Tag Archives: kids

Weekend Coffee Share: 2nd October, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

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

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

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Rosie left and Isaac “Zac” right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

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

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

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

xx Rowena

Puppies!

As you may recall, a close friend of mine volunteers for a pet rescue organization. Well, she messaged me during the week and mentioned they had PUPPIES!!! Of course, I invited us round for a playdate. Indeed, we were there in a flash and my husband even came along to supervise procedings. He had grave concerns about us arriving home with a pup! I wonder why????

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My daughter with one of the pups.

Coco and her sister, Daisy, are apparently black, curley-haired retrievers and are six weeks old. They are pure black, except Coco has a small splash of white on her chest. Both of them looked like miniature versions of our Border Collie x Cavalier, Lady, only they have shorter ears.

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The puppies up on the trampoline with the girls.

Not surprisingly, these pups were irresistable, and it’s amazing how I can find them trying to chew up my shoes and even my good jumper endearing. Of course, there was that typical Australian; “she’ll be right, mate” nonchalence, but they were so cute that I almost couldn’t care. I even let them chew on my finger.

We will be getting a second dog in the not to distant future. Indeed, my friend has told me there are some border collie puppies coming up and I’m thinking about joining up as a volunteer and hosting these. See if one of them clicks. So far, I haven’t been seriously tempted by any of my friend’s lodgers. They’ve been wonderful dogs but I still feel lie we’re hanging out for another Border Collie pup.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pics.

xx Rowena

It’s Been Flubberized!

While intrepid jungle explorers receive all the kudos, quite frankly, I feel any parent brave enough to delve through their child’s school bag deserves a gold medal, a statue in their local park and their own TV show. This is where such lofty ideals as COURAGE, BRAVERY, PERSEVERANCE and PERSISTANCE  hit the road, and you find out whether you are mighty… or a mouse.

Rowena 1981

You’d never suspect this neat girl would have rotting yogurt or a squished banana in her bag, would you?!!

Thinking back to my own school bag, there were definitely some serious horrors in there. Indeed, there were horrors of Elm Street proportions. Undoubtedly, the worst of it had to be the burst yogurt. Don’t ask me which fool put a yogurt in their bag without a raincoat or any form of protection. No one likes a dobber. However, I still remember the stench, and fishing out wads of soggy paper caked in the stuff and trying to salvage affected exercise and text books. Of course, I didn’t clean it up very well and the smell only got worse, and no doubt even mould set in. This was pure YUCK in capital letters!! A school kid’s equivalent of a toxic spill. I don’t remember Mum cleaning it up either. That was my job…along with cleaning out the squashed banana, which was also brutally slaughtered in that very same school bag. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but I was evidently a repeat offender,  who didn’t learn from her mistakes.

Unfortunately, my daughter has followed in my footsteps. While she did a fantastic effort with a squished banana, she’s now found a whole new catastrophic realm. Her school bag has “flubberitis”.

Flubber is a type of slime. If you’re from my era, you might recall that you could buy slime in a little green plastic can. I loved this was fanastic, goopy ooze.

On the other hand, this slime is quite different. You make it yourself and it looks and smells like some deadly toxic pestilence straight out of Ghost Busters. Slime replicates very, very quickly and is currently spreading through schools and homes faster than the common cold. If you have a good look around in the playground, you’ll see its tell-tale \ smear on just about everything, just like another substance we’ll simply call> “nasal secretions”.

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Flubberitis…goopy slime on the march inside my daughter’s school bag. At least, it smelled like fresh apples. 

My daughter’s been operating a slime laboratory in her room for the last six months and I haven’t been impressed to find slime stuck to her sheets, carpet, school hat, skort. Depending on the type of slime, it’s footprints vary. Not quite as bad as chewing gum, it still likes to stick around and can be a beast to get rid of. Moreover, there’s all the apparatus used to make the slime. That’s simply mess on mess on mess, even if you can appreciate that it’s “art”, “science”, “an alternative to screen time” or “better than drugs”.

