Tag Archives: growth

Life — A “choose your own” adventure?

So many of us have experienced the difference between “education” and “schooling”. However, I have never seen that difference expressed so succinctly than in this post by educator Norah Colvin. It is a MUST READ!! xx Rowena

Norah Colvin

This morning Hub mentioned a book he had read about and asked if I had heard of the author Wayne Dyer. “Of course,” I replied and proceeded to explain that I had read many of Dyer’s books, had gone to a seminar to hear him speak and had been swept off my feet by accompanying speaker Deepak Chopra. I mentioned that a favourite book of his was marked now by a gap on my shelves, a phenomena recently mentioned by both Caroline Lodge, who blogs at book word and talked about missing books, and Anne Goodwin, who blogs at annethology and talked about the dilemma of lending books.

Wayne Dyer I think there may be more than one missing from my self!

Deepak Chopra I think. looking at these titles, its time for some re-reading!

This favourite book, read and lent many times, What Do You…

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The Dalai Lama and the Psychiatrist Converse.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m reading “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler.

Although I don’t usually write book reviews, I’ve made an exception in this case and I’ve been so inspired by this book that I couldn’t wait to finish the book to share my glee. I’m only halfway through and I definitely can’t put it down (except to update the blog and touch base with the family).

I strongly recommend you do whatever it takes to read this book and to read it slowly and carefully. I read such books with my pen and write notes to myself and underline text and use the book as a notebook. For me, I guage how good a book is by how much ink I’ve scribbled all over the pages. So, on this basis, this book is doing brilliantly.

Before I read the book, I must admit that I was a little uneasy getting too engrossed in a different religion. Although I’m a Christian, I do read very broadly but at the same time I wondered whether reading this book and absorbing the thoughts of the Dalai Lama was going too far. That I was crossing over into foreign soil and that when it came understanding happiness, I should turn to my Bible first.

However, while they certainly address Buddist beliefs, the book has been written as a series of life-lessons for a Western, largely American, audience and it doesn’t delve into the spiritual in an overbearing way at all.

Indeed, in many ways it reminded me of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and “Tuesdays With Morrie”.

“The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

As the Dalai Lama explains, “We attempted to present to the reader a systematic approach to achieving greater happiness and overcoming life’s inevitable adversities and suffering. Our approach combines and integrates, hopefully, the best of East and West—that is Western science and psychology on the one hand and Buddhist principles and practices on the other.1.”

“In The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, the Dalai Lama offers a good first step when pursuing any positive goal: Learning. If our objective is happiness, we need to begin by learning about the benefits of happiness. The recent scientific evidence has identified a wide array of practical benefits of happiness extending far beyond merely feeling good–including better physical and mental health, longer life, stronger relationships, greater career success, higher income, and many other personal rewards.

One of the fundamental principles of The Art of Happiness is that cultivating greater happiness not only benefits oneself but also one’s family, community, and society. There is new scientific evidence supporting this principle as well. Such evidence helps dispel our common cultural biases and myths, such as perceiving happiness as a somewhat “soft” or frivolous subject, or considering the pursuit of happiness to be self-centered or self-indulgent”2.

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

This book is also about so much more than happiness. It also looks at sorrow and has a whole chapter about compassion, including a meditation exercise. Being part of 1000 Voices for Compassion (http://1000voicesspeak.org/), I really appreciated that chapter. It added quite a lot to my understanding.

The book is also very helpful for writers interested in personality, what makes people tick and how to create really complex, more diverse characters. There’s quite a lot of discussion about what makes people tick…or indeed, not tick. After all, this is more of a book about people than just happiness itself.

I’d also like to add that the Dalai Lama doesn’t pretend to be able to solve everybody’s problems and acknowledges there are people facing very complex problems. He doesn’t pretend to be able to fix these any better than anybody else. However, he does offer a few tools, which might help.

When you consider that one of these tools might say alter your path by 10 degrees and perhaps another by a further 10, you are now 20 degrees away from where you were originally heading. Perhaps, this place is no different to where you were but it could be. There’s that hope. I often think that making these seemingly small changes can make quite significant difference over time.

I must admit that while this book is a new to me, it did spend 97 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list so obviously thousands, maybe even millions have beaten me to it and that could well include you.

Have you read it? In which case, I would love to hear your thoughts and how it might have impacted on you.

xx Rowena

Sources

1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/howard-c-cutler-md

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-c-cutler-md/learning-the-art-of-happi_b_374134.html?ir=Australia

3. His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler: “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living”, Hachette Australia, 2003.

Creating Space to Grow Up.

Until recently, I’d never consciously considered how much space my kids needed to grow up and truly reach their potential band and that without this, their growth could be stunted.

