End.
How often has a writer or creative person been described as a dreamer? Moreover, while we might view being a dreamer in a positive light, the description is usually applied in the more derogatory sense…”You’re a dreamer'”. Or to quote one of my favourite Australian movies, The Castle: “Tell ’em he’s dreamin'”
“Writers write. Dreamers talk about it.”
Jerry B. Jenkins
Yet, in many ways, creatives need to be dreamers. Not only to come up with the initial creative spark which inspires a project, but also to set aside a massive chunk of time devoting yourself to something unknown, unseen… a vision. Something where there isn’t a pay packet at the end of each week, and you’re turning your back on the well-worn road to a warm seat at a much-used desk and having what is otherwise referred to as a “real job”. In this sense, it takes us back to my first word in this series “adventure”. While “adventure” is usually portrayed as a more rugged and physically challenging form of travel often involving daring physical feats like climbing Mt Everest, writing a book out of nothing, is also “a daring adventure”. It’s a massive risk, when there are so many other tried and tested paths. It is anything, but the easy road. Yet, somehow for some of of us, it becomes the only road.
This leads me to the flip side of dreaming, self-doubt. While that initial creative spark can be rather intoxicating, the process of converting that into a finished product is challenging involving a lot of hard work, dedication and often crippling self-doubt.
Having experienced crippling self-doubt myself, I wasn’t surprised to find an abundance of quotes covering on the subject. Although he lived centuries ago, William Shakespeare could have been writing about me:
“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
― William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
However, it’s not just the up and coming who are plagued by doubt. In Modernism’s Patriarch (Time Magazine, June 10, 1996)] Australian Art Historian, Robert Hughes wrote:
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
Perfect confidence is granted to the less
talented as a consolation prize.”
Even the great Tennessee Williams wrote:
“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how
completely unsure I am of my work and myself
and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of
others has always given me.”
This self-doubt can escalate and literally gain a stranglehold either in terms of creatives taking their own lives. Indeed, this incredibly heart-breaking loss of life is something our creative communities need to address. Too many have taken their own lives to keep hiding their epitaphs under the carpet. While nothing compared to the loss of life, too many truly brilliant ideas and valiant efforts have also been dashed against the rocks due to self-doubt.
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot
paint, then by all means paint and that voice
will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh
This brings me to determination, which often starts out with something incredibly basic…simply taking action.
On a personal note, the photos featured in this post were taken at Palm Beach back in 2014 while I was having chemo treatment for my auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. At this point in time, my future was looking rather grim, but I was also very determined to beat it. My kids were ten and eight at the time, and as much as getting a book published has long been my burning, almost all-consuming desire, the prospect of leaving my kids behind was excruciatingly painful. That was five years ago and the treatment worked and I’ve been in remission ever since, with ongoing ups and downs.
So when you see me standing on top of that rock, it personifies determination and overcoming all sorts of doubt. I also needed quite a lot of help climbing up and getting down. Yet, that’s okay. You don’t need to get there alone.
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 treatmentis something we should never take for granted.
Now, I’ll let Kirsten speak for herself…
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!
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.
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.