Aside

coronavirus cover up – Mask McGowan rules in favour of false positive

It’s day three of a snap five day lockdown in Perth – glory land throughout the Covid19 saga as every other city in the world struggles to keep it under control, people dying in the hundred thousands and everyone wondering when this crap is going to end.

Here, we have been marching along to the orders of Premier Mark McGowan: ruler of the state and upholder of persistent and strict border controls, which disallow entrants into Western Australia without a police approved pass. Perth has remained an outlier; not a single community case of transmission in ten months of mayhem… and Marky McGee is not about to let one single test stuff up his record.

Sunday the 31st of January. Word on the street is spreading quickly; a hotel quarantine security guard has somehow contracted the Rona. Macca acts fast – all of Perth will go into five days of lockdown. People who have absolutely nothing to do with anything anywhere even remotely close to the places this infected man has visited, must shut their lives down. We have to SHUT. IT. DOWN. The super spreader’s housemates are tested…they’re negative. 600 close contacts are informed of the grave danger they have been exposed to, and they’re all tested. They are negative. Mums all over Perth are planning McGowan’s usurpation after six weeks of school holidays is prolonged by another five days of care-for-your-own-children but no parks, no playgrounds, no play dates.

Every single western Australian is compliant. Yes sir, yes sir, how many days should we stay home for, sir? Five days he says. And masks everyone! Don’t forget your mask! DO NOT FORGET YOUR MASK! Also there is no singing allowed, anywhere at any time.

Toilet paper is gone within hours and there is no room for walking in the supermarkets. Masks are compulsory as well as check ins for contact tracing. No mask, no entry. But never mind being pulled up by the Covid marshals – the vitriolic stares from other civilians will pierce your soul and make you feel like an outsider, if there ever was one. We won’t step a foot outside of our limits; we aren’t allowed. Yes sir, yes sir, we’ll march in line to your orders, sir. Unquestioning and unequivocally trusting, the people of western australia stand united against Coronavirus yes, but too, against both the rest of their own country and certainly the world.

Days go by and testing numbers remain stable – negatively stable. Not a single second positive test is reported. The law abiding citizens of Perth are doing all the right things…staying home, doing one session of exercise per day and only going out for “necessities.” The people are exercising their acquiescence; masks are being worn in ridiculous scenarios – people are alone in their vehicle, masked. People are out walking, alone, masked. People are masking their children when it’s not one of the rules to do so. People are utterly compliant and their compliance is unnerving.

The final stages of the snap lockdown creep around. We are waiting and watching for announcements to tell us we can resume our state of incomparable perfection. Unexpectedly, the negative test results keep coming and many presume a false positive from the original germ-man. We wonder what we have endured this stay-home and mask-wear rubbish for. Why have we had to keep our children home, why have the parks been taped in plastic?

Sunday arrives and restrictions are lifted. Kids can go to school on Monday, parents can sigh a breath of relief though many still work from home – wary of being in the workplace with potential microbes hanging about.

Some rules still apply, however. Mr. Premier wasn’t going to let us off so easy…after all he does have a facade to maintain. As we moved further away from the first “positive” case and no further eruptions occurred, the love of his people faltered slightly. There was one man who tattooed Mark’s face on his arm, but he remains the sole idiot to date. We had to continue with the mask wearing, and it became the “strictest in the country.” For one case, guys. ONE. Thousands of people had to have their breathing obstructed by a stupid piece of cotton (if you’re fancy) for two entire weeks, FOR ONE CASE. When leaving the house, babies had to look at half the face of their mother and wonder where the rest went. Confused, bemused and continually grabbing at the thing hiding mummy’s smile, their mothers wondered if kids were experiencing effects for the long term. Maybe not for just two weeks of this annoying directive, but more of this would certainly see it.

At 12:01am on Valentines Day 2021, the mask rules were to be lifted. The Fringe Festival was on, and obtuse regulations were to be adhered to until EXACTLY one minute past midnight. At 9pm the same evening, the people were masked and not allowed to remove the sheath, unless to take a sip of a beverage. Immediately to be replaced, however and with not a moment to lose. The Mask Police were rife, lingering behind those who dared to dwell too long with their drink, or take a desperate sip of fresh unimpeded air. The Mask Law seemed more stupid than ever, when in just a few hours the people would be free to remove the face cover and continue living normally.

And that is precisely what happened. Most of Perth were snoozing when the veil was lifted; not only the mask rule but too the pretense of rampant coronavirus in Perth. The question became clear: what is the true agenda of Premier Mark McGowan? Are his directions those as advised by the Chief Health Officer…or the polling office?

Aside

the wise guide inside

Two glasses of proper champagne and only bits of sleep last night and I’m attempting a settle; he’s 9 months old and the sleeping struggle is tangible. Chopin’s Nocturne No.2 in E-Flat Major has overthrown my monkey mind…I’m simply swaying in rhythm to it. Through the alcohol induced mist, the music is piercing a little tiny hole into the turbulent year I’ve endured with a second little boy in my arms, during both sleeping and waking hours.

He thrashes about. Overtired and uncomfortable and palpably searching for some remedy that will send him into the ether, the realm of sleep so desperately needed but that which continuously slips through first his and then my fingers, accompanied by a sense of longing dreamt about, and wonder too, at what could alter the plot of this story.

And then there in that space, I am not. I’m strolling through the local marketplace. I’m right in the very midst of my sleep deprivation, a time where the mind can’t be trusted to act accordingly, when through the dreamcatchers swaying daintily in the breeze I see it. A passageway I had not yet encountered, although many times I had passed this way. The ceiling seemed to narrow as I stepped cautiously inwards; the wall not graffitied colours but shimmering rock, flecks of some things glinting and other things gold and hard to make out…was this an illusion?

It was there at the smallest cave-like part of the passage that I came to a blackened pot, sitting neatly on a small fire somehow propped up and unlikely to tumble. An intoxicating smell was inviting my senses forward; it was coming from a dark blue liquid thick with humbly sparkling silver. I could swear the word “sleep” appeared in the curls of steam wafting from the pot, but was I even really there? The cauldron sat confidently, and so too did its owner. There was nobody with me, and then there was, and I blinked a few extra times as a force sat me down and I was there, wasn’t I? She stirred the contents with a large golden ladle as I watched, mesmerised and wanting nothing more then to feel it, to bathe in it and just to have it engulf me entirely. 

