All posts by lpenn45

My Unsurpassed Christmas Present

The lead up to Christmas is always fraught with many hours spent on deciding what and who to buy Christmas presents for, what to eat and whose place do we spend the day and or night to celebrate Christmas.

Mine back in 1969, at least where I was going to celebrate Christmas was decided by the early birth of my youngest daughter Roanne Kim Watson at the Mater Hospital Crows Nest at 7.35am on Christmas morning.

For weeks prior to going into hospital David, my former first husband had been pestering me about cutting into the leg ham, but I had persuaded David in alerting him away from an early taste test, which didn’t please him at all. He would constantly annoy me about cutting up the ham.

Back in the sixties, it wasn’t encouraged for the husband to be present at the delivery of their child, especially at a Catholic Hospital, which my specialist only delivered his births there.

11pm on the 24th December 1969 there were signs that the delivery was about to happen. David in his casual manner dropped me off at the Mater Hospital and drove straight back home to our house in Davidson, to which he delighted in opening up the fridge door, where he gazed at the tempting leg ham. He reached inside the fridge and took out the ham and proceeded to enjoy a ham sandwich, while I was laboring away for over eight hours to deliver his second daughter. No doubt his gastronomical delights of devouring the ham was his only priority on Christmas Eve.

Roanne wasn’t actually due on 25th December; the date calculated by my Dr was the end of February the following year 1970.

My specialist Dr wasn’t what one would say a good baby specialist, as he should have been alerted that there was something wrong in the weeks leading up to the birth. I had swelling ankles and untreated high blood pressure.

However two weeks before Christmas during my regular check-up, he did think that the baby was unusually large for a seven-month pregnancy and sent me off for an X-ray as he thought I may be having twins.

The X-ray results showed that the baby was drowning in fluid and I wasn’t in the best of health.

Christmas eve is not an ideal time to go into hospital and trying to locate the Dr and get a positive response from him was fruitless, as he was unable to drive due to being intoxicated. Being told by the nursing staff that they can’t locate the Dr is not very comforting when you know something is wrong and there could be an issue with the delivery.

Fortunately, luck was on our side, on duty that evening and early morning was Sister Devine, yes Sister Devine a Midwife. She delivered this tiny reddish delight that was perfectly cooked, but I wasn’t in the best of shape. It was apparent that I had toxemia and Sister Devine could not believe my Dr hadn’t picked up my warning signs earlier.

Thankfully this little bundle of joy Roanne Kim Watson gave me the best ever Christmas present back in 1969 and she still continues to give me happiness.

Respect is Required

I was fortunate, together with approximately 100 people to be able to attend the first MeToo debate in Coffs Harbour last night. And what a debate it turned out to be.

The four panels presented either for or against the MeToo movement, which basically came into the media spotlight via sexual harassment charges against Hollywood’s movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Sexual harassment and domestic violence have been a subject of discussion here in Australia as well as everywhere in the world for many, many years, especially Middle Eastern Countries.

Last night’s audience upon entering the venue where asked by the volunteers ”do you believe the MeToo movement has gone too far, not far enough or undecided”. For me I said ”undecided” my friend said ”no”.

Early in the evening, the MC read out the results of the survey that the audience had given prior to entering the event and 40% were undecided, 14% said yes and 46% said no. These results were recalculated after the event and 10% were undecided, 74% said no and 16% said yes.

The panelist that had a huge impact on the crowd was a gay gentleman, who had been sexually assaulted at the age of 12 by a 32-year-old female teacher. This had a huge impact on his entire life and he didn’t say anything about the incident until he was 30. During these years from age 12 to 30, he had difficulty with schooling, work, drugs, and alcohol and needed counseling for many years. Although he was nervous telling his story you could hear a pin drop in the audience.

He now assists men who have been sexually assaulted by a man or woman. He quoted in his presentation the statistics within the LGBQI community has the most sexually and violent incidents in the country. This appeared to be a surprise to the audience.

From my observation of the evening, in my opinion, what is apparent with this whole MeToo movement is the lack of ’respect’ for one another, man or woman, nationality and religious beliefs respect is missing and as a nation we need to drive respect throughout our schooling system, workplace and of course our own homes. Respect is a deep admiration for someone or something drawn out by his or her abilities, qualities or achievements. If we don’t have respect for one another our society suffers.

Tiger in the House

IMG_3378.jpgHow your life can change in an instant when you have a three-month-old tabby kitten in the house called ‘Tiger’.

You need to be mindful of everything within his reach, move plants; especially plants that are poison to cats, and anything that he can manage to chew or knock off a table.

Thankfully a spray bottle with water has managed to discourage him off coffee and dining room tables and of course the kitchen bench.

