Tag Archives: anger

The Secret…Friday Fictioneers.

 

“I hate you!” Alice screeched at her parents. She might’ve been difficult, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew this was another attempt to force her to “self-calm”, as the therapist put it. They’d tried everything…mediation, relaxation, mindfulness, yoga. Yet, instead of bringing inner peace, they’d only fueled an endless, inner rage. She had to scream. Smash something. Carve a stream into her arm to let the tension out.

This time, they let her run.  After all, there was nothing more to say. Yet, they still clung onto a completely irrational hope, that somehow their only beloved daughter would find her way back out of the darkness and into the light.

……

My humble apologies for going over the word limit. I don’t know why Dale’s beautiful photo prompted such despair in my piece this week. However, I’ve never been good at meditation or sitting still.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Masked Intruder.

You creep…
a foul, odorous gas
permeating
my each and every cell,
even creeping in between
the fibres of my bones.
Splitting my very atoms
to build your sovereign shrine
within each cell…
a nest to lay your poisonous eggs.

Catastrophization turned real,
blasted invader!
You can’t even leave
the smallest little part of me
alone.
Penetrating deep within my DNA,
you lurk beyond the microscope.
No one else can see you
but I know that you’re there.
A Machiavellian villain
purring like a cat
toying with its prey,
you enjoy my pain
and laugh.
You bastard!

What am I supposed
to call you?
How can I figure out
quite who or what you are?
You might have a name.
Be something out of a textbook.
Of course, Google knows
exactly who you are.
Yet, even they can’t explain
why you came.
Or,why you came to me.
After all,
why didn’t you go next door?
Find someone else to be
your magnificent host?
I’m not going to blame
my God of love
for all your hate…
my pain.

Yet,
the earth has turned
round and round
and I still don’t know
why you came.
I didn’t offer you tea,
let alone cake.
Yet, you stayed.
Now, you are I are bound
together as one.
I am the bride.
You are the groom.
A forced union,
I had no say in it.
No say in it at all.
I never vowed a thing.

So,
how can I break through
the chains which bind us?
Bind us together as one.
Until death do us part.
There is no divorce.
No escape.
We are fused.
Melted together.
This is forever.

Or,
So I thought.

Suddenly,
You were gone.

Your ring’s still on my finger
but your hands are no longer
wrapped around my throat,
squeezing out my very last breath
until my face turns blue, corpse-grey
while you somehow kept me alive
but only just.

Dare I ask you why you left?
Or, if you’ll return?
No. There’s no time to stop,
reflect or introspect.
I’ve changed all the locks.
Carpe diem seize the day.
I’ve finally reached
the other side of the rainbow,
basking alone in the sun
where even your shadow is gone.

I live inspite of you
but maybe even
because.

Rowena Newton
3rd February, 2016.

Written on the train to and from a dentist appointment at Kirribilli. I was fuming because it seemed that the dermatomysitis had affected my teeth. Not hugely but was playing silly buggers. Grrr!!! It set off yet another round of cannonfire.

 

Fractured Fairytales

“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.”

Eugene O’Neill

Quite often, indeed far too often, life deviates from the plan or what we thought we’d signed up for and quite frankly, we wouldn’t mind a refund. We didn’t realise and certainly weren’t consciously  thinking we’d signed up for a fairytale or some kind of fantasy but as evidence mounts up to the contrary, it feels like we’ve been sold a fake or indeed a dud. The Prince and Princess find themselves living in a tent. instead of a castle.Their horse and carriage turns out to be the local bus. Not quite what they’d had in mind!!

Culturally, we perpetuate many ongoing fairytales such as Cinderella who finds her Prince Charming but motherhood and parenting have also been portrayed as quite the fairytale where we all play happy families. Happy families who know nothing about divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, homelessness, chronic illness, death. After all, aren’t we all just meant to keep smiling?

So much for the fairytale. School holidays can be explosive!

So much for the fairytale. School holidays can be explosive!