I heard no voice, only the whisper of a question unanswered. 

Why did you walk this way?

I had a thousand words and none at all, my mind fractured with memories of moments and sounds of un-stillness. The magical substance lured my eyes and the desire to immerse myself was growing stronger. I wanted so badly to take some of this magical potion home with me. Something was telling me that once I had it, everything would be okay. The months of sleep deprivation would be over, I would be sitting pretty; routine established and structure ruling over my life. In a sudden moment but with what seemed like a million minutes before it, this notion was gone. The pot was empty, the contents non existent.

I blinked twice then three times, and my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the nursery. Then, the fog that had engulfed me for so long dissipated alongside 9 months of heartache. In that moment both my body and my mind had a realisation that would change the way I was currently existing. As if I was coming up for air made of clarity, I understood. 

I had been trying too hard.

I had been trying to fit a mould pressed upon me by thousands of words either read or uttered, in my quest to fulfil a role of perfection. My baby would not be the one to sleep on demand, at a specified time. He would not follow the same routine every single day. He would not be “a good baby.” He would need my help; the touch of his mother and the sway of her step; her beating heart close by, to settle him into a reverie filled slumber. And, so what.

In an instant I was ready to learn this new jig. For too long I had allowed the pressures of this modern day to try and construct my life. The saying “square peg in a round hole” never sounded more true; and I was the hand jamming that poor peg over and over and over again, not noticing that it was the wrong shape the entire time.

I have always been a sensitive mother. I have endless patience for my children, and like most of us, I want the very best for them. But in my mission to provide the blocks that support a smart and contented child, I had let slide the intuition that was so crucial to my own happiness. I had stopped listening to my gut in exchange for “advice,” and in doing so had completely blindsided myself.

Motherhood has become something different in the current era. From being a role that many women once intuitively fit into, to one that is now overwhelmed with information, mothers feel the weight of expectation coming at them from all sources. And the information is often contradictory, shaded by the preface that “something that works for one child may not work for another,” and “every child is different.” 

The counsel advises, but only experience truly teaches, they say. However, by the time that “experience” has taught us anything at all, it’s too bloody late to use it. And then, if we decide to go for round three, the lessons we learnt the second time no longer apply. Oh, that’s what it means by “every child is different.”

Having children continues to be the most awesome experience in my life thus far. This doesn’t mean it’s easy, it doesn’t mean I love every moment and it certainly doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. I don’t. I’m getting to know MY boys and what works for them, and I’ve finally realised who I should really be listening to…it sure as hell ain’t the internet.

So what if your baby falls asleep at the breast. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be 25 and looking for nipples to suck himself to sleep…(or is he?) 

So what if you rock and cuddle your baby to sleep…one day he will fall asleep in stillness, in his own bed, probably in his own house.

So what if your baby sleeps in short stints…this may be the only time in your life that you are excused from chores because of time restraints.

I could go on. Just remember, whether you’re a parent yourself or an advice-giver – that pegs come in all shapes and sizes – and even you are a different shape to your littlest and most precious peg. Everything will be okay, and even if it isn’t now, it will be eventually. Don’t stifle the voice within, trust it. You have got this.

Aside

waiting for a baby

In the very last stages of pregnancy, all seems to go a little bit quiet. It’s easy to compare, because the three to four weeks prior to hitting “term” (37 weeks) are filled with activity; preparations for the baby, you frantically trying to *do all the things* before the addition to your life comes and flips it upside down. Anticipation of the forthcoming labour is prominent, and continuous thoughts about the big changes ahead fill your day to day empty moments. If this is your first baby, the days at home are quiet and spare time is paramount – you don’t realise that you should be relishing it until years later. If it’s round two for you, your mind manifests a great big day nap for your elder child upon first rise and you wonder how long you will last on your feet today.

There’s a suspenseful excitement in the air, sort of like the weeks surrounding Christmas time. When the baby does not arrive early, before your 40 week due date or even before 39, a more relaxed demeanour embraces you; a sort of acceptance that you’re in this for another few weeks. Gripping as it is, wondering every day when you will finally meet your baby in your first pregnancy, things are different the second time around. What you realise is that soon, your life will never be the same again. Surrendering to this notion is what allows you to finally take heed of all the advice to slow down, stop rushing through every moment, and cease wishing the days away until your next little bundle arrives.

During this time that feels like a slow warp, you approach certain things differently. When your first child talks to you, you squat down (with great difficulty) to look directly into his eyes and hear the unfolding drama among his toys. When he tugs your hand to please come and play, you allow yourself to be guided by him. When his daily routines go out the window, you don’t wonder what is wrong with him…you understand that there is a different scent in the air; all he has ever known in his big three years is about to be redesigned in an almighty way.

You personally take any time to yourself and hold it with a gentle but firm grip. You receive your normal duties with grace, but you don’t fill your days with more than they truly need. For once, you actually take time to do some minor deeds for yourself. This is a big deal for you, after having sacrificed most of those long long ago when you had your first child.

This time, being the second, sees your due date arrive and pass with little fuss. You know a little bit more about the natural process of labour, and you’re okay with seeing that through. That isn’t to say each day is easy, though. Everything at this point in the pregnancy is difficult…sleeping comfortably is impossible, your feet don’t know what is going on when you stand in the morning and now, the baby is sitting so low down in your pelvis that you are visibly waddling. But the finish line is in sight, and why rush towards it now?

When the baby still isn’t in your arms past 40 weeks, you start incorporating all the little “labour induction” DIY hacks everyone advises. You know in your heart, however, that none of them will work. The baby will come when he or she is ready, yes, but you bounce and walk and rub essential oils anyway, in the vague hope that something might encourage the process.

How incredibly marvellous it is to be pregnant, to grow your offspring from a basically invisible cell, into a person. We call it a miracle, but the science behind it epitomises perfection. How spectacular, the way our female bodies work in synchronicity with their male counterparts to begin, and then take over to produce a life. The pure precision of it all ceases to amaze me, despite it being universally prevalent and the most ancient practice to ever exist.

