Tag Archives: pets

Heaven or Earth? Reflections from the Dark Side of the Moon.

Before I get started, I thought I’d play Alleluia sung by Ed Sheeran. Get you in the mood. The last week has been deep, dark and philosophical punctuated by blasts of Spring sunlight and tail wags from the dog.

Actually, the last couple of months have been “challenging” after the death of our Border Collie, Bilbo. We’ve had him since our daughter was crawling and he’s seen us through so very much.  Moreover, I’ve also had another brush with severe asthmatic coughs and chest infections, which get me every August.

Not unsurprisingly, the kids have been distressed and shaken up. They’ve had questions, and I’ve had to come up with the answers. This included a particularly curly question, which I decided to share. It’s big and it’s important:

Why should we stay alive when life is painful, when we could be in heaven where there’s no pain, no troubles?

I hadn’t quite thought of heaven as the ultimate “grass is greener” before. However, I suppose it is. Otherwise, why would it be called “HEAVEN”? Furthermore, why wouldn’t you, I, want to get there on an express trip? Why do we fight so hard to stay alive, when we could be living up there in the clouds? Even Cloud 9?

While I’ve had my dark moments, and even extended interminable stretches of raw anguish, I haven’t really thought of heaven as my greener pasture. At least, not in the here and now.

I’ve known too many people who’ve lost someone to suicide and am very conscious of the anguish suicide leaves in its wake… an anguish which has no end for the multitude of people who get touched by even one death.

So, I guess for me, particularly when I’m in a  level-headed state of mind, knowing that I’d be going to my ulimate happy place when everyone who means anything to me gets to suffer, doesn’t add up.

At the very least, it’s not a very nice thing to do.

However, that’s not something I would share with someone who wasn’t in a particularly level-headed state of mind. That’s something I might now start putting out there on one of my routine drives with my kids, now they’re my son’s 13 and my daughter isn’t far behind him.

As a parent, I’ve been wondering how to talk about sex, dating, periods, condoms, relationships, drugs, but amongst all of that, I’d forgotten all about the other fairly “normal” aspect of puberty…the E-word. EMOTIONS. Thinking back to being a teenager myself, I don’t believe there was any such thing as “an even keel”, being “level-headed”, “grounded” as as for balanced? HA!!

Moon bike

At least speaking for myself, my emotions were extreme, even turbo-charged. Well-intentioned comments like “there’s more fish in the sea” fell flat. My parents meant well, and believe me, I’m getting a better understanding of what it’s like to be a parent scraping the bottom of your psychological and philosophical barrell. When your child is combusting and you’re trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Trust me. That whole “bird and the bees stuff” is a veritable piece of cake compared to discussing emotional equilibrium.

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I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

How do any of us venture and and carpe diem seize the day and all that entails, without getting hurt? We can’t live our lives in bubble wrap and while you can have safe sex, there is no condom you can quickly wrap around your heart and it’s way too easy to get burned.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m no statistician either. I don’t know what it is which causes one person to take their life, while others persevere. What I do know, is that it’s not straight-forward. I also know that we can’t control someone else. We can’t stop someone else from taking their life. And yet, we sometimes can. Here, I’m speaking about the more collective we, but sometimes, it does come down to the individual. At times, we do become that person staring despair in the face, and it is up to us to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Or, I guess if I was some kind of professional at this, you’d be trying to get the person to find their own reasons for living. Or, at the very least, find a shift in gears.

A friend of my parents used to call the teenage years: “the swirling vortex of pubescence”. He was a very charasmatic gentleman and he’d roll this phrase out like a showman on stage. I always pictured these wild churning seas with the damsel in distress thrashing around in the waves. Never sinking, but not getting out either. I always found that phrase rather entertaining, although on reflection that note of humour, has it’s sting. Tony also put me onto a poet who knew those waves. Knew that intensity of emotion. That was Nan Whitcomb in her “Thoughts of Nanushka” and I’ve since found another kindred spirit in Australian  poet and cartoonist, Michael Leunig. Of course, there was also Keats and I’ve always questioned the merits of studying his Ode to Melancholy while studying for our HSC (final school exams = HUGE stress!!)

“That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”
John Keats, Ode to A Nightingale.
Ay, in the very temple of Delight 
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, 
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue 
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; 
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, 
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
John Keats, Ode to Melancholy

I also remember listening to Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody. That song needs no introduction.

Hot chocolate & book

How will the story play out?

The trouble is, that when you’re caught up in the more turbulent passages of that “swirling vortex of pubesence”, you have no idea how the story is going to play out. Speaking of myself, I was so caught up in the immediate present, the current devastating disaster, that I lost all sense of perspective. That it morphed into some kind of hellish bubble, my world. I couldn’t see it was a storm in a tea cup. I couldn’t see, that perhaps being dumped by “the bastard” was the best thing for me. That it really was a case of there being millions of fish in the sea, and I only needed to find one. That I wasn’t trying to catch the one, last surviving fish in an empty sea.

