Tag Archives: kids

Starting Over – Friday Fictioneers 17th September, 2020.

Dan couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted an almost new, wooden high chair sitting beside of the road. It had been sent straight from heaven, landing right at his feet. Although a new job would’ve been better, it was still an answer to prayer. He said nothing to Jess, and wrapped it up in a huge, pink bow. Dan didn’t have a TV, and didn’t worry about the news. Never found out what had happened, and how that high chair came to be sitting beside the road. The chair didn’t share its tragic secret either. It was starting over.

….

100 words. This week’s photo prompt has kindly been provided © Roger Bultot

This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. https://rochellewisoff.com/ Please forgive my clumsy links here. I’ve been forced over to the new block editor and am lost in the undergrowth. I am improving but still have a lot to learn.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Dog We’ll Never Forget!

“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love

deeply becomes a part of us.”

Helen Keller

It’s been almost three years since our gorgeous Border Collie, Bilbo, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. However, today I read a few posts which reminded of him and all these raw emotions and memories came flooding back in a way which caught my defences off guard.

Bilbo was every bit a part of our family as the rest of us, and there’s a dreadful sense of loss when you lose someone in your family. Human or dog, you just can’t replace them straight away and they leave behind a hole like a cookie cutter in their very own shape, which can not be filled. However, although it can be painful to remember, it’s ultimately worse to forget, which is why I wanted to share this moving story.

Just to put you in the picture, it was mid-January 2012…eight years ago. It wasn’t New Year’s Day when every other human and their dog automatically go on diets to welcome in the New year. Rather, it was two weeks later. I was the first cab off the rank, Geoff was second and Bilbo was lucky last.

Bilbo + Amelia

Bilbo with the kids when he first arrived.

Starting with yours truly, just before Christmas, I’d found out that my auto-immune disease was affecting my lungs and I was showing early signs of Institial Lung Disease(ILD) and fibrosis. I couldn’t get an appointment with the lung specialist until mid-January, the day before we were due to leave on a family holiday to Byron Bay. I was absolutely distraught over Christmas and New Year and vowed I’d do anything to keep myself alive to be there for the kids. They were still only seven and five and still so young and naturally I vowed to do everything I could to get more time with them. Fight right to the very and if I had to. Indeed, I would do anything for love and the song became my song and mantra through this truly excruciating time:

Jonathon Amelia Bilbo

Taken on our son’s first day of school in 2009.

However, there’s a key line of the song undermines all that devotion….”but I won’t do that”.

What was it I wouldn’t do? Where was my breaking point? Where would I draw the line when it came to self-sacrifice to be there for my kids?

It was funny because I remember looking into the pantry and seeing a packet of Tim Tams sitting in there, and it was calling out to me. It was like they’d come to life and were asking me if I could give them up. Could I give up my beloved Tim Tams to buy extra time with my kids? Or, was the packet of Tim Tams going to be my Achilles Heel? My “but I can’t do that”?

Of course not. I was made of stronger stuff than that. Well, at least I hoped so.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Only a lunatic would go kayaking with two dogs on board, especially Bilbo who is sitting right on top of me. He never really found his sea legs and tried to keep his precious paws well out of the water.

Well, I was lucky. The lung specialist felt that the Institial Lung Disease was mild and dormant. I was not in any imminent danger of dying, although he told me exercise and losing weight could help my breathing and quality of life. The next day, we left for my in-law’s place just outside Byron Bay, Australia’s alternate health capital and found myself sugar-free on the Caveman Diet and drinking gurgling spirolina smoothies. Over the next few months, I lost ten kilos.

Meanwhile, my husband, Geoff, was diagnosed with high cholesterol, and the doctor wanted to see whether diet could avoid medication. So, while I went sugar free, he went low fat and with all of us eating the same food, we were both losing weight.

That is, all except Bilbo.

bilbo BW dog food

The dog really must be sick…he is sleeping in the trail of dog food Miss left for him.

However, that didn’t last very long. Soon, Bilbo went off for his annual trip to the vet’s, and boy did I get a talking to. I don’t know if any of you have ever taken an overweight pet to the vet. If you have, you might’ve found yourselves in a similar spot where you’re much loved pet is unceremoniously called: “FAT.” If they’re being nice, they might tell you: “You’re killing your pet with kindness”. However, they could also be brutally direct, and speak to you in a way that no paediatrician would ever use to a parent of an overweight child. Indeed, they can hit you where it hurts just like a well aimed ruler across the knuckles. Actually, make that the heartstrings. There’s not much worse than being told you’re a bad parent of child or dog.

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

To be fair though, Bilbo did hit the scales at 42 kilos, and although he’s tall for a Border Collie, he wasn’t that tall. Of course, I should’ve known and done something about it myself, without needing the vet to point it out. A friend had referred affectionately to his “love handles” as she was feeding him her left over gravy. Moreover, while he could somewhat conceal all that excess over-indulgence beneath his woolly coat, we weren’t stupid.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Reality really hit home, however, when the vet asked how many meals a day he’d been having. That was the very first time I’d really become conscious of the mind-blowing volume of leftovers I’d been feeding him. Both of our kids were non-eaters and it wasn’t unusual for him to get both of their leftovers breakfast, lunch and dinner. After all, I hate waste, and we even have a worm farm to consume what the dogs don’t eat.

Bilbo was put on an instant diet. No more snacks, treats, leftovers.

