Tag Archives: motherhood

An Almighty Juggling Act…Concert Pianist & Mother, Eunice Gardiner.

If you’ve been following Beyond the Flow for any length of time at all, you’ll know that I’m totally obsessed and absorbed in research. Indeed, I wrap myself up in all these stories like a thick fleecy blanket feeling so snug and cosy.

Yet, there’s also that frustration. The compulsion to keep on searching even though you know what you’re looking for isn’t out there, and you’re needing to go offline.

That’s where I was tonight.  I’m actually in the throws of researching my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a champion swimmer who was struck down by polio in his teens, but went on to become a surf champion and saved four lives on Black Sunday 1938 when a mini tsunami hit a crowded Bondi Beach in Sydney. Given my own struggles with disability and muscle wastage, he’s been such an inspiration to me in recent years, even though I only stumbled across him five years ago while I was recovering from chemo.

Anyway, it was getting late by now and I was winding down while my last cup of tea was cooling down, and entered my grandfather’s name into the search engine for these old newspapers. You can tag the articles so I can easily spot the ones I’ve read and the ones I’ve missed. New newspapers are being uploaded so it can be very productive to revisit what really might seem like the end of the road. Indeed, my motto is: Never Give Up, which could be a bit of a problem when research isn’t supposed to be the centre of my universe. Or, as is often the case, it can easily become my universe. I can become incredibly focused.

So, here I am tinkering away with these old newspapers around midnight, when I strike gold. Indeed, tinkering right before bed can be quite a bad thing because that seems to be when I stumble across something I can’t put down. That I must explore immediately and there endeth a good night’s sleep.

Eunice with Bon in Backpack

Tonight, I stumbled across an article and photo of my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner carrying my uncle in a back pack. I have never even seen this photo before, and I’m absolutely stoked. There she is not only photographed with him in the backpack, but she’s also talking about going shopping with the toddler on her back, the baby on the front while my grandfather was away with the army. Yet, not one to be conquered like us other mere mortals, she was also giving a Beethoven Concert at the   Sydney Conservatorium. Moreover, she discusses all of this as though everybody was doing it and there’s no talk at all about taking one small step for woman and an enormous leap for womenkind”. She was simply her own person. Mind you, that was also a bit of a luxury enabled by her mother, Mrs Ruby Gardiner, who steeped in and looked after the kids a long with household help. There was actually a migrant hostel at nearby with a source of willing labour. That’s not to belittle her extraordinary achievements, but I share this to console those of us battling to stay afloat in the real world. My two are just under two years apart, and I haven’t forgotten the difficulties of trying to get out the door with two little ones in tow. I also had backpacks, front packs but for getting to the shops, I had this extraordinary double pram contraption I’d picked up from the op shop with a toddler seat on the front. It was the size of a bus and really didn’t encourage going out. By the way, we also had a huge English Sheepdog who was tied to the pram on these walks. In hindsight, I don’t know how we survived. Rufus could well have bolted to the beach after a seagull despite the cumbersome attachments. He was that type of dog…a pure maniac.

Eunice 1948 USA

My Grandmother at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She had three children all back in Australia when this photo was taken, including my Dad. So hard to comprehend on so many, many levels.

Despite my grandmother having seven children, I never thought of her being loaded up to the hilt with kids like myself. While my youngest uncles are only ten and eleven years older than me, I still just think of her as MY GRANDMOTHER and given that I often went round and saw her on my own, that makes a lot of sense. Each of us has multiple roles and relationships to different people and we’re not as pigeon-holed as we often try to make out. Indeed, she was much more complex than her title: “Melba of the Piano” implied. She was a modern, Renaissance Woman.

I was so happy to find this article, that I decided to post it here where it’s easily accessible to the family and I can share it with you as well. It’s not like showing it on TV. My blog has more of an “intimate” audience.

I hope you enjoy reading it and might even feel a tad inspired, even if it is only to take yourself off for a walk.

Best wishes,

Rowena

I remember reading a story about your grandmother. I think it was about her trip to New York, if I’m not mistaken. She was quite the character, traveling alone to follow her passion.

Thanks for the comment, Rowena. Have a nice day. 🙂

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  1. Thank you, Varad. My grandmother has been this incredible mystery all my life and having all these old newspapers go online, has both illuminated and confused me. One of the things that really blew me away, was finding out there was a miniature grand piano on top of my grandparents’ wedding cake. My husband and I have both thought it was an acknowledgement that my grandfather was marrying her the piano and all that went with it. I’ve never seen a photo of the cake and would dearly love to and I only found out about it from the newspapers. It is very strange finding out such personal details about your own grandmother through old newspapers online. The other thing that I’ve come to realize is that her genes have been passed onto us. In the past, that was simply seen as whether or not we’d inherited her musical talent, and perhaps in the more specific context of the piano. Could we play? It’s taken me some time and a few more generations to join the mix, to see that we have inherited a smattering of things from her, including an absolutely dogged determination and focus, which was just as important to her success as her musical talent. A jack of all trades isn’t going to cut the mustard.
    You’ve inspired got a story there, Varad and I’m going to paste it to the end of my post. Your comment really got me thinking this morning as I’m back at my desk with a cup of tea, porridge and my go pills.
    Hope you have a lovely weekend!
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