He is so cute, but there are places he can go inside the house and places that are off limits, like my bedroom or the office where there is too much he can attack, like cords coming out from the NBN and computer.

Tiger is my daughter’s kitten that she rescued from RSPCA after completing her certificate 111 in Fitness, a nice congratulations reward of a kitten.

He has only been with us for less than a week and he seems to have settled in nicely and knows that we are both friendly. He manages to place himself next to my daughter most of the time, or me, whichever looks like they have something of interest. He also manages to seek out that perfect spot indoors, like underneath the dining room table sitting on two chairs at once, falls asleep then falls off, as he hasn’t balanced himself adequately.

My daughter recently lets him go outside onto the balcony for a look around and to explore the outside world, which of course he did and managed to collect any piece of leaf, stick or potting mixture. Like all cats, they must explore, although different sounds scared him off and he would run back inside in a flurry.

Listening to his little feet pounding up and down the hallway most of the day is so funny to listen and watch, as he hasn’t managed to slow down when a wall nears his vision. There have been a few hits and misses, but he is getting better. His agility is amazing with using a tiny soccer ball toy, which he plays around the house, is like a professional footballer, actually probably better than some footballers.

My Years of Being a Super Mum

After listening to an interesting session on ABC Life Matters about a group of dad’s in Northern Territory talking about the benefits of being a stay at home Dad and having the opportunity of getting to know their children instead of working full time, prompted me to recap on what I had missed out on by having to work full time when my daughters were young.

It wasn’t only myself who missed out on spending quality time to get to know my daughters it was also my girls missing out on having a stay at home mother.

As a sole parent I worked long hours and didn’t get the opportunity needed by all to be the perfect mum, I had to take on the role of being a Super Mum.  I did manage to get some home help for preparing the weekend meals enabling me to spend quality time with my girls.

On reflection of having no alternative than to work full time to house, feed, and clothe us and to try and get some home help, especially after my girls came home from school was a huge challenge. The women hired either had their own agendas, like doing commercial ironing at my house, using my electricity or wouldn’t actually take care of my daughters. For many years I struggled with getting the right help and of course the cost was outrageous.

Unfortunately, their father jerked his responsibility of paying child maintenance and many times he would disappoint the girls by either not turning up to take them out over the weekend or if he did it was with one of his casual girlfriends. Demonstrating that he thought more about his own self then his daughters.

What constitutes a Super Mum, being there as someone who could love and help them through their life challenges, provide suitable housing, which was a struggle especially when my ex-husband tried to have us evicted from the house that I was paying off the mortgage.

My property settlement was in 1976 prior to the current Family Law Legislation as it is now. The courts now are a lot fairer for the woman, especially with children.

I walked away from a twelve-year marriage with $13,000 to start our lives and find a suitable home, which ended up being a two-bedroom unit. Coming from a four-bedroom home with a double garage was extremely hard for all of us to settle into a small two bedroom unit with the girls having to share a small bedroom with bunk beds being the only way of housing the both of them.

The early years of my eldest starting out in high school while the youngest was starting at a new primary school were fought with problems. Settling into a new house, new schools, finding friends were all problematic.

I can still hear in my mind, the yelling of my daughter at each other from when I got off the bus and walked towards the unit. There wasn’t space for the girls to get away from one another after school. They shared a bedroom and a desk for doing their homework. Occasionally one would use the dining table.

One of the nicest out of school character building solutions was that both girls joined the Air Force Cadets. This was something that gave them good interpersonal skills and a different type of knowledge. At the time I did think they both would go onto joining the Force, especially my youngest Roanne.

They both looked so grown up when they were decked out in their uniforms. One of the photos shows Roanne nearly as tall as Corinne and they are four years apart.

Reflecting back over these difficult years and they certainly were difficult years, one such concerning time was having my car repossessed unnecessarily due to an error with the lending provider. This was at a time when life was dealing me some terrible times and it was hard to cope and stay focused for the sake of my daughters.

There were times when I felt why is life so challenging, but being the person I am it was important to continue on the best way that I could for all of us as I knew things could only get better if I worked hard acquired good wages, which of course meant working long hours. Most of my positions were in management, including senior management.

I hear all the benefits that single mothers get now and it makes me sad to know that the struggle we went through could have been avoided if I had an ex-husband that treated his responsibility of being a father first could have made our lives not so difficult for this mother.

Cruising the East Coast of Australia

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Having flown around many parts of Asia, South Pacific and the West Coast of America over several years of business trips and some locations for holidays, I felt it was time to experience cruising on one of the big ships.

