Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Strange animals - Part 1

You know, I've been thinking ... (uh, oh - that is always dangerous in her case, you suddenly say) - but I think that every animal/fish I have ever owned is such a personality and so strange, that it just felt natural that they should be part of our family. Owning an animal is the wrong phrase - they are really their own person, er...living thing, but if you are lucky, they invite you into their world.  Maybe that's it!  I've been invited in a lot!

I began to notice this with Elsa- my Australian terrier.  She was the runt of the litter and scheduled for 'deletion', but I stepped in just in time and took her to my classroom, and into my heart. She lived with me for many years and while jealous of Bronwyn's arrival in the beginning, became a fierce protector of me, and the family.  She often would put herself between me and a snake danger, knowing she could die if I didn't take notice. Thank God I did!  In the process of having her first batch of puppies while we lived on our wheat and sheep property in the early days, I was so worried about her.  I didn't know where she was and walked the extent of the farm yard calling for her. I knew "..nothin' about birthin' babies, Ms Scarlett", yet knew that when she suddenly ran out from under the old farmhouse, that she was in the midst of something.  She ran up to me, licked my hand somewhat frantically, (she stood all of barely 12 inches tall!) and ran back under the house and gave birth to two more puppies.. Now how many human Mothers would do that for a worried dog??!!

As time went by, we moved to a small but energetic Queensland town.  We started a manufacturing and supply business, and found that we needed a guard dog to guard the grounds at night-time.  We bought a rottweiler from excellent stock, and while we travelled overseas to see family for awhile, he boarded eventually with a retired police officer, who trained him.  He was an excellent guard dog. Without even looking like he was trying. But it stopped there. If asked to jump into the back of the work van, he would just stand and look at us pleadingly.  Apparently he was afraid of jumping or heights, as we would have to pick up this huge dog, and shovel him into the van....even in a car it was much the same.  However, as years went by, he discovered the back seat of the family sedan.  He loved riding in there at night-time.  Sometimes we just took him for a drive so that he could put his enormous head out of the back window and bark at the lights!  He loved them!

While he was on guard duty, Kurt had his normal morning tea break with the guys.  The pie van would pull up out front of our factory, and they would all go buy their pies and cokes, and Kurt would be be given his normal order--a steak and kidney pie!  One of the young apprentices had what can only be called a 'nasty habit' and after finishing his meat pie and coke would let out an appreciative burp--after a while, Kurt developed this habit too--so after he devoured his pie, he would sit down and with a happy look on his face would look at everyone in the room, and just burp!  Talk about being one of the boys. 

During the day, Kurt wondered the floor and watched what was going on, but at closing time, when the guys clocked out, Kurt would more or less clock on.  That meant that if any delivery man made the mistake of making a delivery too late in the afternoon, Kurt may let them in if the back doors were still open, but there was no way they could leave.  He would corner them, until we called him off.  The delivery guys soon learned to deliver on time.  Kurt ate at closing time, according to a colour, this was done so that during the night he would not be distracted by proposed poisoned food introduced to him, by break and enter 'villians'.  A very positive and proactive defense tool!  It was part of his training regime. So once we put the food into his dish, he would be called to his food dish, but would not touch the food until the magical 'colour word' was spoken--I think he ate to the command of Blue!  We would leave and lock up the gates, and Kurt patrolled all night. 

When we moved to Rockhampton, Kurt retired.  Not that he was that old, but he no longer needed to really be on guard duty.  He loved his new life.  We lived on 20 acres, without fences, so he could roam everywhere, and in the beginning he did.  But as time went by, he was content with staying close to home to keep a better 'eye' on things there, and would often be found laying at the top of the driveway, under the shade of the poinciana tree.

At the time, Elsa was his side-kick, and when people would walk up our gravel driveway for a look around or a chance to leave their car, and walk around, Elsa would start barking.  She was a great terrier guard dog--very good at early warning barks....but Kurt would just stand up and go to the driveway entrance and just stand there, not making a sound. 

If the people kept approaching and didn't stop at Kurt's preferred turn around spot for them to leave, he would suddenly appear even larger, and let out a growl and a bark of "Grrrummppp!"

Sometimes, when I heard this commotion I would stand at the first floor front windows and watch with wonder as the walkers suddenly realised that there was a Rottweiler watching them, and standing at attention ready to attack if needed.  It was amazing how many of them just stopped dead in their tracks and then just started walking backwards, looking at Kurt the whole time until they felt safe enough to turn around and head down the driveway as quickly as possible...I know it was cruel thing to do to them - but it was our property!






Monday, April 23, 2012

Grandma Julia sleeps over

When I was about 14 we moved to a house on a very small acreage, my sister was just newly married, and I had a bedroom all to myself--no more sharing!  It was a fair sized bedroom, and I had 2 twin beds in it- spread at two areas in the room, each one having its own space.

