Tag Archives: family

The Prodigal Violinist.

Last Sunday, I performed Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring at “MY violin concert”.

Before you start asking me for the details of my national tour, or how to order copies of Ms+e shar them in the comments. CD, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should confess that it wasn’t actually MY violin concert after all. Rather, I was performing at: “Music in the Orchard”, put on my the music school where I learn the violin. I know that’s just a minor distinction. A question of being in the fine print, instead of having my name up in lights, but a point needing clarification.

Anyway, as it turned out. I deserved to have my name my name up in lights,and that’s just for turning up. Ironically, playing my violin turned out to be the easy part.

You see, our household has a thieving poltergeist, and last Sunday morning it gave its best performance yet.

The nightmare started when my glasses went missing. Indeed, it hid my glasses  so well, that it took three people to find them. Every night, I put my glasses on top of the pile of books beside my bed. However, it’s not uncommon for me to send them flying during the night, but they usually land in the same old, predictable places i.e. down beside the bed or under the side table. However, this time they travelled further afield and had actually dived into my shoes. In an embarrassing moment of capitulation, I had to call my husband home from Church to find them.

The poltergeists next target was my daughter’s tap shoes. As no day is sacred in our end of year schedule and we’re double and triple booking and splitting the kids and ourselves up between us, my daughter had dance photos on the same day as my violin concert. While I’d really been looking forward to her hearing me play and being a part of my special day, I dropped her off at the dance studio as I headed up the hill. By this stage I was running late for my concert, but I figured that I wouldn’t be the opening act and would be well down the pecking order towards the end.

No such luck!

No sooner had I got there, and I was tuning up and praying to whoever it is who takes pity on mothers trying to pull off a performance while supporting their children and is lucky to be dressed at all, let alone made up. And, as for getting those fingers, strings and bow to cooperate, it was, going to take desperate prayer and serious pity. A case of the prodigal violinist… “I know you haven’t practiced enough, but I’ll help you play those strings and together we will make sweet music.”

As it turned out, I did have a guardian angel and that was my teacher, who was not just playing a duet alongside me. She was my accompaniest and a good accompaniest enhances the performer and compensates for their mistakes to make them look better. I knw she had my back, which gave me the confidence to get up on stage at all when I was only just adequately prepared.

So, let’s fast forward to my actual performance. I was playing Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. It is a fairly difficult piece, but it starts out relatively easy and gets more difficult as you go along. I usually managed it through the first page alright but struggle with the rest. Indeed, we had been looking at cutting out the middle section, but I really liked it and found it very dramatic so I bumped up the practice and went into prove it mode.

However, after all the stress of actually just getting to the venue and trying to find my bearings, I started stumling right from the start and my fingers weren’t getting into gear. There was part of me which was starting to feel my performance was doomed. That if I couldn’t even get the start right, I was really going to botch up the other bits. It was that same kind of dread which overtakes your stomach when you’re on a rollercoaster  and your peering straight down over the edge of the very earth. You are going to die! Yet, at the same time, there was also that awareness that the show had to go on. That I couldn’t give up. I just had to make it to the end.

Then, the strangest thing happened.

After stumbling at the start, I actually nailed the rest of the piece and it really did sound sensational as a duet.

I have a very patient and encourging teacher! A veritable angel!

Do you have any performance stories you’d like to share? Please share in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

Our Son and the Rescue Pup.

This afternoon, I was tapping away on my laptop, when I glanced over and spotted a priceless moment. Our son was snuggled up on the couch with our Border Collie pup, Zac (ie Isaac Newton)  watching The Good Doctor. It’s Sunday afternoon, which quite frankly should be declared a “snooze zone” before having to return to the realities of “The Week” on Monday. Hence, I’d slept in, and was still in my PJs. That explains how I managed to capture the moment. I didn’t need to leave the house, or even my chair. My camera was sitting faithfully by my side, just waiting.

Zac is almost 4 months old, and we’ve had him since he was a little 6 week old pup, along with his sister Rosie. Rosie was meant to be a foster pup, and simply passing through. That was before she got caught in our heart strings. Zac and Rosie have also become inseperable. After all, they’re more than brother and sister. Now that the rest of their litter has dispersed, they’re “twins”.

