Tag Archives: Jesus

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Love & God Bless,

Rowena & Family

PS We’re about to evacuate to my Aunty’s place. This is my solution to not being about the get the house, kids, dogs, self Christmas-ready.

Now, we’re off to jump in our sardine tin to  join the conveyor belt to Sydney.

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

That Christmas Black Rain Cloud.

“There is a little black rain cloud,
Hovering over my Christmas tree.
There is a little black rain cloud
paying too much attention to little me.”

Words adapted by Rowena Curtin  and sung to Winnie The Pooh – Little Black Rain Cloud.

Is it just me? Or, are you also feeling that despite all the joy, Christmas cheer, tinsel and flashing lights, there’s something not quite right with your “Ho! Ho! Ho!” That you’re struggling to squeeze into the spirit of Christmas and it doesn’t quite fit.

Not that I’m all dark, gloomy or in anyway Scrooge or Grinch-like. It’s just that sometimes, I can get really annoyed with Christmas. I don’t know whether there’s a term like “Christmas Rage”, or the “Christmas Depths”, and that’s before I even get to absent friends. Of course, no one likes an empty seat or any form of change at Christmas, even if it is only the discontinuation of Molly O’Rourke’s famous Irish Whisky Cakes 1945-2014 RIP.

Anyway, today I thought I’d just  run through a few of the dark shadows, which can jump out and bite us  at Christmas:

A Few Shadows of Christmas.

Christmas OCD

This describes that desperate pursuit of the perfect Christmas. It’s characterised by that uber-achieving Christmas newsletter, mowed lawns, dogs washed, groomed and teeth brushed; tree with matching decorations, colour-coordinated Christmas clothes. You get the drift.

CDOCD- Christmas Decoration OCD.

This relates to the meticulous selection and placement of Christmas decorations, particularly in the Christmas tree. Generally characterised by having a colour theme and having one decorator in charge, while the rest of the household spectates or evacuates to watch TV.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

No one likes an empty seat at Christmas.

SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This is where your mood is affected by the seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s due to the shortened hours of day length. In Australia, it’s caused by excessive sun baking, insufficient sunscreen leaving your skin redder than a Santa suit.

Failure

Christmas is a really difficult time of year to be unemployed, sick, homeless, dumped or even just being your little old self. Having to face family and friends when you’re feeling like @#$% can be the last straw. Been there. Done that. Sort of stuck in this gear and have now acclimatized, but would still love to be a Big Shot or at least get a book published. At this point, even A Little Golden Book would do.

Silent Night

Unfortunately, this relates to so much more than the Christmas carol. There’s the silence of not being able to find your CD of Christmas carols. Then there’s the silence of spending Christmas alone. Worse still, there are those broken relationships where the walls have become so high, that even the Spirit of Christmas can’t get through.

Stickytape-Itis

On a much lighter note, after finishing off my wrapping today, I’m adding Stickytape-Itis to the list.

Does stickytape-itis need any introductions or explanations? Of course not. We’ve all battled to find the stickytape, cellotape or whatever you might call that stuff which sticks to your fingers and just about everything else except the wrapping tape. Meanwhile, the end of the sticky tape goes missing and you’re going round and round in circles like a dog chasing its tail.

It’s enough to drive you crazy and could very well be that tipping point, which pushes a normally sane and sensible person over the edge of madness.

……

So having brought up all these issues, I guess you’re wanting me to come up with some preventative measures or kind of treatment. However, I’m sorry. I’m just the messenger and I have no psychological credentials whatsoever.

However, what I can suggest is letting all the expectations go…just like a helium balloon floating way across the sky until it’s out of sight. This might take a bit of practice, but you’ll soon find out that you won’t die if someone adds a green decoration to your purple and silver themed tree. That it’s not the end of the world when the dog eats your handmade Christmas Cake leaving you nothing but crumbs. That is doesn’t matter if you neither give nor receive Christmas Cards, presents, pudding whatever. I am thankful that God sent us Jesus at Christmas time and I am also mindful that we can’t take the ones we love for granted. That while it might be hard to focus on each other every single day, that we can at least be more conscious of family and friends at Christmas and truly savour the people who mean the world to us.

Life is too short to let anything get in the way of that.

We but not only carpe diem seize the day but also make the most of each other.

Love & Blessings for Christmas and the New Year,

Rowena

PS When it comes to dealing with little black rain clouds, especially ones hanging over our special moments like Christmas, perhaps we should simply borrow cupid’s bow and arrow and shoot the darned thing down. One pop…and it’s gone!

 

The Meaning of Christmas Cake.

Last night, I was making my Christmas Cake.

In case you’re not familiar with what we Australians know as “Christmas Cake”, it’s a boiled fruit cake crammed with sultanas, currants, raisins and prunes soaked and boiled in sherry. The next day, glace cherries and almonds are added to the mix, along with the usual cakey ingredients. It’s very much a British tradition, which has immigrated along with the settlers to the Antipodes.

Christmas cake 2014 zoom

Our Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

There are so many steps to making a Christmas cake, each almost being an essential pre-Christmas ritual. So, let’s get started.