I hadn’t been on a ship in over forty years and that trip from Sydney to Tasmania with my then-husband, three-year-old daughter, and our car took onto the Empress of Australia; isn’t actually a cruise ship. However, it did have an added benefit of being able to take our car enabling us to travel at leisure around Tasmania and experience the beauty of the most southern part of Australia.

My sister had experienced several cruises on big ships, it was advantageous to acquire her cruising knowledge and that we went together, in my case to experience a short length cruise. We chose ‘Carnival Spirit’ from Sydney to Moreton Island, four nights and five days.

On the day of departure, it was incredibly daunting to see the size of our ship docked at Circular Quay, Sydney, certainly much larger than my last cruise to Tasmania. This big ship held over 2,600 passengers and 1100 crew. I felt the air of excitement and anxiety as the night before it had been reported on the TV one of the Carnival cruise liners had a legal ‘class action’ pending due to Norovirus outbreak on their Sea Princess Ship. That is certainly not something one wanted to hear prior to boarding the same cruise liner ship. Thankfully not our chosen ship.

With the assistance of social media namely Facebook, my sister sourced the Carnival Ships Facebook Group for relevant information and found that over 100 users strong words of advice were “wash your hands often”. Also, the ships have plenty of opportunities for hand disinfectant dispensers.

I couldn’t believe how smooth the embarking was on the day of sailing out of Sydney Harbour.

It was all aboard; we headed straight to our cabins to see the size and atmosphere. Our cabin was forward ship one of the internal cabins on the lowest deck, which was actually close to all the action, bars, Showtime entertainment events, and the main dining area. However one of those bars turned out to be a nuisance as it was directly above our cabin, closing time was midnight. We managed to stay out so late that when we arrived back to our cabin we were too tired to even be bothered by the noise of the staff dragging the chairs back into position after closing time.

Neither of us wanted to eat at any of the buffet areas, too many choices, high chance of picking up a virus from passengers handling the food tools. We deliberately chose the fine dining area for most meals, some days we skipped lunch due to other activities we didn’t want to miss.

The best activity, of course, was docking out on the Coral Sea; Moreton Island, complete with our bathers, towels, suntan lotion, hats, and sunglasses. It is a small island 44 km with a population of about 298 and within view of the mainland Brisbane. There are a few resorts, a small police station, eateries, bar and entertainment for the passengers of Carnival Spirit. No food or drinks were allowed on shore. This is where the island makes most of its money, tourists paying high prices. Two sandwiches and bottled water cost me $38.

We had originally planned to do a dive around the shipwrecks and a ride on the Segways but thought the cost to do these was outrageous especially when we have been to other Pacific Islands and the Great Barrier Reef several times, so we decided to give them a miss. After all the money would be better spent on experiencing the amazing cocktails from one of the bars onboard the ship.

Our decision to just swim in the beautiful Coral Sea waters on Moreton Island and just enjoy the coolness of the water with the sun beaming down on us while watching all the activities around us with the added benefits of the cool salt water gushing around our bodies was perfectly sufficient for us.

The onboard ship’s entertainment was of high standard, something you would no doubt pay in excess of $80 to $100 dollars a show and we saw three amazing shows, followed by the adults-only Comedy Shows, the comedy was certainly R rated, whilst delighting in the array of Martinis, especially French Martini and the variety of our chosen cocktails.

The enormous size of our ship, gave us plenty of exercises, we both would have walked up several hundred stairs, sometimes used the lifts, strolled along the ships various decks, including the shopping arcade, top of the ship, where I felt a little nervous looking down into the sea, had a bit of vertigo!

There were several activities onboard the ship every day, sometimes we found it difficult to make a decision on which activities to attend and or participate. Each day we would get a program, decide collectively what looked the best and then enjoy.

For the evening meal, we were seated in the main dining area with four other ladies, who turned out to be a great company. The table was directly in front of a huge round window where we could see the flow of the ship’s water churning out below and behind the ship.

The nicest treat at the evening meal, directly after our mains were served was the dancing waiters. All the waiters would encourage participation from the guests. Of course my sister and self just had to participate, what a hoot!

Now back in Coffs Harbour and reflecting on my ‘big ship’ cruise, would I do it all again? Absolutely!

Bring on 2019 and another big ship adventure.

 

 

First Christmas & New Year Celebration with my Sister in Over 40 Years

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How can you retrieve lost family togetherness years that have been missing for over 40 years for my sister Caroline?

As written previously in this blog, my half-sister Caroline was taken away from the family unit by her estranged mother, when she was only 8 years of age. Admittedly this was due to our father who had entered into another relationship and subsequently wanted to marry this other woman.