Rosie & Zac BW

Rosie (left) Zac (right). Not quite identical twins.

Of course, with such young pups, you don’t know anything about their personalities, psychology or outlooks on life. You can only base your selection criterion on things like markings and which pup comes to you first. I was the one who chose Zac, because he had distinctive black and white markings, which I thought looked more like Bilbo. Our daughter chose Rosie as she has a broad, white stripe on her face, which she thought looked like Bilbo. Rosie also has black spots on her legs, which I wasn’t too sure about, but others loved. Both dogs were looking short-haired and Bilbo and every other dog I’ve ever had, has been long haired. However, I reasoned that short hair is better suited to our beach lifestyle. It was a tough choice.

Zac was instantly “my dog”, and he was also the pup most determined to turn a  recalitrant, growling Lady, into “Mum”. Rosie palled up with the rest of the family and was a little more cautious about turning to Lady for love. It soon became clear that Zac and Rosie were inseparable, and that having both dogs could be much less work than the one. They could occupy each other.

Back at the end of June before the pups came along, our beloved Border Collie Bilbo passed away. He was 11 years old and we’d had him since a pup. Back then, our son was 2 years old and our daughter was crawling. So, not only had Bilbo seen the kids go through the childhood years, he’d also been with us through each and every up and down with my severe health struggles. I don’t know whether all of that made him a sensitive soul, but he certainly was a very special dog.

And, Bilbo was also a survivor himself. Indeed, he was only a young pup when I was admitted to hospital for about eight weeks and he went from having the kids and I at home almost every day, to me being in hospital, the kids staying at my parents’ place and Geoff getting home super late from work after touring Sydney seeing the rest of us every day. On top of that, the pup also lived through the trauma. A stress beyond stress.

 

Above: RIP Bilbo.

At least, that’s how we explain Bilbo’s act of determined destruction, which could have killed the wee pup. Bilbo went exploring under the house chewing the the wifi and computer network cables. When an exhausted and irate Geoff retraced his paw prints under the house, he found that Bilbo had even started chewing on an electrical cable and must’ve received a slight zap, which made him stop.

Obviously, that wasn’t the best of times for us.

So, when Bilbo passed away, he took a lot more than memories along with him. There was also the deepest and most compassionate empathy, and an understanding of us which came with walking through the valleys and mountain tops with us and in our hearts.

Lady kids coffee

Lady.

While we have another dog, Lady, she doesn’t have that same sense of empathy or emotional depth…and isn’t quite so melancholy either. She’ll greet you with an uber-enthusiastic wag of the tail, which could almost take your leg off. She has different talents, but she also doesn’t fetch which was a rather difficult gap for us to ignore. We are a ball throwing family and that requires a dog to fetch, even if he was an annoying, obsessed maniac  more often than not.

Zac & Rosie

Zac & Rosie when they first arrived, aged 6 weeks.

Wanting to let our emotions heal before we adopted another dog, we were going to wait until next year and get another pure-bred Border Collie. However, I got word through the pet rescue group that some Border Collie x puppies were coming in. I could also see that our son could use another dog  now. At the time, this was more of a vague hunch than a neon sign.  although until Zac settled in, I had no idea that he had such a special capacity to heal. A capacity not unique to him, but not universal among dogs either. That he has a gift.

Reversing up a bit, not long after Bilbo died, I caught the flu and a nasty respiratory infection. With my underlying health issues, such infections become life threatening and I developed a powerful, incessant cough which was absolutely terrifying. After losing the dog, the kids were particularly concerned this year and didn’t have Bilbo for support.  After all, it was hard times like this, that Bilbo had always been there for every single one of us. Shaken by such fear on top of grief, our son in particular needed the love only a special dog can give.

