Tag Archives: teenager

Bye! Bye! Miss!

“You need not be sorry for her. She was one of the kind that likes to

grow up. In the end she grew up of her own free will a day quicker than

the other girls.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

/Tonight, we waved Miss off on her school ski trip. They were picked up from school in three massive coaches tonight and they’ll drive through the night to hit the slopes at Perisher Smiggins in the Australian Alps bright and early at 7.00am. By the way, if you’re used to skiing overseas, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The so-called “Australian Alps”, should really be called  “The Australian Mole Hills”. We don’t have real mountains in Australia.

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Loading up the bus.

Naturally, seeing her off was a tad emotional and yanked away at my heart strings, Although she’s now 13 and in high school, as she climbed on board,  it was like watching this tiny girl get swallowed up by this massive white coach and disappear.  Not that I was about to board the bus to yank her to safety. I’m not that pathetic. I know it’s only for a few days and she’s been away from us for longer trips before. However, it’s moments like these where you not only think about all the fun adventures she’ll have, but the gaps in between certainties also open up just enough to let in the doubt. The what ifs. After all, we live in an uncertain world where anything could change at the tick of the clock. Of course, these uncertainties are always there, but our routines and busyness block them out and we forget we don’t hold the remote control. That things can happen. On the other hand, I’m equally sure she’ll arrive home tired with a beaming smile on Friday. She’ll have been away on what will be yet another trip of a lifetime.

“I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream dreams, and have

hopes and fears and fidgets, without knowing why or being able to

explain them.”

Louisa May Alcott

Another thought crossed my mind as I started working on this post, we’re in the process of waving goodbye to her childhood. Indeed, it’s clear that horse has already bolted. That said, she hasn’t grown up quite as much as the photo would suggest. She must be standing on a mound because there’s no way she’s as tall as me. I’m a good 174 cm  tall and she’s nowhere near it. Just as well I took this photo below with her Dad, which brings her nicely back down to size. Geoff is the same height as me so she hasn’t shot up quite as much after all.

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Yet, she’s still grown up a lot since I first started blogging back in 2012. She’d only just started school the year before and truly was a little girl back then.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what

we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before

we can enter another.”-

Anatole France

Jonathon & Amelia

The kids on my daughter’s first day of school back in 2011. 

 

There are people I’ve been blogging with much of those years and have seen my kids grow up, which is a really special privilege really. After all, it’s an incredible thing to see someone grow up, looking at their photos, taking in their adventures and stories and being a part of their lives even if you’ve never met, which is one of the peculiarities of these close blogging friendships. In some instances, we do know each other better than people in the so-called real world, but we’ve never met. Never gone out for a real coffee. Nothing. It no longer seems strange to me until I try to explain it to someone who doesn’t blog.

Amelia skiing.jpg

Snowplowing on our first trip to the snow in 2012, aged 6.

Anyway, getting back to the trip, it’s going to be an experience for her. It was optional trip, and so many of her friends aren’t going, which has thrown her somewhat out of her comfort zone and she’ll be mixing with other students she doesn’t know and others where there are some tensions to boot. In effect, she’s stuck in a lift with these people for the week. While as  a teacher or parent, we can see this as a good thing and say a stranger is only a friend you haven’t met, as a teenager, is a whole different story. It can be unsettling.

Amelia Skiing

Back at ski school in 2013.

However, Miss really loves skiing and is is a fairly good skier, especially compared to most of these kids who won’t have been skiing before. That should give her a bit of confidence.  I’ve also seen her face light up on the slopes. She’s had the ski bug bad before and once she hits the powder, she’ll be right. I just hope she doesn’t sustain an injury, because that could be a disaster for her dancing. She’s performing in Swan Lake with Central Dance Company in four weeks. She’s not allowed to get injured and in hindsight, perhaps I should’ve put a roll of bubble wrap into her suitcase. That would be a great look out on the slopes, but I’m sure I could’ve sold a few bubble wrap suits to some of the other parents. While we say we want our kids to get out there and experience the world, we’re all lying. We really just want them to sit in front of the TV and stay safe.