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My daughter is keen to export slime to even the remotest corners of the globe…a budding entrepreneur. 

I have mixed feelings towards my daughter’s obsession with slime. On the positive, making slime is a creative and scientific venture. She not one mixes the core ingredients together, she and her friends add things to vary it’s texture and colour such as foam balls and glitter.  There are a multitude of different recipes and kinds of slime out there and it really is quite fascinating for anyone with a science bent. Moreover, many people also enjoy the sensory stimulation of playing and fidgeting with the slime. This can be a lot of fun and may also relieve stress. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like stuff sticking to your fingers, some slimes won’t be for you. I personally find many of the slimes feel quite icky on my skin and I don’t like touching them at all. Smell is also a problem and has caused breathing difficulties in our family. I also find the mess and the smears across just about every surface annoying. I’ve also been concerned about her sniffing all that glue, and she’s now been told to make it outside.

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Like Mother, like daughter. This was where I made potions out of wildflowers when we were living on acreage out at Galston, Sydney. This was my happy place and this has always been a much-prized photograph. 

That’s how I see the stuff. My daughter finds it mesmerizing and a real sensory indulgence, especially when she’s added things like foam balls, sparkly glitter or sand to the mix. I’ve seen her squishing it for hours, as it releases some kind of magic I struggle to understand. Yet, that doesn’t matter as long as I can show some interest and listen to her accounts of the ducks’ guts of slime.

It could be better. It could be worse.

Have you or your kids had much to do with slime? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

Sleeping Beauty…Friday Fictioneers.

The dawn light shone magestically over the lake, and Diana miraculously woke up and swam to shore. Droplets of water sparkled in her hair like diamonds, but Diana didn’t look for a towel. She had to see her boys. Nothing else mattered.

“Wombat! Ginger! Mummy’s back. Here I come ready or not.”

But there was no answer, only a haunting, eerie silence, echoing like a maddening scream. Frantically, Diana searched behind every tree, but they were gone.

“Wombat? Ginger?”

Suddenly, the spiralling vortex slowed right down, almost moving frame by frame. Macabre and out of synch, Diana she’d become a character in a movie, where someone else was calling the shots. Nothing was real. She knew the lake, but was this crumbling ruin really Althorp House? It must be, but why wasn’t anyone  home?

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. Hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields and you can read the contributions Here. After reading one if the comments tonight, I’ve dramatically re-written this piece, which has taken it well over the 100 words but I was a bit spellbound by this fairytale of fairytales. Who wouldn’t want to give Diana back to her sons? Not the Diana pursued to death by the papparazzi but their Mum…Mummy!

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 27th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Despite the sun shining outside and the smoke lifting, we’re having a day indoors doing jobs today. That’s what happens when you swan around all week watching your daughter perform. Or, as in the case of our son, spend the week at the snow, arriving home with a wet and stinky backpack. I was intending to go into Sydney today to attend the celebrations at the Irish Famine Memorial. However, they’re doing track work and it was all too hard.

As much as I should be offering you a cup of tea of coffee and something scrumptious to munch on, I could well be asking you to help out. All my research materials seem to multiply, and I’m struggling to find somewhere for them all to live. I say this is the product of an active mind. Or, am I just a scatter brain?

Amelia Showcase 2017 rotated

Last week, our daughter performed in Central Coast Showcase on two separate nights. Wednesday, she sang in a combined schools’ choir and Thursday night, she danced with her school. She wasn’t the star of the show, but we always love seeing her perform as well as being inspired by the other performers. Indeed, some were sensational, very professional acts which knocked my socks off. This is, in addition to very young performers as young as 5 and 6 who, for example, were performing in a junior dance ensemble.

Needless to say, performance = driving. It also = $ + time.

