Tag Archives: heroes

Breakfast With Rabbit & Julie

This morning Mum’s Taxi was on a mission. Dare I say, it was on a quest of epic proportions.

You see, our local radio station, Star FM, was broadcasting from my daughter’s school and we I was going to meet the hosts, Rabbit and Julie.

Sorry, Rabbit. As much as I love you and I truly thrive on the banter between you and Julie every morning, I was there to see Julie.

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“Yoo hoo! Julie! Rabbit! Look at me!”

I know that being a crazed, obsessed fan can be frowned upon. It’s not like the good old days when Davy Jones kissed Marcia Brady and she swooned: “I’ll never wash this cheek again.” Even if we laughed, we understood and such undying adoration wasn’t considered “odd”. These days, this kind of uber-fanaticism can land you in jail. Or, at best, you’re at the top of the suspect list if anything ever happens to your star…your guiding light.

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At least I didn’t  go to these lengths to get Julie’s attention. (The breakfast was supported by Poppy’s Pretzels…a great prop.)

However, at times, my enthusiasm gets the better of me, overtaking all restraint, decorum and anything approaching “cool”. Although I didn’t call out: “Yoo-hoo, Julie?!! It’s me!!!” while they were on air, I was a bit OTT (over the top).  As my daughter would attest, I am THE embarrassing Mum, but hopefully in a warm, infectious kind of way. At least, I hope that’s how my manic desperation to meet Julie Goodwin came across this morning.

You see, Julie and I go way back.

I first “met” Julie back in 2009 when she won the very first Masterchef Australia. It might have been eight years ago, but I still remember hanging out for the results. It was almost like waiting to hear who was going to host   the 2000 Olympic Games: “The winner is…”

What I liked about Julie back then, was just how unashamedly real she was and how she oozed personal warmth and love. Although, despite my best intentions, I’ve only used her cookbook a couple of times, I’ve felt her beside me through the last eight years, while I’ve been cooking meals for my family. Moreover, I’ve also talked to her in my head, when the kids’ their meals went untouched and she helped dull the rejection.

This is a form of rejection nobody prepares you for as a parent, and it’s very difficult not to take it to heart. Of course, your child isn’t simply rejecting their meal. They’re also rejecting your love. After all, we all know that a good dose of love goes into everything cooked at home.

Food rejection was and remains a serious issue with our kids. While the rest of the known universe is focused on reducing childhood obesity, my kids have been non-eaters. People would reassure me and say: “I’ve never seen a child starve to death”, but they weren’t the ones with a child struggling to stay in the 10th percentile for weight and about to pass out after school…and still not eating!

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I thought Rabbit & Julie might want to try one of my daughter’s glow in the dark birthday cookies. Then again…

As time went by, we found out our son was lactose intolerant and our daughter has gastroparesis. This slows her digestion and she doesn’t get so hungry and gets a lot of stomach pains. I also found out that both my kids are sensitive to food textures. They don’t like mushrooms as they’re slimy and don’t like “bits” in their food like sultanas either. I hadn’t really thought so much about the texture of food before, but I do now.

Back in those days when I had no idea what was going on, I thought about writing to sales guru Anthony Robbins, who could sell ice to Eskimos. See if he could get my kids to eat. Find out how he’d respond when: “Choo! Choo! Choo! Here comes the train!” doesn’t work. I truly wondered whether my kids would be his undoing. The only humans Tony Robbins hasn’t been able to budge.

Being a parent can get very lonely, especially when you’re battling something weird and unexplained. When other children need to lose weight but yours won’t gain, it does throw you. Moreover, with skinny being associated with beauty, its associated health problems can fly under the radar. At least, that’s until you hit the teenage years.

So through all of this, I’ve fiddled with food. Tried new recipes and I’ve even been teaching the kids how to cook for some time.

Julie Goodwin has been there beside me through all of that, patiently listening as I ramble away in my head or even have a full-on rant. And you know what, Julie never complains or criticizes. Indeed, there’s only been one downside…Julie’s never turned up at my door with a meal!

By the way, I should also throw in that while my kids weren’t eating, I was chronically ill and at times, fighting for my life. Through many of those years, being able to cook for my family was a luxury and nothing was taken for granted. Indeed, friends and people from Church helped us out with meals and so much more. So, the fact I was struggling to prepare the meals the kids refused to eat, really did add fuel to the fire…”Not happy, Jan!!”

When you’re living with chronic illness day in day out, those voices on the radio can provide some kind of salvation. I might not have had the energy to go out for a chat and catch up with friends, but I could listen to Rabbit and Julie.