I am so very grateful to be able to experience the journey that is pregnancy, though it’s really only the very beginning of personal growth in a major way. Parenthood is exquisite; a beautiful and crazy adventure that can intensely change a person. It allows us to experience a love that is so pure, so previously unmatched and so powerful all at once, it truly is wondrous. Knowing this is what allows the sense of acceptance for enduring a very long pregnancy to prevail over the discomfort of it all. And when the time finally comes and the incomparable agony of labour passes, you have a beautiful, brand new human to hold in your arms. What an absolute treat.

Aside

Being Pregnant is Hard Work.

Pregnant women deserve more credit.

Okay, yes. Millions of billions of trillions of women have been knocked up before us. They’ve all been there, through easy pregnancy or difficult. Many of their pregnancies even ended along with their lives, back in the days of old. A very crappy situation, particularly if the pregnancy she endured had been extra arduous. As we all know though, the birthing end of the experience is not nearly as risky in a first world country, with comfort options everywhere we look and perpetually advancing western medicine.

However, let us just take a moment to acknowledge something. BEING PREGNANT IS HARD WORK.

To begin, many of us spend an illogical amount of time trying to become pregnant in the first place. If it doesn’t happen naturally and quickly, we question our biological ability to procreate. It goes from something that will hopefully happen, to a conscious thought-consuming burden, weighing all the other ceilings on top of us already, down.

When we finally fall, using whatever method that may be, life throws the very next step at us, challenging us to jump an unsettling hurdle, for which we have absolutely zero experience. Make it to twelve weeks. God, if only we knew whether there was something we could do to make certain we would get there. In the time between peeing on a stick and seeing two lines up until the birth announcement (many of us decide not to spread the news until we’re certain a baby is going to be the end point of this experience, and not a D&C) an unfathomable amount of women endure what we all refer to as “morning sickness,” that which often lasts all day. Some very unfortunate women are forced to tolerate this horror for their ENTIRE PREGNANCY. That is basically ten months of feeling nauseous ALL OF THE TIME, and following that horrendous feeling up with actual vomiting. WHAT. JOY.

And, my god we are gracious during this period. We diplomatically accept all of the unsolicited information donated to us by every person in sight, detailing anything from how to be pregnant, to the gender of the infant, to how to raise it, to how much time we are going to NOT have, so make the most of what you have right now.

Also, there are the many, many dramas that ensue, beginning with the absolute thrill of being pregnant, but not looking pregnant, thus needing to explain food and drink related choices. The sacrifice of small pleasures, like a nice glass of red at any time of year or a very cold pint, also at any time of year.

There is the anxiety that comes with worrying about not getting enough nutrients in our diet to produce a smart and happy child, or doing enough exercise for our bodies to manufacture a person with a stable metabolism. we’re told to make sure stress is kept under wraps, so that our offspring does not grow into an anxiety-ridden mess. We question ourselves constantly – am I doing this right? Even consecutive pregnancies cannot guarantee a safety net from these menacing injections on our every day life.

It does not stop there. Once we have bypassed the first and second trimester respectively and our clothes no longer fit our lumpy bodies, we begin to feel impeded by an enormous basketball in the stomach region. We endure all sorts of little bodily pains which come naturally with undergoing a magnificent task, but which can be extremely uncomfortable and taxing, making each simple movement a test. And the questions begin again. Can I stand up from sitting without help? Can I balance this beverage on my tummy? And, the hindrances! Cannot stand up fast, must wait for blood to resettle after sleeping in the same position all night – cannot lay on back or will not be able to breathe, cannot lay on right side for fear of cutting off oxygen supply to baby, cannot sit with legs crossed due to onset of intense pins and needles, cannot sit upright as lungs are obstructed by giant uterus-containing baby. And, don’t even get me started on all the extra, potentially embarrassing and surprising symptoms of pregnancy…see here, here and here for more details. There are too many to go into here.

Grunting with motion becomes a part of our every day lives. If we already have children, we spend an unprecedented amount of time bending to clean up after them. It seems that somehow, they’ve made it their single point of focus to erase all traces of tidiness in our home just because we are struggling to shift from vertical to horizontal.

Pregnancy is hard. We want to be that woman on Instagram that makes it look easy and glamorous. We want to be that woman whose hair grows thick and glossy, whose skin is radiant. We want to just grow a tummy, and stay otherwise in shape. We want to be able to move with ease, because despite the enormous and wonderful task that we are performing, we still have to go to work, look after our families, take care of our pets and our home, and be emotionally stable. But above all of this, we want a healthy, stress-free pregnancy and a beautiful, happy baby at the end of it. And then, we want to recover properly and well from the mighty, mighty job we have done…so please, let us.

We women are lucky to be able to produce humans inside our sublime and lovely bodies. No man will ever be granted such an honourable assignment, and some women either choose not to, or cannot. It is for this reason, that perhaps those who do not partake, will never truly understand the gravity of such a duty. My message is this. Let us pull up a chair for the pregnant mother. Let us not skip her when buying a round of drinks, but instead order and bring her a sparkling water, with ice and lime please. Let us offer to load her shopping into the car, or carry that cumbersome item inside. Let us massage her feet and her back; let us encourage her to sit down and rest. Let us simply give her a break every now and then, and when she has finally given birth, let us focus on her, acknowledging what it is that she has just accomplished.

Aside

Thoughts on Australia after 8 months living abroad.

When the plane is coming in to land in most cities, there isn’t a whole lot of beauty immediately visible to the eyes in the head of a craning neck, trying to see past the passenger hogging the window view. In my experience, one usually sees a mixture of brown and green – trees, dirt and such, as well as a lot of industrial-area type buildings. I have found that it’s only when the plane has touched down and the few moments of very intense braking have passed, when you can breathe a subtle sigh of relief that you survived this miraculous feat of engineering, that you can acknowledge the airport and consider again the place at which you have just arrived.

On a Saturday afternoon, my family and I landed in Perth, Western Australia. And, I knew immediately that my life had changed. Now, the clickedy-click of those three proper nouns onto this page inspire feelings of endearment and warmth, and even ownership. I’d like to be able to make a “before” comparison, but I think the only fitting word would be “apathetic.”  Of course, this is a newfound realisation. Before leaving for our extended trip, that feeling was cloaked in the routine of daily life. And that’s not to say I lived a terribly boring and monotonous life before travelling; this would be wholly untrue. It’s just that this travel helped me locate a special key that I didn’t even realise I had misplaced.