I never saw my life as a novel back then. Indeed, it’s only been this past week, that I’ve appreciated the close parallels between real life and the structure a novel or play where the main character (protagonist) has their difficult person, adversary (antagonist) but after a few rounds, they come through. There’s usually a twist at the end, and more than likely, real life doesn’t turn out quite like you expected either, but you can still live happilly ever after. Well, at least until the next challenge fires up. Bearing this in mind, you have to make the most of those high notes. Carpe diem seize the day. Gobble them up with a cherry on top. Yet, you also have to be prepared for troubles. Expect storms and rainbows, as well as sunny, blue skies.

If I was going to talk to my 13 year old self. Or, in my case, it was more my 16 year old self which was really doing it tough, what would I say?

Firstly, what I would say, wouldn’t be something eloquent, well-written, or an outstanding piece of philosophical writing with all the answers. It would be more of a stuttered, muttered and garbled story about how if I’d pulled the pin then, I wouldn’t have gone on to experience the highs of my life. For me, like so many others, the school days weren’t the best days of my life. However, they were the necessary precursor to getting into university which I loved on so many levels. I went through many relationship ups and downs and had way too many friends run off with the guy that I liked. I also spent all the years from my birth until I was 27, living with undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on my brain, which really did make me “different” in a myriad of ways I am still trying to get my head around. Yes, I wasn’t “unco” and more than likely, the intensity of my emotions weren’t just puberty either. The inside of my brain had been flooded, and I was under an entirely different kind of “pressure”.

So, if I’d pulled the pin at 16, I wouldn’t have known that I had this underlying condition which was greatly relieved through surgery. Yet, even if I hadn’t had that or if there had been no “magic fix” to my problems, I still believe that it’s worth persevering through the very darkest of challenges and fighting hard to find any glimmer of light which will lead us out of the tunnel. Why? Because there just might be something better ahead. That you could well resolve your current troubles through whatever means. a change of curcumstances, meeting someone else. Another door opens.

Indeed, I still remember the night I met my husband. A friend of mine was holding a New Year’s Eve Party in another friend’s apartment in Wollstonecraft, which had a view over the back end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was supposed to going to that party with the boyfriend I’d had throughout the whole brain surgery saga and as you could imagine, things were rocky on so many levels I don’t know where to begin. Anyway, he dumped me just before the party and I really didn’t feel like going. However, it was only more of a soiree with only a few of us going and so I went. My husband opened the door. Now, I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight. However, we talked a lot that night and he gave me some really good advise  and I thought he was wise. Obviously, it was that old thing of crying on someone’s shoulder. I also remember standing out on the balcony together and I would’ve been photographing the fireworks, and he told me that he was also into photography. I clearly remember making a mental tick in my head. He also drove an Austen Healy Sprite, which he described as “English and tempremental”. I remembered that when we were driving through the Tenterfield Ranges in pouring rain to avoid the Grafton floods, and the exhaust pipe fell off on a pot hole. BTW, we’d been wearing raincoats in the car on that trip and had been soaked by the time we’d reached Newcastle. (We had been driving from Wahroonga in Sydney to visit his Mum and sisters family in the Byron Bay hinterland. It’s about a 10 hour drive.)

The ironic thing is that it can be these very worst moments, our greatest disasters, that we turn into our funniest stories. It’s often these moments which we’ll share around a barbeque laughing our heads of and entertaining the crowd, rather than the good times. I am now thinking that part of that is that we later find out these disasters weren’t so bad after all. Indeed, sometimes they proved to be a blessing in disguise. Or, they were a necessary step to get us to a better place, or to our ultimate destination.

So, now I would say that instead of pulling the pin, who have to keep breathing so you can keep living the book. Find out how you’re own story unfolds. Just one point here, too, and that is that you are not a passive player in your story. You are helping to write the script, as well as all the other characters. This is a team effort. You are empowered. However, you are empowered to do the best for yourself, AND the worst. Too often, it’s not the bully or our nemesis we need to watch out for, it’s our own selves. We shoot ourselves in the foot way more often AND we need to own that. Take responsibility. Not necessarily in a guilt way, but in an empowered driver’s seat way. JUst like if you were driving and made a wrong turn, you’d do a U turn and try again. You hopefully wouldn’t just sit in your car hoping it would magically take you where you want to go.