The first step is to boil up the dried fruit with the sherry, lemon and orange juice on the stove. If you have never experienced this smell, you are really missing out. As I hunch over the hot stove stirring the fruits with my wooden spoon, all those smells tantalize my senses, heralding Christmas. Indeed, I’d swear my nose was even twitching. Wow! It smells amazingly good!

Then, you leave those fruits in the fridge overnight to stew.

In this era of instant everything, it almost feels unnatural to wait for anything. Yet, this waiting process seems quite appropriate for a Christmas cake. After all, so much about Christmas involves waiting…How many sleeps? Where’s Santa? What am I getting for Christmas?

So, the Christmas Cake is simply being in synch with the rest of Christmas with all its waiting and delays.

The next day, we move onto the baking phase.

jonathon-jan-2007

Our son sampling the mixture, aged 3.

This starts out with the ceremonial beating of the butter and brown sugar, watching them spin round and round in my Sunbeam mix master. They’re like two people falling in love and becoming one flesh, as they dance round and round the beaters creaming together. That’s when fingers and spoons invade the bowl for mandatory testing. You’d be surprised how things can go wrong in the beating process, and how multiple tastings are required… just to be sure!

Then, you add the eggs. Even if you deplore Christmas Cake, I guarantee you’ll be licking the spoon once you taste brown sugar, butter and eggs creamed together. Not only do they taste delicious, but they have such a smooth, creamy texture which truly dazzles your taste buds. Yum!

More mixture disappears.

And a bit more!

There’s still plenty left.

Then, even a bit more mixture disappears onto a passing spoon.

Time to add the flour and spices before there’s no mixture left!

Next, I throw in the halved glace cherries and slivered almonds and it’s into the tin. More slivered almonds are sprinkled on top, and the Christmas Cake has finally made it into the oven.

Strange how there’s still so much mixture left behind!

Of course, some of that has been put aside for the mini Christmas cakes I make for my Dad. Dad has a pathological aversion to cinnamon so I always make him his own. My Dad looks very much like John Cleese playing Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. So, it’s a wise move to keep him happy, as we don’t have Manuel on hand to keep him in check.

However, it also seems like such a waste to cook all of that scrummy mixture, especially when it’s only going to become Christmas Cake.

Funny that I could ever deride the sacred Christmas Cake!

How soon I forget! Three years ago, I had a round of chemo to treat my auto-immune disease starting the week before Christmas. Indeed, I literally was singing: “all I wanted for Christmas is chemo” in my head that year. After all, without the chemo, I wouldn’t be here now. So, despite its hardships, it was more of a celebration than an ordeal.

This is where the Christmas Cake enters the story. I had three days’ notice before chemo began and do you know what I did in that time? I made my Christmas Cake and I posted my Christmas cards. That’s what was important…along with my family.

I had to remind myself of that this year. Now that the pressure’s off and my health has vastly improved, making the Christmas Cake wasn’t quite happening. Indeed, I only made it last night with 6 sleeps to go. I was really struggling to get myself moving!

That’s also because I’m not a huge lover of fruit cake. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Christmas, I’d never make any kind of fruit cake. I much prefer chocolate cake and have been known to mix the boiled fruits in with a chocolate cake mix before. That was yum! The boiled fruits also mix in well with ice cream. Indeed, the boiled fruits can be very versatile, if you’re willing to let go of tradition heading into the great unknown.

rowena-santa

Photographed with Santa aged 6. Unfortunately, the photo needs a spruce up.

I’m not quite there yet. I still need a slice of Christmas Cake with my cup of tea and my parents particularly love this Christmas Cake. After all, I make my mother’s recipe, which she adopted from her university friend Deirdre. They go back a long way and so does this Christmas Cake. I’ve been eating it for something like 47 years now. It’s a keeper and I hope my kids continue to  make it wherever they are and whatever their world is like when they grow up. Who knows where they’ll be in 47 years? Yet, like any parent, I just want them to be happy (which is often the most elusive “achievement” of all!)

You can find the recipe and a previous post about the Christmas Cake here.

You might also enjoy reading about Christmas Cakes: here. I found it a very interesting read.

Do you have any Christmas baking traditions? If so, I’d love to hear all about them and feel free to share your recipes.

Love & Christmas Blessings,

Rowena

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

We would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To those of you who celebrate the birth of Jesus, also wish you a Blessed Christmas and for those with Jewish beliefs, we wish a Happy Hannukah. Happy Holidays isn’t part of our Australian vernacular.

I have always loved seeing how Christmas is celebrated in different cultures not just in terms of food but also sun versus snow.

Vintage Ettalong Santa Truck 2008 Pearl Beach

An Australian Christmas, Santa on a fire track, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

So, I’d like to share a guest post I wrote over at Solveig Werner’s Blog: A Stinking Hot Australian Christmas http://solveigwerner.com/2015/12/17/advent-calendar-day-17-a-stinking-hot-australian-christmas-by-rowena-newton/#comment-2801

After all my ranting and raving about celebrating a scorchingly hot 40°C Christmas, the weather has shown up my bluff and we’re looking at 26 °C with possible rain. Humph? Rain???? Who on Earth has been praying for rain right before Christmas? No! It’s supposed to be blue skies, sunshine…a perfect Christmas Day!