After all, we all need space to grow…just like a tree. An acorn could never become an oak if it had nowhere to stretch out its extensive branches.

However, in the expediency of getting by, it’s easy for the jungle to take over both physically and metaphorically and our growth is stifled.

veggie patch beginnings

veggie patch beginnings

In many ways, our kids have a lot of space. We have a backyard where they can explore a myriad of possibilities. Indeed, after the weekend, we even have the makings of our very own veggie patch. They also have our two dogs, Bilbo and Lady, to play with. There is seemingly plenty of room to move. Moreover, there’s also the beach just down the road where they can gaze out to the horizon and let their imaginations wonder far across the sea. That’s if we actually get there.

Indeed, there’s plenty of space for their minds, bodies and spirits to expand for growth.

However, while there’s all that space out there, their bedrooms are another story.

To be frank, they’re absolutely stuffed. Stuff keeps going in but little goes out. You could say it’s been the result of too much love, a soaring imagination and my obsession with op shops where I keep finding the most incredible things very cheap. It’s not uncommon for me to have piles of things waiting for them when they get home from school and despite my enthusiasm, they’re usually so ho-hum about them all. I’m lucky if they even look up from Minecraft long enough to roll their eyes!!

Our daughter's impressive three-storey doll's house is on the move.

Our daughter’s impressive three-storey doll’s house is on the move.

Anyway, just like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, all that stuff couldn’t possibly stay in there forever and the big regurgitation process has begun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhbHTjMLN5c

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids' bedrooms.

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids’ bedrooms.

Yes, stuff is literally spewing out.

Much of this is hastily dispatched into the boot and off to the op shop before anyone can change their minds.

However, there are also the left overs, which of course, none of those annoying decluttering “experts” never discuss.

Yes, indeed they never mentioned “no man’s land”.

Anyway, what all the cluttering experts conveniently forget to tell you is that the clutter gets incredibly worse before it starts to get better. That’s because most of your cupboards are packed like a loaded spring and once you start releasing the pressure, the stuff explodes all directions just like an exploding dandelion. The upon release, your clutter plants itself in some fertile corner of your house, grows roots and re-establishes itself somewhere else. These self-sown cultivates are then often joined by those hapless homeless items which keep moving round and round your house from the kitchen table, into the bathroom, the bedroom and perhaps even packed into storage.

Consequently, as a result of this “declutter” process, we have our son’s car bed and our daughter’s huge doll’s house sitting in our lounge room. That’s in addition to the sofa bed we brought back from Palm Beach which is perched in front of the piano, which I’ve been trying to give away for at least a year to a Mum who can’t seem to collect it. We also have a procession of tables and an old sofa bed to move on out the back. Our overcrowded house is indeed starting to look like a departure lounge for a gang of furniture allsorts.

As much as I'm looking forward to getting the doll's house out, it's hard to part with these personal touches.

As much as I’m looking forward to getting the doll’s house out, it’s hard to part with these personal touches.

While the decluttering Nazis can seemingly throw anything out without even a drop of sentimentality, I personally find all this change and transition quite stressful. While I’m delighted that my kids are growing up and becoming more independent and developing their own personalities, I just don’t know how much to let go. There are so many memories etched into their precious things and yet there’s way too much to keep. Indeed, I’m starting to feel like I’ve swallowed a push-me pull-you and I’m paralyzed between going forward and moving back, which should, at least in theory, place me in the present but I’m not so sure!!

Yesterday, for example, I came across a toy rainbow lorrikeet which sings when you press its tummy. Of course, you’d say to keep that. However, when I tell you that it’s beak and eyes are missing, you’ll say: “broken…toss!!” but when I tell you that Bilbo chewed it’s face off when he was a puppy and he’s now approaching old age, then that poor damaged lorrikeet tells more of a story that something brand new and pristine.It tells a story of growing up, growing old and ultimately moving on to that great blue doggie heaven in the sky.

Needless to say, the lorrikeet stays.

Yet, I’m fed up with having no space, wading through the mess on the floor and the arguments over cleaning their rooms. There’s so much stuff that we’re all feeling completely overwhelmed and quite frankly, I just want the lot to disappear. Poof!

Anyway, as I said, the kids are growing up and they can’t grow up without anywhere to move. Childhood slowly but surely needs to give way to … drum roll…the teenage years.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

While this might be a period of dread for many parents, it feels less daunting for me than facing the terrible twos, although we’re not there yet. Although our 9 year old daughter thinks she’s already there, our 11 year old son, at least, seems blissfully unaware of what lies just around the corner when he starts high school next year.

It turns out that Minecraft does have some virtues, after all!!

So instead of simply writing about sorting that mess out and procrasinating

    , I’d better get back to it.