Surprise! Surprise! The prospect of having that perfect family holiday or having the school holidays go without a hitch can be just as much a fairytale as finding Prince Charming. Screams of: “Can’t you lot play happily together?”, “If you can’t share, it’s going into time out”, “Go to your rooms” resonate throughout the the burbs along with regrets and reflections on where it all began and wondering how it ended up like this.

The Happy Family

The Happy Family

After the consumption of all that Easter chocolate, I guess I should have anticipated trouble but they’ve been really good over the last couple of days and caught me off guard. There are kids visiting next door and they’ve all been playing exceptionally well together building elaborate engineering structures in the mud and gravel at low tide. They had a fabulous time but the kids went out today and ours were bored yet not wanting to go out or do anything either, which is when things really start to go wrong. That said, Miss did venture into the freezing swimming pool in her wet suit and actually managed to stand up on her surfboard , which was a very exciting achievement and I would have been totally over the moon if the morning hadn’t worn me out.

However,  it’s not just the kids who can ruin a family holiday. In case you’ve forgotten the Griswalds in European Vacation, parents can be just as guilty:

[In England]
“Ellen Griswold: Clark, you’re on the wrong side of the road.
Clark Griswold: Yes I know, honey, I’m also on the wrong side of the car.”

So here I am in Palm Beach which is pretty close to paradise but feeling frazzled. You could say it’s time for a Bex and a good lie down. However, experience tells me that lying down could be catostrophic. With the kids at large, something tells me I wouldn’t be singing: “je ne regrette rien” www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Kvu6Kgp88. I’d be lucky if the house is still standing!

Freddie the Front Door Frog.

Freddie the Front Door Frog.

On that note, I’ll just add that prior to my frustrations this morning, I was intending to write about Freddie the Front Door Frog who is an Australian Green Tree Frog. Freddie lived on the window ledge underneath my in-laws kitchen window, near Byron Bay for something like a decade. A firm believer of “if you’re on a good thing stick to it”, the kitchen light attracted a smorgasbord of insects providing Freddie with a very steady diet. He was one plump and very happy frog who, unlike so many of his kind, was actually benefiting from interaction with people.  he’d developed what you’d call a mutually beneficial relationship. While not as well known as his furry compatriots, Freddie is an absolutely gorgeous Australian.

Actually, it’s a shame Freddie is so far away. If a kiss can turn a frog into a prince, perhaps it could also bring the fairytale back to life as well.

As I head off to bed after further dramas thanks to the dog, I remind myself that “tomorrow is another day” and who knows? Perhaps, it might just be a fairytale after all!

“Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers”.

-Hans Christian Andersen

This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge which is taking place during April.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!!

When it comes to fighting for justice, I will personally stand up and be counted, even when the case is rather controversial. After all. it’s easy to have compassion for someone you love. It’s much more challenging when someone has a few prickles…or a past. Yet, sometimes our journey takes us down that road and we are forced to argue the points backwards and forwards inside our heads until we can make sense of it all and hopefully judgement turns to love.

I don’t know if the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia has made International news. However, as citizens of the world, this case affects each and every one of us who believe in the sanctity and importance of justice and the capacity for humanity to change and redeem itself.

We are all called to stand up and fight.

The case I am referring to is the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were part of the notorious Bali Nine. Since their conviction, these men have completely turned their lives around and deserve a second chance. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished. Just that they don’t deserve to die.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

 

My justification for clemency lies in the science of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. If you know anything at all about brain plasticity, you will know and understand that these men have changed the very physical structures of their brains through rehabilitation and are no longer who they were. That they are, indeed, very different men. After all, if you have a different brain, how can you possibly be the same?

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry , summed  this up well when he addressed the Melbourne vigil held on 18th February, 2014. Lasry had been involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Lasry said that he has visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers left in 2005. “4.

About Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. “He writes that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!”

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

My argument is that through rehabilitation, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have demonstrated that through such brain plasticity, they are no longer the men they were.

Therefore, as an exceptional case and while not dismissing the severity of their crime, these new men deserve a compassionate response…jail not execution!

