Tag Archives: faith

Acknowledgement & Gratitude…2020 Revised.

Last night, I was going through my list. I don’t know if everyone has a list. However, I’m pretty sure most of us have that list we go back to when something else goes wrong, and for some of us this list of our misfortunes goes round and round in our heads and conversations like a broken record. Indeed, this list can be a millstone round your neck, and it’s no doubt taken many over the edge.

Bilbo watchin the sun set Palm Beach

This photo of Bilbo seemed to sum up the reflective pre-acknowledgement stage of the process.

While some advocate an almost aggressive, constant state of positivity no matter what, I prefer a different course. Indeed, I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about acknowledging the bad stuff which is the equivalent of popping over to visit a friend, without moving in. Indeed, you ACKNOWLEDGE what has happened, and then you you can sit with it for a bit, grieve, process and try to understand what’s happened and why, learn your lessons and even make some constructive fixes if required. However, at the end of that time, you pack your bags and you’re out of there, although you’ll probably pop back for a visit now and then, but as I said, this is very different to moving in. After all, there also comes a time where you need to leave the past behind. I can groan a bit when I hear people talking about moving forward while there’s still a splinter in the wound and it’s all starting to fester. However, not moving forward at all, even without the smallest and almost invisible baby steps, isn’t good either.

Bilbo and paw prints

However, while acknowledging the crap, we also need to be grateful for what’s gone well, or the good things which have come out of the bad. Take on board the yin and yang.

Thinking more about it, gratitude is also a form of acknowledgement, and that when you put these two processes together, it resembles a process which is very familiar. Stacking up your wins and losses. However, if you’re going through a particularly hard time (and let’s face it 2020 hasn’t been great), you might need to work particularly hard to find anything at all to be grateful for. Or, you might feel that the weight of all you’ve lost weighs down that side of the scales so much, that the wins feel pretty light weight and very much out of balance. Indeed, that the hand you’ve been dealt is mighty unfair.

Jonathon Heart Hands 2011

Holding love in his hands…our son painting when he was about 7 years old. What a beautiful young man. 

That’s why I’ve put these two words together as bookends to give them added strength and weight, and to encourage us to see how these two seemingly opposing forces can actually come together and ultimately get us out the other side.

Today, I spent a few hours writing down my Acknowledgements & Gratitudes. Rather than sharing the extended version right now, I thought I’d quickly list them down so people wanting more of a quick snapshot could take that in, rather than getting bogged down. However, as it turns out, even this is not a snapshot.

Quite frankly, in many ways, I’d like to return to New Year’s Eve 2019 when 2020 was all set to be a year of perfect vision.

Meanwhile, this is the bad stuff I’d like to acknowledge so far:

Rowena bogged Western Australia

Getting bogged in a remote sand dune in WA near the Pinnacles around 1990. I’m smiling on the outside but freaking out and seriously concerned about our well-being. 

Acknowledging the Bad Stuff

1) The catastrophic Australian bush fires. During the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season, 34 people were killed directly while 417 died from smoke inhalation. The impact on our wildlife was absolutely devastating killing around one billion animals, and destroying over 18 million hectares of bush. 5,900 buildings including over 2,800 homes were also destroyed. Despite living well away from these bushfire areas, the dense choking smoke which went on to travel several times round the globe, forced me inside dependent on the air-conditioner to breathe. In hindsight, there were a few times I should’ve gone to hospital, but I didn’t want to be a pest. For awhile there, I was literally hovering in the balance.

2) The Coronavirus. When I think back to New Year’s Eve 2019, it looks like we were like the passengers and crew on board The Titanic feeling utter invincible as it sailed at breakneck speeds through waters dotted with deadly icebergs. When I first heard about the outbreak in Wuhan, China I thought it was going to be like SARS and that it would largely stay over there and leave Australia alone. Our geographical isolation is a blessing and a curse, and means we often miss out. While, our experience has been exceptionally good to date, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an impact. As the number of cases initially started to increase, they matched the same trajectory as Italy, and we were expecting things to be a lot worse.

Here’s how the toll of Covid 19 stacks up today on the 20th May, 2020:

Worldwide                                                              Australia

Cases:                         4.89 million confirmed                                        7 069 confirmed

Recovered:                1.69 million                                                            6 411

Deaths:                       1.69 million                                                            100

3) Lock Down due to the Coronavirus/Covid 19. People isolated, businesses closed. Massive job losses. Everything completely out of synch and out of order.

DSC_9231

Even the poor old park bench was in lock down and wrapped up in red tape.

4) I developed a chest infection in March which developed into a repetitive barking cough, asthma and gasping for air well after the infection itself had  cleared. The timing couldn’t have been much worse, just as cases of coronavirus is NSW were rapidly increasing and starting to match Italy’s trajectory. It was not a time where anyone wanted to be heading to hospital, especially someone with dodgy lungs. There was also the concern that I’d end up competing for one of those rare as hen’s teeth ventilators. Or, given my poor health and disability status, I might just be left to die in the corridor (Thank goodness I gave my lung specialist a Christmas card last year!! Next year, I’d better give him a packet of Tim Tams as well).

5) Our son’s school history through Europe was cancelled on the 2nd March, when the NSW Education department banned all out of state excursions. At the time, there were minimal infection rates in Australia and it was just on the cusp of the spread to Italy. So it was very early in the peace and were were feeling a bit cheated. Was this really necessary? They were due to fly out on Wednesday 8th April bound for Berlin. From there, they were heading to Munich, Rome, Sorrento, Pompei, Naples, the French Battlefields of WWI and Paris. What a trip of a lifetime, just gone up in smoke. At the time, we were also unsure of refunds and they’ve only just started coming in. All up, it was a huge hit.

6) In late February, I had a really nasty fall dropping our daughter off at a dance audition when I tripped over a significant crack in the footpath. While I didn’t break any bones, I was in rough shape for a few weeks. I also suspect that the stress of the fall exacerbated the chest infection as it was just managing to behave itself til then.

7) Work. Although my husband’s kept his job during lock down and is working successfully from home, both of our teenaged kids had been looking at picking up part-time jobs this year and that’s gone on hold thanks to Coronavirus. I’d also wanted to pick up some work, and those hopes have also been dashed.

ballet shoes

Dance Classes via Zoom have involved both acknowledgment & Gratitude. 

8) Our house has gone from being a home, and is now an office, school, Church, dance studio, Venturer hall, cafe. That’s been a lot to process.

9) Rather than social isolation, we’ve had the whole family at home under one roof almost 24/7. There have been times where that has grated, although nowhere near as much as expected.

10) My violin lessons have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

11) Much of my daughter’s dance activities have been cancelled this year.

Sunrise

Sunrise, Bathurst pre-Covid.