The life she endured with her mother, who had a mental illness, was something that has had a psychological effect on Caroline. She lived her life mostly in less than suitable shared housing and or social housing. She wasn’t educated how a child of 8 should have been. In her thirties, Caroline took herself off to TAFE NSW to gain some literacy skills, something that she still struggles to maintain.

When I heard that Caroline was going to spend another year pretty much alone over the Christmas and New Year period, I took it upon myself to arrange that she spend as much time with my daughter and myself in Coffs Harbour. This took some rearranging and discussion with her adult children, who were fostered out when they very young due to Caroline’s inability to care for the children, as she was a victim of the most horrific domestic violent relationship, which almost ended her life and has left her with ongoing disabilities.

Caroline resides in Wollongong and she has never flown in a plane, organising the tickets, as a surprise Christmas gift from her three children was the perfect gift for her. Although a nervous thought of flying all the way to Coffs Harbour via Sydney Airport was something that deep down she wanted desperately to do, spend Christmas with her eldest sister and of course my daughter. Caroline and I have not spent a Christmas together in more than 40 years; actually, this could even be longer.

Knowing she was confirmed to arrive on 18th December 2017 we looked into the 101 things you can do in and around Coffs, which wouldn’t cost a lot, but enjoyable.

After our welcome to our home Champagne drinks and nibbles, the following day we set off to take her up to Buxner Park lookout to view the entire Coffs Harbour and its beautiful mountains and how they spread down to the sea. Then off to pick blueberries at a local farm, where we collectively picked, dropped and sampled some of the fine blueberries. Unfortunately, this day was a bit too full on for her and after the nervousness of flying up to a subtropical location such as Coffs Harbour, she ended the day feeling quite ill. Rest day followed and this then became the desired method for her following few weeks.

The ventures included Christmas lights sightings, Solitary Island Marine Centre, Clog Barn where we ate horrible tuff scones with our coffees, Nambucca Heads, Macksville and Valley of the Mist, Woolgoolga Headlands, saw two great movies, visited our local RSL Clubs, which included a lesson from my daughter on how to play pool, stroll around the local markets at the newly developed Jetty Foreshores and the best of all a family Christmas lunch and New Year’s Eve celebration with us. We mustn’t forget the lots of cuddles and big sister talks for planning a better life ahead than what she has endured over many, many years.

She also witnessed one of our famous sub-tropical electrical storms, something she won’t forget in hurry.

We also managed to fit in a pre-birthday dinner for my daughter, born on Christmas Day at a great Italian Restaurant, Silvio’s.

Caroline is now back home in Wollongong knowing that her time here with us was special and that we are only a plane or train trip away, something to plan for the future in 2018.

One resolution she desires for the future is to go overseas to New Zealand. This is something achievable with some careful planning of finances could actually happen.

Great Gatsby Night

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Nothing describes the Gatsby Era more explicit than F. Scott Fitzgerald fictional novel ‘The Great Gatsby’. It was the 1920s an era of extremes of wealth and decadence.

Attending a recent Great Gatsby Annual Ball event, hosted by three local musical groups with a friend at downtown Park Beach Surf Club was a hoot. Everything from the moment you walked into the upstairs area of the surf club demonstrated the 1920s flawlessly. The room was decked out in the 1920s era; tables were beautifully decorated with large white feathers in high glass vases, candles adorned around pearl necklaces and the seating shone with gold shimmering coverings. It made us think we had stepped into a different era, well done Park Beach Surf Club!

On glancing around the room you could see hundreds of magnificent looking women in Gatsby gowns and furs, men is suitably clothed suites some with hats and artificial cigars. Some of the women pretended to smoke their cigarettes in long-stemmed cigarette holders.

We seemed to blend beautifully into the crowd with our outfits, which were in step with the 1920s style of headgear; feather Boer, sparkling top, long gown and artificial fur.

On arrival, we were greeted by two smiling men, one looking like a gangster. They handed us our free glass of wine tickets and we were encouraged to mill around the bar area with the other guests prior to taking up our places at one of the beautifully presented tables.

It wasn’t long before the entrées were placed, alternate drops, in front of us enabling a bit of entrée swapping to happen if we didn’t like what we received. Same alternate drop with the main meal. The choices were excellent selections and perfectly presented, which is not normal for a surf club. Park Beach Surf Club is the exception.

Dinner over it was time for best-dressed announcements followed by the racy music of the 1920s. Again a lot of thought had gone into ensuring the music was perfectly selected recordings and it encouraged almost everyone to head to the dance floor. Some of us, like me, thought that a quick Charleston moves would be in order, well only for a few dance moves. Perfect workout especially when a wine is being consumed.

This is one event to definitely attend again for next year!