I guess if you wanted to write that as equation, it would read:

P = $ + T + D = joy

Our son had a fantastic week at the snow. I touched base with his PE teacher who took the more advanced skiers and he said: “He smashed it!!”

Well, I was understandibly ecastatic.

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Our son leaving for snow camp.

Living in Australia only metres from the beach, snow skiing is an “interesting” sport. We live 6-7 hours away from the snow. So, even getting there is an incredible effort. Most of the kids around here, have never seen snow. Indeed, many Australians have never seen snow. I was about 12 when I first saw snow, and it wasn’t during Winter either. Our family went hiking through the Mt Kozsciosko National Park in Summer and I had the thrill of sliding down a glacier on a plastic garbage bag. That was some time around New Year’s Eve, when it’s stinking hot in Australia and anything but snow season.

Our family has been skiing three or four times and the kids have been through ski school. This meant our son had a good chance of doing well on this trip and I was praying so hard that it would be his turn to shine. Not that he’s not performing well in other areas but he’s had a rough time lately a needed a boost. I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be 13 and it isn’t easy to navigate your way through the murky depths of puberty.

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Dingo at Fraser Island.

In terms of my writing, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s flash fiction Dingo Attack.  I also shared an amazing piece of street art called  “The Eye”, which mesmerized me and I only wish I could experience it in person. There’s also Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational– an inspiration set of “words”. I also stumbled across an incredible piece of street art: “The Eye”.

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“The Eye” by Cece, France.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get on top of my research. I have a wooden chest next to my lounge chair and the theory is that all the books, folders and paperwork get stashed away in there to be conveniently pulled out as required. All great in theory, but the poor chest is looking like an overpacked suitcase and all my stuff is sprawled across the couch and also in piles on the back of the couch. BTW, there’s also stuff on top of the chest, stopping me from even accessing the “bowels of the ship”.

I should just stop thinking.

Stop writing.

Then, I might just have a tidy house.

In many ways, it’s not the best time for me to be concerned about the house. I’ve been struggling to breathe for the last couple of weeks. I’ve had the flu and a chest infection but these struggles have been stretched to the very limit by smoke produced by bushfires known as “hazard reduction burning”. As much as I support this measure to reduce the severity of Summer bushfires, the smoke has truly bordered on life threatening to me and quite a few locals. I’ve managed at home with three trips to the doctor in the last week. A friend ended up at Emergency with asthma. It’s terrifying. However, the smoke has cleared today and I’m hoping it’s finally gone. PLEASE!! I’m down on my hands and knees…a begger. It’s hard to explain just how difficult it’s been to simply breathe.

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Bushfire Smoke Viewed from Woy Woy Bay.

These periods of down time, however, provide me with the space to get on with my family history research and I’ve really taken some huge leaps forward. I have been researching my 3rd Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, for a few years on and off. She was an  Irish Famine Orphan who was brought out to Sydney via the Earl Grey Scheme. She had her passage paid for, and each of the girls were given a trunk of provisions for the journey and their time here, including clothes and a Bible. Bridget arrived onboard the John Knox. She married George Merritt and I recently found out that they had a store on the goldfields near Mudgee. I even found her mentioned in an old newspaper clipping. I was stoked. I have been unable to find out where and when Bridget or her husband George died and were buried and it really frustrates me. It seems like such a basic, and yet it eludes me. Anyway, I was contacted recently and found out that three of George and Bridget’s sons intermarried with the Aboriginal community around Yass. This adds a whole new cultural dimension to my research and I also hope to meet up with this side of the family somehow. I have also found out that most of my Irish ancestors came from County Cork and this is now consolidating what appeared a diverse array of names into a much more integrated past. Indeed, I’m starting to think these various branches could well have known each other back in Ireland. I’m also hoping they don’t overlap or interconnect, which is currently looking likely. One of the first unwritten hopes of family history research, is not to be related to yourself!