    Time and the tide of clutter waits for no one.

    xx Rowena

Nurturing Love: #1000speak

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

John Lennon

Palm Beach Perspectives, Sydney, Australia.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

-Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180 CE)

Known as Summer Bay to lovers of the TV Drama series Home & Away and “Palmy” to those in the know, generation after generation have made the long drive up to Palm Beach often returning with sand-encrusted butts, sunburn and shocking tempers in a stinking hot car full of flies. Of course, that’s turning the clock back to the inimitable 70s when going to Palm Beach for us, meant piling into the family’s beloved HG Holden which had painfully hot upholstery and no air-conditioning. Ouch!

Palm Beach is located 41 kilometres North of Sydney’s CBD. However, I can assure you that if you’re catching the legendary L90 bus, welcome to eternity. Indeed, the journey takes around 2 hours. If you were traveling in Europe, you could well have traversed a few countries in that time. Moreover, bus is the only form of public transport. At least historically speaking, trains have been resisted.

On the other hand, if you are coming from the Central Coast, Palm Beach is only a stone’s throw away. You can catch the Palm Beach Ferry from either Ettalong or Wagstaff, which is an absolutely stunning 30 minute trip. When that gorgeous Australian sun is illuminating the ocean like a magical diamond carpet and the wind isn’t too strong, you’re in absolute paradise. On the other hand, when there’s heavy rain, strong winds, the ferry is heaving up and down through what feels like treacherous surf and you’re about to throw up; you feel like you deserve a bravery award once you reach the other side. Yes, at times like that, you even wonder if you’re about to become a modern version of the Swiss Family Robinson or remake Gilligan’s Island. Melodrama aside, the crew are very adept and the ferry is cancelled during particularly rough weather.

Palm Beach is an absolute kaleidoscope of perspectives, like any place, once you scratch beneath the surface. Obviously, creating that sort of mosaic, isn’t possible here so I’ll stick to the bigger picture, providing more of a broad-sweeping overview which a few “local” insights.

Geographically-speaking, Palm Beach has two quite opposite perspectives: the surf beach and Pittwater. The beach equals waves and swimming while Pittwater is “flat” and better suited for sailing, kayaking and other water sports.

Palm Beach- surf side

Palm Beach- surf side

Starting off with the surf beach, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the sand is deep gold in colour. The next thing, is the surf. At the Southern end, the waves are relatively gentle and you have “kiddies’ corner”  where families with young kids hang out. There’s also an ocean pool where you can swim laps. The beach then stretches around towards the Northern end with it’s famous surfing breaks and culminates with the Palm Beach Lighthouse, which lies perched on top of the headland like a crown. If you are fit and energetic, you can walk up to the Lighthouse. I haven’t been up there for years and I’ve heard the path has improved but it used to be more of a climb than a walk.

The majority of swimmers are clustered “in between the flags”. The red and yellow flags mark where it’s safest to swim and is patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers. So, if you find yourself getting into difficulty, you can easily be spotted and rescued. I can assure you that as a teenager, my friends and I did consider needing a bit of CPR but never actually implemented these plans. We were all “talk”. That is, except when it came to talking to the lifesavers. These Adonises were in a league all of their own.

In a scene reminiscent of hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top of bread and butter (fairy bread),the crowds pour into Palmy from Christmas through to the Australia Day weekend at the end of January, which signals the return to school and the end of the precious Summer holidays. Then, the masses jostle for a precious rectangle of sand to park their towel on the hot,hot sand under the scorchingly hot Australian sun.

Although people living overseas have asked me about the hole in the ozone over Australia, it doesn’t look like all the sunbakers roasting themselves into early-onset melanoma have heard anything about it. When we were young, we used to to cover ourselves in baby oil or get sprayed on the beach by coconut oil, which was the height of sophistication back in the 70s and 80s. There was no such thing as a “fake tan” back then. Just sunburn, peeling skin, freckles and the odd genetic mutant who could actually pull off a tan.

Many years ago now, I used to hang out on the beach where designer sunnies were de rigeur and it certainly wasn’t the sort of place you’d turn up with hairy legs and arm pits which could fuel a forest fire. You didn’t just practice “the strut” at Palmy either. You had to have that down pat beforehand so Palm Beach could be your catwalk. Even better, if you also had the fingernails to eliminate your competition!

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

While the beachfront is renowned for flashing incredible wealth in a subtle, understated way and very much being “a scene”, the Pittwater side of Palm Beach is like it’s alter ego and incredibly down to earth  Understandably, there generally isn’t that fashion element you get over at the surf beach. Getting covered in sand and mud, we save our good clothes for back home or dining out and only wear our glad rags out there. It’s water shoes, wet suits, swimmers, grungy t-shirts and thick smears of sunscreen and broad-brimmed hats.