Zip.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

The trouble is, how do you tell a dog that he’s on a diet? How do you explain that you’re just not being mean, when you no longer give him that tasty morsel of fat off your steak? He was so used to getting all of our left overs that he had expectations – a sense of entitlement. So, naturally he looked at me through those huge, soppy puppy dog eyes as though I’d ripped his heart out. I was being so mean, and he knew nothing about the virtues of tough love. Was it too much to ask for Mum to have her cake, and for him to have some too? He certainly thought nothing of it. However he was a slow learner. A few weeks later when the kids went back to school, Bilbo spotted the lunchboxes and knew there would be leftovers for him inside. You could just imagine the look on his face when they bypassed his bowl and went straight in the bin.

Bilbo staring out to sea

I’m surprised Bilbo didn’t record his own sob song and post it on Youtube. His nose was very out of joint. After all, he knew food and love went hand in hand, and straight into his mouth.

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

Banksy

The only other time I’ve even seen Bilbo look at food in quite the same way was when he was put on prednisone for an infection. He was absolutely ravenous (prednisone is like a hunger drug and it makes you eat and eat and eat).

It really was hard putting him through this diet, but he lost weight, even if he was never going to make Slimmer-Of -The-Year.

Losing his appetite was the first sign Bilbo wasn’t well at the end and not being able to chase his ball was the second. Even still, we hoped for a miracle.

It wasn’t meant to be.

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for

those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as

separation.”

Rumi

However, as the song The Way We Were reminds us:

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Our Philosophical Dog walking along beside the tide. He doesn’t like getting wet paws.

Memories
May be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were
The way we were

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

 

I- Ipswich…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 9 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. My theme for 2020 is Places I’ve Been and today we’ll be travelling to Ipswich, Queensland, despite the state currently being in lock-down on account of the Coronavirus.

map of ipswich

Map showing the road route from Brisbane to Ipswich.

Australians will be rather gobsmacked to find Ipswich lined up alongside some of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world. Trust me! If I’d been to Ireland or India, Ipswich wouldn’t have made the cut. However, I decided to go with Ipswich to touch on a very important reason many of us travel. That is to see the people we love. Yes, that sense of place can also be about people.

Jonathon & Qantas Pilot

Our son with the Qantas Captain at Brisbane Airport.

So, today we’re going to visit my late grandparents who I always knew as “Mama and Papa Haebich, although since my grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 95, he came to be known as “Papa Bert” to our kids. My grandparents moved to Ipswich in about 1976, when I was seven years old.

Portrait Mama & Papa

My grandparents in front of the piano. My grandmother would cover it in cards and photos for special occasions. I don’t think I ever heard my grandmother play it, although she used to play the organ for church while my grandfather preached.

What I remember most about visiting my grandparents was their incredible, almost giddy love for us, which surpassed all human understanding. Our dogs get uber-excited about going for a walk and they literally quiver with excitement. However, I’m not even sure that comes close to how our grandparents felt about seeing us…especially my grandmother!

main street postcard

A Historic Postcard of Ipswich’s Main Street. 

With us living in Sydney, it was roughly a 1000 km drive to get there and I still remember the first time we drove up there in the family’s EH Holden with the unforgettable number plate “EGO”. My brother and I were sharing the back seat and almost murdering each other before we’d even passed through the toll gates on the Pacific Highway leaving Sydney.  I remember that incredible excited anticipation as we pulled into their street. My grandfather had specially bought brand new numbers for the house so we could find it. They were bright red and still there last time I looked more than 40 years later. They would’ve been keeping an eagle-eye out for our car. As soon as it appeared, they would’ve been down the stairs in a flash making the 1954 Royal tour look relatively sedate. As soon as she saw me, I would’ve been lost inside my grandmother’s arms all snuggled up inside a hug.

cartoon

My grandfather ued to draw us cartoons and post them down to us. This one shows when the infants school choir made a record and my mum was the accompanist. BTW back then I saw known as “Nina”. 

Before we move on from this very first trip to Ipswich, there was something else which also captured our attention. That was the fire engines. Their siren was quite different to what we were used to and the fire station was about a block away. So, the next morning while the big people were still asleep, my brother and I took ourselves on an excursion to the fire station. It was so much fun, and then Dad suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We weren’t really in trouble as such, I suspect because he had a few walkabouts of his own as a kid and he understood the need.

When I was older, I used to catch the McCafferty’s bus up to see my grandparents in my school holidays. Much to my mother’s annoyance, I did a lot of baking while I was there and she was trying to get both my grandmother and I to lose weight. However, she was over 1000 km away, and out of reach. My grandparents especially picked and froze mulberries from their tree, so I could make my not so world famous mulberry pie when I came. Of course, being the forbidden fruit made every scrumptious mouthful so much better. In addition to the cooking, we also used to catch the train into Brisbane to go shopping. I still remember when the then Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, introduced these flash new silver, single-storey trains, which my grandparents simply called: “Joh’s trains”. Joh could do no wrong, and was up there alongside the saints, until he slipped up. That was painful!

My grandparents lived in what’s known as a Queenslander house. This is essentially a historic rather ornate timber home, which is built up on pillars to maximize air-flow to cool the place down. This provides a massive and much cooler space under the house, which could provide added living space. However, in my grandparents’ case, it was an Aladdin’s cave of stashed treasures, including a functional laundry copper, which was still there when we sold the house about ten years ago. (I still get sad and have a deep sense of loss about all the stuff that was thrown out!!)