Gratitude For The Good

  1. My husband & kids who live and breath everything with me. As I’m coughing my lungs out and gasping for breath, they’re running for water, reaching for my ventolin, asking if I need an ambulance and wondering whether this is going to be it. Even our three dogs get called into the battle. We also have a lot of good times together in between.
  2. My parents who have been my rocks forever.
  3. Like all Australians, I’m incredibly grateful to our bushfire volunteers and their support networks. They signed up to help, but found themselves fighting inside the very heart of an apocalypse, and they kept going at incredible personal cost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  4. Very thankful for the very generous donations from around the world to help save our precious Australian wildlife, and for carers trying to save them.
  5. For the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, chaplains and scientists who are treating people with Covid 19. Or, who are working towards a deeper scientific understanding of the virus and hopefully towards a vaccine or treatment.
  6. That I haven’t contracted Civid and am still here. Also that I recovered from my chest infection and didn’t need to go to hospital during the Coronacrisis.
  7. For our Australian leaders and medicos who responded quickly and efficiently to flatten the curve and provided us with the information and support we needed to get through. Indeed, we’ve far exceeded our grim expectations and I am so grateful for that!!
  8. For the Australian people (and those around the world) who have stayed home, and continue to practice social distancing. This has saved our bacon. (Well, at least, so far.)
  9. Friends and family who have helped me grapple with life, the universe and everything inside my head, and tried to help me accept the mysteries of God and his role in all of this.
  10. A special thanks to the strangers who stopped and helped when I had the fall mentioned in acknowledgements. A teacher from the school went back and found some ice and she dropped me down at McDonald’s down the road where I was meeting my friend, while a man fetched big band aids, saline and antiseptic from the medical kit in his car.
  11. Grateful that my Church has maximized the use of technology during this time to hold Church online and using zoom so effectively to allow us to keep in touch. It’s meant so much for me to keep in touch.
  12. For making significant progress towards researching and writing my books about WWI soldiers serving in France during WWI.
  13. Humour, empathy and understanding  from family, friends, strangers. It’s helped us all get through this.
  14. My Blog and all the friends I’ve developed over the years and the new ones. I typically experience periods of time each year where it’s difficult, impossible or inadvisable for me to go out and beyond my family, you are my social contacts and community. I really and truly appreciate each and everyone of you, all the more so too, because we’ve never met in person.
  15. For the kids’ school for advice, empathy and consideration while the kids were doing school from home, and for putting in strict social distancing practices for the first two weeks where students were back one day a week.
  16. That my daughter’s dance studio has been providing lessons online and she’s been able to dance and keep her dreams and goals of being a professional dancer alive.
  17. Thankful for our son’s venturer leader who thought of ways of keeping the group connected and engaged during lock down.
  18. That we’ve been able to save some money, and clear my credit card.

    Zac & Rosie dogs grass

    Even our grass is greener in lock down.

  19. That we now have a back lawn that’s green and not looking like a tragic lunar landscape after Geoff wrought the backyard back from the dogs.
  20. I don’t want to thank the NDIS because it’s often my bete noir. However, it continues to make a difference and has funded the supports which have also helped me get through this year, and more more personally challenging times.
  21. Surprisingly, we’ve actually been able to save money during lock down and I actually paid off my credit card. Meanwhile, I have also been grateful for a few online purchases. Thinking I’d be in lock down for months, I bought some new Peter Alexander pyjamas on sale…yippee!!
  22. The beauty of nature and being able to go on extended photography walks and experience that beauty more intimately through the lens and back home, through the pen.
  23. Having family time at home without having to rush around. On this point, I’ve also been grateful our kids were teens and I didn’t have little ones at home with the parks and playgroups closed and needing to teach kids myself at home.
  24. Cooking with my kids.
  25. All the people who have helped and offered to help throughout the years.

……

Well, I’m actually rather surprised that my list of gratitude has more than doubled my acknowledgements. So much is really going well for us.That is, despite my health issues, the coronavirus, being in lock down, grappling with the bushfire smoke. It seems we’ve strangely come out of the first six months of 2020 strangely ahead.

However, I am acutely conscious that isn’t the case for everyone. So, I would like to acknowledge those who are grieving, distraught, experiencing PTSD, trauma, and I send you our love. It’s up to those of us further away from the front line, to support those in the thick of it in anyway we can. What you are experiencing is real. You’re not the only one. You’re not going crazy. Well, you’re not going crazy without due cause. May I encourage you to find local sources of support and encouragement and to try to get out for a walk in the sunshine when you can. It’s certainly helped lighten my load, which you can see, hasn’t exactly been lightweight or just been a recent development either. I also have a few key friends I can share with beyond my family, and I do that myself. That’s the value of community…many hands lighten the load.

I would encourage you to do this exercise for yourselves either on or offline. I found it very constructive, especially this was just another one of those blogging ideas I came up with on the fly. That’s right. It all started out with those two simple words: Acknowledgement & Gratitude…another way of looking at our wins and losses.

I would love to hear from you on this and I hope that you’re okay.

Best wishes and much love,

Rowena

Rowena Victory

This photo was taken during chemo to treat my auto-immune disease, where I was at least looking victorious in the midst of some pretty tough times. I hope and pray that we will ultimately conquer Covid 19 with a vaccine and treatment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 12th February, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, what do you feel like today? I’m not sure I can deliver, especially if you’re used to more complex beverages like a “pumpkin spiced latte”. Nothing like that exists around here, but I do have Twinings English Breakfast Tea and a coffee machine. I’ve been virtually coffee free for a few weeks now. It was reeking havoc with my digestion, although I succombed a few times when Zombie Woman needed a caffeine hit.

Perhaps, that’s what I needed today because after waking up at the normal time, both of the kids were sick and I was feeling whoozy and went back to bed. I woke up at 3.45PM struggling to move. I’ve been under a lot of stress in the last week, and it’s gone straight to my muscles. Need a crane to get around at the moment. Anyone got a spare?

 

The highlight of the last week, was writing a philosophical/humorous post about searching Ebay for the Meaning of Life. On one hand it seems a little bit out there, but on the other hand, I’ve been wondering why I didn’t think of this before. My way of thinking is pretty off beat and turning to Ebay for the answers is the sort of random thing I’d come up with. I was feeling pretty distraught at the time and the really quirky side of my brain so this invitation. Ebay said you could “search for anything”. What about Hope? Do you think I could find hope on Ebay? Well, Ebay doesn’t promise that you’ll find what you’re looking for. When it came to hope, Ebay delivered bike parts.

If you’d interested to see what else Ebay offered up on the important questions of Hope, Despair, Optimism, Pessimism, Love, Hate, the Meaning of Life, the Meaning of Death, I love to hear your thoughts: Life According to Ebay.