There’s a feeling of safety that comes with living in western society that I now have a restored appreciation for. The smell of stability is intoxicating, the drive toward home from the airport on the smooth, well connected roads encouraging a sense of security that was missing during my time away. The knowledge that I could, if I so desired, stop any person anywhere and speak a language we would both understand, flooded my being with this sense of freedom that was absent in most of Europe. I have become familiar with a sense of certainty that settles when a person feels safe in a particular location. I didn’t endure unrest, either. I wasn’t living in a third world country, I did not encounter any war zones. My life was never under threat. Even so, I know that now I understand this feeling.

I also think I understand why people immigrate to Australia. If you live here as a natural consequence – i.e having being born here, how lucky you are. How lucky we are. Of all the places on this incredible planet, you landed here in “The Lucky Country.” And I know that not everybody feels this way upon returning to their country of origin. But me? I have a beautiful life. Many before me have felt the same, with oft-used phrases such as the one above embedded in our vernacular, and countless poets and writers having expressed what I too, am trying to describe.

Spending time away, seeing and experiencing how human behaviour and habits have shaped the rest of the world, living in opposition to how you would in your “normal” environment, morphs your psyche in ways that “staying put” never ever could. Travel is vital for growth of mind, yes, but actually relocating to a foreign place will change a person beyond expectation. Apart from the cultural challenges one is exposed to abroad, it’s trying to establish yourself that proves the hardest thing. Find somewhere to live and secure it for an extended period of time. Try to enrol your child at crèche, or school when you don’t already exist in any sort of system.  Find yourself a source of income that will sustain you once you’re past your savings. Buy a car, officially own it. Create a network around yourself and your family, so that you have some support. Don’t be discouraged by the unnecessary and at times ridiculous red tape thrown at you by the government of the country you’re in. Do all of this using a foreign language that you are very familiar with, but not fluent in…not like a native.

Now, being back, I don’t want to go anywhere. I love my home. Stepping through the entrance foyer upon arrival and into the wide open living space lit by sunshine was pretty special. And it still is, four weeks later. Appreciating the high ceilings and saluting my army of orchids and ivies, it seemed that I was passing everything like I never had before. Like I was seeing all of it for the first time, with a renewed sense of vision. Marcel Proust echoed in my head – “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” And it’s the littlest things, perhaps even the unremarkable things that piece together these feelings…my own set of clean linen on a bed that my body recognises. A washing machine and a clothes line and the ability to wash whenever I choose. A cooktop and an oven in the kitchen, and gas at the press of a button. All sorts of useful utensils and cooking apparatus. More clothing than I need, a supply of shoes on rotation. Fresh, clean water directly from the tap, filtered water directly from the fridge. The magpies chortling at 6am; the willie wagtails waggling on the lawn. The temperature, the breeze, the summer sun. And, to add to the loveliness, we actually see kangaroos morning and evening grazing on the green across from our house. None of these things even highlight the incredible physical beauty of Australia…we’d be here all day if I got started.

I could go on and on naming the things that are there at the end of my fingertips as I bask in the luxury of a first world life. I am so, so lucky to have been born in a country such as Australia. And for now, I have absolutely no desire to change up my living situation and experience divergence for quite a long time. I am comfortable at home, and something that being away taught me is that I am okay with admitting to that. I do believe that this sort of experience (or perhaps one with more exposure to disorder, if you’re not travelling with a two year old) is necessary for anybody living a life of opulence. Even if it is minimal scale comfort that you live in, throwing yourself in the deep end does a lot to help you realise the value of a good and easy life.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken
Aside

A life is a life, is a life. Right?

I would like to acknowledge that I personally recognise that there exist perhaps three different “types” of people, each of them with a different opinion on what one should do when faced with a scenario comprised of turmoil. In context, the turmoil adheres when the life of an animal is compromised. And by animal I mean pet.

I’d like to highlight three archetypes. One is the person that will remortgage their home to pay their veterinary bills; the big scary word that starts in “Euth” and ends in “Anasia” is not an option, no matter what. Two is the person that will also do whatever it takes to save the life of their pet, and only in the most unpromising of circumstances – like a very, very humble prognosis, would this person consider The Big E. Things would have to look meagre; the animal’s quality of life was going to plummet and the likelihood of further illness elevated, for this pathway to be an option. And the third person represents one who will euthanise almost as soon as the problem arises. No surgeries, no chemotherapy treatments, no ongoing medication. All three of these casts have reasons behind their choices. I’m sure that each person, when faced with the conundrum of a life in jeopardy, would methodically consider her options, and align those options with her personal circumstances. She would then make a choice based on suitability. Her underlying life-values would be the foundation for her decision. I’d like not to tap a wand of judgement upon any of these people; that is not my role. It’s actually not anybody’s. But I had to practise this skill, and I’m only just learning how to empathically perceive values as being the basis for such decisions, and to recognise that when values aren’t accepted, contempt can arise.

On Friday November 15th, four days before we were due to fly home to Perth, my ten year old Bichon Frisé, Coco (Chanel, of course) was diagnosed with kidney stones, bladder stones, and a stone blocking the little tube between the aforementioned organs. She was a mess, and we later found out she was also carrying a staphylococcus infection – that which had knocked her down and led to these discoveries. The left kidney was loaded with stones, and the right with just one. The renal pelvis was engorged due to the blockage. The prognosis was substandard. Options offered to us didn’t seem feasible; one was surgery that may not work and pretty serious on-going care would be necessary. The alternative was “medical management” which involved “fluid therapy” and antibiotics, and essentially waiting to see if she would recover. With the diagnosis looking the way it did, this option was, in the most blatant of terms, a death sentence.

We had limited choices available to us, and about 12 hours to consider them. By the time Friday morning dawned and I had spent the time before midday on and off the phone, I was becoming Person Archetype #2. I was unequivocally distraught as we packed ourselves into the car and headed towards the hospital in Homebush. My girl was ten years old, and we’d been together since day dot. She’d lived with me in Wollongong, and moved across the country with me to Perth. She had been the reticent older sibling to little Bangers and she had patiently waited for the arrival of our human baby. She’d had not a single health issue in her life until now, and I was heading to hospital to put her out of her misery. And boy was she miserable! It hurt me to see her in such a state of agony, and my tear bank was drained by the time we hit Heathcote Road.