Bilbo & Lady

Merry Christmas from Bilbo & Lady

Anyway, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Love,

Rowena, Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo & Lady!

Punishment Versus Justice: Two Australians Executed in Indonesia.

“What I would like people to see in him is the person he had become – not the stupidest thing he ever did.”

Matthew Sleeth, Melbourne artistwho worked with Myuran Sukumaran.

For the last few months, I’ve been anxiously following the pending executions of convicted Australian Drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Although I’d considered their actions incredibly stupid at the time of their arrest, as I learned of their radical transformation inside prison, my attitude changed. I, like so many others, sought clemency and did what we could to get behind the campaign. For me, that was very little but I did write to my local Member of Parliament and I posted this on my blog:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

Meanwhile, I watched as a pack of fiercely loyal and determined supporters fought for clemency like dogs pursuing that proverbial bone. Throughout this campaign, the men admitted and owned their crime and nobody denied that they’d done the wrong thing. Just that they had changed and didn’t deserve to die. It is my understanding that their lawyers were seeking a reduction in their sentence to life in prison.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

After all, since being incarcerated, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were changed men. Not just on the outside, but in their hearts and in their souls. Both men became Christian and Andrew Chan became a Christian Pastor while in prison. While being Christian is no guarantee of perfection, the men had definitely changed: inside and out. Myuran Sukumaran became an accomplished artist under the mentorship of Ben Quilty and Matthew Sleeth and shared this gift with other prisoners. Both men have also helped their fellow inmates to reform and change their lives by teaching them life skills, so they too could be reformed and return to their communities better men.

On 29th April, 2015 those hard fought hopes were completely dashed when Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by a firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan at 3:35am AEST.

Although I’d been anticipating the worst, there was still that glimmer of hope. However, then news reports showed coffins bearing their names and date of death, forecasting the very worst. I could sense that rising tide of incredible despair and dashed hopes. Even though I hadn’t been following case closely until recently, I had become emotionally involved, getting those awful, sick in the depths of my stomach feelings. As far as I’m concerned, you didn’t need to know the men to have a heart for their situation and to hope that against the odds, things might just turn around.

As long as there was life, there was hope…even if it was fading fast.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

Against these increasingly bad signs, we still clung to hope by our very fingernails. Surely, the Indonesian President would finally see reason? He would have the courage and capacity to change his mind and to acknowledge that these men had reformed. That they were no longer the two young criminals who had conspired to smuggle heroin into Australia.

It wasn’t looking good.

I guess for so many of us who could see and understand how much these men had changed and how they were now contributing to the world for good instead of bad, this was hard to understand. That, although they shared the same name and the same skin as the men who had committed this very serious crime, they were, indeed, different. They were new creations. These men no longer deserved to die.

That is, if they ever did.

Yet, despite trying to move incredible mountains and the Indonesian President, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed. They are dead and their bodies returned to Australia for burial on Saturday, ten years after their arrest.

What does this mean now? How are we to understand and process their deaths? Were they martyrs? Heroes? Modern Ned Kellies? (Ned kelly was an Irish-Australian bushranger who was hanged for his crimes but has become somewhat deified)

Or, indeed, were they vile criminals whose intent to import heroin into Australia could have ruined so many Australian lives?

I don’t know but many have done far worse and never paid for their crimes…just received a slap on the wrist!!

One of  Sukumaran's last paintings depicting the bullet hole through his heart.

One of Sukumaran’s last paintings depicting the bullet hole through his heart.

This case has certainly publicised the death penalty, which is probably something your average Australian has given much thought. That is, since competing in their high school debating team. We don’t have the death penalty here so it’s not an issue that crops up all that much. Prior to this case, I certainly hadn’t given it much thought.

However, given my unwaivering faith in humanity’s capacity to change, I can not support it.

That is because I truly believe that everybody has the capacity to change and even radically change their lives if they want to. This isn’t change being enforced from the outside in but rather coming from the inside out…from the heart. The science of neuroplasticity has also proven that even changing our thoughts, can change the very physical structures of our brains.People can and do change. The trouble is that we then need to forgive and give people a second chance, which is not so easy or so straightforward.

We all know someone we have loved and cared about who has been troubled either by mental health issues, drugs, addiction and yet we’ve been absolutely powerless to save them from that relentless downward spiral. At this point, it is so often said, that they have to hit rock bottom before they get back up. That the only way they’re ever going to wake up to themselves and all that they’ve become, is for them to face the music…whatever that might be. Sometimes, people can somehow exit the spiral before they land in jail, commit suicide or indeed, attempt to smuggle drugs out of a country with the death penalty. However, sometimes they keep going and going to a point of no return. They reach a point where it’s very difficult, if not impossible,to return. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people or they come from bad families. Perhaps, they’re just sheep who have wandered too far away and get captured by the wolf (in whatever guise) before making it home.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we each have a dark side. All have sinned. While there is a huge difference to holding a party when your  parents are away versus smuggling heroin out of Indonesia, it’s still breaking the rules.

So in the wake of what is a tragedy on so many levels, I hold my own children close to my heart and in my prayers. They need to understand that there are consequences for their actions and know that no matter how much you try to undo the past, sometimes what’s done is done. Prevention is so much more effective than depending on a cure…an undoing. Sometimes, no amount of undoing can rewind the clock and you do end up paying the ultimate price.