The ironic thing for me these days about people taking their lives, is that I am fighting with all I’ve got to save my own. This July marked 20 years since I had the brain surgery which saved and changed my life. This coming Tuesday, marks 10 years since I was diagnosed with a systemic auto-immune disease, dermatomymyositis which has left me with 60% lung capacity on a good day. I am getting through flu season again this year but again it’s been a battle. Three years ago, I had chemo to knock the disease on its head and fortunately that worked. I’ve had multiple times where I’ve been staring death in the face, and trust me. Not once was I thinking: “Heaven, bring it on!” No, despite being a Christian, all I was thinking about was my kids, my husband, my Mum, Dad, Brother and my friends. Giving them that kind of bad news, is devastating. The fact that I’ve survived, doesn’t negate that. We have lived through it and we continue to live with it.

So, this brings me to the very real need to talk to those we love about those times when the swirling vortex has taken hold, and give them concrete proof that they can get through it. That it’ s not only worth persevering through the hard times, that it’s possible to get there. Achievable. Moreover, they are not alone. Not only in the sense that we are with them now. Not just us as an individual either, but us as a community. The many layers of the onions…family, friends, teachers, pastors, the person you need down the street while walking your dog. But, we also need to make that time available. Leave enough space inbetween the words, the lines, the busyness that someone can sit along side us and be without being rushed, sped up, or brushed off.

I am not someone who has ever professed to have the answers, but I’ve always had the questions and I guess this is where they lead me now. But before I head off, another word just popped in my head. That is gratitude. While it’s not often possible to feel grateful for our let downs at the time, that can change through hindsight…especially with many of those heart breaks, which were the end of the world at the time. I wouldn’t be where I am now and while some of those guys were great people and simply not right for me (or me for them), I’ve been married to Geoff for 16 years now. We’ve survived some extremely hard times and miraculously stayed together. We hae two beauti ful children who can stretch us beyond the very brink at times, but who we love more than life itself. Sometimes, when things have been so hard, it’s hard to comprehend how the sun still rises in the morning and how life goes on. Yet, I’ve often found that very annoying and harsh reality, provides the momentum to keep me moving, which is ultimately a good thing.

I didn’t intend to write about this when I woke up this morning. I haven’t edited more than a couple of words and this is how my thoughts have landed on the page, or to be precise, my laptop screen. All of a sudden, in bright neon signs, I’ve realized that we as a society don’t talk about hard times. The cultural rhetoric is all about making it happen. Being whoever you want to be. It’s almost like you’re expected to find happiness in a fizzy drink…or a pill. Rather, what happens WHEN your journey through life hits the big snake just when you’re about to reach your goal and your sent straight back down to the beginning again? What happens when you’re a marketing executive and you’re diagnosed with hydrocephalus and you end up having brain surgery, getting a blocked shunt and requiring more brain surgery, the person you thought you were going to marry, dumps you because all of that’s too much and you’ve moved back home living with mum and Dad and going to rehab with the elderly at 28? BTW, that was also when I went to my 10 year school reunion. That was two weeks after the second brain surgery and I had no hair under one half of that bob. Indeed, there was a scar. I made it through that reunion and I was triumphant. Despite brain surgery being a much more sensitive embarrassing thing that the bad haircut.  I also had friends whose lives were picture perfect either. Some had divorced and one of my class mates had tragically died from cancer, which shook me to the core.

The fact that I’m still here, isn’t because I have some uber-amazing coping mechanism and I’m “Tonka tough”. I’ve had breakdowns. I’ve fallen face down in the mud and refused to get up. I’ve had days where I’ve stayed in bed and wrapped myself up in my doona and refused to get up. I’ve thought about how. I did jab myself with a pair of kindy scissors once when I was struggling to learn how to drive and fighting my brother for access to the car. That’s the closest I’ve come in a physically crossing the line sense, but these lines resonate: “hello darkness my old friend”.

Somehow, the collective “we” needs to have more of these conversations. The “where I was, how I found my way out and some of the joys of life we’ve experienced since” type. Talk about how life is ups AND downs. That we have to keep  walking, dancing, flying, dragging out feet, sleeping, talking, dreaming.They’re all part of it. Share and model that there is no magic pill, which will give you perfect, lasting happiness. However, there could well be multiple pills of darkness, which we need to approach with caution. Walk away from jealousy, envy, wanting to be someone we’re not, putting our value on stuff instead of relationships, replacing people with work. The list goes on.

Now, I’m turning it over to you. What has your experience been? I would like to invite you to share as much as you like in the comments below. What would you say to your teenage self about the dark times you’ve experienced? I could even see these becoming a series of posts. It would be truly beneficial to get a swag of letters together on this very important subject.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

PS I just had to drop my daughter off at meditation of all things (our dance school is running a session for kids followed by a session for parents so I’ll be heading off next). Funny how walking and driving gets you thinking. Pops something so obvious into your head, which you’d missed entirely while tapping away into the screen.