This quote from US President John F. Kennedy sums it up well:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

Background to the Bali Nine

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were the ring leaders of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as “The Bali Nine”. On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg (18 lb) of heroin valued at about A$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. These men were no angels and heroin, as we know, is a hard core drug which destroys lives. Authorities must do whatever it takes to get heroin off the streets. While people do dispute the death penalty, they are not advocating a more relaxed after to stopping the trade of heroin.

Going back to the time of their arrest, I didn’t have any sympathy for the Bali 9. Due to the very publicised case of alleged drug trafficker, Australian Shapelle Corby, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws had been front page news for some time. I might not agree with the death penalty but Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws most definitely weren’t a secret.

Australian Shapelle Corby had been arrested in Indonesia on 8 October 2004 when she was found to have 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) of cannabis in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag. Corby was convicted on 27 May 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Denpasar District Court and imprisoned in Kerobokan Prison. To this day, Shapelle maintains her innocence and there have been numerous theories about how the cannabis got into her body board bag. Her case became a “cause celeb” and during that media frenzy, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws was made very, very clear.

From where I was sitting in front of the TV, you’d have to be a complete idiot or have a serious death wish to even consider smuggling drugs in or out of Indonesia. I know people talked about making their luggage more secure after Shapelle’s arrest. Indeed, I’d even be checking the paperwork on my prescriptions before heading to Indonesia…especially given the amount of pills I take in a week. They could easily be perceived as trafficking quantities!

Those were the sorts of precautions your average Australian traveler was taking when the Bali 9 were arrested. Nobody wanted to be another Shapelle Corby and we were leaving absolutely nothing to chance. The consequences were just too great.

Given the historical context, the Bali 9 did come across as a bunch of idiots who had earned themselves what’s known as the Darwin Award: http://www.darwinawards.com/ After all, they didn’t need to be Einstein or have some kind of mystical crystal ball to know what they were getting themselves into. They just needed to turn on their TV. Shapelle Corby’s face was everywhere. Remember: Shapelle Corby was arrested on the 8th October 2004 and on the 27 May 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Bali Nine was arrested On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested right in the middle of Shapelle’s trial. You do have to wonder what they were thinking and if they were even thinking at all and certainly you would never expect these men to amount to anything much at all!!

That was then. This is now.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Fast-forwarding nine years, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are changed men and are inspiring other prisoners and leading exemplary lives. These are not the same men who were convicted back in 2006. Their names might be the same and they are older versions of themselves but in terms of their soul, spirit, character and no doubt even the neurofibres in their brains, they are not who they were. Therefore, executing these men would be a great travesty of justice.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

 

Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs  outlined how much the men had changed when she addressed Federal Parliament on 12th February, 2014:

“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali – whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change – have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President’s rejection of his clemency application, Andrew’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the ‘gentle giant’ – has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates’ medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran’s inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo…

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name. [2]

What Brain Plasticity Means For Chan & Sukumaran. Why Spare These Men?

If somebody completely turns their life around and becomes an entirely new and different person on the inside, should they still be judged and sentenced to death because of crimes they committed in the past? Although they have the same name and DNA, they are a different person and things become very problematic.

Would justice truly be served and can we as a global community just stand back in good conscience and do nothing to spare these men? Or, do we both as a society and as individuals need to do whatever it takes to prevent such a tragic and unjust loss of life?

The answer is a resounding “yes”!! After all, two wrongs have never made a right!!

Although I have never met these men and I certainly don’t support the use or sale of such drugs, there is such resounding evidence that these men have significantly and are now dramatically improving the lives of those around them as well, rehabilitating and educating other prisoners much more effectively than other methods.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, whose husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, spoke out in Parliament saying: “criminals can be redeemed – my husband is proof.”

She adds that the laws which underpin the executing these men is the basic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world. But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/plibersek-these-men-deserve-restorative-justice-not-execution/6088334.