This was also the message which Andrew Chan left for his baby nephew Kai:
“I love you Kai, keep looking to Jesus, trust in his ways and learn from my mistakes. ”

There is much debate in Australia about how these men should be perceived. While I don’t want to put them up on a pedestal, these changed men truly became an inspiration. Despite living under the omnipresent shadow of the death penalty, they turned their lives around showing that no matter how bad it gets, even as a convicted drug smuggler facing the death penalty, you can still change your heart and live for good and even preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. You truly can be a new creation!!

Michael Chan, Andrew’s older brother, described his last moments:
“He said there were three things he was going to do — he is going to sing all the way there and he done that and he said he is going to wear his Penrith jersey and he is not going to wear the blindfold, he is going to look them in the eye. He did all of them.”
Michael said knowing how his brother acted in the final hours and minutes made the horror of what happened more bearable.
Michael said hearing about his brother’s bravery, courage and dignity in the face of such a dreadful end had brought a rare smile to mother Helen’s face in what has been a nightmare ride.
“That put a smile on her face to know those hours leading up to it that that’s what he did and how he held himself,” he said .

It is still too soon to appreciate their long term legacy. In the short term, the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia has been recalled. Moreover, a strong campaign to fight the death penalty, particularly in Indonesia, has been mounted…the Mercy Campaign http://mercycampaign.org/
As Andrew Chan said:
“This campaign is more than just about myself or Myu. It represents a second chance and forgiveness, it represents kindness and help for those in a helpless situation. Mercy represents all of us here.
I would like you to take a moment and reflect just on the word mercy. Please don’t let this just be about myself and Myu, but about others all over the world who need your help.”
— Andrew Chan

This quest has  been taken up my artist Ben Quilty. He wrote this message on his Facebook page:

“Joko Widodo tonight you will kill two good men, my friends. I want you to know that you may take their freedom and their lives, you may rob their fellow inmates of the support and love that both men have offered and provided for so long, you can turn off Myu’s imagination but you will never kill the memory of them. I have promised Myu and Andrew, their parents and their siblings, that I will fight against the death penalty for the rest of my life…”

So after considering their crimes, their radical transformation, and their horrific deaths, I am reminded of the words of Moriah Carey’s “Hero”. Not because I see them as heroes but because as reformed men facing their crimes and their deaths, they were heroic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IA3ZvCkRkQ

“Hero”
There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

[Chorus:]
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It is my heartfelt prayer than anyone considering trafficking drugs will learn from their example and do whatever it takes to pull back and walk away. Live for good. Know to look after your body, mind and spirit and think about how you are attacking yourself through drugs and then also putting your family and friends through hell as well. Also, offer others that same respect and don’t see selling drugs as a way to make fast money. All too often, it ends a one-way mission.

Meanwhile, my heartfelt condolences go out to the Chan and Sukumaran families, their legal and spiritual teams and those close and dear to them who fought so tenaciously for clemency. You never gave up. I also think about the many, many people around the world who have been touched by their lives and their deaths. Just because we do not know them or their families, it doesn’t mean we do not care!I send you my love.

Love & God’s richest blessings,
Rowena

Sources:

http://www.smh.com.au/world/bali-9-executions-andrew-chans-letter-to-the-nephew-he-adored-20150501-1mxxdl.html
http://www.news.com.au/national/michael-chan-tells-of-andrew-chans-pledge-before-execution/story-fncynjr2-1227329311248
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3063852/They-best-agonizing-days-Myuran-Sukumaran-realized-dream-artist-longed-says-former-teacher.html

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that 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.

IMG_0061

There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

A New Year’s Wish: Ask what you can do for your world!

The countdown is ticking: 10,9,8,7,6,5,,3,2,1..Happy New Year!

In the light of recent tragic events, I sub-consciously found myself reworking the words of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, in  this rogue terrorist era where there seems to be no respect for national boundaries, this variation seems far more appropriate:

“Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for your world- Rowena.

It is my heartfelt desire that we now extend our vision way beyond our own back pockets. As overwhelming as it may feel at times, somehow we need to attain a more global perspective and not just switch off because it’s” happening somewhere “over there .  We need to switch on to both the good and the bad of what’s happening elsewhere and have a heart. It is our world and it’s the only world we’ve got. Moreover, both spiritually and environmentally, it’s pretty obvious that it’s long past time to act. Our world is gasping  for breath with a breaking heart but we still have hope.

This is a big paradigm shift for me personally. I’m more of a “think local” sort and there is always more than enough to do here but that no longer means switching off to the bigger picture but somehow just stretching my boundaries a little. That’s what growth’s about.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, the “baddies” are still out there. Moreover, as recent events have shown, they’re no longer over there but also over here.

As much as we would like to believe that we are well-camouflaged among the hundreds and thousands, who’s to say we or someone we love dearly won’t suddenly be plucked out of the multitude? Be one of the unfortunate “chosen ones”?