 

Mother’s Day & the Ghosts of Mothers Past.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Today, it’s Mother’s Day. That means roadside stalls have sprung up along the main street overnight, bursting with white chrysanthemums. The rest of the year, we don’t even think about chrysanthemums and to be quite frank, they stink…at least a little bit. However, here in Australia, white chrysanthemums mean it is Mother’s Day. Chrysanthemums flower in Autumn and because we’re upside down and topsy turvy, we don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in Spring. Indeed, it’s almost officially Winter.

Of course, I have no idea what white chrysanthemums have to do with being a Mum.

Artist2

After all, no sensible Mum with little peoples has anything to do with white. Indeed, white to me evokes images of the elderly. There’s “Kids! Be careful on Grandma’s white carpet!!!” Or, visiting someone in hospital where there’s white on white on white and the sense of being trapped inside a white antiseptic cloud. White to me means sterile and has nothing to do with dirty fingerprints, washing, dirt and sundry mess. Or, of course, warm hugs and having my toe nails painted rainbow colours either!

Mummy & Amelia

Me and my gal.

Being a mum doesn’t mean peering at your kids through a keyhole. Being a scientific researcher in their white lab coat observing children in a laboratory environment. It means getting down on the floor and being a kid and getting your fingers dirty…playdoh, paint, mud, food and unfortunately there’s also what we’ll call the “business end” to contend with.

Children were never meant to be clean!

That, to me, is also unconditional love. Giving your children the space to be and express themselves, albeit within some kind of limits.

Jonathon & I reading

Mister and I 2007

Giving birth was just the beginning and parenting is forever. A parent’s love has no end. Being a tad exhausted and cynical, I’ll add that a child’s demands never end either.

That said, I have always needed “me time” and don’t believe any parent should become their kids. That you can be involved and know your kids, while still maintaining your self. For me, my interaction with my kids is a fluid thing. Sometimes, they need me more than others and there are times when I can also give them more or less of my time. A word of encouragement to parents of little ones, that you do get more of a balance as your children get older and more independent. It can be really difficult when they’re small. Hard to get a break and even enjoy that elusive hot cup of tea (having hot drinks around little ones is verboten and I still remember how much I longed for that hot cup of tea!!)

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Launching into Motherhood.

Yesterday, I visited my cousin in hospital with her brand new twin boys. I hadn’t quite forgotten that elation of a new baby but it was really delightful to have such a poignant reminder, especially x 2. Of course, I remembered and savoured when my two were first born. They’re now 12 and 10. So, even I’m starting to turn back the clock. Do a bit of time travelling remembering what it was like right there at the very beginning when my children were nothing but a blank slate. Moreover, when my son was born, my knowledge of babies was a blank slate too and much to my surprise, they let me take him home without sitting any kind of test…just a “Good bye, Mrs Newton. Bon voyage!!”

 

Thinking about my cousin becoming a mum these days, makes me reflect on what becoming a mother meant in the past. Just a few generations ago, there was no contraceptive pill. Having sex meant the likelihood of having kids, regardless of your plans. My grandmother had seven children while juggling an international career as a high profile concert pianist and her grandmother had 8 daughters living out on a sheep property in the bush.

There was no choice in the matter, although there were some contraceptive strategies around.

This puts an altogether different slant on motherhood with motherhood being more of a destiny, than a choice.

I wonder how that impacted on being a Mum. Your children are still your children and your own flesh and blood but it would have been hard going through strings of pregnancies and births under difficult conditions, while bringing up a handful underfoot. No sitting in your seat and being waited on hand and foot, even though there was “help” for some.

Jonathon & Amelia Cutouts

The Kids.

We forget that this idea of having 1-2 children to give them some kind of privileged existence, is a very new concept. Indeed, so is being able to feed the family without having to grow your own food.

 

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The Thinker: me as a baby back in 1969.

Personally, it is important to understand that our modern way of life and the things we take for granted are very, very new and not something which we should take for granted. Indeed, it’s strange because for so many now, the question is not about preventing pregnancy but enabling conception. We’ve been able to work out the stop part but not the go and not having children is the new heartbreak. Well, not new but it’s certainly replacing the lament of the old woman in the shoe who had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

University Graduation

Just ask Virginia Woolf: attending University hasn’t always been a given.