By the way, there’s another little detail I wanted to share. If you were sitting in the back seat of my taxi, you’d hear that Julie and I have a very similar, beautiful yet unrestrained laugh. Our laughter ping  pongs back and forth at each other in my car, and I’m quite surprised the roof hasn’t blown off. You could say we don’t have the quietest laugh and when you times it by two, I’d say it’s infectious but others might day something else if you could hear them over the din.

Every morning, this laughter is life changing and the best exercise or therapy anyone would ask for. So, I thank Rabbit and Julie for that.

Moreover, I’ll just footnote that by saying that you never know how you might be impacting someone’s life and how easy it might be, to be that difference.

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It also says to me that if you are having a tough time or have simply been overwhelmed by the black dog, do something to help yourself feel better. Find someone, something which will help you laugh even if it is only for a few minutes while you’re driving along. Turn your radio on.

After all, a huge life lesson for me has been that it’s not just what happens to you, but how you choose to respond. That might not make immediate sense and you might find yourself saying but you don’t know what I’ve been through. You might even start going through “your list”. Well, I’d be recommending you throw that list out and start a new one… “The how am I going to get myself out of here list”.

It will be very empowering and the victim will become victorious!

Bring it on!

Is there somebody who brings a sparkle to your day? Please share!

xx Rowena

 

 

Mohammed Ali…Hero and Villain.

In a tribute to In a tribute to the late Muhammad Ali I am reflagging this excerpt from my book Rope Burns, which is to be republished in September 2016. By now you should not be remotely surprised to learn that one fine evening back in 1980 I somehow conspired to find myself perched on […]

via Muhammad Ali: Hero and villain — ianprobertbooks

A Lifesaving Journey with Anne Frank!

In the opening lines of The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne shared the excitement of unwrapping her diary: “Dear Kitty” …a gift for her 13th birthday. Likewise, on my 13th birthday, I had a similar rush of excitement when I unwrapped Anne’s diary, which was a gift from my mother, along with an empty journal to get me started.

Anne Frank writing in 1941.

Anne Frank writing in April, 1941.

Mum was forever trying to get me interested in reading but she also encouraged and nurtured my writing. When I was around 11 years old, she’d taught me how to spell “enthusiastic” and I was as proud as punch with my new word and liberally started adding it to my compositions at school to receive that all-important red tick and VG in the margin. That same year, Mum also gave me a thesaurus. Although it took me a few years to really master it, that precious book opened my mind to the real possibility of words and engendered a real love of words themselves. Words…not just as part of a sentence, or telling a story but words as individuals. All of a sudden, I could appreciate their unique sound and imagery in the same way you can appreciate the beauty in a single, musical note.

Anyway, having connected so strongly with Anne Frank, not unsurprisingly, I wrote my journal entries to: “Dear Anne”…the perfect friend and confidant. That said, to be honest, writing to her was a bit like staring in a pond at my own reflection. She knew, understood and accepted me in a way I didn’t even accept myself.

Of course, I wasn’t conscious of any of this at the time. I just wrote and wrote, pouring out my very troubled heart to Anne Frank in a way that I couldn’t with anyone “real” at the time. After all, who can? As we traversed the years, Anne became drawn into and even a very part of my heart of hearts.On reflecton, I suspect these outpourings to “Dear Anne” were like writing to a much older, wiser part of myself. An inner dialogue with and to that essential, spiritual part of my being, which The Bible describes as having God living within us.That God was somehow speaking to me through her words…or was that my words or even His words??? Ouch! I’m so confused!!

There were so many, many times when writing in my diary saved me from that swirling vortex of pubescence, which really can engulf a teenager and certainly wasn’t unique or peculiar to me…just part of growing up.

After all, being a teenager can be a very perplexing and challenging time. As if simply growing up wasn’t hard enough, when you add all those surging hormones and mind, body and spirit all get thrown into the mix, you have one very explosive pressure cooker. As parents often lament, it doesn’t take much for the lot to explode! Writing to Anne Frank via my diary, was a kind of pressure valve, letting out the steam before the pressure cooker exploded leaving splat all over the ceiling.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
― Anne Frank

Although I related intimately to Anne Frank, well you might question that connection. After all, we were two complete strangers living in such different worlds at different  times. What could we possibly have in common?

An snapshot of Anne's original diary.