The kids are settling into school well. They had school photos on Friday, which were a lot more painless than expected. I thought it might’ve been difficult to get my daughter out the door. She’s just into her second week of high school, but I’ve seen school photo day up there before and you could call is “Look at my hair day”. All the girls seem to take giving their hair 100 brushes out in the sun to a whole new level. Wow! I can’t remember when I last went to the hairdresser, not that that’s a good thing. The hairdresser I was going to closed down and change isn’t something I tend to do well. Besides, as you well may be aware, a hairdresser doesn’t just cut your hair. They’re your psychologist, psychiatrist, philosophical advisor and ego stroker. It’s a demanding job. So, I’ve been left to fend for myself.

 

I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers this week. That was quite a lof of fun and my flash transferred the usual travel debacles into the realms of teleporting… Not the Taj Mahal

How has your week been? I hope it’s been great.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Life According to Ebay.

“Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Although I routinely turn to Google to answer to life’s questions, I’ve never thought of asking Ebay before. However, tonight while searching for an electric recliner, I had an epiphany. Ebay claims it will “search for anything”. So, rising to the challenge, I decided to put Ebay through its paces and see what kind of wisdom it offered on some of the great issues of life: Hope, Despair, Love & Hate, Faith & Doubt, the Meaning of Life & and Meaning of Death.

Search 1: “Hope”.

“The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.”
― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fall of Atlantis

Hope

Hope 180mm Floating 6-Bolt Disc Rotor Orange

Although I’m a pretty lateral kind of person, even I found Ebay’s take on Hope obtuse. Hope is a brand of bicycle parts. I’m not sure that Hope is what I’d want to associate with riding a bike, especially a high performance one. Thoughts like: “I hope you reach your destination” or I hope “I don’t get hit by a car’ come to mind. Yet, when I had a closer look at the Hope 180mm Floating 6-Bolt Disc Rotor Orange, it did seem rather profound. Indeed, I’m sure there’s some kind of weird, esoteric meaning in there somehere. Well, at least I can sense it.

Search 2: “Despair”

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”
― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Not unsurprisingly, there weren’t any bike parts called “Despair” on Ebay. Rather, we ended up in the realm of books.There was Kierkegaard’s Concept of Despair by Michael Theunissen (Paperback, 2016). There was also Noam Chomsky’s Optimism Over Despair, which provides: “An essential overview of the problems of our world today — and how we should prepare for tomorrow. We can either be pessimistic, give up, and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist, and maybe help make the world a better place.1”

In addition to the books, there were also a few CDs…Abysmal Despair recorded by ODYSSEY, and a thrash band, DESPAIR, whose debut single was History of Hate and this album was Beyond All Reason. I wonder if their message is all about hate, or more about love? I wonder if I should listen and find out…

Search 3: Love 

 ‘I love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty’

Shakespeare: King Lear – Act 1, secene 1. 

“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”

Euripides

Love on Ebay seems to be much about decorating wedding receptions, or buying someone you love a token of your affection. That when you love someone, you buy them a necklace or for something novel, you could even give them some love coupons (whatever that entails). Surprisingly, or at least to me, Romeo & Juliet didn’t top the list on our search for love. There were customised lasercut wooden names for the Bride & Groom, jewellery…”I Love you Mum”, “I love you to the moon and back”, a pack of 100 wooden hearts in four sizes. Love is also available in helium balloons, and as a little love bird on an Australian stamp.  BTW no books cropped up on my fairly extensive scroll through the results. So, sorry Romeo & Juliet. You lacked out.

Search 4- Hate

Leonard Cohen

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

To be perfectly honest, I felt quite uneasy entering “Hate” into Ebay. Hate really isn’t part of my vocabulary, and it just felt icky typing in the word and like: “Don’t go there”. I didn’t even want to dip my little toe in. Get away. Leave it alone. It was a really strong force deep in my gut.

So, I was a relieved when the results weren’t all sinister. Indeed, there was an album Songs of Love & Hate by legendary Leonard Cohen near the top of the list. He’s an inspiration, not a force of darkness. Phew!

Hate Everybody

Then, there were the t-shirts. If Hope belonged to bicyle parts, despair belonged to books and the philosopher. Love was all about jewellery, hearts and helium balloon. Hate belongs the T-Shirt where indeed hate becomes humour. How can that be? We humans are weird, perverse even.

Search 5…Optimism.

“Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house builded on sand. A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.”

-Helen Keller

helen-keller-beyond-the-miracle-1600x500

Helen Keller

When it came to unveiling the goods on Optimism, books again rose to the top of the list. There was Helen Keller’s Optimism: An Essay, which is still sitting on my book pile unread. As when I’ve bought so many of my books, I was overly optimistic about my reading capacity. There is also Voltaire’s Classic: Candide or Optimism.  and Scott Adams (writing as Dilbert): Optimism Sounds Exhausting. I love Dilbert, by the way.

Dilbert Optimism sounds exhausting

Search 6: Pessimism

Like hate, pessimism is another one of those nasties that we don’t want to own up to. Rather, we’re supposed to “think happy thoughts” and “live happily ever after” in La-La Land. However, behind closed doors there’s at least a touch of pessimism in each of us. However, it’s how we respond to pessimism, which makes the difference. Some of us put on the boxing gloves and fight for our lives, while others silently slip under the bus and wake up as road pizza.

Studies in Pessimism Schopenhauer

When it came to pessimism, Ebay dug up German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the father of pessimism…

“The attainment of a goal or desire, Schopenhauer continues, results in satisfaction, whereas the frustration of such attainment results in suffering. Since existence is marked by want or deficiency, and since satisfaction of this want is unsustainable, existence is characterized by suffering.”1.

Search 7: Faith

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith Hill Cry

Well, if you go looking for faith on Ebay, more than likely you’ll end up with a CD by Faith Hill, than a copy of the Bible.  Here’s a link through to Tim McGraw & Faith Hill: The Rest of Our Life

I was actually expecting something more spiritual along the lines of Matthew 17:20:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I guess that just goes to show, that just because you can “look for anything” on Ebay, it doesn’t mean you’ll find what you’e looking for, or what you need.

Search 8: Doubt

Mrs Doubtfire

Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire. 

Like Google, Ebay also has a sense of humour. When I entered in doubt, Mrs Doubtfire immediately popped up. I had to smile. For those of you who don’t recall the movie, it starred the great Robin Williams who played a troubled divorced Dad who wanted to spend more time with his kids. He dressed up as an older British woman and convinced his ex-wife, Miranda (Sally Field), to hire him as a nanny. It’s hilarious. This is a case of Dame Edna Everage meets Mork. Yet, like every movie starring Robin Williams, there are so many levels to this movie and it ‘s ripe with food for thought. After all, you could say that humour is the best way to impart the most challenging life lessons of all.

