Tag Archives: personal development

The Road For 2019…

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve’s done and dusted and Day Three of the New Year is already unfurling. If you’re like me and believe you ought to start off on the right foot, by now we should be cruising along at a steady walking pace and getting into the swing of it, whatever “it” might be. However, the more honest realists among us, will have no qualms in admitting that they’re still in the planning stages, especially if you’re currently on holidays frying yourself something silly and going “troppo”!

The start of a new year seems to draw out even the most closet philosophers, keen to jump up onto their soap boxes, espousing all sorts of theories about how to change your life, end all your old bad habits and park your old self in the telephone booth (if you can find one) and ensure a new improved you walks out. As a writer, this is a bit like finishing up your old journal and opening a fresh, blank notebook where there’s not even a mark on the page. In the entire book is as white as driven snow just waiting for you to get started if you dare.

However, I’ve finally come to my senses and stopped dreaming. As the clock strikes midnight, my fairy Godmother isn’t going to going to appear out of nowhere to perform a reverse Cinderella makeover on me. Indeed, yet again as we launched into 2019, I was still myself watching the fireworks over Sydney Harbour on the TV. I wasn’t a princess with a horse-drawn carriage and a book which has not only been written but also published. What a pity, which of course leaves me with the hard yards ahead.

writing

Why act, when you can write about it?

 

Anyway, while coming up with a list of New Year’s resolutions was  once as traditional as singing Auld Lang Syne, these days many people are just coming up with their word for the New Year. Last year, my word was action and in 2019, it’s a case of “play it again, Sam”. Yes, my word for 2019 is still ACTION.

So, being the procrastinating, philosophizing sort, what was the first action on my list? Well, if you’re thinking it has anything to do with putting on my running shoes, active wear and getting stuck into it, you’d be sadly mistaken. Instead, I Googled ACTION quotes. More research required. After all, it takes a bit of a cattle prod to get some of us moving!

This quote particularly resonated with me and my writing:

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

Here’s a few more:

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”

Tony Robbins

“In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.”

Blaise Pascal

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.”

Napoleon Hill

Bilbo sand cliffs Ettalong 2

Life can be bewildering…even for a philosopher’s dog.

However, before you launch into action, you need a plan. Or, do you? I’m not so sure and find myself caught in between these two schools of philosophical thought:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

and

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

One of the underlying considerations is trying to understand just how much control we have over where our life is heading. Are we in the driver’s seat turning the steering wheel the direction we’d like to go while also operating the accelerator and brake at a pace of our own choosing? Even if we can attain full control over the car, what about the environment? Can we control the weather? The people around us? The state of the road or where it is heading? In other words, can we simply set ourselves a goal, write a plan, work hard and stick to the dotted line and know we’re going to reach our destination? That when we get there, we can stick our name straight up on the door, because we’ve finally made it. Or, is life much more precarious than that? Could we get blindsided at any tick of the clock and it’s best not to strut too confidently because we’re only going to get struck down. Is it, therefore, much better to prepare for defeat, or at least a long struggle ahead? If you’re spiritually inclined and believe in God (I’m a Christian), you also have God to factor into your equations. Is God really in control? If so, does that give him absolute power over our lives? Or, does he give us considerable independence, or at least the capacity to screw ourselves up?

Rowena in Florence

There are many roads you can take….in Florence in 1992. 

As you can see, I could easily spend the entire year debating just how much control I truly have over my own destiny and the best-laid plans of mice and men. However, that’s precisely the kind of thinking I’m trying to break out of to get on with things. Turn 2019 into a year of action, not procrastination or philosophizing.

However, this leads me into only another question…WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS THE ACTION? If you don’t define the action before you go and do it, you could go and do the wrong thing. After all, in addition to procrastination, there’s distraction and although both of these words contain “action” in them, they have nothing to do with ticking that thing off your to-do or bucket lists, and achieving that thing that makes your heart sing.

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Some times, you only know which way NOT to turn.

Personally, I reached my WHAT for 2019 via a typically circuitous route. As many of you will be aware, it’s been a long-held goal of mine to write a book and get it published. Indeed, my mission for the last ten years has been to write  a motivational book about living with and overcoming adversity. However, while it was all tracking perfectly in my head about 6 years ago, I had a massive setback and wasn’t sure if I was going to pull through. Not unsurprisingly, I had to rethink and reassess all of that. While we all know the simple laws of gravity and what goes up must come down, it’s quite a different thing to experience that yourself and crash land on your head Humpty Dumpty style wondering how to put the pieces of yourself and your life back together again. For me, that wasn’t a quick fix. Indeed, there wasn’t a fix after all. More of a realization that life is complicated and you just need to make the most of every day regardless of your circumstances. That what really matters is loving and being loved, being a part of community ideally on many levels and having that give and take. For me, there’s also having a faith in God. A faith which not only acknowledges that he exists, but also that he loves me and isn’t trying to destroy me when the shit hits the fan. I’ve also had to accept and acknowledge that I’ve shot myself in my foot at times, and have brought about my own troubles. There’s also just bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moreover, sometimes we just don’t know why bad things happen to us but we owe it to ourselves to try to get on with living and find a way out. Not in terms of denial or avoidance, but via a potentially more painful yet ultimately rewarding path of personal growth. Learning our life lessons, especially before they get repeated because we’re slow learners.

vintage-1970-s-mego-wonder-woman-12-action-figure-superhero-doll-w-red-boots

Here I am as Wonder Woman…the female version of Action Man I suspect.