On the journey, we had a call from our specialist, Narelle Brown. She had tossed and turned the night before, trying to figure out a better way forward for Coco. Her suggestion was to place a stent in the ureter, the small tube connecting the bladder to the kidney. Of course we took this as our way out of a burial ceremony, and authorised the go ahead, continuing the drive to Sydney to see the little fluff before her surgery.

The operation went ahead after we met Sarah Goldsmid, the surgeon in charge of opening up Coco’s little body. We paid another deposit after having already done one the previous day, and we organised Vetpay so that we could fund the procedure. We waited anxiously for the post-operative phone call with positive news, and we rested easy when it came. The next week was up and down, because little Coco refused to eat a single bite of food. She couldn’t be discharged until she had, so each day she was observed until came the point that my sister visited – this obviously reminded Coco that she hadn’t been deserted and she could quit the food-boycott. She was released the next evening, with a bill amounting to $9,698.50. We could cover some of the costs, and the rest was being taken care of by Vetpay. We would have a few weeks to repay the $6000 they loaned us, and then hopefully our insurance would also pick up some of the slack.

We did not hesitate to do what we could to save Coco’s life no matter the cost, because for us, that is what it boils down to. A Life. A little animal is a living thing, just like you and I. An animal may not have conscious thought in the manner that we humans do; we don’t really know if she is self-aware enough to realise that her life-forecast is currently highlighted in red. But is this the only real difference between humans and other animals? Is it language and self-awareness, action-consequence that separates us?  Throughout history, our care and treatment of other animals has fluctuated in its moral code. Heck, there have been periods where fellow humans have had worse treatment than our actual four legged friends. What is it in us, that makes this distinction? Why are some humans okay to end the life of another living animal? If a dog could speak directly to his carer, share his thoughts and worries… would his carer still go ahead and euthanise him?

Three days after Coco was discharged from hospital, (again on a Friday!) our miniature dachshund Bangers Williams ruptured a disc in his long little back for the third time in three years. It seemed like a joke…Coco just out of hospital and now this? With Bangers having had two previous spinal surgeries, I was well aware of the costs, (both monetary and other) we were about to undergo with another one. But alas, the prognosis this time was much worse than in the past. The little sausage had hurt his back on Tuesday, and by Friday morning his hind legs were paralysed. He would have been in so much pain; anyone who has ever had this sort of injury would be all too familiar with the trauma before pain relief!

It was back to Homebush with a referral from the local vet to see Sarah Goldsmid again, but this time the verdict was much more grave. With his neurological deficits being so bad – loss of deep pain sensation in his hind legs, no deliberate movement, loss of bladder control, it was a grade five diagnosis with at the absolute most, a 40% chance that he would walk again. That would mean a wheelchair for this active little boy, and a colostomy bag for his toiletting. With a toddler and a baby due in February, I just didn’t know if it was manageable. And that’s if the surgery went well. We had already flown home to Perth by this stage, so here I was, trying to be as present as possible on the phone listening to Sarah talking about slim prospects for Bangers and crying my eyes out for this poor little dog who has been through so much.

By now, I was once again considering euthanasia. I couldn’t say it out loud though, and I  definitely could not imagine it happening. In my heart I didn’t feel like this was the end for Bangers, but I was struggling to see a positive way forward. Also, the operation and related action plan was going to cost $12,000 minimum – more money which we didn’t have simply sitting on standby. My sister set us up a Go Fund Me page to try and get some support with the associated costs of going ahead. I was too much of a mess to make any decisions at this point, so our amazing, caring friends Leeona and Rob (who were with Bangers) gave the go ahead to perform some scans so that we could see how bad the rupture really was. After the scans, Surgeon Sarah was happy to proceed, so together we paid $5250 in deposits, hoping that Bangers wouldn’t lose his legs or his life.

We had good news 12 hours post-op, with our little guts eating his breakfast and trying to shuffle around in his enclosure. This actually continued each day, with little bits of progress making for a very positive outlook on Bangers’ future. By day five, we were waiting for Bangers to go to the toilet on his own, as his catheter had been removed. This sacred wee took 48 hours, and finally came the Thursday after surgery. Bangers was then released from hospital, after six nights and seven days. Certainly, an experience we don’t want to revisit. His odds of walking properly again are quite good – this is pretty incredible if we consider the grade of rupture and his progress thus far. He was lucky.

There were two episodes among the situations I have outlined, where I had to carefully consider my options. Twice, the option of euthanasia presented its potent availability, and twice I was brought to my knees trying to evaluate whether we should use it. Of course I wasn’t alone in all of this; I had the good ol’ “opinions of others” to listen to. I was advised to be pragmatic, to think about the money. True, we had just returned from eight months in Europe and had very little funding to support us. We are expecting our second child. We have several large debts which involve property. We need to buy  a car. Outright, I was called a fool for being willing to spend so much to save my dogs. Some voices carried an unmistakable tone of contempt, evident both on the phone, via text and face to face. I felt judged, the wrath of being an adult and the task of decision making weighing heavily on my already broken heart. At this point, some words felt like burning bits of coal, blown by the hot summer wind and coming to rest on what remained of a tarnished landscape.