An snapshot of Anne’s original diary.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
― Anne Frank

Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression and was actually the same age as my Great Aunt. Indeed, they were born only months apart, which has come to intrigue me. With the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the Franks fled to Amsterdam and ultimately went into hiding in the Secret Annexe where she was not only in hiding from the Nazis but was also living under the microscope in impossibly close quarters with her parents, sister and other residents. Indeed, she had to share her bedroom with an old, cranky male dentist, which seems highly inappropriate through modern eyes!! That would be a living hell for any teenager!!! Anyone!!!

Frank Family Photo May 1941

Frank Family Photo May 1941

What did I, a girl born in the late 1960s in sunny, suburban Sydney on the other side of the world during a time of peace and economic prosperity, have in common with Anne Frank?  The casual observer would say that a bad day was having to walk to school or fighting with my brother for control of the TV… such trivial concerns in the overall scheme of things!!

However, underneath the surface, my situation wasn’t quite that straight-forward, which was no doubt an another reason I connected with Anne Frank. We didn’t know it at the time but I was living in a weird sort of prison all of my own.

Anyway, beyond her circumstances, Anne Frank also expressed so much of the frustration, angst and confusion of being a teenager and she did so in such a way that millions have found solace in her words. Just like me writing away at my desk in suburban Sydney, millions of young women have also addressed their journals: “Dear Anne”.

Anne wrote about her strained relationship with her mother and living in the shadow of her perfect sister, Margot. She also felt that she was being constantly criticized by the other adults in the annexe who simply didn’t get her. These are experiences most of us can relate to and so through her words, we found a mirror of our own struggle as well as a much loved and needed friend and confidante.

I also related to Anne Frank as a person as well. We are both extroverts, wanted to be journalists and have inquiring minds. Both of us were obsessed with asking “why?”. We were both fascinated and intrigued by people and what makes them tick. We also struggled with our relationships with our mothers. These commonalities bridged the many, many gaps which lay between us. She was my friend, my confidante and at times, it seemed like the only person on this planet, who had ever walked in my shoes because we both felt a sense of being different, misunderstood and outcast.

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank also became the perfect soul mate for any teen, or anyone at all for that matter, who grapples with being different for whatever reason. Anne Frank’s sense of difference not only involved being a young Jewish girl being persecuted by the Nazis. Once living with her family in the annexe, her sense of difference stemmed more from everyone else in the annexe and it certainly wasn’t easy for her being the youngest and feeling like she was being treated as a child, even though she had become a young woman. At times, Anne feels persecuted by everybody in the annexe and feels she can’t do anything right. Haven’t we all been there?

“Although I’m only fourteen, I know quite well what I want, I know who is right and who is wrong. I have my opinions, my own ideas and principles, and although it may sound pretty mad from an adolescent, I feel more of a person than a child, I feel quite independent of anyone.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

However, as my journey continued beyond the turbulent teens, I outgrew calling my journal Anne, although I’ve never outgrown my love for her. Once I’d left school and started university, I discovered that people come in all sorts of packages and that diversity is a blessing, not a curse.When I was backpacking through Europe back in 1992, I visited Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, which was certainly an incredibly special, deeply,deeply personal experience. I have never forgotten what she meant to me and how writing to her saved a drowning soul so many times all those years ago.

It was only as my journey continued that I came to realise just how much Anne Frank had helped me. All my life, I’d felt different but didn’t know why. I had this deep sense and knowledge that something was wrong but couldn’t work out what or put a name to it. There was something deep and unfathomable going on and I searched, really ploughing the depths it all but it still remained a mystery. Once I reached university, I found out I wasn’t so alone and there were indeed thousands like me but still that nagging doubt persisted. Something was wrong.I developed an intense interest in psychology, philosophy, literature, prayed and wrote angst-ridden poems in an almighty quest to try and unravel my own inner mystery and somehow understand myself.

Meanwhile, I was diagnosed with serious anxiety.

It was only when I was around 27 when these seemingly vague symptoms stepped out of the closet and spiraled out of control, that the mystery was revealed. After feeling like the room was spinning round, I went to the GP who asked me to put my finger on my nose, a classic neurological test and I missed. He referred me to the neurologist and I was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a variation of hydrocephalus. Suddenly, a myriad of weird symptoms fell into place and the unexplained started to make sense. Apparently, I’d had this all my life and it was probably caused my my very difficult birth. Although the symptoms had always been bubbling quietly under the surface, six months after diagnosis, I descended into a neurological hell, which was right out of Oliver Sack’s: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.  I went on to have brain surgery and was given a shunt, which managed the pressure in my head. It was a long road back to anything approaching “normal” and I went through six months of intensive rehab where I learned to walk again (this time without staggering around with the broad gait of a sailor on a shaky skiff) and well as overcoming serious short-term memory issues and having virtually no ability to organise myself.