Hero-victim of the Lindt Cafe Siege Katrina Dawson was just going out for a morning hot chocolate with a colleague and friend. Tori Johnson, was just going to work just like Principal Tahira Qazi who was shot a day later in in Pakistan. These were just ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Eight children died in Cairns seemingly murdered by their mother and aunt…just ordinary kids.

Who is immune?Who?

Me, of course.

Statistically-speaking,  it would have to be a particularly stupid terrorist to see our place as any kind of target. It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera House. The only way a terrorist would get here was if they got lost.  Indeed, they’d have to be very lost. They wouldn’t  even bother knocking on my door for directions to somewhere strategic. We’re a long way off the beaten track unless perhaps they’re heading to the beach.

That said, I won’t be staying home forever. At the moment, our whole family in on holidays living in some blissful state of suspended animation. The kids are currently playing with the dogs and I would be spending some time at the beach if it weren’t for the broken foot and the mega cough. Very few of us live in a concrete bunker and neither do those we love. We catch the train. Enjoy a show at the Opera House and might even pause for a hot chocolate and a chat with a friend.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed vaccine against evil or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In 2014, we have witnessed yet again the harm that one or the few can inflict on the many. It is my heartfelt prayer for 2015 that the good of this world can come together and have a truly transformative impact. Turn the mountain of evil on its head so humanity can learn what it is to love and be loved on a global scale. Surely, this doesn’t have to be a rosy-coloured fantasy? That together, we can all join hands and somehow make it happen. After all, it’s amazing what people will do to achieve profit and greed! Just imagine how our world would change if we also applied that strength, focus and determination to being nice to each other instead?!!

The power of love.

The power of love. Photo: Rowena

The Golden Rule: Treat Others As You Would Like to be Treated!

However, that change isn’t going to come easily. It will come at a personal cost. Starting out small, it begins with you and me. The trouble is that despite our best intentions, we are still only human. Made of yin and yang. Let’s hope and pray that if we each make just a few small changes, the forces of good could gain enough momentum to turn things around. After all, just as one person has done so much harm, one person can do so much good!!

 

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,

it is better that you should leave your

work and sit at the gate of the temple

and take alms of those who work with joy.

Khalil Gibran

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

However, when it comes to making these changes myself, I am more than aware of my own feet of clay…one of which is currently broken too, by the way. For me, all these good intentions begin at home with my husband and kids. It is easy to wax lyrically writing lofty, philosophical principles. It is so much harder to walk the talk 24/7.My house is a mess and I struggle to teach my own kids the golden rule, even through my own example. However, that doesn’t mean that I should just give up.  Throw my hands in the air or fall in the mud on my sword. Like all of us, I just need to keep walking with God in my heart and “Try! Try! Try!”

 

2015 is the UN International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. After the moral darkness of the last weeks, this seemed like quite the antidote. We have been through the darkness and now we are heading for the light. Well, this theme seems to  be focusing more on the physical not metaphorical properties of light but perhaps we can adopt our own slant. I am certainly going to light a candle or two and let the light shine through the darkness.

Love

Love. Photo: Rowena

Through this blog, I have really managed to connect with a whole range of people around the world. Through the eyes of a little white dog, I have experienced a touch of Hawaii. I have been to India and enjoyed a meal. I have been to Ireland connected with a families all over the world. Shared words, art, photography and walked in so many different pairs of shoes and I’m sure I’ve become more enlightened by stretching my boundaries getting to know all these incredible, intelligent and thoughtful people.You have changed me and my world.

Now, let’s back to writing down those resolutions.

Hmm…It looks like giving up chocolate can wait. Now, in 2015, just being plain nice is so much more important!

Arnott's Nice Biscuit

Arnott’s Nice Biscuit

Angels and Shepherds Smile at the Camera

We might have had a real baby playing baby Jesus this year but there weren’t even any dress-up sheep this year for the shepherds to round up…just toddlers. Once again we were late for Church even though I was doing a reading and Mister was a shepherd and Amelia an angel. But we made it… Didn’t break any bones before this “performance” and the cough behaved itself as well. Even managed to photographed the children afterwards in costume in front of the tree.

I almost forgot to mention that we drove home via a scenic tour of the Christmas lights. decorating your house in Christmas lights isn’t huge here but some people really have gone all out. Being summer and daylights savings time over here, the kids are usually in bed before you can really get a good look at the lights. Hence, it’s become a bit of a tradition to have a look at the lights after the Christmas Eve Service.

Anyway, we could like to wish you and yours a loving and blessed Christmas and a peace-filled New Year. Let’s see if we can really set the Golden Rule in motion in 2015!

Love & God Bless,

Rowena Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo and Lady xxoo

Angel and shepherd smiling at Mummy's camera.

Angel and shepherd smiling at Mummy’s camera.

Should We Have A Happy Christmas?

Last night, I tried once again to write my Annual Christmas Newsletter but was getting stuck. After the last few weeks, I‘m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Australia has been in mourning following the accidental death of cricketer Phillip Hughes. Since then the shock, outrage and sadness has only got worse…so much worse! Knowing that these families are grieving, it is hard to feel positive about this Christmas or write about what our family has been doing this year, as though it’s all just business as usual. That said, I was having chemo last Christmas and every Christmas we have together as a family is very, very precious.