Well, it;s taken me almost 2000 words to say that I’m going to get that book written in 2019. I guess that could well explain why I’m a writer and not a female incarnation of Action Man. If I just got on with it, no matter what it happened to be, I’m sure I wouldn’t have as much to write about. I’d be doing it instead. So, you could say that inaction is an occupational hazard.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2019? What is it? Or, perhaps you’ve come up with a few resolutions, perhaps even including not to make any resolutions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this. It’s been quite a mammoth effort getting through this and it’s now Wednesday night. Indeed, even Wednesday is starting to expire. I’m supposed to be getting the kids packed for the Scout Jamboree. They leave in the morning. It seems I still have a lot to learn and that my ACTION steps are going to begin with sewing on the last of those Scout badges.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Me – A New Book and A Work in Progress…

Last weekend, I mentioned that I was reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. I’d first spotted it at Gleebooks while on holidays at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney.  I don’t know why I bought this book. It was positioned in a huge stack right next to the register in prime real estate “look at me!!!” territory. It was also set in Paris. Then, the cover boasted that over 2 million French readers had loved it.Clearly, this book was going to be the next big thing, even if I hadn’t heard of it yet. For once, I was going to be ahead of the pack.

Book

However, being somewhat restrained, I waited til I arrived home and headed to our local bookshop, Book Bazaar. Of course, I couldn’t remember anything about it other than the colour…a delicious shade of musk pink. Well, at least that was the colour of the title. Oh yes…it was a French novel. Thank goodness Mandy is good at cryptic puzzles. Clutching my book in my fingertips, I was off on a virtual trip to Paris.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever considered this, but buying a book is always a bit of a mystery.  A leap of faith. A stab in the dark. Even when you’ve heard raving reviews and its been loved and adored by the masses and has even been elevated to the best seller lists, that’s still no guarantee it’s going to touch, inspire or even prod you.

So, I shouldn’t be surprised that with a title like: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, that I might be set for some kind of transformation. Moreover, now that Winter’s evolving into Spring, that I might even be set for a metamorphosis. Indeed, I’m no longer reading the book as a novel. Rather, it’s turned into a challenge. As the main character documents her visits to Claude a routinologist (whatever that is…), he provides her with a series of accumulating steps towards finding fulfillment. Described as a “third world problem”, her life is the epitomy of happiness and success on the outside, yet feels hollow and empty inside. She isn’t satisfied.

I didn’t buy this book because I’m not satisfied. Rather, I bought it because it was a French novel set in Paris. I spent six weeks in Paris in 1992 after finishing university and I like reflecting back on my time there, despite going through an existential crisis and the horrors of the “Paris dumper” (named after a Sydney band and I believe it was their lead singer who had a similar experience. As I’ve said before no one ever tells you that the city of love, is also the epicentre of heartbreak and despair. Indeed, in hindsight, I no longer wonder why there are so many bridges in Paris…

Anyway, I decided to follow the steps outlined in the book and see where they lead me. I had no great expectations. Indeed, I had none at all. After all, as I said, I wasn’t dissatisfied with my life. However, I had the feeling that I should be. That I should be bothered that I haven’t been in paid employment since I had chemo five years ago. That I should feel panic stricken that I haven’t edited my book “manuscripts” and got something out there. That pouring my heart and soul into so much research was an utter waste of time and a symptom of some kind of deep seated mental health issue which should be drawn out from the depths and slayed like the proverbial dragon. How could I be content when my life was up shit creek without a paddle, especially when I’ve always been a very driven person? Perhaps, that was just as worthy of exploration and change. Surely, I couldn’t possibly be happy when my life didn’t tick most of the boxes. Indeed, I’d ticked a few of those boxes you are supposed to avoid at all costs such as living with a severe life threatening illness. Actually, make that two.

Perhaps, I just didn’t realize I wasn’t happy with the status quo. That somehow I found enjoyment selling sausages at the scout fundraising BBQ at our local Bunnings hardware store. That I found pleasure in spotting a red rose just leaning into view through the window behind my desk. The window itself had an enormous cobweb so I wasn’t even looking at a perfect rose. It was rose through the cobwebs and in my deluded state, I found that even more alluring. I loved that juxtaposition of opposites…the comedy. I had made peace with my imperfect life and didn’t feel compelled to fetch the broom. Perhaps, I’d given up.

So, I stated writing the points out from the book on post it notes. Two post it notes:

You are responsible for your own happiness.

Throw out 10 useless objects.