Although my tour of Palm Beach is rapidly drawing to a close, there are still two places I’d like you to visit.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman's Basket.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman’s Basket.

Firstly, there’s the infamous Palm Beach fish and chips shop, which has gone by various names over the years. It’s located on the Pittwater side, just across from the ferry wharf. People come from all around Sydney and the Central Coast to feast on these fish and chips, which surely must be among Sydney’s best?!! You can either eat-in or take them across the road and eat them in the park while checking out the sailing.

Secondly, there’s Alf’s Bait Shop in “Summer Bay”. Personally, there’s such an incredible cringe factor and like Neighbours, Home & Away is best exported but the show has been a fabulous ambassador and no doubt sold Australia to thousands of tourists. Palm Beach really does look incredible. That said, they usually present a glamorized, postcard perspective. After all, it does rain in Palm Beach and it isn’t always sun and blue skies!

However, while so far I’ve given you what pretty much reads as the glamour tour of Palm Beach, I can’t help feeling that Palm Beach is a little over-rated, especially given the cost of real estate. Even though it is part of Sydney, Palm Beach is actually very isolated and lacks most of what I would class “essential services”. There are no proper supermarkets and you have a ten minute drive into Avalon, which can extend to 20 in traffic. It is impossible to find a parking spot, which has meant that we’ve gone down for fish and chips and have driven off. I don’t want to knock down paradise and put up a parking lot. However, you do need to eat and get out of the house. That is also made difficult by the very narrow, twisting roads which lack adequate footpaths/ Indeed, in spots being a pedestrian is almost asking to get run over. As I was walking back from the bus stop the other day, I really felt like I needed to breathe in to distance myself from passing traffic.

Consequently, you can feel a little trapped and claustrophobic on the “insular peninsula”…especially when we have stunning beaches back home which are close to the shops, train and bus at such a fraction of the cost of real estate here.

Actually, thinking about Palm Beach’s location, it’s almost like someone was playing pin-the-tail on the donkey and stuck the pin almost off the side of the map. Even though it’s located in Sydney and not in the outback, it does feel strangely isolated both from services and people. So many of the houses are empty.

I am a bit down on Palm Beach at the moment because my Dad has sold the house here and we’re moving on, which is a serious wrench.

So rather than writing home about all the things I love about the place, I am also trying to remind myself of all the other equally beautiful places elsewhere and think about the flip side of the travel experience. For the last few years, we’ve immersed ourselves here but perhaps now it’s time to explore further afield and explore with a broader brush. When it comes to the Pittwater side of Palm Beach,it feels like we’ve explored each and every single hair on its head…especially when I’ve photographed it in such incredibly, minute detail and it feels like I know each single hair on its head, even though we’re still finding new critters.

So, soon I will be seeing our time in Palm Beach from another perspective…the past. I don’t need to leave it behind completely. After all, it’s only a short 30 minute ferry ride away but we planted roots here even if they’re uprooted and not severed completely, it still hurts and I feel a bit lost and disorientated. That said, once school goes back next week and we’re back to the grind at home, it will be a different story.

We’ll be home.

This has been P for Palm Beach Perspectives for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Thank goodness, it is Sunday tomorrow and we have a break!

xx Rowena

Feeding Life Lessons to My Kids.

This being the second week of the school holidays, I’d personally like to turn all the life lessons I have ever read into some kind of breakfast cereal and shovel it into my kids quick smart whether they’re hungry or not. This is what parents did back in the Victorian era and it seems like a much better idea than being glued to electronics, especially when the outdoors is so incredibly beautiful, serene and finally sunny!!

Moses wasn't too happy with his peoples either.

Moses wasn’t too happy with his peoples either.

I know ramming the Ten Commandments down their throats might seem a bit “old school”, “traditional” and potentially a form of social control. However, perhaps deferring to a higher authority is what I need. After all, as soon as their father arrives home, the little mischief makers do exactly what they’ve been told and fall into line. Don’t you think calling on God’s almighty divine intervention snap them to attention even faster than: “Do you want me to go and call your father?”

While I absolutely adore: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran whose poetic language just flows like heavenly music, The Ten Commandments cut straight to the chase and pretty much cover all the bases. I also like the sense of hell fire and brimstone, which is infused in the “thou shalts” of the King James version as well.

Perhaps, I should start using a few “thou shalts” of my own around the house:

  1. Thou shalt listen to your mother.
  2. Thou shalt do your chores.
  3. Thou shalt wipe your own backside.
  4. Thou shalt not fight with each other or with your parents.
  5. Thou shalt not whinge, whine.
  6. Thou shalt accept: no means no!

