Tag Archives: challenge

A-Z Challenge…A for Adventure.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

Just to remind you, my theme for this year’s A-Z April Blogging Challenge is motivational quotes. I am currently hunkered down working away on a collection of biographical short stories and was concerned that the challenge would be a distraction. Howe3ver, I’ve changed my mind and thought that coming up with motivational quotes every day could really boost my efforts and keep me going. After all, I’ve only just started writing up the stories and it’s going to get harder down the track. Of course, the going is always good at the start and it’s fine tuning the stuff at the end where things get really hard. Well, I think it’s how it goes. That’s how it’s been for me in the past. This is why I’ve also decided to go with short stories, even though many of these stories could be a book in their own right. They just didn’t quite seem to have enough oomph to make it to 80,000 words, although perhaps they’ll follow down the track. At this point, I just need to get a book I can be proud and has commercial potential done and dusted. I’m not investing all this time anbd effort into this for no reason. There’s a lot riding on it. I am the gambler who has stacked all their chips on one number and the wheel is spinning.

I guess that’s why I this quote by Helen Keller came to mind and I had to Google to remind myself who wrote it. Naturally, Helen Keller was a great choice because they other word I was considering was ADVERSITY and she covers both.

In case you’re not familiar with Helen Keller’s story, here’s a brief bio:

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. In 1882, she was stricken by an illness that left her blind and deaf. Beginning in 1887, Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904.

She’s an incredibly encouraging woman and an inspiration to all.

Touching on the featured image, that’s our dearly loved and departed dog Bilbo looking at the “cliffs”, which had developed on our beach after a storm. He’s certainly looking rather circumspect, and not at all likely to jump in for a swim (his idea of a daring adventure). Indeed, most of the time, Bilbo didn’t like getting his paws wet let alone going swimming. His paws were rather precious. That was until his beloved tennis ball started drifting away, in which case, his heart was seriously torn.

Do you have any adventures planned? What is your A for the A-Z Challenge? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

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!!

Kayaking with Two Dogs

There’s a good reason why I’ve never seen anybody else kayaking with two dogs on board. It’s absolute madness.

Welcome to another sunny day in Sydney’s gorgeous Palm Beach. Just to fill you in a bit, it’s now autumn and the air is starting to chill. The ocean water temperature isn’t too bad and you can still wade through the water in comfort. That said, we’ve turned up the solar heating on the pool and are praying for summer’s artificial return.

After both kids had declined to join me, Geoff helped both of the dogs onboard and we were off: Lady in the front and heavy Bilbo in the middle facing me with his claws all but wedged into the kayak. If you haven’t followed Bilbo’s adventures before, let me just say that he’s NOT into adventure and his bucket list only includes walks on dry land where he doesn’t get his paws wet. Lady is considerably more adventurous and will swim and has also taken “liberties” as the hunt for local rabbits continues. In case you’re thinking rabbit hunting is a local “sport” Lady was originally from a farm and chanced across a dead rabbit while we were staying at Palm Beach, which is much better known for it’s fish and chips and fasionistas. She still hasn’t forgotten and her desperate quest for more rabbits continues.

Even if you haven’t been kayaking, I’m sure you’d still appreciate that staying afloat requires a healthy respect for the laws of physics. The most obvious being staying in your seat while you’re out in the water. Keeping the weight evenly balanced would also be a good idea and you certainly don’t need to be Einstein to work out that leaning to one side with your tail in the water, is an invitation to capsize.

Welcome to kayaking with two dogs. Being a Border Collie, Bilbo is supposedly representing the world’s smartest breed. Although 50% Border Collie and 50% Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which comes in at something like number 42 on the list, Lady does seem a little. Humph…Let’s just say that for what she might lack in the brains trust, she certainly makes up for in looks and I’ve never met a dog before who wags their tail with such incredible enthusiasm. She is one very, very happy dog…even though she hasn’t found a second rabbit.