So, despite not being well, I’ve been pretty busy in both thought and deed.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well and I look forward to catching up further. What have you been up to? 

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. I hope you will pop over and join us for a cuppa.

xx Rowena

Heaven or Earth? Reflections from the Dark Side of the Moon.

Before I get started, I thought I’d play Alleluia sung by Ed Sheeran. Get you in the mood. The last week has been deep, dark and philosophical punctuated by blasts of Spring sunlight and tail wags from the dog.

Actually, the last couple of months have been “challenging” after the death of our Border Collie, Bilbo. We’ve had him since our daughter was crawling and he’s seen us through so very much.  Moreover, I’ve also had another brush with severe asthmatic coughs and chest infections, which get me every August.

Not unsurprisingly, the kids have been distressed and shaken up. They’ve had questions, and I’ve had to come up with the answers. This included a particularly curly question, which I decided to share. It’s big and it’s important:

Why should we stay alive when life is painful, when we could be in heaven where there’s no pain, no troubles?

I hadn’t quite thought of heaven as the ultimate “grass is greener” before. However, I suppose it is. Otherwise, why would it be called “HEAVEN”? Furthermore, why wouldn’t you, I, want to get there on an express trip? Why do we fight so hard to stay alive, when we could be living up there in the clouds? Even Cloud 9?

While I’ve had my dark moments, and even extended interminable stretches of raw anguish, I haven’t really thought of heaven as my greener pasture. At least, not in the here and now.

I’ve known too many people who’ve lost someone to suicide and am very conscious of the anguish suicide leaves in its wake… an anguish which has no end for the multitude of people who get touched by even one death.

So, I guess for me, particularly when I’m in a  level-headed state of mind, knowing that I’d be going to my ulimate happy place when everyone who means anything to me gets to suffer, doesn’t add up.

At the very least, it’s not a very nice thing to do.

However, that’s not something I would share with someone who wasn’t in a particularly level-headed state of mind. That’s something I might now start putting out there on one of my routine drives with my kids, now they’re my son’s 13 and my daughter isn’t far behind him.

As a parent, I’ve been wondering how to talk about sex, dating, periods, condoms, relationships, drugs, but amongst all of that, I’d forgotten all about the other fairly “normal” aspect of puberty…the E-word. EMOTIONS. Thinking back to being a teenager myself, I don’t believe there was any such thing as “an even keel”, being “level-headed”, “grounded” as as for balanced? HA!!

Moon bike

At least speaking for myself, my emotions were extreme, even turbo-charged. Well-intentioned comments like “there’s more fish in the sea” fell flat. My parents meant well, and believe me, I’m getting a better understanding of what it’s like to be a parent scraping the bottom of your psychological and philosophical barrell. When your child is combusting and you’re trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Trust me. That whole “bird and the bees stuff” is a veritable piece of cake compared to discussing emotional equilibrium.

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I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

How do any of us venture and and carpe diem seize the day and all that entails, without getting hurt? We can’t live our lives in bubble wrap and while you can have safe sex, there is no condom you can quickly wrap around your heart and it’s way too easy to get burned.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m no statistician either. I don’t know what it is which causes one person to take their life, while others persevere. What I do know, is that it’s not straight-forward. I also know that we can’t control someone else. We can’t stop someone else from taking their life. And yet, we sometimes can. Here, I’m speaking about the more collective we, but sometimes, it does come down to the individual. At times, we do become that person staring despair in the face, and it is up to us to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Or, I guess if I was some kind of professional at this, you’d be trying to get the person to find their own reasons for living. Or, at the very least, find a shift in gears.