While becoming a mother isn’t revered in our modern world, I encourage younger women to make their own decisions about what’s right for them and find your own path. Does money buy happiness? Parenting may not give you happiness either but somehow you need to find out what you want. You can find a heap of ways of finding intellectual fulfilment without working or by working part-time. Or, you can be a parent and work full time. You need to find out what rocks your own boat and be firm. If that means, not having kids, no apologies required. Good on you for not going down the wrong path for you.

No woman or man should have a gun at their head forcing them to have or not have kids. At the same time, you need to be honest with yourself and your partner and know you’re both on the same page.

While that might not be the pink fluffy Mother’s Day message you anticipated, it’s a helpful reality check. Children are such a precious and priceless gift but they also come with huge strings attached and we can’t just send them back. Or, just tie them up round a pole like a dog when we need to duck into the shops or have a quick break. Thank goodness for family, day care or a good friend.

So, after that fairly deep journey through the pros and cons of motherhood, I wish you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, sending my Mum a huge THANK YOU for all her unsung assistance throughout the years. I love you!

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day today? Are there any Mother’s Day traditions where you live? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

 

V:A Letter To Virginia Woolf #atozchallenge

“I see you everywhere,

in the stars,

 in the river,

to me you’re everything that exists;

the reality of everything.”

-Virginia Woolf Night And Day

On March 28, 1942 …seventy five years ago…author Virginia Woolf wrote letters to her beloved husband and sister, put on her overcoat and filled her pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse outside her home in Sussex and drowned herself. Contrary to some of the newspaper reports of the day, according to her note, her suicide was brought on by her mental health struggles and not an inability to cope with the hardship of the war. Read on…

Her body was found three weeks later on April 18, 1941.

  Dear Ms Woolf,

To write, or not to write? That is the question.

Should I be leaving you to rest in peace rather than risk resurrecting the anguish, which stole your life away? Your ”disease” was not a game and as much as I might enjoy writing letters to dead poets, is it fair for me to impose? Break into your peace threatening to cart you off to Whitechapel Road…a place I only knew from the Monopoly board before last night.

No matter how well intentioned I might be, I am a stranger and not the one you cried out to from the very depths: “If anyone could have saved me, it would have been you.”

I am not trying to save you but I don’t want to walk past your grave like you weren’t even there. Indeed, while paddling along this stream to your door, I have read: Flush, A Room of One’s Own and A Letter to A Young Poet. So, although we were once strangers, we have embarked upon that negotiation towards friendship…two women writers being eaten alive by too many unanswered questions.

However, before I could reach any kind of conclusion, words were filling up the page and destiny stepped in. You were meant to be. That was weird, especially when I’m not  sure that you’re a poet, but you were definitely a prose poet and the rest is all semantics.

So how are you?

I cast my question out into a slow flowing stream with my characteristic awkwardness and after a few false starts, the float is bobbing up and down in the current as I await your reply. It is a picturesque country scene and the stream  meanders through weeping willows and English grass so bright I need shades. Of course, my camera has been a thorough glutton devouring everything in sight on this trip. We’re accustomed to a “sunburnt” land.

Of course, for you, there is no such thing as a simple question. You would need some time to pause and consider your response. Perhaps, you have gone to Oxbridge. Or, you’re at the British Museum, ploughing through that huge stack of books looking for answers. You might even consult Mary Beaton. Or, let  Lady Winchilsea speak on your behalf. She had quite a way with words:

Alas! a woman that attempts the pen,

Such an intruder on the rights of men,

Such a presumptuous creature, is esteemed,

The fault can by no virtue be redeemed.

They tell us we mistake our sex and way;

Good breeding, fashion, dancing, dressing, play

Are the accomplishments we should desire;

To write, or read, or think, or to inquire

Would cloud our beauty, and exhaust our time,

And interrupt the conquests of our prime;

Whilst the dull manage of a servile house

Is held by some our outmost art, and use.

 Introduction, Lady Winchilsea

 

By the way, when I asked you how you are, it was really more of a social convention. You didn’t need to write me an essay so long, that it’s become a book. Indeed, I’ll need a room of my own and independent means to have the time to read it.

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf.

Ms Woolf, I am writing to you because for so many years I took your words to heart:

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”-Virginia Woolf

How I’ve longed for a room of my own overlooking the beach with the waves rolling in and crashing on the rocks below!. Indeed, I used to have that room once upon a time in the now mythical land of Whale Beach. Unfortunately, it’s long been lost and buried in the sand, just like Atlantis. Indeed, it now feels like a dream…

There’s a street light shining down the other end of the beach and a stream of light slithered like a snake through the surf mesmerising and luring me away from the blank page like the Pied Piper. I wasted so much time thinking the quest for love was all there was and nothing else mattered. My sense of self went up and down the waves and the tide like a helpless piece of driftwood without any kind of anchor. As much as I could stretch my wings and fly in that room of my own, I was alone.