Among this experience, I learned a little bit more about “values.” There will always come a time when the underlying values that reinforce your life-story are challenged. And there will always come a time when those same values collide head on with somebody close to you. What I have learnt is that acceptance of seemingly incompatible values, particularly when a meaningful topic surfaces, is actually the first step to tightening a bond between people. What must be remembered is that first, if one (or both) people feel strongly (evidenced by simply ruminating on a topic) about certain subject matter, someone has to establish dialogue on it. Going into it, each person has to remember that they need to bring something to the pool of meaning – nobody should be going in to simply prove their point. Because when its a persons values that foot the dispute, all we can do is try to understand one another. Those pillars are the foundations of every decision we make, and mis-alignment of those pillars can lead to destruction. I saw a clash of values in the flesh, and I had to first move away before I could come to grips with it. In the future I am hoping to be able to used this experience positively, so that in dealing with comparable situations, I will be better.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to mention how extremely lucky we are to have had the help we did, in dealing with all of this. As you can probably imagine, being on one side of  Australia whilst all of this was happening on the other side was not easy. We have been fortunate enough to have people who adore our dogs as much as we do, to help make decisions when things were looking really bad and to provide financial assistance at the exact time that it was truly required. These caring and compassionate people have taken time out of their normal lives to drive our little bunnies to and from veterinary appointments, and I think the biggest task of all, for being the carers for each of their recoveries. With a patient that has undergone a spinal surgery, can’t walk and needs 24 hour crate rest, this is particularly burdensome. “Thank you” doesn’t quite cut it for all of this, but I know that somehow we will show our gratitude when the time is right.

With the help of our community network, we raised about $3500 to support the cost of Bangers’ procedures. I cannot express how grateful we are to everybody that donated – either their time, in checking up on either myself or Shane with consoling words, or through the action of giving. If I had been alone in all of this, things may have been very different. So for everything… THANK YOU.

 

 

 

 

Aside

Summer in the City

Paris in late August has indeed a very different feel to it this time around. The afternoon skies, having breached the morning a deep blue, have a summer haze – wisps of cloud giving some respite from that blazing ball of fire in the sky. Parisians are more relaxed; (or are they tourists?) the holidays, perhaps being the missing link to lost sleep. It seems that the mundane stressors of daily life aren’t so bad; people are smiling and eye contact is a connecting factor among strangers. It’s more tranquille, there are certainly less people around, not quite as many cars on the streets and absolutely more exposed body parts. I do truly believe that it’s harder to be angry on a sunny day; so perhaps it’s that notion that infiltrates these city dwellers for a few months of the year. There seems to be more green, the lanes don’t seem so narrow… it has a more clean and honest feel to it.

On this trip to Paris, we hired a neat, brand new little car. We had it for 48 hours, and it gave me an alternate perspective to what I’ve had before. You know, I actually felt a little bit glamorous, if I’m to be completely honest. On those two days I experienced Paris from a pedestal…grand, leafy trees reflected in the car windows as we passed underneath. Glorious old buildings with their curly window and terrace iron, some even embellished with a deep golden frame. Miraculously, we parked in a barricaded lane right outside our door… for free. Both mornings saw us exit the building with fingers crossed, hoping the car hadn’t been fined or worse, towed. Someone was looking after us there, that’s for sure.

Our logement, was this time different too. Through huge timber double doors we had to pass to proceed into a quiet square, an island of more enormous, friendly trees separating the wide, cobble stoned drive. Leaving the street you enter what seems a sanctuary of peace and calm, the apartment buildings casting a cool, relieving shadow all throughout. Your nostrils are enticed toward pasta carbonara and garlic bread with the incredible smells of an Italian restaurant; their kitchen backing onto the courtyard and difficult to resist.

One thing that definitely has not changed is the familiar burn in the calves upon climbing the six flights of stairs to the apartment. Each time I carried up either A. a 2.5 year old or B. groceries, I both resented and relished reaching level two and (puffing) acknowledging I hadn’t really come far.

The apartment itself was adorable. Spacious with two bedrooms and a lounge room plus the necessities. Every surface clean, the delightful smell of fresh linen in each bedroom when we arrived. Lots of framed things and trinkets up on the walls and on the shelves, tastefully yet oddly decorated by somebody who obviously loves to travel. It was quite pleasant, passing Arlo’s siesta time within this little château; the French windows open wide to the mid afternoon sunshine.

We stayed north of le seine on this trip, preferentially a little closer to Le Marais than last time. With luck, our apartment was just around the corner from a gorgeous little fruit and veg mini market shop type thing, with the most vast array of fresh produce I had seen in a long time. The kiwi fruits, from New Zealand, were perfectly fresh and ready to eat, and the apples, pink lady of course, were the best (and actually the only!) I’ve had in a long time. They even had broccoli; absolutely standard in Australia, but a rare commodity and hard to find fresh here. The pineapple, my god. Juicy and sweet. After some time chilling in the fridge, it was the perfect summer gouté.

This was the Paris I had longed to experience, the Paris portrayed in films that was shaded with a hazy, romantic summer daze. Once we returned the car we had hired, about 30% of this mist lifted upon re-exposure to the streets, the metro and the swarms of people using both. But this is the other side of life, right? Rubbish, the homeless, and humans that are in downright poverty and just trying to get by. Crunching steps on the pavement we were approached eight out of 10 times, by people begging for money. Not panhandlers; these were people actually asking for cash, and walking alongside us until we heard them out. One time a decently dressed 12 year old on a scooter asked very politely for one euro, and this was one of the only times I refused. It was clear he was just out of pocket money…I think.

Again we got to see my beautiful cousins Emilie and Ben and their darling little girl, and we were treated to a delightful lunch with the kindest French man you’ll ever meet, Arnaud, at one of his and Dominique’s impressive restaurants – Georgette. I  had the salade de coeurs d’artichauts, champignons, amandes et roquette au sésamele riz japonais, tartare d’avocat et gambas en tempura, but of course my favourite dish comes very highly recommended – the mi-cuit au chocolat noir, crème fouettée avec glace vanille. For those interested in the menu, and can understand French or use a translator, peruse it here. 

To end, some other thoughts:

I’ve had Regina Spektor’s ‘Summer in the City’ in my head for days, so I thought it a perfect name for this post. That’s the audio at the top of this page, if you didn’t realise.

One day I found 20 euros in the Franprix around the corner.

We are going to Disneyland tomorrow to spend one night and two days. I’m not sure if it’s Arlo or his parents who are more excited.

One day we got the train in the wrong direction and after ending up lost in the burbs, had to cancel our expedition and go home due to the time. Boo.

The washing machine broke with most of our clothes in it, saturated and with the door locked. I had to wash everything by hand when I eventually got the door open, which made me very grateful for washing machines.

In the city, there is no wet-based relief from the heat. Just shade, and fans. And climatisation, if you’re lucky.

And, that’s it. Au revoir for now!