DSC_6977

That’s why I was so stoked to see our son so snuggled up and entwined with the dog today. As a parent, we so often feel like we’re flying blind.Even when we know we’re doing our best, it’s all to easy to feel like we’re floundering. That despite our best efforts and utilizing every single resource we’ve got, that we’re still getting sucked into the vortex and drowning…along with our beloved child. Seeing our son so relaxed, content fused with the dog and knowing we’ve all made it through the storm, was such a relief. An answer to prayer in a way that made so much sense and yet seems hard to put into words on the weekly praise list…RESCUED DOG SAVES TRAMATISED CHILD.

And, so I’m happy.

In addition to sharing my joy, this photo marks Day 4 of the Seven Day Black Photo Challenge, which a friend roped me into on FB. The idea is that you post a B & W photo every day for seven days and you nominate someone new to take up the challenge every day. Today, I’d like to nominate Trent from Trent’s World.

Have you have a special dog or pet who has whispered magic into your life? Please share.

xx Rowena

Gloat- Day 2 B& W Photo Challenge.

You have to congratulate me on today’s photo. Not because it’s particularly good and when I think of all the millions on photos on my hard drive, it wasn’t even among the best. However, I did think the Scrabble letters would translate well into black & white.

The real reason you have to congratulate me, is that I didn’t post another B & W dog photo. That I was able to pull myself away from the five beautiful dogs chewing on my socks and feet (well, make that the four pups. Lady is too busy sleeping or growling at micro pups who are still convinced this old cranky puss could still be their friend.)Yes, I was able to think about something else.

Well, I have been thinking of a few other things, such as my Irish Famine Orphan research project. I am researching and writing up the stories of around 25 young women who emigrated from Middle Workhouse, Cork to Sydney onboard the John Knox arriving in 1850. I am approaching this as a you have 25 people in the same boat and what happens when they all get out retrospective social experiment type thingy. To get to the story part, I also have to do the geneology of each woman and not having a huge budget (ie $0.00), I’m doing a lot of sifting and my head has become some kind of tabulating machine process names, dates, deaths. Or, in too many cases, being unable to find who she married and their story ends as soon as they get off the boat. That frustrates me no end, because it could well be these women who have the most exciting stories to tell if only I could find them. I am also a tenacious idiot and won’t give up long after it’s become such a cold case, it’s frozen over. BTW, my 4th Great Grandmother was one of those women hence my interest.

DSC_5696.JPG

Getting back to Scrabble, I managed to spell out GLOAT in a Scrabble match against my husband and son a few months ago. I don’t get to gloat very often when it comes to playing Scrabble against my husband but from memory, I actually won that round. My husband grew up in rural Tasmania and what with all that cold weather in the days before computers and electronics, they played a lot of Scrabble. Indeed, his mother who was a former school teacher, had a massive Webters English Dictionary they used. It’s almost the width of two house bricks.

Our 13 year old son loves playing Scrabble, and wandered into this brutal battleground. Feeling discouraged, I told him that we were training him up so when he played someone else, he’d beat them. I don’t know if that’s the sort of approach you’d find in the parenting textbook. However, my copy must’ve got lost in the mail years ago, because it’s never arrived. How about yours? Do you have one?

Anyway, I have to admit (or more like “confess”), that I was gloating when I finally beat my husband. I knew it was only because he got bad letters, and that he’d soon reclaim his crown. Yet, victory was sweet.

Do you enjoy playing Scrabble or other board games?

BTW I would like to nominate Kathy from Time No Matter to take up the Seven Day Black & White Challenge today.

xx Rowena

Love For A Thousand Years…Friday Fictioneers.

Being detained for importing acorns into Australia, Ciara had simply snaffled a few back from the family churchyard in Cloyne. She didn’t know how old that gnarled and crooked oak tree was, but had no doubt that her grandmother’s great grandmother would’ve climbed it as a little girl. After all, an oak could live for a thousand years. Now, Ciara planned to grow her own and watch her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren climb its branches and feel her arms wrap around them, even  centuries after she’d passed. They would know and feel her love…a love stronger than time.

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This week’s photo prompt is © Sandra Crook. Thanks Sandra for sharing this image of a very striking tree.