Given this combination, I could at least hope for two dogs who might think before they do something stupid.However, as it turned out, we were challenged right from the start.

Freaking out due to the instability of the kayak and the prospect of heading out to “sea”, Bilbo all but sat on my lap down the back of the kayak while little Lady was down the front. I’m probably not even capable of adding up Bilbo’s and my combined weight and even if I could, I certainly wouldn’t be advertising it here. Let’s just suffice to say, that Bilbo must be close to twice Lady’s weight and to counterbalance my weight as “the human”, he should have been down the front. He wasn’t and if you’ve ever tried to shift a terrified dog whose absolutely petrified of getting his paws wet, you’ll know that he was going nowhere!!

Compounding trouble, Lady doesn’t like to sit at the best of times and being in the front seat beyond my grasp, she could pretty much do whatever she liked. This included standing instead of sitting and even when she was sitting, sitting right on the edge of the kayak with her tail dangling in the water. As you could imagine, this was just asking the kayak to capsize.

Consequently, with Lady hellbent on destabilizing the kayak and Bilbo being so anxious that any instability sent him all but jumping onto my lap, even I was feeling sea sick. With all this commotion, even I was staring longing at home base hoping Geoff wasn’t faraway. Obviously, I didn’t need a crystal ball to know capsizing was more than a just a possibility and I could well be in need of a net.

All those dramas aside, it was a real hoot kayaking with the dogs. There were waves and shouts of admiration from the neighbours and I was pretty chuffed. After all, how often do you see someone kayaking with a dog onboard, let alone two and I really love my dogs. No doubt, there were a few fans taking selfies with us as this incredible spectacle passed by.

That said, it was tricky just trying to move the paddle with Bilbo hovering right over the top of me. I was almost whacking him in the head. Almost whacking him in the head while Lady was either standing up, sitting on the edge and all but disco dancing in the kayak creating waves and definitely poking her pink little tongue out at physics.

Yes, it was definitely time to start meditating and being mindful…ha!

However, the dogs weren’t my only challenge. There was also the tide. We live in a tidal zone so while you can throw around phrases like: “the tide waits for no man”, we know exactly what that’s all about. You have to have enough water to get out and enough water to get back. Get the timing wrong and you’re beached…just like a whale.

Fortunately, we made it back with plenty of time to spare. However, the next day when I was only out with Lady (Bilbo rejected a repeat invitation), I pushed my luck a bit too far and we got beached about 100 metres away from home. After several failed attempts to budge us with the paddle, Lady was thrown overboard and Mister was recruited to save his Mum. Yes, it was time for him to implement all that Sea Scout training and earn his keep. Mister sat bow which pulled the stern up out of the sand and then I managed to paddle further out and with his help, make it back to the boat ramp. Phew!

Lady walking home.

Lady walking home.

It seems like the dogs aren’t the only the ones who need to take a few lessons in physics. It looks like I could well be the next in line.

By the way, you might enjoy another post about the dogs out on the kayaks: Mutiny on the Yellow Kayak https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/mutiny-on-the-kayak/

K is for kayaking on Day 11 of the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Found it much easier today without the research load. Thanks dogs!! It’s been fun revisiting our fantastic, inimitable adventure.

xx Rowena

Turning My Mountain Around

Now that I have pulled off my Great Downhill Challenge, it might appear easy, achievable, a fait accompli which was never in doubt.

That is the great value of hindsight. Until I had actually skied down the Front Valley at Perisher, even I had my doubts. I was optimistic, hopeful and had put in the hard yards. Yet, the great unknown was still hovering over my hopes like an omnipresent raincloud threatening to burst. All I could do was have a go and do my best. I booked myself into a private, adaptive ski lesson and really didn’t know how things would pan out. Far from being the all conquering hero, I was 100% chicken wobbling on my skis gritting my teeth, holding my breath and staring at my feet. Thank goodness I had my instructor Tom to guide my path. That made all the difference.

My other life- having my transfusion of IVIG. It's actually quite relaxing.

My other life- having my transfusion of IVIG. It’s actually quite relaxing.

Skiing isn’t an easy sport for anyone and perhaps not a good choice for someone in my situation. I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain) in my twenties. I had brain surgery and had a shunt inserted which largely manages this condition, although I still have some residual symptoms. I also have a serious life-threatening auto-immune disease called Dermatomyositis (DM) which seriously affects my muscles, lungs, skin and digestive tract. I developed DM after my second pregnancy at age 35 and had experienced no prior symptoms. I literally take a dozen tablets every day to manage DM, in addition to having blood transfusions of immunoglobulin every 3 weeks. My DM is considered severe and fairly unstable. My mobility and energy levels fluctuate greatly even within a given day. Most days I have a 1-2 hour nap to get me through the day and I usually wake up feeling like a lump of stone. I can barely move.

Obviously, my medical situation turns any kind of skiing into a fairly significant challenge.

2012...Writing at the snow

2012…Writing at the snow

In June 2012, our family went to the snow using Flexirest funding. My husband Geoff and our children Jonathon and Amelia all went skiing while I stayed down below doing my writing and photography. I was enjoying the view but at the same time, I was pretty upset about not being able to ski with the rest of the family. Moreover, I’d really enjoyed MDNSW’s Adventure Camp at Nelson Bay and now found that I now enjoyed outdoor challenges and wanted to be a part of the action as well. I did do a bit of half-hearted research into skiing for people with disabilities but couldn’t find anything. Meanwhile, the afternoon before we were to leave on our big skiing adventure, the pathology lab rang me directly at home to tell me to go straight to Emergency. They thought I was having a heart attack. My CK levels were also up. Yet again, my life flashed in front of me. We hoped that the DM flare was responsible for the blood test results in which case there was no heart attack but we still had to go through Emergency. As you would appreciate, you never know how long that will take and there was also the usual concern about being admitted. Hospital was the last place I wanted to be. Fortunately, three hours later, we were given the all clear and we were still off to Perisher but my DM was back and my prednisone was also on its way up again…a double whammy!

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Almost as soon as we arrived at Perisher, we spotted the Paralympics ski team zooming down the slopes. They put me in touch with the Disabled Winter Sports Association (DWA). I heard that they had special equipment which could get me down the mountain. The Great Downhill Challenge was born. Instead of trying to climb up the mountain, I would ski down. It all seemed so much easier and I pictured the four of us smiling away as we skied straight down the Perisher’s Front Valley holding hands. That “vision” shows just how much I was dreaming. That’s not how you ski down a mountain, especially as a beginner.

As time went by, I also realised that when you draw a mountain and turn it around, you get a smile. You can even add some eyes and you have a smiley face! I loved that. However, I came to find out that turning a mountain around is much, much easier on paper than it is in the real world. Those mountains have been mountains for a very long time and weren’t designed to be moved at least by me.

Initially, I had intended to do the Great Downhill Challenge as a fundraiser but realised that skiing itself was going to be challenging enough. I also thought it would be better to try skiing first before I committed myself to any great feats of heroism. Moreover, a friend of mine had pointed out that if I staged a down the mountain event, then I’d actually have to go down the mountain. It was only when I stood at the top of Front Valley gazing over the edge in horror, that I understood what that really meant. It was a very, very long way down and I was absolutely terrified. I was quite relieved that I didn’t have that extra pressure.

My first time up the magic carpet Perisher with my instructor.

My first time up the magic carpet Perisher with my instructor.

Membership with the DWA entitled me to 50% off my lift pass and ski lessons. I wasn’t quite sure what equipment I would need and in the end we agreed that I would try a private adaptive ski lesson without equipment to see how I went. My instructor was the wonderful Tom Hodges from Perisher Ski School, who also volunteers for DWA. He has had a lot of experience teaching people with a wide range of disabilities to ski using a range of equipment. I thought I might be needing a sit chair but no. I was out on two skis and Tom who doubled as my anchor. We started off going up the magic carpet and then gently snowploughed down the slope (it was a huge hill to me at this point but in reality it is almost flat!) Tom told me to breathe. Look up and enjoy the scenery. Apparently, I was staring at my boots, holding my breath and gritting my teeth the whole way down. Gradually, my fear eased and by the end of the lesson, I was feeling quite exhilarated and was almost having fun.

Day 2 proved much more challenging. Tom with his big ideas suggested we take the chairlift up the top of Front Valley. I was keen enough. I trusted Tom and ignorance was bliss. I didn’t quite realise we were going that far up and the mountain looked very different close up especially when I was about to ski down. I was absolutely terrified, consumed by fear!!! It was such a long, long way down. I felt like I was perched on the edge of the world about to plunge to my death.

That said, Tom was very encouraging and saw strength in me which I couldn’t sense in myself. He reminded me that I just needed to do my snowploughs and turns like I’d been doing down below and I’d be fine. I fell on a tricky part at the start and Tom held my hands for a bit until I found my footing and gradually let me go.

Skiing down the mountain was much, much harder than I’d ever imagined. Rather than skiing straight down the mountain, I needed to snowplough and then put all my weight on my downhill leg to turn. This took quite a lot of force and I was needing to trust my “jelly” legs which have let me down in much more humble situations. That in itself was scary. Yet, Tom had faith in me and besides, I wasn’t going down the mountain alone. I had expert help where I was encouraged to do what I could for myself but with a safety net when I struggled. Struggle I did. My legs were sore and I was really straining to breathe. I had to stop a few times to rest, catch my breath and take some Ventolin. Apparently, I was holding my breath and clenching my teeth and my whole body was twisted and contorted by fear. Going down the mountain was so much harder than I’d thought but I was doing it. At least, that felt good!

I was certainly no picture of success but that’s what it takes to catch your dreams and finally make them real. You have to push yourself well and truly beyond your comfort zone or there is no challenge.

Somehow, I actually skied down the mountain and survived. I’d done it! I’d turned my mountain around but would I tackle the mountain again? Could I go back? I still had 3 days to go. That was my second challenge and at this point, I hadn’t skied with the rest of the family yet either. That was really the most important part of my goal…for us all to ski together. That was getting harder because the kids were no longer beginners and they were rocketing down the slopes after ski school with Geoff. They were proud of me but I was way too slow.

The next morning was a bit of a turning point. I had a nasty chest infection threatening to put me out of action. I scoffed down some olive leaf extract to fight it off and used my puffer. I wasn’t going to let a cold hold me back. We had one week at the snow. I could collapse when we got home.

My shadow taking the chairlift

My shadow taking the chairlift

I was sitting on the chairlift heading up to mid-station for my morning hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows when I experienced such pure peace, serenity and weightlessness. It was like an out of body experience where all the heaviness of my tired limbs and heavy ski boots were gone and I was just floating along like a bird freed from all restraint. Feeling so unbelievably good and that liberated, I considered spending the rest of the holiday just going up and down the chairlift instead of skiing. Take the easy way out. Why push myself when I could just relaxed and have fun?

Enjoying the view without skis at the top of the Quad Chair, Perisher

Enjoying the view without skis at the top of the Quad Chair, Perisher

However, I remembered my battle with the violin and how it took time and a lot of practice to get over that beginners hump before I could actually enjoy playing. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to succeed so how could I possibly expect to ski like a pro after just two hours? I decided to spend more time practicing where I was comfortable on the carpet before I tackled the mountain again. I practiced, practiced and practiced and by day 5 on Friday, I again felt able to take on the mountain, although this time we went halfway and did it twice. Geoff joined us the second time round and Tom did a great job capturing the moment on the Go Pro. For once, I wasn’t behind the camera.