In more recent times, Queensland’s most infamous politician hails from Ipswich. Pauline Hansen famously used to have a fish & chips shop there, and has been canonized for her catch cry: “Please explain.”

Above – The Workshops Rail Museum has a nipper’s playground section for the kids. It’s sensational!!

Meanwhile, the arrival of our son on the scene, brought fresh meaning and a brand new destination on our trips to Ipswich. When he was about 2 years old, we took him to the Workshops Rail Museum for the first time. We’d flown up to Ipswich to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination as a Pastor in the Lutheran Church. While mum was busy with preparations back at the house, my Dad and I decided to take Mister for a quick visit to the trains, and we’d planned to return the next day for a longer visit. However, you try explaining that to a two year old who’s just discovered Nirvana?!!! He wouldn’t budge. He threw a whopper of a tantrum, and the guy operating the model train exhibit and was well versed in dealing with disappointed kiddies, kindly turned it off so we could get him out. My Dad pick him up and held him under his arm, kicking and screaming blue murder all the way out to the car . He clearly wasn’t taking “NO!!!” for an answer and after going to a gazillion parenting courses, I knew the only way forward was to wait until Vesuvius subsided and his rational mind started to kicked back in. That was our only hope of ever getting him back into his car seat and buckled in. However, who was I kidding? This toddler couldn’t read, but he’d sure as hell absorbed my favourite motivation quote:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

― Calvin Coolidge

Well, this kid had it covered. He was sitting in the driver’s seat and refusing to move. We rang my mum and warned her we could be back late and that her much beloved grandson was holding things up. Of course, this didn’t go down well. I don’t know how many head honchos from the Church were going to be at the celebration, but mum needed the car to get the cake out there and the stress levels back at the house were also at fever-pitch. I have no idea how we managed to get that car moving.

Papa Bert 70th ordination

My grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, at his 70th Ordination in 2007.

However, all’s well that ends well apparently. We all managed to get out there. The afternoon went without a hitch. AND (drum roll) we were all smiles for the cameras. Happy families!

Jonathon teaching Papa Bert to read

As is often the case when grandparents live a distance away, we’ve barely been back since my grandfather passed away in 2009. We’ve visited friends and gone back to the Workshops Museum, but it’s been too long and that’s not going to change for awhile now. I am exceptionally grateful for that and the strict measures the governments have put in place. We’ve had a good reduction in the number of new cases and Australians who are bunkered can actually feel quite safe, and also a huge sense of gratitude to our front line workers who are keeping us alive. Thank you very much!

Amelia & Jonathon piano 2010

Have you ever been to Ipswich? Or, perhaps there’s a place which is made special to you because of the people living there, which you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

Papa & Mama Haebich

 

D- Devonport, Tasmania: Crossing Bass Strait…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 4 of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge! Today, after visiting Australia’s capital Canberra yesterday, today we’re off to Devonport in Tasmania and you’re in for a treat. That’s because we’re travelling by boat on board the Spirit of Tasmania which runs between Melbourne and Devonport. I should point out that this is NOT a cruise ship and since we’re travelling in the virtual realm, you won’t catch the coronavirus. I promise!

DSC_3556

So, while it’s not a major city, you could say that Devonport is the Gateway to Tasmania when you’re traveling by boat.

DSC_3561

Family Photo taken in Devonport just before heading home on the boat.

It’s been three years since we last went down to Tassie. My husband, Geoff, was born and bred in Scottsdale in the North-East and families on both sides date back to early settlement. While most of his family were free settlers, the original Newton was a convict who was sent out Van Dieman’s Land via Nolfolk Island at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He was caught red handed wearing the clothes he’d stolen.

Have you ever been on the Spirit of Tasmania? Here’s a link to our experience.

We hope that you and yours are keeping well and safe and pray for God’s protection and comfort at this time.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Sojourn At Swan Lake.

“Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.”

– Hans Christian Andersen

On Saturday, we were lined up in our seats anxiously waiting for the curtain to rise. Our daughter was performing in Swan Lake & Beyond with the Central Dance Company at the Wyong Art House, North of Sydney. Not only that, she was going to be a swan and I couldn’t wait to see her appear like an apparition in that voluminous white tutu elegantly flapping her wings across the stage.

There is such an absolute silence…that pregnant pause… just before the curtain rises which seemingly lasts for eternity. We, the audience, is waiting in suspended animation, while anything could be happening behind the curtain. Like a bolt of lightening, the curtain rises and an explosion of colour, movement and sound grips our senses. We’re not on Swan Lake yet. Rather, the opening number is  called Hooked on Tchaikovsky.  The music reminded me of a cassette we used to have: Hooked On Classics. Those of you of a certain age, might recall it. Otherwise, just  think of fast-paced classics. I don’t know what to say about the dancing, except that I was wowed and I remember actively trying to expand my perception to take it all in, as I’m better at focusing in on a detail than absorbing the entire scene.

Amelia Swan Lake Waltz

Our daughter in Swan Lake Act 1 Waltz of the Swans.