Here are a few poignant quotes from the movie:

1) “Did you ever wish you could sometimes freeze frame a moment in your day, look at it and say “this is not my life”?”

2) [Trying to get false teeth out of glass]

Mrs. Doubtfire: Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth.

Search 9: The Meaning of Life

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” 
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Monty Python

When it came to searching for the meaning of life on Ebay, again I was in for a few surprises. Perhaps, I’m just getting old, but I thought Monty Python’s film: The Meaning of Life would’ve been top of the list, but it was in fact a sad omission. So before I move onto what I did find, I should leave you with their take on the Meaning of Life, which I must say is the abridged, sanitised version:

“Well, it’s nothing very special. Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

Another, conspicuous absence, was Douglas Adams famous series which started out with The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Universe and included Life, the Universe & Everything. Even if you haven’t read the series, you could already know that the answer to the meaning of life, is 42.

Meaning of Life Grieve

The Bible or any other religious creed was also conspicuously absent, but Bradley Trevor Grieve’s book: The Meaning of Life made the cut. Perhaps, you need to stick a frog on the cover to get a look in.

Search 10: The Meaning of Death

“Life asked death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’ Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.”

—Author unknown

Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that through all my searches, it was only when I searched for the meaning of death, that Ebay coughed up any references to God, Jesus or eternity. So, it seems that Ebay is just like us humans and when Ebay is facing death, it also turns to God. Ebay beamed up Barry Smith’s The Meaning of Jesus’ Death: Reviewing the New Testament’s Interpretations. There was also Adrian Chapman’s The Meaning of Life A Dangerous Mix of God and Science and  Julian Young’s book: The Death of God & the Meaning of Life.

Conclusion

So, while you might be able to search for anything on Ebay, it’s quite clear that the response is quite random. You might not get what you are looking for, but like any lucky dip, you might get a pleasant surprise, and a whole new world will open up for you. Yet, there can also be that huge frustration, and even despair, of not finding what you need. Yet, expecting Ebay to have all the answers, is a folly. There are better places to look. However, who hasn’t tried retail therapy, and found a true and legitable joy? An escape from one’s pain-filled inner labyrith, even if it is only temporary?!! I’m guilty as charged.

Personally, as a Christian, I don’t believe life is altogether random and yet I don’t go so far as saying “God is in control”. You see, if God is control of it all, that includes good and evil and ignores the fact he gave us free will. Moreover, we clearly have the capacity to make “our lot” better or worse. Yes, in your quest for wisdom, never doubt the power of shooting yourself in the foot.

You can’t blame God for that.

Sources

Noam Chomsky “Optimism Over Despair”

 

xx Rowena

A Pathway to Heaven.

Brian put on his very best thinking cap and mustered all his concentration. As golden rays of sunlight beamed through the clouds, he could see heaven. Surely, if he looked hard enough, he would find Mother.

Moreover, in his nine year old mind, it wasn’t a huge leap of faith to believe an angel might bring her back. That just like Lazarus, Mother would miraculously rise from the dead.

His faith was bigger than a mustard seed.

Yet, Mother never came back. The gates of heaven stayed shut.

That’s when Brian stopped looking at the clouds.

There were no dreams.

Rowena Newton

This has been another contribution to the Friday Fictioneers . This week’s photo prompt comes from our host, © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

—-

The inspiration for this story, comes from my late Father-in-Law whose mother died when he was nine years old. He grew up in Penguin, Tasmania and we spent a few days there while we were in Tassie recently. We visited his old school (which now opens on Sundays for a market) and I looked through the windows to the clouds and thought of him grieving through class and missing his Mum.

After his mother died, family took in his sister and his Dad went away to work, leaving the two boys to fend for themselves. At 12, Brian left home to join the railways, despite being a bright pupil.

Brian died when my husband was 16. So, we’ve never met and we know very little about him and while I’ve used a real name and situation, it’s a purely fictional account of his response.

 

 

Why am I here?

Parenting isn’t a walk in the park and my kids are constantly keeping me on my toes. Lately, that’s even involved attempting pirouettes!

Well, to sharpen my toes even further, my son asked me this curly question today…“Why am I here?”

‘if your life is cloudy and you’re way off course,

you might have to go on faith for awhile,

but eventually you’ll learn that

every time you trust your internal navigation system,

you’ll end up closer to your right life.”

-Martha Beck.

He was in trouble and he mumbled something about dying being easier than living so why bother? It wasn’t a completely dark question at the time…more of an observation. He’s 12 years old and this kind of question goes with the turf. He’s not unique. Indeed, I remember feeling much the same and my Dad saying: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”.

However, this was actually part of a longer quote:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

― George Bernard Shaw

Jonathon Climbing Tree

Mister in the Climbing Tree 2011, Aged 6.

Anyway, in response to my son’s question my immediate response (which I didn’t share with him at the time) was that he wasn’t here to melt Halloween lollies in my new waffle maker, leaving a layer of sticky tar glued to the non-stick base. That he and his sister were not put on this planet to destroy everything within a 365 degree radius. Indeed, they could keep their sticky fingers all to themselves!!

Yet, I said nothing. Rather, I stared scrawling  my frustrations down on paper the way we writers do. While I know that doesn’t achieve anything, at least venting on paper helps me feel better!

“You just can’t sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself”

-Diana Ross.

Anyway, when I asked my kids what possessed them to put lollies in my waffle machine, they told me that they’d seen a u tuber melt a Barbie doll in a waffle machine. While I’m no fan of Barbie, melting Barbie in a waffle machine for fun seemed rather sadistic. You also have to wonder what the world is coming to when a video of someone with bad language melting Barbie in a waffle machine gets 2,418,875 views with 94,220 likes. Moreover, unlike some of the crazy stunts your kids might see on TV, there’s no mention of: “kids don’t try this at home”. These U tubers have hero status,  yet no responsibility. No accountability.

So, I am grateful that I didn’t find Barbie stuck to my waffle machine instead of just the lollies. With a bit of boiling water and chipping away, the waffle machine is fine and the kids will need to be dead, before they’re allowed to stay home from school again.

Jonathon sunset

Why am I here?

Meanwhile, I still had to answer my son’s question: why am I here?

I told him that this was a question which philosophers, poets, sing writers, The Bible have all addressed for thousands of years. After all, it is the ultimate quest for each and every one of us to work out why we’re here. To find our purpose, our path, calling, direction…whatever you want to call it.

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. All how you become most truly alive.”

-Oprah Winfrey.

This needn’t be a selfish, navel-gazing process. It can also be about that person who really wants to make a difference, help others, change the world or has spiritual ideas but doesn’t know quite how or where to serve or give. After all, it’s particularly hard for the inspired visionary to live with their vision, without knowing how to execute it. Indeed, this anguish could cause these brightest of flames, to snuff themselves out.

