Category Archives: Health

D- Dreams, Doubt, Determination…Motivation A-Z Challenge

“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they

are the children of your soul, the blueprints of

your ultimate achievements.”

Napoleon Hill

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.

Dreams

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.

Self-Doubt

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

Determination

This brings me to determination, which often starts out with something incredibly basic…simply taking action.

“We all have dreams. But in order to make

dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot

of determination, dedication, self-discipline,

and effort.”

– Jesse Owens

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds

confidence and courage. If you want to

conquer fear, do not sit home and think about

it. Go out and get busy.”

– Dale Carnegie

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.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Awareness.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Kirsten Harley

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

*****

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.

Now, imagine…

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Weekend Coffee Share…12th November, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I have to warn you upfront that last week wasn’t the best and was actually rather difficult. However, it improved as it went on and I was filled with an over-riding sense of gratitude. An appreciation of the love and support that people have given us. I’m also quite conscious of how different things might’ve been, which suddenly made everything look rosy especially after the general anaethesetic.

Rowena Hospital Nov 2018

It’s funny how just putting on the hospital whites makes me look like I’m on death’s door.

Last Thursday, I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. The results were fine and I didn’t expect anything nasty. Yet, I guess there’s always that caution when they send the camera where the sun don’t shine. By the way, I’d like to encourage anyone who has been putting off have either of these procedures to face the music. I’d heard horror stories about taking the stuff and let’s face it, most of us are rather private about our privates. However, I was knocked out for the procedure and it was worth it for the peace of mind.

However, the lead up to the colonoscopy was quite stressful. I was freaking out about stuffing up the preparations. In hindsight, they’re not that complicated but I was quite worried I’d forget and eat something I shouldn’t. However, I was on my best behaviour and a good little Vegemite after all. No dramas.

Unfortunately, one of my kids became quite stressed about the whole thing and let’s just say “needed to have a chat”. This resulted in a day waiting for him to be assessed by which point, he was fine and had perked up. Meanwhile, I couldn’t find a parking spot at the hospital and was driving round and round the multi-storey carpark. Not finding anything, I was heading back down and hit a concrete divider on the exit ramp. Talk about things going from bad to worse. I’d cracked the radiator and my kid tells me that the engine’s on fire and smoke’s rising out of the bonnet. By this point, I was totally paralyzed, numb and couldn’t even consider where the hazard lights or the button for the bonnet were located. Fortunately, child stepped in and went for help. Don’t laugh but the tow truck was already there! Problem solved. Car parked.

 

I felt absolutely shell-shocked after all of that and am still in recovery mode. We went to a friend’s place for a birthday Friday night and that was fantastic and yesterday I was on duty at the sailing club.Well, somewhat on duty. I ended up sitting upstairs in the restaurant venting my spleen in ink. I also managed to get some photos of Geoff on his sailing course. I really wished I could’ve been out there sailing as well but these small boats are too much for me physically and I need more of a champagne yachting experience.

While I was at the hospital, I managed to finish a fantastic book by investigative journalist, Leigh Sales, called: Any Ordinary Day. It looks at how people respond to extreme trauma and also looks at the interaction between chance and destiny. It really got up close and personal to a series of truly shocking tragedies and unravelled at least some of the threads. I highly recommend it!

 

In terms of blogging last week, for Thursday Doors I walked up Bridge Street, Sydney up to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, a route my mother followed for many years as a music student at the Con: Bridge Street Sydney- Thursday Doors.As I was walking up the hill, I particularly noticed the imposing clock tower peering over the Department of Lands building and thought of my mother and other students racing up the hill and being taunted by the clock: “You’re late! Late for an important date!” I also participated in Friday fictioneers with Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Well, I feel myself running out of steam now so I’ll head off. How was your week? I hope you have a good one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Between Heaven & Hell…Friday Fictioneers.

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

…………….

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Journey Without Steps…Friday Fictioneers.