Perhaps, many of you are unaware that Australia has  very tight quarantine restrictions, which are strongly reinforced. Indeed, perhaps you might’ve heard of how Johnny Deep and his girlfriend brought their dogs illegally into Australia, which potentially could’ve introduced rabies with catastrophic consequences.

Many years ago, my grandmother brough heather back from Scotland in her luggage and planted it when she arrived home. She was her own woman right to the  very end and I guess so many of us feel that something small and seemingly insignificant couldn’t possibly cause an environmental disaster. Yet, it can.

I am in the process of tracing the journey of my 4th Great Grandmother through the Irish Famine and out to Australia. She was born in Midleton, County Cork and lived in Cloyne nearby as well, which has the most imaginative round tower and churchyard, which inspired my take.

BTW I have become a foster carer for an animal rescue group and we are currently fostering 5 week old kelpie pups, who are still largely bottle fed. Alot of fun but time consuming.

xx Rowena

Whoops! More Pups.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an urgent text. “My pups” were on the move, and ready for collection. These pups are two 5 week old kelpie pups,  and did I mention something  about being bottle fed? I didn’t think so. You know me. Blunder in where angels fear to tread only to find out about the details by default, when it’s all too late. Yet, it’s not everyday you have the chance to even see such young pups, let alone take them home. I don’t know about legislation where you live, but I think pups need to be 8 weeks old to be sold here. So, despite what should have been a healthy scepticism about taking on such a challenge, I jumped at the chance…the opportunity of a lifetime.

DSC_6833

Welcome to the dog house.

The pups are absolutely gorgeous and about the size of an adult guinea pig and have rolypoly tummies on stumpy legs. I don’t think they’ve been outside before and they wondered about a little like they’d just landed on a new planet. I’ll call that planet: “Do your business”. Although our house has literally gone to the dogs, I am TRYING to get them to do their business outside.

BTW, I know absolutely nothing about how to care for bottle-fed pups. Indeed, I didn’t even bottle feed my own kids until they were old enough that I didn’t have to be pedantic about cleaning all the bottles. By then, whatever was growing in those bottles was good for their immune systems…

DSC_6838

Mr and Yoda.

 

 

Just to fill in a few dots, I have volunteered as a foster carer for a local animal rescue group, Paws & Claws. I’m not sure how long “we” will be doing this. I am loving it and the pups are gorgeous, but we have our own pups to settle in and there will come a point where I’ll get the carpet cleaners in and at least have a break.

Or, more likely, I’ll be exercising the two pups we’ve adopted…Isaac and Rosie. I’m expecting lengthy daily exercise runs down at the beach. Actually, I’m hoping the pups will exercise themselves down at the beach while I bumble along at adult speed, instead of doing the “Flight of the Bumble Bee”. Of course, there’s also the possibility the kids might actually walk the dogs…

DSC_6828

Me and Our Pups.

Meanwhile, our pups went off to be desexed last week. This was done via key hole surgery. Zac was bounding around pretty quickly but Rosie also needed her dew claws clipped and so she returned with her back legs bandaged and a cone around her head. She finally got the cone and bandages off last night…happy days!

So, our house is currently a five dog household, which means us humans are outnumbered. However, before you start thinking we’re facing defeat, beings on bottles don’t have voting rights. So, humans still rule even if it is a case of only just.

Anyway, I’d better keep moving. I think I’m supposed to be sleeping when the pups are sleeping. Isn’t that how it goes?

Have you ever fostered humans or animals? How did it go? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share: 2nd October, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’re in luck today. We’re having pancakes, and you’re welcome to your choice of tea or coffee. BTW, you might also want to pop back later as I’m also thinking about making a banana cake. Sadly, my best intentions of eating fruit, have gone off while I’ve been procrastinating or eating chocolate. So, in a case of twisted logic, I have to turn healthy bananas into unhealthy cake to prevent waste. It’s simply goes against the grain to thrown even bad bananas out.

Sorry, I’ve been away for a few weeks and I’ve missed our chats. I’m glad to be back.

Zac & Rosie

Rosie left and Isaac “Zac” right.