I still had my L plates on and my instructor in tow but I had become a skier. Me with jelly legs, dodgy lungs and a shunt in my head had actually conquered the mountain or at least a small part of it. Awesome!

At 4.58 pm Friday afternoon, just minutes before the magic carpet was closing on our last day, the four of us finally skied down the magic carpet together. We weren’t holding hands but the kids and Geoff were following my lead and we finally skied down the mountain together all smiles!

Together, we had turned the mountain around!

PS You can beat one mountain but you can be sure that another mountain is just lurking round the corner. This year, I waited until we arrived home before I had my blood tests. Wise move. My Professor just called. The dermatomyositis is on the march again. CK reading of 423. Not too bad but heading the wrong direction. Let’s  hope I start going down this mountain again soon!

Beginner’s Bravado

There’s beginner’s luck but have you ever considered “Beginner’s Bravado”?

Beginner’s bravado is when the beginner’s enthusiasm gets way ahead of their abilities.  It sees toddlers climbing Mt Everest, even though they’re only just learning to walk. It can also make a beginner feel like a violinist, a maestro, when they still have dots stuck on their violin and can’t even play fourth finger let alone vibrato. Beginner’s Bravado helps you rise so far above your station, that you become airborne and much to even your own amazement, you might even fly!

­­­Ironically while you’re flying and soaring through the sky, someone with more experience and ability can be left behind scratching their head:

“How come she can fly? Who does she think she is? I’ve been trying to get off the ground for years, just waiting for the perfect conditions and she just takes off without any experience whatsoever. How unfair!”

As much as Beginner’s Bravado can get you off the ground, it can also land you in deep water. One minute, it’s all blue skies. Then, you get caught in a head wind and before you know it, you’re half way to New Zealand and you can’t get back.

That’s what happened to me, my violin and the end of year concert.

You see, because I thought I could play Edelweiss, I sheepishly asked my violin teacher whether I could perform at the end of year concert. I have played the piano at such concerts when I was a kid and it didn’t seem like such a big deal. My teacher was quite encouraging and then she had all sorts of ideas. She asked whether I wanted to perform by myself or in a group. Despite my prima donna tendencies, playing in a group sounded like the sensible option! She put together a medley of The Rose, Amazing Grace and Edelweiss and it all seemed fabulous. I was sold.

But…

I should just let you in on a little secret. I have only been playing the violin for nine months minus a day. Moreover, taking up the violin wasn’t a conscious choice or a matter of crossing off something from my bucket list. I had learnt the violin for a couple of terms as a kid and as far as I was concerned, that was it. I’d learnt the piano but I wasn’t really into music. Taking up the violin was all my daughter’s idea and I was just her taxi. I sat in on her lessons and helped her at home. We practiced together and slowly but surely, I fell in love with the violin but my daughter pulled out for awhile. She just couldn’t cope with all the screeching. She has sensitive ears. After a few prima donna meltdowns on her part, I decided to continue with the lessons without her, not really sure where it was all heading. I was hoping that if I continued and demonstrated that you really do improve with practice, that she would come back on board. I knew how much she actually loved the violin. Music is her thing…not mine!

So I guess you could say I picked up the violin on the rebound or even second-hand.

Back to the violin concert.

A few weeks later, my violin teacher was looking hesitant. She was concerned that we wouldn’t be ready in time. I heard her concerns but you know how it is when you are new at something and you think you know it but you don’t and me being me, I was quite dismissive. We still had a couple of months to go. How hard could it be? Once again, the beginner’s bravado had kicked in.  I reassured her that everything would be fine…just fine!! We could do it!!

I have now made a mental note to self that the next time someone with more experience has concerns, I will take them more seriously. There is a problem. It may not be a big one but I do need to take it seriously. There might be something I don’t know about which needs to be considered, not ignored.

At the same time I was being positive and encouraging, my violin was being quite difficult. I was practicing for at least 30 minutes to an hour per day and yet I still wasn’t improving. If anything, I sounded worse. I was constantly playing two strings at once and my violin was screeching like an out of tune cockatoo and was really sounding revolting. As time went by and the concert date was getting closer and closer, I was beginning to worry.

What if I wasn’t ready on time?

Meanwhile, I gained a new respect for the violin. Although I’d thought that playing on one string would be relatively easy, I have now realised that trying to play the violin is like trying to bake the perfect sponge cake. That just like sponge cakes, violins are very sensitive. The eggs need to be at room temperature and you must separate the yolks from the whites. You have to sift the flour 3 times to get the air into it and then add that essential pinch of salt. Then, once you finally get the mixture into the oven, you can’t open the door under any circumstances and have to tiptoe around the kitchen very carefully without any thumping or jumping.

It begs the question: “Who do you think you are? If you’re going to be that fussy, I’ll go with a packet mix instead!”

The same with the violin. If it’s going to be so impossible, maybe I should just go back to piano and pick up where I left off?

It could be easier perhaps for me to learn the piano but the violin speaks to me. The piano does not or at least not in the same way!

Besides, I’m not a quitter. I believe in the power of persistence even when the evidence is maybe even strongly stacked against me.

I practiced more and more and more.

They say practice makes perfect but what no one seems to tell you, is just how much practice it actually takes. It turns out that the magic figure is 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field. I then calculated that if I practice for 1 hour per day, it would take me 27 years to become a maestro. That means, I would be 70 years old and well and truly retired by the time I was ready for Carnegie Hall.

At two hours a day, success is almost achievable but that’s a serious commitment. I’d pretty much be living for my violin and I’m writer.

That said, I’d hate to think how much time I waste each day and if I could possibly consolidate some of those lost minutes, then perhaps I could fit my two hours in without too much trouble. Perhaps, I could take my violin to the medical centre and practice while I’m waiting for the doctor or my blood test. I could practice while I’m telling the kids to get ready for the umpteenth time. I already practice while I’m cooking, waiting for something on the stove and while I’m waiting for my cup of tea to cool down. After all, you have to seize the moment…especially when a moment is all you have!

In the meantime, it’s looking like a dawn performance on the steps of the Sydney Opera House and I’ll just have to hope that the security guard doesn’t call the Police!

The clock is ticking…

Yesterday, with just over 24 hours to go to the big concert, I pulled out my violin and panicked. Geoff and I had been away for the weekend at Jazz in the Vines in the Hunter Valley. This means I’d missed two days of violin practice. I wasn’t too concerned about this because I’d been practicing steadily and had felt I had finally cracked it. I was almost relaxed. However, when I started playing again yesterday, it sounded awful. It was playing two strings at once and the notes were ever so slightly out of tune but it very noticeable. It wasn’t good.

I didn’t panic but I was concerned. That’s when I realised just how sensitive violins really are. That they really don’t like being left home alone. My violin could have been playing something upbeat but instead it seems she was playing sad songs to herself all weekend. This meltdown was the violin equivalent of “where the hell have you been? Who were you with? You’ve been listening to other music! How dare you leave me behind!!”

I tell you, there is nothing quite like a jealous violin!

I even wondered whether my violin had been secretly siphoned out some of the wine (perhaps a bit of Merlot as we slept) because my bow was having trouble playing in a straight line and was sliding all over the place.

Fortunately, it turned out that my violin doesn’t hold a grudge because when I went to practice last night, it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t perfect but it was a vast improvement. I’d also had a nanna nap in the afternoon so perhaps that helped.

It’s now just four hours til the concert begins. I’m more excited than nervous. I really enjoy performing with the group and I really want to see how it all finally comes together. I have done my best to prepare and it all just boils down to that moment in time. How will it all come together? Will my violin be naughty or nice?

Wish me luck!