Anyway, to humour myself, I entered: “Why am I here?” into Google. I didn’t expect much, if anything, but Google has surprised me before and has delivered.

That’s was when I was reminded of the power of the personality quiz. These are not only great fun but I swear these quizes know me better than I know myself. Of course, you have to sort the wheat from the chaff too. I found this quiz on Who Are You Mean to Be? from Oprah Magazine http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Who-Are-You-Meant-to-Be-Self-Assessment-Quiz_1 It showed great insight and no surprises one of my top scores was Striving to Be Creative. I’ve pasted it down below because it really made sense to me.

Jonathon Christmas Tree 2

How creative! Mister turned himself into a Christmas Tree 2006 aged 2.

Striving to be Creative

You are an artist: You came out of the womb with a paintbrush in your hand. Or maybe it was a flute or a castanet or a fountain pen to go with your poet’s imagination. The point is, you’re an original, and you know it. Even if you don’t have a singular gift, you’re drawn to the arts—anything creative, for that matter— and you have a unique way of looking at the world. Your need for depth and authenticity in relationships can lead to both great joy and profound sorrow, depending on whether others reciprocate. You don’t care so much about adapting to group or societal expectations; your independence and sharp intuition propel you on your own path.

What to watch out for: When fear of conformity overrides your creativity, you can assume the role of “outsider” or “orphan” and end up feeling alienated. You may even go so far as refusing to vote or pay taxes. This lone-wolf stance might be a defense against feeling vulnerable. Try to be aware that blaming others for your banishment, or pushing away those who want to get close, only makes things worse. Also, dramatizing your emotions can interfere with your creativity.

Looking ahead: As long as you genuinely express yourself, you feel like the person you were meant to be. How you do it is irrelevant. A chef or architect can be as much of an artist as a painter or sculptor. Many advertising and public relations executives are also highly imaginative. Beyond work, there are opportunities everywhere you look to coax out your inner artist: Design your own jewelry line, create an innovative blog, dream up a comic strip. Relationships are another avenue for self-expression.

Google also linked me up with some great quotes, which I’ve scattered throughout.
There’s also this thought provoking post by Mark Manson  Seven Strange Questions to Establish Your Life’s Purpose. I highly recommend you read it!
Meanwhile, it’s time for me to think about fueling his physical body as well as his mind. Neither of my kids have ever been great eaters but we think he’s going through a growth spurt. Not only is he eating four Weetbix for breakfast, he turns up in the kitchen hunting for dinner with that same starved look our poor Border Collie had when he was on 50mg of prednisone. It really was quite cruel to the poor dog and leaving a starving teenager roaming around the kitchen, can be dangerous. You just ask Barbie!
xx Rowena

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

A few years ago, my kids asked me that age old question: Does Santa Claus really exist?

It turned out that they and the other kids at school had been comparing notes and you could say that Santa was on trial.

Virginia_Santa_Claus

When I read about little Virginia’s letter to the local newspaper to find out whether Santa was real, I wished I’d found it years ago. The reply is incredible.

I’m sure you’ll love it!

xx Rowena

Source: Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

Staying on Course II: Husband & Wife

As a writer, I am very good at theory and not so versed in practice. After all, if you use up all your time writing about your dreams, hopes, goals and aspirations, unless you are mighty fast on the keyboard, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for implementation…the doing part of the equation…especially when it comes to spending time with my husband! Hmm….

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo of Geoff and I kayaking together but Geoff is behind the camera in this  shot. Hopefully, I’ll update it next weekend when the kids are here to take the shot.

Monday 20th January, 2014

Well, as usual I was in prime form yesterday morning. Despite desperately wanting to go out in the kayak with Geoff for some couple time and to also show him the mangroves which I’d explored with Mister on Friday, I spent at least an hour writing about Geoff’s tips on kayaking…writing about how to kayak instead of kayaking itself. We live in a tidal area and you have to take the kayaks out at high tide or you can’t get back. There is some leeway but to some extent it is a case of act now or you’ll miss out. You can’t really procrastinate, defer or delay.  You just have to go. As I was philosophising away on my theories, the water was literally ticking away…tick tock, tick tock…dong!

My justification of course was that I wanted to “seize the advice” before it drifted through one ear and paddled downstream straight out the other ear.

Yesterday morning, Geoff and I set out on a kayaking adventure together… an opportunity to put some of my new found paddling expertise into practice. As it turned out, Geoff had many more tips hidden up his sleeve and kayaking also had a lot to teach me about how to achieve my goals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T3RS78Tp58

As I mentioned in my previous post, Geoff is an experienced white-water kayaker. He’s traversed the infamous Corra Linn Rapids in the South Esk River in Tasmania where the original Solo Man commercial was filmed back in 1986. Geoff knows how to operate a paddle and keep a kayak afloat under very adverse conditions so paddling up to the mangroves and back was very elementary. (Geoff also pointed out that the original Solo Man Iron Man Grant Kenny went through the rapids in a “bus” not a real kayak. You see, he might have been the original Solo Man but he wasn’t a Tasmanian!)

I was really looking forward to spending time together and being in our own small couple bubble as we ventured among the mangroves exploring new worlds. We both really love being at one with nature and a million miles away from care, almost melting into the landscape.

Due to my muscle weakness, I find it quite awkward actually climbing on board the kayak. I seem to have two left feet and it’s a bit like trying to do a reverse park with a hill start in a manual. There’s a lot of manoeuvring back and forwards and glancing around between the kayak and my feet to work out what goes where first without tipping the whole thing over. Given the unstable nature of the kayak as well, it is a little daunting but once I’m seated, I’m quite fine and good to go.

Finally, we were out on the water and my kayaking lessons began in earnest.

Geoff had already worked out which way the wind and the current were flowing. This is almost innate to him. He just knows. He reminds me that you start out against the wind and current so you return back with the current behind you when you’re tired on the way home. Energy conservation is a jolly good strategy.

Next, Geoff starts working on improving my stroke to get more power. While I thought I was paddling along okay, Geoff advised me to hold my paddle more vertically. I also needed to sit up straight. We were using the Power Stroke. This was a bit of a struggle with my limited arm strength as well as being a new, uncomfortable position but I persevered. I wanted to learn how to paddle properly and become a Solo Woman myself. Building on the Power Stroke, Geoff then advised me how to use my feet and push with the foot on the side of the paddle so that I was using my entire body to move the kayak forward instead of just my arms. This would really give us more momentum.

While we are paddling along, Geoff is “reading the water”: looking out for obstacles such as shallow water where we could get stuck and tracking the strong headwind. He is enjoying the ride and also looking out for fish. A guy on a windsurfer shoots past and that looks pretty fun too.