 

 

 

 

 

Aside

Nudes and No-Nos

It’s quite common practice, in Australia, that when one female is enjoying the summer sunshine by the ocean, she will conservatively be wearing a two piece swim suit, covering both boobies and below. More exotic and daring it is, to have sacrificed the top piece in order to encourage that highly esteemed all-over tan. Customary practice, however, is it for this to take place further along the lapping waters where innocent families won’t be exposed to such promiscuity (yes, you know what I’m referencing close friends and family!).

Among us Australians, it’s common knowledge that European beaches do not support the same ethos. Along the mix of pebble and sandy shores in the south west of France, women of all ages, shapes and sizes surrender their bikini top to support that special  areola tan. Perfectly fine if you ask me. In fact, I encourage and promote it, for the de-sensationalising effect it has on BOOBS. Boys and girls of all ages are exposed to breasts of all dimensions, perhaps thus helping growing minds become accustomed to difference and normality. Anyway. I say go ahead! Brown your nipples! Stripping down is what we do at the beach and generally also when the warm weather enforces it. At home in Australia, I have very little washing to do in the summertime because we trot around at home in our cozzies, trying to keep cool. This is not a rule just for women, either. Don your speedos and euro trunks, men! Nobody likes a board shorts tan, and being bronzed is the sun’s gift to everybody.

With this practice occurring everywhere at any moment, nobody on the coastline bats an eyelid – except for me, when I see breasts the colour of mahogany, which just looks not quite right, in my opinion. What does elicit a bizarre look from the locals, however, is when it comes time to depart the seaside. Yes! You are basically naked on the beach,

BUT DO NOT THINK TWICE ABOUT LEAVING THE BEACH WITHOUT YOUR CLOTHES BACK ON.

Second glances and scowls await you, conveying a judging eye if you so much as take on the sidewalk with naught but a towel covering up such immorality. Ten metres away, people are all but naked! But apparently, it is not common practice to leave the beach with only a swimsuit on. Mostly, one is still wet from swimming, one is quite sandy AND one has a lot of things to carry. Clothes back on is the last thing I personally want to do. I usually don’t bother with “shoes” either; I can’t think of anybody ever enjoying that wet, sandy-feet-on-rubber feeling. But apparently, European beach goers have time for that. One time I saw a woman put JEANS back on before packing her things away, and you rarely see people straying from the sand without having replaced their footwear.

Alas, we butt heads again with French customs. But we must agree to disagree on this unspoken subject. I shall not re-dress to leave the beach if it doesn’t suit me!

NB: Photo courtesy of some very daring young women on a secluded beach in Australia, somewhere.

Aside

Touching Children in France.

Did that title grab your attention? It doesn’t mean what you first thought. This post discusses what could be seen as a French Tradition, and starts with the cultural aspect of French people kissing each other. You kiss someone when you meet for the first time, and then you kiss again before leaving. I don’t mind this at all as in my family, that has always been the way. TWO KISSES! What I don’t approve of or promote, however, is my son having to do the same. Something that irks me a little bit is that,

PEOPLE WANT TO TOUCH AND KISS CHILDREN. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s mainly women, and it often happens on the street. A LOT. Okay, okay. I have a gorgeous looking child. But he’s a person, and he doesn’t know you, nor does he want you touching him let alone kissing him.

At the start of our trip we literally had one lady beg us to kiss Arlo, “just on the hand” and before I had time to realise what she had said and step towards Shane, (who had been baffled by the French she used) it was too late. She sailed in quickly and planted a wet mouth kiss on his delightful little hand, his unprepared brain registering severe distaste before he began shaking his hand and wiping it scornfully. Now, several months later, if Arlo is in the right mood and an elderly lady comes close, watch out biatch. He will use force. I don’t condone violence or my child hitting anybody or anything, but if someone is up in your personal space and you’re uncomfortable but unable to vocalise that, action is apparently the next best thing. Of course I do intervene when I am quick enough, usually by stepping away if he is in my arms and explaining to him that I won’t let him hit.

Once, Arlo and I were watching a man turn on his motorbike (he’s obsessed) when the man crouched down and stroked Arlo’s cheek with a warm-hearted sort of look on his face. He then followed up by suggesting he take Arlo for a ride on this motorbike…ummmm, no thank you monsieur. Au revoir.

These examples are no exaggeration, and sometimes they’re acceptable, but it depends. Sometimes these advances come from beautifully dressed and delightful smelling, grandmotherly figures. Sometimes they stop to chat, sometimes they want to touch, a lot of the time they have advice. They certainly won’t hesitate to let you (the mother of the child) know, that this child is tired. Oh! Is he? Well I never. I wonder who tried for two hours to get him to sleep earlier today!?

I have been a fan of Jennifer Lehr’s book Parent Speak since before Arlo was born. Lehr advocates for letting children know that in fact, they don’t need to endure Uncle Peter’s sloppy kiss and tense arm grab at every family gathering. They need not suffer through someone they don’t know (or do know, for that matter) physically touching them. That, if something like this makes them feel uncomfortable (I know I absolutely faced these situations growing up!) that there are alternatives that can be suitable for both parties. I am teaching Arlo that he need not kiss somebody he doesn’t want to, that instead he could offer a high 5 or a handshake, or a hug if he feels like it. This way the imposing person doesn’t get embarrassed, and the child is not shamed into doing something he doesn’t want to do. At two years old though, we mostly just get a straight “no” for all options. Lol. And as a child who is very affectionate with those close to him, there is obviously some meaning behind his response. At least he knows exactly what he wants!

 

 

Aside

a rant on “growth” (more like a diary entry, read at your own risk)

Popular culture tells you that “change is good.” That the space in the midst of all the turbulence, is where “growth” is achieved. I’m here to say that something like that which Shane and I are doing looks peachy and idyllic on the outside, yet the legitimate truth of it is that it’s god darn hard. We had an inkling of this before we left Australia…friends and family naturally assumed we were excited and projected those feelings onto us. However we agreed in private that we both felt somewhat uneasy and not really excited to leave Perth, where our lives are well-balanced and sensible, where you can get to a yoga class at 6am, where you know you’ve got a comfortable night’s sleep ahead of you and you can read the ingredients on every packet in the supermarket. One solid discernment already; we are bloody lucky in Australia.

Both of us have found ourselves in moments of quiet, (aka reflective stress when driving, lost, through long country backroads) wondering why we made a decision to take our beautiful, extremely easy lives – where the garbage truck always comes on a Friday, where fruit and vegetables are always cheap and where you can communicate with everybody, everywhere you go – and mess them up? So that we can grow, apparently. “The Obstacle is the Way,” as published by Ryan Holiday, seems poignant now; at a time when we feel like mostly everything is a hurdle. The title of that book has become a mantra to me over the last week, growing in strength like a heart filled with adrenaline. Though, if I’m honest, adrenaline is the last hormone I sense coursing through my body right now. What do I feel, is exhausted. And this is why.

I speak some French, yes. But this means that once a French person realises this, they zoom off speaking at 150km an hour, assuming you can understand everything that’s flying out of their mouth. It is brain-draining work, trying to keep up, and then translating what I have understood to Shane and potentially re-translating any further questions back to the French person – what a mission. Official translators must need 10+ hours of sleep after each day of work! I always leave these such exchanges on a high; feeling more positive about my language comprehension than when I went in – definitely a plus, and what I’m here for, after all. This week we have spent hours traipsing around the streets of the city, going into real estate after real estate to try and convey our situation and obtain some help. Anyway that seems to be an ongoing operation that probably requires its own blog post. Needless to say, it can’t be done facilement. It’s weird. The French have some really strict rules about certain things, and they are too relaxed about others. For example, we were in a boulangerie (you’re surprised?!) a couple of days ago and there was a door to the WC in the main seating area. In this tiny toilet with one of those miniature hand washing sinks, a young lady was doing dishes from the kitchen. Yesterday we went into a little office to ask some questions and use their bathroom (we were stranded, having sprinted through the city, late, to a real estate agent waiting at the gate of an apartment that wasn’t even on the street that it was addressed as) ANYWAY their TOILET was in their KITCHEN. I know it was their kitchen because all their used coffee cups were in the sink, cutlery and other kitchen-esk supplies. I wouldn’t consider myself fancy, but I deem that practise pretty gross. Flushing the toilet with an open lid (another class of people – if you’re one of these, change your habits immediately unless you want to fill your breathing space with particles of faeces and other germs) with all your eating and drinking utensils right there!!!!! Yuck!

Moving on. What I have learnt about myself over the last couple of weeks.

1. I am perhaps not as adaptable as I once thought, and I shamelessly and lovingly blame this on having a little tiny person to look out for. I have had some insight as to the reason that many people decide “not to travel” when they have children. “Do it before you settle down” is generally the advice. I now know why. Because it’s HARD. If becoming a parent did anything for me, it made me more organised. I consistently look for the easiest, most convenient and most time efficient way of doing things. (Is this what parenting is?) And when you’re travelling, ALARM BELL – this is actually not the idea! It’s all about exploring, enjoying the surrounds and basking in the various activities that enticed you to that spot in the first place. I touched on this in the Paris post – how my dreams of romantically enjoying a glass of wine in the alfresco dining whilst watching people go about their lives has been shattered by my reality, but also EVERYBODY SMOKES HERE so the alfresco is actually not ideal for me, being a passionate smoking-hater. So can you just take a moment to picture me, in active wear, which by the way, NOBODY WEARS HERE on a casual basis, but I have to, so that I can integrate exercise into looking after my child, which also means chasing him down busy streets and briskly but gently seizing him before he steps in front of a motorbike, all of which cannot possibly be done in jeans.

2. I need nature, chocolate and wine. Cobbled streets are beautiful and antique and very bumpy underneath a stroller, and little boutique fromagerie, epicerie, chocolaterie and clothing stores are gorgeous, but they aren’t the right place for a child. So I suppose what I really mean by “I need nature” is actually “children need nature” and with my primary obligation being the safety, and healthy growth and development of Arlo, we’re always looking for patches of green to expose him to. I do believe that even us adults need nature. Getting grounded is real; that amazing feeling you get when you swim in the ocean or walk barefoot on soft grass…we all need the earth’s anti-inflammatory, healing powers. Unfortunately in a place thats coated in concrete, no matter the loveliness of a building or the pattern embedded in the marble, it’s not terra firma and you just don’t get it.

3. I have realised that I’m not as exotic as (I) once perceived. It turns out that I like the routine I’ve establish at home over the last two years. I like knowing what to expect each day, what is manageable and achievable within a particular time frame and I like to know where I’m going. Again on the parenting – everything is done in sections based around the sleep of my child, which at home, is predictable and user friendly. I don’t actually like being caught out with a screaming, tired toddler, too far from home and with no croissants in sight, but having had to go to lengths to get him to the nearest park. Have I lost my ability to remain organised? Hmmm.

I’ve learnt that I like the predictability and comfort that comes with routine. But, what I’m also realising, (in part as I write this piece over a three day period) is that maybe the reason we (humans) do things like this is because we innately know when things are too easy. Maybe it is so that we don’t grow old and grouchy, and become “set in our ways.” At this time in my life, I’m still malleable, and I’m seeing that movement to shift perspective is what might maintain that sense of youth, and to help me to become more grateful for what I already have.  If we hadn’t taken on this journey, I’ve no doubt that we would both still be “growing” in other ways, but that’s because of the type of people we are. Perhaps it would just be at a slower pace.

As things start to settle, I begin to breathe normally again. Each day Arlo sleeps and eats a bit more consistently, and other little routines are re-established, which help to stabilise a somewhat unstable way of living. There seems to be a pattern; the start of a sojourn in one location is always tumultuous, but come day 6 or 7 the storm eases and things don’t seem that bad. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, it’s just that our lives are SO different now to what they were a few weeks ago and this adjustment period has been more difficult than anticipated.

Although it doesn’t sound like it at this moment, I am content with being well and truly out of the zone where I feel most comfortable. Despite moments of utter (first world) despair, outbreaks of quiet tears and a wanting to just go home and resettle, secure and free from decision making and real responsibility, it’s becoming obvious that this trip was the right thing for me, personally. It’s thrown me the F out of my comfort zone and into GROWTH…which apparently, is not a bad thing after all.

(I’m pretty sure I’ve done a complete 180 from start to end of this piece of writing)

“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.”  -David Brinkley-