Tag Archives: mom

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.

 

V- Places I’ve Played My Violin.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which is rapidly drawing to a close. I had considered heading to Victoria, and was going to write about visiting the vineyards of Australia’s Hunter and Barossa valleys. However, as experienced in previous posts, I’ve been having a lot of trouble digging up my old photos and so I decided to bail. So, instead, I’m writing about where I’ve played my violin, although I’ll also throw in my daughter’s grand violin performance, which humbles mine completely. Indeed, I’ve become her humble shadow.

Violin & concert violinist music

My violin journey began as a child when I was learning Suzuki violin from Yvonne Gannoni, who I recently found out had studied at the Royal Academy of Music and had stellar talent. In the 1970’s, she was teaching Suzuki violin from her home in Pymble on Sydney’s North Shore and also at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains. What I remember most about her, however, is her bright blue eye shadow and colourful kaftans. At least, I think they were kaftans, and they sort of fit in with the era. She was a larger than life, flamboyant figure who held her annual concerts at nothing less than the Sydney Opera House, where groups of students would perform the Suzuki repertoire. It was in hindsight, absolutely fabulous.

It was my brother who was truly learning violin from Miss Gannoni, while I was learning the piano from my beloved Mrs Gaut. However, I had to wait for my brother’s lessons to finish and somewhere along the way, I decided to take up the violin. Unfortunately, my efforts at the violin were very short-lived as I couldn’t get either my head or my fingers around how to hold the bow. I think I stuck at it for a year and that was that. Unfortunately, in that very short time, I never made it to the Opera House.

family playing violin

The family playing violin from Suzuki Book 1 in 2012.

That could well have been the end of my love affair with the violin. However, when I was around 25 and working in the city, I was walking through Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building and heard a busker playing Meditation By Massinet. Ever reflective and tinged with melancholy, this piece of music was absolutely magnificent and seemed to be playing my soul song at the time. I even bought his CD, which was very unusual for me.

violin birthday cake

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

Fast-forwarding to 2012, our daughter begged us to learn the violin. I wasn’t altogether sold on this, because the general consensus was that the piano would be a better first instrument. Moreover, with my mother being a piano teacher, accompanist and former student of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and my grandmother being a concert pianist, the piano was a natural destination. However, the piano never really spoke to me in the same way it moved my moher and grandmother and my cousin is a cellist. So,  contrary to my upbringing, there were other instruments and you didn’t HAVE to learn the piano. You could diversify.

Amelia Violin

That’s how we found ourselves one afternoon in term one 2012 with my daughter kitted out with her eighth size violin. At least, I’m pretty sure it was an eighth. The teacher offered for me to sit in. I didn’t know this at the time and her teacher wasn’t Suzuki trained, however, part of Suzuki’s approach is for the mother to play and for the child to play alongside the mother and learn music in the same way they almost seem to absorb language. Anyway, when we came home, it soon became clear that my help was required and that year of Suzuki training I’d had under the Great Yvonne Gannoni was being summoned back from the very deepest depths of memory. We pulled Geoff’s grandfather’s violin out of storage and that was to be my instrument until the Ebay violin arrived from China and I later moved onto the Stentor I still play today.

As it turned out, our daughter’s relationship with he violin at age 6 was short-lived. After a very passionate start, we went way and when she came home, her violin was screeching like a dying cockatoo, which not only assaulted her ear drums, but also her pride. The end didn’t come quietly or through neglect, but rather stormy angst and heartfelt tears. I continued on with her lessons until the end of term and kept going.

At the end of the year, the music school held their annual concert at a rather impressive local music venue, Lizottes, which was owned by Australian rock legend Diesel and his brother and all sorts of famous local and international acts had performed there…along with little old me in our violin ensemble. As we hung out together in the “red room” downstairs, we had a taste of the big time and boy it felt good, even better once we hit the stage. It was exhilarating. I even won an award.

Perhaps, it was the thrill of this success, which gave this novice and not very proficient violinist the pluck to pose with her violin outside Byron Bay Lighthouse. Indeed, this was actually more the photographer in me than the “budding” musician. Aside from the Sydney Opera House, what better backdrop could you ask for? I was just hoping against all hope, that nobody asked me to play. Boy, that would’ve had been scuttling off for cover, which of course they did. OMG!!! What was I thinking?