A friend of my parents used to call the teenage years: “the swirling vortex of pubescence”. He was a very charasmatic gentleman and he’d roll this phrase out like a showman on stage. I always pictured these wild churning seas with the damsel in distress thrashing around in the waves. Never sinking, but not getting out either. I always found that phrase rather entertaining, although on reflection that note of humour, has it’s sting. Tony also put me onto a poet who knew those waves. Knew that intensity of emotion. That was Nan Whitcomb in her “Thoughts of Nanushka” and I’ve since found another kindred spirit in Australian  poet and cartoonist, Michael Leunig. Of course, there was also Keats and I’ve always questioned the merits of studying his Ode to Melancholy while studying for our HSC (final school exams = HUGE stress!!)

“That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”
John Keats, Ode to A Nightingale.
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, 
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue 
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; 
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, 
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
John Keats, Ode to Melancholy

I also remember listening to Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody. That song needs no introduction.

Hot chocolate & book

How will the story play out?

The trouble is, that when you’re caught up in the more turbulent passages of that “swirling vortex of pubesence”, you have no idea how the story is going to play out. Speaking of myself, I was so caught up in the immediate present, the current devastating disaster, that I lost all sense of perspective. That it morphed into some kind of hellish bubble, my world. I couldn’t see it was a storm in a tea cup. I couldn’t see, that perhaps being dumped by “the bastard” was the best thing for me. That it really was a case of there being millions of fish in the sea, and I only needed to find one. That I wasn’t trying to catch the one, last surviving fish in an empty sea.

I never saw my life as a novel back then. Indeed, it’s only been this past week, that I’ve appreciated the close parallels between real life and the structure a novel or play where the main character (protagonist) has their difficult person, adversary (antagonist) but after a few rounds, they come through. There’s usually a twist at the end, and more than likely, real life doesn’t turn out quite like you expected either, but you can still live happilly ever after. Well, at least until the next challenge fires up. Bearing this in mind, you have to make the most of those high notes. Carpe diem seize the day. Gobble them up with a cherry on top. Yet, you also have to be prepared for troubles. Expect storms and rainbows, as well as sunny, blue skies.

If I was going to talk to my 13 year old self. Or, in my case, it was more my 16 year old self which was really doing it tough, what would I say?

Firstly, what I would say, wouldn’t be something eloquent, well-written, or an outstanding piece of philosophical writing with all the answers. It would be more of a stuttered, muttered and garbled story about how if I’d pulled the pin then, I wouldn’t have gone on to experience the highs of my life. For me, like so many others, the school days weren’t the best days of my life. However, they were the necessary precursor to getting into university which I loved on so many levels. I went through many relationship ups and downs and had way too many friends run off with the guy that I liked. I also spent all the years from my birth until I was 27, living with undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on my brain, which really did make me “different” in a myriad of ways I am still trying to get my head around. Yes, I wasn’t “unco” and more than likely, the intensity of my emotions weren’t just puberty either. The inside of my brain had been flooded, and I was under an entirely different kind of “pressure”.

So, if I’d pulled the pin at 16, I wouldn’t have known that I had this underlying condition which was greatly relieved through surgery. Yet, even if I hadn’t had that or if there had been no “magic fix” to my problems, I still believe that it’s worth persevering through the very darkest of challenges and fighting hard to find any glimmer of light which will lead us out of the tunnel. Why? Because there just might be something better ahead. That you could well resolve your current troubles through whatever means. a change of curcumstances, meeting someone else. Another door opens.

Indeed, I still remember the night I met my husband. A friend of mine was holding a New Year’s Eve Party in another friend’s apartment in Wollstonecraft, which had a view over the back end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was supposed to going to that party with the boyfriend I’d had throughout the whole brain surgery saga and as you could imagine, things were rocky on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Anyway, he dumped me just before the party and I really didn’t feel like going. However, it was only more of a soiree with only a few of us going and so I went. My husband opened the door. Now, I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight. However, we talked a lot that night and he gave me some really good advise  and I thought he was wise. Obviously, it was that old thing of crying on someone’s shoulder. I also remember standing out on the balcony together and I would’ve been photographing the fireworks, and he told me that he was also into photography. I clearly remember making a mental tick in my head. He also drove an Austen Healy Sprite, which he described as “English and tempremental”. I remembered that when we were driving through the Tenterfield Ranges in pouring rain to avoid the Grafton floods, and the exhaust pipe fell off on a pot hole. BTW, we’d been wearing raincoats in the car on that trip and had been soaked by the time we’d reached Newcastle. (We had been driving from Wahroonga in Sydney to visit his Mum and sisters family in the Byron Bay hinterland. It’s about a 10 hour drive.)