I also thought it was interesting that at last night’s vigil, emotional statements were read from the pair, which acknowledged their original stupidity,  saying that  the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed” 4″

Their Last Words

Andrew Chan: “Thoughts from the Edge

“Thank you Jesus that you give me the strength and courage that I need to stand strong and to trust in you when the waters arise.”

“I thank you Jesus that you never give up on me and that your faithfulness is what helps me striving forward. I thank you for all the family and friends you surround me with in life and how your love pours out from them.”

“The Lord is revealing to me through this scripture is about how he’ll fight the battles for us and that we won’t be defeated if he goes ahead of us… The truth is God is remind us that when all seems helpless and you feel as though the enemies army surrounds you, God is telling us to stand still, take up our battle stance but do not move.[3]

Myuran Sukumaran – Thoughts from the edge

“When you are young you think money is the only way to get happiness … after being here for eight years you realize it is not.”

“After being in prison for eight years I only realized when it comes when it comes to drugs nobody gets rich – there are a few people – most get caught and end up in places like this and that’s the lesson.”

“I want to become a better person and I want to help everybody else become a better person as well. It is like a vehicle for everybody to travel in to better themselves.”

Last Words or a New Beginning…

Time is running out and I don’t know what any of us can do at this late hour. I understand that over 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian Attorney General pleading for mercy and many many people have spoken publically. Last night, a vigil was being held in Sydney to pray for the men and their families and this was just one of many. I can sense a collective heartache if these efforts fail and these two young men are put to death.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are in my heartfelt prayers.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

*Please reblog this post and spread the word. It now looks like the lives of these men rest on divine intervention and people power.

As the saying goes: “Never give up”!!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

[2] Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran, Address to House of Representatives Speech, E&OE, Parliament House, Canberra,12 February 2015.

[3] http://www.news.com.au/national/six-living-former-prime-ministers-make-united-final-plea-for-doomed-bali-nine-duo/story-fncynjr2-1227222259664

4) www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/vigils-held-for-bali-nine-pair-facing-execution/6143978

Paintings: http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumaran-paintings-in-melbourne/story-fnh81fz8-1227049488225

I apologise  for any breaches of copyright regarding the images used in this post. I am merely trying to support their cause.

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

Apricot Chicken Via the Beach

Apricot chicken is a great meal for busy families to cook together and it really only takes 5-10 minutes to prepare. Once you get the raw chicken in the roasting dish, the kids only need to throw a few ingredients together and you can chuck it in the oven.

This should have been the very first meal I made with the kids as part of my teach the kids how to cook campaign and here we are doing it well down the track. Silly me! Perhaps, it was just too easy. Simple Simon! While I know all about the KISS Principle or “Keep It Simple Stupid”, I’ve only been able to implement the “stupid” part of the equation so far. Complicating things is one of my greatest strengths.

The Abominable Doughman

The Abominable Doughman

On day two of the cooking challenge, I had the kids making pizza from scratch. There was yeast and flour snowing all over the house and my son’s hands morphed into very, very scary Abominable Doughmen. That very same night, we also made Apple Pie again from scratch. All of this while undergoing chemo. Quite typical of me, it was an overly ambitious and unrealistic effort but we did pull it off and it was a wonderful, unforgettable meal. We had a great night and made a zillion memories. That is one of the wonderful things about cooking. You infuse love and happiness into your food. Digest it and that love travels through your body, spreading through to each and every cell. Food from a packet just isn’t the same. It doesn’t come close!!

Mister eating his Ham & Pineapple Pizza.

Mister eating his Ham & Pineapple Pizza.

Last night, Miss and I made Apricot Chicken for dinner.

While the recipe is very simple, there are a few hidden clauses and some serious warnings.

The primary caution anyone has with making Apricot Chicken, is managing the handling of raw chicken. This gives you the opportunity to give your kids a crash course in food safety.

The first basic rule: anything which touches raw chicken needs to be washed immediately before it touches anything else!