 

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly "New Australians", everbody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007, aged 93. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly “New Australians”, everybody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

The Annual Christmas Newsletter is a tradition started by my grandfather. He quite literally belted out his newsletter on the keys of his pre-historic typewriter well after the days of computers. I’ve even seen newer contraptions preserved in modern museums. He was a Church Pastor and knew a lot of people and could have used a mail house to get his Christmas newsletter out.  Christmas was such a special time for him. Not just because it honored Jesus’ birth but because it brought Christians and families together. He loved nothing more than the annual Christmas Tree service on Christmas Eve where the children dressed up as angels and shepherds. If you’d been good at Sunday School, you might just be lucky and get the role of Mary or Joseph. That is, instead of being cast as the donkey!!

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008.

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008 aged 2 and 4.

However, I was not only struggling due to the usual writer’s block. I am still absolutely shell-shocked by recent events.

You know what I’m talking about.

I still haven’t started my newsletter and what I started writing has instead become this post. Quite unintentionally, it has ended up with two contrasting but interwoven stories. The words look at what’s happened as I guess I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The photos of our family tell a different story. They show those precious Christmas moments we all treasure and they really brought it home what these families have lost. Going through our many many Christmas photos  has also helped me appreciate our kids a lot more and what we have. That we shoud never take that for granted. Never ever!

Phillip Hughes’ death stopped the nation. That now seems a very long time ago in what I’m now calling “the Age of Innocence” before the events of last week. How a cricket ball could by-pass the helmet and hit him smack in the neck and kill such a fit and healthy young sportsman in the prime of life was beyond comprehension. Naturally, we support bowler Sean Abbott and the accident was clearly not his fault. It was one of those freakish things you can’t explain.

As I watched “Hughesie’s” funeral on TV, I heard his brother talk about the endless hours he spent bowling to his little bro who always insisted on batting first and took days and days to get out. Being the youngest, it was his sister’s job to fetch the balls. After hearing all those little anecdotes, we felt like we knew the cricketer in the green baggy cap with the enormous smile and such a joie de vivre. We felt shattered for his family and his cricketing family as well and we thought about his upcoming birthday and, of course, Christmas !!

However, last week’s dreadful siege in Martin Place’s much loved Lindt Café was in another league of shocked disbelief entirely. Of course, this tragedy wasn’t some statistically freakish accident. It was pure evil in action and it happened in our Sydney.

At any other time, any chocoholic would have been ecstatic to be locked up in the Lindt Cafe overnight and the contrast between chocolate heaven and the absolute hell that went on in there, is incomprehensible. I’ve never been there but so many friends have such special memories of that café. It is an indulgent treat. As the gunman forced the hostages up against the windows and we saw their hands, the window frames were decorated with “Merry Christmas” in fancy script. Again, this juxtaposition was yet another cruel irony. The siege ended on Tuesday 16th December with the deaths of Tori Johnson , the Manager of the Lindt Café and Katrina Dawson, Barrister and mother of three who had a love of hot chocolate.

An utter tragedy!!

You wouldn’t think it could get much worse, even though you know it does.

Only a day later, seven heavily armed Taliban gunmen scaled an outer wall of the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan and began shooting indiscriminately. 132 children and nine school staff were killed in what has been the deadliest ever attack by the Taliban in Pakistan. As the Economist stated: “It takes something unusually vile for the world to pay much attention to a terrorist outrage in Pakistan”[1].

I doubt any of us can even name one of the children killed in that attack. Personally, beyond knowing it had happened, I didn’t really know many of the details myself. I have been immersed in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe Siege. It wasn’t that I didn’t care but once again it was over there and I was still shell shocked by what had happened here. I think they’ve termed this “sympathy fatigue”. All the same, these kids are just like yours and mine. They no doubt also liked to play cricket. Perhaps, they eveh put their cricket bats out the front of their homes out of respect to cricketer Phillip Hughes just like kids all around Australia…not knowing the horror which lay ahead.

Yet, around the world, people know Phillip Hughes, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by name. Sir Elton John paused during a concert to honour Hughes and Martin Place is bursting and overflowing with floral tributes to these hero hostages who lost their lives protecting others.

Those children in Pakistan are just as precious!!

Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008.

Christmas Shopping- Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008

While it’s tempting to switch off and feel that the Pakistan massacre is just too horrific. Too dreadful. Can we afford to cover our eyes, our ears and simply switch off our TVs and somehow get back to Christmas 2014? Get back to wrapping presents, decorating trees, baking, eating too much chocolate, too much of everything including a few stiff drinks…especially after last week?

No matter who you are, we all have our own problems. While there are quite evidently a lot of people worse off out there, you also need to deal with your own stuff too. No one else is going to do it for you!! Perhaps, you just  haven’t got anything left to think about someone someplace else.

 

You also might just want to enjoy Christmas and honour the real meaning of Christmas…Christ’s birth and that God the Father sent him down to earth to save mankind from themselves. Save the lost. After this week, you’d think that Jesus might think it’s time to come back. How could there be so much hate and violence on our pretty blue planet which ironically looks so peaceful from space? I don’t know. Somehow, we need to start turning the tide around but how?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

But what can we do?