At this stage Grandma Julia would occasionally spend nights with her sons and family, and I would really look forward to her stay! She always stayed in my room, and I would put her in the twin bed which had a view out of the window through the patio.  Being a bit older at this stage, and also going a bit deaf, she often went to bed long before I ever intended to go.  But I would go with her, as she  got ready for bed in her long nightgown, and then would settle herself in bed.  I would stay with her for a while longer, and then would attempt to 'tuck her in', as I kissed her cheek, and left her to sleep. 

When I did go to bed, I would eventually lay there very quietly, and just listen to the night and then to her breathing.  If she wasn't breathing deeply, or appeared to be soundly asleep, I would tiptoe over to her bed, and kneeling on the floor next to her ear, I would whisper:

"Grandma, are you slightly awake?"
"Yes, Yan. ( I had shortened my name, and insisted on its abbreviated use at all times--no exceptions--even my teachers complied--so Grandma acknowledged it also.)
"May I talk to you?  If you don't mind and all..."
"What is it Yan, are you troubled?"
"Not sure...just want to talk, and be with you.  Is that OK?"

As these nights would occur, I often spent a lot of them in her bed, and we would whisper and discuss things...I was a very deep thinker back then for such a young mind, I guess a lot hasn't changed--except the young part!--but those nights were always special to me.

Swedish pancakes!

When I was growing up, I had a grandmother, Julia (pronounced Yulia) who originated from Sweden.  She came to the States when she was young, possibly a 13 year old, not sure of the age.  But as time went by, she and her family settled in Iowa and she eventually ended up working in the Governor's household. 

She was a very religious woman, and had a very strong mind.  If she said something, it usually meant that everyone should have been listening.  She was strict, but maybe forced to be due to family issues, and the loss of her husband at a fairly young age.  She was very independent, and very determined.  (I think I know where I get that determination from--and I think I have passed it on through to my daughters--Thank you Grandma!)

But one thing she didn't pass on to me was the secret behind her Swedish pancakes.  They were very thin, light, formed a good sized circle, and tasted like heaven with maple syrup or jam.  I was only a small child, but I remember asking her to show me how to make them.  She would just smile and say:
"Yanice (Janice), now never mind, you go do something else for now, and I will let you know when you can eat these." 

One particular morning, when Grandma had spent the night with us, she decided to make her magical pancakes for breakfast.  I was so excited, and tried to quietly sit in the background of the kitchen and watch her prepare her 'secret' batter. But I was discovered, and Grandma Yulia told me to leave, and once again, she would call me when they were ready to eat!  She then proceeded to close the doors to the kitchen so that she wouldn't be disturbed - I actually think it was a game she played with me, so that I would stay curious--anyway--it worked!

I shuffled off dejectedly, but  as soon as I smelled the batter gently turning golden in melted butter, I  would wait anxiously, not far from the kitchen door, to be called to breakfast!

I loved those times with her.  She was mysterious, and even though she was somewhat strict and sometimes demanding, I always knew her soft spots, and loved just being with her.

Finally the kitchen door opened, and we were beckoned to eat her 'magic pancakes'.  Sometimes I can still taste them. 

Note:  Since then, I have tried various times to imitate the taste and texture of her pancakes--I think part of the magic was her, and the mystery she kept from me.  She was unique!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I wish never to die regretting anything.....

A palliative nurse has recorded the top five regrets of the dying. Photograph: Montgomery Martin/Alamy
This is somewhat of a sombre blog--sorry--but please keep reading, I will turn it around for you.  I recently read an article which had been posted in The Guardian Life and Style, a UK publication, entitled:  Top five regrets of the dying

 I have taken the liberty to edit the article and present to you the five most common regrets of the dying, as published by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, during the last weeks of her patients' lives.  She eventually published these comments in a book, listing the various regrets that had been spoken about by her patients in their final care.  This book is called:  The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Why I am writing about this article today is that I read these top five regrets which were listed in the Guardian article, and they stated:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Now we come to the reason why I wanted to write about this particular article.  I can honestly say that as far as these top five regrets go, I have always tried  to successfully achieve these 'goals'.  I  have lived my life fully and have positively responded to each of these five regrets throughout my life. 

I have always been true to myself.  If I wasn't, I wouldn't be me, and may not have achieved the things in my life that I did achieve.  Sure, I did things to please my parents while going through schools, but as I was self employed for the majority of my life, and held paid positions later in life, I was always able to let my imagination and individualism come forward. 

Working hard it very important, as that is usually the only way that we will achieve our goals and strive towards a better life.  But relaxing and spending time with your family and taking the time to 'smell the roses' is just as important.  While at times I would be snowed under with work, I would always find time to sit with my girls as they were growing up and share important time with them.  Companionship and love for and from your loved partner is also very important, and must always be nurtured.

 I have always been a communicator.  Ask my friends and family.  But I am a true believer in expressing emotions, sometimes as you are going through them.  I have always tried to encourage my family to do the same thing.  I strongly believe that the more you keep hurt feelings or frustrations to yourself, that the end result will be resentment, and perhaps anger.  This happens to everyone.  But talking about it will, in most cases, make these negative feelings go away.

I love my friends.  This includes those friends who touched my life while I was young, and perhaps going through schools or being employed in my first jobs.  To the best of my ability I try to still stay involved with them, and share messages and even jokes with them, even if it is just via an electronic means, due to the vast distances around the world, between us.  My current friends who are now in my life, know that I love them, as I usually tell them.  Good friendships that weather well over the years, are those treasures we give ourselves!

Laughter and enjoyment of living is very important. I  will admit I have had some very sad times in my life, which were often out of my control.  At times I wondered if I could ever gain control of the old me, but then something would happen, and next thing I knew I would be laughing until the tears rolled down my face.  Everyone needs to remind themselves of that every day and celebrate it, and what better way than through laughter, and sharing the love and the enjoyment of what you have to give.

I hope this article awakens something in you, so that if there is a regret now, you can do something about it, before it is too late. 

Better a life lived fully than to have just reached for the 'golden ring'.  Love of yourself and your family and friends is better that all the riches in the world!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rain-now we're talking wet!

Businessman Walking in a Storm 
It has been raining here a lot lately, but then - we did move to the tropics--so, hello!  Of course we will experience a lot of rain during this rainy season!  But it seems to have hit a lot of areas in Queensland, including our old 'hometown' - Rockhampton. 

Apparently there is danger of flooding there, as the rivers run, and everyone is getting into the ready mode.  As I have lived through it many times over the years, I thought I would give you an example of how it affected us when we lived there!  And we lived on high ground!   But, and this is a big but--with a gravel driveway!

Actually now that we're not living there anymore I can look back on it and smile-it was so drastic at times that it seems funny now!

A few years ago the flood did a lot of damage to the low lying areas in the city, and a lot of people had to escape their homes. It was very tragic to read the reports and see the images that came out. There was water in so many areas!  Those people needed all the financial contributions we could all give to help them recover.

The rains had caused a bit of rainwater damage to some areas of the lower floor of our house-mainly as water seeped in from the large hills behind our house, and we had large areas of water to mop up, including some carpet drenching in two bedrooms.  But what was really irritating to us was the fact that as our house, which was on a steep driveway frontage down to the main road, always had flood damage to our gravel driveway, with a lot of the driveway being washed away, and large low areas of water forming at the bottom.

Usually Chris could make it through with his 4WD, but one year it was so bad, when we didn't have the Jeep yet. We had all managed to get all of our cars down the driveway in the morning, but couldn't get them back up the driveway because of the draining damage, and the consistent flow of water. As a result, we would have to park our cars under cover at the local motel, which fronted an area in the front of our house, and walk the half kilometer up the driveway, carrying what we needed.

I think what really stands out in my mind is the walking through the water slogged driveway, which by then had deeper and deeper water ruts developing, and then sinking into the very soggy areas with the mud covering the majority of my shoes and sometimes feet.  Chris and I would struggle up the driveway after work, at perhaps different times in the late afternoon, and then the major clean up of shoes and feet took place.  But then there was poor Maddie!

She had a part-time job after school, and would eventually make the trek up the driveway in the dark.

I would try to have deck lights on for her, and tried to light up the front garden area, so she had a direction to aim for, but it would have been a struggle.  Strangely enough we didn't lose our sense of humour--just 3 pairs of mud covered shoes in the end!

But the piece de resistance was the time Chris and I went for a muchly needed grocery shopping trip, and then got home, and parked our vehicles at the motel.  It was fortunate that Chris had, at one stage before all of this flooding, had his wheelbarrow in the back of his Toyota Hilux, which is what he had been driving.  The water had subsided a bit, so I put on my always damp pink leather shoes, and started the tredge up the driveway carrying what I could.  But Chris, who never says never, put the remainder of the groceries in the wheelbarrow, and walked that heavy monstrosity up the hill.  I couldn't believe it!

It was frustrating to see him struggle with it, but sort of funny at the same time!  We had supplies again!  In a way it was like--"OK, Mother Nature!  Do your most frustrating worse--we can take you!"

Our story is nothing compared to the horrible flood conditions that then resulted in a massive clean-up for those who really experienced the damage.  But due to what we went through for over 2-3 weeks, it was a bit of an indication.

I am so happy now that in our new home, our very steep driveway is paved, and I don't have to look at gravel again!

So, it may rain here, but so far it has just brought more green growth and a very tropical looking place to live in--except for Chris who has to mow it all!!

Note:  I am happy to report that the flood levels in Rockhampton although high, did not cause extensive damage to any homes this year--Yay!