This means that the simplest of tasks, actually becomes the most difficult part of cooking this dish. You need to extricate the raw chicken from its plastic wrapper without contaminating your entire kitchen. Moreover, as you’re involving little people, that potential contamination zone extends to include the rest of your house. We all know how those little fingers love to touch absolutely everything and spread their love around!

Chicken germs are all too easily spread. Your hands touch the chicken and then touch the fridge. Meanwhile, the chicken slips onto your kitchen bench and perhaps you wipe it up with a dish cloth, which adds its own germs and bacteria. While some germs are good for your immune system Salmonella isn’t one of them. Salmonella is a bacterium that occurs mainly in the gut, especially a serotype causing food poisoning. Salmonellosis is a type of food poisoning caused by the Salmonella bacterium. Every year approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the U.S.

I found these tips at http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/tools-and-techniques/chicken-safety.htm:

When handling raw chicken, you must keep everything that comes into contact with it clean. Raw chicken should be rinsed and patted dry with paper towels before cooking; cutting boards and knives must be washed in hot sudsy water after using (or run through the dishwasher) and hands must be scrubbed thoroughly before and after handling.

Why? Raw chicken can harbor harmful salmonella bacteria. If bacteria are transferred to work surfaces, utensils, or hands, they could contaminate other foods, as well as the cooked chicken, and cause food poisoning. With careful handling and proper cooking, this is easily prevented.

Chicken should always be cooked completely before eating. You should never cook chicken partially and then store it to be finished later, since this promotes bacterial growth as well.

To be perfectly honest with you, after reading all these health warnings about handling a simple, raw chook, it’s really turned me off cooking chicken altogether. Most of us are not sufficiently OCD when it comes to hand washing and I can’t help wondering how many chicken germs are now running around our kitchen about to lay their deadly eggs. I’m surprised we’ve never got sick but perhaps after all these years of indiscretion, we’ve developed cast iron constitutions. That was a joke. Salmonella isn’t. I didn’t want my daughter handling the raw chicken. It was my job to unwrap the chicken and get it into the roasting dish but then she did the rest

Recipe for Apricot Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole standard sized uncooked chicken or equivalent pieces

1 405 ml can of apricot nectar

1 packet French Onion Soup Mix

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Parent to unwrap chicken. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with a piece of paper towel.
  3. Place chicken in greased roasting dish.
  4. Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  5. Using a pair of scissors, child can snip open the packet of French onion soup mix. I’d get them to snip off the corner of the packet so it is easier to pour without spills.
  6. Sprinkle French Onion Soup Mix over the raw chicken. Make sure your kids do not try eating the soup mix from the top of the raw chicken. I caught my daughter doing this. Remember the Salmonella. They can always wash their hands if they do touch the chicken but I would be using this opportunity to teach them about food safety and I’d be opting for a 100% hands off approach: “Do not touch the raw chicken “or “fingers off the raw chicken”. Be clear and firm. This is a serious food safety issue!
  7. Open a tin of Apricot Nectar and pour it over the chicken and French onion soup mix. This is a good time to introduce your child to using a can opener. This may take a bit of explaining and may not be something they’ll immediately pick up. Of course, some can openers are also easier to use than others and not all of them are really suitable for kids. They need to get the can opener over the rim and once it has punctured the can, you will hear the air escape and know they’re on the right track. Warn them about the sharp edges on the can. Fingers need eyes and need to be careful.
  8. Pour the apricot nectar over the chicken. The soup mix will fall off so you’ll need to use a large serving style spoon to dish it back on top of the chook.
  9. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, assess whether they are able to put the chicken in the oven themselves or whether that is a job for big hands. I put our chicken in the oven.
  10. I didn’t actually note how long it took our chicken to cook buy I would say around 1.5 hours.
  11. Baste chicken with nectar while it cooks. The skin can start to brown before the chicken is ready.and if so, cover it with a sheet of foil and turn your oven down a little.
The Beach

The Beach

While the chicken was cooking…

Now, I have a bit of a confession. While the chicken was cooking, I took the kids down to the beach for a swim. It was a sweltering hot day and we needed to cool off. I am also conscious that we only live about 700 metres from the beach and yet we seldom get there. We live in such a beautiful spot and yet how often do we even steal a peek at it? I don’t even take the scenic drive to or from school. We take the rabbit run through the backstreets and don’t even catch a glimpse of the water which surrounds us on three fronts. We live on a peninsula. That takes effort!

