Category Archives: Personal Development

Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

If you could see my desk and take a panoramic view of my house, you’d immediately understand why I bought Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

It’s not because I’m anally clean. Rather, it’s because I’m naturally messy, chaotic yet delightfully creative. Indeed, I rarely have any trouble with writer’s block and have more of a problem with creative overflow and all my neurons going off at once.

I didn’t need to think twice when I first spotted the book in  a Surry Hills bookshop in Sydney (the one with the rainbow bicycle out the front). I’d finally found an ally…someone else on my side of the messy desk debate. After all, I’ve long been an advocate of: “Messy desk, active mind”.

However, with the rise of the dreaded Declutter Movement, I’ve been becoming increasingly outnumbered. So, I welcome this book, which will become a handy weapon to defend myself against those marauding armies of preachy declutterers. While it might not be the size of a telephone book or antique Bible, it could still inflict a bit of damage, sending them packing along with their almighty bins.

book pile

However, Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World is far more broad reaching than the state of your desk. I guess it’s saying that you don’t have to be tidy minded to be creative. Indeed, Harford is suggesting quite the reverse. That chaos, shock thinking and juggling multiple projects across disciplines has led to some incredible breakthroughs. That being focused might not be the best approach to generating creative solutions after all. Indeed, he suggests the reverse.

I am still reading Messy and am only up to Chapter 3. While I appreciate that you usually finish the book before you write about it, I couldn’t wait.  I am finding this book so amazing that I’m not just reading it, I am studying it…scrutinising each and every page. That in itself is not exceptional. I always read books with a pen in hand to underline stuff and also jot down striking vocabulary such as “monomaniacal tendencies” in this instance. However, when it comes to this book, my scribbling has reached new heights and I am Googling bits along the way. There’s just so many valuable insights to investigate and explore that I really want to take it as far as I can. Just how far can these revelations take my writing? The way I think? I don’t know but I have very great expectations and am savouring every word along the way.

That’s why I thought I’d run through the book as I go on the blog and I’d like to encourage you to rush out there and buy it, so we can read it together.

When I studied creative writing at university, I was told that “writing is a thinking process”. Therefore, if we’re going to improve our writing, we also need to work on our thoughts, how we think, what inspires us and what helps us take those incredible creative leaps which take us way beyond anything we’ve ever written before.

As a reader, one of my pet hates is the number of writers who write about what it means to be a writer. Added to that, is the high percentage of novels which have have a journalist or writer as the protagonist. There’s such a plethora of characters out there, so why do so many writers stay within their comfort zones?

You might be surprised to know that I’m not only a writer but also a photographer,  am learning the violin and for the last 3 months, I’ve been taking adult ballet and lyrical dance classes. That’s alongside living with a disability and chronic health issues. This enables a lot of cross-fertilisation. I actually think of this as creative cross-training in the same way a swimmer might run, lift weights, do aerobics and yoga.

Have you read: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World?

If not, I’d personally recommend abandoning your current read and getting stuck into it before you let the opportunity pass. It won’t just get you thinking, but will also inspire action, change and growth beyond writing. After all, we as humans should be in a state of constant refinement. To sit still, is to stagnate.

Well, I apologise for putting on my motivational speaker hat, but who doesn’t want to be their best? The only trouble is putting in the work.

Anyway, rather than stuffing all these insights into one humungus post, I’m breaking it up. My next post will be looking at Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy Cards and then I’ll be looking at how to keep multiple projects on the boil without blowing a gasket.

That’s just looking at Chapter 1 on Creativity. So, stay tuned for more gems to get those synapses firing…really firing!!

xx Rowena

Haiku…Roses Aren’t Blue.

As I mentioned in my previous post, last night we had Haiku & Mash for dinner….a little something to inspire our son with his latest school poetry writing assignment…Write A Haiku. As I explained, the rest of the family all made great fun of my first, embryonic efforts and I clearly struggled counting syllables. I’m much too laissez-faire. In other words: “She’ll be right, mate.”

Anyway, with all this playful mucking around with words, our son reworked the old “roses are red” theme, developing quite a philosophical interpretation.

Roses can’t be blue.

Violets come in all colours.

But then there is you.

Anyway, despite being his mother and naturally thrilled by his poetic efforts, I sensed something quite profound in these words…a deep celebration of the individual perhaps, even something incredible intangible which I still can’t really explain.

As you may appreciate, a blue rose does not exist in nature. I don’t know if he consciously knew that or not. However, scientists have been struggling to develop a blue rose. They might have got there by now but the last I heard, they were still working on it. So, basically if you’re wanting a blue rose, you need a can of spray paint. This means that no matter how hard a rose tries, pushes itself, prays or even how much it pays, it will never be naturally blue. It just isn’t possible.

Does that mean it’s not beautiful? Of course not! However, there is that line in the sand. That “You shall not pass”.

It’s the same with people.

To a certain extent, you are who you are. While you might be able to stretch the envelope, I’m no longer convinced that “making it happen” is always such a good thing. More than likely, you’ll just end up doing something or being someone you’re not. Rather, than being success, this really can only ever be a form of failure and could well explain why so many people are desperately unhappy. They’re completely estranged from themselves.

This is not to say that we’re set in stone or shouldn’t pursue our dreams. Just that having a good sense of direction and a bit of insight might be a good idea.

I’m not sure that violets can be all colours but he’s certainly suggested more flexibility, wider opportunities there.

However, it was his last line, which really captured my attention:”But then there’s you!”

I’m a bit concerned that this “you” could well be me. What is he saying? That I don’t fit into or belong to any category and am completely out there? Impossible to classify? An absolute individual?!! Me??? Dare I say, that he even thinks I might be “beyond the flow”?!!

Surely not?!!

Or, perhaps, I’m just being egocentric. Casting myself as the star and the centre of his universe?

After all, why should I assume that he’s writing about me? Isn’t that being a bit paranoid? He could very well be writing about himself!

No! Definitely not! That last line definitely had “my weird and wacky mother” written all over it.

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Mister & Mum.

You know, I’ve been expecting it. Now that our kids are almost teens, I know I’m on a steady downward spiral to becoming “an absolute idiot” where I know nothing! You should have seen my son’s eyes roll just because I wasn’t used to a laptop with a touch screen! Who does he think he is? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? A little humility wouldn’t go astray. Not at all!

Since then, I’ve been thinking of starting a: “Parents Of Teens Mutual Admiration Society”. It’s sole mission would be to prop up and even salvage our shattered self-esteems. We can share cups of tea and whisper sweet nothings to each other and undo all that dreadful psychological trauma inflicted by our kids! I can’t wait!

You’re welcome to join me!

So, given my total perceived lack of brainpower, perhaps I should  just leave my poetic efforts  at this:

Roses are red.

violets are blue.

Some poems rhyme

but this one doesn’t.

By the way, the young poet has subsequently returned from school. He’s been thoroughly interviewed, investigated and even interrogated about the intended meaning of his Haiku.What it’s all about. After all, why leave it open to interpretation when I can ask the poet himself?!!

Well, you might as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat and put me out of my misery. All my interpretations were “incorrect”. He was just wanting to write something funny, playing around with words. As far as the identity of the “you” is concerned, I was partially “correct”. He was referring to “you” as in the reader, holding up a bit of a mirror to bounce back our own reflections. So, it was actually me thinking I was a one-off weirdo, not him!

However, just because he intended it to be funny, that doesn’t mean he didn’t stumble across a profound truth. What do you think? I’m sure there’s something hidden between those lines.

Or, perhaps it’s only me.

Anyway, we’ll be having a night off from Haiku and Mash tonight. He’s off to Scouts and will be of paddling or sailing on the high seas.

Perhaps, he’ll find some further inspiration out there!

xx Rowena

 

Life Lessons for A Scallywag!