Keeping track of our daughter during the opening number was difficult. Given their hairstyles and costumes were identical, all the dancers almost looked the same, and unless your dancer is extremely tall or short, it was down to hair colour. I always find my daughter has an identical twin in these performances and I forever mix them up. Once I spot her, that’s it. I have to keep my eyes fixed and I can’t even blink just in case I lose her. That’s why I’ve booked myself in to watch all three shoes. I figured I’d only be watching our daughter for the first show, and could then take in more of the bigger picture for shows two and three. After all, I do want to see the show in all its glory and not only through my blinkered, crazed-Mum-vision. Besides, the third show will also be at a different venue and I don’t want to miss whatever that means and that show will also be the finale. Besides, I know I’m not fooling anyone. We all know I’m a parent tragic gazing longingly up at our daughter as though she’s the star in the night sky. However, I make no apologies for that. Every performer needs their greatest fans. It’s not easy getting up on stage with a million and one things on your mind and having to hold it together on the pointe of your shoe. You need to know someone believes in you, especially when you’re pushing through into so many new frontiers, which are all deliriously exciting but equally terrifying and formidable.

“He had danced with fair maidens before, but Odette was different. She was graceful and beautiful, but there was something in her eyes and in the things she said, an intelligence and a boldness that belied her quiet demeanor.”
― Melanie Dickerson, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

However, this is not a review of the show or even our daughter’s performance within. I know professional critics do it all the time. However, I haven’t yet mastered the ability to condense something so mind-blowingly spectacular into a handful of words. I make no apologies for that. After all, Swan Lake is silent. There are no words at all. Yet, even as a wordsmith, I didn’t even notice they were missing because the movements and expressions of the dancers along with Tchaikovsky’s incredible music said it all. I was transfixed.

Yet, within all of the movement and the spectacular music, there was our daughter. Finally, almost at the end of the show, she appeared from left stage in her white tutu and she was a swan. You’d think I would’ve etched those moments into my retina forever so I could just pull up a seat and play it again Sam over and over again. However, I was also dazzled by the performances of the featured artists. There was Rebecca Petty as Odette and Cieran Edinger as Siegfried and I would have fallen deeply into their intoxicating love story if it hadn’t been for the diabolical Von Rothbart (played by Gary Bowles) who kept tearing them apart. Gary played this dastardly villain hauntingly well and  had me shaking in my shoes, even though I’ve met him quite a few times at rehearsals.

Amelia and Rowena

After the show with our daughter.

However, all too soon, the performance was over and we were left at Stage Door holding our flowers waiting for our daughter to appear. This reminded me of waiting at Arrivals at the International Airport where you’re waiting for this person you haven’t seen for a very long time to appear. However, there’s this dribble of people coming through and you’re waiting and waiting. When they finally appear, there’s almost an explosion of emotion. That uncurtailed excitement! No doubt that weary traveller was not unlike our petite ballerina who just wanted to get to bed and rest her feet. Well, she did have a her tales to tell and agreed to a few photographs, which wasn’t going to be a given. It wasn’t quite “Go straight to be, directly to bed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00”.

As we were driving home, I could almost shed a sigh of relief. The first two shows were done and dusted, and there’d barely been a ripple in the pond. Indeed, we were floating along on swan lake.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I hope to get a photo of our daughter in her Swan Lake tutu soon.

Weekend Coffee Share…9th September, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share. This week, I’d like to offer you a slice of pavlova with fresh cream, strawberries and passion fruit or piece of Mars Bar Slice. Well, you’re welcome to have both if you like but you might regret it later.

Today, is our 18th wedding anniversary and perhaps it is a sign that we’re no longer newly weds, that I’m sitting here typing away on my laptop, which is teetering precariously on top of the dog (Zac) while my husband has gone to sleep. However, it’s also a week night and so there isn’t much of a chance to swing from the chandelier tonight. However, we did enjoy an absolutely delicious meal prepared by my gorgeous support worker and I made the pavlova for dessert. It’s also still a bit too cold to do anything really special. We’re planning to go on a Sydney Harbour Cruise when it warms up a bit both to celebrate our anniversary, but also my 50th birthday. I didn’t want us to just go out for dinner because it was expected. I wanted us to make the most of it. Do something really special when the timing is right and everything aligns.

These days when I look back on that bride and groom, I feel we were very naive, even though we were 35 and 32 at the time. Each of us had been through some pretty intense experiences. I’d survived two lots of brain surgery, had backpacked through Europe as well as seeing quite a lot of Australia. Geoff lost his Dad when he was 16, his Mum just after we met and his brother in between. However, when I mentioned this sense of naivety to him tonight, I more or less concluded that it was more a sense of ignorance about what it was like to become parents. I’m not sure if anything can prepare you for that both in terms of the most extreme joy you’ll ever experience and the most stress, worry, frustration and a whole lot else. Before kids, there were relationships, connections and responsibilities, but there was that sense that you could always leave. Walk away. Or, in the case of your parents, runaway from home which always seemed a lot brighter in the middle of an argument, than being homeless has in reality. As a parent, you’re it…especially when your children are small.

In hindsight, my childhood seems well removed from what I’ll refer to as the realities of life. My friends and I played in the bush, caught tadpoles, climbed trees and swung from metal bars, which would now be deemed unsafe. Well, that’s exactly what they were and I still remember a friend falling off and breaking her front tooth. We also played “brandings on the wall” where you had to move from one side of the wall to the other without being hit by a tennis ball traveling at speeds almost exceeding Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillie who was “pounding down like a machine” back in the day. Don’t think I played brandings more than once, making a hasty retreat back to playing hopscotch or cat and mouse in the school weather shed. This was at the co-ed country school I attended for a few years and I think I went back to playing hopscotch and stayed away from the boys most of the time.