Anyway, I still haven’t made it to the Sydney Opera House. As the years go by, and my hopes rapidly fade of ever pulling off that much needed 10,000 hours of practice before I’m beyond a Zimmer frame, I’m now needing to find a fresh sense of purpose for my violin. Indeed, I need to find a tribe, which is not so easy where we live, especially when I’m not getting a lot of practice in.  My lessons are currently on hold due to the coronavirus, and I’m reconsidering everything. I need to find a way forward, which is seriously heading off along the road less travelled. It would be so much easier if I played the guitar. However, I’m a violinist. It’s a different sound, which comes from a different place, and I don’t want to lose that precious part of me. Somehow, I need to hold on.

Rowena on stage

Performing at an in-house concert last year.

Have you ever learned the violin? Or, perhaps you have a favourite piece of violin music? Or, you play something else? Or, you might even hate the violin and it’s dreadful screechings and squarkings. You don’t need to tell me just how vile a violin can sound, particularly in the early days. I know!!!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 20th April, 2020

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Since we’re meeting up in a virtual sense, let’s throw social distancing out the window and we can all shake hands, hug and even throw a party together. Don’t you just miss all of that close social contact and being with family and friends beyond your front door?!! It’s particularly hard on people people who are living alone. After all, it’s not a lifestyle choice which everyone chooses, and it’s times like this that those twists and turns of fate can be particularly hard to get through.

By the way, since we’ve been doing a bit of baking here, you can have your pick of chocolate Caramel Slice, or  chop chip cookies and there might’ve been a pavlova in there somewhere or perhaps that was a few weeks ago. Of course, you’re always welcome to Vegemite toast where you pop round here. It’s an Australian staple, especially for me.

How is the coronavirus impacting your part of the world? It’s sure inflicting a lot of grief  in a lot of places, but fortunately Australia and New Zealand are doing okay atm. However, it’s hard to know just how it’s all going to pan out and nobody has a crystal ball.

Still, lock down isn’t bliss and so many people have lost their jobs and are doing it tough. I’m gaoled inside, except for going out for exercise, and then I have to breathe in every time I approach another human being, I almost flinch. Our local footpaths weren’t made for social distancing. They weren’t made for two dogs on leads to pass each other either. None of our three dogs tolerate other dogs either, and even bark and lunge from across the road at times. It’s so embarrassing. I’m clearly not a good dog mum and it’s back to school for me.

However, clearly other parts of the world are doing things much tougher and so many loved ones are losing their lives. I also want to give a big shout out to all those working in our hospitals and essential services. Many, many thanks and I hope you’re getting along okay. You’re all working under very extreme war zone type conditions and we as a global community are thinking of you and sending our love.

Well, how is lock down looking for us?

Well, I’m in lock down with my husband Geoff and our two teenaged kids aged 16 and 14 along with our three dogs. Geoff’s working from home and has also completely dug up our backyard and buried a layer of subterranean “pavers” which are designed to stop dogs from digging holes. Yes, we needed to reclaim our backyard, especially because we’re wanting to put our new isolation camper in the backyard without it falling down a hole. My research on WWI is continuing and I’ve also been beavering through the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, where I’m writing about places I’ve been. I’m currently a day behind because I’m trying to get Paris write. What I want to say is fairly complex, because as the saying goes “not all that glitters is gold”.

ballet shoes

Meanwhile, the kids are on school holidays. Our daughter has three days of dance rehearsals this week which will be running via zoom in our kitchen. I’ve had to put a schedule on the white board out there so the rest of us can schedule in our cups of tea and there’s also a matter of cooking dinner, which seems to clash with the schedule and the rest of us are left huddled together with empty tummies out in the loungeroom. That goes double for Lady, one of our dogs. She’s thinking about dinner as soon as she’s finished breakfast.

Bruce

Bruce the Shark Grass

Our son has been doing Scouts for years and is now a Venturer. They’re also conducting their meetings via zoom and their leader also set them a lock down challenge. They’re growing grass animals and there’s naturally a competition to see whose animal has the longest hair at the end of the holidays.