Yet to be fair on myself, the beach isn’t the easiest place for me to go. I’m not allowed in the sun unless I’m fully clothed or caked in sunscreen all over. We all have fair skin so we usually go at the end of the day anyway. Miss tells people that we go to the beach in the dark. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. We take in the sunset. If I take the kids with me, I need to be able to get them out of the beach when my energy levels sag and historically this hasn’t been easy. We’re also fairly busy.

We had a wonderful time at the beach. Miss with her totally inflated concepts about my physical abilities, had me jumping the waves with her or at least attempting to and really trying to fake it to the best of my abilities. I was covered up from head-to-toe as I can’t go out in the sun both due to the chemo and because my auto-immune disease can be triggered by sun exposure. I felt like such a weirdo wearing clothes in the water but I wasn’t mad keen on slicking myself in lots of sunscreen either. It seemed the better option. However, as my sarong got wet, it felt really yucky and uncomfortable flapping against my legs and perhaps next time I will go the sunscreen. Geoff also suggested that I could get myself one of those full body swimsuits as worn by the Olympic swim team. You never know. If I could only get into one of those suits, I might just swim like a fish and get on the team for the Rio Olympics. Watch out world!

I have to be honest and say that I found myself feeling strangely sad, very sad at the beach. There I was in such a beautiful paradise on an absolutely perfect azure blue, sunny day and the ocean sparkled like a diamond carpet in the sun. Just beautifully perfect. You would think that I would revel in such a beautiful place and being able to actually go to the beach with my kids and be there together jumping waves and searching for hermit crabs. The kids were also is great moods and having fun. Yet, I found myself feeling inexplicably sad. As beautiful as the beach might have been, being at the beach really made me painfully aware that our lives aren’t normal.

I am not normal.

As much as I can stretch and stretch and stretch my skin, it still doesn’t fit. It’s way too tight. I’m struggling to move. Battling to breathe. It simply isn’t me.

At the same time, I lead a very active and fulfilling life. I don’t miss out on much as a whole. I hear you saying that I should be thankful. Show a bit of gratitude and if your situation is more challenging, you probably think I’m being very self-indulgent unless you know that I’m still having chemo. It’s not easy juggling chemo, kids or any kind of life. You simply have too many balls in the air and sooner or later, they’re going to land. Things are constantly splatting for me and I’m struggling with some pathetically basic tasks and yet I appear better than normal. I look great.

While this doesn’t make any kind of logical sense, I’m actually finding things a bit harder at the moment now that I’m getting better and so very close to being “normal”. I now look 98% and so many people are telling me how good I look. These aren’t necessarily people who know I’m on chemo and are judging me using that yardstick either. They are comparing me with me. Much of the time, I do feel quite radiant but the fatigue still hits me and my daily tablet prednisone dose is slowly going down and that’s like depriving me of life-giving petrol. I want it back.

I’m trying to understand these feelings. Unpack their suitcase. Where have these crazy feelings come from? Why can’t I follow my own advice, cape diem and just enjoy such a seemingly perfect trip to the beach with my kids who were being thoroughly delightful as well? This just confirms that I’m a mad woman! Stupid! Get it together, Ro! If you can’t enjoy the beach on a sunny day, you’re doomed. Totally doomed!!

What I think is happening…When I am really sick, my well self, the person I really identify as “me” is somewhere off in the distance. I am so far away from her that she is just a blur…a haze… dare I say a ghost? But as I get better and my health improves, she moves closer and closer. I can hear her breathing. I can smell and touch her skin but then she slips away before I can quite reclaim my skin and slip back inside quite unnoticed and be exactly who I know myself to be.