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I’ve been thinking a fair bit about my childhood over the last week after driving out to Galston and walking through my old primary school and then driving out to see the old house, which was on five acres with a dam and a horse. They were good times roaming through the paddocks or the bush with my dog, a collie called Lassie (just to be original). There used to be a dairy down the road where my friend used to live and I remember clambering over the hay bales. It was a great place to grow up, although it was rather isolated, especially down our end of town. We moved closer to the city when I was 12 and we were walking distance to the train station and school. So, I became quite independent and was able to get around easily for better or worse.

By the way, I should point out that it’s rather funny pausing for thought with your laptop perched on top of your dog, while they’re breathing in an out. My laptop is rising and falling with his breath, assuming quite a life of its own.

I’ve been keeping up with my goal of blogging at least three times a week for the Weekend Coffee Share, Thursday Doors and Friday Fictioneers.

My post for Thursday Doors featured the first house my parents bought together back in 1971 when I was two years old. I wanted to share their story as a point of encouragement to young people looking at saving to buy their first home. It really can seem like mission impossible and for many in Sydney these days, it is. Indeed, we bought our first home just out of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast which is much more affordable. We also discovered the beautiful beaches and natural scenery away from gridlocked traffic and the rat race. It’s been a great place to bring up our kids. Here’s the link: The Great Australian Dream- Thursday Doors

I had a bit of fun with  my post for Friday Fictioneers and wrote about  The Odd Couple. 

Well, I think that about covers last week in brief and the dog has decided that he’d had enough of supporting my writing and he decided to hop down onto his comfy and sturdy bed.

What have you been up to lately? I hope you’ve been going well.

Well, it’s now Late Tuesday night and I’m only just getting around to posting this. I spent last night trying to find photos online of the dairy which used to be at the end of our street. However, it’s not like it never existed. It only appears as a brief mention in real estate advertisements. Makes me feel older than my years, because it wasn’t THAT long ago.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Quite A Perfect Father’s Day…

A picture tells a thousand words, but it can also tell a thousand lies. After all, how many of us stick those perfect-looking family photos up on our blogs and Facebook projecting this idyllic life out to all and sundry? Most of us do it unwittingly, simply sharing the moment. However, how many of us are brave enough to tell the truth? Admit we didn’t have a perfect day?

However, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t believe online is the place to broadcast the truth either. Indeed, my grandmother who had quite a lot of wisdom stashed under the lid, used to say that you never run down your family to other people. While this can lead to the stiff upper lip and a swag of behaviors we’ve tried to overcome in subsequent generations, it also shows respect and allows family members to have their off days without fearing their dirty laundry will be aired in public and they need to hide themselves away.

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However, I’m also mindful that it doesn’t take much to project this image of the perfect, happy family especially if you’re still married to your original spouse and your kids scrub up alright. Indeed, without you even knowing it, you could even become a role model. That’s all well and good if you feel you deserve it. However, a lot goes on behind closed doors. Too much at times and you just can’t spill the beans and get it off your chest because it isn’t your story to tell. Or, as I said, you don’t want to broadcast what was really a blip on the radar…a bad day.

It was much easier to do that when the kids were small. You could share at playgroup about your toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket and exchange notes. It feels like more of a betrayal when you spill the beans on your teen. That you need to adhere to the code of silence. This is possibly quite different to when I was a teen and my mother played bridge and tennis with her friends. She was pretty discreet and I can’t imagine her disclosing any of our antics. Indeed, she is known to be very good with secrets…watertight. She doesn’t leak. Besides, I think she was inclined to hold back and keep our family’s business to herself. Indeed, I remember going to stay with her parents being given a list of things not to tell my grandparents for a swag of reasons. However, my grandmother knew I was the weakest link and most of the time I didn’t even need to say a word anyway. She already knew.

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Anyway, this Father’s Day was never going to be perfect. By that, I mean giving my husband breakfast in bed, opening presents and for us all going off to Church together. They always have something special at Church and a photo booth, which is lots of fun if your Father’s Day is shaping up alright, but salt in the wound if it’s not. However, only Geoff made it to Church today. I’m still getting over a virus and am taking things slow. Our daughter was off to dance rehearsals for Swan Lake and the curtain opens in only three weeks. So, she was gone for most of the day. Meanwhile, our son couldn’t sleep and didn’t get there either. It wasn’t a great show of family solidarity for Father’s Day and I just couldn’t make it happen either, which I probably would’ve done if I was feeling better.

However, despite a day which was teetering along like an apprentice  tightrope walker teetering back and forward from the brink, I tenaciously clung to my plans to cook a special baked family dinner and even a family specialty for dessert…my mum’s sponge cake topped with luscious passion fruit icing and dollops of cream. It was quite an effort cleaning all the paraphernalia and vitally important detritus off the kitchen table and I can’t remember the last time we actually set the table and had a more formal dinner.

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The Family Sponge Cake (oops I was struggling to blend the butter into the icing but it tasted great).

I don’t know if good food is a way to the heart, a way of helping people to bond and connect and for some of the walls to come down. However, it seemed to do the trick. Our daughter said the potatoes were the best I’d ever made, which is high praise coming from her as she eats like a sparrow. Our son wasn’t too hungry and was feeling tired and went off to bed without even trying the cake. However, he did start to perk up a bit.