You know I actually felt quite empowered by the “thou shalt”. I think I shalt add it to my arsenal.

Our kids do scouts and as everybody knows, the scouting motto is: “Be prepared” and a big part of it involves being able to pack for camp. This is, as it turns out, an incredible life lesson. Scout’s does a fabulous job preparing kids for this by providing a packing list for each and every camp, which even has a visual diagram. It is hammered into the Scouts that although they can have assistance, they must pack their bags themselves. Moreover, as I still have lingering chemo brain myself and have never been good at packing light anyway, I find the whole thing too stressful . Yes, I know. Even though it might be a very good life lesson for me as well, I’m avoiding these packing nightmares like the plague. I am now getting to the point of tough love too! You don’t pack it, you deal with it!!

As you might have gathered, I’m over it. Maxims like “flogging a dead horse” and “pushing shit uphill” definitely come to mind.

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way"-"Oklahoma".

“Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way”-“Oklahoma”.

Anyway, while I’m waxing lyrically about life lessons for the kids, I need to consider a few for myself. It’s a sunny day in paradise and what with all the rain we’ve had, these are precious…particularly as we head towards Winter.

So without further ado, the kids and I are off to walk the dogs along the waterfront before the tide comes in. After all,

The tide waits for no (hu)man!

Edmund Burke

Stay tuned for part 2. How could I write just a few paragraphs on such an inspirational topic?

L is for Life Lessons in the A-Z Challenge. The letter L official marks our halfway point. Hurrah! Not that I’m wishing it was over but it is called a challenge for a reason. It’s challenging!

XX Rowena

The Acorn

You walked through
the school gate with hesitation:
a blank page with your name scrawled
crookedly in the corner.

An acorn planted in fertile soil,
you germinated.
Bursting through that constricting shell
too small for you to grow,
you poked through the soft earth,
a tender shoot reaching for the sun.

As your shoots headed for the sun,
your roots tunneled deep
towards the very centre of the earth
soaking up the spring rains
and you flourished.
Anchored to the ground,
reaching for the sky,
you were firmly planted.

At least,
that was in my dreams.
Sadly, even a fruitful journey
is full of storms and contradictions
and even blue skies burn.

I watched your leaves
change colour with the seasons;
their illuminated palette glowing
like stained-glass windows
backlit by the glorious sun
and bare sticks persevering
through another winter’s chill.

I shielded your tender stems
against those howling, winter winds
and quenched your insatiable thirst
all summer long.

At first,
I always held on tight,
holding your hand,
paving the way
trying to teach you
everything I knew.

But then…
little by little,
I let go…
just enough
for you to grow.
For I knew one day
you would have to stand alone.

DSC_8646

II
I don’t know who played
cruel tricks with the clock
and even meddled
with the very hands of time
but you’re no longer a sapling.
You’ve become a tree,
even growing acorns of your own
and I don’t know where
all those years have gone
or how to get them back.

Oak Tree, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Oak Tree, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Anchored to the soil
through your enormous trunk,
your mighty branches now
stretch right across the sky
with strength, persistence and endurance,
through sunshine and rain,
providing homes to the multitudes.
Birds build their nests
singing great morning choruses
as ants march up and down
carrying bulging loads with great intent.
Children build cubby houses
climbing towards the sun
laughing and having fun
while you smile proud,
oozing with life and love.

I am so proud
of all you’ve become!

III

DSC_8650

Now, it is I who needs
your strength
as my leaves change colour
falling to the ground.
Slowly but surely,
the colours wear away
until only the veins remain
and you are helping me
across the road instead.

DSC_8711

I don’t want to go
but we each reach
the end of this road.
and as the cycle goes on,
the oaks need to leave room
for the acorns to grow.

IV

You entered the gate a boy…
a blank page
with your name
scrawled crookedly
in the corner
but now you’ve emerged…

a man.

On 17th December, 2009 I wrote the very first version of this poem. It was the day after our son finished his first year at school and he was still only 5 years old. I had been struck by how far he had come in that year. When he arrived, all he could do was scrawl his name in the corner of a big, blank sheet of paper but by the end of that year, he was writing tentative sentences and was reading quite well, even if sitting still and concentration weren’t his thing.

I have reworked the poem many times since then and have even extensively reworked it today.

Mother & Son played by actors Ruth Cracknell & Garry McDonald.

Mother & Son played by actors Ruth Cracknell & Garry McDonald.

The relationship between mother and son weaves its way throughout the poem, which reminds of of a favourite show: Mother & Son, staring Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald. I don’t kno whether you’d describe it as a comedy or a tragedy but Mum in the story has dementia and Garry McDonald plays her middle-aged divorced son who is still living with Mum but probably not by choice.