I still can’t feel at home in this second skin. Surely, it has to be some kind of imposter? A fake? Surely, I’m going to wake up one day very, very soon and be myself again?

I know who I am.

Who is this fraudulent second self???

It’s definitely a case of stolen identity but I’m not sure who to call about this. The police? The bank? Who can reattach me to my lost self? Could some kind of surgeon, perhaps sew or even graft me back on?

Meanwhile, while I’m brooding down at the beach, that chicken was baking away back at home and we needed to get back. I was also concerned about us cooking in the sun, even though it was approaching 6.00PM, it was a hot day and we are all ghostly white.

While on the subject of burning, you do need to keep a bit of an eye on the chicken. Coated in all that sweet, yummy nectar, the skin can burn before the chicken is actually cooked through. If so, cover the chicken with foil and consider turning the oven down.

Now, it was time to get the rice going.

The rice!

That’s right. I need to teach the kids how to cook rice. Rice?!!?!! Add that to the list. Actually, I haven’t made a list of the meals I want to teach the kids to cook…our Cook-It List. I need to do that too. There’s so much to do? You wake up after months of getting by and there’s a lot of catching up and most of it isn’t pretty. I’ll mention one word…Centrelink. If you’re not Australian, read government department. 90 minute waiting times but I must say that the staff  were very helpful once I finally, finally got through. Just as well!

Rice…before I can teach the kids how to make rice, I need to teach myself. I have sacrificed so many good saucepans to boiling rice that I’m in no way equipped to teach them anything. So I’ll need to teach myself how to cook rice before I teach them. I certainly don’t want them picking up my bad habits!!

I managed to cook tonight’s rice without incident and threw in about a cup of frozen peas. I love frozen peas. Such an easy way of getting my greens and they are always fresh and not doing dreadful terrible things at the bottom of my veggie killing so-called “veggie crisper”. You know those floppy jalopies you fish out of there. Give me frozen peas any day.

It is interesting just how much skill is involved in cooking and how my humble idea of teaching the kids how to cook a meal, is teaching them valuable and very practical life skills. Amelia learned how to use a can opener when she opened the can of apricot nectar tonight. I am really starting to appreciate how much the children still have to learn and how much assumed knowledge we have. That you can’t just throw a kid a can opener and expect them to somehow psychically know how to use it. You need to show them. Be patient. Allow extra time in the cooking with kids sessions to allow for mistakes. In the over all scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you botch up a meal but it is everything if you botch up your relationship with your children. You need to fuel and nurture that love and not destroy it. I know how challenging that can be especially in a hot and busy kitchen but I am starting to see my children blossom and take pride in themselves. Feel they can do something. Even if you have to throw the meal out and get in some takeaway, it is more than worth the effort.

xx Rowena

The Scream

Today, I’m trying a bit of reverse psychology. Instead of regurgitating a motivational textbook to myself, I’m going for the scream…an endless scream from somewhere deep inside my heart, deep inside my soul. A scream something like a cross between Tarzan swinging through the jungle and natural childbirth. We’re talking intense! A real scream!

As much as you would expect such a scream to be spontaneous, it actually takes a bit of forethought and planning. After all, you just can’t stand on some street corner screaming your lungs out and not expect to find yourself in some kind of lock-up facility.

That’s not the kind of time out that I’ve been looking for.

I suppose I could always go bush and find a good cliff face and let my scream waft across some deserted gully.

However, I’ve taken the easy way out. I’ve ordered a copy of Munch’s: The Scream to put on the wall near my desk. That way, when I feel like screaming, I can look at the picture and somehow release those emotions in silence.

I know The Scream might seem a bit “dark” or “intense”, however, I have a lot of “uppers” around the house. Things designed to cheer me up and get me through the day…a cyclamen plant on the kitchen table. There’s the kids’ rainbow drawings and of course, my teacups. As much as it’s great to be positive, I don’t believe you just have to hide all your negative thoughts under the bed. They need an outlet as well. I wouldn’t recommend filling your place up with negative energy but having something concrete that represents your inner pain doesn’t seem like such a bad idea although I’m obviously not professional. I just need to represent both sides of the coin. I have good days and bad days just like anybody else and I want to express and deal with that instead of choking up. That’s not being negative.  Perhaps, in a funny kind of way, it ends up being neutral.