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Indeed, they all did after I produced a big photo album and they started looking at old photos of Geoff’s Mum and Dad and the extended family. This was quite intentional on my part because Father’s Day is a hard day for my husband. His father died when he was around 16 just before Father’s Day 36 years ago. He didn’t get the chance to get to know his father as an adult. Obviously, the kids and I have never met him and there is quite an absence there. We don’t have a lot of stories and only a handful of photographs. So, it was really good to see Geoff and the kids pouring over these photographs and he could talk the kids through them. Our kids are a lot younger than their cousins so it was interesting for them to see them when they were their age. Sometimes, I must admit that it feels like our family missed the boat. We just weren’t there.

Meanwhile, there’s my Dad. We usually catch up with my Dad on  Father’s Day every year, although there are some years we celebrate on a different day because plans simply don’t come together, which is what happened this year. Father’s Day is held on the first Sunday in September here in Australia, and with the first Sunday falling on the 1st, it caught us off-guard. We didn’t have anything planned.

Dad didn’t mind. He was feeling exhausted as well and was happy to have a quiet day. We all seem to be getting over the Winter colds, which were compounded by heavy rain and winds during the week, which only reinforced our lethargy.

So, it wasn’t a perfect day. However, it did remind me to hang in there, even when things are far from perfect, and keep beavering away towards building connection, bridging gaps, misunderstandings and grumpiness. Never give up. If you think that sounds like a rallying cry, you’re right. I’m still trying to convince myself. However, your nearest and dearest are worth fighting for. Indeed, they are your world. For many of us, our forebears bore arms and defended our country and our principles. However, how many of us would make the supreme sacrifice for our family? I don’t know. Or, perhaps we’re prepared to die for our families but not prepared to live?

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

Jackie Kennedy

These are difficult issues. What would I do to save my family? Would I give it my all? Or, would I shut up shop. It’s all too hard. After all, there probably is no perfect family, although there probably are perfect moments which we need to seize hold of and savor for eternity.

Perhaps, we should also abandon the entire concept of the perfect family. Understand that a Happy Birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day might need to be considered beyond the day itself when things turn pear shaped or even go catastrophically wrong. That it’s not just about the date but about celebrating the person and our relationship and might be more about something that happened last week, a few months ago than this particular day.

Naturally, for many father is a stranger. An unknown on a whole range of levels. Sometimes that’ s a ache and other time something not experienced, isn’t missed and perhaps others have even filled those shoes. I will not dare to presume to understand.

So, I guess I’m feeling like making a toast to overcoming disagreements, strained relationships, misunderstandings and working through even times where we are treated badly and a serious apology is in order. That’s not to gloss over the pain, betrayal and disappointment. It’s not to condone and accept domestic violence of any kind. However, it is to encourage working through rocky relationships and trying to nut things out, smooth things over and to keep talking. This  is as much directed at myself as anyone else. I find it much easier to retreat inside myself and shut the door. However, love and relationships are the most important things to me and it’s ultimately detrimental to  do that. The only way forward is to come out of my hidey-hole and get the ball rolling.

I am hoping you might also find these reflections helpful and you might like to add some thoughts or experiences in the comments. Our families and relationships mean the world to us so let’s try not only to keep hanging in there, but to also bring out the best in them too.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Chicken #FridayFictioneers

“Jump the fence, Tom. Come on. I dare you.”

“Dunno Miranda. Can’t you read the sign? No trespassing. They’ll shoot us.”

“Chicken!” Miranda goaded, all bluff. She’d never do it. The new neighbours were weird, possibly even aliens.

“Am not, chicken” Tom replied, jumping into the never-ending abyss.

“Tom!” Miranda screamed. “TOM!!”

Silence.

He’d vanished.

Miranda freaked. Home alone, she’d have to jump the fence, wrestle with whatever it was to get her brother back. She didn’t know if she could do it.

Meanwhile, Tom snuck back over the fence and hid.

This was his best prank yet.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie.

98 words

This prompt brought back memories of my brother who had a friend who lived over our back fence. This little girl with long blond curls would climb up a tree on her side and down a tree on ours to visit. I’m not sure how many kids do that now. However, back then  fences between our houses were just a few planks to mark the boundary and we wandered freely in between each others’ houses. Within this friendly, embracing neighbourhood, I could see someone with a No Trespass sign really standing out.

By the way, I celebrated by Big 50 last week. Have been catching up with a whole lot of friends in small groups to make the most of it. It’s still Winter here and so I’m waiting for it to warm up before I organize a big party. I’m looking forward to it.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 2nd June, 2019.

Welcome Back for Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hope you like your banana cake served up with a side serve of chewed up tennis ball and a pair of beady-eyed dogs glaring at you to throw the ball. I also offer apologies for the other dog, Lady, who’ll be glaring at your cake and looking like she’s posing for Vogue Magazine with those puppy dog eyes.

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I’m sorry I missed you all last weekend. Last Saturday, I drove our daughter up to Newcastle for the regional school aerobics championships. This was the first time I’ve seen our daughter competing, and I was getting my head around it all. There were similarities with the dance and the dance eisteddfods she’s done, and yet this was new territory. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of jazz dance and the sort of aerobics I used to do too many moons ago. However, these girls had speed, agility and nose-breaking high kicks which placed it in a different league. That’s where the similarities with the dance ended. The girls were wearing white Reeboks instead of dance shoes and were referred to as “athletes”. Their team came first, which means they’re off to State. That’s all very exciting, although I am wondering how any child of mine could even make it into the school team. When I was at uni, I wrote an article entitled “Unco Aerobics”. In keeping with my poor sense of direction, I ended up facing the class instead of the front.