The ironic thing is that it can be these very worst moments, our greatest disasters, that we turn into our funniest stories. It’s often these moments which we’ll share around a barbeque laughing our heads of and entertaining the crowd, rather than the good times. I am now thinking that part of that is that we later find out these disasters weren’t so bad after all. Indeed, sometimes they proved to be a blessing in disguise. Or, they were a necessary step to get us to a better place, or to our ultimate destination.

So, now I would say that instead of pulling the pin, who have to keep breathing so you can keep living the book. Find out how you’re own story unfolds. Just one point here, too, and that is that you are not a passive player in your story. You are helping to write the script, as well as all the other characters. This is a team effort. You are empowered. However, you are empowered to do the best for yourself, AND the worst. Too often, it’s not the bully or our nemesis we need to watch out for, it’s our own selves. We shoot ourselves in the foot way more often AND we need to own that. Take responsibility. Not necessarily in a guilt way, but in an empowered driver’s seat way. JUst like if you were driving and made a wrong turn, you’d do a U turn and try again. You hopefully wouldn’t just sit in your car hoping it would magically take you where you want to go.

The ironic thing for me these days about people taking their lives, is that I am fighting with all I’ve got to save my own. This July marked 20 years since I had the brain surgery which saved and changed my life. This coming Tuesday, marks 10 years since I was diagnosed with a systemic auto-immune disease, dermatomymyositis which has left me with 60% lung capacity on a good day. I am getting through flu season again this year but again it’s been a battle. Three years ago, I had chemo to knock the disease on its head and fortunately that worked. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve been staring death in the face, and trust me. Not once was I thinking: “Heaven, bring it on!” No, despite being a Christian, all I was thinking about was my kids, my husband, my Mum, Dad, Brother and my friends. Giving them that kind of bad news, is devastating. The fact that I’ve survived, doesn’t negate that. We have lived through it and we continue to live with it.

So, this brings me to the very real need to talk to those we love about those times when the swirling vortex has taken hold, and give them concrete proof that they can get through it. That it’ s not only worth persevering through the hard times, that it’s possible to get there. Achievable. Moreover, they are not alone. Not only in the sense that we are with them now. Not just us as an individual either, but us as a community. The many layers of the onions…family, friends, teachers, pastors, the person you need down the street while walking your dog. But, we also need to make that time available. Leave enough space inbetween the words, the lines, the busyness that someone can sit along side us and be without being rushed, sped up, or brushed off.

I am not someone who has ever professed to have the answers, but I’ve always had the questions and I guess this is where they lead me now. But before I head off, another word just popped in my head. That is gratitude. While it’s not often possible to feel grateful for our let downs at the time, that can change through hindsight…especially with many of those heart breaks, which were the end of the world at the time. I wouldn’t be where I am now and while some of those guys were great people and simply not right for me (or me for them), I’ve been married to Geoff for 16 years now. We’ve survived some extremely hard times and miraculously stayed together. We hae two beauti ful children who can stretch us beyond the very brink at times, but who we love more than life itself. Sometimes, when things have been so hard, it’s hard to comprehend how the sun still rises in the morning and how life goes on. Yet, I’ve often found that very annoying and harsh reality, provides the momentum to keep me moving, which is ultimately a good thing.