Thousands have left flowers in Martin Place. You can send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids. We can also make a start by living by the Golden Rule and treating others as we would like to be treated . We could perhaps even develop the empathy and compassion to consider how others would like to be treated as well. How many of us have people we don’t speak to or even worse spew out abuse at each other? If we can not show love, forgiveness and compassion in our own personal relationships, how can we possibly change our world? While we might not have physically murdered anyone, who have we damaged through our words or our deeds…or indeed, possibly even broken beyond repair? There is so much pain and heartache in our world and maybe we just need to listen to a troubled soul and that could be all it takes to make a difference and show love…that proverbial cup of tea.

Yet, even listening is not as easy as we think.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Just when we thought that it couldn’t get much worse, news came through from Queensland (Australia) that a mother has been charged with murdering 7 of her children as well as her niece. That’s eight children senselessly killed, seven by their own mother. This mother has at least one other child still living who has to live with that loss. He is just a young man and I don’t know how he’ll get through this atrocity. Apparently, these children had more than one Dad and these fathers have had their hearts ripped out as well. Why? Why does a mother kill her own children when your very instinct is to defend your children, even to the death?!! We’ve all had bad days with our kids but to do that…it’s incomprehensible. I am left numb. We have all been left numb.

Now, the fields of floral tributes are growing in Cairns as well. Too much tragic, needless heartache.

With the gravity of recent events, I haven’t heard any mention of the families who lost loved ones in the equally horrific shooting down of Flight MH17. It is their first Christmas without their loved ones. But given recent events, it’s like revisiting that horror is all too much. Yet, I still care. I haven’t forgotten.

MIss with her doll's house. We had to qwrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

Miss with her doll’s house. We had to wrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

 

Our daughter's first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Our daughter’s first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

 

So after all of this, how are the rest of us supposed to have a Happy Christmas? Oh yes. I’m just swinging from the chandeliers in my Mrs Claus suit drinking champagne, even with my broken foot in its boot.

I don’t think so.

Yet, Christmas Day is too important for our family to write off or turn into a funeral. Life is precious and nobody knows what lies around the corner. Despite my many health scares, I’m still standing but none of us can take things for granted.

As a friend of mine who works in Martin Place has said: Every day is a gift.

We need to make sure we use that gift wisely. For me that includes being informed about these shocking events but also trying to be a counterforce for good. Right now, I really feel like marching down George Street (Sydney’s main street) wearing a huge heart suit to reinforce the importance of love. That love can triumph over evil. I’d probably look like an idiot and get locked up for disturbing the peace but I want people to remember that there is love and goodness in this world, even when we see the very worst of humanity flashed across our TV screens and even in our own city. We have to fight for goodness and for most of us, it will be in the little things. Baking a cake for a friend. Driving your friend’s kids home from school. Not walking into someone with a walking stick when you’re running desperately for that train. Keeping your cool with the kids when they’ve razzed you up for the hundredth time.

 

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria's Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn't go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria’s Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn’t go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006. She is 10 months old and still crawling.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

 

 

 

 

These random acts of kindness aren’t going to win you any awards and you won’t see your name up in lights but there is the personal satisfaction of a life well lived and having integrity and character…values that desperately need to come back into fashion.

That said, something tells me that the word Kardashian has more weight.

Somehow, you and I need to be the change.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller

I have pretty much decided that from tomorrow, my blog will return to “normal viewing”. That it is time to celebrate and enjoy Christmas 2014 and that is not the crime. That said, for all of you who are grieving this Christmas, I send you my love!

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

We've all got to start somewhere. Miss aged 1 2007.

We’ve all got to learn the Golden Rule sometime. Miss almost aged 2- Christmas 2007. The next photo showed Mister with the doll..She must have been told to share.

Who hasn't bought their little man a superman suit? Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

Who hasn’t bought their little man a superman suit?
Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21636746-attack-sign-militants-are-under-pressure-pakistans-leaders-must-unite

Back to the Mountain…Almost!

The interesting and often challenging thing about being part of a family is that you not only get to go on your own adventures and do your own thing, but that  your family also takes you on all sorts of journeys to places you would never, ever consider going. As a result, you find yourself stretched, pulled and even contorted in all sorts of directions you never thought possible and if you don’t snap somewhere along the way, you actually stretch and grow so far beyond your perceived limitations and you emerge your own personal super hero. I understand that you might not have seen my lasoo, but I am Wonder Woman by the way!

Quite often,  I at least, find myself thrown in the deep end, way out of my depth on these adventures. Thrashing my arms around in the swirling vortex, I feel myself about to go under and yet  I somehow find my strength and go on to exceed even my wildest expectations. Amazingly, the frightened little mouse emerges from her ordeal a lion, even if my roar is still a little soft.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Given my struggles with my autoimmune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs, these challenges can be terrifying and intense. However,  my fear is counterbalanced by my intense desire to be an active part of our family and be able to do things with them. Sometimes, these challenges involve relatively simple things like taking the dog for a walk, walking to the shops or being able to go the park after the school. However, every now and then some big challenges come along and it doesn’t get bigger or more terrifying for me than our annual ski holiday.

The rest of the family are mad skiers who have been checking the snow reports for a few months now and started crossing down the days to our next ski trip as soon as they exited the slopes last year as green oases were opening up and the alpine streams were flowing fast.