As the more experienced and stronger paddler, Geoff compensated for my weakness and there were times where I had to stop paddling and rest and he carried my load. This was much appreciated because reaching the mangroves was beyond my capabilities but we pulled it off because he compensated for me and we worked as a team.

Such detailed advice isn’t always appreciated between husbands and wives. Just consider a parallel situation of a husband telling his wife how to drive a car. You can really feel the sparks fly. Yet, a bit of constructive criticism really should be welcomed on board, acted on and seen as an opportunity for growth, not viewed as an attack, put down or condemnation. I really appreciated Geoff’s input which came from his much greater experience of kayaking. I had the opportunity to learn, grow and improve from my husband and it didn’t cost me a cent. Moreover, we had the opportunity to spend some time together on our own doing something together which we both enjoyed.

From this experience, I could definitely appreciate the value of having a coach to help you reach your goals. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and you can fast track your progress by coasting through on the wake of their experience.

There is also greater strength in numbers and while there are times where it’s great to be the quintessential Renaissance man or woman…the all-conquering individual…there are also times where you don’t want to go it alone. That is a tremendous relief to have a problem shared and such pleasure in sharing the experience and having your horizons broadened through someone else’s eyes and vision. We all see something unique and different even looking at the very same spot. This is the exciting and challenging thing of being a living, breathing, flexible and integral part of community.

However, for the full benefits of a coach to be fully appreciated, you also need to be coachable. Willing not only to listen and act on that advice but know how to handle constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for growth instead of a perceiving advice as a personal attack. I have experienced fairly intensive advice and criticism in my violin lessons and it has made such a difference. Remember, I received that A in my preliminary exam…a result I achieved because I listened and acted on advice instead of being “precious”.

Unless you are open to criticism, correction and inhaling and implementing advice, you’ll never grow. While it may be less confronting to read a book of life lessons and apply them to your life, it is far more effective to heed the advice of someone who knows us well and loves us and applies that personal but probably more painful touch. This is probably the greatest gift we could ever receive. Yet, rather than being thankful and appreciating the inherent risks of speaking out, we’re more likely to beat our loved ones over the head with a stick or go off and sulk. Somehow, we need to learn to be more gracious and  listening, accepting feedback and find ways of implementing the required changes to grow. Become the very best person we can be.

I am now coming to appreciate that personal growth and change is an ongoing life-long process. We are constantly refining and refining ourselves in a never-ending process of growth. Growth which isn’t a striving towards an oppressive perfectionism but rather the joy of feeling yourself extend beyond what you thought was possible and to enjoy fresh green buds and emerging flowers and feel your entire being come alive and you step out of the chains of bondage. For me, this means being able to love and give more freely because despite what’s going on in my life, I am fine. I might not understand what is happening in my life or why but somewhere it is all integrated into a larger whole and God is walking with me guiding my path taking me on an exhilarating journey.

After all, none of us is set in stone.

Rather, we are a seed.

The funny thing about seeds is that they usually don’t just fall straight out of the tree and instantly start to grow. Rather, there is usually some kind of journey involved and these adventures usually aren’t very glamorous at all! An animal eats the seed transporting it a very long way from home and it takes time before the seed can sprout. Many seeds go astray. Just think about how many kids find an acorn and stick it in their pocket? Of course, the child doesn’t know what they’ve done. That they’ve taken all that awesome potential and stuck it on hold. The acorn simply can’t grow into an oak while it’s sitting on the shelf. Of course, the acorn probably gives up and thinks it is the end of the road but there is always hope. The acorn is still a seed and perhaps it is just a matter of time.

We need to embrace our own journey and then plant ourselves, our goals and our dreams in fertile soil and nurture them with sun and rain. Then we can become oaks with soaring branches deeply rooted in love.

I should also point out that the ultimate purpose of all this personal growth and refinement isn’t about the self-indulgent pursuit of personal happiness and fulfilment. It is actually geared towards being a fully functional, giving part of our community with a body, heart and soul which is able to give and give abundantly. Becoming the wondrous oak tree in the park providing shade and shelter to birds, insects, children with its strong and sturdy branches stretching up to the sky and absorbing the sun.

Finally, Geoff and I had a really lovely paddle together. Geoff seemed to be focused on looking for fish while I loved looking at the reflections of the mangrove trees on the water. Geoff always seems to see so many little things which I miss like the oysters growing on the trunks of the mangroves. I did see many, many little fish among the mangroves. That was very encouraging because I do wonder just how many fish are in the ocean these days and whether they are running out.

Unfortunately, I can’t share any photos with you because I didn’t want to risk the camera getting wet. It hasn’t learned how to swim yet.

We are a living breathing work-in-progress constantly changing and never standing still.

PS Tuesday 21st January, 2014

I would like to remind you that I am currently going through chemotherapy and also having high dose infusions of prednisone. These are drugs just like any other kind of drug and I know they are very definitely influencing and shaping not only my writing but also my vision…what I see. A lot of my friends who have been on high doses of prednisone talk about going on cleaning frenzies and I am starting to wonder whether that is as much about seeing what’s around them more clearly as much as having the added steroid energy boost.

I have definitely found a level of clarity and insight that has been quite staggering and intense. At times, it’s been like a thunder bolt has hit. I see something so clearly. I can see something in someone else so clearly that it is mind blowing. Now, I can’t always test these insights out and know if they are real or just the drugs talking but it is certainly interesting and you see those kids with cancer on TV and they get very profound and it is profound when you are facing your own mortality but there are also the effects of the chemo and I don’t know what they are.

As a bloggers, I think most of us are seekers. We are looking out there for insights into life and hopefully how we can become better people and collectively make the world a better place. We can’t experience everything in life and face it, who really wants to go through the chemo experience. However, this has been my lot, my journey and I am trying to share it with you as earnestly as I can. Putting you in my shoes. You can come to chemo with me and the good news is that neither of us are going to lose our hair!

xx Ro

Another PS: I just chose the title for today’s post and thought it deserved a bit more attention. I chose to continue the staying on course theme from my previous post and it is about kayaking and goal setting but staying on course is a serious difficulty in any relationship. When I was a kid, you’d hear stories of couples having another baby when their marriage was on the rocks to bridge the gap. I don’t know if that happens anymore because I most of us realise that as much as having kids draws you together as a couple, it also divides. Add years of living with a chronic, life-threatening with all it’s inherent medical emergencies and it is very difficult to invest enough time, energy and nurturing into that relationship to keep it fuelled. Fortunately, my parents took the kids for yet another night while Geoff was still on leave and we were able to get out there on the water kayaking together despite my incessant writing and we were able to go out for dinner just the two of us two nights in a row. We were about to feed our relationship and help some of those ragged nerve endings grow back. Our relationship needed to rebuild its neuro pathways as well and reconnect.