I didn’t understand just how precious those hours were back then. I do now.

beach wide angle 2

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran: Sand & Foam

However, I have also longed for that room of my own, that much needed oasis where I could write and even hear my whispering thoughts without competing with the ugly din of TV, fighting kids and barking dogs.

So, I did what any dreamer does when the outside gets a little tricky, I retreated within. Built a room inside my head. Indeed, it was a Kombi and especially in the midst of utter disaster and despair, we would head up North to Byron Bay and I’d run through the sun chasing butterflies.

Fortunately, the clouds lifted and the disease which has been stalking me like a crazy possessive lover for the last ten years, has left me alone. Well, not entirely alone but his shadow has retreated out through the back door and is crouched on a distant hill. I’m hoping he’s run out of manoeuvres and I’ve finally won but I’m staying vigilant. Reminding myself that even though things are going well, I still need to take precautions. Be prepared.

So, now my view of the room has changed and I no longer need or necessarily believe that a writer, regardless of gender, needs a room of their own to write fiction or any other genre. Rather, there is so much to be gained from rich, complex and nourishing relationships that you simply cannot experience in a room of your own.  Moreover, as a lover of the wings of a butterfly, the rich beauty of a rose and basking in the sun under an azure sky, I’d rather be outdoors. Liberated!

Mummy & Amelia

An extraordinary moment.

I also have to ask whether it is truly necessary for a writer to be a single person and not experience an ongoing, intimate relationship without being forced to hang up their pen, computer or quill. Is it possible to love and be loved and still be a writer? Taking that relationship further, dare a writer male or female have children? Or, must these be also sacrificed to the cause as well?  Is the muse an all-consuming beast and the writer is but its inglorious host?

Well, being something of a glutton myself, I am trying to have my cake and eat it too.

So, I personally believe “the room of your own” needs a re-think. After all, while it has solitude, it is missing so much! There are no other people, no affectionate tail-wagging dogs sleeping on your feet. There is no one bringing you a cup of tea and calling you ”darling” and wrapping their arms right around you like a vine and drawing you close enough to feel their heart beating next to yours and all that entails. There’s  no one who cares whether you live, die or whether your train was delayed and you were late for work. Or, how the muse whispered in your ear and the words flowed through your pen and onto the page in a never-ending glorious stream.

Personally, I find there’s nothing like standing with your feet anchored in the wet sand as the waves roll into the shore. Meanwhile, you’re watching your children carving out engineering masterpieces trying to contain that great uncontrollable force…the sea. I watch them through my camera lens soaking up their delight and also my daughter’s intense fear and avoidance as the waves roll in and her little feet run up onto dry sand and stay put.

Those days were very precious and have slipped through my fingertips like sands through the hour glass.

While it’s easy to focus on all the “losses” sustained when a woman embarks on Marriage, Mortgage,Kids” , it is very easy to overlook the “gains”. While that all might sound incredibly mushy and more like something a grandmother might say, my children have actually extended me at least as much as they have clipped my wings. This includes taking up the violin which I’ve now been playing for four years and taking up skiing, despite having a chronic life-threatening disease and mobility issues. Possibly even more challenging, have been all the challenges involved in being a “Scout Mum”. Trust me, this is no passive support role. Rather, I’ve had to drive to remote locations and find their tents in the rain bumbling through the dark while helping them carry their gear. It’s meant having to empty and inspect my son’s backpack with him after funnel web spiders had been found in bags and I thought two sets of eyes were definitely better than one. Probably the most challenging thing for me, has been helping them to pack their bags for camp. Although they’re provided with a very easy to follow packing list, even this can be too much for us some times.

On one hand, you could say all these other activities are distracting me from my writing. That being a writer and indeed taking that leap towards becoming a best-selling critically acclaimed writer, takes focus. Absolute focus and not all these detours all over the countryside driving Mum’s Taxi.

Yellow taxi

However, to become a writer, you must have something to write about. Taken literally, you can argue the mere act of writing makes you a writer but that’s not the sort of writer we’re talking about, is it? We’re talking about writers pursuing the Holy Grail. We’re going straight for the jackpot, the gold medal and not settling for silver or bronze. Being the Shakespeare of our generation…no less!

That’s why we often do a deal with the devil and follow the muse straight over the edge. Go too far.

Perhaps, I’ve been doing that a bit too much myself lately. Locking myself away in my cave writing letters to dead poets while my kids are at home on school holidays. I should be spending time with them. I want to spend time with them but then the muse comes along and can be extremely possessive. Does NOT like sharing! Besides, , I’ve been going round and round the mulberry bush with the writing project for ten years and couldn’t walk away. I had to grab the sweet fruit with both hands and indulge. Let its sweet nectar drip all over my fingers and lips and let my soul feast.

And, so I found my heart torn in two.

Anyway, as the train has zoomed through A-U, I know find myself stopping off at V with you. There are so many questions I could ask.