Enjoying a Toblerone Hot Chocolate at Mid-Station, Perisher.

Enjoying a Toblerone Hot Chocolate at Mid-Station, Perisher.

I, on the other hand, prefer traveling up and down Perisher’s Front Valley on the chairlift, stopping off at mid-station for a decadent Toblerone Hot Chocolate served with a marshmallow snowman on a swizzle stick and walking through the snow taking photos. However, there was also something about the allure of skiing which sort of drew me in…no doubt, seeing how it made the rest of the family glow!

Two years ago, we took the kids skiing for the first time. They, and of course, my husband had a mad time and came home totally ski obsessed. I didn’t go skiing that time thinking that it wouldn’t be possible. This idea was challenged when we met the para-olympic ski team training down there and they put me onto the Disable Winter Sports’ Association. I don’t use a wheelchair and so there are some things they can do that I can’t.  I wasn’t sure if I’d make it down the hill in a sit chair and didn’t think I’d ever be able to pull off conventional skiing until I met my instructor. Yet, this meeting provided the initial spark.

Thank goodness  you don't have to take on the mountain alone!

Thank goodness you don’t have to take on the mountain alone!

This spark grew into something of a determined flame.

A dream was born.

I was going to turn my mountain around. Instead of climbing up the mountain like so many garden-variety adventures, I was going to do my own thing and ski down the mountain instead. I was initially going to do it as a fundraiser but in the end decided that it was too much to organise and that I was better off just making sure I reached the bottom on the mountain. You could just imagine organising some kind of huge event and then being too scared to go down and instead of being the all-conquering hero, being rescued rather red-faced by ski patrol in the ski-do.

Anyway, you’ll read in a previous post that I actually made it down to the bottom of the mountain. Of course, I didn’t feel like the conquering hero at the time. I was too busy shaking in my boots and relieved it was all over. Yet, I’d done it. I had conquered the mountain!!

However, instead of this achievement being the finale for what had been an amazing year of personal achievements, it actually signalled the beginning of a serious fight to save my life. While down at Perisher, I developed the beginnings of the chest infection which developed into pneumonia  and this pneumonia became seriously life-threatening. My lungs were almost cactus according to my specialist. The pneumonia meant new CT scans of my lungs and these showed that the scaring or fibrosis associated with my auto-immune disease had progressed and was now “established” not “mild”. This development resulted in some very serious medical appointments but then I was offered chemo which, at the time, felt like a life raft to a drowning soul. The chemo worked but it has been a long road and I’m not back yet. Lungs have improved from 43% (the worst was unrecorded) to 60% and my lung specialist was “impressed”. I don’t think he’d expected that. My muscle strength is also pretty good. Most of the problems I had relating to my auto-immune disease have improved significantly but ironically I’ve been battling “chemo brain” and have dreadful troubles with my memory and any sense of time. Multitasking of any sort is impossible. I am dependent on lists, alarms and the occasional cattle prod from Geoff, the kids or the pile of school notes.

After going through all of that and I must admit that I somehow successfully managed to squeeze my violin exam and Christmas in between it all, I am rather apprehensive about returning to the snow this year. I remember all those awful out of control feelings as my skis took off seemingly well ahead of my body and the absolute nail-biting horror of looking out from the top of the mountain and seeing the village way, way down below. I felt like I was perched on the very edge of the world about to fall off. Do I really need to go through that level of fear all over again? Isn’t doing it once and knocking it off my non-existent bucket list, enough?!!

Of course, I have replayed that horror over and over and over again as I prepare for my return to the mountain. As much as I feel like letting that fear engulf me and running as far away from the mountain as my ski boots can carry me, I’m also determined to show that mountain that I mean business. That it’s not going to get me again. I can beat the mountain and I can also take out the muscle disease, the dreaded lung disease and I am going to be so much more than a survivor. I am going to be an almighty conqueror. I’ll put in a little prayer request at this point because I need to acknowledge the one who is the wind beneath my wings. I know prayer has helped to get me where I am and I’ll certainly need it as I conquer the mountain again!

Out walking the dog preparing for our ski holiday.

Out walking the dog preparing for our ski holiday.

So I ask you to think of me as I keep walking the dog to get myself fit for this latest challenge on my journey. I have already taken so much more than the first step. I have conquered the mountain before and now all I need to do is go back. That is what it means to be brave!

I can do it!

I can do it!

I can do it!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: To all my overseas blogging mates who have real mountains to climb, you might find my angst about skiing down what could be seen as a “hill” a little petty but where I live, it is flat so even a little knoll seems significant. We can’t all have Everest in our own backyards (although I must admit, I’m sure Everest lives inside my head and challenges me each and every day as I stagger out of bed!)

PPS. I should point out that while I am more afraid of tackling the mountain this time because I have been down there before, at the same time,  I have been able to reassure myself that I am in pretty good physical shape and I can also reassure myself that because I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I will also have my instructor to help me. It’s great to know that we don’t have to conquer our mountains alone.

I am also looking forward to skiing more with Geoff and the kids hopefully beyond the learner’s magic carpet this year.

Gee…now I really am starting to sound like Wonder Woman and I might even confuse myself.