A Vote for the LIttle People

Even if you’re not a political beast, it’s hard not to be drawn into the pre-election madness and at the very least have an opinion…especially when you live in a marginal seat and your vote actually counts.

The Australian Federal Election is coming up and from where I’m sitting, the outcome could be anybody’s guess.

Moreover, the results of this election will probably be determined by the likes of me…the undecided voter. I won’t say swinging voter. I mean undecided!

The undecided voter gets a lot of bad press. Typecast as wishy-washy, apathetic fence sitters, we’re expected to be on one side or the other. This is usually interpreted as having “an informed opinion”.

But what if you want something more? Something which isn’t currently being offered on the menu? What about the idealist, the visionary?

Undecided voters often have strong values, beliefs and principles. We can be very committed to changing the world but perhaps we’re just a bit jaded by the political juggernaut.

I know there are good people in politics but we don’t often see much of that. Besides, how are you  supposed to vote at all when you don’t believe that shafting people is how to run a nation? We might have great local candidates who I respect but when you look at politics as a whole, it can be pretty appalling. All the very worst behavior we work so hard to stamp out in our kids, is actually nurtured and encouraged in our national mosh pit. Bullying, teasing and name-calling are fought out to the political death. You just need to watch Question Time to see it all in action. Nobody can behave like that outside Parliament and still have friends. I think they call that “Parliamentary Privilege”. Everywhere else, we call it “bullying”.

Yet, come election time, these same bullies are all charm smooching the nation.

After that little rant, how am I going to vote?

At this point of time, I’m still sitting on the fence.

In the past, it didn’t really matter how I voted because I lived in a safe seat. My vote didn’t count. However, now I live in a fairly marginal seat and when the balance of power could be dangling from a thread, my vote actually counts. I have to be responsible and make a well-considered, conscious choice. We’ve had hung parliaments before and the future of our nation could be riding on my shoulders. That’s a huge responsibility (even if it is an exaggeration).

So how am I going to make up my mind? What’s going to be the clincher?

For me, it all boils down to jobs. I work in a small business and I want to keep my job. Moreover, I’d like to stop the flow of locals down to Sydney each day commuting to work and instead see more fairly paid local jobs. That would make a huge difference to our community.

More jobs also means, more spending which in turn means more jobs.

I like spending!

A faster train to Sydney is also a necessity. Commuting is a hard slog!

I would also like to remind the media that this election is about people. I’m not talking about Kevin and Tony. I’m talking about us…the little people. This country is made up of little people…just like lots of little Lego bits of all shapes, colours and sizes joining together to make a house.

I’m a little person and I know a lot of little people too.

There are quite a number of empty shops around at the moment. Empty shops mean broken dreams, incredible personal loss and hardship. For every empty shop or office, there are also a lot of businesses struggling to survive. These are very tough times.

Secondly, I have kids at school and I see what goes into giving all kids a sound education. Our teachers are the most amazing people you will ever meet. Being a parent isn’t easy and we hand our kids over to their teachers everyday and expect them to solve all sorts of issues which leave us for dead. They usually succeed in doing that as well as well as teaching them the 3Rs. Well done!

Speaking about little people and big achievements, I wanted to share with you about a painting I bought recently at the school art show. It’s a painting of a rainbow elephant. The elephant is made up of multi-coloured thumb prints. Each student had their own colour and they carefully dabbed their thumbs in the paint, blotted off  the excess and stamped their thumb onto the canvas without so much as a smudge. That’s a huge achievement when you really think about it. Now this masterpiece was created by a small class of primary school boys and their amazing teacher with such love and patience. I mean, how many parents actually let their children paint at home? Most don’t. Their teacher helped them do it. Helped them achieve the seemingly impossible. After all, how many boys do you know who sit still? (Thinking about this artwork…it is a great example of teamwork in action and could teach those people down in Canberra a thing or two!)

It’s kids, who by the way can’t vote, who really need to be in the forefront of political thinking. They have their entire future ahead. They deserve to reach their whole potential whatever that might be just like a small acorn growing into an amazing oak!

Lastly, I have to mention the health system. I have way too much to do with this land of hidden cutbacks. I have been having blood transfusions every three weeks for the last five years. Each transfusion takes about 4-5 hours. I used to have these treatments on weekends down in Sydney and my parents minded the kids while I was there. When the hospital moved into the new building, weekend services were axed and I had to have my treatments during the week. These decisions were made essentially to save money. Reduce expense. This was very difficult for me juggling the kids at school but it was impossible for anyone who worked full time. Heaven help you if you are sick and have a job! The “system” somehow seems to forget that even sick people need to eat. I wrote several letters but in the end, I voted with my feet. I now get my transfusions at our local hospital instead. This is still a juggling act but it largely works for us. Not everybody has that choice. (I must also comment that I have always had the very best care from all my doctors and nurses. They have quite literally saved my life!)

This brings me onto homelessness. Homelessness can be in your face but it’s also hidden…underground. Perhaps the most unappreciated fact about homelessness is how quickly it can happen and that nobody is immune. It just takes a few twists and turns of fate. You lose your job. Get sick. Relationship busts up. Bad things often happen in threes. The “homeless” are often just very normal, everyday people. It could be you. It could be me. We all need to love and embrace them. Offer a helping hand.

So whatever you might believe about public spending, we all depend on a safety net and having the basics. That needs to include jobs, good public education and good public health so that when your world falls apart, there is always a net and people don’t fall through the gaps.

I just had a tea break and realized that I haven’t mentioned the carbon tax or boat people. These issues are supposedly quite big in the campaign, although they’re beyond me at the moment.

I am very concerned about the environment and I’m serious about doing my bit. When it comes to food scraps, we have a worm farm at home and the dog eats the rest. At the start of the year, I decided not to use any plastic packaging in the kids’ lunches and I have succeeded. You would be surprised just how much plastic packaging gets wasted in kids’ lunches. I’m not perfect. Our coffee machine uses a lot of plastic pods. Grr!

As for the carbon tax, it is beyond me at the moment. I can’t afford high power bills and am fairly dependent on the clothes dryer due to my health. At the same time, we have to do whatever it takes to slow down global warming.

Hard decisions!

Although I live on the coast, people smuggling seems a long way from home. That said, no child should be in prison and children need to be with their parents. That is a basic human need. Every child needs to be with their Mum and Dad. As a parent, I wouldn’t jump in a boat with my kids and head off across the seas but I was born in the lucky country. It is not a choice I’ve had to make. That said, I am currently researching my great great something grandmother who I believed came to Australia to escape the Irish Famine in the 1840s. However, on closer inspection, it turns out she arrived after the famine and only months after the discovery of gold in Bathurst was proclaimed in 1851. So what was she? Refugee or fortune seeker? I don’t know but the grass certainly wasn’t greener for her in Sydney’s Surry Hills, even if they did have a good supply of potatoes. She lost three of her nine children in infancy.

So here I am at home in my pyjamas.  Playschool is on in the background while I’m metamorphosing into some kind of political animal. Perhaps, it is all because of the book I’ve been reading about the Irish famine which shows that governments can make a difference but they can also turn a blind eye to even the most acute forms of human suffering.

I wonder if governments are only as good as the people who vote them in and sustain them.

That’s why my vote is actually important. I might not like “Canberra” but at least I’ve had my say.

As for anybody who reads this post and dares call me a “mummy blogger” commenting on the Federal Election, remember I’m a person. I just happen to be a woman who has kids and shouldn’t be judged by my parental status!

Do I get your vote?

Getting off the fence...soon.

Getting off the fence…soon.

My Son and the Rose

This morning, I had an incredible Eureka moment.

No! I didn’t go running naked through the streets like Archimedes but I was running naked on the inside. The drought had broken and I wanted to run outside and feel all those life giving raindrops wet against my skin. Stick out my dry, parched tongue and quench an insatiable thirst.

Our son did the most amazing thing and I was the proudest mother on earth! This came after a difficult time for our family and I really needed a bit of affirmation. Being a parent is a wonderful thing but it can also be quite a challenge. Like the rose, love also has its thorns.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

For the last four weeks, I’ve been ill. I’ve had serious stomach pains and I’ve barely been eating. I have also been sleeping a lot and feeling extremely vague. I wasn’t sure whether I had a virus or if it was stress. I had another appointment with my lung specialist (which went well) and more tests and was feeling pretty stressed. Anyway, I was finding it very difficult to get the kids to school and organised some outside support to help get them ready in the mornings. I also lined up some friends to drive them to and from school. I needed to stop and recover somehow.

Despite my usual health issues, I don’t usually stop and my whole modus operandi is to keep going no matter what. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when it feels like I’m wearing concrete shoes and it’s quite difficult to for me to walk or even lift my feet. At times, it can get very, very hard but I’ve always been convicted that it’s easier to keep going than try to restarting the engine. I guess I’m scared that if I stop and actually let everything go that I’ll lose the lot…poof!

Anyway, we’ve really enjoyed having our helper here and she finished up this morning. As a bit of a parting gesture, our son gave her a beautiful, red rose from our garden. We were both deeply moved not just because he gave her the flower but his timing was quite incredible. You see, she had been having a bit of a rough day and she really needed a bit of encouragement and then Mister just turned up offering that great timeless symbol of love…a beautiful, home-grown  red rose with all its thorns. It was exactly what the doctor ordered…exactly! I could have cried and our helper was naturally deeply moved. It’s not the sort of thing you expect from a knock-about nine year old boy who plays football and runs everywhere with dirty, skinned knees but our boy is often full of surprises. No matter how hard we might try to classify him and squeeze him into some kind of box, he resists. He is full of so many contradictions and always keeps me on my toes. I never know quite what to expect next.

I was so proud of him. I could have shouted it from a mountain top: “I have the very best son in the whole entire world!!”

I was so proud of him and yet there have been so many times as a parent when I’ve wondered whether anything is getting through. Some things are private but suffice to say that my son has struggled a lot with my illness. There are times when I’m well and fully present and there are times when I can be like a ghost. I’m there but not there. When he was 3.5 years old, I was admitted to hospital and rehab for 7 weeks. That was a very long time for such a little boy.

Reading with Mister while I was on weekend leave from the rehab hospital

Reading with Mister while I was on weekend leave from the rehab hospital

For awhile there, I was either in bed or in a wheelchair and was really crook. I had two professors looking after me along with an entourage of medical students. That gives you some idea of just how serious things were. My prognosis was really quite unknown. Mister came in to see me. He looked up at me with his huge brown eyes and blond curls and asked: “Mummy better? Mummy better?” I remember that moment so very, very clearly. Bang!  It was like being shot between the eyes. Being shot in the heart. I said absolutely nothing and simply didn’t reply because we didn’t know. We didn’t have an answer. It was an incredibly hard moment!

We look like the epitome of happiness yet this photo was taking while I was at rehab hospital.

We look like the epitome of happiness yet this photo was taking while I was at rehab hospital.

My illness hit Mister pretty hard. He knew what it was like to have his whole mum and to be the centre of my universe. We used to do so many things together.  Then, along came his little sister and shortly afterwards, I became ill and everything changed. I was so exhausted and we juggled his care between my parents, day care and time at home. We did our best and it wasn’t anybody’s fault but that didn’t mean he was happy with the situation. I knew he was angry. I knew that anger was somehow locked deep inside him and it wasn’t coming out. His development froze for some time and he stopped writing, cutting and drawing. My health is a constantly shifting carpet with marked good and bad days so we can’t really come to terms with anything. But these good days are also a blessing because we can largely live an almost “normal” life. We squeeze as much as we can out of life because we know life is short and we have to …carpe diem seize the day.

I view my illness as an external force, an outsider, some kind of malevolent stalker. I don’t blame myself and I certainly don’t see the illness as part of myself, who I am or part of my “identity”. This perspective has been quite critical to how I’ve managed. I live with dermatomyositis. I am not my disease.

Unfortunately, the kids don’t make that distinction. For them, the illness and I are one and the same. When I’m well and able to do things, they are happy and I am the best. When I’m sick, they usually muck up and I’m “the worst mother in the world”. That’s a bit simplistic but you get the gist.

It can be very difficult, discouraging and downright depressing when I’m fighting my disease and a pair of cranky kids at the same time. So when my son gave our helper the rose, it was so much more than just an act of kindness. It was a sign of healing and of hope. I saw such love and kindness in his heart.  It was extraordinary and I was immensely proud. The drought had broken.

The rose is usually used to symbolise the duality of romantic love…the beauty of the flower and the pain caused by its thorns…a double-edged sword. However, the rose also represents the love for your child. There is joy and pain as a parent which all starts off in childbirth I guess.

Somehow, when our relationships with our kids are going through a period of drought, we need to hang in there. Keep the lines of communication open so that when the drought breaks, the seed is still there ready to grow.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

As beautiful as this moment was, I am still a realist. Every rose has its thorns but it’s still a rose.

xx Rowena 

PS It was interesting looking through the old photos to find some shots of Mister while I was in hospital. I have thought of him as a fairly lone, solitary figure and very sad. However, when I looked through the photos, I found much happiness, cuddles and togetherness. I actually remember kicking the ball briefly with  him while I was in rehab and we read together. We had fun despite our circumstances…an important thing to remember.