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!

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5837&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

 

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

Time Traveling Through A Vintage 80s Magazine…

Everyone has a secret. Well, mine isn’t exactly a secret. I just haven’t got around to sharing  my passion for history and almost anything retro. This hasn’t been a conscious omission. I’ve simply been writing about other stuff. Besides, it’s a bit like stating the obvious.

You see, when you visit our place, there’s a Morris Minor parked out the front. There are rows of antique bone china tea cups which have broken out of the display cabinet and have started to wander. Old, black & white family photos peer through ornately carved, antique wooden frames and my computer is perched on top of an old oak desk with a gorgeous wood grain finish.

Being the eternal good Samaritan, I’m forever salvaging the past from our local charity or “op” shops as we call them. Indeed, you could say that I’m quite the “archaeologist” or even that I’m “kind to the homeless”. While I do have dogged persistence, most of my “finds” are beyond coincidence and were clearly: “serendipity” or “meant to be”. I had to take them home!!

Anyway, while my greatest archaeological weaknesses is vintage tea cups closely followed by illustrated books and cookbooks, another love of mine is collecting old magazines, which is quite odd in a way because I rarely buy contemporary magazines at all. My most cherished magazines are copies of the Australian Women’s Weekly dating back to the 1950s, which I picked up from an antique shop in the Queensland country town of Marburg, where my mother spent some years as a child. I love really getting into how people lived in “the olden days”.

Australia Day Wishes 1988.

Australia Day Wishes 1988.

Recently, I came across a new find for my collection. It was  an Australian Women’s Weekly dating back to January 1988. That’s now 24 years ago. While it is not as old as my other editions, it was the “Bicentennial Souvenir: Special Collector’s Edition”, which celebrated Australia’s “200th Birthday”. The Bicentenary was a very special time in Australia’s history when we really thought about our identity as a nation and there were all sorts of special events as well as much sorrow.

Personally, 1988 was also a very special year. You see, I’d left school at the end of 1987 and you could say life began in March 1988, when I walked through the gates of Sydney University and discovered a social whirl like none other. Aside from having my heart broken by my high school sweetheart, 1988 was a jolly good year!

While the magazine has much to say about the bicentenary, I’ll get to that after further research. I’m sure you can appreciate that any national celebration of that magnitude was “complex”. Meanwhile, I just want to bask in the light of the glorious 80s and soak up the social, fashion and technological changes and let the good times roll back.

Charles & Di: the greatest modern tragedy.

Charles & Di: a great modern tragedy.

With a touch of schadenfreude, I opened up my Women’s Weekly to find the usual suspects, Diana and Charles, who were guests of honour for the Bicentenary. The headline read: “What will Australia see this time…Diana: Royal Charmer or Spoilt Princess?” After finding this little gem, I would probably advise royal reporter Ingrid Seward to stick to journalism as she makes a lousy clairvoyant: “If the fairytale royal romance were going to crack apart, overheated in the furnace of public scrutiny, it would be now. But it hasn’t. And it won’t.”

This, of course, is one of the disadvantages of getting published. Your words really are set in stone and can indeed come back to haunt you.

Not unsurprisingly,fashion was hot.

Lady Sonia McMahon 1988

Style Icon Lady Sonia McMahon 1988

I came across an interesting feature called “Women of Style”, where they interviewed Australian style icons about their views on Australian fashion. Not unsurprisingly, Lady Sonia McMahon, wife of former Australian Prime Minister Sir Billy McMahon and mother of actor Julian McMahon, was interviewed.

Lady Mc Mahon had climbed to fashion royalty in 1971  when, as the wife of Australian Prime Minster Sir Billy McMahon,  she wore “that dress” to a reception held by US President Richard Nixon at the White House. The daring dress was split both sides to the armpits though held together by rhinestones about two centimetres apart from the waist up. While the dress appears quite revealing, it was actually lined with a pantyhose-type, flesh-coloured fabric.

Sonia McMahon in THAT dress at the White House.

Sonia McMahon in THAT dress at the White House.

Apparently, Lady McMahon was too impressed with how Australian women were dressing in the 80s. “She (Lady McMahon) used to think Australian women were among the best dressed in the world. But then came the jeans revolution and women relaxed- something Lady McMahon does not approve of. Smart clothes, she says, make a smart woman. Neatness and attention to detail, which some women are born with, but Lady McMahon says can be learnt, are paramount to style”. (I can’t help wondering what Lady McMahon would think of the current girl’s fashion…denim short shorts…)

Dame Edna Everage wearing a signature piece of Australiana

While Dame Edna Everage wearing a signature piece of Australiana

Meanwhile, not one to be outdone in the fashion stakes, Dame Edna Everage also featured in fashion pages in: What Dame Edna is Wearing Overseas. If you haven’t encountered Dame Edna before, she has a certain je ne sais quoi, which completely defies any kind of interpretation. As my daughter said when I introduced her to Dame Edna tonight: “What kind of person is she?”

Only Dame Edna could manage to incorporate the Auistralian flag and a 3D version of the Sydney Opera House into a frock.

Only Dame Edna could manage to incorporate the Auistralian flag and a 3D version of the Sydney Opera House into a frock.

In contrast to Lady McMahon’s classic elegance,  Dame Edna is wearing a garish canary yellow outfit with two koalas up a gum tree. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s also pictured wearing a blue dress with the Australian flag sequined on the bodice. But wait!!! It gets worse. I just noticed that the white starchy collar is actually the Sydney Opera House. Yikes!!! Hasn’t she ever heard that less is more? Oh my goodness!! I can feel some kind of severe anaphylactic reaction setting in. Oh! I mean… there’s the pink hair, purple hair and I’m not even going to discuss the glasses…Oh my goodness. There just aren’t enough superlatives to do Dame Edna any kind of justice whatsoever!!  She just has to be the most truly cringe-worthy, “national symbol” EVER!!!!!

The big question I have is this: Who allowed Dame Edna to leave the country dressed like that and why on earth did a magazine like the Australian Women’s Weekly publish the evidence?

Quite frankly, someone should have grabbed Dame Edna by the horns and told her in no uncertain terms: “Go to your room. You’re not leaving the house looking like that!!!” I know fashion was a bit out there in the 80’s but I’m flabbergasted.

Indeed, when it comes to managing Dame Edna stronger measures would have been required. The fact that she ended up overseas dressed like that and representing our country makes her fashion choices a matter of national security.  She was destroying our National Credibility Rating (NCR). What with those crazy outfits, the pink and purple hair and all her “hello possums” and parading around as Australian royalty, she was a national embarrassment.

I understand that customs usually stop undesirables from entering into a country but couldn’t they have done something to stop her from getting out??? Anything!!!

Of course, there are the fashion police. If ever there was a case demanding their expert attention, this was it. They should have locked her up and thrown away the key! absolutely!! Sentenced her to life imprisonment rather than let her flaunt her peculiar fashions overseas and in The Weekly.

Yet, as much as Dame Edna has that incredible cringe factor, for some strange reason, we still love her even though we want to hit her with the nearest fly swat!!!

Gee, I hope Dame Edna never gets hold of Lady McMahon’s “dress” from the Powerhouse Museum. Seeing the epitome of kitsch dressed as the epitome of style would be the outrage to end all outrages…especially as I doubt Dame Edna has ever shaved her legs!!

Moving on from fashion, I also found an interview with then 60 Minutes journalist Jana Wendt. Among other topics, she was responding to a magazine article which appeared two weeks after the birth of her son, Daniel. The article had implied that Jana was “afraid of motherhood” and was fearful that motherhood would make her less effective as a journalist. She had not been consulted for this article and explained: “I can’t believe that any responsible journalist, who supposedly values the qualities of motherhood, would come out and try to undermine a working woman’s life by saying that, just because she’s had a child, she’s somehow going to be different, or unprofessional, or, all of a sudden, softer in her interviewing technique. The prejudice that women often lay at the feet of men- well, I think some women should examine themselves for that prejudice because it’s clearly there.”…

“Your priorities do change when you have a child. Not your personal priorities but the fact that your lifestyle has to accommodate another person.You have somehow to work out how you’re going to make that person happy and contented so, yes, it did- or is- taking a lot of thought and I’ve no intention of stopping work at all. My work is very important to me and it makes me a complete person. I don’t think I’d be very successful at just sitting at home,” Jana said.

I personally have mixed views about Jana’s comments. I wholeheartedly support her desire to combine motherhood and career but her assertion that full time parents are just “sitting down” is poorly informed. They’d be lucky enough to sit down long enough to get through a cup of tea uninterrupted.

Another point of interest was a joint photography feature between the Australian Women’s Weekly and Fuji Film: How to Take Perfect Photos…Every Time!

Of course, this was written before digital photography when cameras used film and you couldn’t see how your photo had turned out until you’d had them processed. That’s right. There was a door on the back of your camera for putting in the film and not a screen. You also had to choose the right speed of film and you couldn’t switch easily between colour and black and white either. Photography was a lot more conscious than it is now. You really did need to try to set your shot up well and get it right before you took it, rather than checking as you go. This feature also suggested that if you were traveling and wanted to remember characteristic sound effects, you could take along a small cassette recorder. Now, that really starts to date the magazine.I’d imagine that if we could travel backwards in time and tell them we’re taking selfies on our mobile phones, they’d tell us: “You’re dreaming.”

I also came across this photo of a computer 1988 style:

Computers 1980s style...a terminal connected to a mainframe.

Computers 1980s style…a terminal connected to a mainframe.

However, as much as things have changed since January, 1988, some things have also stayed the same.

Thank goodness for Sao biscuits!!

Thank goodness some things never change!!

Thank goodness some things never change!!

I don’t know if I really miss the 80’s but wouldn’t it be great to be 18 again for just one day!!

Yes, I’d have a lot to say to my 18 year old self!! What about you?

xx Rowena

Sources:

The Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/a-love-beyond-understanding/story-e6frg6z6-1111114526775

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/sonia-mcmahon-elegance-loyalty-and-that-dress-20100403-rkcv.html

 

 

Mutiny on the Kayak

There is something so gloriously serene about kayaking across a beautiful diamond carpet of almost still water on a glorious, Spring morning. You’re almost inhaling all those positive ions and good vibes and feeling absolutely on top of the world. It’s just you and the sea and you’re floating along so effortlessly, almost levitating on a magnificent sea of calm absorbing all that superlative beauty.

However…

Add two reluctant kids to the mix, not unsurprisingly, the experience can quickly turn on its head. Instead of everybody moving in sync, we ended up with Mutiny on the Yellow kayak…especially when two dogs decide to do a bit of kayak bombing!

Here's Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Here’s Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Welcome to my nightmare. Trying to set off on a simple kayaking expedition with my kids in Careel Bay, just off Palm Beach in Sydney. To put you in the picture, this is right near where they film the Australian drama series Home & Away except we’re on the Pittwater side which is just perfect for all sorts of water sports (other than surfing, of course).

I don’t know what it is with my kids. Why they don’t jump at the chance to get out there onto the water and carpe diem seize the day? Why do they prefer virtual living to the real thing? By virtual living, I’m of course, referring to playing x-box and Minecraft and all those electronic gadgets too much. At least, I’m blaming the gadgets.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach. Get into the sand. Go outside. The only time we ever stayed inside was when it was pelting down with rain and my parents practically had to bolt down the doors to keep us in. There was also the odd bout of sunburn which put us out of action as well. Instead of the parents hassling the kids to get out, it was the other way round. “Come on, Mum! Dad!” I remember a particular beach holiday when my Dad locked himself up with a very, very large doorstop of a novel called Shogun and that was the end of him for the holiday although he might have taken us fishing. We were trying to drag Dad out into the water. It certainly wasn’t the other way round.

Times have changed. Now, it’s me the parent doing the dragging or should I say still doing the dragging. Doesn’t anybody else want to get out there? My husband certainly does. He might not be the original Solo Man but he has kayaked down the Tasmanian rapids which Grant Kenny traversed in the commercial. My husband had a real thirst for adrenalin and loved pushing himself hard before he was consumed by the rat race.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Although my kids are in the sea scouts and seem to be happy enough out on the water there, for some reason our daughter is often terrified of going kayaking with me and today is no exception. She brought up almost each and every fear known to man and although there was a bit of wind out there she wasn’t going to drown in knee-deep tidal water especially when she was wearing a life-jacket. She wasn’t going to get killed by stingrays either, which seem to scare her more than sharks but then again there is what happened to Steve Irwin. That certainly added stingrays to the Deadly 60. Last but certainly not least on her list despite their size, was the vast army of soldier crabs which were hiding in their crab holes underwater. They were all about to come out to get her. With all these worries being brought up while she begged me to turn back, it was like she had swallowed the DSM manual. You know the great book the psychological professionals use to classify and define all your weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies. She was absolutely gripped with fear and all teary but her wretched mother kept going because if you keep avoiding fear, you never develop the neuropathways to overcome it.

I know I’m hardly Robinson Crusoe with my lifelong phobia of false teeth and the incredible fear of dogs which I had growing up but other people’s unrealistic fears always look much more surmountable than your own.

Anyway, as you can appreciate, Miss really, really didn’t want to go kayaking.

While Miss and I were in the yellow double kayak, Mister was on his own in the single kayak. These kayaks had been left behind by the previous owners. They’re certainly not the latest and greatest craft and do have a certain bathtub look about them but we love them and they have taken us on some fabulous adventures. We’ve explored the mangroves. We’ve also paddled back and forth across the bay trying to catch glimpses of the great giant flathead and the amazing flying mullet. Of course, their mythical proportions rival the likes of Nessy[1] but you know how kids can turn hyperbole into fact. Mister’s been out there very determined with his net but the giants of the deep have eluded him and retained their precious secrets. I have also been on a number of very serene solo expeditions and it’s so relaxing just to float on the water and drift. Simply drift.

So Miss and I are paddling along. There’s a strong headwind and so we’re not moving very quickly and I’m talking her through her fears and encouraging her when I notice Lady, one of our dogs, has just launched off the boat ramp and is paddling out to join us. We’ve only had Lady two weeks and we’re still getting to know her. She’s two years old and she comes from a farm and is quite a bundle of surprises. Yesterday, she leaped up off the beach and successfully landed on top of a 3 metre high retaining wall. She really does make anything look possible and is quite a gutsy, spirited dog.

While you could wonder about the logistics of having a dog in a kayak, I thought Lady would be okay. I haven’t weighed her but she’d probably weigh something like 10-20 kilos. I certainly have no trouble lifting her up. Consequently, when she decided to “kayak bomb” us, I didn’t really hesitate to pick her up and help her into the kayak. Geoff and I have been sailing on the little Laser with Bilbo onboard before so I though Lady would be fine and she was. She sat on the front of the kayak in front of me as I awkwardly paddled around her.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie...the calm before the splash.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Meanwhile, when Bilbo saw Lady kayaking with us, he somehow overcame his huge fear of even getting his paws wet and launched himself into the water. I saw him wading out with all his fur billowing out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him swim before except for the time he fell in the swimming pool chasing his tennis ball. Even for a Border Collie, Bilbo is a big dog and dry he weighs around 40 kilos so with his very thick woolly coat soaking up all that sea water, he was getting very heavy indeed. Well, he ended up on the single kayak with Mister who also weighs around 40 kilos. Mister is quite good on the kayak but not unsurprisingly Bilbo managed to capsize them and dog and boy were in the water. Bilbo managed to scratch Mister on the way out and apparently also tried to grab hold of him. It was only shallow water where at least we could all stand up so there was no risk of anyone drowning but there was certainly plenty of pandemonium.

I decided that this was also a good time to get Lady back on terra firma. The novelty of trying to paddle around the dog was wearing off, especially given my daughter’s catalogue of fears and I didn’t even want to consider how she’d react if Lady capsized our kayak. Needless to say, Geoff put the dogs back behind the fence before he headed out for a paddle.

As much as I enjoy a relaxing, solo paddle soaking up all that serenity, there was definitely a certain “je ne sais quoi” with this mad scramble of kids, paws, paddles and of course avoiding the huge ginormous Giant Stingray which is out there somewhere lurking in the very shallow depths.

It’s crazy experiences like these that become the great family legends. I can already hear everyone gathered around the family table laughing about the time Bilbo jumped in the kayak with Mister and they capsized and everyone roars laughing.

So much for peace and tranquility but as Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.”

I’d love to hear of any of your family adventures, especially family holiday antics!

Xx Rowena

PS Kids still aren’t seeing the funny side of things yet. Miss just told me: How would you like it if you capsized and the dog scratched you with its claws? Mister was also fairly gloomy about the experience as well. It seems there is a fine line between humour and trauma that we still need to work on. After all, your disasters always make the best stories.

[1] The Loch Ness Monster.