Mother & Son
: “The Funeral” clip: http://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/mother-and-son-funeral/clip1/

Time has certainly flown past. He is now 11 years old and is in Year 6…his last year at Primary School. Next year, he’ll be passing through a different gate when he goes off to High School. His journey hasn’t progressed as smoothly as the fairly idealistic path depicted in the poem and life hasn’t been smooth sailing but he is finding real maturity now and growing up inside as well as in terms of height. We are very proud of him!!

This poem remains a work in progress and I wonder if it will ever be finished.

However, I wanted to share it with you.

Moreover, today is 1st April and the beginning of the Blogging From A-Z Challenge which takes place in April each year. This is the first time I’ve participated and I’m a little bit daunted about tackling the technical side of it all but sometimes, you just have to hurl yourself straight off a cliff and keep running!!

Love & Best wishes,
Rowena

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

Compassion: Should you carry their load?

If you have been following my blog over the last couple of days, you will know that I have been participating in a global blogging movement 1000 Voices Writing for Compassion and it went live on Friday for the United Nations Day of Social Justice.  So, I have been spending what time I could over the weekend immersed in compassion, love but also a fair amount of cynicism and hurt..

I have uploaded a few posts but my main contribution was a somewhat humorous post: Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/compassion-fatigue-a-light-bulb-moment/

In this post, I warned about the signs of compassion overload, which could leave you at risk of compassion fatigue (which isn’t something to joke about, by the way):

“if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.”

Jen, from Driftwood Gardens http://driftwood-gardens.com/ suggested: “As far as the ant is concerned, my philosophy would not to be help him carry his load, but rather to leave him to his business instead of squashing him underfoot.”

That was a very insightful comment because there is that delicate balance between helping someone and dis-empowering them, which ultimately achieves what it describes. It takes away their independence leaving them unable to look after themselves, even when they might be quite able. Psychologically-speaking, this is known as “learned helplessness” but in everyday speak we call it: “use it or lose it”.

In the Unexpected Journey-Life”, Ameena from Ramblings of a Random quotes:

The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to rely on, lean on, blame on.
The gift is yours-
it is an amazing journey- and you alone are responsible
for the quality of it. This is the day
your life really begins. – bob Moawad

You can read more here: https://randomsbyarandom.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/unexpected-journey-life/

All this thinking pressed even more buttons inside my think think think tank  and I remembered this excellent pearl of wisdom;

Education: a form of compassion.

Education: a form of compassion.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
-Maimonides

Of course, my daughter looked at this quote and pulled it to bits: “What if their fishing rod breaks?” “What if they have nowhere to cook it?” “What if they wanted to eat something else?”

Gee, I wonder why I’m going grey?

After reading the many posts which were uploaded for 1000 Speak , I am rethinking how we help others and whether we should be providing long term, intensive assistance. Instead, shouldn’t we be educating and empowering people to find ways around obstacles through education, lateral problem-solving as well as finding ways to draw out and develop their strengths, instead of only seeing weakness and what they can’t do? This way, we can all extend, stretch and become ourselves in every conceivable way instead of being stunted like a bonsai. An oak is meant to be an oak stretching its branches right across the sky. It was never meant to be a table ornament!.

Speaking as a person with a disability and when my auto immune disease flares up, I can become severely debilitated while my meds get increased to sky high levels. I sometimes get angry when I get stretched too far, especially as I have been doing this while parent two young, very active children . However, if I was never stretched, I wouldn’t grow and find out what I’m made of.  In the last few years despite these health issues, I’ve learned the violin and now play in an ensemble and I have also learned to ski. While this seems like a miracle, it was actually the result of incremental small steps, perseverance and persistence.

This seems to point to being stretched enough to challenge but not so far that we snap. Unfortunately, given the lack of support for people living with severe chronic illness or disability (by the way, anyone in the “severe” camp you could well have both) many are currently living in dire straights where even basic food and cleaning requirements are sadly lacking.

When it comes to helping people with perceived weakness, we should never assume they can’t do something, although it might be considerate to politely ask if they need a hand. I’m forever leaving my walking stick behind and am very thankful when people chase me to give it back. I have tripped, injured myself and dropped handfuls of things and appreciated assistance and lauded the “Good Samaritan”. A friend of mine has given the kids lifts to and often from school and friends have also minded the kids when I’ve had medical appointments (I have lots of these). We appreciate meals from friends or Church particularly during rough patches but I am also training my kids to cook and I am adept at cutting corners as well as doing the gourmet thing. I just choose my moments. Meanwhile, I try to give back and I photograph events at the school and write press releases to help out where I can.

