Category Archives: Health

The Drowning – Friday Fictioneers.

Watching myself through an oblique lens, I’d blown to the four winds. Defragged like a faulty hard disk. Mid-40s, degree, career …now stealing food off strangers’ plates and sleeping rough.    

“No, Julie! Don’t do it!”

Ravenous, she’d snatched the pizza straight off the table, and was scoffing it on the beach like a Bangkok stray… twisted, distorted, wild.

“Julie! Julie!” I slapped. “Wake up”

“Nobody gets me. Never has.”

“What about me?”  I beseeched, but my words fell flat.

Praying for eternal nothingness, destined for oblivion, she slipped into the surf. Floundering. Gasping…

I ran.

Safe on the beach, slowly our breathing merged…again.

…..

This week’s prompt brought many things to mind for me. The first thing which came to me, was backpacking through Europe and being so tight with money and rationing our food and then watching others leaving food behind and feeling like we could almost lick their plates. I still remember that ravenous hunger!

From there, my thoughts drifted towards being homeless and being that hungry, you could snatch that pizza out of a restaurant in what felt like an act of utter desperation. Who would do that? How bad would it have to get to take you there?

I wonder…

I don’t know whether you’ve ever wrestled with yourself like this before where you’re split in two. Perhaps, not in such an extreme situation, but a time where you’ve been through hard times and you end up talking to yourself. Or, you’ve experienced God comfort you. Or both.

Becoming homeless and being swept along that dreadful downward spiral, is only be a paycheck or two away for most of us. I’ve never been homeless, but I have fallen on hard times and have often found this voice within myself guiding me along. Giving me encouragement and strength I didn’t know I had.

Given the very dark nature of my piece this week, I just wanted to explain it a little further. After all, when you play with words arranging them into very dark and foreboding pictures, I felt the need to debrief in a sense. Let the reader know that all is well.

Well, almost!

xx Rowena

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff. This week’s photo prompt kindly comes from © Dale Rogerson.

The Rise & Fall of Reverend Bert – Friday Fictioneers.

“Persistence might be a virtue, Reverend,” the doctor pontificated. “But NOT when you’re riding that contraption around town saving souls with a crook appendix! The great unsaved can wait!”

“We’re getting you walking today. The nurses will assist.”

“I can walk on my own two feet, thank you,” the Reverend replied, jumping out of bed and crashing to the floor, unsupported by his jelly legs.

“Let me help you up, Father” she beamed.

It was the first time he’d seen the pretty nurse.

“Oh no! I’m not a priest,” he replied, smitten. “It’s okay.  We’re allowed to get married.”

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse

 

A – Ashgrove Farm, Tasmania.

Quite frankly, you’ve got rocks in your head if you can’t find happiness at Ashgrove Farm.

Indeed, even the cows there, are said to be the “happiest cows on earth”.

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An uber-happy Cow.

Don’t ask me how they’ve worked that out. As far as I knew, cows weren’t that good at filling out market research questionnaires, but what would I know?  I’m from the Mainland. It could well be, that after eating all that supergrass, these Ashgrove cows have developed magic superpowers,  and they’re not just smiling for the cameras anymore.

I wouldn’t know. As I said, I’m from the Mainland.

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My daughter tasting the Cheese.

So, even if you don’t eat cheese, it sounds like you might enjoy the grass and you could even  add it to your salad, if you’re that way inclined.

Now, perhaps you’re a bit sceptical about these happy cows,  and your thoughts might be drifting towards a different kind of grass. However,  if you were living in Tasmania with a year-round supply of lush green grass, you’d agree that it sure beats munching of dry chaff out on the desert fringe.

As you might be aware, we spent three week getting around Tasmania in January, showing the kids “where Daddy comes from”.  The founders of Ashgrove Farm are my Father-in-Law’s cousins, but quite aside from the family connections, Ashgrove Cheese became our home away from home as we continuously restocked our cheese supplies and even loaded up the Esky for coming home. I’ve become passionately addicted to their Lavender Cheese, which is only available on the Mainland via mail order so I had to stock up. My other favourites include the Wasabi Cheese which I was adding to everything except my Weetbix when we arrived home, and a Bacon-flavoured Havarti Cheese.

If I had to differentiate Ashgrove Cheese from other cheeses, I’d say they’re deliciously creamy. When this creaminess is partnered with the Lavender or Wasabi, for example, this creaminess is cut through by these flavours for a very well-rounded and balanced flavour.

