Tag Archives: kids

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.

Edward-Munch-The-Scream--black---white--15892

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

Dog, that is NOT your bed!

You provide your dog with a comfy dog bed and blankets in the house, the choice of two kennels outside, not to mention a possie lying on the grass in the midday sun and what does she do, she sets up residence on my son’s bed as if she owns the place.

As you’re probably aware, our dog is called Lady. Being a dog, she doesn’t have Google access to nut out the difference between being a “Lady” and being a “Princess” or even, (heaven help us) “THE Queen”. However, there’s no doubt that she firmly believes she’s holds prime real estate in Burke’s Peerage.

Or, maybe, she’s just dyslexic and thinks she’s God.

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Lady is “simply irresistable”.

Knowing the presumptiousness of that dog, I wouldn’t be surprised. She’s definitely working towards world domination. Or, at least, domination of our world.

So, it was that I caught her sleeping on my son’s bed yesterday, and not for the first time either. However, this time I managed to secure photographic proof.

Caught her in the act.

“I don’t really understand that process called reincarnation but if there is such a thing I’d like to come back as my daughter’s dog.”

Leonard Cohen

Dogs are curious characters and I never tire of watching and loving them and forgiving their indiscretions in a way you’d never do for a person. No doubt, that’s the reason they have those huge puppy dog eyes. Master manipulators who fly under the radar, they know it only takes one look to be forgiven…or to receive a snack.

We are but putty in their paws.

Has your dog been up to any mischief or adventures lately? I’m thinking I should turn this into a regular feature…Dob in your dog. 

Hope you’re having a great week.

xx Rowena

PS In case you’re wondering, Lady is a Border Collie x Cavalier. She’s totally black aside from a little patch of white on her chest and on her paws. She has floppy cavalier ears and very silky cavalier fur. She’s a very pretty dog.

PPS: Lady has requested an upgrade after seeing this French mansion: https://wikr.com/rsyt-auyt-man-stumbled-upon-abandoned-mansion-countryside-blown-away-saw-inside/?utm_source=desc&utm_medium=bestbot1

Dog Walking in Winter.

Just when I was fully cocooned in my doona and vowing to stay put until Spring, a friend invited me to walk the dogs at the beach. Given the bitter cold, the rational part of my brain was telling me to defer a few months.

However, our friends have a new dog they’d adopted during the week. So, like the cluckiest of grandma’s swooping on the new baby, I was uber keen to meet “the new dog”.

That’s why Lady and I found ourselves braving the elements this morning at a bracing 11°C or 51°F. That’s like putting an Australian into the deep freeze and closing the door. I do not respond well to the cold!

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It was fun walking our dogs along the beach. While it wasn’t their first trip to the beach with their new dog, they’re still finding their feet and paws and getting to know each other and the elements. Dog didn’t disgrace herself too much. Well, at the beach. She loved chasing the waves and biting them. If you have any experience of dogs drinking sea water, you’ll know this didn’t end well. However, we are still mid story and she still had a huge run down the beach to get through. We were concerned that she wouldn’t turn back. After all, she’s still bonding and getting to know her new family and where she belongs.

Meanwhile, Lady was wandering all over the place sniffing in her usual form. I think she disowns me at the beach. I ran into my usual dogwalking friend and filled him in about Bilbo. I hadn’t seen him since Bilbo passed, although he wasn’t surprised by the news. He was still throwing tennis balls for his dogs and usually Bilbo would’ve been barking at him to throw the ball for him too. Bilbo was a great dog but he was utterly obsessed and could be extremely bossy and demanding. Lady is relatively mellow. She doesn’t even bark when we have visitors. This means we’re now needing to get our doorbell fixed. No one could come near our place without Bilbo heralding their arrival. So, he was a fantastic doorbell, even if he was rather over-zealous.

Do you have a favourite local place where you walk your dog? If so, feel free to add a link in the comments. 

xx Rowena

PS It is looking like we could well be minding a border collie x kelpie for a bit. Her owner is trying to find pet friendly accommodation and didn’t want to give her up. After losing Bilbo, I didn’t want her to lose her fur baby. Stay tuned.

 

82 584 18 – Friday Fictioneers.

The numbers were etched onto the back of his eyeballs. Glued to his brain. Black numbers on a sunny yellow background. William was fixated on number plates. He knew no one by name, only their number plate.

“What about the boy?” The detective asked. “Must’ve seen something. Wasn’t he at the scene when his sister went missing?”

“Autistic…non-verbal. Not a hope. Just sits there rocking, banging his head.”

“Shit.”

His mobile rang.

Dinner By Heston? Sorry, babe. Birthday can wait. Missing kid.”

“The mother’s asked for a sketch pad, Boss.”

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioners hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a photo prompt. Click here to go through to the Linky. Photo Prompt © Kent Bonham

xx Rowena

More About Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

 

Weekend Coffee Share 16th July, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

There’s a chocolate cake in the oven at the moment, so if you’re patient you’ll be able to have a slice of luscious chocolate cake with your choice of coffee, tea or Bonox. Quite frankly, I don’t recommend the Bonox and to be honest, I don’t think we have any. It’s just an expression my mother’s always used. Have you heard it before?

What have you been up to?

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks and go back on Tuesday. I’ve been running around like a maniac trying to get the house and the kids ready. So, making the chocolate cake wasn’t such a good idea. Cocoa spread all over the kitchen and is a beast to clean up and while the icing was scrumptious, the cake itself was very dry and has been deemed a fail. The fan isn’t working in the oven and it’s clearly time to wave the white flag and put baking on hold until it’s fixed.

The school holidays have flown past. Our daughter’s been doing dance workshops and preparing for her upcoming Grade IV RAD ballet exam. Meanwhile, our son spent the first week at my parents’ place and the second week he was rehearsing for Gang Show, an annual variety show put on by Guides and Scouts. We attended their performance last night and loved it and were so proud of him. He smiled throughout the entire performance and really must’ve been enjoying himself. If you have an opportunity to attend a Gang Show near you, I strongly encourage it. Society is so quick to judge our young people when they do something wrong, but they also need our support when they’re doing something right. You will probably see more polished performances elsewhere, and you might find some of it slow or geared towards another age group, but there’s also a magic in a good, inclusive amateur performance. Something which leaves you warm inside, simply because.

By the way,  I should mention that the theme for this year’s show was holidays and included classics like Surfing USA by the Beach Boys, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. Hearing those classics again, is always good.

Alongside these activities, we have still been grieving the loss of our precious Border Collie, Bilbo three weeks ago. The grief is starting to lift now, and writing about him has helped. I’ve also been writing about our first tentative steps without him. This has included being sorely tempted to adopt Stella, a four year old Maltese x Tibetan Spaniel which a friend had in rescue. However, we have decided to wait awhile and get a Border Collie pup in the New Year. In the meantime, I spotted a pseudo Border Collie and brought him home. He’s been christened “FB”, or Fake Bilbo. Having him around, has been unexpectedly good. Perhaps, we could also call him “Clayton”…the dog you have when you don’t have a dog, although Lady just growled at me and reminded me that we still have a real dog.She was most upset.

As it turns out, I’ve been driving the kids around a fair bit over the last two weeks. For me this is a bit on a mixed bag. On the one hand, being in the car is ideal for catching up with them and I love driving them around with their friends in the car. I learn so much and feel part of their lives. On the other hand, it can be stressful driving to unfamiliar places, especially when they’re late. It can feel like you’re putting too much of yourself out there, and it can be quite draining.

It’s just not the driving, but lately I’ve been feeling quite lost. Like I’ve pouring myself out all the time and there isn’t much left. That I’m running close to empty and aside from having a nap, I’m not sure how to recharge myself. The usual sparks like trying to write my book or going out for coffee with friends, aren’t lighting the fire. I had thought of going away for a few days in the holidays by myself, but after losing Bilbo I didn’t want to leave Lady at home by herself. I know these thoughts are leading me in a new direction and I’m currently at that point where you can’t see the dots joining up and the overall picture is still obscured. That it will come. My daughter starts high school next year and won’t need so much taxiing which will be good. Yes, I can see myself finding my feet again in the new year, although there always seems to be something going on  and it’s my job to be the wind beneath their wings. Yet, I also need to fly and it’s a struggle to find that balance. Indeed, sometimes this song comes to mind:

“What about me? It isn’t fair
I’ve had enough, now I want my share
Can’t you see, I want to live
But you just take more than you give”

I have no doubt that kids forget their parents also need to be nurtured, recharged and get that all-important pat on the back. No one can keep giving and giving and keep living. If you’ve ever read Shel Silverstein’s: The Giving Tree, I find that illustrates this well.

Have you ever felt like this as a parent?

On the other hand, these trips often take me to places I wouldn’t go and while I’m waiting, I can go exploring.

Last week, I ended up in Gosford for a few hours while my daughter was at a birthday party. I ended up talking to a bloke I met in the lift for an hour. He turned out to be a musician and a writer, but then started to talk to me about aliens living amonst us and conspiracy theories and I decided to go for a walk.

Gosford is a funny place. It terms of location, it has so much going for it. It’s on the waterfront and has a train station and is 30 mins to Sydney and just over an hour to the heart of Sydney. Yet, it somehow became the old part of town and many parts of it are tired if not derelict. It’s clearly a place which could use and well deserves a good facelift, and this is slowly coming along.

So, after walking to check out some Autumn trees, I came across the skating rink, which had been set up for the holidays. My daughter had been keen to go, but has been too busy. That’s a bit of a shame, because skating outdoors like this isn’t something we’re used to in Australia and it’s rather special. So, it would be good to experience and support it. I want them to keep it up.

To fill you in on recent posts, there have been a few about dogs:

Resisting Temptation.

Our Surrogate Dog

There’s also been my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers: A Shimmer of Moonlight and an account of my first go at cooking with fennel, which is quite an odd looking thing to me: Cooking An Alien Being

So how has your week been?

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Part-Time Monster Blog.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Our Surrogate Dog.

When you lose someone you love, it’s only natural to look for some way of blocking out the grief and relieving the pain, even at the risk of looking silly or finally confirming that you’re weird, bonkers, and totally insane. However, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else and it gets you through a tough time without turning to drugs and other harmful things, I’m all for it.

That’s why I bought a surrogate Bilbo, who we’ve called FB or Fake Bilbo.

As you probably know by now, we lost our beloved dog Bilbo a few weeks ago, and our grief has been raw and painful. Although we have another dog, Lady is very different to Bilbo and not a surrogate…and she’s had to spread herself quite thin getting around four laps now that she’s the only dog.

We’ve also become used to having two dogs and Lady has never been an only dog. So, there’s been quite a lot of “adjusting” all round.

Not unsurprisingly, there’s been quite a lot of talk about getting another dog. In my last post, I mentioned how we’d resisted cute little Stella, and are waiting to get a Border Collie pup down the track.

DSC_5800

However, all my resistance melted when I spotted this Border Collie in a shop. I had to have him. He looked so much like Bilbo. Moreover, when I picked him up, there was that immediate mix of longing and connection. I could bury my face in his fur and hold onto his paw, and it felt real. There was more than a lump in my throat, but I felt happy and that a layer of grief had fallen away and I could smile.

It reminded me of an old saying:

“If you can’t have the one you love, love the one you’re with. If you can’t love the one you’re with, turn out the light.”

What’s special about FB is that he’s not just an ordinary soft toy. Rather, he’s a “weighted toy” and weighs about 5 kilos. Weighted therapy is used by occupational therapists for people with Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, but it also helps people who are grieving by providing something to hold onto during a time of loss. That added weight makes the dog feel real and the pressure I guess also acts a bit like a massage. While having a weighted dog to ease the grief of losing Bilbo is one application, my friend who had a still born baby was given a white teddy by the hospital to take home. Of course, nothing could compensate. However, that teddy is so much more than a memory, a something and has a place in her heart beyond words.

So, while I might feel a bit silly having a stuffed Bilbo, it works. AND, I can always say he belongs to the kids. Mind you, as we walked a long along the full length of town carrying FB, my daughter wasn’t carrying him. No! She was too embarrassed. It was me.

When I arrived home with the “new dog”, I made sure I warned the rest of the family. From a distance, FB really does look very lifelike and I didn’t want him to have the reverse effect and make them sad.

However, we couldn’t warn our other dog, Lady, who really has been missing her canine companion. When she saw him, she came running up wagging her tail. She was sooo excited and sniffed it all over for what seemed like eternity, before she gave up on it. Her mother was also a Border Collie, and she came here when she was two. So, it probably wasn’t just Bilbo she was thinking of.

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Fake Dog and Real Dog.

By the way, Fake Bilbo has certain advantages over the real thing. He doesn’t need to be fed or walked and doesn’t poop or bark. Doesn’t steal your food off your plate or dig holes under fences to escape. He has very pat-able fur. FB doesn’t lick either, which depending on your point of view, could be a positive or a negative.

However, the bottom line is that Fake Bilbo can’t love you back like a real dog. As much he might look and even feel the same, he can’t look at you with those empathic, puppy dog eyes. He can’t see right through you with such compassionate understanding, that you know he can see straight through to the bottom of your soul. Humans rarely have such vision. Most are only waiting to tell you their own stories. Or, maybe I’m just being cynical. Of course, not every dog is capable of such understanding, but Bilbo certainly was. Mind you, he lived through some pretty intense times with our family and he went through all that as well. So, it’s not surprising that he understood difficult emotions. While Lady is a very loving dog and incredibly warm and friendly, she doesn’t have Bilbo’s intensity, his insight. At the same time, he never had her joie de vivre. I’ve never seen such a happy dog!!

bilbo & Lady friends

Bilbo and Lady when she first arrived.

Meanwhile, Lady is enjoying walks to the shops, although she probably wasn’t impressed when I tied her up outside the butcher’s the other day. She just told me that sniffing lamb chops all the way home wasn’t much joy either.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend and it’s about time I head out into that beautiful Winter sunshine.

xx Rowena

More About Weighted Therapy

Weighted therapy is the use of weighted products to apply weight and deep touch pressure (surface pressure) to the body stimulating the proprioceptive sense enabling those who are “sensory seeking” to relax, focus and have a greater awareness of their body.

The proprioceptive sense gives us information about our body’s position and movement via receptors on the skin, in the muscles, joints and ligaments. Those with a poor proprioceptive sense have difficulty interpreting these sensations often resulting in behaviour that gives them sensory feedback – for example jumping on a trampoline, chewing, spinning, running etc with seemingly limitless reserves of energy! They have great difficulty switching off and usually do not sleep well at night. This “sensory seeking” behaviour can be calmed and controlled by the use of weighted therapy and the application of deep pressure.

http://www.sensorydirect.com/about-weighted-therapy