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The kids with their snow kid in 2012. 

Meanwhile, we have one less person at home. For her brother, it means more chores but for me there’s one less fuss pot to feed and we could all use a few new stories. I’ve been fighting off some weird sleep virus so haven’t been much fun anyway. The week will fly by and all too soon, she’ll be back.

Well, that is except for the dogs. They don’t know anything about fun-filled ski adventures or the frolics of the sun. All they saw was the suitcase come out, and Miss is gone. Indeed, I could just imagine Lady thinking we’re hopeless parents. Don’t they even realize they’ve lost one? This is her song…

“No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I’m happy on the shelf
Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you…”

Meanwhile, I’ve spent a few hours tonight hunting down the photos from 2012 and getting well and truly lost down memory lane. Our son only has two more years of school and who knows how many family holidays we have left. That’s not to be negative and reflective. However, it is important to make the most of it. Find the time and money to get away. I’ve been thinking about a camping trip soon. That said, my husband and son will be going camping with the extended family up at Bathurst in a few weeks time to watch the Bathurst 500 Car Race. My daughter and I are staying home “to look after the dogs”, but she also has a dance production.

Anyway, I’m very late to get to bed and will head on now.

I’d love to hear about your skiing adventures or how you feel about your kids growing up and stretching their wings.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share… 25th February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. If you’re quick, you can snatch a birthday cup cake or perhaps even a few mouthfuls of pavlova. Have you ever tried pavlova? Many consider it Australia’s national dessert, although New Zealand has put in a formidable claim that it was made there first. I won’t get into that here. All I’ll say, is that it’s a pretty fail safe dessert for me to make and I’m well known for my pav.

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The remains of the pavlova.

Yesterday, our daughter turned thirteen and on Saturday night, she had five friends over for a sleepover where they watched and grooved to Grease. I tried to give a bit of a Pink Ladies touch with pink cupcakes, but was too busy trying to get the house sorted out to get too creative. Our daughter was also at dancing all Saturday and I could be sure that any decorated efforts would be appreciated or deemed “embarrassing”. Geoff and I retreated to the other room, but we could hear their excitement and involvement in the movie. They know all the words of the songs and probably the script, and really got into it. Of course, it really helped that the school is putting on Grease as their musical this year, and a number of them including our daughter, are in the cast.

I might’ve subtly  suggested they watched Grease. You see, I had a slumber party for my 13th birthday out in this outdoor room in my parents’ garden, which we called the playhouse. I can’t quite remember how many people we squeezed in there, but there was no room for rolling over. However, what I also remember about that party was that we also watched Grease. However, back in 1982, it was on video. Moreover, although one of the girls had lived in America and had watched the movie 12 times already, the rest of us hadn’t seen it, which meant we didn’t know all the words to the songs and couldn’t sing along. I also think we stayed sitting in our seats and weren’t bouncing around dancing like the lot who were here Saturday night. Indeed, we felt rather subdued and I wished I could’ve been a part of my daughter’s party. Indeed, I’m already planning my own Grease night! I might also need to have one with my original group of school friends too. That would be a real hoot. Well, it might be…

Another element of deja vu about my daughter’s thirteenth birthday, was that I gave her a journal along with a copy of A Diary of A Young Girl, which is the uncensored version  of: The Diary of Anne Frank. This was no impulsive purchase. However, I am glad I didn’t forget about it. You see, my mother gave me a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank when I turned thirteen back in 1982 and she also gave me a journal to write my own diary. I called my diary Anne and for many years that continued and I was in effect writing and talking to Anne Frank. At the time, it was just the two of us and it never occurred to me that millions of young women all around the world over many generations did the same. When I landed in Amsterdam in 1992, I naturally went to the Anne Frank Museum. It was, of course, an intensely personal and incredibly tragic experience. However, as I’ve grown older and experienced the trauma of my health and disability issues, I’ve also come to experience her tenacity and uplifting spirit as a survivor, even if she didn’t make it at the end. Anne Frank has a lot to teach my daughter about what it is to be a young woman surviving in dreadful, hostile circumstances but I hope she will also experience that sense of friendship. That in the midst of all her ups and downs that Anne is there with her. That she is always on her side…a staunch ally. Personally, I don’t think you can have enough of these people in your life. By the way, I should mention that while I felt very close to Anne Frank as a teen, I haven’t forgotten that she didn’t get on with her mother. I feel quite close to my daughter, so I hope that remains a fundamental difference.