Throughout these letters, I have explored what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. While I had found poems by Hemingway and Kipling outlining the traits required to become a man, I couldn’t find any equivalent for my daughter. I don’t want to paint women as victims, unable to achieve. Rather, I want her to believe in herself and that she can conquer her particular sphere of the world and potentially be the difference there. I definitely don’t want her following in the footsteps of your Judith Shakespeare. Not at all.

So, it’s looking like  I might have to write my daughter a poem all of her own.

Make that another one!

Well, I hope you have experienced happiness along our journey together and I look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

I apologise this has been rather rushed and I will head back in due course and revise it somewhat. School goes back tomorrow and getting organised has been a nightmare!

 

Miscellaneous Mutterings

Since I’ve been doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, I’ve developed some kind of additional neurosis…some kind of mutation, which has been completely overlooked by the DSM Manual, otherwise known as “the psychologists’ Bible”.

M is for Monkey

M is for Monkey

Every morning, no sooner than I’ve inhaled my kick-starting coffee, it all begins. I start jibber-jabbering away to myself and all sorts of words start cycling and recycling through my clunky head as I try to pick my word to go with the day’s letter. You see, I am now halfway through the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and with each passing day, the jibber-jabbering is only getting worse…the proverbial broken record.

Being a new recruit to the challenge, I didn’t realise until it all got underway that people generally write to a theme and turn it into quite a project. That’s right. This challenge goes way beyond simply reciting the alphabet and writing about “A is for apple”. My theme has ended up being “A few of my favourite things” and I’ve also been following the challenge on other blogs where I’ve been blown away by the amount of research involved and have learned so much!!

M is for Monster

M is for Monster

While I have written a list of topics for each letter, some days I’ve revisited it and changed my mind.

For some reason, trying to pick something for M today has had me muttering more than usual.

Mummy

Mummy

In a sense, M has to be Mummy, which I guess could also be M for Me. However, the trouble with writing about my journey as a Mum or about myself as “Mummy” is to come up with an angle that isn’t sickly sweet and sugar-coated or isn’t some never-ending whinge to end all whinges, leaving you all wondering why I ever had kids and thinking I don’t deserve them.

Next.

I did consider M for Manual, as in receiving a parenting manual when you give birth so you know what to do. After all, here in Australia, you have to sit a tough written test to get your Learner’s Permit before you can even start learning to drive a car Yet, when it comes to becoming a parent and leaving the hospital with your bundle of joy, there is no test. No licence required. You’re just left on your “pat malone” with what often turns out to be, quite a complex little bundle.

However, once I explored the manual concept further, I actually decided that I really didn’t want a manual or any kind of prescription telling me how to parent my kids. After all, being a bit of a free-thinking, creative type whose journey pretty much goes off road well beyond the road less traveled, I don’t want to create a pair of robots and I really don’t want to become a robot myself. I do try to have a routine during term time but come school holidays, I really do like to mix it up a bit, go away and explore something new but also just hang out. We all need to recharge a bit for another school term.

So, before I’d even written a word, I’d eliminated Mummy, motherhood, parenting manual and if you knew me in real time, you’d know that minimalist isn’t me. No, it’s definitely not me at all although I do appreciate those that fastidiously declutter their homes. They drop all sorts of fascinating treasures off at the op shop, which I snap and re-house. After all, treasure should never be homeless. We just need to get a bigger home or open a museum.

G'day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can't even remember their best friend's name.

G’day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can’t even remember their best friend’s name.

I had originally been intending to write about miracles, which ties into what became something of a life mission to “turn my mountain around”. You see, I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis as well as a neurological condition, hydrocephalus, which both give me some mobility challenges. In 2012, our family went on our first trip to the snow and although the rest of the family was going skiing, I didn’t think I could do it. Instead, I bought a pair of snow boots and intended to photograph the snow instead. However, on arrival, we spotted the Paraolympic ski team, who were out zooming down the slopes on sit skis.  This sowed a seed of doubt and I started to wonder whether I, too, could ski. We had a chat with them and they introduced me to the Disabled Winter Sports Association. We couldn’t get organised in time for that trip but I set myself a goal for the following year to ski down the mountain and in effect, turn my mountain around. In what really was quite a miracle, although it also took a fairly large dose of courage and encouragement from the family and my ski instructor, I made it down the mountain and turned my mountain around going down instead of up the mountain.

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby Published by Templar Publishing

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Published by Templar Publishing

I was so excited and on such a high, that I forgot all about the laws of physics and that what goes up, must come down.

Before we’d even left the skifields, I developed the first signs of a chest infection, which despite preventative measures, turned into a life-threatening bout of pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and was attacking my lungs. Before I knew it, my life was flashing before my eyes and instead of being on top of the world, I was having chemo and fighting for my life.

Of course, this totally flipped my mountain back around and in the process it turned dark, stormy and very foreboding.

This wasn’t how my story, the motivational book I was working towards, was supposed to end up. This wasn’t the plot I’d worked out. No, it was anything but. I put the book writing plans on hold. Indeed, I was so sick that I didn’t have a choice.

You can read about my ski challenge here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/turning-my-mountain-around/

However, if you know anything about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, you’ll know that any journey has it’s complications or challenges but that doesn’t mean that’s where the journey ends. No, instead, we’re supposed to tackle those complications and work them  out and ultimately reach that perfect happy ending. We just need to make sure we don’t give up half way before things start turning around and starting to work out. Moreover, once we reach that happy state we need to end that journey before another journey begins, taking us to a completely new destination with a whole new set of complications, challenges and rewards.

While at first thought, it might seem desirable to get rid of all the mountains in our way to make the road smooth, without these mountains, we would never be stretched and grow to take on tougher challenges. We’d never find out what we are made of. This would be a serious loss because, through my own journey, I’ve truly come to appreciate that each of us is truly capable of doing and being way more than we ever thought possible.

Indeed, each of us is a living, breathing human miracle.

We just need to believe.

It seems that I should have had a bit more faith in my miscellaneous mutterings. It’s been quite an interesting journey and I actually found a destination after all.

Indeed, it could even be motivational.

xx Rowena

PS Geoff was doing a few miscellaneous mutterings of his own today after driving the kids all the way to their Scout Camp and finding out our daughter;’s daypack had been left behind. Unfortunately, she’d put most of her essentials inside and so a very loving Dad is driving all the way back to Nelson Bay to drop it off again tomorrow. Mutter…mutter…mutter!

PPS: Bilbo, our Border Collie, has added his howls to the mutterings tonight. Somehow, he managed to fall in the swimming pool. I had a friend over for dinner and we heard a splash follow by a few more splashes and the poor boy was desperately trying to pull himself out. I am so relieved I was within ear shot. Poor Bilbo. He doesn’t even like to get his paws wet so this was really quite an ordeal!!

Feeding Life Lessons to My Kids.

This being the second week of the school holidays, I’d personally like to turn all the life lessons I have ever read into some kind of breakfast cereal and shovel it into my kids quick smart whether they’re hungry or not. This is what parents did back in the Victorian era and it seems like a much better idea than being glued to electronics, especially when the outdoors is so incredibly beautiful, serene and finally sunny!!

Moses wasn't too happy with his peoples either.

Moses wasn’t too happy with his peoples either.

I know ramming the Ten Commandments down their throats might seem a bit “old school”, “traditional” and potentially a form of social control. However, perhaps deferring to a higher authority is what I need. After all, as soon as their father arrives home, the little mischief makers do exactly what they’ve been told and fall into line. Don’t you think calling on God’s almighty divine intervention snap them to attention even faster than: “Do you want me to go and call your father?”

While I absolutely adore: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran whose poetic language just flows like heavenly music, The Ten Commandments cut straight to the chase and pretty much cover all the bases. I also like the sense of hell fire and brimstone, which is infused in the “thou shalts” of the King James version as well.

Perhaps, I should start using a few “thou shalts” of my own around the house:

  1. Thou shalt listen to your mother.
  2. Thou shalt do your chores.
  3. Thou shalt wipe your own backside.
  4. Thou shalt not fight with each other or with your parents.
  5. Thou shalt not whinge, whine.
  6. Thou shalt accept: no means no!

You know I actually felt quite empowered by the “thou shalt”. I think I shalt add it to my arsenal.

Our kids do scouts and as everybody knows, the scouting motto is: “Be prepared” and a big part of it involves being able to pack for camp. This is, as it turns out, an incredible life lesson. Scout’s does a fabulous job preparing kids for this by providing a packing list for each and every camp, which even has a visual diagram. It is hammered into the Scouts that although they can have assistance, they must pack their bags themselves. Moreover, as I still have lingering chemo brain myself and have never been good at packing light anyway, I find the whole thing too stressful . Yes, I know. Even though it might be a very good life lesson for me as well, I’m avoiding these packing nightmares like the plague. I am now getting to the point of tough love too! You don’t pack it, you deal with it!!

As you might have gathered, I’m over it. Maxims like “flogging a dead horse” and “pushing shit uphill” definitely come to mind.

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way"-"Oklahoma".

“Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way”-“Oklahoma”.

Anyway, while I’m waxing lyrically about life lessons for the kids, I need to consider a few for myself. It’s a sunny day in paradise and what with all the rain we’ve had, these are precious…particularly as we head towards Winter.

So without further ado, the kids and I are off to walk the dogs along the waterfront before the tide comes in. After all,

The tide waits for no (hu)man!

Edmund Burke

Stay tuned for part 2. How could I write just a few paragraphs on such an inspirational topic?

L is for Life Lessons in the A-Z Challenge. The letter L official marks our halfway point. Hurrah! Not that I’m wishing it was over but it is called a challenge for a reason. It’s challenging!

XX Rowena

The Unspoken Language of Love.

On Sunday, when we celebrated our son’s 11th Birthday, it was about so much more than cake, presents and even the much anticipated party. It was a golden opportunity to show our son how much we love and cherish him and for him to sparkle like a diamond in the candlelight. There’s nothing like your birthday!

If you read my last post, you’ll understand that celebrations have become quite a production and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon finds its way to Broadway or London’s West End.

I’ve already dealt with the cake.

Now, we’re onto the presents…or THE present, in particular. You see, I gave Mister a second-hand Australian Army uniform, which I chanced upon at a local opportunity or thrift shop.

Choosing gifts is something I take pretty seriously. I really do try to slip inside someone else’s skin, walk around in their shoes, see the world through their eyes and their soul to find that “Wow thing”. That thing which makes their heart sing. Not only because they love it but also because they know I understand. I get them. This gift, therefore, somehow reflects that very special, often concealed inner self or perhaps the seeds of that very precious dream, which are just waiting to germinate, flourish and grow yet are still so tender, tentative and so very embryonic.

To put it simply, gift giving is a great way to show empathy, which is such an important component of love. It is the life-giving force which enables us to grow and reach for the stars.

After all, don’t we all know it when someone gives us something which misses the mark entirely or when our significant other gives us something so impersonal that it could’ve come from a stranger? These gifts affect us in a different way, so often stabbing a knife through the heart. Quite bluntly, they clearly don’t understand you at all!!

A happy birthday boy!

A happy birthday boy!

Although I don’t always find that perfect present which fulfills all these hopes and expectations, I did find the perfect gift for Mister and I couldn’t wait to see his response. As I mentioned, I bought Mister an Australian Army uniform I chanced upon at the op shop. Mister wants to join the army when he grows up and although I’m not keen, I pushed my own feelings aside and supported my son. Of course, the uniform is  way too big but dreams are like that at the start. We have to grow into them.

Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what’s important.

Elle Macpherson

More than just being an army uniform, this was a very special birthday present from me to him. It said I can put my values and desires aside to respect and nurture his dreams and encourage him to grow up and be himself, rather than trying to shape and mold him into who or what I think he should be and, in effect, turn him into a bonsai…a pruned and shrunk down version of who he was meant to be.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

You see, in my youth I was pretty opposed to armies, war and battles. I even took part in protests against Australia’s involvement in the Gulf War and marched through the streets. I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist but I’d definitely be of the view: “Make love not war”.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

I’m also a person who, at least I hope, has principles and have built up something called “character”. This means having values and standing up for what I believe in. Before the kids were born, for example, there were going to be no Barbies, no guns and definitely no signing up and joining the army. But as much as you bring up your children, they also modify you and seeing pure happiness and joy glowing on your child’s precious face does tinker with these values a bit. Or, at least, it does for me.

Hate to admit it but a persistent campaign of incessant nagging by your kids can also make an impact on all you held dear as well!

Mister was thrilled when he opened up his present. He was so happy with such an enormous smile that he was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I was happy too.  Both kids held  the uniform up against themselves and it looked ridiculously big, reminding me of a comedy sketch from Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW6gj2n51sU

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

I’m sure Mister didn’t appreciate what giving him that army uniform represented. Of course, he doesn’t know just what a seismic shift it is for me to embrace his love of the army. While I love any form of history and honour our ex-service people and collect memorabilia and books from WWI and WWII, that’s very different from having your one and only beloved son go and sign up. That possibility, though still a long way off, does trouble me a bit because I was also his age once and that was when I decided to become a writer and I’ve never veered off course. Writing is like breathing and I even write in myself. Actually, truth be told, I’m often writing when I should be asleep!! I knew that’s who I was when I was 10 and it was set in stone.

However, as much as I have marched and protested going to war, I also felt it was important that I support my son in how he sees himself and in pursuing his dreams. Recognising who he is as a person and empowering him to walk in his own shoes instead of trying to impose me or my values on him like an iron on transfer. Just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean their dreams and values aren’t precious and worthy of recognition and respect, even if we would rather they pursued a different path. Our children need to know they can trust us with their dreams and aspirations. After all, they come from the very heart of the soul and are so very, very precious and need to be handled with kid gloves … certainly not ridiculed or rejected. That, would be like stomping on the precious wings of a beautiful butterfly which, having just emerged from its chrysalis and waited for its tender wings to dry, is about to take its first tenuous flight…and this is your child who is so much more worthy than that.

So I gave him the army uniform and made him happy.

So happy that he took the army uniform to school on Monday, particularly to show his teacher whose son is in the army. He was as proud of punch and he truly respects all that the uniform stands for and what it means to fight for your country. Well, as much as you can when you’re an 11 year old kid and war is on the other side of the world and it’s not in your own backyard.

So I managed to get it right.

Or did I?

After all, was it just coincidence that I strayed across that army uniform in the op shop or was it meant to be? Serendipity? God? Destiny fate?

This isn’t just an erroneous question. I am an op shop addict and I have never seen an army uniform for sale in an op shop before and yet there it was just a couple of weeks before Mister’s birthday. As much as I might have decided to stretch myself well beyond my comfort zone to encourage his dreams, I also suspect I was nudged.

Interesting!

Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.

Maria Shriver

By the way, I should point out that while I was protesting, Geoff’s brother was actually in the Australian army and Mister has grown up with Uncle Terry’s slouch hat in the house. Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French died in France during WWI and we have been down to the Australian War Memorial as a family to honour him and we even participated in a special memorial service they hold each day and we laid down a wreath. Another Great Uncle served in Gallipolli and went on to serve in Beersheba in the Australian Light Horse. So it would seem that joining the Armed Forces are in my son’s blood.

xx Rowena

PS A week after Mister’s birthday while I’m sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send as a post birthday present to my son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ

Easy Peasy Chocolate Party Cupcakes

Chocolate, lollies, cake, balloons, pass the parcel, loads of presents, friends and party hats and swirling twirling party skirts and singing: “Happy Birthday”!

Our family has hit birthday season with a haze-filled thump. With our kids having birthdays 10 days apart and what with baking cakes for school, Scouts and not to mention having something with candles stuck on top to blow out at home, I usually get lost in a baking whirl and this recipe has saved my skin year after year.Becoming something of a birthday cake-making factory, I think I’ve even tripled or quadrupled this mixture in the past.

You just throw all the ingredients in the mix master bowl and press the button. That’s it. The Ganache Icing is also deceptively simple and again, virtually instant and lusciously chocolicious!!

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

This recipe has been written in very easy to follow steps, bearing kids and inexperienced bakers in mind. So, you no longer have to resort to packet mixes and bought cakes. You, too, can bake from scratch, be a Masterchef and smile for the camera…I made it myself!

That’s right. You can do it!!

Who can argue with Snoopy?

Who can argue with Snoopy?

I’ve cooked with my kids all their lives. However, last year I decided it was time to ramp things up so they could cook a meal and become more independent. During this time, I realised that cooking teaches us so much more than simply producing a meal or a cake we can eat. It also teaches sequencing, time-management, multi-tasking, planning, health and nutrition as well as being environmentally-minded. It is also an ideal time to chat and bond with our kids, although things can get a bit fraught when creative minds don’t follow instructions and get ahead of the proceedings.

However, at these times as you’re counting to ten doing your deep breathing exercises, it could be a timely reminder that life isn’t just about the destination. We also need to make the most of the journey and be a bit flexible…especially when it comes to adapting our adult ideas of cake perfection to the realities of living with kids.

As John Lennon said and I have quoted many times on my blog:

My Favourite John Lennon Quote: Quote Diaries.

My Favourite John Lennon Quote: Quote Diaries.

So without further sub-plots and asides, let the baking begin and don’t forget to lick but not double-dip the spoon!

Easy Peasy Chocolate Party Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

185g softened butter, diced

2 teas vanilla essence

1 3/4 cups castor sugar

3 eggs

2 cups Self-Raising Flour, sifted

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup water

(I have also mixed in about 250g blueberries and sprinkled macadamia nuts over the top but I keep them fairly plain for the kids)

Directions

1) Turn oven onto 180 degrees Celsius.

2) Line a 12 cup muffin or cupcake tin with patty papers. I usually give the tray a coat of pray oil beforehand for ease of cleaning afterwards.

3) Sift four and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.

4) Add diced butter, vanilla essence, castor sugar, eggs and water.

Dicing the butter.

Dicing the butter.

5) Beat on low speed of an electric mixer master until the ingredients have combined. Then increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and have gone lighter in colour.

6) Spoon a heaped dessertspoon of mix into each patty paper.

7) Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

8) Stand for 5 minutes and then turn upside down on a wire rack to cool.

9)When the cake has cooled, ice with Chocolate Ganache.

 

Chocolate Ganache

250g good quality Milk or Dark Chocolate (Kids prefer milk and adults prefer dark here)

1/3 cup cream

Fancy decorations like sprinkles, hundreds & thousands,stars etc optional.

Directions

1) Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute. Remove.

2) Add cream.

3) Stir well.

4) Perhaps, I was just lazy but I simply dropped a teaspoon of Chocolate Ganache on top of each cupcake for a rich,decadent look. However, the kids couldn’t resist adding that splash of colour (and goodness knows how many artificial colours and flavours). Each to their own.

Happy Baking & even Happier Birthdays!

xx Rowena

PS Just to prove that I’ve been making this cake for awhile, here’s this variation of a theme: Chocolate Hazelnut Indulgence Cake. It even has hazelnut praline. Yummy!

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