Tag Archives: compassion

Heaven or Earth? Reflections from the Dark Side of the Moon.

Before I get started, I thought I’d play Alleluia sung by Ed Sheeran. Get you in the mood. The last week has been deep, dark and philosophical punctuated by blasts of Spring sunlight and tail wags from the dog.

Actually, the last couple of months have been “challenging” after the death of our Border Collie, Bilbo. We’ve had him since our daughter was crawling and he’s seen us through so very much.  Moreover, I’ve also had another brush with severe asthmatic coughs and chest infections, which get me every August.

Not unsurprisingly, the kids have been distressed and shaken up. They’ve had questions, and I’ve had to come up with the answers. This included a particularly curly question, which I decided to share. It’s big and it’s important:

Why should we stay alive when life is painful, when we could be in heaven where there’s no pain, no troubles?

I hadn’t quite thought of heaven as the ultimate “grass is greener” before. However, I suppose it is. Otherwise, why would it be called “HEAVEN”? Furthermore, why wouldn’t you, I, want to get there on an express trip? Why do we fight so hard to stay alive, when we could be living up there in the clouds? Even Cloud 9?

While I’ve had my dark moments, and even extended interminable stretches of raw anguish, I haven’t really thought of heaven as my greener pasture. At least, not in the here and now.

I’ve known too many people who’ve lost someone to suicide and am very conscious of the anguish suicide leaves in its wake… an anguish which has no end for the multitude of people who get touched by even one death.

So, I guess for me, particularly when I’m in a  level-headed state of mind, knowing that I’d be going to my ulimate happy place when everyone who means anything to me gets to suffer, doesn’t add up.

At the very least, it’s not a very nice thing to do.

However, that’s not something I would share with someone who wasn’t in a particularly level-headed state of mind. That’s something I might now start putting out there on one of my routine drives with my kids, now they’re my son’s 13 and my daughter isn’t far behind him.

As a parent, I’ve been wondering how to talk about sex, dating, periods, condoms, relationships, drugs, but amongst all of that, I’d forgotten all about the other fairly “normal” aspect of puberty…the E-word. EMOTIONS. Thinking back to being a teenager myself, I don’t believe there was any such thing as “an even keel”, being “level-headed”, “grounded” as as for balanced? HA!!

Moon bike

At least speaking for myself, my emotions were extreme, even turbo-charged. Well-intentioned comments like “there’s more fish in the sea” fell flat. My parents meant well, and believe me, I’m getting a better understanding of what it’s like to be a parent scraping the bottom of your psychological and philosophical barrell. When your child is combusting and you’re trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Trust me. That whole “bird and the bees stuff” is a veritable piece of cake compared to discussing emotional equilibrium.

Edward-Munch-The-Scream--black---white--15892

I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

How do any of us venture and and carpe diem seize the day and all that entails, without getting hurt? We can’t live our lives in bubble wrap and while you can have safe sex, there is no condom you can quickly wrap around your heart and it’s way too easy to get burned.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m no statistician either. I don’t know what it is which causes one person to take their life, while others persevere. What I do know, is that it’s not straight-forward. I also know that we can’t control someone else. We can’t stop someone else from taking their life. And yet, we sometimes can. Here, I’m speaking about the more collective we, but sometimes, it does come down to the individual. At times, we do become that person staring despair in the face, and it is up to us to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Or, I guess if I was some kind of professional at this, you’d be trying to get the person to find their own reasons for living. Or, at the very least, find a shift in gears.

A friend of my parents used to call the teenage years: “the swirling vortex of pubescence”. He was a very charasmatic gentleman and he’d roll this phrase out like a showman on stage. I always pictured these wild churning seas with the damsel in distress thrashing around in the waves. Never sinking, but not getting out either. I always found that phrase rather entertaining, although on reflection that note of humour, has it’s sting. Tony also put me onto a poet who knew those waves. Knew that intensity of emotion. That was Nan Whitcomb in her “Thoughts of Nanushka” and I’ve since found another kindred spirit in Australian  poet and cartoonist, Michael Leunig. Of course, there was also Keats and I’ve always questioned the merits of studying his Ode to Melancholy while studying for our HSC (final school exams = HUGE stress!!)

“That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”
John Keats, Ode to A Nightingale.
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, 
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue 
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; 
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, 
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
John Keats, Ode to Melancholy

I also remember listening to Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody. That song needs no introduction.