My other advice to my teenage self, is not to put all my eggs in one basket, and to remain diverse. I had very good friends out of school and I’ve encouraged this with my own kids since dot. However, as someone with a fairly obsessive, driven personality, I’d like to share that focusing all your energies on one thing, isn’t a good idea. If something happens to that one thing, whatever it is, then you’re devastated. You’re left with nothing. There is no “Plan B”. You have no identity left. Naturally, I was devastated when I couldn’t work after the brain surgery. I had grief counselling where I was told “We’re human beings, not human doings”. It’s taken me a long time to get that. In the aftermath of the brain surgery, I turned to photography and although it wasn’t making me any money, I found it was a great topic of conversation. Far more interesting than work. These days, writing  is my main thing followed by photography. What you might not know, is that I started learning the violin four years ago, and last year I started dance classes and have made my way through short adult courses in ballet, contemporary, lyrical and tap. I’m not even keeping up in the dance classes, but dance is now part of my psyche. Who I am. It’s added another string to my bow, and exercised more than a few neurofibres as well. It’s very important not to get stuck in what I’ll call “bubble worlds”…becoming “a dancer”, “a lawyer”, “a mother”, a “father”. Rather, ideally, we’d be more of a spangled web or texture, colour, sound, taste and smell stretching somewhere over the rainbow and back again. We must wear many hats, to be fulfilled, and really just to survive.

The End.

That's All Folks

Dog, that is NOT your bed!

You provide your dog with a comfy dog bed and blankets in the house, the choice of two kennels outside, not to mention a possie lying on the grass in the midday sun and what does she do, she sets up residence on my son’s bed as if she owns the place.

As you’re probably aware, our dog is called Lady. Being a dog, she doesn’t have Google access to nut out the difference between being a “Lady” and being a “Princess” or even, (heaven help us) “THE Queen”. However, there’s no doubt that she firmly believes she’s holds prime real estate in Burke’s Peerage.

Or, maybe, she’s just dyslexic and thinks she’s God.

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Lady is “simply irresistable”.

Knowing the presumptiousness of that dog, I wouldn’t be surprised. She’s definitely working towards world domination. Or, at least, domination of our world.

So, it was that I caught her sleeping on my son’s bed yesterday, and not for the first time either. However, this time I managed to secure photographic proof.

Caught her in the act.

“I don’t really understand that process called reincarnation but if there is such a thing I’d like to come back as my daughter’s dog.”

Leonard Cohen

Dogs are curious characters and I never tire of watching and loving them and forgiving their indiscretions in a way you’d never do for a person. No doubt, that’s the reason they have those huge puppy dog eyes. Master manipulators who fly under the radar, they know it only takes one look to be forgiven…or to receive a snack.

We are but putty in their paws.

Has your dog been up to any mischief or adventures lately? I’m thinking I should turn this into a regular feature…Dob in your dog. 

Hope you’re having a great week.

xx Rowena

PS In case you’re wondering, Lady is a Border Collie x Cavalier. She’s totally black aside from a little patch of white on her chest and on her paws. She has floppy cavalier ears and very silky cavalier fur. She’s a very pretty dog.

PPS: Lady has requested an upgrade after seeing this French mansion: https://wikr.com/rsyt-auyt-man-stumbled-upon-abandoned-mansion-countryside-blown-away-saw-inside/?utm_source=desc&utm_medium=bestbot1

A Walk in Dulwich Park, London.

Tonight, my dog Lady and I went for an extraordinary walk, touching down in Dulwich Park, in South London to catch up with fellow blogger and author, Geoff Le Pard and his furry friend. I even found a cafe and met a few dog walkers to boot. How good is that?!!

This all came about after reading Geoff’s latest post: Milling About…Finding A Home, which talks about how he and his wife found their home in Dulwich Park, South London. I must be a bit low on patience this week, because I decided I’d had enough talk. I wanted to get to London myself> Walk the streets, museums, galleries and park my butt in a cafe. Not in a creepy, cyber-stalking kind of way. It’s just that I’d had enough of looking through the window. I wanted to be there instead.

So, I found a local park with a cafe frequented by mild-mannered local dog walkers. Now, I’m just waiting for Geoff. If I’d got onto this earlier, I could’ve been there in time for the Bloggers’ Bash. BTW, it’s just like me to run late!

However, there’s just one small problem with getting to London.

As you’re probably aware, I live in Greater Sydney, Australia. So, I’m hardly living next door. Moreover, as much as I’ve wanted to visit London and check out Geoff’s haunts, there’s been a small hitch. While they might have sent convicts out to the colonies at Her Magesty’s Pleasure, they’re not footing the bill to send us back. Indeed, I’d probably need to rob a bank to fund my ticket. However, knowing my luck, instead of running off with the loot, I’d pluck this card out of the pack: “Advance to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200.”