Unwittingly, Anne Frank helped me survive those torturous teenage years where the symptoms of the hydrocephalus were there but written off simply as “Rowena”. Since re-adjusting the settings, it’s been quite a journey…incredibly frustrating and slow moving at first but intriguing in retrospect. While I am still me, there are definitely traits that weren’t “me” at all and were symptoms which have since faded, if not gone altogether. Even now, almost 20 years after surgery, I am still noticing improvements but still have some lingering struggles.  I can now play the violin, ski but more importantly, I met and married my husband and have largely been able to look after our two children and the dogs. I also returned to work as a Marketing Manager, although chemo two years ago has put work on hold for the time being.

I am still an extrovert and full of all the contradictions I shared with Anne Frank and I hope, have a deeper sense of compassion for people who don’t fit the norm and maybe don’t have a “Dear Anne” they can call their own.

These days, I am also a parent and next year, our son will dip his toe into that swirling vortex of pubescence when he starts high school. Somehow, I can’t see him writing to “Dear Anne” but he does Scouts and plays the guitar and I hope these outlets will bridge the gaps for him.

Meanwhile, our 9 year old daughter dabbles with writing in her diary and also loves drawing in there as well. I’m looking forward to giving her a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank when she turns 13 so she can also perhaps experience that same connection I found so many, many years ago.

Last year, I stumbled across this interview with Anne Frank’s father, Otto, who spoke dare I say frankly about reading her diary. This is an absolute must!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWRBinP7ans

Did you ever write a journal growing up and any suggestions on helping boys get through the teenage years would be appreciated!!

xx Rowena

PS: I think you’ll all agree that Anne frank achieved this goal:

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
― Anne Frank

Lady is not one to let truth interfere with a good story…especially when it comes to boasting to all her mates about her wild adventures at sea. She might have only kayaked 3 metres off shore with assistance but she’s still an intrepid explorer! All it takes is a good photo. Yes, that’s right. Lady is off to explore the world. Can’t you tell?

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayak adventures.

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayaking adventures.

Hmm…Lady doesn’t exactly look like the intrepid sea captain here. She’s certainly rather drenched and looks a bit scraggly but she’s actually been for a swim.

Okay, so I wasn't quite going solo after all.

Okay, so I wasn’t quite going solo after all.

Lady is thoroughly enjoying the Palm Beach lifestyle and like us, will be struggling to adjust when we return to the real world.

xx Rowena

Overcoming Life’s Hurdles…A Tribute to Olympic Champion -Sally Pearson

http://instagram.com/p/OC4_Q8Maqm/

I have a new hero. This morning, I watched Australian athlete, Sally Pearson, take out the gold medal in the 100m Hurdles at the London Olympics. It was awesome!

Sally Pearson is my kind of athlete. She shares my weakness for the mighty Tim Tam but obviously doesn’t let a packet of so of the things get in the way of her Olympic dream. I bet she can even stop at one. I can too, you know!

Not being into sport, I haven’t watched much of the Olympics. Moreover, I usually cringe at the thought of sporting heroes. Just because someone is good at sport, it doesn’t mean they have integrity, character or the sort of values that should denote a hero. However, I’m open-minded. Being a sports person shouldn’t disqualify them either.

I had no intention of getting into the Olympics. I loved Sydney 2000, attended a few events and even had my photo taken with the Olympic torch. Like everybody else, I was also running around everywhere chanting: “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” like a complete lunatic but that was then and this is now. The Olympics are over there…in London…literally on the other side of the world. Bu­­t you know what it’s like when you have kids. You get drawn into things. My daughter’s class was following Sally’s Olympic journey and I was sort of pulled into the slip stream. So in between painting the Olympic rings and the Olympic torch, the kids and I started jumping to attention every time Sally Pearson’s name was mentioned on TV.

To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really heard of Sally Pearson before the Olympics but what I started out as an educational experience for my daughter, has became a motivating and insightful moment for myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m having a bit of a rough time fighting my auto-immune disease at the moment. I dodged a bullet on Monday when even my specialist thought he was going to be admitting me. I’d even taken my pyjamas and toothbrush with me (haven’t done that before) but went home a free woman instead.

I am still on 50mg a day of prednisone and that is unsustainable but survivable short term. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride emotionally speaking but creatively, I’m on fire doing some amazing stuff. Being a creative soul, I could almost say it’s been worth it but the stress has been phenomenal and it’s been really hard on our family. That kind of stress is to be avoided literally at all costs!