Hot chocolate & book

How will the story play out?

The trouble is, that when you’re caught up in the more turbulent passages of that “swirling vortex of pubesence”, you have no idea how the story is going to play out. Speaking of myself, I was so caught up in the immediate present, the current devastating disaster, that I lost all sense of perspective. That it morphed into some kind of hellish bubble, my world. I couldn’t see it was a storm in a tea cup. I couldn’t see, that perhaps being dumped by “the bastard” was the best thing for me. That it really was a case of there being millions of fish in the sea, and I only needed to find one. That I wasn’t trying to catch the one, last surviving fish in an empty sea.

I never saw my life as a novel back then. Indeed, it’s only been this past week, that I’ve appreciated the close parallels between real life and the structure a novel or play where the main character (protagonist) has their difficult person, adversary (antagonist) but after a few rounds, they come through. There’s usually a twist at the end, and more than likely, real life doesn’t turn out quite like you expected either, but you can still live happilly ever after. Well, at least until the next challenge fires up. Bearing this in mind, you have to make the most of those high notes. Carpe diem seize the day. Gobble them up with a cherry on top. Yet, you also have to be prepared for troubles. Expect storms and rainbows, as well as sunny, blue skies.

If I was going to talk to my 13 year old self. Or, in my case, it was more my 16 year old self which was really doing it tough, what would I say?

Firstly, what I would say, wouldn’t be something eloquent, well-written, or an outstanding piece of philosophical writing with all the answers. It would be more of a stuttered, muttered and garbled story about how if I’d pulled the pin then, I wouldn’t have gone on to experience the highs of my life. For me, like so many others, the school days weren’t the best days of my life. However, they were the necessary precursor to getting into university which I loved on so many levels. I went through many relationship ups and downs and had way too many friends run off with the guy that I liked. I also spent all the years from my birth until I was 27, living with undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on my brain, which really did make me “different” in a myriad of ways I am still trying to get my head around. Yes, I wasn’t “unco” and more than likely, the intensity of my emotions weren’t just puberty either. The inside of my brain had been flooded, and I was under an entirely different kind of “pressure”.

So, if I’d pulled the pin at 16, I wouldn’t have known that I had this underlying condition which was greatly relieved through surgery. Yet, even if I hadn’t had that or if there had been no “magic fix” to my problems, I still believe that it’s worth persevering through the very darkest of challenges and fighting hard to find any glimmer of light which will lead us out of the tunnel. Why? Because there just might be something better ahead. That you could well resolve your current troubles through whatever means. a change of curcumstances, meeting someone else. Another door opens.

Indeed, I still remember the night I met my husband. A friend of mine was holding a New Year’s Eve Party in another friend’s apartment in Wollstonecraft, which had a view over the back end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was supposed to going to that party with the boyfriend I’d had throughout the whole brain surgery saga and as you could imagine, things were rocky on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Anyway, he dumped me just before the party and I really didn’t feel like going. However, it was only more of a soiree with only a few of us going and so I went. My husband opened the door. Now, I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight. However, we talked a lot that night and he gave me some really good advise  and I thought he was wise. Obviously, it was that old thing of crying on someone’s shoulder. I also remember standing out on the balcony together and I would’ve been photographing the fireworks, and he told me that he was also into photography. I clearly remember making a mental tick in my head. He also drove an Austen Healy Sprite, which he described as “English and tempremental”. I remembered that when we were driving through the Tenterfield Ranges in pouring rain to avoid the Grafton floods, and the exhaust pipe fell off on a pot hole. BTW, we’d been wearing raincoats in the car on that trip and had been soaked by the time we’d reached Newcastle. (We had been driving from Wahroonga in Sydney to visit his Mum and sisters family in the Byron Bay hinterland. It’s about a 10 hour drive.)

The ironic thing is that it can be these very worst moments, our greatest disasters, that we turn into our funniest stories. It’s often these moments which we’ll share around a barbeque laughing our heads of and entertaining the crowd, rather than the good times. I am now thinking that part of that is that we later find out these disasters weren’t so bad after all. Indeed, sometimes they proved to be a blessing in disguise. Or, they were a necessary step to get us to a better place, or to our ultimate destination.