I have a very positive, upbeat attitude most of the time but there’s nothing wrong with getting cranky about our negative circumstances. I know people hate whingers but you can’t just keep pouring all those negative emotions down your throat like a toxic cocktail. After all, where does it all go? How will it get out? Believe me, it does come out and perhaps instead of closing the door and having a good private scream, you’ll go off your head at someone you love who just happened to spill the milk on the tablecloth or left their toy in the walkway, wouldn’t get dressed or put their shoes on.

You can only take so much!

If you are a ticking clock, one day you will either explode or implode. I know I have imploded and all that energy went into my body…kaput! Too much! My body couldn’t take it.

I expected too much of myself.

Why do we insist on being super heroes? Putting on our capes and leaping off tall buildings and getting upset when shock horror we finally realise we can’t actually fly?

Somehow we need to stop running around being all happy happy joy joy all the time. Be honest about how we really feel… especially to ourselves. We don’t need to broadcast our business to the world but we can bring someone else inside our grief, our disappointments and frustrations.  They’ll cope. Helping other people actually helps people feel better. They usually love to do it.

Yesterday, I caught the train down to Sydney. I was struggling but I had my walking stick with me and people understood and gave me a hand.  They didn’t know my story. They were just happy to help in their own small way. I felt a bit like Paddington Bear and half expected to find a half-eaten jar of marmalade in my bag but that was okay. It was lovely to enjoy a touch of human kindness!

I know it takes a lot for me to reach out and ask for help and I only do it when I really, really have to but…

  1.  I’m not a super hero. I don’t have to be.
  2. I am human and that’s okay.
  3.  I don’t need to go through this alone.
  4. People love me.
  5. They are happy to help.
  6. I just need to let them.
  7. I can also help myself.

This all sounds great. Only one obstacle remains…me! I have to let myself go.

Postscript

Writing this post has actually been quite cathartic. I’m currently on 50 mg of prednisone , which is enough to turn a meditation guru into some sort of crazed axe murderer.

It certainly does nothing to build your sense of inner peace and tranquility.

I’m also angry because my auto-immune disease has flared thanks to a bad case of the flu. All the warning lights are starting to flash and there’s talk of hospital admission. On top of all of that is life…getting the kids to put their shoes on, the dance concerts, physie competitions. Life doesn’t stop because you’re struggling. Life and you go on.

But it’s only human to want to stop, scream and explode sometimes. That’s okay.

I’d like to share what ultimately happened to my inner scream. It is a bit quirky and even I think it’s “out there”.

I had been thinking about Munch’s The Scream all day and looking at it on my computer. I was also thinking about where you could actually go to have a good scream. Let it out without being locked up. Through this process, I actually visualised myself standing at Echo Point  at Katoomba and watching myself screaming all the way across the Jameson Valley. (I’d have to do that after dark because the place is jam-packed with tourist buses all day and these moments do need to be private!!)

Then the most amazing thing happened and I wasn’t consciously trying to turn these negative emotions into a positive. I was just angry. However, while I’m watching myself standing on the edge of the cliff, suddenly a black crow flies out of my mouth and soars across the Jameson Valley and disappears.

We had seen a lot of black crows down at Perisher recently. It was quite a macabre and liberating experience. Crows are the weirdest looking birds and if I had to choose my inner bird it would be something like a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, a Rainbow Lorikeet or even a Galah. How bizarre! How bizarre! How bizarre!

How can you possibly stay mad when you see this crazy image?

The last word goes to Homer Simpson. When I looked up The Scream on eBay, I found this version with Homer Simpson in it. That definitely turned my anger on its head. I had to laugh.

Any comments? I would love to get some discussion going on my blog!!

xx Rowena