I hope my very elementary attempts at food writing there make sense. Despite being a writer and something of a foodie, I find it very difficult to write about food in any detail. I’m much, much better at eating it!.

By the way, Ashgrove Farm’s store doesn’t simply stop at cheese and there’s a wide range of gourmet treats like coconut ice, fudge, salad dressing and…(drum roll)…ice cream to die for! I particularly loved the lemon ice cream which was as white as snow  with a strong lemon flavour cutting nicely through the exceptionally creamy, smooth texture.

Humph…I’m  starting to wonder whether this virtual tour of Ashgrove Farm has been such a good idea. I’m staring longingly at their web site and banging my head against the screen. Let me in! Let me in! Or, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and …I’m now start behaving more responsibly.  Cheese addiction can become life threatening if you don’t keep yourself in check.

So, on that note, let me turn it over to you. Are you doing the April A-Z Challenge? If so, please leave a link to your A post below and I’ll try to head over. I’ve got rather caught up lately and haven’t been blogging as much.

It’s been great to catch up!

Xx Rowena

Today is the first day of the A-Z April Challenge and my theme this year is Tasmania. My husband is a -5th generation Tasmanian and in January this year we spent three weeks travelling round around Tasmania, and this is my theme for the challenge this year.

Keep Breathing…Friday Fictioneers.

“All my life,” Melissa sighed to her therapist. “I’ve been peering through the keyhole too afraid to live.”

Phillippa was trying hard not to yawn. Dumping clients was hard. Never mentioned the “F” word.  It was all about “finding a better fit”.  Being a “therapy drop out” wasn’t good for their self-esteem.

“Anyway…”

Suddenly, Melissa became strangely animated, even possessed. “I finally attended a writer’s group this week and read one of my poems. Thought I was gunna die. Then, I heard you counting and this other voice saying: “Breathe, Melissa. Breathe. You can do it.”

“It was actually me.”

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s image was provided by © Shaktiki Sharma.

This week, I’ve spent a bit of time researching my grandmother who was a concert pianist and I’ve been thinking about that experience I had as a child of almost looking through the keyhole into her adult world. There was definitely a “them” and “us” policy and children should be not seen AND not heard. That suited us and we’d round up change for lollies from the adults and disappear with our stash.

Yet, there were those times I distinctly remember peering into this adult world and watching through that metaphorical keyhole. Nothing quite like being a spy!

By the way, I’d also encourage comments about when therapy doesn’t work and what that was like. Personally, I’m a lousy one for taking action but I’m currently working through that with my physio. Or, should I say, I’m “walking” it out.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

 

 

New…the Christmas Cake Work Out.

Tonight, I’m announcing the Christmas Cake Workout.

Launching a weight loss campaign with only two sleeps til Christmas, has to be the definition of insanity. The ultimate in reverse psychology, going against the flow, being “unique” and dare I say (drum roll)… being a real “individual”!

Yet, that’s me. I’m always blazing my own trail, without the slightest regard for wherever the flow is going. No wonder I often end up “all by myself.”

So, this afternoon  I found myself doing the Christmas Cake Workout.

You must think I’ve got rocks in my head thinking that eating Christmas Cake is going to give me that elusive bikini body. After all, Christmas Cake with all that butter, sugar and boozy dried fruit, is  guaranteed to turn you into a pudding instead.

So, this is a good time for me to point out the fine print. It’s just a minor detail, but with the Christmas Cake Workout, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Success is all in the mixing. Indeed, it’s mixing this huge, monster cake which builds up serious muscle. I can guarantee you’ll be lifting weights at the Olympics afterwards. The mixture is so dense, that just getting the spoon through is hard going.

Given that we’ve only got a small family, you’re probably wondering why I was making a Christmas Cake big enough to feed the entire Australian cricket team and the WAGS (wives & girlfriends). We’re not huge fruitcake fans and certainly have no desire to eat Christmas Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, especially after Christmas. Indeed, I much prefer chocolate cake and I only have a few slices of Christmas Cake for tradition’s sake.

So, what on earth was I thinking?

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Preparing the Dried Fruits.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t thinking. I should’ve known that 3 kilos of dried fruit, 8 eggs and 500g of melted butter, signified a huge cake. Indeed, the cake also called for an entire cup of brandy, which either makes it very big, or a seriously heavy drinker. I’d be sozzled if I drank all of that!

Well, the story goes that this recipe was on the back of my Christmas cards. It was quite different to my usual Christmas Cake recipe with walnuts and grated apple in the mix, and looked quite interesting. As I said, it called for 3kg of dried fruit and I thought I’d venture out of my comfort zone and added some dried figs. At this point, I was still well short so I also added some dates. This cake was starting to sound quite exotic.

Anyway, depending on your viewpoint, you could say making this cake was serendipity, divine intervention or meant to be. That’s because Lady, our scoundrel of a dog, ate almost all of the Christmas Cake I’d made using my mother’s recipe. We were just lucky that my Dad has a peculiar aversion to cinnamon and I’d made a dozen smaller cakes for him. They’re all that’s left. So, he’ll now have to share. Sorry, Dad!

Anyway, getting back to the monster cake, the dried fruit and brandy have been stewing in my largest mixing bowl in the fridge for the last 2 days. It might not be a bath tub, but it’s big…and it was full. No room for any other ingredients whatsoever.

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So, I decided to mix all the other ingredients together in my large mix master bowl and then split it into three equally large bowls. I divided up the drunk fruits and started stirring. Heave-ho! Yes, those biceps were already starting to pop!

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That’s why I’ve called this process: “The Christmas Cake Workout”. This stirring was seriously hard work. In  the end, the mixing spoon couldn’t cope. There was no alternative. It was a case of using the equipment God gave me. I sunk my hands deep into the dough, using my fingers to blend the mixture through the fruit. Once mixed, I managed to get all the dough into one bowl, even if it did require 3 tins to bake.

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They now need to rest for three weeks, making them post-Christmas Cakes. Or, perhaps even a cake for next Christmas. Howzat! Imagine being a whole year ahead with my Christmas Cake…

I must’ve wandered into someone else’s life!

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Love,

Rowena

 

Accessing Schools Spectacular.

Last Saturday night, our family attended the NSW Schools Spectacular held at Qudos Bank Arena, at Sydney’s Olympic Park. Schools Spectacular is the largest variety show in the world and features students from NSW Public Schools and guest artists. Our daughter was performing in the 3,500 strong mass choir and I was really looking forward to a fantastic night out.

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However, as a someone living with disability and chronic illness, I naturally had some reservations. Large crowds throw up all sorts of unpredictablities  for me. It doesn’t take much for a simple fall to have major consequences…a broken foot a few years ago being case in point.

However, despite these hazards, I carpe diem and seize the day. I get out and about and I would move heaven and earth to see our daughter perform.

There were simply concerns about THE HOW and that meant reducing all the unpredictabilities. It’s not rocket science. It’s just like making sure you pack a water bottle on a hot day. However, I usually have a lot more variables to consider and most of them are unpredictable. We have to think on our feet.

That’s also because I’m on my feet using a walking stick, not in a wheelchair. I thought I’d better point that out because it makes quite a difference to the types of accessibility problems I face.

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The Finale.You can feel he electricity, can’t you!!

As much as we all loved and enjoyed the performance and can’t wait to see it all over again on TV next weekend, we did experience some difficulties accessing and leaving the venue.  After trying unsuccessfully to have my needs accommodated at the time, I’m sharing my experiences with a view to implementing change through greater community awareness. After all, people living with disability and chronic illness are entitled to a fun night out, without needing to advocate for disability access rights!

To give you an idea of what it is like for a disabled person with a walking stick to attend a big concert, I thought I’d hobble you through the highs and lows of our evening.

Starting out with the positive, I have a companion card. This entitles me to a free carer to accompany me to a huge range of venues. This meant that as my companion, my husband’s ticket for School Spectacular was in a sense free. However, it also meant that he was also his wife’s keeper and he was on duty  (Confirmation that there’s no such thing as a free lunch!).

Secondly, we were able to get subsidised disabled parking a short walk from the venue. I can’t overstate how having a Disabled Parking Permit opens places up for me. Of course, it’s great to be close to the venue. However, that proximity also reduces unpredictabilties, producing something of a protective bubble. There’s still that element of risk, but it’s much reduced. This allows me to lead something close to a “normal” life.

However, on the down side, despite having the Companion Card and disabled parking permit, I was deemed capable of queuing up with the crowded throngs to get through the security check. Given that the show had 5,000 performers, the crowds were phenomenal. So, we’re not talking about a trickle. Such crowds pose a genuine risk to my physical safety and my concerns have nothing to do with being “anxious”!.

I politely asked the ticket office about disabled access and was told that everyone had to go through the security checks. But I wasn’t asking to by-pass the security checks. Nor would I want anyone to by-pass them. Obviously, they’re critical. However, there should have been a way for people with disabilities to by-pass the queue and go straight through the checks. I was using a walking stick, had a Companion Card and a Disabled Parking Permit.  So, these people at the ticket office knew I wasn’t well. They could’ve walked me to the front of the queue and helped, but instead they stuck to their officialese.

That’s when I donned my political hat. Not because I couldn’t wait for the queue to die down or take my chances in the crowd. I did it because there should have been decent disability access. Somebody needed to speak up for those who can’t or struggle to speak up. I clearly expressed my right to disabled access and was bluntly told the queue was the only way. I spoke to the supervisor and received the same rule-driven response.

Of course, I was the problem!

We were naturally unimpressed (read understatement!!)

However, very soon our experience dramatically improved.

Having made it through the security check, I confronted a metal turnstile and wasn’t feeling comfortable. This time the staff member asked me if I could get through and guided me around the turnstile. My husband and I almost hugged him, thanking him profusely for his attitude. It was such a welcome contrast to the people at the ticket office who had their rules, which clearly made no allowance for disabled people.

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So far so good. We made it to our seats and really enjoyed the performance. It was superlatively sensational and we want to thank and acknowledge all those beautiful performers, the teachers, and everybody who put so much into this incredible event. In no way do I want my concerns about disability access to lessen what was a truly unforgettable experience.

Naturally, after the performance was over, we had to get home.

As I said, we had a very convenient Disabled Parking spot. However, we hadn’t anticipated that being on level 1 would make it incredibly difficult to exit the car park with all the cars pushing down from upper levels. While there is a sign warning that it takes an hour for a full car park to empty, for many people living with disability or chronic illness, that’s a very long time…especially if you’re stuck in the queue for an extended period.  There are seriously disabled and chronically ill people who can’t wait around in a car park for an hour to exit. These families live on a very short piece of string and need to get home like a bat out of hell.

As we were parked right next to the toilets, my husband decided we were better off waiting and staying put rather than getting stuck in the stationary traffic stampede. This gave me a chance to watch the panicked pandemonium. It was like someone had yelled “FIRE” and everyone had to get out immediately, right now and the thinking part of their brains was definitely switched off. At one point, we saw people converge on one exit point from five different directions, which clearly wasn’t “legal”. Drivers behaved like crazed maniacs in a case of:  “Just get me out of here. I don’t care about anyone else.”

While I was watching all of this, I came up with an idea.

What about if the people with Disabled Parking Permits were allowed to leave first and other motorists had to give way?  It would probably cause an outrage, but it wouldn’t hurt most people to wait an extra 15 minutes or even half an hour. However, knowing we could exit a venue quickly would provide seriously disabled and chronically ill people with much greater community participation.

What do you think?

For our family these recommendations also have further application. My Mum had bought a ticket to the lunchtime matinee concert but seriously put her back out and couldn’t attend. I’d actually encouraged her to have a go, because I thought the venue would help us find a way. However, I’m glad she stayed home because it would’ve been too much. She would’ve needed a lot of extra support and as much as catering for one little girl’s Grandma isn’t much to ask, that crowd was brutal and to be fair, she’s nowhere near well enough.

My intentions here are not to criticise or throw stones but to raise awareness. Let you travel in our shoes for a night and open your eyes to our struggles. Before I became aware of my own disabilities, I never thought about such difficulties either. I was young and only thought about number one too. However, all I ask is that you open your eyes and respond from your heart, instead of your rule book. Have compassion.

I am not talking about making huge changes, but together we can move mountains. Not just these mountains, but all sorts of mountains which make it harder for anyone to fully participate in the seemingly simple things of life.

Okay. So where’s your shovel? Let’s start digging!

xx Rowena

Further Reading
Here are some other posts about living with disability:

Beyond the Flow: A Wheely Good Night at the Opera House

Beyond the Flow: Forgiving the Unforgivable (your chronic illness).

Living in a limited world: NHS Cruelty

Caring for Mum.

Yesterday, I shared about finding out my brother’s cat, Archie had passed away. What I didn’t mention, was that my Mum’s in hospital with acute back pain. Although we initially joked about it being like a holiday with a room to herself and meals arriving like magic, the reality is different. Even with a brilliant imagination, you can’t keep pretend that you’re lying by the pool when you’re in agony, in hospital and you don’t know why or how it happened. One day, you were you and the next day, your back seizes up and you’re in excruciating pain and you’ve become someone else. What happened?

Except for me, these questions are being asked in the third person. What’s happened to Mum?

 

 

If you asked me to describe my Mum, I’d tell you that she loves the beach and looks great in a bikini. Because when I immediately picture my Mum as my Mum, she must be about 30 and she’s wearing a bikini and she’s full of beans. She’s playing tennis, swimming at the beach and driving us all over the countryside to piano, violin, ballet and she’s nowhere near a hospital. Indeed, even my grandmother running round the shops needing some kind of harness to keep her under control. She was getting around with the same speed as my toddler son whose now 13 and attached to electronics most of the time these days and now much, much easier to catch.

I’ve shared about this weird sensation about time before. That just because we’ve aged, it doesn’t mean that our idea of who were are or those close to us, has aged along with the physical body. I know for me there’s definitely a huge disparity and I remember my grandmother telling me that she didn’t recognise the old lady staring back at her. That was someone else and her true reflection was simply hiding somewhere behind the glass.

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I haven’t been prepared for Mum to grow old.

 

Mum has been our rock through my health crises taking in the kids for 7 weeks when I was first diagnosed with dermatomyositis. She had two traumatized, very active kids and it was very intense for Mum, Dad and my brother.Yet, they were there. They were my strength when I clearly had none…physically or emotionally.

So, it’s hard to come around to the idea that Mum, indeed my parents, are drifting into the elderly category. Where it won’t be Mum taking me or the kids shopping, and we could well be taking her. That instead of her visiting me in hospital, it’s us visiting her. As much as I’m glad to be well away from hospital these days, that doesn’t give her permission to sign up. Moreover,  it definitely doesn’t give The Patron Saint of Hospital Admissions permission to come after her. It can well and truly leave all of us alone thank you very much!!

I guess what I wanted to write about and tap into is this sense of unfolding grief we often experience these days when older family members and friends have protracted medical treatments. We watch their strength, personality and even memory get chipped away, chipped away ever so slowly and you and they both know that they’re not how they used to be, and yet they’re still here. Indeed, I had two grandparents live with long term Alzheimers and by the time they died, I had almost run out of tears. My grief had been used up along the way.

That’s because there is grief along this journey, even though there’s also that gratitude and relief that they’re still here.

So, now while I’m feeling rotten about Mum being in hospital and knowing how much pain she’s experiencing, I still feel in a sense that I have no right to grieve. She’s not dying. She’s “fine” only she’s actually along way from being fine and we have no crystal ball about what this means. My son still expected Mama to pick him up from school this afternoon. After all, that’s what Mama does and has been doing on Wednesdays ever since he’s been born almost 13 years ago. She’s been here…an hour’s drive away hail, rain or shine because she loves us. Moreover, given my health problems and uncertainty over the years, she has been their rock. The net that catches my kids when everything’s falling apart and there’s no ground to land on. She hasn’t been there only support but she’s definitely been there.

I had to remind him that Mama is in hospital.

Mum and I didn’t get on for many years and we’re very different people. Being an extreme extrovert, she often tried to reign me in…something I didn’t understand until I was doing the same with our very extroverted son. Obviously, nobody explains all of this to you when you’re a kid. Yet, the yin and yang between introverts and extroverts is something I need to understand with family. After all, opposites attract and it’s understandable that there’d be a mix throughout the family. Having that understanding has been critical for better relations.

So, even though Mum doesn’t let me write about her, I needed to share my anguish, my gratitude that she’s not worse and to provide a space for you to share these complex and challenging emotions. I am very lucky to be 47 and to have both my parents alive but I also can’t imagine a world without them in it. They’ve been here forever just like the air I breathe in and out.

Not that I need to think about that now but at the same time, I feel the need to acknowledge this partial grief and concern for my mother being in so much pain. It’s very hard to think about her suffering, but being there for her, means embracing it head on and being her daughter…not a coward.

I would like to open up the comments section for people to share their feelings and reflections about parents getting old, losing a parent and please link to your posts. I am thinking of you and send you my love and prayers!

xx Rowena

PS Despite the seriousness of Mum’s situation, there’s still opportunity for humour. When we told our son that Mama was going for a bone density scan, he asked if she was getting carbon dated. Well, at least I was laughing!