So, now I would say that instead of pulling the pin, who have to keep breathing so you can keep living the book. Find out how you’re own story unfolds. Just one point here, too, and that is that you are not a passive player in your story. You are helping to write the script, as well as all the other characters. This is a team effort. You are empowered. However, you are empowered to do the best for yourself, AND the worst. Too often, it’s not the bully or our nemesis we need to watch out for, it’s our own selves. We shoot ourselves in the foot way more often AND we need to own that. Take responsibility. Not necessarily in a guilt way, but in an empowered driver’s seat way. JUst like if you were driving and made a wrong turn, you’d do a U turn and try again. You hopefully wouldn’t just sit in your car hoping it would magically take you where you want to go.

The ironic thing for me these days about people taking their lives, is that I am fighting with all I’ve got to save my own. This July marked 20 years since I had the brain surgery which saved and changed my life. This coming Tuesday, marks 10 years since I was diagnosed with a systemic auto-immune disease, dermatomymyositis which has left me with 60% lung capacity on a good day. I am getting through flu season again this year but again it’s been a battle. Three years ago, I had chemo to knock the disease on its head and fortunately that worked. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve been staring death in the face, and trust me. Not once was I thinking: “Heaven, bring it on!” No, despite being a Christian, all I was thinking about was my kids, my husband, my Mum, Dad, Brother and my friends. Giving them that kind of bad news, is devastating. The fact that I’ve survived, doesn’t negate that. We have lived through it and we continue to live with it.

So, this brings me to the very real need to talk to those we love about those times when the swirling vortex has taken hold, and give them concrete proof that they can get through it. That it’ s not only worth persevering through the hard times, that it’s possible to get there. Achievable. Moreover, they are not alone. Not only in the sense that we are with them now. Not just us as an individual either, but us as a community. The many layers of the onions…family, friends, teachers, pastors, the person you need down the street while walking your dog. But, we also need to make that time available. Leave enough space inbetween the words, the lines, the busyness that someone can sit along side us and be without being rushed, sped up, or brushed off.

I am not someone who has ever professed to have the answers, but I’ve always had the questions and I guess this is where they lead me now. But before I head off, another word just popped in my head. That is gratitude. While it’s not often possible to feel grateful for our let downs at the time, that can change through hindsight…especially with many of those heart breaks, which were the end of the world at the time. I wouldn’t be where I am now and while some of those guys were great people and simply not right for me (or me for them), I’ve been married to Geoff for 16 years now. We’ve survived some extremely hard times and miraculously stayed together. We hae two beauti ful children who can stretch us beyond the very brink at times, but who we love more than life itself. Sometimes, when things have been so hard, it’s hard to comprehend how the sun still rises in the morning and how life goes on. Yet, I’ve often found that very annoying and harsh reality, provides the momentum to keep me moving, which is ultimately a good thing.

I didn’t intend to write about this when I woke up this morning. I haven’t edited more than a couple of words and this is how my thoughts have landed on the page, or to be precise, my laptop screen. All of a sudden, in bright neon signs, I’ve realized that we as a society don’t talk about hard times. The cultural rhetoric is all about making it happen. Being whoever you want to be. It’s almost like you’re expected to find happiness in a fizzy drink…or a pill. Rather, what happens WHEN your journey through life hits the big snake just when you’re about to reach your goal and your sent straight back down to the beginning again? What happens when you’re a marketing executive and you’re diagnosed with hydrocephalus and you end up having brain surgery, getting a blocked shunt and requiring more brain surgery, the person you thought you were going to marry, dumps you because all of that’s too much and you’ve moved back home living with mum and Dad and going to rehab with the elderly at 28? BTW, that was also when I went to my 10 year school reunion. That was two weeks after the second brain surgery and I had no hair under one half of that bob. Indeed, there was a scar. I made it through that reunion and I was triumphant. Despite brain surgery being a much more sensitive embarrassing thing that the bad haircut.  I also had friends whose lives were picture perfect either. Some had divorced and one of my class mates had tragically died from cancer, which shook me to the core.

The fact that I’m still here, isn’t because I have some uber-amazing coping mechanism and I’m “Tonka tough”. I’ve had breakdowns. I’ve fallen face down in the mud and refused to get up. I’ve had days where I’ve stayed in bed and wrapped myself up in my doona and refused to get up. I’ve thought about how. I did jab myself with a pair of kindy scissors once when I was struggling to learn how to drive and fighting my brother for access to the car. That’s the closest I’ve come in a physically crossing the line sense, but these lines resonate: “hello darkness my old friend”.