While we were in Newcastle, we headed off to The Junction, which is quite an upmarket, arty part of Newcastle. That could also read “expensive”. However, Mum’s cousin and her husband owned a Mexican restaurant down there called Munchos which was a real institution in Newcastle. Unfortunately, she passed away and Mum’s aunt and uncle passed away before that and so Newcastle has this sense of making a pilgrimage and this now focuses on the family restaurant, Talulah, where I found an old, dying piano out on the footpath this time and it really spoke to me about all these family members who have passed and all the times we had together.  I still remember Mum’s uncle returning from a spear fishing trip with a lobster when I was a child and how he drove this very shiny red and black taxi which lived in the garage under the house. What happened to all of that? How can entire worlds just disappear like that and why do I feel like the last one left standing when I’m not. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels like they’re living among the dead, not in a morbid way but with the memories which quite concrete. Something I can touch. Someone I can hold and still feel their vibrant laughter.

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Anyway, on this visit we ended up having afternoon tea at the cafe across the road as I was wanting cake. I needed cake after that dreadful getting lost driving to Newcastle experience and you can’t keep pouring yourself into your kids as a parent without refueling yourself. Moreover, I make no apologies for turning to food to do that. I had a variation of Creme Brulee and Miss was hungry too. So, there went the budget enhanced by a few superb finds at the local Red Cross Opportunity Shop.  It’s okay. We could survive on dry Vegemite toast. However, our teenage son disagreed.

Speaking of our son, he placed at the school athletics carnival last week. He was in the 400 metres relay which came in second. This came as a complete surprise. Our kids have never come home with a ribbon before and while our son does a lot of long-distance hiking with scouts, he’s on the computer every waking minute he’s not at school or in an arranged activity. So, it was a bit of a surprise to find out there’s a hidden athlete in there somewhere. I did ask him if he was off to zone and his reply was priceless: “Hope not!” His enthusiasm was clearly underwhelming.

I’m still beavering away on my research and book project. However, while I’ve made some enormous leaps forward, I can’t help feeling that I’ve headed backward. That perhaps if I’d written this story at the start with the little I had, I’d have my story done and dusted by now instead of feeling lost in a research wilderness. Have you ever felt like that? I’m sure the story I write once I finally put pen to paper will be a much more textured and complex tale than something I’d have rushed off. However, I was hoping to be further down the track.

By the way, my concept is to write a series of short biographical stories about a few of our stand-out ancestors. It was supposed to be fairly straight-forward because I’ve already researched the bulk of them. However, I decided to launch off with our first arrivals in Australia and that came down to Richard Keep on Geoff’s side who arrived in Sydney in 1808 and John Paton who arrived in 1818 on mine. Unfortunately, being right back at the beginning of our Australian story, they’re the ones I knew least. So, there’s been a lot of hard work and trying to get my feet into where they’ve come from, their crimes, the voyage to Australia, their time here and their legacies. That’s a lot to cover and then condense into a short story or two. However, I am making progress and I’m loving the journey along the way. An added bonus with John Paton has been the infusion of Scotland’s national poet, Robbie Burns who was living just down the road in his parents’ day and it also turns out that his first illegitimate child (he had a few) was with his mother’s servant by the name of Elizabeth Paton. I haven’t found a connection yet and our Patons were landholders. However, the plot has thickened. Indeed, that’s part of the problem. It’s become so thick I can barely move.

Have you been doing much reading lately? I’ve been reading Fled by Australian authorMeg Keneally and am really loving it. Meg Keneally is the daughter of legendary Australian author, Thomas Keneally who is best known for his story of Oscar Schindler, Schindler’s Ark. Father and daughter have been collaborating on the Monserrat Series and this is Meg’s first solo novel and she has another on the way.

Fled tells the story of Jenny Trelawney…”Highway robber. Convict. Runaway. Mother. She will do anything for freedom, but at what cost?

Jenny Trelawney is no ordinary thief. Forced by poverty to live in the forest, she becomes a successful highwaywoman – until her luck runs out.

Transported to Britain’s furthest colony, Jenny must tackle new challenges and growing responsibilities. And when famine hits the new colony, Jenny becomes convinced that those she most cares about will not survive. She becomes the leader in a grand plot of escape, but is survival any more certain in a small open boat on an unknown ocean?”

Meg Keneally’s debut solo novel is an epic historical adventure based on the extraordinary life of convict Mary Bryant. I heard Meg discuss the novel recently at the Sydney Writers’ Festival where she explained her decision to fictionalize the story as she felt it wasn’t right to put her own words and opinions onto the real Mary Bryant. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of history, and I gripping sea voyage.

Anyway, it’s now almost Monday night and I’m chomping on my dinner while I try to polish this off. It’s one of the advantages of living a day ahead of some of you folk.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to come along and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

 

Reference:

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/popular-fiction/Fled-Meg-Keneally-9781760680275

 

 

Hope For the Lost…?

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any hope for the directionally challenged, especially those of us with “geographical dyslexia’ who head the exact opposite direction like someone reversing their letters.

Last weekend, my doubts were only confirmed when my daughter and I managed to miss the freeway exit for Newcastle, the second biggest city in NSW and hardly somewhere you could miss. Obviously, the sign was hardly insignificant or hiding behind a tree either. Yet, we achieved the seemingly impossible! We missed it.

Before I go any further, I should emphasise that we were heading for Newcastle just North of Sydney in Australia and not Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, or Newcastle Ontario and if you want to be really clever or completely lost you could even end up in Akhaltsikhe (Georgia), Nove Hrady (Czech Republic), Jaunpils (Latvia). Those would take my capacity for getting lost to new, inconceivable heights!!