Yesterday, I shared a New Year’s letter I’d written to our Border Collie, Bilbo and today, I’d like to share the sequel: Lady’s New Year’s Resolutions.

Lady is a 3 year old Border Collie x King Charles Cavalier. We adopted her just over a year ago when Bilbo started slowing down. She’s a gorgeous medium-sized black dog with patches of white on her chest and paws, which disappear when the lights go out and you can only hear her exuberant tail whacking the floor in the darkness.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

Nobody’s perfect and while I haven’t quite sat down and had a good hard look at my own bad habits which should be eliminated poste haste, I have sorted out the dogs instead…a perfectly acceptable procrastination technique, don’t you agree?!!

So without further circuitous ramblings and preambles, here’s my letter to Lady…

xx Rowena

Letter to Lady

5th January, 2016.

Dear Lady,

Happy New Year!

Yesterday, Bilbo received his list of New Year’s Resolutions. So, today it’s your turn.

Before we get started, let me say how much we’ve loved having you here. That even though we haven’t had you since you were a pup, that we love you very much and adore those big brown puppy dog eyes and your enthusiastic whack of the tail. You’re absolutely fabulous!

However, as I explained to Bilbo, we humans have a bit of a tradition of reinventing ourselves in the New Year. After all, a new year is like a clean slate. You start all over from scratch and all your past crimes have been forgotten. Indeed, at 12.01 AM every January 1st, we humans receive brand new DNA with all the wrinkles ironed out.

Isn’t that incredible?!!!

However, the unfortunate truth is that the magic wears off very, very quickly. So, if you don’t grab hold of these changes with both hands and simply let them go, you end up right back where you started with your swag of bad habits.

I know this is complex thinking, especially for a “dog of little brain”. However, we’ve actually realised that you’re a hell of a lot smarter than we thought. That Indeed, you’ve been outsmarting us!

We now have it on good authority that blank stare of yours is all an elaborate charade. That all this supposed ignorance and void of grey matter has indeed been a gala performance. That we should actually be congratulating you for taking out the Academy Award for “Best New Talent”, instead of holding such low expectations of your abilities.

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

So, we’re slowly coming to appreciate that there have been certain “benefits” for flying so low beneath the radar and we’re onto you. No more excuses!

Lady, you’ve been sprung!

That’s right. We’ve now seen through those huge, brown puppy dog eyes.

So…there will be no more “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed up on the kitchen table” , “I didn’t know that was your pie” OR “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to jump upon a chair, then onto a table and jump over the fence”.

Instead, you’ll be a good dog!

It’s all very well to be a free spirit but you’re a dog. You can have a certain amount of free spirit off the lead at the beach but the rest of the time, you’ll have to use your imagination. That’s the space in between your ears and as long as you don’t get any ideas about flying, it could also include the sky.

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Lady out walking in the clouds at Palm Beach.

Anyway, I digress.

Lady, as you’re unaccustomed to making New Year’s Resolutions and following things through, I thought I’d give you a little bit of encouragement.

So, without any further preambles, here’s your list of resolutions.

Well, it’s not exactly a list. More of a “chat”.

Lady’s New Year’s Resolutions

Working Dog

This might come as news to you but you’re actually a Working Dog. At least, that’s what it says on your registration papers.

A working dog “is a canine working animal, i.e., a type of dog that is not merely a pet but learns and performs tasks to assist and/or entertain its human companions, or a breed of such origin. In Australia and New Zealand, a working dog is one which has been trained to work livestock, irrespective of its breeding.”…Wikipaedia.

“Livestock” does NOT include fleas.

However, it could well include the kids.

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The kids.

So, we thought you could round up the kids, herding them away from their electronics and directing them towards the dishwasher, cleaning their rooms, making their beds, taking out the bin and even cooking dinner for the family.

I’ve been trying to pull this off for some years now but I don’t have your superior Working Dog genes. I’m not so sure about nipping the kids on the ankles but that would certainly get them moving!

Backyard Dog.

I know subtlety isn’t your strength and I should be more direct, instead of taking a philosophical approach. So:

Lady = Working Dog + Backyard Dog.

That means you don’t wander all over the suburb looking for stray rabbits and sheep. You stay home unless you’re INVITED to go out.

That’s right.

INVITED!!

I know you consider yourself a free-spirited hippy but you need to adjust your aspirations. I know we humans think we can become anything we like but your options are a little more restricted. Unfortunately, it’s not a dog’s world.

So, this means no more Houdini routines. You are NOT allowed out the front door UNLESS you’re on a lead or in the car.

That’s enough of that grumbling and complaining. There’s no point getting upset with me and making complaints to management. I don’t make the rules but I will pay the fines if you break them. Trust me, they’re pretty hefty and they’ll be coming straight out of your dog food allowance. So if you don’t want to starve to death, you’ll behave.

Besides, staying out of trouble is what we humans call “enlightened self-interest”!

If you go wondering off, you could easily get run over by a car. Of course, we don’t want you to get hurt or end up taking an express trip up to the pearly gates. That’s why we have a fences and a gate. It’s not to stop you from dreaming and expressing your inner dog. They’re to keep you safe.

Moreover, I don’t think we’ve ever told you about the evil Dog Catcher. The Dog Catcher rounds up stray, naughty dogs and takes them up to the doggy jail up on the hill. It’s not very nice up there. You’ll soon feel very lonely without your family and Bilbo to snuggle up to and you wouldn’t like the cold, concrete floor without your blanket either. Moreover, there wouldn’t be any of those cakes, biscuits and pies you keep stealing. No runs along the beach either!

So, you could say, Lady, that a life of crime doesn’t pay!

No More Food Theft!

Speaking of crime, Lady, you and I both know you can be quite the scallywag stealing food. Granted, you have improved out of sight since you came. You’ve even stopped jumping up onto the kitchen table.

However, somehow along the way, you’ve taught Bilbo your dreaded food thievery and turned him into something of a Fagan and partner in crime. He never used to steal food and used to be such a good dog! So, I would appreciate it if you could please undo this mischief so we can have the old Bilbo back.

I appreciate that you dogs can’t always distinguish between humans and dogs. That somehow through association, you believe you are human. However, as much as we love you and make you one of the family, we can not change your DNA. You are still dogs and as much as we can’t suddenly grow a fur coat, four legs and a tail and start barking, you can’t walk on two legs wearing clothes and reading the newspaper.

Humph! I know what you mean. I can also forget that you’re not human and I feel a bit sad as well… especially as dog years aren’t the same as human years…

However, we won’t go into that!

What this does mean, however, is that you can’t help yourself to our food. That there’s human food and dog food and never the twain shall mean. Unless, of course, I’m surreptitiously feeding you scraps under the table while Dad’s not looking.

By the way, Lady, being on a more restrictive diet could be a good thing. I know I could lose some weight myself and I know how much I also hate the F word that ends in T and might just happen to have an A in the middle. That said, you have filled out quite significantly since you moved in. It’s not that I’m one to throw stones but there are some things only a mother can say!

I know this letter has already turned into something of a manifesto. Sorry! Should have kept it short and sweet, especially as you even have trouble grasping simple concepts like what to do with a tennis ball.

Amelia & Lady

Lady & Miss NYE 2015

However, having gone through some of the areas where you could use a bit of refinement, I wanted to thank you for being such a lovable, cuddly, enthusiastic dog whose mad whacking of the tail whenever you ever hear us, makes us feel so loved and appreciated. You are such a beautiful, happy dog!

Lady on kayak

Our intrepid seafarer: Lady out on a kayak adventure.

So, here’s a list of the things you do really well:

  1. Play with the kids and keep them feeling loved and entertained.
  2. Affectionate, loving and heart-warming.
  3. Cheer us up!
  4. Good on the lead and gave Bilbo a few lessons!
  5. Showed Bilbo that it won’t kill him if he gets his paws wet and that it’s fun to go for a bit of a swim at the beach.
  6. Good furry lap and foot warmer.
  7. You’re a great watch dog without being over-zealous like someone else we know around here.(By the way, perhaps you could have a little word in his ear about toning it down a bit. He must be giving himself dreadful headaches with all that barking!)
  8. I’ve never seen anybody skin and eat a rabbit like you did but I should remind you that you’re not on the farm anymore and we city folk aren’t used to eating such critters unless there’s a knife and fork.

 

Lady Keyboard B & W

Lap dog

So, Lady we wish you a very Happy New Year and every success in reaching your goals.

Lots and lots of love,

Mummy on behalf of our family.

PS In case you are wondering what happened to the kids, Mister is away at Scout camp and Miss is at her grandparents’. This is your opportunity for quality time.

PPS: I haven’t mentioned your reaction to the fire works on New Year’s Eve. I hope by now you’ve realised that it wasn’t the end of the world and they were just nasty noises. Nothing to worry about.

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Life — A “choose your own” adventure?

So many of us have experienced the difference between “education” and “schooling”. However, I have never seen that difference expressed so succinctly than in this post by educator Norah Colvin. It is a MUST READ!! xx Rowena

Norah Colvin

This morning Hub mentioned a book he had read about and asked if I had heard of the author Wayne Dyer. “Of course,” I replied and proceeded to explain that I had read many of Dyer’s books, had gone to a seminar to hear him speak and had been swept off my feet by accompanying speaker Deepak Chopra. I mentioned that a favourite book of his was marked now by a gap on my shelves, a phenomena recently mentioned by both Caroline Lodge, who blogs at book word and talked about missing books, and Anne Goodwin, who blogs at annethology and talked about the dilemma of lending books.

Wayne Dyer I think there may be more than one missing from my self!

Deepak Chopra I think. looking at these titles, its time for some re-reading!

This favourite book, read and lent many times, What Do You…

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The End Of An Era…

“This is the way the world ends.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

-T.S. Eliot

Today, both of my children left the school we have called home for the last seven years. This has been a very emotional time for me as well as I’ve been quite involved at the school and have done the publicity for 6 years. However, I’ve not only written press releases, I’ve also been the school photographer. I haven’t simply photographed the kids like some fly on the wall from a distance. I usually talk to them. Encourage them to smile and come out of themselves so I’m definitely no stranger up there myself. I’ll really miss the kids and truly appreciate what an honour it’s been to get to know them in this much more personal way.

Next year, our son starts high school, so he’s definitely reached a point of no return. He is out of the nest and will soon be grappling with his new, much expanded universe. Our daughter, on the other hand, still has two more years of primary school to go but has been accepted into a selective primary school. Her new school is a 45 minutes drive away or an hour train and bus ride. This may prove too much but we’ll see how it goes.

While our daughter left the school quietly , exiting stage left largely unnoticed, Year Six left with more than the usual bang.

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Kindergarten children hold hands forming the arch for the tunnel.

 

 

It’s a school tradition for all the kids to form a tunnel or guard of honour  and the Year 6s move through. As Mister explained, this can be quite tricky because the Kindergarten kids are half their height. So, he found himself ducking, weaving and crawling through,  which I’m sure just added to the fun. There were many tears as the kids went through and I’m surprised I didn’t cry myself but filming and photographing the action probably distracted me. Besides, I still don’t think it’s sunk in that we’ve left. That a whole new road has opened up. Make that two roads.

As luck would have it, a severe storm hit Sydney yesterday. In what was a very Jane Austen moment, not long before the tunnel was due, the heavens opened up. Rain bucketed down. Lightening flashed. Thunder, which had been rumbling most of the day, suddenly cracked with a vengeance. Although this sounds bad enough, we’d actually been spared the worst. Parts of Southern Sydney were hit by a tornado rated as an F2 (strong for Australia).

So, rather than leaving school with a whimper, Year 6 of 2015 went out with a bang…and a flash!

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To be perfectly honest, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like next year when the three of us won’t be heading off to school together. If my car was a horse, I wouldn’t even need to steer. The car well and truly knows the way and it wouldn’t surprise me if we somehow end up there by accident on the first day next year: “We’re back!”

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Last night, we had the “Year 6 Farewell”, which was the grand finale for year. The theme was 1970s hippie/surfie. Each student designed their own record cover, and there were some fabulous designs there…loads of rainbow-coloured texta. There was also a vinyl record for each child with their photo from Kindergarten (their first year at school) on one side and Year 6 on the other side. These were hung with fishing line from the roof of the hall and looked very impressive en masse. One of the parents made a Kombi photo booth, which looked fantastic. Parents were allowed in to take photos at the start and were shooed out for most of it and return for the final proceedings. A video has appeared of the teachers doing the Nutbush on the school’s Facebook page. They’re a great bunch of dancers.

 

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Mister on Record.

 

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Mister and Geoff at the Farewell.

As hard as it is to leave the school, change is a part of life and we all know what happens to still water. It stagnates. We have to keep moving.

Quite often we have no idea where we’re heading and are just fumbling around in the dark. Most of the time, things eventually become clear.

So, as much as I’d like to stay put and keep keeping on, we’re off.

We are done! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc3LGzNEkL0

By the way, thought you might be interested in a poem I wrote about when Mister started school: The Acorn https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-acorn/

Will you or your family be experiencing any fresh starts in the New Year? Please share!

xx Rowena

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Violin…At last! You Make My Heart Sing!

A few weeks ago, I was starting to wonder whether I’d be playing air-violin at Sunday’s violin concert.

My fingers just couldn’t move fast enough and it’s been so hard to keep up the practice, that it’s felt like some kind of conspiracy. That someone or something doesn’t want me to practice and keeps sabotaging my best efforts.

Of course, we’ve all been there and know that familiar poltergeist!

Well, finally after considerable soul-searching as you do at the end of another year, my violin and I are talking again and our lover’s tiff is over.My violin might not be singing like a lark but it’s no longer a cockatoo and as long as I simply blend in with the group, I’ll be happy.

When it comes to the difficulties of mastering and even taming the violin, I’m hardly unique. The violin is notoriously difficult and renowned for sounding like a scolded cat. Indeed, it more than deserves its bad reputation and I have no idea how it could ever sound sweet and intensely beautiful let alone spiritual.

I guess like so many things, you have to go through the rough before you can reach the green.

Moreover, I’ve also realised that a new level of thinking was required. That mastering anything requires more than blind persistence and not giving up. That you also need to know why you took this thing up in the first place AND why you want to keep going. This goal setting and introspection becomes particularly important once you hit the higher grades and “your thing” becomes more difficult and more demanding.

You’re no longer a dabbler. Yet, you’re not a maestro either. Indeed, you’re along way from it. Moreover, as your expertise increases, so does your awareness of the treacherous mountains which lie ahead if you’re to advance. These next steps take all those nasty qualities like perseverance, persistence, focus, long hours of practice and potentially spending buckets of money as well.

Jonathon smiling violin

Mister smiling during practice tonight. He looked so happy. He has been learning the guitar but we did a few lessons as a family.

All of this isn’t something you can just drift into. It has to be a choice. You have to sign your life away on the dotted line and buy into that decision. No backing out. You might even have to put your life on the line either figuratively or literally. There can be no turning back.

That is, if you’re wanting to be a maestro!

Violin & concert violinist music

Well, personally, I’ve decided that  I’ll never be a maestro violinist and am best putting my time and energy into my writing and photography. Yet, at the same time, I’d like to take the violin as far as I can. Do my best. I recently started learning my favourite of all favourite violin pieces: Meditation by Massinet. This is actually about a 6th Grade piece and I’m around 2nd Grade but we’re taking it slowly. Some of the notes have so many ledger lines that they look like quadruple-decker buses. I know what the notes meant to sound like and use my ears instead of my eyes to find my way around. I guess it’s the equivalent to “park by feel”…another of my specialties.

Anyway, we’ll be playing Pirates of the Caribbean for the concert. This has some really fast sections I wish I could give my fingers something like Red Bull to get them moving without affecting the rest of my body. I find it hard to move my fingers quickly but given my assorted medical problems, I know I’m lucky to be playing at all. Indeed, my neurologist was amazed. We’ll also be playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which is so pretty.

My violin teacher has actually doctored my bow to help keep my fingers in place. It was an inspired idea. I have no shame using a walking stick on public transports and crowds so why not use a prop to help my fingers do their job?!!

Amelia with violin

Miss cuddling her new violin in 2011 aged 5.

By the way, you might recall that I initially took up the violin to help our daughter. That learning the violin was all her idea. I’d suggested piano but she stood her ground in typical fashion and really seemed to have a thing for it.

I do believe that everybody has their own soul song and needs to find the best way of channeling and expressing it. That there’s no one instrument fits all. The violin supposedly sounds the most like the human voice and Miss and I both sing so it’s not surprising that we would love it.

Anyway, Miss’s affair with the violin reached a tumultuous end when the cat screeching became way too much and the less she practiced, the worse it got and I finished off the term’s lessons and kept going while she went “on sabbatical”.

family playing violin

The family playing violin

That was four years ago.

While I never gave up and didn’t sell her violin, even I with my over-inflated sense of optimism, was close to calling it quits. Besides, she’s doing dancing, singing, drama, cub scouts. She also needs some spare time, especially as she’ll be traveling to school next year.

However, today miracle of miracles, she announced that she’s wanting to start learning again.Well, that might have been more of a mention than a “tell the entire world on your blog Mummy” kind of broadcast. But, she did say it.

The inspiration?

A few weeks ago we attended an orrientation day for her new school, During the talk, they mentioned that they have a string ensemble. Again, this was more of a mention than a grand announcement but to me it was more like a “sign”…just like a heaven-sent bolt of lightening, the place suddenly lit up! They could have had a band or  cheer-leader program but no! They have a violin ensemble! I know that playing in my ensemble has really supported and encouraged my playing and got me through those periods of struggle or doubt. This was meant to be, even if Miss didn’t know it yet.

Then, today…miracles or miracles, she said she wanted to learn the violin again. I was hopeful because I knew how much she loved the violin at the start. It had been her choice and I always hoped that one day, she’d find her way back.

violin birthday cake

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

I still haven’t taken her violin out of the cupboard. Feigned indifference is definitely the way forward here. Treat em mean, keep em keep.

Anyway, yet again I’ve written about playing the violin instead of practicing and it’s now too late.

Writing about playing the violin and also taking photos…they’re my strength!

Wish me luck for Sunday but please don’t mention anything like “break a leg”. I actually broke my foot at last year’s Christmas Carol performance and that had better be a one off…no repeats!

xx Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share: A Poet in Paris.

“A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.”

Anais Nin

Welcome to Sydney for a bit of a late night decaf. It’s virtually midnight here so I wouldn’t recommend caffeine. That is, unless you’re just waking up, which could very well be the case.

I am pleased to report  that the book project has taken a huge step forward this week and is gaining substance and structure. As my book project is non-fiction, I’ve decided not to take part in Nano this month but after reading all these posts about writing thousands of words a day, I felt inspired. My book project has been in some kind of extended coma and before they decide to switch off the life support, I really wanted to throw myself into it. I have an incredible story to tell. Surely, I can get it told?!!

Researching the book, I found myself reading through the journal I wrote as a 21 year old staying at the Hotel Henri IV at 25 Rue Dauphine and performing my poetry at the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. Naturally, I couldn’t leave Paris out of my story even if the city of love in my case (no doubt like so many), turned into the city of heartbreak.

I was reading my journal and looking at my photos mentally trying to retrace my steps through the narrow streets to a cafe we went to somewhere on the left bank. Being backpackers, we went there because the coffee was cheap and you didn’t have to pay extra to sit outside. That we drank our coffee from plastic cups, didn’t seem to matter. There were backpackers there from all over the world and such a lively, vibrant atmosphere. That’s what we were there for.

However, even though I went to that cafe virtually every day we were in Paris, I can’t find it. I have a terrible sense of direction and I was walking round and round inside my head not getting anywhere. So, I decided to find a street map online. I Googled our Hotel and the next thing I knew, I was flying over the rooftops with my magic umbrella. It was so surreal. Switching to pedestrian view, I actually landed and was standing in front of our hotel and I turned around and saw Place Dauphine. I can’t tell you how that felt. It really blew me away. Suddenly, those photos I’d taken 22 years ago were no longer just fragments but part of a panorama. I walked to the corner and there was Pont Neuf. Before I knew it, I was zooming through the streets with oncoming traffic heading towards me. Seemingly, even going through me. It was feeling a bit like Mario Kart WII meets roadrunner and I was invincible.

I was fully immersed in Paris.

I know this isn’t exactly new technology but I’d never thought of using it to revisit Paris like this and I certainly didn’t expect it to feel so real. I was there and yet I wasn’t. It felt incredibly freaky, a bit exhilarating and it’s filled in a lot of gaps, especially in where my photos were taken.

Outside a patisserie in Rue de Buci.

Outside a patisserie in Rue de Buci.

Anyway, all of this “research” has felt like I’ve somehow manged to construct that elusive time machine. I might not have mastered how to go forward but I’m certainly doing well in reverse.

However, my time travels do not end here.

I was going through my journal and while it’s mostly my ramblings, friends and I suspect even strangers, have added drawings. I’d forgotten all about these and am not even sure how they got there. However, that was also where I found an address for the American guys we’d spent a lot of time with. I didn’t even bother checking if it was still current but a Google search dished up an email address. I know it’s been 22 years and it must seem a bit crazy to get in touch but we knew them pretty well and back in the day, we didn’t have email or Facebook to handle these long-distance friendships. AS much as it was great to receive overseas mail, it was a pain to send. I know it’s silly. The post office is just down the street and yet it might as well be on the moon!

I sent the email and much to my delight. I receive a reply…and some photos attached. I was thrilled. My friend was really pleased to hear from me and it’s been a real buzz! So exciting!

So, all of this “research” has transformed a fairly ordinary week into an incredible adventure.

Returning to the home front, our son returned from his Canberra Excursion. He returned with a husky voice and said the highlight was going to The Mint and he said he saw the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. His teacher gave me a thumbs up so that was a relief. Bilbo, our Border Collie, is on a reducing dose of prednisone to treat his flea allergy and is improving except his appetite is incredible He is starving. He’s lost a lot of weight so we give him a bit extra. It’s just awful to see him going through this and not being able to explain what’s happening. We’re now on the countdown to my end of year violin concert so I’m madly trying to practice. We’re performing Pirates of the Caribbean and Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.  Our daughter is also off to rehearsals weekly as she’s appearing in a mass choir at School Spectacular at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Then there’s the dance concert coming up. Mister is off at another Scout Camp to prepare Jamboree in January. Geoff starts work at 4.00AM tomorrow morning so I’d better get to bed before he wakes up!

I hope you’ve had a great week! Are you doing the Nano Challenge? If so, let me know how it’s going. I’ve pretty much decided not to read these but I might pick the odd one.

Now, how about you go and visit Diana at Part-Time Monster http://parttimemonster.com/  and here’s the linky: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=580243

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoy our coffee and perhaps you have a few memories or stories to share of Paris. I’d love to hear them!

xx Rowena