A few weeks ago, we welcomed two pups into the family…Zac and Rosie. I’d become pet rescue volunteer, and brought two pups home with a view of keeping one and fostering the other. However, both pups have made themselves at home and they’re so much fun to watch and cuddle as a pair, that it looks like they’re both here to stay. A friend of mine also vounteered with this organization and fostered two cats. She also kept both and that was the end of her fostering days. I don’t know whether we’ll foster more pups. I’d love to but with three dogs, it’s pretty much a full house.

The kids have been on school holidays for the last week. Now they’re getting older, school holidays tend to be more relaxing and a break from the daily grind and driving Mum’s taxi. My daughter has set up a big 10 person tent in the backyard and has had a few sleep overs. That was a great idea. Both kids have also spent time with my parents in Sydney. Yesterday, we also had a three-handed game of 500 with our son, which was pretty comical.

As for myself, I’ve been having ongoing difficulties with a residual cough and breathing difficulties due to Spring burnoffs and hayfever. I have about 60% lung capacity on a good day. So, I have been feeling short of breath and staying inside a lot more. Unfortunately, this means that I haven’t been doing my daily walks and my fitness is dropping off a bit. Just like every other mere mortal who requires more than a cattle prod to hit the pavement, it’s been hard to overcome the inertia even though I know it’s only going to make it worse. Even though I know that to carpe diem seize the day, I need to exercise and maximise the lungs I have, the lure of writing and doing my research is hard to resist.

Speaking of my research, I’m actually in the process of turning my family history research into something more substantial. I might’ve mentioned before that my 4th Great Grandmother was a Bridget Donovan from Midleton in County Cork, Ireland and that she was sent out to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme as one of the Irish Famine Orphan Girls. Plucked out of the Midleton Workhouse, she was given a trunk full necessities to see her across the seas and start a new life in the colonies, where she was expected to marry and help ease the woman drought.

Well, after managing to reconstruct significant threads of her journey, I decided to see what I could find out about the 26 other girls who also travelled out to Sydney with her onboard the John Knox. This historical research game is very much like going fishing. You use your best bait and equipment, cast your line and hope for the best. Naturally, the girls with the more unusual names were easier to follow and you’re more likely to find snippets about people living in country areas unless they were either perpetrators or victims of crime or nasty accidents. Since the girls arrived in 1850 and gold was discovered in Bathurst triggering a massive gold rush,  not unsurprisingly I’m finding these girls getting married and heading straight for the gold fields. I am finding amazing detail in the old newspapers and in a marvel of newspaper forensics, I’m slowly building some kind of composite and am starting to sense a life, a person, character. I find all of this very exciting. All I’m starting out with, is often very scant details from the Irish Famine Orphans online Database and I’ve developed pages on many of the women I’ve researched so far. I think one has fallen through the net so far and I might’ve made a serious error on one and documented a few generations that aren’t hers but that’s ust between me and the gatepost at the moment. I’m just feeling my way through the dark and I’m just grateful to have found what I have.

I don’t know how you feel about history, but being a writer, it’s hardly surprising that I’m a storyteller and these old newspapers are just ozzing with fascinating stories, especially when you compare the 1850s to the modern bubble wrap era and add living in a frontier society for good measure. Moreover, being before the advent of the camera, there’s plenty of rich description and priceless little details of life “in the olden days”.

If you’re the researching type, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve become rather engrossed in my research and have shut myself off to the real world of 2017. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. As a creative, I do tend to feel that the real world is highly over-rated. Moreover, Australia is currently in the middle of voting about whether to allow same-sex marriage. In certain quarters, the debate has become quite heated and there’s quite a lot of hate on both sides of the debate and quite frankly I find all of that quite ugly. I’ve sent off my vote and wish people would just let others live and let live. There’s more than an element of self-righteousness too, which I nturally adhor and given the high rates of divorce and domestic violence, I struggle to make a case for heterosexual marriage, but perhaps that’s just me.

beach wide angle 2

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Anyway, it’s a lovely sunny day outside and it’s about time I hit the pavement and went for my walk. Better than that, the beach awaits. Yes, you’d think walking to a beautiful beach would catapult me straight out of this chair on a beautiful sunny day, but I know it’ll still be there tomorrow and the next day, while the opportunity to do nothing has become an impossible quest.