I have also picked up a nasty viral infection and I’m coughing my lungs out all night. Every night, I am hovering on the edge of calling the ambulance but somehow manage to make it through the night.

So you can see how I might be needing a hero at the moment!

Sally Pearson inspires me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I like somebody who can jump over hurdles at great speed and win. After all, jumping hurdles takes guts. I remember doing hurdles at school and feeling rather defeated before I even got started. Those hurdles looked huge, enormous. It was like trying to jump over a tower. I know I baulked at them. Moreover, I’m sure I thought I was going kill myself if I actually hit the hurdle. I’ve always been a drama queen.

When it comes to jumping life’s hurdles, I’m not always quick off the mark either. Just do it, Ro! Get on with it. The more you procrastinate, the worse it gets! The more you gaze at the mountain, the higher it gets. We all know that but it’s another thing to actually do it.

Sally Pearson conquered the hurdles at speed, seemingly without a second thought. However, I’m sure her brain was processing things at a thousand miles an hour. Even a gold medal athlete doesn’t conquer hurdles without a lot of mental and physical processing! She just made it look so easy!!

Secondly, Sally Pearson won gold in the rain. If you live in a country where it rains or drizzles a lot that might not mean much to you but around these parts, things come to a grinding halt when it rains. My Mum was allowed to stay home from school when it rained when she was a kid. Sally won in the rain. She didn’t let it get her down. She didn’t stop. She got out there and she won gold…the ultimate reward.

I can do it too. Don’t let the rain stand between me and my dreams. Get on with it!!

Thirdly, Sally won by .02 of a second. Initially, I thought about that being an insight into how you need that competitive edge to win. It was such a tight, tight margin. Then, I saw another way of looking at it. You only need to be a very small step ahead of your adversary. I have always seen my auto-immune disease as a separate entity code-named “Dermie” and when things get bad, he’s like a malevolent creeping, lurking shadow… a stalker.  It’s never been part of me or who I am as a person.

Now, I only need to be .02 of a second ahead of Dermie to win! That sounds so much more achievable. I can do it but I know I’m in for the long haul and I will need to have the commitment, dedication and focus of a gold medal athlete to win the race. There is no room for complacency, defeat or turning my back on my foe. I need to fight for my life before my life depends on it! We all face this fight. It isn’t a glamorous journey. There will be no gold medal accolades but I just want to see my kids grow up and to be well enough to enjoy it. I also want my husband to have his wife and my parents to have their daughter. That seems like such a small request and it is I hope, quite achievable but it will be a fight.

As I said, this is a battle we are all waging. The distinction is that I am conscious of my battle. Most of us are quite oblivious. I know I was.

Sally was also competing under incredible pressure with the entire world watching her…so many fans willing her to win but there are always those wanting to see the tall poppy fall. She won gold under all that pressure and she didn’t crumple. She won gold…not just for jumping those physical hurdles but all those mental, metaphorical hurdles as well.

I have just watched an inspirational interview with Sally Pearson. I really felt I was running the race inside her head, inside her heart. Seeing things how she saw them. It was so amazing and such an encouragement now that I’ve decided to take inspiration from her success. There were a few quotes I liked: “Nothing hurts at the moment. I’m walking on a cloud”, “they almost got me but they didn’t”. “You have to push yourself to limits.” “All I could see was the yellow of Australia”, “You’ve done this a hundred times before. Get out there and do your thing.”

I’ve also Googled Sally and found an insightful interview. Sally hasn’t had the easy life and has fought against adversity. She’s been independent and has always been a fighter. That was very encouraging too. That ironically adversity can fuel your success, instead of just bringing you down. It reminds me of a quote by Australian photography sensation Ken Duncan which I stuck on my whiteboard last week:

Stumbling blocks are stepping stones to victory.

You can read the interview here:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/the-sunday-interview-sally-pearson/story-e6frexni-1226051679724

So congratulations Sally Pearson. You’ve won a gold medal on and off the track. You’re simply the best!…along with Olympic cyclist Anna Meares.

Anna’s story is also inspirational but that’s someone else’s story to tell. Suffice to say that Anna Meares made an astonishing come back from a very bad cycling accident at the World Cup in January 2008 when she broke her neck. It is just amazing to think that you can break your neck and then go on to win Olympic gold. Another incredible inspiration!

I hope these stories encourage you to jump your hurdles whatever they might be. They’ve certainly inspired me!

xx Rowena