Given the birthday and the party, last week was rather busy. However, I wasn’t as focused on getting ready for the party as I should’ve been and left much of the cleaning til Friday and Saturday. The trouble was that I’ve been making great progress with a writing and research project I’ve been working on and I didn’t want to lose momentum. Moreover, I am naturally concerned about pausing during a project in case it gets shelved. Yet, for most of us, it’s impossible to stop everything around us for six months and get our writing project or book finished without interruptions. Moreover, as much as I love my writing, I’m also a people person and need human interaction. I’m also married with two kids and three dogs and we’re active in our local community in multiple activities. So, we lead quite a richly textured life, which I personally believe enhances my writing, however, you still need to be able to sit down long enough to get it written and that does seem to be a difficulty for me. How about you? Are you juggling too many eggs and dropping more than the occasional one?

Coming back to my research project, I’m currently researching and writing up about a collision of two ships in Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne in 1924, which resulted in the loss of six lives. My Great Grandfather, Reuben William Gardiner, was Second Mate onboard a massive collier the Dilkera when they hit a small steamer the Wyrallah which ended up steering across their path. This was at a spot called The Rip, which is renowned for its treacherous currents even today. The papers were full of interviews with the survivors and closely followed the resulting Marine Court Inquiry. As it turned out future Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, acted as Junior Counsel for the owners of the Wyrallah so that adds another element of interest to the case. Here’a link to a post I wrote about it:  When Two Ships Collide

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Our feet at a contemporary/lyrical class two or three years ago. Guess which foot belongs to our teacher?

The other big development last week, was that I did my first adult ballet class in two years. These classes are run by my daughter’s ballet teacher and I love them. I have a pair of proper, ballet-pink, shiny satin ballet shoes with ribbons and all, along with the theatrical pink ballet tights. However, I managed to pick up a black tutu at the opportunity shop and I have a black t-shirt with a butterfly printed on it and that is my uniform. I wear this mad get up to have a bit of fun but I also do it to encourage the others to have a good time, and not be too self-conscious. After all, we’re there to spread our wings, not to chop them off. We have a full range of abilities in the class including a professional dancer who has come through the studio. Dance is such a liberating experience. Yet, for most of my life, it was terrifying, inhibited and I felt so self-conscious and awkward. Of course, it didn’t help that I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) until my mid twenties and had serious gait and coordination issues, which were usually just referred to as “unco”. However, it’s amazing what a bit of plumbing can do to the brain, and I’m not only still alive but I’m almost coordinated.

Anyway, I wasn’t too sure how I’d go at the ballet class after a two year gap and my breathing has deteriorated in that time. However, I managed to pick it up again reasonably well and certainly didn’t embarrass myself. I was one of the crowd.

Well, that’ll have to cover it, because it’s well past time for me to get to bed. I hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Lifesaving Journey with Anne Frank!

In the opening lines of The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne shared the excitement of unwrapping her diary: “Dear Kitty” …a gift for her 13th birthday. Likewise, on my 13th birthday, I had a similar rush of excitement when I unwrapped Anne’s diary, which was a gift from my mother, along with an empty journal to get me started.

Anne Frank writing in 1941.

Anne Frank writing in April, 1941.

Mum was forever trying to get me interested in reading but she also encouraged and nurtured my writing. When I was around 11 years old, she’d taught me how to spell “enthusiastic” and I was as proud as punch with my new word and liberally started adding it to my compositions at school to receive that all-important red tick and VG in the margin. That same year, Mum also gave me a thesaurus. Although it took me a few years to really master it, that precious book opened my mind to the real possibility of words and engendered a real love of words themselves. Words…not just as part of a sentence, or telling a story but words as individuals. All of a sudden, I could appreciate their unique sound and imagery in the same way you can appreciate the beauty in a single, musical note.

Anyway, having connected so strongly with Anne Frank, not unsurprisingly, I wrote my journal entries to: “Dear Anne”…the perfect friend and confidant. That said, to be honest, writing to her was a bit like staring in a pond at my own reflection. She knew, understood and accepted me in a way I didn’t even accept myself.

Of course, I wasn’t conscious of any of this at the time. I just wrote and wrote, pouring out my very troubled heart to Anne Frank in a way that I couldn’t with anyone “real” at the time. After all, who can? As we traversed the years, Anne became drawn into and even a very part of my heart of hearts.On reflecton, I suspect these outpourings to “Dear Anne” were like writing to a much older, wiser part of myself. An inner dialogue with and to that essential, spiritual part of my being, which The Bible describes as having God living within us.That God was somehow speaking to me through her words…or was that my words or even His words??? Ouch! I’m so confused!!

There were so many, many times when writing in my diary saved me from that swirling vortex of pubescence, which really can engulf a teenager and certainly wasn’t unique or peculiar to me…just part of growing up.

After all, being a teenager can be a very perplexing and challenging time. As if simply growing up wasn’t hard enough, when you add all those surging hormones and mind, body and spirit all get thrown into the mix, you have one very explosive pressure cooker. As parents often lament, it doesn’t take much for the lot to explode! Writing to Anne Frank via my diary, was a kind of pressure valve, letting out the steam before the pressure cooker exploded leaving splat all over the ceiling.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
― Anne Frank

Although I related intimately to Anne Frank, well you might question that connection. After all, we were two complete strangers living in such different worlds at different  times. What could we possibly have in common?

An snapshot of Anne's original diary.

An snapshot of Anne’s original diary.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
― Anne Frank

Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression and was actually the same age as my Great Aunt. Indeed, they were born only months apart, which has come to intrigue me. With the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the Franks fled to Amsterdam and ultimately went into hiding in the Secret Annexe where she was not only in hiding from the Nazis but was also living under the microscope in impossibly close quarters with her parents, sister and other residents. Indeed, she had to share her bedroom with an old, cranky male dentist, which seems highly inappropriate through modern eyes!! That would be a living hell for any teenager!!! Anyone!!!

Frank Family Photo May 1941

Frank Family Photo May 1941

What did I, a girl born in the late 1960s in sunny, suburban Sydney on the other side of the world during a time of peace and economic prosperity, have in common with Anne Frank?  The casual observer would say that a bad day was having to walk to school or fighting with my brother for control of the TV… such trivial concerns in the overall scheme of things!!

However, underneath the surface, my situation wasn’t quite that straight-forward, which was no doubt an another reason I connected with Anne Frank. We didn’t know it at the time but I was living in a weird sort of prison all of my own.

Anyway, beyond her circumstances, Anne Frank also expressed so much of the frustration, angst and confusion of being a teenager and she did so in such a way that millions have found solace in her words. Just like me writing away at my desk in suburban Sydney, millions of young women have also addressed their journals: “Dear Anne”.

Anne wrote about her strained relationship with her mother and living in the shadow of her perfect sister, Margot. She also felt that she was being constantly criticized by the other adults in the annexe who simply didn’t get her. These are experiences most of us can relate to and so through her words, we found a mirror of our own struggle as well as a much loved and needed friend and confidante.

I also related to Anne Frank as a person as well. We are both extroverts, wanted to be journalists and have inquiring minds. Both of us were obsessed with asking “why?”. We were both fascinated and intrigued by people and what makes them tick. We also struggled with our relationships with our mothers. These commonalities bridged the many, many gaps which lay between us. She was my friend, my confidante and at times, it seemed like the only person on this planet, who had ever walked in my shoes because we both felt a sense of being different, misunderstood and outcast.

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank also became the perfect soul mate for any teen, or anyone at all for that matter, who grapples with being different for whatever reason. Anne Frank’s sense of difference not only involved being a young Jewish girl being persecuted by the Nazis. Once living with her family in the annexe, her sense of difference stemmed more from everyone else in the annexe and it certainly wasn’t easy for her being the youngest and feeling like she was being treated as a child, even though she had become a young woman. At times, Anne feels persecuted by everybody in the annexe and feels she can’t do anything right. Haven’t we all been there?

“Although I’m only fourteen, I know quite well what I want, I know who is right and who is wrong. I have my opinions, my own ideas and principles, and although it may sound pretty mad from an adolescent, I feel more of a person than a child, I feel quite independent of anyone.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

However, as my journey continued beyond the turbulent teens, I outgrew calling my journal Anne, although I’ve never outgrown my love for her. Once I’d left school and started university, I discovered that people come in all sorts of packages and that diversity is a blessing, not a curse.When I was backpacking through Europe back in 1992, I visited Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, which was certainly an incredibly special, deeply,deeply personal experience. I have never forgotten what she meant to me and how writing to her saved a drowning soul so many times all those years ago.

It was only as my journey continued that I came to realise just how much Anne Frank had helped me. All my life, I’d felt different but didn’t know why. I had this deep sense and knowledge that something was wrong but couldn’t work out what or put a name to it. There was something deep and unfathomable going on and I searched, really ploughing the depths it all but it still remained a mystery. Once I reached university, I found out I wasn’t so alone and there were indeed thousands like me but still that nagging doubt persisted. Something was wrong.I developed an intense interest in psychology, philosophy, literature, prayed and wrote angst-ridden poems in an almighty quest to try and unravel my own inner mystery and somehow understand myself.

Meanwhile, I was diagnosed with serious anxiety.

It was only when I was around 27 when these seemingly vague symptoms stepped out of the closet and spiraled out of control, that the mystery was revealed. After feeling like the room was spinning round, I went to the GP who asked me to put my finger on my nose, a classic neurological test and I missed. He referred me to the neurologist and I was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a variation of hydrocephalus. Suddenly, a myriad of weird symptoms fell into place and the unexplained started to make sense. Apparently, I’d had this all my life and it was probably caused my my very difficult birth. Although the symptoms had always been bubbling quietly under the surface, six months after diagnosis, I descended into a neurological hell, which was right out of Oliver Sack’s: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.  I went on to have brain surgery and was given a shunt, which managed the pressure in my head. It was a long road back to anything approaching “normal” and I went through six months of intensive rehab where I learned to walk again (this time without staggering around with the broad gait of a sailor on a shaky skiff) and well as overcoming serious short-term memory issues and having virtually no ability to organise myself.

Unwittingly, Anne Frank helped me survive those torturous teenage years where the symptoms of the hydrocephalus were there but written off simply as “Rowena”. Since re-adjusting the settings, it’s been quite a journey…incredibly frustrating and slow moving at first but intriguing in retrospect. While I am still me, there are definitely traits that weren’t “me” at all and were symptoms which have since faded, if not gone altogether. Even now, almost 20 years after surgery, I am still noticing improvements but still have some lingering struggles.  I can now play the violin, ski but more importantly, I met and married my husband and have largely been able to look after our two children and the dogs. I also returned to work as a Marketing Manager, although chemo two years ago has put work on hold for the time being.

I am still an extrovert and full of all the contradictions I shared with Anne Frank and I hope, have a deeper sense of compassion for people who don’t fit the norm and maybe don’t have a “Dear Anne” they can call their own.

These days, I am also a parent and next year, our son will dip his toe into that swirling vortex of pubescence when he starts high school. Somehow, I can’t see him writing to “Dear Anne” but he does Scouts and plays the guitar and I hope these outlets will bridge the gaps for him.

Meanwhile, our 9 year old daughter dabbles with writing in her diary and also loves drawing in there as well. I’m looking forward to giving her a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank when she turns 13 so she can also perhaps experience that same connection I found so many, many years ago.

Last year, I stumbled across this interview with Anne Frank’s father, Otto, who spoke dare I say frankly about reading her diary. This is an absolute must!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWRBinP7ans

Did you ever write a journal growing up and any suggestions on helping boys get through the teenage years would be appreciated!!

xx Rowena

PS: I think you’ll all agree that Anne frank achieved this goal:

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
― Anne Frank