Tag Archives: Change

Lady’s Tour of Historic Morpeth

After picking up our new dog, Lady, from Raymond Terrace this morning, we drove over to the historic town of Morpeth, which is located on the Hunter River near Maitland. I adore Morpeth with its old historic buildings and streets so wide you could turn a bullock train around back in the day. As a serious lover of history, I’m not a great one for living in the present.

Walking the dog in Morpeth.

Walking the dog in Morpeth.

Even though Morpeth is only a couple of hour’s drive away from home, I don’t seem to get there very often. I think it has been two years since my last epic visit. If you haven’t been to Morpeth, you are really missing out. In terms of architecture, Morpeth is something of a time capsule dating back to the mid 1800s with rugged cobbled footpaths and colonial buildings with broad verandahs. There is even an original slab bark hut dating back to the 1830s which has been restored. In a sense you could also describe Morpeth as a shopper’s paradise but it’s not some trashy shopping mall but more of an experience with Miss Lilly’s Lollyshop, Morpeth Sourdough, ginger beer numerous cafes, old wares shops and irresistible boutiques. You can read about my previous trips to Morpeth here:

As much as I love visiting Morpeth and almost sent us broke on one particular trip when it seemed like I almost bought up the place, our visit today was about spending time exploring together and having our first adventure with Lady.

With a name like Lady, you would half expect her to be traveling to Morpeth in coach perched up on a plush, velvet cushion. However, she is a Lady, not the Queen and yet I still picture her doing the royal wave. Well, she would if she could. I don’t believe dogs can wave but there’s always someone keen to prove me wrong!!

It was really exciting to take Lady for her first walk but it was truly memorable to take her for her first walk in Morpeth, watching her run over the cobblestones with the kids. My daughter seems to have claimed Lady as her dog at this stage and she loved running along with her. Our original dog, Bilbo, is a big dog and a bit too much for her to take on  her own for a walk. Lady is the perfect size for Miss. I think Miss also likes the fact Lady is a girl dog. As an 8 years old, boys are mostly annoying pests!

You call that a cow? Lady, checks out the metal cow at Grazer's Cafe, Morpeth.

You call that a cow? Lady, checks out the metal cow at Grazer’s Cafe, Morpeth.

While Lady wasn’t too happy being tied up outside Miss Lilly’s Lollyshop, we were able to have lunch with Lady at a local cafe called Grazers, which has a cute cow theme. Lady comes from a farm with real cows so I don’t know what she thought when we photographed her next to a metal cow sculpture. I could almost hear her calling out through the obvious confusion: “Please explain!” While she might have been a bit baffled by the metal cow, there was no confusion over the kids’ ,meat pies. We had been warned that Lady can really jump and she was particularly keen on the kids’ meat pies. A dog is a dog, after all!

I've never met a dog who doesn't like a meat pie!

I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t like a meat pie!

Lady was also quite a traffic stopper as well. Being a Monday, there weren’t that many people out in Morpeth and most of the shops were shut but a few passers-by stopped for a pat and a chat. Lady is so friendly and affectionate wagging her tail and nuzzling up to everyone she meets. She almost seems to manufacture happiness itself and I can’t help feeling she’s exactly what our family needs…a breath of fresh air.

Pausing at the pansy patch.

Pausing at the pansy patch.

The historic bridge crossing the Hunter River is one of Morpeth’s main landmarks. We walked down a very steep set of stairs to walk beside the riverbank where Miss managed to find a bunch of prickles and blackberries but after just a scratch, she manged to extricate herself unscathed with a few directions from Mum. Mister loved exploring the river bank and lay down in the grass in the shade. It’s now spring and it was quite a warm, sunny day where a bit of shade went a long way.

Relaxing in an antique bathtub outside Campbell's Store, a Morpeth icon.

Relaxing in an antique bathtub outside Campbell’s Store, a Morpeth icon.

We had so much fun!!

Yet, as much as I love Morpeth, I also wanted to get home before dark and we still had to introduce the two dogs. It was time for the next chapter to begin. Would they be anther Romeo and Juliet? Time would tell.

Driving back home from Morpeth was a bit more complicated than I’d hoped. Morpeth is out past Maitland, which out on the New England Highway and it seems out this way all roads lead to Newcastle, whereas I was wanting Sydney. Somehow, I kept missing the turn off and I was driving back and forwards between Hexham and the Newcastle suburb of Beresfield. We ended up going back and forwards and even tried a back way only to find ourselves back on the road heading north. We weren’t lost. I knew we were facing the wrong way and heading for Brisbane listed wasn’t a good thing. I just couldn’t join up the dots and find our way out. Personally, I found the signs quite inadequate. Being a huge city, Sydney deserves a big sign not some kind of footnote while the Hunter Valley Vineyards has a huge, rather distracting sign.

As we arrived closer to home, I started briefing the kids on the all important new arrival. Or to be more particular, how we were going to introduce Lady to Bilbo. While Bilbo isn’t quite an old dog, he is very set on his ways and he’s quite wary of strangers. He’s an excellent guard dog and doorbell. We always know when someone’s turned up. The plan was to introduce the dogs in neutral territory out the front and hope for the best. I’m no dog expert but I knew this was going to take time and at least a bit of massaging. As much as I thought Bilbo might like a girlfriend and had been told about his new “friend”, as far as he was concerned, nobody had consulted his opinion and like all foreign bodies, Bilbo would no doubt want Lady out. At the same time, Bilbo had been warming up to other dogs at the beach and I thought he was ready to take the step step.

Well, as ready as he was going to be.

Getting the Chop

There comes a time when even the most stubborn and resistant soul finally sees the light.

About 8 years ago, my hairdressing friend first broached the subject of cutting my hair short. Experiencing severe chest pain, chronic shortness of breath and blackouts, I almost leaped out of the chair and was well and truly doing the Harold Holt down the street and was halfway home when she finally caught up with me wielding her snippers, of course.

Instantly, I knew how the three blind mice felt being chased by that mad farmer’s wife with the knife. She wasn’t about to cut off my ponytail. No way! It was me…an inextricable part of myself and all that I am.  I had beautiful long, dark hair…my crowning glory. I’d be naked without my hair…denuded. There was no way on this earth that I was ever going to cut my hair short and she wasn’t going to do it either!

No doubt, my  friend observed these tell tale signs of shock as I gasped and struggled to regain my composure. However, this only fuelled her determination: “When a woman turns 40, she needs to cut her hair.” I don’t recall her exact words but she also mentioned something about needing to lift your face, which along with all your other body parts, was also heading permanently south.

While this all seemed like very sound advice, I was still a youthful 36 at the time and all this talk seemed very premature. Turning forty was a very, very distant shore.

My hair stayed put.

Although I’m what you would describe as “deep”, even I have to concede that your hair is more than just a superficial mat stuck  on top of your head. To some extent, it reflects your personality, values and beliefs and if you have ever known anybody outside the hairdressing fraternity who changes their hair colour like the rest of us change their underwear, it can also be quite  an effective litmus test on the mental health front as well. When people make big changes in their life, it is no coincidence that they often change their hair. High school teachers often pick a new style as the first sign of coming “trouble”.

I turned 40 and somehow managed to dodge the snippers, although my hair was shorter and for some reason had also gone wavy if not outright curly. That was a bit of a surprise  as I’d always had close to dead straight hair. There were no complaints, however. I was mystified but delighted.

No doubt there are some who are confused but the way I see the world, there are short-haired people and long haired people just like there are cat and dog people and a firm line in between.

That makes me a long-haired person. I’ve had long hair virtually all my life aside from a very bad hair stage  at school in the mid-eighties where some kind of madness hit and I emerged from the hairdresser with a permed bob with an undercut. I thought I was the personification of cool until my hair bleached in  the sun and turned orange. Then things went from bad to catastrophic as heartache followed heartache and in bouts of teenaged angst, I cut my hair shorter and shorter in acts of cathartic release.

My hair has never been permed or short ever again!

However,  I recently I developed pneumonia and getting my hair dry was a real hassle. All
of a sudden all that hair felt like a burden, an unwanted nuisance and it had to go. I walked into the hairdresser, walked out with my new short hair and I haven’t looked back. I feel quite liberated.

There was just one thing about my new hair that blew me away.

It was straight. Talk about a blast from the past. I couldn’t wait to get home to fluff it up again.

Short was fine but I’m too quirky to be straight.

PS The kids had quite surprise when I picked them up from school with my new short, straight hair. Mister really didn’t like it and practically said it was yuck and Miss was initially quite positive but has since said that she couldn’t find me and has concerns about how to find me after school now. This new hair isn’t Mummy yet. Geoff is also getting used to it.

The new hair amidst the chaos of Christmas morning

The new hair amidst the chaos of Christmas morning

Adventures of a Backyard Dog

Last weekend, our dog joined us on a huge adventure. It was his very first holiday and his first sleep over.

Bilbo is a rather large and often somnolent Border Collie.  What I’d describe as a “backyard dog”. With my mobility issues, walks are infrequent but he often goes out for local trips in the car. So you see, he leads a fairly quiet, simple life and his world is about the size of a large pocket handkerchief.

That was until last weekend.

View of Careel Bay and local racing pigeons.

Palm Beach looking towards Careel Bay and some local racing pigeons.

Bilbo hasn’t been away from home overnight before. Whenever we go away, he usually stays home and is looked after by the beautiful Jess. However, last weekend we were only going across the water to Palm Beach (albeit via a circuitous route through Sydney) so we decided to take him along. I was really looking forward to taking him with us and thought he’d love exploring new worlds, expanding his horizons.

Bilbo is 6 years old. That’s middle-aged in dog years, even it’s still very young in human years (42 being  the new 21!!) That makes him not quite an old dog but certainly no pup. That being the case, I wondered how he would respond to his big adventure. Would he love his new found freedom and new horizons or would he be thrilled to get back to the familiar comforts of home?

We were soon to find out.

The fun all began when Bilbo saw me packing the suitcases. I didn’t need a degree in dog psychology to see that he was starting to panic. As far as he was concerned, the suitcases meant we were about to disappear and he’d be home alone- albeit with the gorgeous Jess who spoils him rotten. It was bad news. The end of the world!

So while I’m loading the car, he decided to be proactive and loaded himself. I tried to explain to him that he was actually coming with us this time and took him back inside. No use. He was straight back out to the car again with the next load. I was reminded of a song by Mental As Anything If You Leave Me. It has the great line: if you leave me, can I come too?

That’s always appealed to me too!

Anyway, soon the dog is happy. He’s in the car with the rest of us and all the bags. Don’t know what thoughts were going through his mind. He was probably just relieved that he wasn’t being left behind. Bilbo had the luxury of sitting up the front. We had all our bedding in the back with the kids and as much as I love my dog, I didn’t want our bedding contaminated by any dog germs. Dooners and dog smells definitely don’t mix!

Bilbo’s fun was only beginning. You see, Bilbo has only ever been in the car at about 50-60KPH and he’s only ever been a ten minute drive away from home. The trip to Palm Beach started out with a good hour’s drive to Sydney down the freeway at 110KPH. As much as you might think that a dog would enjoy all that speed, we’re talking about a backyard dog here. This was double our local speed limit and he looked decidedly uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite clinging to his seat by his claws but he definitely looked like this drive was taking him well beyond his comfort zone. He was leaning over towards me for reassurance. The trusty car had morphed into something like a rocket and it was going way too fast!! Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!

We arrived at my parents’ place and this was his first taste of dogs not being allowed inside the house. Glaring through the back door, Bilbo was looking mortally wounded. Stabbed in the heart. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed inside along with the rest of us.  After all, he still hasn’t worked out that he’s a dog yet. He still firmly believes that he’s human…our third child…the baby of the family!

We picked up Geoff and continued up to Palm Beach. Bilbo was really confused by this point. He was still sitting in the front but was now beside Geoff. I was now in the back with the kids. Geoff always puts Bilbo in the back and the dog seemed quite confused. Why was Mum sitting in the back and he was sitting in the front?

Arrival at Palm Beach meant Bilbo “the inside dog” was now an “outside dog”. This was definitely a significant change of status…a serious retrograde step. Nobody had warned him about that when he’d signed up for this holiday. Not that he’d actually signed up for anything. He’d just jumped in the car. Now, he had no idea where he was or how he’d got there but his food bowl and his water bowl had somehow made the journey with him. It was almost business as usual but not quite.

A dog doesn’t need to understand every twist and turn in life and is just supposed to accept what is. Somebody forgot to tell Bilbo. Bilbo persistently tried to come inside. He just wanted to be with us…especially in such a foreign environment.

Where was his bed?

I think he found a sheltered spot under the balcony.

Father & Son take on the high seas.

Father & Son take on the high seas.

First thing Saturday, Mister and Geoff took the kayak out for a paddle at high tide.

Mad dog

Crazed dog

Come back!!!!!

Come back!!!!!

That’s when things really started heating up for Bilbo. He’s a very protective dog and he really doesn’t like us getting in the water and feels compelled to save us. The only trouble is that he won’t get in the water himself. He might get his paws wet but that’s about it. He’s certainly not a swimmer. So you can just imagine what Bilbo was like when Mister and Geoff took off on the kayak. He was beside himself with worry whimpering and running all over the place. He’d run down the slipway and get to the very end and just when his paws were about to get wet, he’d stop. He really wanted to rescue them and bring them back but he just couldn’t bring himself to jump in. I could sense the stress in his body. Every single nerve and muscle was switched onto high alert. He was ready to pounce and yet he couldn’t. Miss and I tried to reassure the crazy mutt. To be honest, Miss wasn’t faring much better. She didn’t want to go out in the kayak and also has a bit of a fear of the sea.

Dog on board

Dog on board

Well, you wouldn’t believe it because after Mister got off the Kayak, somehow the dog, despite all his phobias and fears, climbed onto the kayak. Before we knew it, Geoff was paddling out with Bilbo on board. It was hilarious to watch at first, especially after writing my poem The Surfer’s Dog. In my wildest dreams, I’d never expected Bilbo to climb on board a kayak, especially after being such a nervous wreck!!

Perhaps, he’d wanted to go out there all along. He wasn’t afraid. Perhaps, he was crying out: “Wait for me! My turn!”

Trying not to rock the boat.

Trying not to rock the boat.

Somehow, I don’t think so. Perhaps, he just had a momentary lapse when he climbed onboard.  He was happy to climb on but once he realised he was no longer on terra firma and the thing started to rock a little, he wanted out. The poor dog! Instead of trying to jump out, he actually lay down and dug his claws into Geoff. When it came to getting off, his fear seriously intensified. I have never seen him so frightened. He dug his claws in and clung to the kayak like glue and wouldn’t budge. He was visibly shaking like a leaf. It was pretty intense but short lived. It became very evident that Bilbo had bitten off more than he bargained for with that adventure. He was very pleased to be back on dry land.

That said, he did show a bit of interest in having another ride in the kayak on Sunday and Geoff thinks he might even have another go.

After all that excitement, you would think that Bilbo would have had enough adventure for one day. That he had well and truly exceeded his quota of character-building adventures for a life time. However, Bilbo had other plans.

We all decided to go out in the kayaks. Mister was paddling in a single kayak and Geoff and I were paddling in the “banana boat” bathtub kayak and we had Miss in the front.

Bilbo had been a bit unsettled to say the least with us in the kayaks and so we decided to secure him safely in the backyard. We didn’t think anything of it. Bilbo is a pretty mild-mannered dog and he’s never tried to escape before. The kids will be playing out the front and the front door will be wide open but Bilbo just lies there with his claws curling over the doorstep staying put. He’s busting to join in but he doesn’t. He’s a very good dog! We can trust him and he’s usually much better behaved than the kids!

Well, we hadn’t factored in the panic. The sheer terror Bilbo felt when he saw all four of us take off.  He had to come and save us. The only trouble was, at least as far as he was concerned, that he needed to get in the water and he still couldn’t muster up the courage. He was stuck on the shore feeling useless and very overwhelmed.

We had paddled past the mangroves over to the Careel  Bay Marina and were heading back when we spotted a Border Collie running haphazardly on the shore about 10 houses away from home. We didn’t realise that it was Bilbo straight away because he was at home and as I said, he’s never escaped before. He’s a really good dog. But once he saw that we’d seen him, there was a very definite look of recognition. It was him, after all! Bilbo had escaped.

When we arrived home, we discovered that Bilbo had chewed solidly on the wooden gate and had even pulled off four planks. There were nails sticking out and all sorts. He’d all but demolished Dad’s gate. He’d gone ballistic!!

This is how all big adventures come to a screaming halt. When you go too far, you get brought back into line.

Bilbo was in time out.

Geoff was off to the hardware store.

Neither was happy.

Bilbo wasn't invited sailing!

Bilbo wasn’t invited sailing!

Fortunately, it was a long weekend and Bilbo had a chance to redeem himself.

I don’t know how Bilbo felt about his big weekend away. It’s not always easy when all your Christmases come at once and it was a huge change for a backyard dog to suddenly explore the world and even the high seas. He had fun but I kind of suspect there was also a sense of there’s “no place like home”. Driving home, he looked particularly comfortable curled up in the back seat in between the kids. The three of them were sound asleep. Bilbo also slept in the next morning and I can’t help wondering how much nervous energy he’d expended on our weekend away. He was pooped!

Yet, something tells me that when the suitcases come out next time, Bilbo will be back in the car ready to join us on our next big adventure.

See! You really can teach an old dog new tricks, after all!

The sun sets on a perfect weekend.

The sun sets on a perfect weekend.

A Different Perspective on Humanity


Ever since I saw Dead Poet’s Society, I have truly appreciated turning something on it’s head and seeing it from a totally different perspective. Looking at something in a new or different way which challenges me to stop. Think. Not just go with the same old same old and step well beyond the square.
Indeed, beyond the flow.
That is what I love about this photo of Earth as viewed from the moon. We are so used to gazing up and looking up at the moon and yet how often do we ever consider how the moon sees us?
Sure, I know for most of you, the moon sees nothing. It’s just an inanimate lump of rock which orbits the Earth. You gave up believing in the man in the moon almost a lifetime ago. So who cares how the moon’s perspective of the Earth? How the moon sees things when, as I said, it’s just a lump of rock?
Well, I’ve always been a little different and some would argue that I’m in a league or perhaps even a world all of my own.
I am beyond the flow.
Anyway, a few years ago, I was working on a kid’s story where the moon wasn’t just a lump of rock in the sky. It was a character and for many months there, as I lived and breathed that story, I tried to see things from the moon’s perspective…as you do as a writer.
That was when I first saw this photo and I sat on the moon and enjoyed the view. That was how the moon saw us. I really took this view into my heart and loved it… our beautiful, blue planet rising in the vastness of space. It was so exquisitely pretty and beyond that, it was home… my home.  I am a little, invisible part of it joined up with all those other little bits and together we make a whole. We make up this blue planet.
It’s amazing what you can discover when you look at things from a different angle.
You can gain a whole new fresh perspective. You never know. You might even embark upon an entirely different journey.
I am trying this approach with a few challenges I am facing. Whenever I feel negative, I try to turn my feelings around to see the positives. Not in a way that lies to myself but just trying to view things differently. Finding a different perspective.
On Friday night, I will be staying in hospital overnight at the sleep lab to check out how I am breathing in my sleep. Like most people, I don’t like hospitals and I’ve had some very rough times in them. It could well be a time when some really bad memories return to haunt me and I am only human. I am scared.
At the same time, I am trying to find a different perspective. It is one night. I will be fine.
I might even think about this photo while I’m in there. It has a peace and serenity about it which is very reassuring.
It’s much more reassuring than the evening news which is on in the other room.
Isn’t it incredible how peaceful and serene our little blue planet appears from space where all the chaos and the craziness of billions of people just blurs in a blue haze?!!
I think I prefer that perspective, even if it means sticking my head in the sand.
Any thoughts?
xx RowenaI apologise for the formatting issues on this post. All the text disappeared and I had to fiddle around to get it back.

My Light Bulb Moment

A few days ago a large, glass Moccona jar fell out of my kitchen pantry and landed on my foot. It made this awful loud thump as it hit and the pain was excruciating…a definite twenty out of ten. I was pretty convinced something was broken but these jars are tough. They might not bounce but they don’t shatter. I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have tiles!

My foot was sort of fine too eventually …after two Panadols and an ice pack!

Well you might ask why that jar fell out of the pantry but I’m sure you already know. After all, I’m only human! I was simply doing what most of us mere mortals do…struggling to squeeze just one more tiny little thing into an already over-stocked pantry. Hence I was doing some kind of juggling act holding back a row of Moccona jars while trying to quickly and very deftly slam the door shut before the avalanche hit.While using those big Moccona jars seemed like a great idea for storage, they don’t stack and they’re not square and they certainly don’t breathe in and squeeze into tight places. Instead, they jump out and do nasty, nasty things to your feet. Believe me! I would just love it if our pantry was all stacked and ordered like something out of a Tupperware catalogue but who am I kidding? I’m just not some domestic goddess. I’m somehow beyond the flow. That’s all. Sorting out the pantry just doesn’t seem to make it to the top of my to-do list. It’s one of those killer jobs I keep putting off.

A row of Moccona jars removed from the pantry for photographic purposes!

A row of Moccona jars. They have understandably removed from the pantry for photographic purposes!

Well, you would think that after that jar fell on my foot that I would suddenly find the motivation to get on with it. See it as a sign or perhaps an act of God? After all, what am I waiting for? A jar to land on my other foot or perhaps for all of those jars to jump off in unison like 10 green bottles standing on the wall? That would definitely be a trip to Emergency if not a ride in an ambulance.

As I said, I would dearly love my pantry to be neatly stacked and organised just like something out of a Tupperware catalogue so why don’t I just do it?

What will it take for me to act?

We all know this goes way beyond just sorting out my pantry.

That the pantry is a metaphor… a symbol. Or in my case, perhaps it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For some reason most of us are creatures of chronic inertia…even when it involves changing something which really matters.

You could quite possibly call it “Tomorrowitis”.  It’s a serious almost incurable disease and you can be assured that if you do actually manage to cross a few things off your “Gunnado List” (this lingo might be Australian but let me assure you it’s a universal disease!!!), you’ll never get to the end. That’s just the way it is.

Such light bulb moments have changed the world even if they haven’t changed me.

Archimedes who was a Greek mathematician, engineer, inventor, and astronomer had a legendary “Eureka!” moment some 2,200 years ago when he realised the principle of buoyancy while taking a bath. He was reportedly so excited that he immediately jumped out of the bath and ran onto the streets naked shouting ‘Eureka!’ ‘Eureka!’ (You can read the whole story here. It’s an awesome story http://www.itsnotmagicitsscience.com/science.asp?newsid=381)

Perhaps, you’ll be thankful I haven’t seen the light after all. The sight of me running through the streets naked isn’t what it used to be!

An apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and he came up with the Principle of Universal Gravitation.

Meanwhile, a jar hits yours truly on the foot and what do I do?

Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all!

Well, I did do something. I wrote about it instead.

However, after writing about this all day, I have finally reached that elusive state of acceptance. You see, everybody has their own set of priorities and we can’t possibly get everything done. I went for my swim this morning… all 10 laps and it was a small pool but you can only do what you can do. That’s all. It’s taken me a long hard day slogging away on this post to reach this state of acceptance but I’m finally there and it feels like such a release.

I have finally accepted that I don’t have to conform to what someone else considers important or be able to do what they can do. I just need to be me. That is good enough.

Now, I finally “get” the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

What happens when all your light bulbs go on at once?

What happens when all your light bulbs go on at once?

PS: After I reached this lovely point of acceptance, I was flicking through Lao Tzu’s  Tao Te Ching and found this advice, which just turned all my acceptance on it’s head:

Keep filling your bowl

and it will spill over.

Keep sharpening your knife,

and it will blunt.

Keep hoarding gold in your house,

and you will be robbed.

Keep seeking approval

and you will be chained.

The great integrity leads to actualization

never overfulfillment.

I will get to the pantry. I will….

How have some of your light bulb moments turned out?

My son has an all systems light bulb moment. He received this lamp for his birthday today.

My son has an all systems light bulb moment. He received this lamp for his birthday today.

xx Rowena

A Line in the Sand…

I apologise for taking the easy way out today. I usually go to great lengths to provide a striking photo or image to illuminate my posts. However, I had a big day yesterday so I’m just making do.

That’s a story in itself.

Living only 700 metres from the beach, you’d think that I could just hit the beach and draw a real line in the sand to get a great image for my blog. After all, the beach is so beautiful. It’s hardly an effort! Our beach has stunning views across to Palm Beach and Pittwater with the beautiful Lion Island majestically rising from the surf.

The Beach

The Beach

Surely, going to the beach isn’t a chore?!!

I even have a few ideas about how I could draw my line in the sand if only I could get down there.

I’m thinking driftwood. Driftwood sounds so poetic. I can’t help wondering how far that precious lump of wood has travelled or where it’s come from. Of course, I’m assuming that it has come from somewhere really exotic. It’s journeyed thousands of kilometres enduring sun, rain and storms to get here. I can see it now… that small piece of wood bobbing up and down being tossed by the waves as it traversed the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It’s travelled all the way to Australia from one of the Pacific islands like Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands. Or maybe, it’s from South America or even deepest, darkest Peru. That sounds even more exotic. However, given the direction of the ocean currents, it would have needed a good outboard motor to get here! It would be drifting against the flow.

In all likelihood, however, my precious piece of driftwood probably comes from Woy Woy and hasn’t travelled far at all. It’s just a scraggly piece of eucalypt and doesn’t have much of a story to tell. Gum trees might be exciting if you’re a koala bear or you’re not from around here but for me, they’re “common”.

Getting back to photographing my line in the sand, I could also be very pragmatic and just draw a line in the sand with my finger or photograph a tidal mark where the ocean has etched its own line in the sand.

As I said, it wouldn’t take long and it wouldn’t take much effort for me to just jump in the car and take a few photos. I wouldn’t even need to walk.

However, today I’m recovering from a hectic trip to Sydney where I somehow managed to squeeze in Les Miserables before I had my transfusion at the hospital. It was a very long day and I’m feeling like a flaccid balloon lying flopped on the sand. I’m spent. It usually takes me a few days to bounce back from these treatments.

So you’ll just have to put up with my photo of a line of sand drawn onto a boring piece of computer paper instead. You’ll have to apply your own imagination today.

Have you ever thought about what it actually means to draw a line in the sand? Yes, I know it means making a permanent change in your life, a turning point. However, it now seems strangely ironic referring to a permanent change in your life as “a line in the sand”. I mean, poetically speaking, the beach usually represents fleeting transience where dreams, like sandcastles, are washed away even before they’ve even been made. We’ve all been there and experienced that heartbreak.

I quite like Kahlil Gibran’s Sand and Foam:

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

Anyway, I have drawn a line in the sand only my line is permanent…etched in sandstone perhaps!

I am no longer going to worry about things that don’t need to be worried about. I’m not saying that I’m eliminating fear and worry from my life completely. It’s just a case of no more worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about.

You see, yesterday I worked myself up into such a worried frenzy over catching a bus to the local train station, that I realised I need to make some drastic changes.  I am tempted to humour you a little and say that I’ve decided to avoid catching the bus but I won’t. I’ll behave.

In many ways, yesterday’s stress was self-inflected. My transfusion was at 2.00PM and I had plenty of time to get down to Sydney. I didn’t need to stress. However, I’d decided to squeeze in seeing Les Miserables on the way and I would literally be squeezing it in too. The movie went for 2 hours 38 minutes and when I checked the train time table, that only left me ten minutes to walk from the station to the hospital.  I’m a slow walker and there’s a very steep hill right at the hospital which is just great for sick people…especially sick people who are running late!

There was also a much bigger problem with squeezing in Les Miserables. I had to leave home at 8.30AM to catch the bus which meant getting the kids to school half an hour early. School starts at 9.00 AM and we have been unofficially late all term. I’ve been sneaking the kids into assembly or even worse, catching up with the class when they go for their run. Although they’re technically late, they haven’t called the roll yet so they’re “on time” by the skin of their teeth. This means they don’t need a late note. The kids don’t seem to mind being late. They can stall and procrastinate as much as they like. I’m the one who is going to get busted by the powers that be somewhere high up in the Education Department if these late notes start mounting up. We don’t need a visit from the inspector at our house! No! No! No!

If I was more pragmatic, I would have waited for Les Miserables to come out on DVD. However, I’d decided that I really wanted to see it on the big screen. I don’t get to the movies very often and I very rarely buy a DVD. Moreover, I haven’t watched many of the DVDs I’ve bought. There have been movies which I’ve really wanted to see that have just passed me by because… There usually isn’t a good reason. So this made me really determined to get to Les Miserables…especially as Hugh Jackman used to be the local heartthrob when I was at school and I really wanted to hear him sing (ha!).

But like so many things in life, getting to Les Miserables and to my transfusion was going to take military planning and precision. Sadly, I’m no General.

Step 1…Getting out of the house.

Thank goodness we made it out of the house on time and despite a few last minute protests, I managed to get the kids through the gate with only minutes to spare.

Step 2…Catching the Bus.

Somehow, I managed to turn this simple step into a network drama.  I should have listened to Lao-tzu: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…not with a flapping panic attack!

The drama began when I noticed that Bus 53 was already across the road at the bus stop when I pulled up. Yes, I knew it was the wrong bus at the wrong time but there was still this doubt. That “what if”? Instead of sticking to my guns, I started to doubt myself. Doubt the bus. These doubts only got worse when I realised that there were two bus stops across the road from the school and I didn’t know which bus stop was right. My confusion further intensified. Fortunately, there was a time table and yes, bus 70 did stop here. At that point, I should have heaved a sigh of relief but no. When it came to visiting panic stations, today I was travelling all stops. I started to wonder whether my watch was on time. That bus 53 was still bugging me as well. Had I made a mistake? Was I in the wrong spot? Was bus 70 ever going to turn up? Was I going to miss my train and miss the movie? Was this going to be the very end of my life?

In case you haven’t realised, I don’t catch buses very often. We’ve been living here for 12 years and I caught my first bus 3 weeks ago so I’m not used to them at all. I much prefer trains. Trains run on tracks. Rightly or probably wrongly, I feel a train has to turn up eventually whereas buses, being more free range, seem more unreliable. Not being on a track, they can do whatever they like and I don’t feel entirely 100% confident that a bus is going to turn up. I know that’s silly, especially when the trains are notoriously late and rails are nowhere near as reliable as they seem!

So there I am standing at the bus stop. I’m not jumping up and down on the spot or anything else that would betray my inner frenzy but by this stage all this worry was going round and round in my head like a Greek dance. You know how the music starts out soft and slow at first but speeds up getting faster and faster until it reaches fever pitch and the music is flying! Really flying! I was caught up in a frenzied vortex of pure fear…all about waiting for a stupid bus which wasn’t even late!

Of course, I forgot to breathe deeply.

I also forgot all my relaxation visualisations like picturing a smooth calm lake.

All I could see was a drowning woman. A woman drowning in waves of utter panic. That woman was me.

My goodness…all this stress over a stupid bus! A bus that isn’t even running late…yet!

I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

Then, I spot a plover across the road. It steps off the curb and plants itself in the middle of the road and it’s strutting its stuff defending its turf….no doubt against any passing cars and of course, my bus! The plover looked absolutely ridiculous. It was taking on a battle it simply couldn’t win. I mean a plover versus a bus…it’s a bit of a no brainer!

Just in case you haven’t encountered a plover, these territorial birds are a bunch of thugs which have invaded our school playground. They’re vicious, mean and nasty and they have poisonous spurs in their wing tips. To be fair, however, the kids persistently chase the poor birds so it’s hardly surprising they’re hostile. It’s war!

Yet, there I was waging my own war which was equally ridiculous. Had I missed the bus? Was I waiting at the right stop? Would the bus pull up on time? Would the bus arrive at all? It was madness.

As I stared at the plover taking on its invisible foe, I saw myself in the mirror especially when the bus turned the corner right on time and pulled up at my stop. I climbed on board without incident. Nothing blew up or went terribly wrong. The bus also stopped at the other bus stop further down the street and it even arrived on time at the station with minutes to spare before my train pulled in.

I had been through all that self-induced stress for absolutely no reason…no reason at all!

At that point, I drew a metaphysical line in the sand and decided that in future my worries had to be real. That I wasn’t going to allow myself to worry about non-worries ever again!!

You might recall my story about the bird which became trapped in my house and how it reduced me to a quivering, shaking lump of jelly.

I thought I’d moved forward on the fear front since then and that I’ve been doing really, really well. I’ve driven to Morpeth. I’ve even driven over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I can’t help thinking it’s a bit crazy that this whole situation of waiting for a simple bus brought me down. I’d have no trouble playing my violin or even singing in public. It’s not like I’m afraid of my own shadow or even that I’m afraid of all the usual things that freak people out. I’m not even bothered by spiders. For some reason, it’s perfectly okay and socially acceptable to have a crippling phobia of spiders but it’s not so cool to be afraid of missing the bus.

This is going to be an interesting journey of discovery. How do I distinguish between a real worry and a fake worry? What steps am I going to take when I encounter a fake worry to ensure I don’t take it onboard and catastrophise over a total non-event?

I don’t know.

Actually, I do know a few things like practicing my deep breathing and doing my relaxation visualisations. I can also watch my self-talk and try to nip the anxiety spiral in the bud. I could also ask myself whether this is a life and death situation. What is the worst that would happen, for example, if I had missed my bus? Not much! I could have driven myself to the station and I might have even found a parking spot. I could also have asked just about anyone from the school for a lift. Most people would have been happy to help. I might have missed out on the movie but I would still have had plenty of time to get to the hospital. Missing out on Les Mis would have been a disappointment but it was hardly a matter of life and death.

Step 3: Les Miserables

Yes, I actually managed to see Les Miserables on the big screen. I loved the movie but it was very, very sad in parts. I particularly enjoyed Ann Hathaway’s performance as Fantine and Hugh Jackman was great. Russell Crowe’s character was so despicable that I can’t really look favourably on Crowe’s acting ability.

I managed to buy myself a pie en route to the station. This wasn’t just any ordinary pie but for all the wrong reasons.

Step 4. Catch the train from Hornsby to St Leonards.

This is where the real life and death stuff actually took place.

I was eating my meat pie on the train when I started to choke. I’m not just talking about a little choke either. I think I’d inhaled some of the pie into my lungs and due to my muscle weakness, I was having trouble clearing it out. I was barking and barking trying to clear my chest and nothing was working. I was coughing and coughing and coughing. I had a bottle of water in my bag…a standard inclusion for long trips. The water probably helped but I was in real trouble this time. The coughing just wouldn’t stop and we’d gone through several stations. I think we’re talking about something like 10 minutes of solid choking by this point.

Anyway, there I am on the train. It is early afternoon so the carriage is almost empty. I am sitting on my own so I couldn’t just reach out to someone easily to get some help. In many ways, I was trapped inside myself, which would have been quite awful if this sort of thing hadn’t happened to me before. I haven’t choked quite this badly in the past but I wasn’t really worried. I just wanted the coughing to stop.

I’m still coughing. I feel like I’m going to be sick, possibly the only way to dislodge this thing. At the same time, my nose is starting to run in sympathy and the situation is desperate.  You know how it is when your nose screams out. It demands immediate relief!

So there I am coughing my lungs out and trying to hold my nose in while the girl sitting in front of me is applying her mascara. I can see her peering at her eyelashes in a little hand mirror. She doesn’t seem perturbed by my coughing at all. She doesn’t flinch and certainly doesn’t turn around.

Now, I could make a bit of a judgement call and say that she doesn’t have much of a social conscience and certainly doesn’t apply the Golden Rule (or even the Inverse Golden Rule). I could also make some comment about how you could die on a train in Sydney and no one would offer to help you. That might all be very true but I will be more charitable. If you weren’t medically trained or if you didn’t have any experience of choking yourself, would you know what to do or how to respond? It’s only now that I’m writing about this experience that I have remembered the Heimlich manoeuvre. This is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person’s airway (windpipe) becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object. I haven’t thought about this since Mothers’ Group. When I Googled it both to remember what it was called and the procedure, I found out that you can actually perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on yourself. This was a great discovery which is very empowering for me and also helps to reduce a source of real, very legitimate fear. Knowledge is power and for me this knowledge could save my life. Remember, I have muscle weakness so this is good to know.

Anyway, even though I am sharing this story with you from the comfort of home and you already know that I’ve survived, myself the character is still choking on that train and is about to have a serious nasal explosion.

So we must return and please bring a tissue along with you.  I still need it.

Next, I did something truly disgusting. Something which I wouldn’t even confess to one of my closest friends, let alone broadcast to the entire World Wide Web. I blew my nose on the white paper bag which had housed my pie. I will emphasise that the paper bag was clean. It looked like a tissue and it was a much better option than my sleeve. I didn’t have time to get off the train and I just didn’t feel that I could ask anyone on the train for a tissue. I don’t know if that’s a reflection on them or on me. It was just how I felt at the time.

I’ve now made a mental note to put a packet of tissues in each of my handbags. This is not the first time I’ve been caught out and it’s time I learned.

Another line has been etched in the sand.

Step 5: The Hospital

Somehow, I arrived at my transfusion pretty much on time. All that stress had all been rather superfluous. Superfluous in terms of me getting anywhere on time but not in terms of having detrimental effect on my wellbeing. Stress in itself is a killer.

But I’ve now drawn a line in the sand, there is no turning back. I’ve raided my bookshelf and it’s time to finally read: Susan Jeffers: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and Dale Carnegie’s: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

The Secret to a Happy Dog!

The Secret to a Happy Dog!

I think the dog must have read these books already. He’s quite a happy dog and he’s had a great day. He went for a drive in the car and had some leftover pizza for dinner. He may not be getting any thinner but he’s happy!

He's a smart dog. He even managed to get it on sale.

He’s a smart dog. He even managed to get it on sale.

xx Rowena

PS I found this photo on file. Not a bad line in the sand after all.

A line in the sand quite different to what I'd envisaged.

A line in the sand quite different to what I’d envisaged but I like it.

Summer Loving…A Dog’s Perspective

Only I could turn getting the dog clipped into a philosophical debate otherwise known as a “drama”.

For the average, normal person, getting our dog clipped would be a no-brainer.

Bilbo is a woolly, Border Collie designed for the Scottish highlands but living in beachside Australia where we experience truly scorching summers. Some days, it gets so hot that you could easily roast a chook or fry an egg on your bonnet if you could actually be bothered.

It’s December and it’s almost Christmas. Bilbo needed a clip. He desperately needed a clip. He has been huffing and puffing, looking like he’s about to expire but…

When you have a long-haired dog, you want a long-haired dog… even if you do live in a stinking hot country. As weird as this might sound, I find patting the dog with his long, woolly coat very therapeutic. I just love touching his fur and giving him cuddles. He is so snuggly. I know that sounds a bit selfish letting him suffer just so I could play with his fur but I did relent. I booked him in. He had his haircut. It’s just that I found the whole process difficult.

I also wondered how the dog would feel about losing his coat. He’d never been clipped before and his fur coat doesn’t exactly have a zipper. Once it’s off, it stays off. He’s only known himself with fur.  I was pretty convinced poor Bilbo was going to feel naked, exposed and wonder where his real self had gone. He doesn’t spend a lot of time looking in the mirror but I’m sure that if he did catch a glimpse of his reflection, he would wonder who was staring back at him. Who is this new dog? I’m sure even a dog has some kind of inbuilt sense of identity and for most of us, how we look is definitely a part of who we are. I’m not talking about vanity here. I’m just talking about having a sense of what we look like that makes us unique…ourselves.

Now, of course I don’t know if dogs actually do have a sense of identity. Moreover, even though I love my dog, I have to admit he already had issues. Bilbo believes he’s a person, not a dog. He also believes he’s our third child.

So you see, the poor dog was already mixed up enough without having a hair, or should I say fur, crisis as well.

Anyway, after weeks of procrastination and hard core avoidance, Bilbo has finally had his run in with the lawn mower on Saturday and his beautiful fur coat has gone. He was naked, all except his face and the very tip of his tail. They don’t usually clip a Border Collie’s tail but his tail was quite matted and it needed a fresh start. I can accept that. It all makes perfect logical sense and it was certainly more humane (if that’s what you call looking after your dog). That said, his precious tail looks quite odd-especially as the groomer left a white tuft at the end as some kind of compensation for losing the rest. It’s all quite neat and I’m sure it will look better in a couple of weeks but at the moment, the poor dog looks like a cheerleader wagging a pom pom and it does look… um…”different”!


Bilbo wasn’t only missing his coat. He had also changed colour. He went into the dog wash booth black and came out light grey. I could say it was like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis but even though the dog groomer had done a fabulous job, he’d gone in the butterfly and emerged the caterpillar. Apparently, border collies have two fur layers and the top coat with longer hairs is black and the undercoat is light grey and they actually appear grey when all the hairs are the same length.

I must stress that we were very happy with the dog groomer. Bilbo wasn’t the easiest client and kept trying to bite the clippers when they went near his front paws and tried to jump out when she turned on the hairdryer. He was a little freaked out. He’s been well-trained by the rest of the family.

The kids weren’t too sure about Bilbo’s new look, especially our daughter who can be quite “particular”.

Initially, our daughter pretty much rejected the dog. She asked me not to take him anywhere near school because her friends would tease her for having a weird dog. I guess it was good that she was open with me so we could talk about “difference” and being more accepting. I reminded her that she loved Bilbo and he was still the same dog and would also be much better off in summer without his coat. I felt this was an important lesson to help her be more accepting of people. After all, we comes in all shapes, colours and sizes….themes and variations and I’d like both my kids to accept people for who they are, not based on appearances!

I do wonder what Bilbo thinks about losing his coat and raised the subject with the family in the car:

Ro:  “naked”.

Geoff: “liberated”.

Mr: “weird”.

Miss: “cold”.

Seeing Bilbo without all his camouflage, has renewed my commitment to his diet. He looks like he’s been squeezed into a tight lycra body suit, which is a size too small and reveals every single bump and indulgence.

He needs to lose weight and get fit and I need to join him!

There has, however, been an unexpected upside to getting the dog clipped.

He stayed out of the rain this morning.

I will explain…

For some strange reason, Bilbo who is usually a very smart dog, stands out in the rain getting sopping wet and then expects to be let in the house and given a pat. He looks terribly forlorn and hurt when he has to stay outside to dry off but as much as I love our dog, that wet dog smell and the mud and too much.

Yesterday, when we were discussing how Bilbo might feel about his haircut, the kids both mentioned the rain and how Bilbo would now be able to feel the rain. Mr said “Bilbo would find it weird to feel the rain”.

Well, this morning the theory was put to the test and we had an almost dry dog. His head, which pretty much has its original fur, was a bit wet as it had been sticking out of his kennel.

We are all adjusting to the new dog. Bilbo hasn’t had a nervous breakdown about losing his coat and Amelia didn’t say anything when Bilbo came in the car with us to school this morning. Patting the shorn fur doesn’t feel the same as the long fur but I’ll live. And now that we have the dog all ready for the summer heat, we’ve had another cold snap and the dog is probably cold.

Perhaps, he could have kept his coat just a little bit longer…

xx Rowena

PS Putting this post together showing me how difficult it is to photography the dog. I was chasing him around the house and every time I’d call him to try to get him to look at the camera, he’d come over to me. In the end, Geoff took the photo of him with me. I also realised that we don’t have many photos of the dog. We usually take photos when we go out and he’s not with us. Considering how many photos I take, I will have to work on that.

PPS Of course, since having the dog clipped, the weather has been unseasonably cold. Last night, I was looking for my overcoat to head out to a Christmas party. It’s already been packed away but I fished my winter PJs back out of the storage crate. I also let Bilbo sleep inside. Geoff heard a mad scramble of claws when he got up during the night. He suspects the dog was “illegally parked” on the couch.