After spending time with people with fairly significant physical disabilities, I have been quite surprised by what they can do both in terms of the everyday but also through incredible feats like climbing Mt Everest or completing the Kokoda Track. These achievements actually make me look twice at able bodied people wondering why so many are glued to the couch.

Moreover, when we step in and carry someone else’s load, we not only stop them from growing and reaching their God-given potential but we also stop them from developing resilience. I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard about resilience because from where I sit, it’s that  magic ingredient that allows empowers us to roll up our sleeves and get through adversity.

I loved this definition of resilience:

1.the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

However, encouraging and nurturing people to reach their potential doesn’t mean we should cut people who are struggling off without a safety net. Without the financial means to lead a dignified life, which for many people living with chronic illness or disability means a pension. We should never be left to fend for ourselves out on the street. Some of us can’t. We might be able to find ways around hurdles or pull off significant physical challenges for some one-off quest but that is different to what it takes to maintain a full-time job day in day out…especially while juggling medical appointments and procedures which I’ve heard so many describe as “a full-time job” in themselves.

Perhaps, what I’m suggesting is that we offer a hand without taking over or accepting a gracious “no” if our assistance not required. We can also share our resources, I guess through the village which Lizzie Rogers wrote so eloquently about here: . We all have different strengths and weaknesses and by pooling our resources, we can all benefit: T.E.A.M: Together Everybody Achieves More.

At this stage, this post is very much a work-in-progress and me thinking out loud in a bloggy kind of way and so I would really appreciate your ideas and feedback as these ideas are rather complex and probably something that requires more stewing but I wanted get it posted before 1000 Voices for Compassion finally clocks off in an hour’s time.

After over-dosing on love and compassion over the last couple of weeks. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. you can’t overdose on love. Anyway, after all of this good stuff,  I’m feeling 10ft tall…a tree which has outgrown so many, many expectations.

Year after year, the cleansing rains fall and the rejuvenating sun shines through my leaves and warms my soul. My leaves change colour, fall and decay recharging the soil and feeding the worms working unseen. Children climb my twisted branches while their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles shelter under the shade of my lush, green leaves. Families of birds nest in my leaves and sing each morning greeting the dawn. Possums swing from my branches at night and sleep in my hollows by day. Falling acorns spread my mysteries to foreign shores…or at least just further down the street. Sorry, there aren’t any koalas here. I am an oak tree, not a eucalyptus.

Anyway, time waits for no one and it’s time to quickly upload this before the bell tolls.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: This is a huge and very sensitive topic I’ve bitten off and really addressed on the run. Already, I am coming up with further points.

For all of us, there is an issue of quality of life and finding ways of giving us meaning. So, if we can cut corners in some areas so we can have enough energy or finances to do what matters, that’s sensible. I know a very inspirational person living with a disability who uses a wheelchair, rides a bike and can walk somewhat. Using the chair extends what she can get done but she is still maintaining her fitness and mobility. I used to think you either used a wheelchair or you didn’t not that you could do this juggling act, which is yet another way of empowering the individual!

I also wanted to mention finances for families living with chronic illness. I would estimate that many families with either a sick parent or child are in effect living on half an income. That one parent can’t work and might get some small amount from the government and then the illness chews up the other half of the income and then there’s what’s left and you’d better snaffle that up quick before the kids get hold of it!!

 

 

A wet and misty day in paradise.

A wet and misty day in paradise.

 

Looking very much like a scene from a Northern winter, it's summer in Sydney...not quite your postcard perspective!!

Looking very much like a scene from a Northern winter, it’s summer in Sydney…not quite your postcard perspective!!

Happy Australia Day 2015! It’s overcast, wet and even the cricket has been delayed.

Just in case you didn’t check out yesterday’s post, this was yesterday:

Mister still roasting as a very hot Australian sun sets.

Mister still roasting as a very hot Australian sun sets.

 

People often tell you that tomorrow is another day and most of the time I’ve politely nodded while feeling highly sceptical, cynical and plain unconvinced. How could my entire world change completely overnight like waving a magic wand? Surely, there would just be more and more of the same and one day surely follows another. Why would it change?

Well, overnight, we have seen an absolute change in the weather here in Sydney. Yesterday, there was blue sky and the sun was blazing overhead like an oven. I’ve always meant to actually test whether you can actually fry an egg out on the raod on days like that but eggs are rather messy and I always seem to forget. I’m sure someone somewhere has tried and can tell me if it works but that would somehow spoil the magic.

While our last day in paradise has been spent indoors, I was watching a few yachts sail past and even a couple of what I could only call zealous kayakers paddle by and then I realised that they were out there carpe diem seiziing the day despite the rain. I didn’t know whether that was a good thing or just blind obsession but as much as I love going out in the kayak, I don’t like that sensation of having wet raindrops patter again your skin. It’s sort of creepy…as in scraping fingertails down a chalkboard kind of creepy. No, I’ll stay inside.