While it’s all very funny to joke about how women can’t read maps or might hold the street directory “upside down”, for those of us who literally get lost in the shower the difficulties, stress and consequences of venturing further afield are daunting and even prohibitive. Indeed, as a sheep who’s been lost many times over, I’m often left calling out for a shepherd and lost beyond the powers of prayer. It’s no wonder that I have three sheepdogs at home and perhaps if I sat one of them in the front seat, they might be able to get me where I want to go. I’d just have to hope a ball or stick didn’t fly past or we’d end up in serious trouble. They wouldn’t stop.

Rowena & Amelia red car

Shame you can’t drive along with your navigator sticking their head out for a better view.

Anyway, I was put through my paces again last Saturday when I had to drive our daughter to Newcastle for her regional school aerobics competition. Theoretically, Newcastle is “just up the road” and about a 1.5 hour’s drive. Moreover, I’ve been to Newcastle quite a few times. So, finding my way around shouldn’t be a problem and yet it was. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t be like my Dad who only ever has to go somewhere once and can find his way back without any assistance at all. He might not have been to Newcastle for over ten years. However, I still remember him driving straight to Mum’s Aunty’s place which wasn’t right smack bang next to the GPO either. His navigational skills are legendary.

Papa and Chev

My proud grandfather with his Chev in 1938. 

 

However, Mum’s father’s sense of direction was also legendary but for all the wrong reasons. He not only seems to be the source of my spatial dyslexia he also refused to follow the map and had to find his own way. Once, after we’d moved house my Dad posted him a map with red arrows marked on it. Yet, he still managed to get lost. Thought he’d use “DIY navigation” instead. Go his own way. Dad was beside himself. Why couldn’t he follow the arrows? Jeepers! What’s a shepherd supposed to do when the sheep exits stage left instead of right and won’t heed the warnings? Just to add a bit more texture to this portrait, my grandfather was actually a Church Minister so goodness knows where he was leading his flock or if they were ever heard from again. Naturally, I jest on that front because in every other sense of the word, he was a true shepherd. Just don’t ask him to follow a map!

Bert & Marj State Border 1938

Pictured with his sister Marj (I think) on the South Australian & NSW Border back in 1938 when he drove to and from Dalby Queensland back home to Hahndorf, SA. 

 

While the spatially challenged were at the mercy of the street directory back in the day, we now have a host of gadgets and apps at our disposal and we have no excuse for getting lost. However, so far I’ve refused to get GPS because I don’t want my navigational skills to get worse. I believe wholeheartedly in the powers of neuroplasticity and that if I get lost often enough, one day I’ll be found. Well, actually it would be far better if I could find my own way there.

So, I decided that if I had any chance of turning myself into a navigational superhero, I needed to apply the Scout’s motto and “Be Prepared”. Friday night, I got the street directory out. Photocopied the route and highlighted it with a bright orange fluoro marker. You couldn’t miss it. I also sat our daughter down and went through the map with her. After all, she was going to be Navigator-In-Chief. We both knew where we were going. We’d been to this part of Newcastle before and it was quite familiar. The venue was also across the road from a huge Westfield Shoppingtown at Kotara and if we lost everything else, we couldn’t miss that. We could not go wrong.

However, as we found out, there’s a huge difference between seeing something on a map and seeing it on the ground where you have all sorts of landmarks which bring these streets and turn-offs to life.

Newcastle Link Road

How could we possibly miss a sign this big, bold and clear?

Before we had a chance to apply our knowledge of the Newcastle map itself, we missed the turnoff to the Newcastle Link Road off the freeway. I definitely remember seeing the exit and the sign beforehand. However, then I saw this little goat track off the freeway and couldn’t see the overpass and so I didn’t turn off. The next thing we were heading towards Hexham with no U-Turn and no side streets. We were stuck on a trajectory which was taking us all the way to Queensland.

Well, it would have if we’ve driven another ten hours down the same road. I’m not intending to exaggerate, catastrophize or in any way beat up just how far we’d deviated off course. However, I did need to pull over. Stop hyperventilating and work out how on earth we were going to shift the earth round and off its axis so we could approach Newcastle from a different angle. Actually, I think that should read something like turning the map around,  but I’m not good at regrouping. I had my route all planned and mapped out in bright orange. It was gouged into my neurones for eternity. I just hadn’t factored in that we could miss a major exit and all the signposts which went along with it.

Unfortunately, it took a while for our daughter to appreciate the true nature of the crisis. That she was driving with Mum not Dad, and I was in throws of having a fully fledged catastrophic meltdown. That soon there was only one direction I could drive, and that was home.

Phew! She woke up. Next, she did what every sensible teenager would do She went for the map on my phone. While this might not be as good as the street directory for giving us the bigger picture, it does have a blue dot showing where we are and talked us through where we were and where we were going. It overcame the hurdle of coming at it from a different direction as well, which isn’t done easily with your old-fangled street directory. Indeed, I might even be a convert. If we’d been using Google Maps, we would not have missed the exit. It would have been clear.

By the way, if you ever see a red Alph Romeo wandering around the road like a lost sheep, be afraid. Very afraid. Or, if you’d like to be constructive, you might just tell me where to go. I’d be most thankful!

How are you when it comes to reading maps and getting around? Do you have any epic sagas of getting lost and battling with the compass? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena