Before you answer, how about you pull up a chair and I’ll wait on you hand and foot delivering up your choice of tea, coffee or Bonox. We can also get stuck into a packet of scrumptious Tim Tams. I know I’m not always the greatest host, and I’ve repeatedly nattered away without even asking how you’re going. So please make the most of the new me while it lasts.
The big development here this week is that our daughter, the inimitable Miss, went back to school on Wednesday going into Year 12, which is her final year at school. The start of the new school year is always a jolt. Holiday’s over. Time to face the music and get back to the real world. Or, at the very least, ensure she has a clean uniform and doesn’t run late on the first day. I ticked both of those boxes and much to my delight, she also agreed to have her photo taken before we took off. Could I be so lucky?!!
Returning to school, also means a return to dance.
I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to her getting her driver’s licence so I can hang up my taxi driver’s hat and stay glued on the couch.
Our son, JP, is still in holiday mode and having a trial run on a sound engineering job next Saturday night. We will be driving him to and from which means we’ll be picking him up from Wyong an hour away at 1.00am. So we’re really excited about him getting his driver’s licence too.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working flat out posting photos and accompanying stories from my three week stint house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. it’s taking a lot long than expected as I really jampacked a lot into some days and I’m doing multiple posts for these days. I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever get to the end. If you’d like to check out these posts, you can just scroll backwards from here.
While there are no doubt sports enthusiasts among you, I ended up watching an international ballet competition called the Prix de Lausanne through the week. Although Miss has been doing ballet for years, I’d never heard of the Prix de Lausanne, but my friend’s son was competing and I found myself rather enjoying and intrigued by the live stream. I don’t pretend to understand much about ballet, but I try. What I found interesting about this competition, is they also have classes and these are livestreamed so it allows dancers and teachers all around the world to tap into and absorb this expert advice and apply it to themselves. I was also delighted that another Australian dancer, Emily Sprout was competing and she did extremely well and was awarded a prize. Congratulations Emily! You can see her classical solo here if you’re interested.
Mum and Dad are still living in the family home. That’s what Dad keeps telling mum. “There’s your tree, Margaret”, he patiently repeats pointing to the towering gum tree in the neighbour’s garden. Or, he reminds her of the huge Steinway grand piano in their loungeroom. They’re anchor points in an otherwise surreal world fueled by vascular dementia, and I make a note to ask her what she sees when she looks out her window next time. Where on earth does she think she is?
At this stage of the dementia journey, I’m more curious than alarmed. She’s still intelligent. Knows who she is and who we are. It’s only Dad who transmogrifies into an incredible cast of characters, including her mother who she mostly knows is dead but keeps turning up then inexplicably disappearing into thin air.
Yet surprisingly, she has new-found serenity. “Darling, I was watching the clouds today and enjoying the sunshine. There are so many beautiful flowers I’d never noticed in our garden before.”
So much doesn’t matter anymore. I’m relieved she’s no longer persecuted by “the Jones’s”, although she keeps asking me if I’ve been practicing my singing. I can’t quite bring myself to tell her that my throat doesn’t work anymore and that’s why I play the violin. Yet, I don’t want to disappoint and I cherish every time she plays “Happy Birthday”, which she still plays with her unique flourish. This is when she’s most herself.
“Strange things are happening around here, darling,” she says. “But don’t worry. We’ll work it all out one day.”
I am not so sure, but I’m borrowing her new-found optimism, praying a miracle will stem the tide.
Goodness knows where those fractured neural pathways are taking her, but this home is where her heart is and she’s happy there. So although we’re no longer looking out through the same window, we’ll keep holding her hand and stay with her for the journey.
My apologies for significantly going over the word limit this week. Perhaps, I could plead dyscalculia. However, the photo this week with it’s mirrored reflections reminded me of some of the visual confusion my mother has been experiencing lately and her corresponding diagnosis of dementia. I felt it was more important for this story to be told than to stick to the word limit this week. So many of us have a loved one who is experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s or has been there. People’s comments can be cruel and disrespectful and going down this path is no reflection of how intelligent or accomplished they might’ve been.
I’ve had two grandparents go through Alzheimer’s and that was very different to mum. My grandparents were always old, and just got older. Forgetting things just seemed par for the course until it took over. On the other hand, our parents ideally have always been our strength physically, emotionally and intellectually and then they’re not and we start trading places, it’s so much harder (at least, for me.)
Anyway, my apologies to Rochelle for exceeding the word limit, but I know she supports a good cause, although she keeps her efforts within the word limit.
Do you have any comments or insights into dementia or Alzheimer’s? Please share in the comments below.
An evangelical minimalist, Sylvia Nolan is known as “KCD” – a brutal clutter-busting force preaching “keep, chuck, donate” to millions on TV. Meanwhile, her nemesis Junkyard Jenny draws crowds of hoarders on a rival network.
No one knew Junkyard Jenny was her Mom.
As much as Sylvia had tried to convert her mother through subtlety or force, Jenny was unrepentant:
“Someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure and my trip to Tahiti.”
Last week, Mom had a heart attack and died in the shop leaving Sylvia with a million decisions to make…keep, chuck, donate.
What are your thoughts on the great minimalist-hoarder divide? I must confess that I’m more down the hoarder end of the spectrum but I do like my mother’s view on this that you just need a bigger house. Meanwhile, my dad says staying put in the one house for 20 years in our case and 40 years in theirs is also fatal. I used to be able to fit all my stuff into one or two car loads back in the day. Hard to believe now!
Last night the prodigal son flew through the front door and in a miraculous flash, he was transformed into Vector from Despicable Me. His friend was having a villain theme for her 18th birthday. Although we’d almost busted a gut, I was thrilled. He looked amazing and was grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
In case you haven’t heard of Vector, he’s the son of bank president Mr. Perkins and an aspiring supervillain voiced by Jason Segal. He’s decked out in an orange track suit and flies around in a wing suit, which could be described as a modern incantation of the traditional superhero cape. He also wears a white helmet with an orange stripe down the centre, black rimmed glasses and has a rather nerdy bowl haircut.
While Mr 18’s villainous ambitions initially didn’t seem too lofty, complications soon escalated and there was no chance of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a seamless transition like Clark Kent into Superman.
Trouble began when we couldn’t buy a Vector costume and had to make it ourselves!! Panic stations!! While there are those parents who seemingly whip up book week costumes out of thin air year after year, that’s not us. Moreover, despite over ten years as an active dance mum, I’ve never had to sew a costume and have only ever been asked to sew ribbons on shoes. That’s been hard enough. Making this Vector costume posed an extremely steep learning curve.
Of course he could’ve gone for an orange tracksuit and made do. Not on your life! He had a grand vision of being Vector with all the bells and whistles and almost being able to take flight in that wing suit. What’s more he had absolutely no doubt that Geoff and I could just pluck this suit out of thin air and not only make it for him, but do a decent job. Not have the wings sewn on backwards or have it fall apart as soon as he arrived at the party. Yet with only three days to go his expectations were even more unrealistic. Indeed in hindsight a classic quote from The Castle comes to mind: “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin'”. Added to this mix, was the fact he was totally unavailable to assist. He was volunteering on sound for three days at the church conference. So, all of this takes us back to plucking a rabbit out of a hat when we’re not magicians. We’re mere mortals…Mum and Dad. Yet as we’re found on previous occasions, we somehow rise to the occasion and exceed our meagre expectations in leaps and bounds.
The first step was to source an orange track suit. Understandably this was a challenge in itself. After all most of us wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange tracksuit and doing the rounds of the charity shops confirmed that. Orange was never the new black despite what the fashionistas preached a few years ago. Moreover the cheapest orange tracksuit I could find online was $43.00. Who wants to spend that on a one-off orange tracksuit? Besides, by now it was too late for anything to be posted in time. Then, just when I was close to conceding defeat, Google came to the rescue. There was an orange prison jumpsuit for around $21.00 at our local Spotlight store. You beauty! They stopped off there on the way to conference and Geoff returned home with white and orange fabric for the wing suit and white ribbon for the stripe.
By now, you’re probably thinking we were on the homeward straight and we could just whiz the whole thing up on the machine in no time.
There was another hitch which I’ve already alluded to… me!! I have very limited dressmaking experience along with zero spatial awareness. Indeed, I even have a doctor’s certificate to prove it along with multiple scrapes on the car. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Mr 18’s wavering tone when he said he didn’t have a costume or a present and couldn’t go to the party, I’d never have been sewing any kind of costume!
This is what the hero’s journey is all about, isn’t it?! Along with the role of a parent! There are times you just have to front up and have a Nike moment. Fortunately, there was also Plan B. Getting help from Geoff or a friend. Whatever! This was not about ego and doing it all myself. Come hell or high water he was going to have his Vector suit!
That was all very noble-minded, but I hadn’t factored in an outright rebellion by the sewing machine. While it’s been mean, nasty and cantankerous for me before, like all machines, it’s always been good for Geoff. He has a real knack with machines which he calls “mechanical empathy” . Indeed, on my last encounter with the sewing machine, Geoff accused me of having “no mechanical empathy”. However, this time the machine wasn’t even working for Geoff, and a whole new pressure cooker was threatening to explode. Recalcitrant, rebellious and cantankerous…the darn thing kept unthreading and we’re not sure whether the machine, the thread or the fabric, but the machine is lucky it hasn’t been put out for council cleanup or worse!
Eventually the wings were attached. As Vector started to emerge, we were now feeling chuffed although we still had a way to go and time was running out. By now, it was late afternoon and I’d only managed to get in a piece of toast motoring along as fast as I could. Mr 18 had such grand visions of this costume and I wasn’t going to let him down. I wanted him to make that big entrance at the party. Be Vector and add to the fun and festivity. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. No, I wasn’t about to break his heart. Anything to avoid that – even self-destruction!
The next step was the collar. Vector’s collar stands straight up and in a rare moment of resourceful creativity, I nabbed the almost empty Rice Bubbles’ box and cut out a strip of cardboard, unstitched the side of the collar and stuffed it in. Wow. I was proud of my uncharacteristic resourcefulness. I pinned on some white cotton fabric on the inside and tried to machine it together. Possibly overwhelmed by the number of layers, the sewing machine spat the dummy AGAIN. Grr! I was back to hand-stitching but thrilled to be moving surprisingly fast. Indeed, I’d become a machine myself!
With the wings attached, the stripes down the side and the collar done, the suit was really coming together. Meanwhile Geoff painted an old cricket helmet white for his head gear. Wow. We even had enough time to add a white stripe to the wings.
Again the sewing machine played up and I gave up and handed it over to Geoff. By now, we’d renamed it: “The Beast” and even Geoff who can make any machine work well, was asking how much an industrial strength machine would cost!!
Finally, I’m catching my breath and able to text Mr 18 for an ETA without having a heart attack. He was getting close but I had just enough time to steam the packaging creases out of the suit and then perfection.
It was done.
Geoff and I as well.
We forced him to stand still just long enough to get a photo and then we were off to drive him to the party.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that we picked up a pizza for dinner on the way home. We were beat.
Now, I’ll leave you with a thought I’m going to come back to. So often we stridently defend our right to be ourselves. Refuse to conform or blend in. Or, we go looking for ourselves. Yet on the other hand, we do whatever it takes to be someone else. Sure, in this instance Mr 18 was just dressing up for a party. When you’re going in character, you want to be authentic and you’re also just playing a role. However, how often do we do whatever it takes to hide who we are behind makeup, fashion and or being seen or photographed at the right places? How many of us are leading a fake life especially on social media? You have to be pretty strong to resist the temptation. Yet, it’s something to consider…
Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear from you and any of your efforts making costumes. How did it go? Do you think being yourself is over-rated and you’re better off at least appearing to be someone else? I’d love to hear from you.
“Mummy, why do Charlie and I look the same on the outside, but are so different on the inside? You said we’re identical twins?!”
The twins were chalk and cheese. Charlotte was always staring out the window at goodness knows what…birds, the clouds, maybe she could even see something in the seemingly invisible air. Captivated by the old oil lamps, she found meaning in their flickering flames. Bridget loved to run. Charlotte’s side of the bedroom was pink with her books neatly filed in rainbow order. Bridget’s was a cyclone.
Sophie couldn’t offer any explanation and simply said: “Ask God.”
How are you all? I hope you are well and this weekend, I can offer you some cheese biscuits with a chive and parsley cream cheese filling along with your choice of beverage. They’re very addictive!
This last week has been a case of recovering from the adventurous week before, which is what I’m going to focus on today.
On Thursday 18th August, we dropped Miss at the local train station. She was heading off to Queensland’s Gold Coast with the school’s cheerleading team to compete at Nationals. She would also be competing in a few solo events as well. Although we seriously considered driving up there to watch and be a part of it all, it wasn’t long enough to pull it off and so Geoff and I decided to head off to Bathurst 200 kms WNW of Sydney. We live night near the beach, and I’ve never been out that way and was interested in its goldrush heritage and all the photographic opportunities it offered. Meanwhile, we stayed at Rydges Mt Panorama which was right on the race track at Conrod Straight. In case you’re not aware, Bathurst is also home to the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which is what’s brought Geoff and Jonathon to Bathurst before.
I’m in the process of writing up about the trip. However, so far I’ve written up a fairly extensive overview which you might enjoy: here.
However, probably what you’d like to see most are some photos of kangaroos taken in Hill End. We were there past sunset into the twilight, which is when kangaroos become most active. Great for photography when we were walking around town, but potentially treacherous driving back to Bathurst. Indeed, we had a very stressful near miss when a huge male hopped in front of the car and instead of getting out of the way, he kept turning back in front of the car. Obviously, he was out to collect the Darwin award, but we didn’t want him taking us with him. Fortunately, Geoff grew up in rural Tasmania and is well-versed in country driving, but even he found this particular kangaroo too much.
In addition to all the architectural attractions, there was also the race track. The Bathurst 1000 takes place the weekend after the October long weekend, and will be held 6th-9th October this year. The track itself is 6.213 km long and runs on public roads 174-metre (571 ft) elevation difference between its highest and lowest points The race is 161 laps in length and generally takes between six and seven hours to complete, depending on weather and Safety Car periods. A likely race finish time can be anywhere between 6pm and 8pm AEDT and I can tell you, you don’t disturb Geoff too much especially towards the end of the big race.
Geoff has walked and driven around the track before. However, being my first trip to Bathurst, naturally I’ve never been and I made a decision to drive around the track myself. Normally, this wouldn’t be a small consideration because I’m quite an anxious driver. However, I seemed to get into a different zone and wasn’t nervous at all in the end. By this stage, I’d been round the track with Geoff a few times making note of where the trouble spots were and preparing to go at a snail’s pace if necessary. I didn’t care if I clocked up the slowest lap time in Bathurst history. No one was recording it and I truly enjoyed the experience.
However, before we left on the trip, I received some awful news. A friend of mine called to say she was having trouble reaching our friend, Stephen. His phone wasn’t answering and had a message saying it was out of power or something to that effect. I rang and got the same response and sent an email letting him know we were concerned and to get in touch. Nothing. I had to look up my old hardcopy address book and my friend and her husband went down to check on him. They spoke to his neighbours who were also concerned and they rang the police for a welfare check and both he and his cat, Pippa, were found deceased. At the time, we didn’t know how long it had been and I was initially devastated that my dear friend would die in such circumstances, even though he’d chosen to shut himself off. However, as time went by, it turned out family and friends had been keeping in touch with him and it hadn’t been that long. Well, it’s kind of inevitable when you live alone and don’t reach out. He was 65 and had some health issues, and we’re still waiting for cause of death.
Unfortunately, losing Stephen has reminded me of how many people I know in similar circumstances and as much as I would love to reach out to them all, my days simply go up in smoke often with very little to show for it. However, my heart is in it and I also recently did a suicide intervention program through Lifeline, which I found very helpful.
I realise that this is a rather heavy subject to consider while having a cup of tea or coffee with Rowie and I hope it hasn’t been triggering. As a positive, if each of us called someone we know who is doing it tough once a week, I’m sure we could make a difference.
This is a good reminder that I need to start thinking about having something to look forward to myself now this trip is over. I’m not sure whether living from holiday to holiday is a good thing, and so I might organise a few get togethers with friends as well. After all, we’re about to launch into Spring here and come out of hibernation.
Lastly, speaking of Spring, I was struck by all the daffodils and jonquils we saw while we were away. They were EVERYWHERE!! I felt so grateful and could’ve thanked each and every soul who’d planted each and every one of those bulbs. I’ve gardened myself and have only been thinking of my own enjoyment and making the place look attractive and cheerful. It’s never crossed my mind that a stranger could be walking past and get some enjoyment out of it. Better still, that someone who is doing it tough could feel a moment’s joy simply because a stranger had planted a bulb in the ground. While I was trying not to think about Stephen too much while we were away, it was inevitable and seeing all the daffodils and jonquils truly helped.
Indeed, I ordered in a couple of bunches of daffodils from our local florist when I got home. They are so happy! It’s like having my own personal cheer squad every time I go out into the kitchen. Such a blessing!
Yesterday, we welcomed home the new baby. Well, baby doll to be precise. She’s not real which is fairly evident from the photos. However, at the same time, she’s not your standard doll either. She’s what’s known as a baby simulation doll and she is manufactured by RealCare Baby. My daughter is studying Child Studies at school and the “babies” were sent home for two days as an assignment. The dolls come with a pseudo bottle, two nappies and the student wears a wristband to log on every time they care for the baby. The doll also also has computer technology onboard which reports back to base how the baby was treated, especially if the baby was dropped or shaken and the baby will emit loud cries if the head isn’t supported properly. A friend of mine told me she accidentally dropped her daughter’s baby doll a few years ago, and her daughter failed. So, evidently, the are a few pitfalls and I don’t want to be the weakest link.
Naturally, I was fairly curious. I was also rather excited about the whole project, but was also wondering whether this thing was going to keep us awake all night. After all, newborns are synonymous with sleepless nights. I remember them well. I’ve also seen these dolls on TV before, as they’ve been used fairly extensively in sex education classes to prevent teenage pregnancies. The theory goes that if the teens know how difficult a baby can be, they’ll be more careful. However, research suggests that the students who had the dolls were actually more likely to experience a teen pregnancy.
Although the baby would only be staying for a few days, she still needed a name. Miss decided to call her McKinley. I thought she’d told me the doll was Indigenous American and decided to give her a name of my own…Tallulah, which comes from the Choctaw people and means leaping water. My cousins also have a restaurant in Newcastle called Tallulah. However, as it turned out, Tallulah was African-American. However, I only found that out after she’d gone.
Anyway, enough about names. Let’s get on with the doll. Whoops! I mean, baby.
The thing that’s struck me most personally, is how she latches onto your heartstrings. She feels so incredibly real, and yet not (if that makes any sense). Unlike a standard doll made of hollow plastic, Tallulah is weighted and feels surprisingly heavy. Indeed, she weighs around 3 kilos or 6.5 – 7 pounds, which is about the average weight of a new born baby. So, there was a lot of familiarity, and I really felt something rekindle within, which surprised me.
While I’m not going to comment on how Miss went with her assignment, I did get the opportunity to see how a few others responded to Tallulah, and see that she also elicited an emotional response from them both at the local shops with me and also when she made a guest appearance during my Zoom Bible study group.
Starting with the local shops, I had to take Tallulah down to the dance studio to pick up Miss. This was a bit of an exercise and normally, a baby would travel in a capsule, but Tallulah didn’t come with one. So, I just strapped her into the car seat and hoped she didn’t attract attention. To compound matters, I couldn’t get a park out the front and I couldn’t leave Tallulah in the car in case she woke up and needed attention. Consequently, as a 50 something woman, I was left walking down the street carrying a baby doll.
It was very interesting to see how people responded to Tallulah. I could see drivers being extra careful when when I was walking across the pedestrian crossing. They definitely registered “baby” and altered their demeanor. After all, they wouldn’t be expecting me to be carrying a doll around.
Then, I had a further opportunity to gauge the reactions of others during my zoom Bible study tonight. The doll was supposed to be turned off while Miss was at dance. However, Tallulah woke up screaming with 15 minutes to go. I abandoned Zoom and ditched my headphones racing to Miss’s room as though Tallulah’s life depended upon me. I managed to find everything I needed to settle her down again except the logging on device. So, I returned to my zoom with a screaming baby the group knew nothing about. The instant they saw her, there was an immediate emotional response, and I even sensed a touch of joy. They didn’t know what was going on at the time, and Tallulah looked real enough, and they wouldn’t have been expecting a fake baby who was my daughter’s homework. They were just humans reacting to what they thought was a real baby.
So, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had an emotional response to Tallulah, and it’s interesting to consider that this baby simulator can stimulate these very emotional (and probably innate) responses when it’s just a piece of plastic. I don’t consider myself particularly into babies and young children and tend to prefer older children. So, the fact this doll (let’s call her by her name – Tallulah) drew me in, says a lot although I wouldn’t say that I love Tallulah. Also, as far as babies go, she was pretty easy going.
This raises an interesting point. If these dolls establish an emotional connection with their carers, are they really an effective deterrent when it comes to teen pregnancies? Could they in fact be encouraging them to want their own real baby instead? On the other hand, they do get a feel for how time consuming a baby can be and unlike Tallulah, they can’t just be switched off while they’re at school or in a dance class.
Anyway, I had a bit of fun being grandma and taking a few photos. While most of our kids’ toys are stored away in our roof, I did manage to find a sheepskin teddy bear which our elderly neighbours gave her. I also found a sheepskin a school friend had given me. She’d used it for her daughters and we used it when Mister was born. Indeed, I’m going to check whether my friend’s daughter has had a baby yet. She might be wanting it back.
While I’ve mainly focused on the upside of having the doll here, I have a few concerns. Firstly, I’m not supportive of the one student having sole responsibility for the doll/baby and there should be capacity for family members to help. After all, we keep saying it takes a village to raise a child, but then putting all responsibility back onto the mother and there are also some quarters who also complain about the declining birth rate. In many ways, it’s good experience for all of us to have experience of a screaming doll-baby who won’t stop crying before we have our own so we have realistic expectations of parenthood. I don’t know whether there is a debriefing process in place when students return the dolls/babies. However, failing could hit a some people fairly hard and while they might be wanting to prevent teen pregnancies, the aim is not to turn young people off having children altogether. It would have been hard for probably all of us as new parents to have been scrutinised like these students caring for our own children We all made mistakes. All had times we struggled to cope. Yet, an important aspect of this program which goes a bit more under the radar is the importance of not shaking your baby and it does raise awareness of these dangers to young people. So, these dolls are not just about sex education, but also give some insights into how to care well for your baby and what will be involved.
Have you or your family had any experience of baby simulation dolls? I’d be interested to hear from you!
Yet, Jane couldn’t take her foot off the accelerator. She’d said nothing to anyone, but lately she’d been considering driving over The Gap.
“What do you do for self-care?” Her therapist asked, knowing she was on the brink.
“Self-care?” Jane exploded. “@#$%!! I don’t even exist. I’m squished in between Stuart, the kids, work, Mum’s stroke, Dad’s cancer. I’m driving to appointments, soccer, ballet and then there’s church. Busy, busy, busy!”
“I’m prescribing you a week’s holiday. Before you say you can’t go, please consider what will happen if you don’t. You matter too!”
For so many of us, it’s impossible to stop and get off the treadmill, but there can come a point where too much activity and no rest reaches breaking point. It’s important to consider things the rests which are inserted into music, full stops and commas inserted into sentences and if you think back to when you were first learning to write, putting that all important finger space in between the words.
I hope my story this week isn’t too triggering for anyone. If case you haven’t heard about The Gap in Sydney, it’s an ocean cliff at Watson’s Bay which is infamous for suicides. So much so, that if someone’s going through a rough time or having a particularly bad day, they might say: “I feel like jumping off The Gap”. However, it’s generally used to let off steam, and not as an expression of intent.
The flipside of this story, is that much has been done to try to reach or help those wanting to take there life. In particular, there was Don Ritchie, who was known as the Angel of the Gap. I encourage you to read his story and it’s interesting how far a smile can go towards saving someone’s life. It’s really something to keep in mind!
Personally, I see this as a good news story, because Jane is very overstretched but she is seeing a therapist which is a help and she is releasing much of the inner tension she’s been holding back.
About a month ago, I actually did a two day course in suicide intervention run by Lifeline who run a telephone crisis line here in Australia. I have been a first responder and I was surprised at how well I actually handled the situation. However, I wanted to skill myself up. Be prepared.
Courage isn’t something you usually associate with ballerinas. The usual gamut of adjectives includes: “beautiful”, “gracious”, “exquisite”, “the swan”. Yet, there’s also that sense of speechless awe. How could they possibly move like that?
However, there’s a whole other set of words which go on behind the scenes. These include: grit, sheer bloody-minded determination, perseverance, incredible organisation and impeccably presentation. I also remember a funny comment… ballerinas sweat. Indeed, they might even smell, which I still find rather hard to believe.
Of course, this is all a world away from the jewellery box ballerina I was entranced with as a little girl. I carefully turned the silver winder at the back and opened the lid. Hey presto! There she was twirling around to Love Story. I was bedazzled. In my case, my admiration didn’t perform some kind of magic and turn a clumsy elephant into a ballerina. However, I was recently reading through my old diary, and it seems a pair of dress-up ballet slippers I bought for Miss when she was three, sowed the seed of her lifelong dream.
Anyway, the reason I’m back here posting yet another photo of Miss in her ballet tutu, is that I wanted to acknowledge the latest. Last Thursday, Miss competed in the solos at the Sydney Eisteddfod for the first time. While it mightn’t be a huge deal, it’s the biggest and most prestigious eisteddfod in NSW, and an intimidating juggernaut. So, it’s a good step forward. Moreover, like everything else, the extended covid lockdowns we’ve had impacted on the Eisteddfod making this significant step all the more daunting not just for her but also for us. We’ve been living in our home bubble for so long, it’s almost too comfortable. Added to that, we live about 1-2 hours drive away depending on the traffic. So, it’s hardly next door, and it was in an unfamiliar part of Sydney. This added quite an extra layer of stress, although we had a good run and phew! There was parking on site.
Yet, what I hadn’t anticipated was that the most stressful moment of the competition -and it didn’t even involve our daughter! Indeed, it was a complete stranger. As this young woman was dancing, the satin ribbon on her pointe shoe came undone and started flapping around her ankle like an evil serpent threatening to strike.
Being the consummate professional (albeit only 16 years old), this young woman kept smiling and kept going and going. I was amazed! The entire time my eyes were glued to her and my heart was in my stomach. I was so worried she was going to trip and have a really nasty accident. It was clear everyone around me was feeling it as well. I know dance mums get a bad wrap, but there was so much love and compassion for that young woman. However, she didn’t fall, and kept working her way through her routine spinning and leaping across the stage with this infuriating ribbon dangling from her ankle. Geoff thought she was aware of where the ribbon was, but it was subtle. I congratulated her when I saw her afterwards, because I figured getting through that made her a true champion.
Meanwhile, our daughter was backstage and she had her own crisis. She suddenly heard her music playing and thought she’d missed her cue to go on. The thing is, that when you’re in a studio, the pieces of music for your dances are yours alone. It’s as good as having your name plastered on the front. You own it, and hearing that music is always your cue to go on. However, at the Sydney Eisteddfod, there were something like 60 dancers competing just in the ballet solo section alone, and quite a few dancers were using the same piece of music. So, your music wasn’t your music anymore.
I can just imagine her dealing with all of that backstage when she’s already feeling it. Hearing her music at the wrong time must’ve hit her like an electric shock. However, to be fair, while we had the big board in the auditorium clearly showing which number was next, I don’t think they had that backstage. I just saw a few people hovering with clip boards near the door, and to compound the confusion, audience was going in and out.
No doubt there were endless other overcomings throughout the day, and although they might not rate a mention on the adjudicator’s sheet, are possibly even more noteworthy.
As it turned out, Miss didn’t place in the competition, but she scored well and with a lot of these things, you usually clock the first one up to experience.
However, I would like to congratulate her and everybody else who enters into these competitions for putting themselves through all the stress and rigmarole and actually entering the arena.
Indeed, I like to pass on this encouraging quote from —Theodore Roosevelt Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Have you or your family been involved in dance or something similar and gone through competitions and eisteddfods? Do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Yesterday, I visited my parents for the first time in a year. Geoff was going down to work, and so he dropped me off on the way, and I was expecting to be there for a good six hours. Well, I can assure you that even after not seeing me for a year, my Dad didn’t think he could talk for that long, although their was the possibility my mother could, but she sleeps irregular hours and so she was also a bit of an unknown quantity. The other thing I came to consider, is that they’ve had very little face-to-face contact with anyone since Sydney went into lockdown last June and so even having their dearest daughter land on their doorstep for the day might’ve been overwhelming, and my Dad recently had an operation as well and so isn’t in prime form either. I guess it suffices to say they’re in their late 70’s and have slowed down a bit.
I packed a book and my journal and looked forward to playing the piano. However, it was a glorious sunny day and they have a magnificent cottage style garden which is quite a camellia wonderland. Indeed, now in the depths of Winter, the camellias are in flower and were absolutely beautiful. As you walk down their driveway, there’s what I think is a Ted Craig Reticulata which is 15 centimetres in diameter and absolutely magnificent. To use a classic quote from Kath & Kim, it’s shouting out: “Look at me! Look at me!” it’s hard not to.
Their garden also has quite a few deciduous trees and there was some stunning yellow Autumn leavers out the front and the neighbours have a towering Liquid Amber which is now mostly a skeleton of branches and all those leaves have fallen somewhere and been swept or raked away. I dare say, many of them have dropped in my parents’ garden and while I was there, I found myself sweeping the front steps until I found myself down on the driveway. It was alright when I started out. I seemed to be making progress. However, a wind had come along and it was literally snowing leaves and they were almost falling faster than I could sweep them away. Of course, I started to see a sort of futility in all of this. Do I end up becoming a sweeper just to keep up with the never-ending tide of leaves or do I simply leave them be? Well, it’s easy for me to say, because I don’t live there and we don’t have any deciduous trees here, except our jacaranda but it rains purple flowers instead. That’s why I guess sweeping up all those Autumn leaves was such a thought-provoking novelty. It’s not something I usually think about.
Anyway, I wanted to share that going round and working on your parents’ garden can be a great way of spending time with or around them while not being underfoot or tiring them out too much. My uncle showed me the way here. He used to go round and work on my grandfather’s garden. This way you can have a chat and a cup of tea, do some gardening. Have another chat and maybe even talk about the garden or they could sit out their with you too.
By the way, I should also mention that I took over some Date and Apricot All Bran Muffins which they love. Home baked treats also keep to make a visit special.
Are you into gardening at all? Or perhaps you have elderly parents. What enhances your visits? It would be great to share some ideas and special memories.