That said, I am considering a swim in the pool. It was so balmy warm last night. You see, it has solar heating and we haven’t adjusted the settings so it was like swimming in a balmy soup. Yes, it’s going to need a good dose of something when we leave. Unfortunately, at those temperatures it’s going to become amoeba soup.

We will be heading back home tonight. Tomorrow, will be our last day of school holidays where we will be quickly trying to adjust our body clocks to the inevitable early mornings and trying to get all our ducks lined up for the real new year.

At least, I’ve made a list.

Sadly, something tells me that we’ll be relieved just to pull up at school on time with hair done, shoes on and something in the lunchbox. We are still struggling to implement our scouting motto: “Be Prepared”!!

By the way, I still have the boot on my broken foot as we start the new school year and the operatic cough is starting to look like I’ve had whooping cough. While this might excuse me from being wondrously organised for the start of the new school year, that isn’t going to help the kids get a good start or perhaps aiming well beyond our station…actually, get ahead.

Wish us luck!! We really, really need it!!

xx Rowena

Greetings from Good Dog.

This is Bilbo.

Recently, you heard from my offsider, Lady, when she snuck onto Mum’s blog. Now, it’s my turn.

Well, I’m the other dog around here…the good dog.

Indeed, I used to be the only dog until my solitude was rudely interrupted by the arrival of that young scallywag, Lady. She certainly knows how to turn an old dog’s world upside down and inside out but I’ve finally come out on top and put that little royal whippersnapper in her place… right at the very bottom of the pecking order!

I know you think the dog protests too much. Somehow, friendship seems to grow on you when you've been thrown in the same backyard. You can somehow get used to having another dog around. Indeed, after all this time, I might even like the Lady.

I know you think the dog protests too much. Somehow, friendship seems to grow on you when you’ve been thrown in the same backyard. You can somehow get used to having another dog around. Indeed, after all this time, I might even like the Lady.

Sure, I’ve made a few mistakes in my time but I’ve never had the audacity to actually jump on top of the family’s dinner table and eat their dinner. As we all know, it doesn’t pay to bite the hand that feeds you and eating their dinner is a one way trip “outside!!!”

Or, when you’re the new dog on the block and they’re still getting to know you, it can be a way one trip to that place of no return at the top of the hill. I’ve heard rumours about that place, although I’ve never been there myself. Of course, I haven’t been there. I’m a good dog.

I used to be an even better dog. However, what with the kids and the new dog leading me into all sorts of temptation, I’m not quite as good as I used to be.

Indeed, last week the kids let me out just as the postman was going past on that evil two-wheeled contraption of his. Normally, being the good dog that I am, I would have just laid perfectly still at the open front door with my front paws curling ever so slightly over the front step. I don’t move an inch and make no effort whatsoever to join in with the kids’.

Oh no! I’m renowned for my impeccable obedience. Mum and Dad are so proud of me! They even tell the kids they should be better behaved… just like the dog!

That makes me ever so happy! I’m the happiest dog around.

Oh what a good boy!

Oh what a good boy!

That said, my reputation isn’t without its stains. After all, nobody’s perfect.

You see, I can get a bit grumpy with visitors. However, I prefer to see it as being “protective”. After all, who is that person who keeps picking the kids up in the morning? Can she really be trusted? I know they reappear in the afternoon but really?!!

I’ve already warned you about the postman. They might think he’s bringing them all those precious eBay purchases but you can’t be too sure. This is my family we’re talking about and I’ll defend them to the death. I just need to be a bit more careful. Although I’m the first one to recommend barking ferociously at the postman, I’ve heard biting the posty is a capital offense. That it will be: “all over Red Rover.”

When you’ve been a good dog all your life, you really don’t want to your end to come on death row. So as much as I might want to keep that posty away, I’m not about to thrown my life away through some impetuous response. Next time, I’ll start my deep breathing exercises and slowly count to ten before I lunge off my front step.

If you don't want your sun to set before your time, you need to watch out for foolish behaviour.

If you don’t want your sun to set before your time, you need to watch out for foolish behaviour.

Anyway, although I have another story up my sleeve, it’s time for me to go. Lady told me to keep it short. Anyway, now that I’ve finally worked out how to use this weird computer thingy which always sits on Mum’s lap instead of me these days, I’ll be churning out the stories.

In other words, I’ll be back!

So it’s love and paw prints to you all until next time (That is, unless you’re the Posty, someone who rides bicycles or drives our kids to school),

Bilbo xxoo