All this motivational quackery was rubbish. My journey of a thousand miles was never going to begin with this step, and it wasn’t going to head straight up a flight of stairs either. Surely, there was a lift? Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to ask. Twenty-five years young with the rusty joints of an eighty year old, I was done explaining. I’d shut shop. It was much easier to stay home. Yet, that wasn’t a luxury I could afford. Lingering between the lines of disability and wellness, I had to work. If only I had the wings to soar….

….

For those of you who’ve known me for awhile, I live with some chronic health and disability issues. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had brain surgery to insert a shunt. My road to recovery felt like it was straight up the side of Everest without any safety equipment or assistance whatsoever, even though I was not alone. I really had comprehensive and loving support from my family friends and particularly my OT at Mt Wilga, who really helped me get through this incredibly hellish experience. Yet, I was the only one who could walk in my shoes. I was the only one who truly knew what it was like to put one foot after the other. I still had a job when I was going through that and yet my return to work date kept getting put back and their were complications. The valve of the shunt malfunctioned and I needed further surgery, which I really didn’t expect to survive. By this stage, returning to work seemed hopeless. My relationship had all but ended and it was a bloody hard slog. Yet, through all of that I always saw myself as a career woman. Work was very important to me. I ended up getting a part-time job and then landed what seemed to be my dream job in an advertising agency but the hours were very long and it was very stressful and one night I collapsed at Central Station from sheer exhaustion. I had to slow things down. Find a new path. One that wasn’t quite so steep and allowed me to heal. This was a huge life lesson for me and I clearly remember being told that I was a “human being and not a human doing”. I have a lot of adjustment to do and that is ongoing.

I would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness of the kinds of barriers people face when it comes to returning to work or finding a job when they have a disability, health issue or are just battling with life. How can we make their path a little bit easier? How can we reduce the load? What are we doing as a community to make their battle worse? Indeed, the finger of blame falls too quickly on the survivor instead of a helping hand.

Lecture over.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st May, 2018.

 “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.”

Alice in Wonderland.

 

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share on Yet Another Monday Night.

Well, my excuse is that I had to get all dolled-up and formal on Saturday, and it was such a shock to the system, that I had to retire to my bed for all of Sunday and even much of today. While I did have a bit of a joke about having a Front Row Seat at the Royal Wedding, the truth is almost as inconceivable. I was playing my violin at Gig Night at the music studio and being a violinist to the very core, I had to wear my blacks. Indeed, I dug the Winter-weight Calvin Klein number out of hibernation, and strutted my stuff. Well, I wasn’t strutting because my shoes were too tight, I can’t strut at the best of times and inspite of myself I was more than a tad nervous. Not because I’m scared of performing. I knew I hadn’t really done enough practice and that there would be mistakes, but I didn’t want too many mistakes. Moreover, I didn’t want to stuff up the bits I always get right. I did that at the end of year concert and actually pulled off the tricky bits. After much philosophical reflection, I’ve decided that the violin is a bit of a temperamental character, who is insanely jealous and refuses to cooperate when ignored and like to stuff things up for you just for the hell of it. Yet, for some strange reason, I’ve remained faithful and haven’t packed up my bags and returned to the piano. Not yet, anyway.

 

You can read more about my performance in A Legend In My Own Hair Follicles

 

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Alice in Wonderland

So how was your week?

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of it? What were the standouts? While I didn’t have the opportunity to conduct a representative survey, from what I’ve heard, the Address seems to be the most talked about aspect of the wedding. It seems some people loved it, others thought it went on too long, and I’ve downloaded the transcript to fully get my head around it, although I’m yet to read it fully. In terms of the Address being too long, if I was the Most Reverend Curry, I would’ve made the most of having my one chance in life to speak to the world. While he might not have been Dr Martin Luther King, he had a beautiful and very powerful message about love and acceptance and with all the awful things happening in our world in both public and private arenas, we need a good dose of what he had to say. Indeed, we each need to wake up and start trying to make a difference in the same way that Harry and Meghan are already doing, and it will be exciting to see what kind of impact they’ll have, now that they’ve become a team.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my lung specialist. He’s usually happy to see me twice, or even once a year.However, after my lung function tests two weeks ago, it was “I’ll see you in two weeks”. They showed that my lung capacity has dropped 20% in six months. Mind you, I’ve had a lot of lung and even a severe sinus infection, and so the big hope was the the drop was due to infection. So, he whacked me on more “horse pills” and I tried to exercise more and do what I could to save me from more intervention. Of course, I’m “feeling better”. No, I truly am and I’m not coughing anywhere near as much. Indeed, a week ago when I was talking to my mother on the phone, she noted that I hadn’t coughed. Hopefully, her observations will be supported by tomorrow’s results.

By the way, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but Masterchef Australia has started up again for 2018. I’m an absolute diehard fan of the show, and while I might not make the recipes they create, I do add little bits and pieces to my own cooking, to add a bit of pizazz. I’ve even cooked with fennel, which felt far more alien to me than a thing called a “custard apple” (thanks to my mother being a Queenslander).

Anyway, it’s Nigella Week on Masterchef and tonight, there was a an eleimination pressure test… Nigella’s Chocolate Feast. It was a hard show for a chocoholic like me to sit through. However, I’m already planning to make her fudgy brownies. They were so gooey and sensational.

Nigella Nutella Cake

Nigella’s Nightmare…The Avalanche.

I must admit I sympathized with Nigella’s Victims tonight, as they were making her Chocolate Olive Oil Mouse. Two years ago, I also came a cropped making Nigella’s Nutella Cake. Like one of the contestants, I also over-beat the egg whites, and it ended in disaster, which I dubbed:  Nigella’s Heartache. After all, it’s all well and good when people post beautiful recreations of your recipes, but it’s not so good when they flaunt their disasters all over the World Wide Web.

Before I head off, I just wanted to mention my latest contribution to Friday Fictioneers…A Special Child. This is written about a young girl on the Autism Spectrum who goes missing in the bush.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running along the beach.

Oops, I almost forgot. The dogs received a bit of an update this week…Pup Psychologist, Anyone? Since I posted this, we went on a disastrous trip with the three dogs to the beach yesterday when all three refused to come when called and Zac and Rosie were sprinting up and down the beach and Lady was wondering off on her own. There were a few fishermen along the beach and we could see the dogs stealing their bait, their and getting tangled in the lines. Time to go home. That is, if you can catch them. Training will now be intensifying for both dogs and humans.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a long and big day ahead tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Walking Through Christina’s World…A-Z Challenge.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

As you might be aware, I’m currently taking part in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, and my theme is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Yesterday, I wrote to American artist, Andrew Newell Wyeth regarding his iconic masterpiece, Christina’s World.

What I discovered, has been a Eureka Moment. Indeed, I’ve not only jumped out of the bathtub, but also leaped out of my skin. You see, I live with a muscle wasting disease called dermatomyositis, and a complication which causes fibrosis in my lungs, leaving me short of breath and prone to infection. My situation is extremely rare and even world-wide, there are only a handful of people who walk in my shoes. So, it’s also equally difficult to meet anyone who gets my situation from the inside out, without having some kind of medical training. Clearly, this isn’t something you can bond over with a stranger at the bus stop.

Christinasworld

Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World

However, then I stumbled across Christina’s World. Not only is there the connection with Christina and her muscle weakness, but very late last night, I found out Andrew Wyeth experienced a chronic lung condition. What the??? I was absolutely gobsmacked!  Somehow this painting had brought about this very intense cosmic fusion between artist, subject and observer. I’m not even going to estimate the chances of this happening. They’re so infinitesimal, that you’d need a microscope to find them.

So, clearly you could understand why I was so excited about finding this work of art. It was like I’ve been travelling along the road less travelled forever, and suddenly meeting  two fellow travellers, and having someone to walk with. Not that I’ve been alone, but you get my drift.

That’s why I’ve come back to Andrew Wyeth today. While the whole point of this challenge is to visit a new artist every day, I felt this connection deserved so much more than a fleeting, one-off letter exchange. That the three of us needed to sit out on Christina Olsen’s front step, or which ever step it was, and chat. Or, simply inhale and exhale the same air, and not even say a word.  Me being me, I’d have to add a sunset. I’m not sure whether we’d be facing the sunset in real life, but sharing a Ginger Beer with two dead people is hardly what I’d call “living in the real world”. So, I can paint the sky any way I please, even neon if I get the urge. Well, that is, unless some of these Wyeths feel like giving me some painting lessons, or doing the job for me.

However, while we shared these struggles, we also shared our strengths. None of us were victims, who let circumstances chew us up and spit us out. Rather, we are survivors, battlers to the very end.

Despite her great mobility difficulties, Christina was out in the field picking blueberries and getting herself around without a wheelchair. She wasn’t sitting on the porch waiting to die.

As a young boy, Andrew Wyeth was frail and too unwell to go to school. However, encouraged and taught by his illustrator father and brought into his wider circle, he painted and mastered his craft trying various techniques until he found his own voice in egg tempera. Yet, his lung deteriorated further.  In 1951, he had major surgery to remove a portion of his lung. He survived two near death experiences, and they even had to cut through muscles in his painting arm. This would’ve devastated many. Wiped them out. Yet, within a matter of weeks, Wyeth was back at work again. Indeed,  Trodden Weed (featured image) was completed in March and if you’re familiar with Wyeth’s paintings, there’s all his usual attention to detail in blade after blade of grass. He didn’t slack off.

Of course, I don’t know for sure what Wyeth was really trying to say in Trodden Weed, which has been described as an “unconventional self-portrait”. However, based on my own experiences of medical setbacks, it could well signify that he’s back on his feet, even if he is wearing Howard Pyle’s boots. That he’s going places, and that his heath problems aren’t going to hold him back. Indeed, he certainly didn’t paint himself sitting in a chair out on the porch. No! Here is an artist, yet a man of action, much like Rodin’s The Thinker, if not so muscular.

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

This sense of perseverance is something I’ve experienced myself, and I’ve pushed myself in ways that defy logic. I’ve always been a writer and photography has also been an omnipresent part of me. Yet, since my diagnosis I’ve also taken up the violin, done some adult dance classes, and even gone skiing. Each of these activities defies logic. While I’m certainly better than I was, I still have days when I even struggle to walk around my house, and my lung problems aren’t trifle either. So, I’m not superhuman, but it does show that there are forces at work which we don’t understand, and it’s worth getting out of our comfort zones to stretch what is possible as far as we can. I’m just mighty grateful that Australia’s largely flat, and I’m not living in Switzerland!

So, it is little wonder that alongside Christina’s World, I also relate to Brendan Graham’s modern hymn: You Raise Me Up, in such a personal way. For, along with Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olsen, I have also conquered mountains. Mountains beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm and I know I haven’t merely done this on my own strength. (By the way, I actually had the privilege of meeting Brendan Graham when he came to Sydney.)

Anyway, the day is done and I still have to move onto today’s artist…Guo Xi, which is starting to look like a very brief encounter indeed.

andrewwyeth-masterbedroom 1965

Andrew Wyeth, Master Bedroom.

So, I thought I’d let Andrew Wyeth have the last word. You see, it’s a great irony that after spending most of his life in the shadow of death, that he somehow managed to live a very long, full life and passed away at the grand old age of ninety-one. How did he do it? That’s a side to Andrew Wyeth’s genius, that I’m truly wanting to pursue further. Was it something he did? Luck? The will of God? When I get to heaven, I’ll be lining up Andrew Wyeth and Stephen Hawking side-by-side and asking questions… “Please explain!”

Have you ever had an experience like this with a work of art, or a book perhaps where the artist, writer, whoever knows your innermost struggle in such a personal way? Please share it in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just wanted to mention someone who walked with Andrew Wyeth in a very personal and unique way. That is Joyce H Stoner, a Conservator who worked with him on his paintings for the last 12 years of his life. Here’s a link to her reflections http://samblog.seattleartmuseum.org/tag/joyce-hill-stoner/. She talks about him in such an illustrating, personal way that even if you’d never seen his paintings, you’ll enjoy it.

She also appeared in this this detailed interview of his works.