I didn’t intend to write about this when I woke up this morning. I haven’t edited more than a couple of words and this is how my thoughts have landed on the page, or to be precise, my laptop screen. All of a sudden, in bright neon signs, I’ve realized that we as a society don’t talk about hard times. The cultural rhetoric is all about making it happen. Being whoever you want to be. It’s almost like you’re expected to find happiness in a fizzy drink…or a pill. Rather, what happens WHEN your journey through life hits the big snake just when you’re about to reach your goal and your sent straight back down to the beginning again? What happens when you’re a marketing executive and you’re diagnosed with hydrocephalus and you end up having brain surgery, getting a blocked shunt and requiring more brain surgery, the person you thought you were going to marry, dumps you because all of that’s too much and you’ve moved back home living with mum and Dad and going to rehab with the elderly at 28? BTW, that was also when I went to my 10 year school reunion. That was two weeks after the second brain surgery and I had no hair under one half of that bob. Indeed, there was a scar. I made it through that reunion and I was triumphant. Despite brain surgery being a much more sensitive embarrassing thing that the bad haircut.  I also had friends whose lives were picture perfect either. Some had divorced and one of my class mates had tragically died from cancer, which shook me to the core.

The fact that I’m still here, isn’t because I have some uber-amazing coping mechanism and I’m “Tonka tough”. I’ve had breakdowns. I’ve fallen face down in the mud and refused to get up. I’ve had days where I’ve stayed in bed and wrapped myself up in my doona and refused to get up. I’ve thought about how. I did jab myself with a pair of kindy scissors once when I was struggling to learn how to drive and fighting my brother for access to the car. That’s the closest I’ve come in a physically crossing the line sense, but these lines resonate: “hello darkness my old friend”.

Somehow, the collective “we” needs to have more of these conversations. The “where I was, how I found my way out and some of the joys of life we’ve experienced since” type. Talk about how life is ups AND downs. That we have to keep  walking, dancing, flying, dragging out feet, sleeping, talking, dreaming.They’re all part of it. Share and model that there is no magic pill, which will give you perfect, lasting happiness. However, there could well be multiple pills of darkness, which we need to approach with caution. Walk away from jealousy, envy, wanting to be someone we’re not, putting our value on stuff instead of relationships, replacing people with work. The list goes on.

Now, I’m turning it over to you. What has your experience been? I would like to invite you to share as much as you like in the comments below. What would you say to your teenage self about the dark times you’ve experienced? I could even see these becoming a series of posts. It would be truly beneficial to get a swag of letters together on this very important subject.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just had to drop my daughter off at meditation of all things (our dance school is running a session for kids followed by a session for parents so I’ll be heading off next). Funny how walking and driving gets you thinking. Pops something so obvious into your head, which you’d missed entirely while tapping away into the screen.

My other advice to my teenage self, is not to put all my eggs in one basket, and to remain diverse. I had very good friends out of school and I’ve encouraged this with my own kids since dot. However, as someone with a fairly obsessive, driven personality, I’d like to share that focusing all your energies on one thing, isn’t a good idea. If something happens to that one thing, whatever it is, then you’re devastated. You’re left with nothing. There is no “Plan B”. You have no identity left. Naturally, I was devastated when I couldn’t work after the brain surgery. I had grief counselling where I was told “We’re human beings, not human doings”. It’s taken me a long time to get that. In the aftermath of the brain surgery, I turned to photography and although it wasn’t making me any money, I found it was a great topic of conversation. Far more interesting than work. These days, writing  is my main thing followed by photography. What you might not know, is that I started learning the violin four years ago, and last year I started dance classes and have made my way through short adult courses in ballet, contemporary, lyrical and tap. I’m not even keeping up in the dance classes, but dance is now part of my psyche. Who I am. It’s added another string to my bow, and exercised more than a few neurofibres as well. It’s very important not to get stuck in what I’ll call “bubble worlds”…becoming “a dancer”, “a lawyer”, “a mother”, a “father”. Rather, ideally, we’d be more of a spangled web or texture, colour, sound, taste and smell stretching somewhere over the rainbow and back again. We must wear many hats, to be fulfilled, and really just to survive.

The End.

That's All Folks

Weekend Coffee Share- 5th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Why don’t you pull up a chair and I’ll get you your choice of tea, coffee or water for the more adventurous.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well. If not, my thoughts are with you. Life seems to be more about ups and downs, than smooth sailing.

As you might recall, it was my birthday last Sunday and the family went out with my parents for dinner at the Central Coast Restaurant & Bar. Unfortunately, thanks to the big cough, I haven’t been able to do much since. I consider these celebrations “postponed”. They will happen.

chocolate eclairs

However, a friend and her daughters put on a tea party for me. Her 10 year old daughter made chocolate eclairs from scratch and arranged them on the plate in the shape of a butterfly and dragonfly. Not only was I very impressed, it also touched my heart. It was so unexpected. A real touch of human kindness, and I feel such gratitude.Rowena & Amelia

 

This week, it was Education Week in our schools and both the kids’ schools held an Open Day, where parents could visit. Due to my flu, Geoff stayed home and drove me up to our daughter’s school which is an hour’s drive away. Her school put on an Art Show as well as a musical concert. My daughter sang in the choir, but there were also performances by the Indigenous choir and didgeridoo group. We never had any Indigenous culture in the schools I went to growing up, and it’s so important.

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Visiting my daughter’s classroom these days, is very different to when she was at our local school and I was in and out of her classroom almost every afternoon. I did the publicity for the Parents & Citizens Association (P & C), helped with the class reading and knew many of the parents and most of the kids personally. Our daughter changed schools after being accepted into an Opportunity Class for gifted students. This was a blank slate. You’d expect that with changing schools. However, usually you live in the area and there are those interactions or ties to the local community. We’ve had none of that, and didn’t realize how important all of that was to me, until we’d left. You’d think as the parent, that it’s not my concern. That it’s my daughter who is at the school, not me. However, there have been those family emergencies. Not knowing anyone who could pick my daughter up if required. There wasn’t that network we fall back on as parents. Thankfully, we managed to connect to some extent through kids’ birthday parties and my daughter also catches the train to school with a few local kids and we’ve got to know their families in the same way we would at the local school.

So, I was really looking forward to Open day and having the chance to meet up with my daughter’s teacher, meet other parents and see my daughter’s work. I love seeing all the kid’s work on the wall and intrigued by some of their learning techniques. Being a class for gifted children, their teacher has some great ideas which get me thinking for my own writing and organization. I have also found that the school also knows how to communicate things with kids, and I’ve picked up a few good ideas on these open days before. So, it’s not just a day for me to meet, greet and have lunch with our daughter, it’s also a learning experience.

Wednesday night, we had Open Night at my son’s high school. This was quite understandibly quite different as the students don’t have a set classroom and move around the school. I did get to speak to some of my son’s teachers in a casual setting, which was great. I think it’s important that the school knows you’re an invested parent. That you care about your kid. This is harder to relay in high school when your physical presence is most definitely NOT REQUIRED by your teen. That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to get involved with the P & C since he started last year. I’m getting there…

Having the flu and a very nasty cough, I haven’t been out and about this week.

 

That hasn’t stopped me from travelling online. Indeed, I’ve spent the last few days in London. While I was sorting through some books at home, I dug up a book about London from the 1950s and there was a three page letter with a recommended itinerary in the front. I thought I’d get onto Google maps and try to retrace the writer’s footsteps. I believe the author was a male writing to a woman and that the letter may date back to the 1950s. I spent a week in London myself back in 1992. So, I’m also trying to retrace my own footsteps and feel am having better luck with the stranger. I don’t remember terribly much. Not because I was under the weather in any shade or form. It’s just that 25 years and alot of flotsam, jetsam and dead cows have passed under the bridge since then. So, stay tuned.

This had been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena