Tag Archives: auto-immune disease

Sydney Opera House: New Perspectives.

Go anywhere near Sydney Harbour and there are those omnipresent, white sails better known as the Sydney Opera House…such an iconic beauty!!

Yet, being Sydney born and bred, she can become a little ordinary. Indeed, as the train rattles over the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the umpteenth time, she becomes little more than a white “blotch” beside the Harbour.

After all, like so many special friends, it’s so easy to take her for granted and look overseas for those incredible cultural icons: The Taj Mahal, The Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and sentimental favourites the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Being local, it’s not often that we actually stop. Stand still. Simply gaze into her wondrous face. Let alone take in a performance.

Wally Opera House Steps

Wally on the Opera House Steps

However, yesterday I saw the Sydney Opera House through fresh eyes when I was introducing it to a British tourist, Wally the Wandering Wombat. Don’t ask me how an Australian wombat became an English tourist. I am just the paparazzi, following Wally for an upcoming book.

You see, Wally is touring the world promoting Mysotis, which is the umbrella term for a group of neuro-muscular auto-immune diseases, including dermatomyositis. This is a pretty tough job for anyone. Myositis is an exceptionally rare disease and can be quite debilitating. So, if you have it, you’re often not well enough to organise sporting events, races, marathons and other physical challenges to get the word out. Indeed, if the disease is in an active phase, you could well be glued to your bed. That is, unless you have a mobility scooter or some other form of technologically-enabled transport to get you around. Moreover, publicising anything which is rare, unknown and impossible to spell and pronounce might not be completely and utterly impossible but…@#$%!! As you can probably gather, I haven’t had hoards of journalists desperately camped outside my front door just waiting to catch a glimpse of Wally. Not at all! Wally, sadly, has flown right under the radar on his travels and remains quite the nobody…just like myositis!!

Crowds cheering for Prince Harry. There were no such crowds waiting for Wally!

 

He’s also had some very stiff competition lately what with Prince Harry being in town. Wally might be cute and furry but he certainly isn’t a Prince and Prince Harry isn’t your garden-variety prince either. Not only has spunk but he’s also single!

While Wally might be cute with a huge heart, the reality is that he’s small, blue and…wallyish.

Wally at Circular Quay Station.

Wally at Circular Quay Station.

Anyway, yesterday I took Wally down to Sydney to get some publicity shots in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We caught the train down to Wynyard and changed trains for Circular Quay. As soon as we pulled into Circular Quay Station, Wally was immediately struck by the panoramic view across Sydney Harbour.There was the Sydney Harbour Bridge on your left, the ferries straight in front and the Sydney Opera House just around the corner. That was almost too much for my humble camera lens to process. These days, it’s much more accustomed to capturing sunsets, kids and dogs. Later on, it was almost in shock when it captured two icons in one image!!

Incredible! Incredible! Incredible!!

Wally & I with the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Taken beside the Sydney Opera House.

Wally & I with the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Taken beside the Sydney Opera House.

Although I’d planned to photograph Wally in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I’d quite literally forgotten all about the Sydney Opera House. I don’t know why. My best guess is that I’m so used to it, that she’d simply become part of the furniture. For this reason, I am so glad I took Wally over to Circular Quay. So often I gain such a richer appreciation and insight through observing and capturing it through my camera lens. It’s almost like a re-birth and so it was that I saw the Sydney Opera House through fresh eyes, gaining a whole new appreciation of this incredible architectural marvel.

Wally climbing the Opera House.

Wally climbing the Opera House.

I really needed that reminder as well. As Australians, we so often think that anything of cultural note is overseas. This dissatisfaction even has a name: ‘cultural cringe”. Last weekend, my sense of wanderlust was stirred up yet again when I heard how a friend of mine had just returned from Gallipoli via Paris where he proposed at the Eiffel Tower. Wow! That brought back memories. Certainly NOT of when Geoff proposed (the pouring rain wasn’t great for romance but it was Valentine’s Day!!) but of spending 6 weeks in Paris back in 1992. Back in the day, I sat in view of the Tour Eiffel which was all lit up for Bastille Day and enjoyed the fireworks. I also photographed the Eiffel Tower in some detail, even though I didn’t pay to go up. Just listening to my friend’s bit of romance, I found myself yearning to go back and revisit the “grand dame” but as a parent, responsibilities come before expensive travel these days.

Wally posing between two incredible Aussie icons: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Wally posing between two incredible Aussie icons: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Designed by Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, Sydney Opera House (1957 – 1973) was inscribed in the World Heritage List in June 2007: “Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century. It represents multiple strands of creativity, both in architectural form and structural design, a great urban sculpture carefully set in a remarkable waterscape and a world famous iconic building.” UNESCO

Shadow Selfie on the Opera House Front Steps.

Shadow Selfie on the Opera House Front Steps.

The expert evaluation report to the World Heritage Committee stated: “…it stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.”1.

Wally on the Opera House Steps

Wally on the Opera House Steps

Anyway, with what started as a quick photo shoot in front of the Bridge, turned into a photographic walking tour around the outside of the Sydney Opera House. As luck would have it, and I can assure you that this was one of the few strokes of luck I had yesterday, it was a gloriously sunny day with a deep azure blue sky, which made the perfect background for those striking white sails. As the day went by, the wind whipped up and I can assure you that it was just as well those sails were made of heavy concrete because otherwise the Opera House would have sailed away!!

Opera House Behind Bars (the fence at the Botanical Gardens)

Opera House Behind Bars (the fence at the Botanical Gardens)

So I hope you enjoyed Wally’s Tour of the Sydney Opera House.

xx Rowena

Heading home...walking beside Circular Quay.

Heading home…walking beside Circular Quay.

 

Sources

1. http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/about/house_history_landing.aspx

The Morning After…a Walk Along the Beach.

“You see but your shadow when you turn your back to the sun.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over a sprawling landscape of twinkling lights, I felt such a mixture of hope and dread, like you do when, for whatever reason, you become intensely conscious transience. As much as you desperately try to hold onto the known, the familiar, the beloved; you know your efforts are futile. Change is in the wind and you’re losing your grip. Like that mysterious world at the top of Enid Blyton’s: The Magic Faraway Tree, you don’t know what’s coming next. Whether it’s better or worse, or just different. All you know is that you can’t turn back. That door is shut. Indeed, it’s so firmly shut it’s like that world never even existed and has escaped to the realms of dreams, legend…fantasy even.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand & Foam

Even though I’ve conquered many hurdles, especially in relation to my health, I’m definitely no Captain Courageous. Oh no! I can withdraw inside my cocoon just as much as the next person but I’m also starting to figure out what works for me and that if I don’t want to wallow in the mud, there are things I can do to lift myself out.

When you lose something precious, it is all too easy to forget what you still have. What is left. It’s understandable that I’m upset about losing our escape hatch at Palm Beach but we actually live 700 metres away from the beach, an absolutely smashing beach. Umina Beach fronts onto Broken Bay, just North of Sydney and has a postcard view of Lion Island, Pittwater and across to Palm Beach. Indeed, I can even wave to the Palm Beach Lighthouse and I swear that sometimes it even waves back.

Walking, I find, is also very good for clearing out the soul and after several weeks of rain, the sun returned yesterday and gave another encore performance today. Knowing that Winter is just around the corner, I’m grabbing these sunny days with both feet and getting out to the beach…carpe diem: seize the day!

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where's Bert?

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where’s Bert?

So after school drop off this morning, I went down to Umina Beach not only for a walk but to do a photo shoot.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a project to promote awareness of my auto-immune disease which involves photographing Wally the Wombat whose wanderings from the UK and around Australia are being well-documented. Dermatomyositis can affect children as well so I headed off to the beach to photograph Wally with Ernie from Sesame Street.

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

I also took along a cane chair.

I am currently putting together a farewell to Palm Beach series based on the image of the empty chair. The empty chair has been used to symbolise loss and grief in various works and Geoff Le Pard reminded me of that when he told me about a memorial to the victims of the Christchurch earthquakes called 185 Empty White Chairs with a chair to represent each person who died in the quake. I Googled it and was quite moved by the memorial and loved how they’ve used such an eclectic array of chairs, including a wheelchair, which have all been painted white. It was very evocative.

Vincent Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh: “Van Gogh’s Chair 1888”

So here’s to new beginnings…I think! That and being thankful for all that we do have, even at timesof loss and transition when it’s so easy to forget.

xx Rowena

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Chair and foam

Chair and foam

The tide shows no respect for what's been left upon the shore.

The tide shows no respect for what’s been left upon the shore.

Miscellaneous Mutterings

Since I’ve been doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, I’ve developed some kind of additional neurosis…some kind of mutation, which has been completely overlooked by the DSM Manual, otherwise known as “the psychologists’ Bible”.

M is for Monkey

M is for Monkey

Every morning, no sooner than I’ve inhaled my kick-starting coffee, it all begins. I start jibber-jabbering away to myself and all sorts of words start cycling and recycling through my clunky head as I try to pick my word to go with the day’s letter. You see, I am now halfway through the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and with each passing day, the jibber-jabbering is only getting worse…the proverbial broken record.

Being a new recruit to the challenge, I didn’t realise until it all got underway that people generally write to a theme and turn it into quite a project. That’s right. This challenge goes way beyond simply reciting the alphabet and writing about “A is for apple”. My theme has ended up being “A few of my favourite things” and I’ve also been following the challenge on other blogs where I’ve been blown away by the amount of research involved and have learned so much!!

M is for Monster

M is for Monster

While I have written a list of topics for each letter, some days I’ve revisited it and changed my mind.

For some reason, trying to pick something for M today has had me muttering more than usual.

Mummy

Mummy

In a sense, M has to be Mummy, which I guess could also be M for Me. However, the trouble with writing about my journey as a Mum or about myself as “Mummy” is to come up with an angle that isn’t sickly sweet and sugar-coated or isn’t some never-ending whinge to end all whinges, leaving you all wondering why I ever had kids and thinking I don’t deserve them.

Next.

I did consider M for Manual, as in receiving a parenting manual when you give birth so you know what to do. After all, here in Australia, you have to sit a tough written test to get your Learner’s Permit before you can even start learning to drive a car Yet, when it comes to becoming a parent and leaving the hospital with your bundle of joy, there is no test. No licence required. You’re just left on your “pat malone” with what often turns out to be, quite a complex little bundle.

However, once I explored the manual concept further, I actually decided that I really didn’t want a manual or any kind of prescription telling me how to parent my kids. After all, being a bit of a free-thinking, creative type whose journey pretty much goes off road well beyond the road less traveled, I don’t want to create a pair of robots and I really don’t want to become a robot myself. I do try to have a routine during term time but come school holidays, I really do like to mix it up a bit, go away and explore something new but also just hang out. We all need to recharge a bit for another school term.

So, before I’d even written a word, I’d eliminated Mummy, motherhood, parenting manual and if you knew me in real time, you’d know that minimalist isn’t me. No, it’s definitely not me at all although I do appreciate those that fastidiously declutter their homes. They drop all sorts of fascinating treasures off at the op shop, which I snap and re-house. After all, treasure should never be homeless. We just need to get a bigger home or open a museum.

G'day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can't even remember their best friend's name.

G’day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can’t even remember their best friend’s name.

I had originally been intending to write about miracles, which ties into what became something of a life mission to “turn my mountain around”. You see, I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis as well as a neurological condition, hydrocephalus, which both give me some mobility challenges. In 2012, our family went on our first trip to the snow and although the rest of the family was going skiing, I didn’t think I could do it. Instead, I bought a pair of snow boots and intended to photograph the snow instead. However, on arrival, we spotted the Paraolympic ski team, who were out zooming down the slopes on sit skis.  This sowed a seed of doubt and I started to wonder whether I, too, could ski. We had a chat with them and they introduced me to the Disabled Winter Sports Association. We couldn’t get organised in time for that trip but I set myself a goal for the following year to ski down the mountain and in effect, turn my mountain around. In what really was quite a miracle, although it also took a fairly large dose of courage and encouragement from the family and my ski instructor, I made it down the mountain and turned my mountain around going down instead of up the mountain.

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby Published by Templar Publishing

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Published by Templar Publishing

I was so excited and on such a high, that I forgot all about the laws of physics and that what goes up, must come down.

Before we’d even left the skifields, I developed the first signs of a chest infection, which despite preventative measures, turned into a life-threatening bout of pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and was attacking my lungs. Before I knew it, my life was flashing before my eyes and instead of being on top of the world, I was having chemo and fighting for my life.

Of course, this totally flipped my mountain back around and in the process it turned dark, stormy and very foreboding.

This wasn’t how my story, the motivational book I was working towards, was supposed to end up. This wasn’t the plot I’d worked out. No, it was anything but. I put the book writing plans on hold. Indeed, I was so sick that I didn’t have a choice.

You can read about my ski challenge here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/turning-my-mountain-around/

However, if you know anything about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, you’ll know that any journey has it’s complications or challenges but that doesn’t mean that’s where the journey ends. No, instead, we’re supposed to tackle those complications and work them  out and ultimately reach that perfect happy ending. We just need to make sure we don’t give up half way before things start turning around and starting to work out. Moreover, once we reach that happy state we need to end that journey before another journey begins, taking us to a completely new destination with a whole new set of complications, challenges and rewards.

While at first thought, it might seem desirable to get rid of all the mountains in our way to make the road smooth, without these mountains, we would never be stretched and grow to take on tougher challenges. We’d never find out what we are made of. This would be a serious loss because, through my own journey, I’ve truly come to appreciate that each of us is truly capable of doing and being way more than we ever thought possible.

Indeed, each of us is a living, breathing human miracle.

We just need to believe.

It seems that I should have had a bit more faith in my miscellaneous mutterings. It’s been quite an interesting journey and I actually found a destination after all.

Indeed, it could even be motivational.

xx Rowena

PS Geoff was doing a few miscellaneous mutterings of his own today after driving the kids all the way to their Scout Camp and finding out our daughter;’s daypack had been left behind. Unfortunately, she’d put most of her essentials inside and so a very loving Dad is driving all the way back to Nelson Bay to drop it off again tomorrow. Mutter…mutter…mutter!

PPS: Bilbo, our Border Collie, has added his howls to the mutterings tonight. Somehow, he managed to fall in the swimming pool. I had a friend over for dinner and we heard a splash follow by a few more splashes and the poor boy was desperately trying to pull himself out. I am so relieved I was within ear shot. Poor Bilbo. He doesn’t even like to get his paws wet so this was really quite an ordeal!!

Dogs of the World Unite!

Back by popular demand, it’s Bilbo and Lady, AKA “The Dogs”.

Every dog has its day and letter “D” on the Blogging A-Z Challenge is ours. Welcome to our universe. Of course, once we heard about the A-Z Blogging Challenge, we weren’t about to be overlooked, neglected or omitted…especially when we’ve been banished outside at the grandparents’ place at Palm Beach over the Easter break.

Hardly a postcard perspective: a wet Easter in Sydney as Autumn sets in.

Hardly a postcard perspective: a wet Easter in Sydney as Autumn sets in.

Just to fill you in, it’s raining. Indeed, it’s been bucketing down and there are also fierce winds which would make the French Mistral look restrained. Although we’re out of the rain on our bed with a blanket, this is no compensation for being inside with the family, even though we’ve been told to make the most of the view. It might be worth millions but so is being with the ones you love instead of being shut out.

You might recall that Bilbo wrote extensively about the Golden Rule and how important it is to treat others as you would like to be treated. So I ask you, how would you like to left outside in the rain instead of being snuggled up with your family by the heater? It’s not much fun, is it?

Moreover, we’re sure you can appreciate that for inside dogs like us, there’s no greater insult  than being shut outside. Far from just being locked out of the house, we’re shut away from our family, love, warmth, pats and above all else, a sense of belonging and being an integral part of the pack. This all means death to a dog.

Lady being quite the "dog hog" taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I'm sure many blokes who've lost the doona mid-winter would say: "typical woman". I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the "Tramp".

Lady being quite the “dog hog” taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before Mum intervened. I’m sure many blokes who’ve lost the doona mid-winter would say: “typical woman”. I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the “Tramp”.

What have we done wrong? What is our crime? Being a dog? Just because we were born dogs instead of human, does that mean that we are somehow inferior? Or, were all living things created equal?

Grandparents certainly don’t seem to think so! Not only to they put the kids on some kind of ridiculous pedestal which bears no reflection on their actual behaviour but they also elevate other despicable creatures to lofty, undeserved heights.

I don’t know whether you’ve had much to do with grandparents but they’re funny creatures. They talk about healthy eating but then fill the kids full of lollies and sent them home twitching full of sugar and all sorts of toxic chemicals. They cry poor and then spend buckets on the kids. Grandma has been bringing Bilbo ham scraps all his life and might tolerate a bit of interaction but there’s a real “us and them” approach and why they dote so much on those naughty grandchildren when we’re so well behaved, I’ll never know. In a way, it’s easy just to write them off and say they’re just not dog people. However, once we found out that they batted for the other side, we decided to fight back and stand up for Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Text displayed on a placard announcing the sale of biens nationaux (1793).

Text displayed on a placard announcing the sale of biens nationaux (1793).

You see, it’s not just that they’re not dog people. They’re actually cat people. We are part of the family yet we’re banished outside peering longingly through the glass, while they all sit around the table and chat. Moreover, as soon as that wretched cat from the across the road even alights on the driveway,they bend over backwards contorting themselves to lure in that wretched fleabag.

That freeloading cat on its way to Grandma's house. Where's the big bad wolf when you need him?!!

That freeloading cat on its way to Grandma’s house. Where’s the big bad wolf when you need him?!!

Cat being cat, it’s so aloof and standoffish and completely lacking in canine warmth and affection. “Puss! Puss! Puss!” They all coax and then there’s  inevitably the ultimate of betrayals when the kids even join in: “Mama! Mama! The cat’s here!! I need some food for the cat” There’s absolutely no support for us. No calls of: “Mama! Papa! Please let the dogs stay inside!!” Grandparents always cave in to the grandchildren. Everyone knows that the little people cast some kind of spell over their grandparents and they can do not wrong. In the process., they somehow wrap their grandparents around their little fingers and manipulate them like puppets and they can’t say no. We know that if those kids pestered long and hard enough, we’d not only be allowed inside but we’d even be sleeping on the lounge!

However, we’ve had no such luck. The kids just keep playing with the cat.

Should read: "No Humans" and definitely "No Cats"!!

Should read: “No Humans” and definitely “No Cats”!!

Sadly, this kind of inequality isn’t just confined to the grandparents. We live in an unjust world. We might not be able to read but we’re not stupid. Dogs aren’t allowed on most beaches. We’re not allowed to catch the bus or the train either. As much as the humans might say it’s a dog’s life, we’re the ones stuck on the leash.

What makes humans think they’re so good? Haven’t they been hell bent on destroying our beautiful planet? They’re certainly NOT the custodians they were always intended to be. We dogs might leave a few smelly piles around for silly humans who can’t even breathe without texting to step in. Otherwise, we walk very lightly on the planet. Unless the humans dress us up like Christmas trees, we’re content to wear the coat God gave and we don’t need superfluous clothes, shoes or all sorts of bling. We’re quite happy with a simple abode although I must admit we’re rather partial to a drive in the car. I guess our carbon footprint isn’t quite so neutral after all.

Yet, we still come out way ahead of the humans!!

All these observations suggest to us that is instead of neutering dogs and keeping us on the leash, that perhaps the rest of the animal kingdom should unite and reverse the order of things. Put the humans on a leash before they blow up the planet and leave the rest of us homeless or even obliterated.

Lady chatting with Max online.

Lady conferring with Max online.

Of course, we can be benevolent to some humans just like they’re partial to some dogs but the hour has come. We have decided to harness the power of the world wide web and we’ve been conferring with comrades all around the world. So much for romance, Lady and Max the Dog were plotting revolution and nothing less. Yes, those gorgeous puppy dog eyes can be very deceiving!!

We get by with a bit of help from our friends and here are some of our canine comrades:

Max the Dog: https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/

Monika and Sam the therapy dog: Tails Around the Ranch: https://tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com/

Rachel Mankowitz: https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/

Geoff Lepard touring Dulwich Street Art with his dog: http://geofflepard.com/2014/09/15/dulwich-street-art-part-one/

Clowie’s Corner: http://clowiescorner.en.1.3142.xyz/category/clowies-tales/

Doc at Mother’s Little Steps: http://motherslittlesteps.com/

Diplomatic Dog: https://diplomaticdog.wordpress.com/

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Dogs of the world Unite!

xx Bilbo and Lady

Evicting the Elephant from the Room!!

An elephant has been living in my room. It’s never had a name and it’s never shared its story but some time ago, it simply moved in and it hasn’t moved out, rudely bailing me up in my own home.

Ever since, I’ve been feeling like a teeny, weenie, terrified mouse scrunched up hiding in the corner too afraid to come out.

After all, how could a tiny, little mouse ever take on such a monstrous elephant? It wouldn’t even need weapons of mouse destruction. It could just sit on me and I’d be flatter than a pancake. I doubt you’d even find my shadow.

Obviously, confronting an elephant is a serious consideration and not something I’d file as an “irrational fear”.

However, costs are mounting and I simply can’t afford to indulge its freeloading consumption any longer. That elephant has to go and I will do whatever it takes to get it out!!

For many years now, the elephant in the room has been my auto-immune disease, which is inconveniently known as dermatomyositis. That elephant moved on now that I’m back in remission. However, as we all know, elephants are very sociable and have fantastic memories. So once you’ve entertained one elephant, word gets around and another one quickly takes its place. You don’t even need to serve peanuts.

While having your own elephant might seem amazing, they’re actually very hard work. It might be fun riding an elephant to work or using it to clean the car, water the garden and even to do a bit of heavy lifting. However, take a serious reality check. Elephants are actually seriously high maintenance!

After all, elephants not only eat and eat and eat and eat. What goes in, must come out.

Talking about what goes in, a handful of lawn mower clippings is hardly going to feed this insatiable beast. Elephants eat 250-300 pounds of food per day on average and in a zoo, a typical adult elephant eats 4-5 bales of hay and 10 – 18 pounds, or 4.5 to 8 kg, of grain. Annually, that’s more than 29,000 kg of hay and 2700 kg of feed per animal. Naturally, buying all this food puts a serious dent in your household budget.

An elephant also needs to be bathed and thery don't exactly fit inside your tub!

An elephant also needs to be bathed and thery don’t exactly fit inside your tub!

Elephants also need to drink and in a drought-ravaged country like Australia, an elephant places an enormous drain on your resources. Their daily water consumption is 25 – 50 gallons per animal, or 100 – 200 litres. Let’s hope you’re not depending on a rainwater tank! I wouldn’t like to run into a thirsty elephant on the rampage!

Obviously, just satisfying the consumption requirements of an elephant, even a metaphorical one, takes an enormous amount of effort.

However, that’s only half the story and to be perfectly honest with you, that’s the better end of the story too!

Elephant Poo.

Elephant Poo.

As I said, what goes in must come out and in the case of a herbivorous elephant…out and out and out!!!!!
An elephant defecates from 12 to 15 times a day, a daily quantity of 220 – 250 pounds. This adds up to a yearly quantity of over 85,000 pounds of manure, more than 40 tons per adult elephant. That’s a huge pile of dung in your room and can become something of a Tower of Babel rising right up to your ceiling and you really wouldn’t want to fall in!!

Yet, that’s not all that comes out either!

Elephants also produce huge amounts of methane gas. Properly equipped, a car could travel 20 miles on the amount of methane produced by one elephant in a single day. That also makes having an elephant in the room, a rather stinky proposition, well beyond the scope of even the strongest air freshners. Urgh!

So after exploring the barest minimum survival, “nothing fancy” requirements of that elephant living in your room, perhaps you, like me, can appreciate that it’s time to send that elephant packing.

No more being nice!!

Miss in hospital waiting for her endoscopy. So brave but she also loved having her own remote control TV!!

Miss in hospital waiting for her endoscopy. So brave but she also loved having her own remote control TV!!

The current elephant in our room is our daughter’s health. She is struggling to eat and is seriously under weight. She’s 9 years old and eats less than 500 calories most days when she should be eating upwards of 1,800. Most of the time, she can only eat very small amounts and then feels sick. She also complains about bread and potato getting stuck in her throat and troubles with reflux.

You can just imagine the stress that we’ve been through having a child who doesn’t eat. She’s now 9 and this has almost been going on almost since birth. Well-intentioned multitudes have told me that they’ve never seen a child starve themselves to death but our daughter has certainly pushed the boundaries. It might just be the gastro bug that’s been going round or our increased awareness, but she seems worse over the last couple of weeks and is arriving home from school looking weak and off-colour but perks up with food and will eat something. At the same time, she’s a pretty active kid so it’s hard to understand where she is getting that energy. It’s been very perplexing.

Late last year, we took matters in hand and over the last couple of weeks she’s had a barium meal test, an endoscopy and a tube into her nose to check her throat. She’s been so brave and gone through this with courage and strength but even though I’ve had these tests myself, it’s awful to watch her suffer. My heart aches for her and I just wish I could simply kiss her and make her better! Yet, I can’t and rather than being the strong rock I’m portraying, I want to cry and cry and cry. Crumble apart like sandcastle being swept away by a sea of tears. A bit melodramatic, I know, but she’s my little girl…our princess!

So for us, dealing with the elephant in the room has meant documenting what she eats and after realising how close she is to running on empty, I’ve bought her some medical food replacement drinks to at least try to bridge the gap while we seek answers.

I know I probably should’ve been looking into her calorie intake before, but I’ve been trying to keep this low key. I don’t want this thing to evolve into an eating disorder and I wasn’t sure that teaching a child who doesn’t eat about calories was a good thing. The same goes with getting on the scales. I also don’t want her feeling bad about herself or thinking that she’s faulty in some way. I would love to be thin but the more I look into how she is, the more I’m noticing that she’s becoming like a car running out of fuel. Moreover, I’m also realising that whatever the elephant in the room might be, identification, classification and treatment are beyond my capabilities.

I don’t know whether my awareness has just increased but she’s seemed worse this last week. She’s come home from school really tired and lethargic a few times. Feeling completely confused, stressed and perplexed; I didn’t even know which doctor to call or whether I should go to emergency or what. I’m trying to limit her doctor’s appointments and so I needed to pick the right doctor out of the hat. After flapping around all week and getting some good advice from the pharmacist and some food replacement drinks, I finally rang her paediatrician yesterday. I was trying to get my story out and convey some sense of urgency but didn’t need to. She gave me an appointment this very Monday. The only thing worse than having to beg and plead for an emergency appointment is being offered one. Then, you know that your worries are really something to worry about.

At the same time, I am so relieved!! Whatever we’re dealing with, we are no longer alone. Our concerns are being taken seriously and help is on its way. Our paediatrician really is excellent and I know he’ll help us navigate whatever this is and find a clear path. We are also fortunate to know two people with delayed gastric emptying, who have been very helpful and supportive. I also expect we’ll be seeing a dietician and other health professionals who’ll enlighten us.

I’m sure that now we’re starting to expose the elephant in the room and reveal it’s true identity, it’ll either take off straight away or deflate from a 4,500 kilo elephant into a mouse-sized ornament.
I sure hope so!!

Thank you to all those of you who are supporting and encouraging me through this journey with our daughter. It is much appreciated and reflects so positively on the bonds of friendship forged through blogging and even though we have never met face-to-face, that we are connected, if not becoming good friends.

Love and blessings,

Rowena xx

Sources

http://www.elephantconservation.org/stay-informed/just-for-kids/

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.

IMG_0061

There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

The Struggle to Heal: the broken foot and the Sydney Siege.

Have you ever considered the different way we respond to physical injuries versus psychological trauma? There’s absolutely no stigma going to a physiotherapist to treat your physical injuries, whereas admitting to seeing a psychologist could well open a whole can of worms.

Quite a double-standard, isn’t it?

It’s now almost been two months since the horrific terrorist siege gripped Sydney as a gunman held 18 people hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place at the heart of Sydney’s CBD. While the hostages each have their own story, I am addressing the ripple effect which spread beyond the Lindt Cafe and held Sydney in its grip and is still rippling in the shadows. As evidenced by the thousands of floral tributes which overflowed through Martin Place and a Facebook request to send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids spread; many, many people were deeply moved and grief-stricken over what happened. We truly and genuinely cared. This concern is naturally mixed with grief, fear and compassionate empathy and there’s naturally a need for psychological healing here too. There has been such grief for the Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson…two courageous heroes…strangers we’d never met before.

Flowers Martin Place

Flowers Martin Place

The night before the siege, I broke my foot and I felt this coincidence provided an opportunity to explore the differences between physical and psychological healing. The hostages were interviewed at length on TV last night and they each have their story. Naturally, I am very mindful of their trauma and send them my love and prayers. However, I’m looking further afield at how Sydney is responding to its psychological wounds. Are we undergoing treatment?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I returned to Martin Place for the first time since the siege last week on my way home from a series of medical appointments. I usually go off on a bit of a detour on the way home and quite intentionally don’t declare my whereabouts. This is Mummy’s secret escape…an absolute indulgence. I usually end up in a gorgeously quirky vegan cafe in Sydney’s Surry Hills. There’s a portrait of “The Vegan Mary” at the entrance and they make the most scrumptiously divine Coconut Chai Lattes. They’re like drinking a coconut cloud.

However, this time I decided to go to Martin Place and pay my respects to the siege victims and survivors. I didn’t know what to expect. I naturally thought I’d get emotional when I reached the Lindt Cafe but what surprised me was the creepy uneasiness I felt even walking through Martin Place. Quite out of character, I wondered whether I should report in and call home. Let my husband know where I was just in case. After all, nobody knew I was anywhere near the city. I was meant to be on the train heading home, in the absolute opposite direction. If something happened, no one would know I was there. Not that anything was going to happen. After all, lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice. That said, we didn’t expect it to strike the first time either. Now, we’ve woken up. Sydney is on alert. Not red alert but we’re certainly no longer asleep.

You see, despite the superficial rhetoric that Sydney is back to normal, things have changed. Something has shattered and the pieces don’t quite fit back together like they used to. Everything is just ever so slightly disjointed, out of kilter. Although we’re getting on with it, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel or haven’t been changed. It’s only early days and it really does take time for any kind of healing…physical or psychological.

As I mentioned, I broke my foot the night before the terrorist siege. Therefore, the progress on the foot front provides a good platform to discuss how Sydney is psychologically recovering from the siege versus the physical healing of the foot. I should also mention that I live with a severe life threatening auto-immune disease and been through a bit of trauma myself…especially where my kids are concerned.

While I did play my violin in the Christmas concert straight after breaking my foot and I also staggered into school the next day despite excruciating pain to watch the kids perform in the end of year talent show, that all stopped after the x-ray. Once I knew it was broken, it was sentenced to 6 weeks in the protective boot and I was also prescribed Panadeine Forte and had to rest it. The kids were incredibly caring giving me a massage and doing everything for me…at least for a few days!! I’ve been severely ill before and the kids have never given me the red carpet treatment rolled out for the broken foot. That really intrigued me.

Six weeks later, I’m starting to ease out of the boot and started physio. Of course, she’s not sending me straight back out there cold turkey running along cracked and broken footpaths wearing my high heels. No, she’s given me a couple of very simple, basic exercises, which require many, many repetitions. These are aimed at retraining the nerve endings in my ankle to stop it from flipping over. This retraining process sounds very similar to the neuroplasticity in the brain. Hmm…I guess that means I have a brain in my foot.

While nobody’s been pressuring me to get over my broken foot, I do feel that Sydney is being pushed and expected to recover from the siege quickly. While it is important to reclaim our city and not let terrorism cramp our style, this can also be a gradual process. We are allowed to inch our way back and not just jump in the deep end when we’re not ready. It’s also perfectly okay to get professional psychological advice and support just like I’ve had physio to help my foot recover…even if you weren’t one of the hostages and perhaps don’t even work near Martin Place.

Boys Don't Cry.

Boys Don’t Cry.

I try to laugh about it
Cover it all up with lies
I try and laugh about it
Hiding the tears in my eyes
‘Cause boys don’t cry
Boys don’t cry

The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry

 

 

 

This psychological pressure to simply get over it is exemplified by these no doubt well-intentioned words from our esteemed Prime Minister Tony Abbott: “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual”….

“Our thoughts and prayers must go out to the individuals caught up in this. I can think of nothing more distressing or terrifying.”[1]

Does anybody else see the contradiction? How could we simply go about our business as usual when 18 people were being hostage by a seeming terrorist? While people have been sympathetic and understanding about how long it takes a broken foot to heal, there is quite a double-standard when it comes to psychological trauma and scars. There’s this expectation that psychological wounds should heal quickly…almost like clicking your fingers…especially when you were indirectly affected. However, it seems quite logical to me that if you go through a dreadful, traumatic ordeal that you would have some kind of lasting reaction. Moreover, this reaction deserves (at the very least) the same kind of treatment, respect and TLC that my broken foot has received. This can include learning techniques and skills from a trained psychologist just like I’m getting exercises for my foot from the physio. After all, if you have a significant injury of any sort, it requires treatment.

Whether your wounds are psychological or physical, professional advice can boost the healing process. It makes good sense.

To make sense of the psychological kickback from the siege, we need to return to 15-16th December without injecting hindsight. While it is easy in retrospect to minimise the threat this lone wolf gunman posed, he had staged his campaign with maximum impact. Firstly, he chose the prominent Lindt Cafe opposite the Channel 7 TV Studios in Martin Place for maximum coverage. Then, he bluffed his way through the siege claiming his backpack was a bomb and that other “brothers” had bombs in other strategic locations in Sydney’s CBD. This threat had to be taken seriously and brought Sydney’s CBD to a grinding halt. The pre-Christmas rush vanished leaving an eerie ghost town behind. The Opera House and Cahill Expressway had been evacuated and Martin Place Train Station was closed. This was perceived as a potentially serious terrorist attack on Sydney and was dealt with accordingly. Thank goodness, it wasn’t but we still went through “the motions”.

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Since then, events in Paris have also dwarfed what happened here. However, Sydney could have been a different story. We can not minimise what people have been through because something even worse happened somewhere else. Once again, that is the power of hindsight… something anybody who lived through the siege, didn’t have at the time.

As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the siege has rippled far beyond the hostages and their families. TV and other forms of media bring events right into our lounge rooms in vivid technicolour, drawing us in. We are human beings, not robots, so of course we have emotions, feelings…a response!!! Moreover, although Sydney is a big city, it still has an intimacy about it. Somebody always seems to know someone involved. As it turns out, I used to work closely with one of the Sydney hostages many years ago. I must admit I felt quite shattered hearing her talk about the intense trauma she endured on TV last night…especially when we were so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all those years ago. That was my first full-time job.

There are also those people who work in or near Martin Place and those who frequent the Lindt Cafe but through some almost freakish twist of fate, they weren’t there that morning. They slept in. Missed the bus or were sick. Started a diet and swore off chocolate. Just like the siege survivors are asking, “why me?”, they could well be thinking: “It could have, or even should have, been me.” That intense sense of identification, another form of survivor’s guilt, deserves compassion just as much as my foot and yet these walking wounded have no walking sticks or boots to communicate their angst. Their own grief and anxiety seems hard to understand and perhaps even self-indulgent, attention seeking. They could well have a whole Pandora’s Box of questions, emotions and fears even though they were nowhere near the place. They also deserve hugs, understanding and compassion.

The whole question of the future of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place confronts these psychological scars head on. Personally, I can’t understand how they could ever re-open it at that location but others have called for it to re-open and there will be a touching memorial inside. I know the chances of a repeat of the siege must be statistically unlikely but with all of Sydney open for coffee, I’d rather be gentle with my soul and go somewhere else. I don’t need to go through that emotional stress…especially when I’ve never been to the Lindt Cafe before.

I’d much rather head back for that heavenly Coconut Chai latte in Surry Hills and think about something else…like a buying a box of Lindt chocolates at the supermarket.

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that just as people may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivors can also experience post-traumatic growth. I have experienced both. It would be an intriguing process if only it didn’t hurt so much!!

[1]The Australian Financial Review: http://www.afr.com/p/national/islamic_state_linked_terror_grips_Ck62N1NvnYuygeXu1rfXbI

 

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14