Reg Spiers

Aussies have done outrageous things to overcome the “tyranny of distance”. In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he posted himself home in a wooden crate and travelled as freight. You can read the full story here: The Man Who Posted Himself Home to Australia. It’s great reading.

While Reg might have been given a hero’s welcome, I decided to Keep it Simple, Stupid (the KISS Principle) and let my fingers do the walking. I travelled to London via Google maps. While I know this could be construed as cyberstalking, I picked a park on the map, found a cafe and thought this would be quite appropriate for a cyber coffee catch-up. I even took a photo…just to prove I was there.

As much as I love meeting fantastic people, especially fellow writers from all around the world through blogging, I often lament the ultimate Aussie devil… distance. That as much as our global isolation has made and shaped us as a nation, that I feel like sticking an outboard motor to the bottom of Tasmania and giving us a bit of a nudge North. Travelling to Europe is so expensive when you have kids, mortgage and an auto-immune disease to factor in.

So, while I’m waiting for Geoff, Lady and I went for a walk in the park. There were so many large, leafy trees and I certainly picked out a few oaks. It is Summer in London and while it’s partly-cloudy today, it is 20°C. Humph. Hang on a minute. We’re in the middle of Winter here in freezing conditions rugged up like Eskimos and it’s 16°C here. I’m feeling a bit ripped off. Well, at least, I’m catching up with Geoff and going on one of his many tours of London. So, the weather doesn’t really matter, does it?! After all, nobody goes to London for the weather!!

So, now that I’ve got the hang of Google maps, is there somewhere you’d like me to visit? Wow! This is starting to sound quite exciting…like climbing to the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree and finding yourself in the midst of a magical land. Where will I be going next?

As for me, I’d like to invite you to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It really is an amazing experience.

Happy travels.

xx Rowena.

 

 

Weekly Smile… 17th July, 2017.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa

Any motivational guru will tell you, that when you least feel like smiling, is just the time to get out there are find something, anything to smile about.

It’s  mid-Winter here and we recently lost our older dog, Bilbo and to be perfectly honest, I just feel like hibernating. Not so much because I’m feeling depressed. It’s simply my response to the cold. In much of Australia, our houses are not designed for the cold and since we only need the heater on for about a month a year, I tend to tough it out until my fingers and toes are numb. There’s no central heating. So, while the winters aren’t as cold as other places, inside the house could well be much worse.

I’ve had quite a few things, which have made me smile this week. To read the extended version, you can refer back to my Coffee Share Post

The biggest smile I had this week, was watching my son performing in the Gang Show. The Gang Show is a variety show put on by scouts and guides and it was a real delight to see him smiling throughout the entire performance. He danced and acted well too, and I really admire his commitment to rehearsing for something like 4 months. It’s been a big effort.

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

-Doris Day

Our surviving dog, Lady, has also brought me many smiles and much love particularly since Bilbo passed away. I’ve never seen such a happy dog. She wags her tail like crazy, and her entire body quivers with excitement. Naturally, that has to cheer you up!!

Lady kids coffee

Lady with the kids leading her astray. She’s not allowed up to the table. 

Lady spreads so much happiness, that I’ve been thinking of using her as a therapy dog. However, I looked up the stringent requirements, and suspect we’re a bit too laissez-faire. Lady doesn’t always come when she’s called and I also found out that being  “portly”, can lead to rejection as well. Not to be deterred, I noticed how much joy she brings to people simply walking down the street, and thought that could be our thing. That we don’t need to be part of a program or strut our stuff to share her zest for life with people who need it most. We can think global and walk local.

“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”
― Ashly Lorenzana

Bilbo and paw prints

No paw dipping for Bilbo. He stayed well clear of the water…and the other dogs for that matter. He’s the canine equivalent of a bloke standing alone holding his beer in the corner at the pub.

If you would like to read more about the mood-boosting power of dogs, this article is very comprehensive.

If you have a dog, how do they help you smile?

The Weekly Smile is hosted by Trent McDonald at  Trent’s World and you can join in the link-up here.

xx Rowena

Our Surrogate Dog.

When you lose someone you love, it’s only natural to look for some way of blocking out the grief and relieving the pain, even at the risk of looking silly or finally confirming that you’re weird, bonkers, and totally insane. However, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else and it gets you through a tough time without turning to drugs and other harmful things, I’m all for it.

That’s why I bought a surrogate Bilbo, who we’ve called FB or Fake Bilbo.

As you probably know by now, we lost our beloved dog Bilbo a few weeks ago, and our grief has been raw and painful. Although we have another dog, Lady is very different to Bilbo and not a surrogate…and she’s had to spread herself quite thin getting around four laps now that she’s the only dog.

We’ve also become used to having two dogs and Lady has never been an only dog. So, there’s been quite a lot of “adjusting” all round.

Not unsurprisingly, there’s been quite a lot of talk about getting another dog. In my last post, I mentioned how we’d resisted cute little Stella, and are waiting to get a Border Collie pup down the track.

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However, all my resistance melted when I spotted this Border Collie in a shop. I had to have him. He looked so much like Bilbo. Moreover, when I picked him up, there was that immediate mix of longing and connection. I could bury my face in his fur and hold onto his paw, and it felt real. There was more than a lump in my throat, but I felt happy and that a layer of grief had fallen away and I could smile.

It reminded me of an old saying:

“If you can’t have the one you love, love the one you’re with. If you can’t love the one you’re with, turn out the light.”

What’s special about FB is that he’s not just an ordinary soft toy. Rather, he’s a “weighted toy” and weighs about 5 kilos. Weighted therapy is used by occupational therapists for people with Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, but it also helps people who are grieving by providing something to hold onto during a time of loss. That added weight makes the dog feel real and the pressure I guess also acts a bit like a massage. While having a weighted dog to ease the grief of losing Bilbo is one application, my friend who had a still born baby was given a white teddy by the hospital to take home. Of course, nothing could compensate. However, that teddy is so much more than a memory, a something and has a place in her heart beyond words.

So, while I might feel a bit silly having a stuffed Bilbo, it works. AND, I can always say he belongs to the kids. Mind you, as we walked a long along the full length of town carrying FB, my daughter wasn’t carrying him. No! She was too embarrassed. It was me.

When I arrived home with the “new dog”, I made sure I warned the rest of the family. From a distance, FB really does look very lifelike and I didn’t want him to have the reverse effect and make them sad.

However, we couldn’t warn our other dog, Lady, who really has been missing her canine companion. When she saw him, she came running up wagging her tail. She was sooo excited and sniffed it all over for what seemed like eternity, before she gave up on it. Her mother was also a Border Collie, and she came here when she was two. So, it probably wasn’t just Bilbo she was thinking of.

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Fake Dog and Real Dog.

By the way, Fake Bilbo has certain advantages over the real thing. He doesn’t need to be fed or walked and doesn’t poop or bark. Doesn’t steal your food off your plate or dig holes under fences to escape. He has very pat-able fur. FB doesn’t lick either, which depending on your point of view, could be a positive or a negative.

However, the bottom line is that Fake Bilbo can’t love you back like a real dog. As much he might look and even feel the same, he can’t look at you with those empathic, puppy dog eyes. He can’t see right through you with such compassionate understanding, that you know he can see straight through to the bottom of your soul. Humans rarely have such vision. Most are only waiting to tell you their own stories. Or, maybe I’m just being cynical. Of course, not every dog is capable of such understanding, but Bilbo certainly was. Mind you, he lived through some pretty intense times with our family and he went through all that as well. So, it’s not surprising that he understood difficult emotions. While Lady is a very loving dog and incredibly warm and friendly, she doesn’t have Bilbo’s intensity, his insight. At the same time, he never had her joie de vivre. I’ve never seen such a happy dog!!

bilbo & Lady friends

Bilbo and Lady when she first arrived.

Meanwhile, Lady is enjoying walks to the shops, although she probably wasn’t impressed when I tied her up outside the butcher’s the other day. She just told me that sniffing lamb chops all the way home wasn’t much joy either.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend and it’s about time I head out into that beautiful Winter sunshine.

xx Rowena

More About Weighted Therapy

Weighted therapy is the use of weighted products to apply weight and deep touch pressure (surface pressure) to the body stimulating the proprioceptive sense enabling those who are “sensory seeking” to relax, focus and have a greater awareness of their body.

The proprioceptive sense gives us information about our body’s position and movement via receptors on the skin, in the muscles, joints and ligaments. Those with a poor proprioceptive sense have difficulty interpreting these sensations often resulting in behaviour that gives them sensory feedback – for example jumping on a trampoline, chewing, spinning, running etc with seemingly limitless reserves of energy! They have great difficulty switching off and usually do not sleep well at night. This “sensory seeking” behaviour can be calmed and controlled by the use of weighted therapy and the application of deep pressure.

http://www.sensorydirect.com/about-weighted-therapy

 

 

Resisting Temptation.

Last week, we stared temptation right in its brown puppy dog eyes and resisted. There’s a first time for everything. I have a rather poor track record with temptation, but I am learning…slowly!

As you may be aware, our much loved Border Collie, Bilbo, passed away a few weeks ago. I have already shared our unfathomable loss  and what it’s been like seeing him accelerate from a tiny pup into an old dog, in the time it’s taken our daughter to almost start high school. It’s been weird. Like two parallel clocks operating on different speeds. His clock was set on turbo-fast, while he probably wondered why it takes an eternity for us humans to grow up.

We already had another dog. We adopted Lady two years ago so that when this moment came, we were prepared. There wouldn’t be that echoing silence of a household without a dog.

However, we’ve become used to having two dogs and Lady has never been an only dog. She cries when we get home, even if she does sleep a lot when we’re here and isn’t omnipresent. So, we have been thinking about getting a Border Collie pup next year, after we’ve had a bit of time. I’m wary of getting a dog on the rebound as a dog is a long term commitment you can’t send back when you make a mistake.

Stella with shoes

You can see from these photos just how small Stella is…a real ball of fluff.

However, Little Stella caught us unprepared. A friend of ours belongs to a pet rescue group and they were taking care of Stella after she’d been rescued from a puppy farm and had been desexed. This meant that this incredibly cute white ball of fluff was looking for her forever home. I knew as soon as my daughter saw her, that we would be perilously close to taking her home, and that I’d have to mount a very effective “NO!” campaign to walk away. My daughter doesn’t understand the meaning  of “No”, especially if she can sense any kind of leeway or waiver and I must admit that Stella was very hard to resist and it took quite a lot of of self-control to walk away.

stella shoe 2

Almost Irresistable. 

As easily as it might’ve been to get swayed off course, we are looking at getting a Border Collie puppy sometime next year. On the other hand, Stella was a 4 year old Maltese x Tibetan Spaniel from a puppy farm. We knew nothing about her history and we’re not in the market for high vet bills. Stella has since found a wonderful home with a lady looking for a rescued dog, and has had experience with all that could possibly entail. Indeed, she even paid for Stella to be flown inter-state, and so she’s found a home which was a much better match. Our lives are so unpredictable and potentially precarious with my health issues, that we can’t really take on unknowns. Indeed, the timing will need to be right for a pup.

As much as I would like to encourage people to take on rescue dogs, it needs to be with your eyes open. There’s a massive distinction between giving a much loved family dog another home, versus taking in a dog from puppy farm where its been caged, and seen as a breeder rather than a family member. We had an Old English Sheepdog which had been abused, and much as he was loving, he was incredibly highly strung and went for my husband a few times. He’d clearly been hit and I now wonder whether he’d lived in a cage. We’ve had other two re-homed dogs, including Lady, and that’s gone well. I just think it’s important to consider the enormity of dog ownership and all it entails. Not every dog recovers from abuse…just like people.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the ease of having one dog and Lady is a really beautiful, happy dog. I’ve never seen a dog who wags their tail more.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Introducing FB…Fake Bilbo.

 

Weekend Coffee Share Catch Up.

Welcome to an Extended Catch-up Coffee Share!

I’d better offer you a rather comfy chair today and at least some kind of snack (if not a meal) in addition to your beverage of choice. The last couple of weeks have been full-on. So, this coffee share gets quite philosophical.

Sorry, I’ve been MIA the last couple of weeks. While the saying goes that “no news is good news”, the reality is often quite the reverse. That no news is bad news and it takes time for you to emerge from your rock and return to the land of the living.

Bilbo going home

Bilbo leaving the beach for the last time. 

On Monday 26th June, our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo, who has featured on Beyond the Flow, passed away in the early hours of the morning. We’d taken him to the vet on the Saturday and found out he was severely anaemic and most likely had a severe auto-immune disease. The vet hoped for the best and didn’t write him off. However, when a ball-obsessed dog stops chasing his beloved ball, you are prepared. While in a sense losing Bilbo could seem like the worst, he passed away peacefully at home. It was his time and felt like part of the natural order of things. I’m also relieved we were spared making difficult decisions and didn’t have to weigh up expensive treatment for an elderly dog because we loved him too much to let go. Ever a considerate dog, he spared us that and I’m incredibly thankful and relieved.

Meanwhile, we go on.

For better or worse, we are not “Keep Calm and Carry On” people. Yet, at the same time, we’ve had things to do and places to go. No doubt, you’ve also had those times where you’ve wanted to switch out and hibernate. When, although you know it’s beneficial to keep going, that’s about as palatable as a spoonful of liquid antibiotics. No matter how much they try to disguise the taste, it still tastes “yuck”.

Unexpectedly, the kids went off to school on the Monday and Geoff and I stayed home. Monday night, our daughter was in the local Dance Festival with her school and that worked out well. I kept thinking about the dog throughout the performance, but dance is such a tonic. Tuesday, the kids stayed home and we were all subdued by an overwhelming blanket of sadness. I personally believe in indulging your grief when it happens, as I think that actually helps you to let it go. You go deep in and you come out of it faster rather than expending energy trying to keep the door shut while the monster’s trying to bust its way out.

What do you think?

lady walking in clouds

Lady has been pretty quiet without Bilbo.

We have another dog, Lady. So, we won’t be rushing out to buy another dog. Indeed, we adopted Lady 3 years ago thinking Bilbo wasn’t well and she gave him a very strong second wind. I’m not sure if he was trying to impress her but he lost weight, got fit and learned how to socialize with other dogs. He was quite an introvert, but he gained a lot more confidence. Lady, on the other hand, loves everybody, aside from the odd dog and wags her tail like a maniac.

Jane Grover

Jane Grover: Photo from her website.

That Thursday night, I attended a cooking demonstration by chef Jane Grover at Church. I really wasn’t sure about going and felt like I was dragging a sack of potatoes a hundred miles to get there. However, I had a nap and when I woke up, the clouds had lifted and I felt so much better. Going to see Jane, was such good medicine and without the awful aftertaste I mentioned earlier.  She had me in stitches and I felt very much in synch with her sense of humour and general zanyness. Of course, I had to buy her cookbook  Our Delicious Adventure

Here’s a link to her promo video.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

This Monday, was the first day of school holidays. I drove the kids to my parents’ place in Sydney and Geoff and I stayed for dinner. Our daughter came home on Wednesday night to attend dance workshops on Thursday with Daniel Russell  from West Side Story International Tour. These were such a blessing. It is hard for me to introduce Mr Daniel in a few sentences. His parents are the Principals at the dance school and quite aside from his professional success which has taken him to Broadway, he has a special place in our hearts. Our dance school is a close, loving family and we count on each other.

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Daniel Russell, West Side Story. Photo: © Johan Persson

I have mentioned before that my grandmother was an International concert pianist and this has given me a different appreciation of what it means to be a star. That while you have that stage and professional life, you are still human. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you still have the everyday and you are still somebody’s son, cousin, friend who’ll always know you without all of the trimmings. Personally, I think that’s critical for some kind of balance. After all, the clouds roll in, and you can’t always see the stars. Everyone needs some kind of grounding.

Eunice 1948 USA

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She juggled having seven children and a successful career as a performer, critic and professor of piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There’s almost too much to fathom. 

Anyway, I really appreciated Mr Daniel and Miss Carley putting back into the kids and giving them such encouragement and for giving us parents a smile, as we were treated to a brief performance at the end. We deserve it, you know. As much as I love and support my daughter’s dancing and love dancing myself, it is a sacrifice. While I spent hours working on her knotted hair last night, I can’t remember when my hair last got seen to. Unfortunately, I just can’t drop it off at the dry cleaners and pick it up later.

Today, my daughter had in-house dance exams…ballet, modern, jazz and tap all in one day. One day was great, as they didn’t take up the entire school holidays. However, this was very stop-start and loads of deadlines and this is not my thing. Time to leave the house, arrive, exam start time, pick up multiplied by four. This was exacerbated by disentangling a bird’s nest the night before, despite weeks of coaxing to apply the treatment sitting in the bathroom to her hair, me not sewing the elastic into her ballet shoes until this morning and finding out when I dropped her at the studio that she didn’t have a hairnet, hairpins or any organization whatsoever. I did ask her last night. I have bought it all before. But, who am I? Mum is about as useless as those flaps of skin hanging off the side of her head…ears. I don’t get worked up easily and I was fuming. I am also going back to the drawing board and devising: “Standover Mum”. This is anything but a helicopter parent. This is tough love on steroids.

Yet, we survived.

Being a dance mum isn’t a glamourous occupation. While the swan’s shining like the sun up on stage, you are the feet madly paddling in the dirty pond, doing all that hardwork behind the scenes. However, you can rise to the surface and there’s nothing quite like seeing your own up on stage…any stage. It doesn’t have to be Broadway. It could be your loungeroom at home. You don’t care. This is your child, your star and not even the most discerning of audiences, could ever love them quite as much.

Speaking of performances, our son will be appearing in The Gang Show next week, an annual variety show put on by our local Scouts, Guides and their leaders. They rehearse for months and really put heart and soul into it. I almost split a gut laughing through last year’s performance, which incorporated Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was fantastic. Our son is singing and dancing and I can’t wait to see him up in lights.

This leaves me searching for a light.

My next challenge is writing a short story for the local short story competition. I don’t write short stories and had been meaning to get some practice in after last year’s story didn’t place. That said, I have been writing flash fiction almost weekly so hopefully I can expand on that and put out a winning entry with a 1500 word count.

I’m sorry this update has sprawled on for so long. It’s a cold Winter’s night here. The heater’s on and the neurons are defrosting, and starting to fire up again. So, you could say I’m clearing the backlog. Indeed, it’s been good to share the last couple of weeks with you as I’ve been feeling bottled up on so many fronts and after almost 1500 words, the cork has popped off.

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you.

xx Rowena