Somehow, the collective “we” needs to have more of these conversations. The “where I was, how I found my way out and some of the joys of life we’ve experienced since” type. Talk about how life is ups AND downs. That we have to keep  walking, dancing, flying, dragging out feet, sleeping, talking, dreaming.They’re all part of it. Share and model that there is no magic pill, which will give you perfect, lasting happiness. However, there could well be multiple pills of darkness, which we need to approach with caution. Walk away from jealousy, envy, wanting to be someone we’re not, putting our value on stuff instead of relationships, replacing people with work. The list goes on.

Now, I’m turning it over to you. What has your experience been? I would like to invite you to share as much as you like in the comments below. What would you say to your teenage self about the dark times you’ve experienced? I could even see these becoming a series of posts. It would be truly beneficial to get a swag of letters together on this very important subject.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just had to drop my daughter off at meditation of all things (our dance school is running a session for kids followed by a session for parents so I’ll be heading off next). Funny how walking and driving gets you thinking. Pops something so obvious into your head, which you’d missed entirely while tapping away into the screen.

My other advice to my teenage self, is not to put all my eggs in one basket, and to remain diverse. I had very good friends out of school and I’ve encouraged this with my own kids since dot. However, as someone with a fairly obsessive, driven personality, I’d like to share that focusing all your energies on one thing, isn’t a good idea. If something happens to that one thing, whatever it is, then you’re devastated. You’re left with nothing. There is no “Plan B”. You have no identity left. Naturally, I was devastated when I couldn’t work after the brain surgery. I had grief counselling where I was told “We’re human beings, not human doings”. It’s taken me a long time to get that. In the aftermath of the brain surgery, I turned to photography and although it wasn’t making me any money, I found it was a great topic of conversation. Far more interesting than work. These days, writing  is my main thing followed by photography. What you might not know, is that I started learning the violin four years ago, and last year I started dance classes and have made my way through short adult courses in ballet, contemporary, lyrical and tap. I’m not even keeping up in the dance classes, but dance is now part of my psyche. Who I am. It’s added another string to my bow, and exercised more than a few neurofibres as well. It’s very important not to get stuck in what I’ll call “bubble worlds”…becoming “a dancer”, “a lawyer”, “a mother”, a “father”. Rather, ideally, we’d be more of a spangled web or texture, colour, sound, taste and smell stretching somewhere over the rainbow and back again. We must wear many hats, to be fulfilled, and really just to survive.

The End.

That's All Folks

Old Flame-Friday Fictioneers

Margaret made Bill his cup of tea…Twining’s Australian Breakfast.

“What’s wrong with them, Bill? Can’t they read? NO FLOWERS meant NO FLOWERS! It was hard enough to bury you once, but over and over again, petal-by-petal? Just stick a knife in my heart. NO! I’m NOT being a drama queen. Got a friggin rose caught in the walker. Almost broke my neck. I COULD’VE DIED.”

“All those flowers… Didn’t they know, you NEVER gave me flowers?”

“Flowers in death, but not in life… A bunch for every birthday and anniversary you ever forgot…”

“I hate flowers. Burn them all!”

……

A few years ago, a neighbour’s husband passed away and she had an entire room filled with flowers, and the whole prospect of what to do with them, really troubled her. One morning, she popped over and gave me an arm full of dead Arum lillies. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about receiving them either. What was I supposed to do with them? I knew them out. I lamost always give people a photo frame when they lose someone close. Flowers just become another death.

That said, I love receiving them, and while they’re good, they really do cheer you up.

This has been another contribution fot Friday Fictioneers hosted Rochelle Wisoff-Fields PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share: 22nd July, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s so cold, that I’m wearing a woollen beanie indoors. Never thought I’d see the day. Beanies used to be as daggy as and my family spent years trying to get my grandfather to give his up. Now, it turns out that he was a man ahead of his time. The Beanie is back. Mind you, there are beanies and there are beanies, and I don’t think my grandfather’s beanie fell into either camp.

Scan10209

The beanie’s profile over here in Australia, has also received a boost by a fundraising campaign: Carrie’s Beanies for Brain Cancer. Journalist Carrie Bickmore writes:

“On December 27th 2010 my husband Greg Lange died at just 34 years of age. He had lived with the disease for close to a decade. It took away his mobility, it took away his independence, and eventually it took his life. No one should have to suffer this way, and until we find a solution, people will.”

They have sold out of Carrie’s Beanies in my size, but I’ve added to my collection with a hand-knitted beanie from the op shop for a few bucks.

So, perhaps I should be offering you a beanie with your beverage of choice. It’s cold…19°C or 66°F. I could swear there’s snow piling up outside and icicles hanging from the rafters. Surely, that couldn’t be the sun shining outside when I’m frozen to the core!! Perhaps, if I type fast enough, I’ll warm up. My fingers are a purple-grey and looking corpse-like.

So, I guess it won’t come as a surprise that I’ve been trying to hibernate through the last week. Curl up under my doona like a bear and wake up in Spring when it’s all blue skies, warmth and happy days. The trouble is that no one else supports this state, and there’s always something to be done and peoples requiring Mum’s Taxi. The kids went back to school after two weeks off, so it was back to business as usual and a few stolen cat naps instead.

 

Well, I did manage to go for a walk along the beach yesterday with Lady and some friends who adopted a new dog during the week. The beach is always great, even if it was a tad windy and it was interesting to see their dog exploring the beach and lunging at the waves and biting them. Dogs are such entertainers. I’ve had a few dogs who’ve liked to bite the water stream out of the hose.

We have taken a bit of a left-field approach to our dog situation at home. I mentioned last week that we didn’t adopt Stella the very cute Matese x Tibetan Spaniel and that FB or Fake Bilbo has made himself at home. However, I couldn’t resist trawling the Internet for dogs and came across a heartfelt plea for someone to mind her Border Collie x Kelpie while she looks for pet-friendly accommodation. Luna arrives tomorrow afternoon. I have wondered why people foster pets before, because I get very attached. However, after losing Bilbo, I really felt for this girl and wanted to help. Luna arrives tomorrow. I’m hoping Lady manages alright. That’s what concerns me most. She’s always lived with another dog but having a dog which comes and goes while she’s already missing Bilbo could be difficult for her. At the same time, she will have a dog friend. We’ll see how it goes.

In terms of blogging this week, I did my usual contribution to Friday Fictioneers. I was very pleased with this one, and might expand it further: Kidnapped

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Dulwich Park, London.

I also tried something new this week and travelled to Dulwich Park in London via Google maps to hook up with Geoff Le Pard from TanGental  from  A Walk In The Park…Dulwich Park. This was quite a blast and much more rewarding than I’d anticipated. I was stoked when a friend saw my post and mentioned that she used to walk with her dog through that park when she lived in London. What a coincidence.

I am now plannning more of these tours for the blog.

Well, it seems like I’m rapidly falling asleep here, although it’s only just after 9.00 pm.

How was your week? I really hope you’ve had a good one and all goes well for the week ahead.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster Blog

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 17th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Shark Foam

Did you like my bit of fun with the Scrabble letters? Thought I’d give you a bit of a laugh. We’ve been playing Scrabble as a family over the last couple of weekends. It’s Winter here and Scrabble is such a great hibernation activity. Actually, I play Scrabble all year round, and I’m really thrilled our son’s really got into it. However, as much as I enjoy playing Scrabble online, its not the same as  as  delving into the bag to pull out your letters, and all the highs and lows which go along with it. Like books, I prefer hard copy or “the real thing”.

Jonathon scrabble blog

Our son using the modern dictionary to play Scrabble.

I’m starting to think we should film our Scrabble games, and even post them on utube. They can get quite hilarious what with the various words which crop up, and certain persons attempts to get weird and wonderful “words” through to the keeper. Last week, my attempt was “Quan”. Today, our son tried “Jaxie”, which is cockney rhyming slang for your backside. He’d found a site where you typed your words in and it came back with options. This was very good for him and enabled him to play along with my husband and I who are Scrabble affectionados. By the way, another cheer went up when my husband put down “GLOAT”. He did end up gloating at the end of that game. Although I won the first game, Geoff romped home in the second game and thrashed me by 101 with a score of 238.

Gloat

Sorry, I’ve been raving on about Scrabble so much, that I’ve forgotten to offer you a cuppa…tea, coffee, juice? I can also offer you a mint flavoured Tim Tam. They’re really addictive (much like Scrabble).

How was your week?

Thinking about the last week, I seriously need a holiday. I’ve been spending the last couple of months, sorting out our house and I’m starting to reach the point where a good week involves clearing the stuff out of the bathtub. Yes, it was quite a eureka moment when our daughter was finally able to have a bath for the first time in well…a long time. Being so focused on cleaning, organization and the state of dust around the place, is so not me and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve crossed over to the devil. After all, for most creatives, cleanliness is anti-creativity.

Rah 2017

Rah the New & Improved Much Loved Lion.

During one of my clean-ups, I found my son’s toy lion in need of major reconstructive surgery, looking like he’d been mauled by a tiger after years of enduring “too much love”, which included having his mane cut off during a “haircut”. So, I did what parents do. I donned my surgical cap. Pulled out the needle and thread and patched him up “like a surgeon”. Well, at least I did my best. I certainly didn’t throw him out. He’s part of the family.

You can read about saving Rah here: Like A Surgeon…Saving “Rah”.

Meanwhile, there’s a world out there beyond my four walls where things have been pretty bleak. Naturally, my thoughts have been over in London following the terrorist attack and the horrific fire which destroyed Grenfell Tower. Words can’t describe such grief, but like people the world over, I care and offer my condolances, which sounds so lame.

However, last night I heard about The Great Get Together , which is being held arount the UK this weekend on the anniversary of the death of murdered MP, Jo Cox who spoke out about greater racial tolerance, acceptance and intergration. Being a social person, her husband, family and the wide community wanted to do something positive to honour her life.

It was all a bit late to organize a physical get together this weekend. So, I did what bloggers do. Organized an online party and invite you to join us here. We’d love to have you along.

Anyway, I hope you’ve had a great weekend.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Nerd in the Brain.   We would love to have you pop over and join us. Just click on the Linky.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Great Get Together Goes Global #MoreInCommon

Lately, I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed by the latest terror attacks in the UK, which as we all know too well, are simply the latest chapters in a much longer story. Despite believing in the power of the pen to overcome the sword and in the power of the individual to change the world, or at least influence the world around them, I am starting to doubt. These attacks are so random and unpredictable and the victims ordinary people…it’s all becoming quite impossible to fathom.

Coffee french

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I’ve been part of a global blogging group 1000 Voices for Compassion, which started up after the attacks on Paris. However, I’d already been speaking out against terrorism  following the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in the Ukraine and the Lindt Cafe Siege in Sydney. Journalists covering the MH17 disaster, brought back sunflower seeds from the crash site to give to families and friends of the victims. I had written to many of these victims and we sent them red hearts on paddlepop sticks which the kids had made to acknowledge their loss. It wasn’t much, it came from the heart. When I heard that they were offering the sunflower seeds, I put my hat in the ring not expecting anything. However, a few months later, a package arrived in the mail with a tin of seeds, a photo and a beautiful letter wishing: “May your sunflowers bloom.”

may your sunflowers bloom

A personal message from journalist Paul McGeogh & Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.

It took me a year to find the courage to plant those seeds. I am not a great gardener and I didn’t want to destroy something so precious, especially through my usual neglect. However, I was contacted by the cousin of the pilot of the plane who had lost her seeds and I thought I finally had to have a go. Have some faith. As these seedling were growing, I managed to take them to a few local schools to talk about compassion, the love of a stranger and the need to take a stand not only against terrorism, but also to simply treat each other better. These are simple truths. Not rocket science but when we think of changing the world, we usually think so big that we feel overwhelmed and do nothing. It’s so easy to forget that a simple cup of tea can be a stepping stone towards something momentous.

So, tonight when I heard about The Great Get Together which is being held across the UK to honor the life of slain MP Jo Cox, I wanted to get onboard, even though I’m in Australia on the other side of the world. After all, why not take Jo’s message global.

In her maiden speech in Parliament, Jo said: “We have far more in common than that which divides us.”

So, I’d like to invite you to join me for a cup of tea or coffee, toast and Vegemite and even a chocolate Tim Tam. I’d like you to share a bit about yourself and let’s see if we can help join the dots right around the globe.

So, here are our conversation starters. Please leave your answers in the comments below and I ask you to reblog this please. Let’s get the party started!

  • Which country do you live in? How about the city or town you live in?
  • What do you like about where you live? What’s a favourite spot?
  • What is your favourite novel? Why?
  • What is your favourite film? Why?
  • Do you prefer tea or coffee? Why?
  • Introduce your blog and provide a link.

Here are my responses:

I live in Australia with my husband Geoff, our two kids Mr who is 13 and Miss who is 11 and our two dogs. We live in Greater Sydney on Broken Bay a stone’s throw from the beach and a short drive to Brisbane Water, which is protected and ideal for sailing and kayaking. So, we have the best of both worlds, although I tend to appreciate our local area more as a walker with and without the dogs.

What I love most about where we live, is the relaxed atmosphere and the proximity to the hussle and bussle of Sydney, without being in it. Initially, we moved here due to more affordable real estate. However, being away from the thick of it is a real drawcard, which we’re appreciating more and more. My husband commutes to Sydney by train and Sydney is only a train trip away and I also do enjoy that proximity to catch up with family and also get to arty places like Surry Hills.

My Favourite novel. I’m not much of a novel reader. My favourite books are more inspirational and philosophical such as Kilail Gibran’s The Prophet, Mitch Albom’s Tuesday’s With Morrie and Daniel Gottlieb’s Letters to Sam. If you haven’t read these, I highly recommend them.

My favourite film: Casablanca. Years lately, I still go to jelly with so many of those lines and feel a dreadful heartache as I watch the plane take off.

Tea or coffee: I mostly drink decaf tea because I’d be flying if I drank coffee of full strength tea all day. I start the day with a medium strength expresso and will have another if I go to a cafe. I generally have a full strength English Breakfast tea to backup the coffee in the mornind another in the afternoon.

I started Beyond the Flow five years ago as a stepping stone to getting my writing out into the world.My focus at the time was on getting published in the mainstream media and to write and publish books. However, the blog gained a life and purpose of its own, which has also helped me find my voice. This voice surprised me as it was very different to what I’d expected. In the five years I’ve been blogging, there have been many twists and turns. Most notably, there’s been the ups and downs of living with my chronic health conditions…hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and dermatomyositis, which included a stint of chemo and the uncertainies which go with all of that. I’ve been in remission for 3.5 years now, which hasn’t been smooth sailing. It’s been a very long road for me to find my feet again but I am almost there. My blog is very much about my role as a parent and aspects of that journey with our kids who were 8 and 6 and are now 13 and 11 years old. We have also added another dog to the family. I love how the blog has documented these moments.

Best wishes and I look forward to getting together,

xx Rowena

Out of the Depths…Friday Fictioneers.

The river’s fury knew no bounds. Swallowing and regurgitating all in its path, the river gushed through precious Queenslander homes, but didn’t care… just buried its dead in mud.

Pete and Julie clung to each other like limpets. Photograph after sodden photograph fished out of the mud, their memories were falling apart in gloved hands.

Despair…utter despair.

Then, the aliens landed. Strangers wearing gumboots, rubber gloves, carrying spades, mops and plates of food. They’d salvaged their daughter’s precious teddies. Mud was glued to each and every fibre, but for the very first time, they knew they could make it.

………

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt is © Karuna

A series of floods hit Queensland, Australia, beginning in December 2010. The floods forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities.[2] At least 90 towns and over 200,000 people were affected.[2] Damage initially was estimated at around A$1 billion[3] before it was raised to $2.38 billion.[1]

Three-quarters of the council areas within the state of Queensland were declared disaster zones.[5] Communities along the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers were particularly hard hit, while the Condamine, Ballone and Mary Rivers recorded substantial flooding. An unexpected flash flood caused by a thunderstorm raced through Toowoomba’s central business district. Water from the same storm devastated communities in the Lockyer Valley. A few days later thousands of houses in Ipswich and Brisbane were inundated as the Brisbane River rose and Wivenhoe Dam used a considerable proportion of its flood mitigation capacity. Volunteers were quick to offer assistance, and sympathy was expressed from afar…Wikipedia

At the time of the floods, I was staying near Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales and also experienced the deluge. People talk about the sound of rain on a tin roof, but this was terrifying and yet at the same time, strangely beautiful at the same time. We have family and close friends in Brisbane so these floods were very close to our hearts.

I felt I had to write something uplifting in response to this prompt which I found quite disturbing.

xx Rowena

The Wharfie – Friday Fictioneers.

Henry clocked on, praying he’d get through the day without screwing up. Broke and dossing down on Steve’s couch, he couldn’t go outside without freaking out. The bitch was lurking on every corner. Nowhere was safe.

It was too soon, but Steve had got him the job. He was a union man. No questions asked, all his troubles slipped under the radar. Surely, it wouldn’t matter that he couldn’t pick red from green, or that he read things back to front…

Yet, even before his first smoko, he’d spotted the “Thomas” backpack lying by the wharf.

He didn’t even think.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This has been another contribution to  Friday fictioneers, a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria.

xx Rowena