If you looked around me, you’d say that I’d have no trouble throwing out 10 useless objects. Indeed, I could throw out, or re-home thousands of objects and never hit the sides. However, it’s not the last step that’s the most difficult. It’s the first. Of course, I could throw away 10 useless bobby pins which weren’t taking up any space whatsoever. However, wouldn’t that be cheating? Shouldn’t I be thinking about the spirit of the challenge and actually making a noticeable change to my external environment? Personally, I didn’t view this as over-thinking, but a case of being more conscious about my actions. I gather ten things into a crate and they hit the bin. I crossed the task off my list. And yet…

Somehow this desire for more space was addictive. I needed more real estate.

However, to create more space, you need to have somewhere to put things.

You also need to have discipline in addition to those create flights of fancy which have created the teetering stacks of books, paperwork and miscellaneous detritus which have fluttered onto my desk and built a nest.

Rowena Desk

It’s going to take a lot more than a line from a book to reform my desk but I am serious about it. Somehow I’m going to conquer.

xx Rowena

Books

PS When they said to throw ten things out, they didn’t mention anything about not bringing new stuff into the house. I don’t know how this happened, but we were driving back from the Scout camp yesterday and we spotted a sign outside a farm which said FREE. We had no idea what it was and thought it was most likely oranges or manure. However, there were bags and bags of books. We started going through them and it was a bonanza…an entire collection of Sci Fi, which my husband snapped up. Have no idea where all these books are going to live but they’ve certainly dumbfounded my quest for more space!

 

 

 

Dipping My Toe in Yoga.

After all my struggles and contortions trying to put up the clothes horse yesterday, I wondered whether trying yoga was really such a good idea. Indeed, I couldn’t help wondering whether I’d end up in Emergency, tied up in myself like a knotted pretzel.

Take it from me, I’m NOT catastrophizing. I have strings of medical reports to prove it.

Yet, there’s this annoying inner voice determined to overcome all of that: “Rowena, get a grip! Disaster is NOT waiting for you around every corner. You can do it. You are capable. You have overcome numerous hurdles before with Olympic strength and endurance. You can do anything you set your mind to. This may be more than good for you. You might actually enjoy it.”

This voice and I aren’t always on the best of terms, and more than once, we’ve exchanged stern words.

A) Don’t you know I’m too stressed to relax?

B) Can’t you see I’m disabled? How can I do yoga when I can barely walk down a footpath without tripping over?

C) I’m sure there are a whole heap of reasons why I shouldn’t do yoga. I just can’t quite remember them now.

Well, the benefit of this particular yoga class, was that it’s being run by an occupational therapist. Moreover, it was recommended by my physio and a few of her other clients were going, That meant I’d be in safe hands, and I’d also be meeting people in a similar boat. That could also be really fantastic… a whole new social, exercise and potentially coffee group.

So, despite the rain, off I went.

And…I loved it…especially the last 15 minutes when we lay on our mats with a lavender eye mask on and a blanket over me, doing my deep breathing. I felt such a strong sense of well-being. It washed over me like a warm wave of kindness and I’d received a much needed inner hug.

Meanwhile, even my toes got stretched and that’s a good thing.

Have you launched out and tried something new lately? Or, is there something you’ve been putting off? Why not have a go?!!

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend.

xx Rowena

Reach For Your Light.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

Thanks to Dr Gulara Vincent for reminding me of this quote. I am going to print this out and give it to my kids.

Have you found any inspirational quotes lately? Please share!

xx Rowena

Featured Image: Rowena Curtin.

Stepping Out of the Driver’s Seat.

 

It was time for me to get out of the driver’s seat and slip into my pink, satin shoes and dance but first I needed to buy the shoes. Not that ballet shoes maketh the dancer but every bit helps.

I’ve had enough of being the driver’s seat. While it sounds like you’re in control, choosing your own direction, being a trail blazer; as a parent, it’s more of a passive role. You’re a taxi driver being told where to go and quite often, due to your passengers’ lack of planning and what organization???, you’re having to floor it. Anyone would think the kids had robbed a bank and you were driving the getaway car. (Did someone say something about sirens and flashing lights??)

Beyond parenting, I’m anything but passive. With a carpe diem seize the day mentality, I can’t stand watching my clock ticking away while the kids flounce around.

I don’t know if that’s why I decided to attend an adult ballet class. That as much as I love watching ballet, that I now wanted to experience dance for myself. That there was a dancer busting to get out of my soul and even if I couldn’t dance much at all, I’d tried. I’d stepped into the world of dance and had a go. Moreover, with my daughter dancing, I wanted to understand it better.That’s not being a helicopter parent, but showing an informed interest.

If nothing else, I’ll have brushed up on my French! After all, French is the language of ballet.

After attending my first class barefoot, I decided I needed some real ballet shoes. They had to be pink. They had to be satin and they had to have pink satin ribbons…just like I had when I was a little girl. I might be 40 years older but I wasn’t living someone else’s dream. I was going to live my own.

I found out that there’s a Bloch’s Dance Store in Newcastle and decided to drive there after my daughter’s violin rehearsal. If you’ve been following my trip to Newcastle, you’ll already know that I got completely lost trying to find the dance shop and even went into Westfield in the wrong suburb!

amelia-ballerina

Ballerina Girl.