Zac at the beach

Meanwhile, the dogs have been the overall winners during this lock down scenario. Since we’re only allowed out for exercise, they’ve been going for a lot more walks and they’ve also had all of us home. That means four ball and stick throwers and they’re thrilled to bits. I’ve been enjoying our walks along the beach, although Zac wasn’t allowed off the lead until all the other dogs had gone home. We have some work ahead.

Meanwhile, I’m binge watching Masterchef tonight. Somehow, I missed the start of the series and I had a week to catch up on. I wasn’t sure how it would go with the three new judges. However, they brought back contestants from past seasons and that’s provided the familiarity and I quite like the new judges. This week was Gordon Ramsay Week, and I must say I feel sorry for the contestants launching off a new season with him. Talk about being thrown in the deep end.

Well, I’d better finish this off and get to bed. It is very, very late, but I just ran out of hours today. I run out of hours every day. I wonder where they go…

Take care and stay safe.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

“The Dog House”…Our Response to the Coronavirus.

Today, my husband and I went and bought a pop-top caravan with a longer term vision of road trips. However, the reality is that we’ve bought the caravan to protect me from catching the coronavirus from the family. We bought something small and cheap which will fit in the backyard alongside the boats, and it needs a lot of work. However, at the end of the day, we’ll have something which is our own and almost becomes a member of the family. We’ve decided to call it: “The Dog House”. That’s not only because it will be parked out in the backyard with the dogs. As you may be aware, “being in the dog house” is when a bloke is in trouble with his wife and he might be sleeping on the couch but the saying is that “he’s out in the dog house”.

 

For those of you who have been following Beyond the Flow for some time, you’ll be aware that I live with a severe auto-immune disease, Dermatomyositits  which attacks my muscles and that as a complication of this, I’ve developed Insitital Lung disease with fibrosis in my lungs. I live with 50% lung capacity on a good day, and I also know what it’s like trying to get through a really bad day. A few years ago, I caught pneumonia and stopped breathing for a split-second. I was coughing and coughing and coughing and suddenly there was nothing. Fortunately, something popped and cleared my lungs and I was still alive. It took months for me to get out of danger and my lung specialist bluntly told me that if I caught anything else, I’d be finished. This pneumonia also triggered a flare of my auto-immune disease. So, I also ended up having chemo to halt that. So, you see, I have a pretty good idea of what it could be like to catch the coronavirus and what it would mean for me and our family…or the extended community. This is not something to treat with our usual Australian indifference. The “she’ll be right mate” attitude. Some of us will be right. Some us us will still be here but with scarred and damaged lungs, and others will be gone, especially if we as a community don’t take transmission seriously and self-isolate as much as we can. That said, I haven’t completely quarantined myself yet. Not knowing how long this thing could hang around for, I am being very selective.

I also wanted to share a Facebook post from one of my dear Muscular Dystrophy friends, Cassie who is in her 20s. I won’t say much about her except to say she’s stretched and extended herself well beyond her disability and conquered so many hurdles. Then, something like this virus comes along, and it isn’t about fear or anxiety. The threat is real. Anyway, here’s what she had to say:

“I haven’t said much about this covid-19 but here is my piece to everyone that may be belittling it or panic buying and hoarding.
This is more than a common cold. sure some minor corona virus’ cause the common cold but this is worst than the flu. Those people panicking, filling up hospital beds and hoarding supplies, you are being totally unfair on everyone else who still needs those products too.
So many people I know, including myself are vulnerable to death from this virus. Surely by knowing me you would realise our lives are worth more than such flippant and infuriating (to me) statements that ”it is just like a common cold” or ”it won’t effect me”. By saying it is not that big of a deal stops people taking infection control seriously resulting in people like me dying. ask yourself how many people do you know with emphysema, copd, asthma, heart disease, weakens immune systems, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and many other conditions? how would you feel if you potentially carried covid-19 to then they died? just because ”the old and weak” as society deems us often die with any spreadable disease doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking this seriously and taking measures to protect EVERYONE. MY LIFE MATTERS TOO AND I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!”

You’d have to be made of stone if these words didn’t strike you like an arrow through the heart. It’s also a wake-up call to people who aren’t taking this seriously. Do you want to be the one who passes the virus onto someone else who then goes on to die? If we’ve taken the best precautions, then we don’t have a case to answer for. However, if we’ve stuck our head in the sand, then we’re accountable. There have been pure bred idiots who have gone to the supermarket on the way home after being told to self-isolate because they’ve been exposed to the virus. OMG!

dsc_5234

Here I am helping my daughter with her audition for the Andrew Lloyd Webber production of the Sound of Music in Sydney. I had a nasty chest infection and was on the nebuliser but did manage to go with her to the audition. 

Anyway, I wanted to share this this with you. Let you inside the world Cassie and I share with so many people who have lung and other medical conditions so you can walk in our shoes for a bit. Breathing in through our lungs, and know what it means to struggle for every breath. I would do anything to stop someone from getting this thing. Like Cassie, I am also determined to stay alive. This should be a no-brainer, but more caution is needed.

Jonathon mask

My son and I making Irish Stew when he had a cold quite a few years ago now.

Please be cautious. Please be kind.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 17th February, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you after another week? I things are going well and you’re ready to face another week with a smile, and not a sense of impending doom. I’m not a morning person and Monday mornings usually hit me like a concrete slab crashing down to earth and of all the places it had to land, it was on on poor little ol’ me.

Anyway, I don’t want any of you to think of me as a “snowflake” or even from the “snowflake generation”. While I had heard of this term before, a conversation with our 13 year old daughter brought it back to mind. She told me that my generation were the snowflakes, not hers. Well, in case you’re not familiar with the term, the term “snowflake generation” was one of Collins English Dictionary‘s 2016 words of the year. Collins defines the term as “the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations“.

The reference originally hails back to Fight Club’s Tyler Durden who blurts out:“You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same organic and decaying matter as everyone else”

While I’m here, there are two other bits of teenage slang you might appreciate. Firstly, there’s “boomer”. According to my kids, this has now extended beyond the original baby boomer generation to include anyone who is clueless, especially when it comes to global warming.

As far as being a “Karen” is concerned, the urban dictionary writes:

“A Karen is a kind of person who is unhappy when little things don’t go their way. They are a, “Can I speak to your manager?” kind of gal. The bitchy soccer mom of her friend group that nobody likes.
“Do you see her over there? She’s such a Karen.”
The Sydney Morning Herald’s, Julia Baird, tackled the Karen issue in the Saturday paper and raised some interesting points. For starters, there’s no male counterpart to Karen giving the term a sexist stance. My question is that if girls and young women are using this term (and just let me add that I’ve never heard a male use the term), what does that say? I’m planning to have a chat about this with my daughter and perhaps also her bestie. After all, her mum’s name is Karen.
If you’d like to check out Julia’s article, you can click HERE. By the way, I’d also like to point out that Julia was in my Australia Women’s History tutorial at uni and shes a really top-notch journo and well worth reading.
Anyway, I can’t believe that I actually posted this without mentioning Valentine’s Day! What is wrong with me? Have I developed total amnesia? Well, I think it’s probably been more of a case on being so focused on my research that I forget what else is happening. Moreover, I’ve shared the Valentine’s Day stories a few times in the real world and have moved on a bit since Friday. However, I did want to share with you how Valentine’s Day for me has changed throughout the years. Here in Australia, it’s not as big as in America and it’s more something for singles. When I was younger, I’d go to great lengths to send someone I like an anonymous card, which reached its zenith when I had a backpacker write two in German and another backpacker posted them for me from Berkeley, California. I didn’t think things through very well because I invited both of these prospectives to a dinner party at my place. They’d never met before and surprise! surprise! They’d both received Valentine’s in German from Berkeley, California. Well, I just hope they saw it as a joke.
Those days are gone now that my husband and I have almost been married for 20 years. That said we went out for dinner at a scrumptious local Italian restaurant, but that was also after driving the kids around and doing an emergency dash to buy my son a belt to hold his formal pants up. They both went to a formal Valentine’s day dinner with their youth group. BTW before I get off the subject of Valentine’s Day, each of them received something like 5th hand plastic roses which had done the rounds at school. It looks like Cupid wasn’t having much success.
Meanwhile, my research into the stories of WWI stories continues. I’m still not sure whether it is taking shape or just growing into something like a massive mushroom cloud about to envelope the earth. Yet, at the same time, there are such gaps in the historic record or difficulties trying to find out where someone was wounded or died and to me with my very strong sense of place, these details matter. Moreover, since I’m writing non-fiction, I can’t just make it up either. However, that works both ways and most of the time the real stories and the raw emotions which go along with them, are so much better than anything I could manufacture.
One of the challenges I’m facing is my lousy sense of direction and spatial relations. There are people like my Dad who only need to go somewhere once, and they’ll always find their way back. Of course, it makes perfect sense that there’d be outliers at the other end of the  spectrum who can’t even find their way out of their own driveway. That’s me. So, compounded by the fact that I live way over here in Australia and can”t just jump on a plane and walk around the battlefields of France, I’m having a lot of trouble tracking down where everyone was. Moreover, since I’m focusing on individual stories, I don’t have that big picture stuff and that understanding that these were big groups of people moving around under the direction of Captains, Generals etc. They weren’t wandering round the French countryside like lost sheep. That said, prior to the Battle of Amiens 8th August, 1918, all the Australian divisions on the Western Front hadn’t fought together before so you had to check what they were up to and even then you have to ensure they were still there, weren’t in hospital, or on furlough. You can’t assume anything. So, you can see how writing these seemingly simply stories can get rather challenging.
Tonight, I posted a few photos of the magnolia flower out the front. This magnolia is known as a “Little Gem”. However, it’s flowers are massive and would easily fill both hands. They’re the size of a saucer. Anyway, after researching these incredibly intense WWI stories and accounts of the battlefield, the magnolia flowers almost assumed an ethereal glow.
Anyway, unfortunately, time is running away. Or, to be honest, it ran away a few hours ago and I’ve made no effort whatsoever to catch up and am about to start paying for it.
So, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

A Short Victory…Friday Fictioneers.

All James ever wanted was to eat a bowl of ice cream. However, James was severely lactose intolerant and ice cream was forbidden. Now a teenager, he was sick of everyone asking why he he had to have soy milk. Why can’t you have ice cream? What’s wrong with you? To compound his troubles, his mother hovered over him like a hawk. However, she wasn’t going to be at camp, and James had forged her signature on the medical forms. Finally, James indulged in his very first bowl of ice cream. All good until he got stuck on the bus.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Santa’s Australian Post-Christmas Escape.

You couldn’t blame Santa for needing a bit of a break after supervising all his elves and dashing round the planet on his sleigh. After all, he must have the most stressful job on Earth.

So, here he is hiding out at Lennox Head, South of Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast catching some waves.

Of course, I had to join him. While I’m not much chop as a surfer, today must have been my lucky day because I not only managed to stand up, I also stayed dry. That’s quite an achievement.

By the way, I should mention that I’ve enjoyed feeling 21 again on this holiday. I’m not looking forward to returning to responsibility when the kids go back to school at the end of January. It’s been absolute bliss drifting along for a bit and not needing to be anywhere at a particular time. No lines etched in the sand. They’ve all been washed away.

Have you ever been surfing and do you have any stories to share?

Best wishes,

Rowena

At Home in Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast.

Ever since I first stepped foot in Byron Bay, it’s felt like home. Not that I’ve ever been able to live here in a physical, geographical postcode sense. Rather, I’m perpetually “just visiting”, and my sense of belonging is more metaphorical. More about finding my tribe here, rather than owning real estate. After all, I am beyond the flow and it’s perfectly normal to think outside the square here. To extend your horizons so far beyond the norm, that all your inhibitions melt and flow away. There’s no ridicule. No one’s laughing at you. It’s creativity personified and you can be whoever you are with that same liberating freedom, as diving off a bottomless cliff and finally learning to fly.

Kombi Byron Bay

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

Every time I come up here now, I see less and less of old Byron as the surviving remnants of her golden hippy era, are increasingly consumed by “progress”. Indeed, these days Byron is starting to look more and more like Sydney’s Double Bay and dare I use the word “posh”. I don’t mind posh and posh has its place. However, for those of us who actually remember old Byron (and even I came along fairly late in the piece), posh can go someplace else. Instead, I say bring back the Kombis all lined up along the beachfront with their surfboards perched on top…trophies celebrating freedom, sun, surf, sand and eternal Summers. The gateway to the inland hippy heaven of Nimbin, Byron was full of hippies, rainbows and a Mecca to the thriving counter-culture.

Byron Bay unicorn

That’s the Byron I first visited in around 1994. At the time, I’d sold out on my creative side and had gone fully corporate myself working as a marketing executive in the Sydney CBD and living nearby in a trendy, converted warehouse apartment in Sydney’s Broadway, a stone’s throw from Glebe. I’d graduated from Sydney University. Hung out in cafes writing and performing poetry while searching for the meaning of life. That’s before I headed off backpacking through Europe on what was meant to be the last hurrah before finally growing up and settling down to a real job, a career, a husband, mortgage, kids and a dog in the burbs. Implicit in all of this, was that I would personify the values of my parents, my school and the almighty North Shore. Of course, that had absolutely nothing to do with running away to Byron Bay and doing the happy dance barefoot on the beach.

That’s probably why I experienced such a jolt when I first came to Byron Bay. That despite having all the trappings of the corporate life, it wasn’t me. Or, at least, it wasn’t fully me. I was staying at Jay’s Hostel in Byron Bay and a group of us hung out together in the way that travellers do, almost bonding immediately in a way that’s impossible back home. I bought myself a hippy dress, hung out at the beach and in cafes philosophizing about life the universe and everything. No doubt, I also scribbled away in my journal, and wrote poetry. I felt so alive.

I don’t know what happened. However, it was like I’d been struck by lightning while I was in Byron Bay. When I arrived back in Sydney, my life there both at work and at home felt strangely unfamiliar. It was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life. It no longer made sense.

In hindsight, it’s no surprise. I was working long hours stuck in an office without any windows doing number crunching and database analysis of all things. How does a poet end up doing that? That is probably my greatest folly. The job description had changed, but I persevered trying to get some stability on my CV. They might as well have handed me a shovel, because I was rapidly digging my own grave. Coincidentally, it was while I was in this job, that the unchartered harbour in my head (known medically as hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain) was starting to make its presence felt. I was becoming seriously ill, although I wrote it off as stress at the time and moved to Western Australia.

I didn’t make it back to Byron Bay again until I came up here with my now husband, Geoff, in 1999. Geoff’s mother was living at nearby Nureybar with his sisters’ family and I was on my best behavior. It was very different going back to Byron Bay with him. He works in IT, and it’s not that he isn’t creative, but he didn’t connect with it in quite the same way I did.

Over the years since then, we’ve generally come up to stay with his sister at least once a year as a family and we’ve explored Byron Bay and the lighthouse with the kids. This has also been a very different experience…ice creams up at the lighthouse, stopping down at the Railway Park in town for the kids to enjoy our climbing tree…a fig tree which was damaged in a storm and fell over onto its side. By some miracle, it survived and grows along the ground, enabling even young kids to climb up into its branches and explore. The tree also has a special place in the local community. We’ve seen ribbons and scarves tied around its branches. A milk crate suspended upside down by a rope. A few times, a local woman known as “Mamma Dee” has done community art projects in the park. She had a heartfelt concern for young people and wanted to fill the park with love and connection and for young people to believe in themselves. Too many young people she knew had taken their own young lives, and she doing what she could to make a difference. Well, at least, she touched me. We’ve also met Christian groups giving away free food in the park and across the road, the Adventist Church runs a soup kitchen. All these things are acknowledgements of the darker remnants of old Byron…the many lost, broken and searching people who flee to Byron Bay in search of answers to life’s imponderable questions or to simply simply escape.

During these years when the kids were young, my sister-in-law would often mind them to give me a break and I’d disappear over the hill and into Byron. Once again, I’d found my wings and had that same sense of creative liberation, I’d experienced on my very first visit. Byron Bay was very much “my place”.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we’re back at Nureybar again for a family holiday. It’s been three years since we’ve all be up here for an extended family holiday together. Geoff and the kids came up without me two years ago when I was sick and Geoff and I were child-free last year, when the kids were away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in South Australia. So this means, the kids are three years older since we were here last, and the family dynamics have changed quite a lot. Indeed, the kids are no longer kids, and have evolved into teens. Indeed, our son is about to embark on his second last year of school.

So, instead of finding myself shooting off to Byron Bay solo, it’s been me and my girl…Miss 13. This has launched me into yet experiencing yet another perspective of Byron and I am a 13 year old girl buying bikinis and reporting everything back to my friends back home. Well, maybe not. I did turn 50 last year and I clearly can’t squeeze my feet back into a 13 year old’s shoes or even her bare feet. I would’ve loved to take her back to my Byron Bay, which was much more philosophical and reflective than commercial. She remembers some of it, such as the ladybird shop which used to pump clouds of bubbles down the main street. However, even the graffiti on toilet walls was good up here and it’s all but gone.

Yesterday’s trip to Byron Bay culminated in the Twilight Markets which are held in Railway Park around our climbing tree. We were wandering around and I bought a cards with prints by local artists. My daughter wanted to buy this candle thing where you poured scoops of wax beads into a glass container to make your own candle. I bought our son a kangaroo skin bracelet. We spotted Nutella donuts and they were an immediate must have just in case they sold out. Yum!!! They were divine. However, while we were soaking up the ambience and running back and forwards to the ATM across the road, the clouds were playing nasty tricks in the sky and it seems that all these national prayers for rain to extinguish the bush fires and ease the drought, were suddenly answered while the prayers of the market stall holders hoping to make a living, went unanswered. The heavens opened. Just a little at first and the stall holders valiantly persevered. The band moved back undercover and played on. The food vans stayed put. However, the rain had other plans and I just managed to buy some CDs from the band before they packed up and called it a day. The food vans were made of tougher stuff and we bought a plate of gado gado and by this stage, there was no hope of eating it under our tree. Rather, we hot-footed it back to the car as fast as we could with a plate of foot threatening to escape. While sitting in an almost generic white Subaru Forrester might seem rather ordinary, it was strangely atmospheric. We put on the new CD and as the rain fell all around up, we were making memories. It was so much fun and I felt 21 again.

Despite the rain, we headed back down there again today. Needed to stretch our wings.

More fun lay ahead, which started out trying on sunglasses and outfits at a vintage shop. How do you like our red sunnies? We didn’t buy them. I could hardly get multi-focals for the pair I tried on, but they were a lot of fun. We explored shop after shop and worked our way up to the beach. Still wet and overcast, we didn’t even consider swimming, but we did enjoy listening to the band at the Byron Bay Hotel who was playing Eagle Rock. We crossed the road and walked down onto the beach where we spotted something like 200 surfers hit the surf and formed a circle. Initially, I’d thought it was a surf school, but then I wondered if it was a funeral or memorial. There’s always something at Byron Bay you can’t quite explain and I just remembered that included a guy we spotted on the street corner known as “Cool” who was about 70 and swirling a hoola hoop while singing along and shaking maracas with a difference…one was a pineapple and the other was a banana.

Our holidays aren’t over yet. So, I’m interested to see what else Byron Bay and this incredible region have in store.

I’ll come back and add more photos once we’re back home. Our Internet connection is not the best here and is frustrating to say the least.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – October 28, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been? It’s now Monday morning here for me, which is my usual time for checking in with you after the weekend is done and dusted. I don’t really have much to offer you this morning unless you like a fresh roll with butter and Vegemite on top. Otherwise, you might have to come back later. I’m currently sipping on my cup of English Breakfast Tea, which I re-heated in the microwave after dropping the kids at school and running through the chemist and supermarket. Turns out yet another prescription’s expired. Humph! This is all too much for a Monday morning, especially after things on the home front blew up last night. Like all families, stuff brews for a bit them blows, but it’s not good when more than one person blows at the same time. It’s hard to know how to divide my attention, and not ignore somebody.

Newton Family.JPG

Last week, we drove up to Queensland for my sister-in-law’s wedding on the Gold Coast. It was a beautiful wedding, especially because they’ve both been through a lot and against the odds, they’ve found love again. We had the wedding ceremony on Saturday at 6.00pm and on the Sunday we had what could be described as a post-wedding wake where we met up for lunch at this historic mill site with a large sprawling cafe and an animal farm. It was not only an occasion of catching up with family. I also had some rather deep and probing conversations with a few people, and experienced that sense of delight and disappointment when you meet someone you connect with but doubt you’ll see again. Meanwhile, we were staying with Geoff’s other sister just South of the border at Nureybar, in the hinterland behind stunning Byron Bay. What with going up for the wedding, we didn’t get to go anywhere else, although it was novel to be in the country listening to fruit bats fighting in the fruit trees at night, which to the city person to me sounded rather sinister and macabre.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

Talking about not getting out and about, that reminds me that our so-called “holiday” was cut short a day after two of the dogs got out and Lady was missing overnight. Geoff had been working on the car to get it ready for the trip and didn’t quite latch the back gate properly. When our daughter went to feed them, she found the gate wide open and Rosie and Lady were gone. Just to compound the difficulties, Lady’s tag had fallen off a few weeks ago and I’ve had a chest infection and hadn’t quite managed to get a new tag. So, while she is microchipped, she didn’t have a tag. Rosie had a tag, but as we later found out, she refused to be caught. So, when they were found on the road, they managed to catch Lady and they dropped her at the vet in the morning and we picked her up. Meanwhile, Rosie arrived back at home about 11.00pm looking absolutely exhausted. She’s a border collie x kelpie and she looked like she’d been running all that time and had well and truly overdone it. While the two dogs were at large, my daughter and I were driving around the streets and stopping off at the beach trying to think like a dog so we could find them. Geoff hit the streets with our other dog, Zac, hoping he’d draw them out. They walked about 10 kilometres without finding any trace of them at all.  It was so eerie being out there. The whole place was just silent. There were very few cars or people out and about although we saw quite a few cats roaming about, their eyes glowing in the headlights. It was like we’d escaped from planet Earth and landed on “Planet of the Cats”. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly wasn’t “Planet of the Dogs”. Ours were nowhere to be found.

That was enough excitement.

Bridget O'Donnell and children

Meanwhile, I’ve been digging deeper into my family history research along with pursuing that burning question…how did they survive the horrors of the Irish Famine? This branch of my family, the Quealy’s, came from Lisheenfroor, Moyarta, Kilrush, County Clare. I don’t blame you if that all means nothing. Lisheenfroor sounded like somewhere out of an Irish fairytale when I first heard about it too. To put it simply, we’re talking about West Clare and if you’re familiar with the famous etchings of the Famine which appeared in The Illustrated London News, 1849-50 that’s the area I’m talking about. It’s been pretty confronting knowing my ancestors went through all of that and I dread to think of what they saw and experienced themselves, and yet this is what I need to know. I can’t turn my back on what happened. It is a part of me.

miss_kennedy_medium

However, none of that pays the bills. It doesn’t help organize the family and keep the household running smoothly either. Indeed, it has quite the opposite effect. It sends me into my research tunnel and the world around me could disappear. Moreover, to be able to write this all up in any meaningful fashion, I need to go into this tunnel and nut things out. Distraction is clearly distracting, unproductive and to put so much energy into the research without grabbling with all and writing it up is somehow self-destructive. I don’t know if you agree with that. Yet, the cost of getting to the end and getting it all finished, if that is even possible, is very high.

If you’re a writer yourself, perhaps that rings true to you too.

That constant tension between survival in the real world versus knowing what you’re made of and striving towards that elusive creative or storytelling goal.

Anyway, perhaps I should’ve stuck to offering you tea, coffee and a Vegemite roll. Perhaps, you’re chilled, relaxed and don’t grapple with these tensions. Indeed, I could easy walk down to the beach and post a very pretty photo of the golden sand and rolling ocean glistening in the sun. Some times, it’s not a good idea to think. Worse to dream. Just stay in your rat-run and not take the blinkers off.

Rowena Pearl Beach 2018

Here’s a relaxed outdoor shot I prepared earlier. It’s me on the rocks at Pearl Beach, NSW and that beach in the distance is home. 

Meanwhile, Lady our fluffy Border Collie x Cavalier who is losing black clouds of fur as we head into Summer has plonked herself under my desk and on my feet. She tells me not to grapple with anything and sleeping through life in your bed is okay, as long as a cat doesn’t move into your territory. She tells me that it’s okay to plunder food off the table or the bench and that being in a little bit of trouble is worth a tasty morsel in your belly. She also tells me that life is too short to wait until you get it right to tell a story. Start telling and the story will tell itself if it wants to be told.

Deary me. I would never have thought that Lady could be such a fountain of wisdom. Trust me. She keeps it a closely guarded secret stashed behind her gorgeous floppy ears and fluffy coat.

I think that just about covers things here. How about you? What have you been up to lately? I look forward to hearing from you.

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

Rosie and ball

PS Rosie insisted I included photo of her. 

 

 

 

 

 

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.