Now, it’s time for me to take my daughter and her friend down to the beach. No rest of for the wicked…or even the virtuous!

How has your week been? What have you been up to? I look forward to hearing from you.

xx Rowena

Family Life Lessons in a Game of Cards.

Today, we had a family game of three-handed 500 and had so much fun. Moreover, we even invented a new lexicon, which I’ll blame on the cards rather than the players. They could be incredibly uncooperative!

Although playing cards might sound like an activity for a rainy day, it was windy outside and we could even see the Spring allergens in the air with the naked eye. So, we were hibernating inside. Moreover, it’s not only school holidays here, but also a long weekend. While for some, this would signal an increase in activity, for us it meant doing as close to nothing as possible, which as it turned out, didn’t even come close. Our daughter needed to be picked up, and my husband and son went off to see a movie together. So, we aren’t such miserable sloths after all.

Anyway, with our daughter in Sydney, that left the rest of us playing three-handed 500. I know I’ve played this before, but it never seemed so brutal and unforgiving before. Today, it seemed that the person who won the bidding and played out the game was almost destined to fry and burn, and very promptly end up in negative territory. Naturally, the player most likely to hit rock bottom, was Mr 13 whose teenage love of taking risks got him into considerable trouble, which we ultimately dubbed: “The Minus Club”.

Even now, I still remember what it was like to play 500 as a 13 year old with my friends at school. I still haven’t forgotten the allure of winning the kitty…the curiosity. It had to be a pot of gold and I couldn’t possibly let anyone else pick it up. It was mine. Of course, it helped that we didn’t score our games. So, it didn’t matter if I went backwards faster than a speeding bullet.

However, with my husband, being one of those mathematical counting types with a mental calculator stuck inside his head, after a few practice rounds, we were scoring. Well, HE was scoring. I was jotting down some priceless family gems,  and as this game progressed, the pickings were ripe.

Now, this takes me back to Mr 13 who has been asking me to play 500 for weeks, but didn’t really know the rules. Moreover, he has no idea just how brutal a three-handed game can be, when your rivals pair up and you’re fighting for life on your pat malone.

So, when asked which suit he was going to bid on, he replied: “I’m playing eenie meanie miney mo”.

That didn’t sound like a good start.

Then again, I somehow managed to bid the wrong suit. I blamed that on the coffee not kicking in.

Meanwhile, my husband who is very difficult to beat at cards, Scrabble and chess, was having a bad day. We hadn’t taught our son Masare, so even though he probably had great hands for that, we just stuck with conventional bids. So, my husband’s gems for today included:

“Wanna play snap?”

“Who dealt this mess?”

“Blerk! Waiter bring me a bucket”.

My husband only bid about once throughout this game, which lasted a couple of hours what with my son and I returning time and time again to the minus club and my husband’s score creeping along at a rate of 10 -30 points a hand. That made for a long and very slow road to 500.

I reached my PB or personal best when I romped home getting 10 hearts. Those 250 points just managed to get me out of the sin bin at the time.

Anyway, all of this is leading me towards the grand finale…

I was the Champion!

Of course, I immediately jumped around doing the victory dance, singing “we are the champions”. Not because I’m a bad sport. Rather, it’s a rare moment that I beat my husband at anything. As for the whole thing of needing to beat my 13 year old son instead of letting him win, I say it was good for him. Will put hairs on his chest, as my Dad used to say. One of the most important things you can do as a parent, is to teach your child how to win and lose gracefully. Moreover, as he struggles to beat my husband and I, we’re training him to compete well against his peers. This is his training ground.

Yet, at the same time, nothing beats winning.

Well, that is unless you’re writing some mamby pamby piece about families spending quality time together and learning how to interact and communicate when devices are switched off. Then, it would all just be about bonding, creating memories and you wouldn’t need to keep the score.

Humph! We must be talking about someone else’s family!

Do you have any games you play to the death in your family? What are they? 

xx Rowena