However, we finally found it and I felt so elated, like a little girl again, only with the appreciation that comes with not being a little girl anymore. I guess if you were being nasty, you could say these ballet shoes were my personal equivalent of a midlife crisis vehicle…a variation on the red Porsche. As such, everything was a bit exaggerated but I was having so much fun and who wanted to be plain Jane anyway?

I wondered what it was going to be like walzing into Bloch’s as a middle-aged beginner. I wanted to buy a pair of pink ballet tights and I seriously doubted they even came in my size. I also needed some sort of dance wear. That is, other than a leotard. I might have been dancing back to the future but the leotard wasn’t going to be part of the deal. Not yet, anyway. Who knows, all this dancing might really payoff. It’ll be like Clark Kent dashing into a telephone booth and emerging as Superman. I’ll walk into Bloch’s as Mum and emerge as a young Margot Fonteyn…Mummy Butterfly emerging from my chrysalis.

Obviously, while I might be a fledgling dancer, I do have a fully-developed imagination!

To be perfectly, honest I expected something like that dreadful scene in Pretty Woman where the shop assistants vilify Julia Roberts. Perhaps, you remember her revenge:

Shop assistant: Hello, can I help you?

Vivian: I was in here yesterday, you wouldn’t wait on me.

Shop assistant: Oh.

Vivian: You people work on commission, right?

Shop assistant: Yeah.

Vivian: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.

 

Well, of all places, you’d think a dance shop would have to be the domain of the petite. I am anything but petite. I’m 5ft 10″ tall and let’s just say I’m well padded. Considering I find it almost impossible to find ordinary stockings which are long enough, I couldn’t see how they’d have pink tights which fitted…or anything else!

However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Not only by the fact they had stockings and leggings which fitted, but also by the respectful attitude of the staff in the shop. They weren’t snooty, condescending or nasty just really encouraging and supportive. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

After all, I was picked on at school about my shocking coordination and was the epitome of “unco”. You think of girls being pretty and sweet, but when you’re unco or break the mold in some  way, you soon see the ugly nastiness which can lurk just beneath that perfect smile.

I was lucky. It turns out my coordination troubles were caused by undiagnosed hydrocephalus. I had brain surgery and had a shunt inserted. It took awhile for me to come good and I’m still not perfect, but who is?

 

Perhaps, some of these horrid people should be forced to have personality transplants where the nastiness is surgically removed and replaced with pure nice. Wouldn’t that be great!

Anyway, I went off to my ballet class wearing my new shoes last night, beaming from ear to ear. I’d tied the bows at the front, which in retrospect looked a bit ridiculous but I had a lesson on how to tie my shoes afterwards. No bows!

By the way, I also wanted to mention that I sewed the satin ribbons onto my shoes myself. As one who inevitably complicates something utterly straightforward, I really managed to make this difficult.

Once again, my fear of making a mistake grabbed me by the throat. My problems started with having to cut my length of ribbon into 4 lengths. This was child’s play yet there was this caution in my head. What if I make a mistake? What if I cut it in the wrong spot? We’re just talking about cutting a silly ribbon in four. It’s not rocket science. Snip! It was done. However, I then had to sew each length of ribbon onto the shoes. There was the shiny right side of the ribbon and the wrong side and to me they didn’t look that different under the dim lighting at home. Naturally, I didn’t want to look a fool turning up at the dance studio with my ribbons sewed on back to front. I am seriously short-sighted but now need reading glasses so I have bifocals but I often read without any glasses. So with all of that going on, you can imagine that I was having trouble sewing on these ribbons, especially as I couldn’t tell the different between the front and back of the ribbon and was fiddling round with my glasses trying to see. I ended up getting my daughter to help. I should be embarrassed but these eyes aren’t what they used to be.

After all of that stress getting lost trying to find the ballet shop and my struggles with the ribbons, my shoes were ready for action. Time to put on my pink stockings and head off to class. Of course, I was beaming like the Cheshire Cat. Last week someone came in a tutu but my ballet shoes weren’t a joke. They were saying that I’m taking my dancing seriously and I’m ready to learn. Do what it takes to get somewhere. Not aiming for the Opera House. Just somewhere out of the couch, beyond the driver’s seat and in my own way, soaring for the stars.

I am still getting myself organised to photograph my new shoes so stay tuned!

Have you ever learned ballet or another form of dance? How did you go?

Looking forward to hearing your stories!

xx Rowena

PS My grandmother met and possibly interviewed Margot Fonteyn on her 1962 Australian tour. Need to investigate this further.

Lazarus Returns: Back to School.

We did it!

  1. Hair cuts.
  2. Uniforms ironed and labelled.
  3. New shoes.
  4. Lunches made.
  5. On time!!!

What an absolute miracle!

DSC_9529

How the Day Went…

6.30 AM Alarm.

6.45 AM Out of Bed.

7.45 AM Deposit No. 1 son at High School and take photos.

8.00 AM Start Driving Miss to School.

8.45 AM Arrive at my daughter’s school.

9.30 -11.30 AM Print Photos…just the tip of an enormous ice berg!

12.00 Noon – Had lunch at Gloria Jeans. Writing beat reading. Wrote in journal.

2.00 PM Headed back to school. Traffic not the best.

2.15 PM explore shops next to the school and buy an Apple Crumble Cake for afternoon tea.

3.00 PM School Pick Up.

We successfully made it through their first day of school for 2016.

 

However, it still remains to be seen whether we can keep it up. At the same time, I see myself as a new creation.

New School Year = Clean Slate.

For better or worse, my watch is back on my wrist and I’m back to living to the beat of tick-tock time, instead of meandering well and truly off the grid, which is the real beauty of holidays. Not having to be someone, be somewhere stuck on the proverbial train track. If you have ever read a gorgeous Little Golden Book called Tootle The Train, you’ll now know what I mean.

Tootle-

So, our journey continues…

Tomorrow is another day!

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A Doggy New Year!

Today, I read a great letter by Monika from Tails Around the Ranch to her much-love Poodle, Sam. Realising that my dogs could also benefit from a bit of friendly advice, I’ve set the wheels in motion with a New Year’s letter  to Bilbo, our much-loved 9 year old Border Collie.

4th January, 2015

Dear Bilbo,

Happy New Year!

Although I understand there are seven dog years to one human year, I am talking about the new human year. I know you probably didn’t realise that another human year has come and gone. That’s what all those loud explosions and flashes of light were the other night. We were celebrating the beginning of a whole New Year!

Anyway, I know you weren’t particularly looking for a lecture on human society and culture. However, you’re a smart dog and it’s important to get an education. These days, it’s simply not enough to go to Puppy Training School and only learn to sit. You also need to learn about and understand people and what makes us tick.

Anyway, making New Year’s resolutions is an age-old humaman tradition . New Year’s resolutions are a list of things you’d like to change about yourself so you’re a better person. Or, in your case, you become a better dog.

Quite often, this list is put together after days or even weeks of deep and probing soul searching, which is a bit like going on a journey to the centre of your own universe. You explore, as it were, your very own command centre and decide what stays, what goes and what needs a bit of fine-tuning.

In other words, it’s all about exploring all those idiosyncrasies you usually keep well hidden under that thick, woollen coat.

Or, buried in the backyard!

I have it on good authority that there’s some kind of New Year’s Eve Fairy Godmother who flies around the world wiping the slate clean at midnight. So, when we wake up in the morning, we’re brand new.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?!!

A New Year = A New You!

Being unaccustomed as you are to making New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d better give you a bit of a hand. It’s not that we don’t love you just the way you are but as I said, we could all use a bit of “fine-tuning”.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

1) Tennis Balls

Bilbo, as much as I appreciate that chasing your ball might be good exercise and that particularly for an older dog, your ball chasing and catching abilities are worthy of the Canine Olympics, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

This is called addiction.

The trouble with addiction is that when you keep pestering the rest of the family, visitors, friends and even strangers at the beach to continuously throw your ball and then bark persistently while they’re trying to have a conversation, this is the sort of severe addiction which results in total withdrawal. In other words, no ball at all!

It could also result in therapy, hospitalisation or worse.

Please accept when “enough” is enough and retire gracefully.

Remember! Too much persistence can be a health hazard to both you and the humans!

2) Begging

My food is NOT your food.

Yes, I appreciate that I could lose a bit of weight and that perhaps I’d be better off if the food on my plate ended up in your tummy. However, this isn’t your decision to make. Having your head on my lap and staring at me with those huge, irresistible puppy dog eyes, isn’t going to help.

3) Food Theft.

Before Lady arrived on the scene, you used to be such a good dog and never used to steal any food at all. However, just because our new arrival was on Australia’s Most Wanted, you didn’t have to join her. Indeed, you were supposed to train the new dog…not the other way around!

You have since been spotted with paws up on the kitchen bench and have been found guilty of stealing meat pies, cakes and toast. Just because the little people are careless with their food, that does NOT entitle you to take it…even if it does look like you’re helping to clean the house!

4) Barking

You are an excellent watch dog and we really appreciate your efforts at protecting the house from intruders.

However, as evidenced with your tennis ball, again there has been a degree of over-zealousness.

People ARE allowed to walk their dogs and ride past our house without being barked at. Moreover, the posty and delivery people can drop off packages without you lunging at the screen door and barking like a rabid dog. They are bringing us things we’ve ordered and are definitely not stealing anything.

Moreover, the bus driver is not trying to kidnap the children. So, you don’t need to rip the bus to pieces either.

bilbo BW dog food

The trail of dog food Miss left for Bilbo.

5) Lying in the Way

For some strange reason, you insist on lying across walkways and generally getting in the way, making it difficult to walk around the house. You are actually quite a large dog and take up a considerable amount of space. So, you need to keep that in mind when lying down. While ambushing burglars is a wonderful thing, your human parents do not appreciate being tripped up.

By the way, I’ll just add that sticking your paw out from behind the couch isn’t appreciated either. Looks like you’re really determined to trip us over!

6)Standing in the Rain

Bilbo for some reason you seem to stand out in the rain, even though you have a perfectly good kennel to keep you dry. Moreover, despite being wet and incredibly stinky, you still think you should be allowed inside the house and stare daggers at us when we shut you out. Stinky wet doggy smells stay outside!

The Good News

Perhaps, I should have given you a bit of a thank you first and told you what a good dog you’ve been and how much we love you but let’s finish this off on a high note of what you’ve done well in the last twelve months.

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

1) Accepted Lady.

Lady’s arrival was a huge change for you after being an only dog all your life and not really having a lot of interaction with other dogs. Indeed, I’m not really sure you knew how to be a dog before she came, even though you had met the others dogs at the beach before.

Although it took about a month for you and Lady to become friends, you have shown that you can teach an old dog new tricks after all!

2) Can walk on the lead without tugging.

You might not remember back to when you were a younger dog, Bilbo but you were quite a terror on the lead and used to bolt off towards the beach with the poor human flying behind you like a kite. Now that you’re no longer a pup and have matured, you’ve become very well-behaved on the lead and we’ve even received compliments. Well done!

3) Dog Psychologist.

You somehow manage to cheer up everyone in the family and help us feel better, no matter what’s going on. Mind you, sometimes you do get your timing a bit wrong and in the midst of a crisis we hear your tennis ball “bounce, bounce, bounce” on the floor. That can be a little inappropriate and unappreciated but nobody’s perfect.

4) Doesn’t runaway with Lady.

As we know, Lady seems to like wandering off and has runaway a couple of times. We really appreciated how you’ve stayed home and were a good dog and didn’t join her. Good Boy!

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Bilbo is now a shadow of his former self pictured here!

5) Lost Weight.

Well done, Bilbo. Somehow, you’ve managed to lose about 14 kilos in the last 12 months. We have no idea how you’ve done it, although you were quite crook with a terrible flea allergy for awhile. I’ll have to come and ask you for some diet advice as I seem to have gained instead.

So, Bilbo, there’s a bit for you to work on and a lot to be proud of as well. All fully achievable!

I’m now off to write to Lady. Still being a bit of a whippersnapper, she might be needing a bit of assistance. We all need somebody to lean on!

Love & Best wishes for the New Year!

Love Mummy!

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

 

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

Compassion: Should you carry their load?

If you have been following my blog over the last couple of days, you will know that I have been participating in a global blogging movement 1000 Voices Writing for Compassion and it went live on Friday for the United Nations Day of Social Justice.  So, I have been spending what time I could over the weekend immersed in compassion, love but also a fair amount of cynicism and hurt..

I have uploaded a few posts but my main contribution was a somewhat humorous post: Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/compassion-fatigue-a-light-bulb-moment/

In this post, I warned about the signs of compassion overload, which could leave you at risk of compassion fatigue (which isn’t something to joke about, by the way):

“if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.”

Jen, from Driftwood Gardens http://driftwood-gardens.com/ suggested: “As far as the ant is concerned, my philosophy would not to be help him carry his load, but rather to leave him to his business instead of squashing him underfoot.”

That was a very insightful comment because there is that delicate balance between helping someone and dis-empowering them, which ultimately achieves what it describes. It takes away their independence leaving them unable to look after themselves, even when they might be quite able. Psychologically-speaking, this is known as “learned helplessness” but in everyday speak we call it: “use it or lose it”.

In the Unexpected Journey-Life”, Ameena from Ramblings of a Random quotes:

The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to rely on, lean on, blame on.
The gift is yours-
it is an amazing journey- and you alone are responsible
for the quality of it. This is the day
your life really begins. – bob Moawad

You can read more here: https://randomsbyarandom.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/unexpected-journey-life/

All this thinking pressed even more buttons inside my think think think tank  and I remembered this excellent pearl of wisdom;

Education: a form of compassion.

Education: a form of compassion.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
-Maimonides

Of course, my daughter looked at this quote and pulled it to bits: “What if their fishing rod breaks?” “What if they have nowhere to cook it?” “What if they wanted to eat something else?”

Gee, I wonder why I’m going grey?

After reading the many posts which were uploaded for 1000 Speak , I am rethinking how we help others and whether we should be providing long term, intensive assistance. Instead, shouldn’t we be educating and empowering people to find ways around obstacles through education, lateral problem-solving as well as finding ways to draw out and develop their strengths, instead of only seeing weakness and what they can’t do? This way, we can all extend, stretch and become ourselves in every conceivable way instead of being stunted like a bonsai. An oak is meant to be an oak stretching its branches right across the sky. It was never meant to be a table ornament!.

Speaking as a person with a disability and when my auto immune disease flares up, I can become severely debilitated while my meds get increased to sky high levels. I sometimes get angry when I get stretched too far, especially as I have been doing this while parent two young, very active children . However, if I was never stretched, I wouldn’t grow and find out what I’m made of.  In the last few years despite these health issues, I’ve learned the violin and now play in an ensemble and I have also learned to ski. While this seems like a miracle, it was actually the result of incremental small steps, perseverance and persistence.

This seems to point to being stretched enough to challenge but not so far that we snap. Unfortunately, given the lack of support for people living with severe chronic illness or disability (by the way, anyone in the “severe” camp you could well have both) many are currently living in dire straights where even basic food and cleaning requirements are sadly lacking.

When it comes to helping people with perceived weakness, we should never assume they can’t do something, although it might be considerate to politely ask if they need a hand. I’m forever leaving my walking stick behind and am very thankful when people chase me to give it back. I have tripped, injured myself and dropped handfuls of things and appreciated assistance and lauded the “Good Samaritan”. A friend of mine has given the kids lifts to and often from school and friends have also minded the kids when I’ve had medical appointments (I have lots of these). We appreciate meals from friends or Church particularly during rough patches but I am also training my kids to cook and I am adept at cutting corners as well as doing the gourmet thing. I just choose my moments. Meanwhile, I try to give back and I photograph events at the school and write press releases to help out where I can.

After spending time with people with fairly significant physical disabilities, I have been quite surprised by what they can do both in terms of the everyday but also through incredible feats like climbing Mt Everest or completing the Kokoda Track. These achievements actually make me look twice at able bodied people wondering why so many are glued to the couch.

Moreover, when we step in and carry someone else’s load, we not only stop them from growing and reaching their God-given potential but we also stop them from developing resilience. I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard about resilience because from where I sit, it’s that  magic ingredient that allows empowers us to roll up our sleeves and get through adversity.

I loved this definition of resilience:

1.the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

However, encouraging and nurturing people to reach their potential doesn’t mean we should cut people who are struggling off without a safety net. Without the financial means to lead a dignified life, which for many people living with chronic illness or disability means a pension. We should never be left to fend for ourselves out on the street. Some of us can’t. We might be able to find ways around hurdles or pull off significant physical challenges for some one-off quest but that is different to what it takes to maintain a full-time job day in day out…especially while juggling medical appointments and procedures which I’ve heard so many describe as “a full-time job” in themselves.

Perhaps, what I’m suggesting is that we offer a hand without taking over or accepting a gracious “no” if our assistance not required. We can also share our resources, I guess through the village which Lizzie Rogers wrote so eloquently about here: . We all have different strengths and weaknesses and by pooling our resources, we can all benefit: T.E.A.M: Together Everybody Achieves More.

At this stage, this post is very much a work-in-progress and me thinking out loud in a bloggy kind of way and so I would really appreciate your ideas and feedback as these ideas are rather complex and probably something that requires more stewing but I wanted get it posted before 1000 Voices for Compassion finally clocks off in an hour’s time.

After over-dosing on love and compassion over the last couple of weeks. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. you can’t overdose on love. Anyway, after all of this good stuff,  I’m feeling 10ft tall…a tree which has outgrown so many, many expectations.

Year after year, the cleansing rains fall and the rejuvenating sun shines through my leaves and warms my soul. My leaves change colour, fall and decay recharging the soil and feeding the worms working unseen. Children climb my twisted branches while their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles shelter under the shade of my lush, green leaves. Families of birds nest in my leaves and sing each morning greeting the dawn. Possums swing from my branches at night and sleep in my hollows by day. Falling acorns spread my mysteries to foreign shores…or at least just further down the street. Sorry, there aren’t any koalas here. I am an oak tree, not a eucalyptus.

Anyway, time waits for no one and it’s time to quickly upload this before the bell tolls.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: This is a huge and very sensitive topic I’ve bitten off and really addressed on the run. Already, I am coming up with further points.

For all of us, there is an issue of quality of life and finding ways of giving us meaning. So, if we can cut corners in some areas so we can have enough energy or finances to do what matters, that’s sensible. I know a very inspirational person living with a disability who uses a wheelchair, rides a bike and can walk somewhat. Using the chair extends what she can get done but she is still maintaining her fitness and mobility. I used to think you either used a wheelchair or you didn’t not that you could do this juggling act, which is yet another way of empowering the individual!

I also wanted to mention finances for families living with chronic illness. I would estimate that many families with either a sick parent or child are in effect living on half an income. That one parent can’t work and might get some small amount from the government and then the illness chews up the other half of the income and then there’s what’s left and you’d better snaffle that up quick before the kids get hold of it!!

 

 

If Only A Dog Coat Had A Zip!

When you are afraid, even a few simple steps can turn into the journey of a thousand miles.

That’s what happened when it came to getting Bilbo, our mature-aged, introverted Border Collie clipped today. What could have all been very Simple Simon, turned into a drawn out ordeal…not just for him but also for all the humans involved.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were getting Bilbo’s woolly coat belatedly clipped for summer. Or, as it turned out in the end, clipped to free him of his badly tangled coat. His aversion to being brushed while his winter coat was moulting as well as standing out in the rain, had caused serious matting and getting it all shorn off was the only way to go. The last time we had him shorn, I was grieving as the poor mutt faded from black to smoky grey as his coat disappeared.

This post covers Bilbo’s last encounter with the shears: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/summer-loving-a-dogs-perspective/

However, this time I was cheering. At least, I would be cheering if we could actually get him inside the mobile dog salon so operations could begin.

The dog salon pulls up.

The dog salon pulls up.

So the Dog Salon pulls up and we took Bilbo out the front on the lead. I felt like an absolute cad taking the dog out there to be “tortured” when he thinks he’s off for a walk. His demeanor quickly changed and he curled up inside himself on the front lawn and wasn’t coming out.

As I’ve said before, Bilbo is not good with strangers at our place  at the best of times. He is usually withdrawn and reticent in social situations and what you’d describe as an introverted introvert. He is very much our dog and he loves my Mum as well but he keeps close. Even when it comes to people who come to the house regularly, he’s apprehensive and I usually hold him back for about 10 minutes so he settles down. Then, he’s fine. I think people don’t always realise that some dogs like their space and need time to warm up just like some people. They also really don’t like being smothered with affection by strangers, which through their eyes, might simply be a pat. These are the sort of dogs who would enjoy sitting in the corner at a party if they were human and be quite content simply observing the proceedings. That said, he can be quite friendly and isn’t a risk.

At this early stage, now that Bilbo knows he’s not going for a walk and something strange is afoot, he is not in a good way. He is refusing to let the dog groomer pat him and he is looking quite frightened and skittish. I know what he was like when I bathed him and I am concerned about how the clip is going to proceed…or even if. Naturally, we are concerned about the dog groomer’s safety which is why Geoff is going with him but she also has to have enough faith to know she’ll be safe. She has been bitten before and working with dogs day in day out, Bilbo’s withdrawn fear has her on alert. An old hand, she senses serious trouble.

This whole battle of wills just confirmed my belief that dog coats should all come with a zipper so they can be conveniently removed for cleaning and seasonal adjustments.

However, that isn’t going to happen so it’s a case of smooth talking. Reassuring the dog he’ll be okay and also reassuring the groomer, which also involves having Geoff in there with Bilbo. The dog is afraid and no doubt can sense what is at least my concern. Not that I was afraid but I was  stressed about how Bilbo would respond. What’s more, given the state of his coat and some underlying skin irritation, all that fur urgently needed to go!!

There are advantages of having helicopter parents. We keep our offspring both of the two-legged and four-legged variety under some kind of control…or at least we try!! Bilbo was needing close-range helicopter hovering at this point. He really wasn’t happy!! However, our support and the groomers’ patience slowly won Bilbo over enough.

The groomer noticed the fur balls behind Lady’s ears and so we decide to give them a quick clip and hope that Bilbo settles down when he sees Lady “survive”. Lady wasn’t too keen to go in either. I think she remembered the last time she jumped into a car with a stranger and she never saw home again. That was when we picked her up. However, she emerged unscathed and was her usual sociable, tail-wagging self. Unlike Bilbo, she’s quite the extrovert and social butterfly! She loves people and any attention she can muster.

While Lady is being fixed up, the male husband groomer is sitting down with Bilbo and building a rapport. Bilbo is warming up a bit and he’s now deemed a reasonable risk but as I said, Geoff was still going in the float with him. No one was taking any chances.

Bilbo has been clipped once before and really was a lot happier after that. Once he was in there and the clip had got started, he was relatively calm. I think he might have remembered that losing his coat was going to be a relief  and started to settle. He was still a wound up spring but he was somewhat compliant.

The clip gets underway. Look at all that fur coming off. As I said, it was like shearing a sheep!

The clip gets underway. Look at all that fur coming off. As I said, it was like shearing a sheep!

The dog groomers were excellent and worked well with him. He wasn’t comfortable but he was clipped.

The clip is almost over...

The clip is almost over…

Then, it was time for his bath. Our poor boy. He really doesn’t like new experiences all that much and getting a bath is definitely something he files under “torture” and “over my dead body”. However, although there was initially a serious scuttle of claws, the bath went relatively well.

A shorn Bilbo having his bath. Looks like he much prefers the salon treatment to the hose.

A shorn Bilbo having his bath. Looks like he much prefers the salon treatment to the hose.

We knew from last time there would be no blow dry. Definitely no blow dry!! That sound was too much like the vacuum cleaner…his usual nemesis!

Suddenly, after all that kerfuffle, it was over. Bilbo was clipped and working as a very good team, we had all succeeded.

Bilbo's even starting to look like a happy camper!

Bilbo’s even starting to look like a happy camper!

“Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success.”
Zig Ziglar

It was funny when his whole ordeal was over, you could see such a sense of relief. A burden had been lifted. He’s been freed, liberated. Vive la liberte. He was trotting back inside and when Lady saw him, she really did a double take: “What’s happened to you , mate?!! Had a fight with the lawn mower?”

You bet!

We also had a surprise after all that fur had come off. Bilbo has actually lost some weight. I had suspected he’d lost a bit and transferred it to Lady but the shorn coat doesn’t lie. It shows every single ripple and bulge and is just as  unforgiving as a human wearing a wet suit.

Bilbo is now trotting around the house with a real spring in his step. Grumpy dog is almost happy with a new zest for life.

Yes, he really has been set free!!

xx Rowena