Category Archives: Family

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.

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 Uncle Mayson Penn Our Anzac Hero

 

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Between 2014 and 2018 Australia will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since our nation’s involvement in the First World War.

It was fascinating to find out through my sister Deb Smith that we actually have an Anzac Hero in our family heritage.

Thanks to Deb’s searching ability on Ancentry.com where they recently released new information about World War 1 Anzacs that she managed to find a photo of our Great Uncle Mayson Penn who died at Gallipoli in 1915.

Great Uncle Mayson immigrated to Australia from England with our Dad’s father William Mossop Penn in 1912 and two years later war broke out in Europe. Similar to a lot of young men at that time, he enlisted at Liverpool in Sydney and joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) 19th Battalion.

Unfortunately, he died whilst leaving the trenches to fight on Hill 60 on 25th August 1915 and is buried at Lone Pine War Memorial at Gallipoli (his photo and name are inscribed in the photos attached).

To imagine that he traveled from England all the way to Australia for a better life only to travel back to Europe and be killed fighting for Australia is a heartbreak, as it was for the families of 60,000 who were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed or taken as prisoners’.

When we acknowledge ANZACS in years to come, we will be thinking of our Great Uncle Mayson Penn, a factual Anzac Hero.

Excitement Abound

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One of the most exciting events occurred recently when I planned and ventured on my road trip to finally meet up with my sister Caroline and her children, the children whom I have never met, to help celebrate her 53rd birthday.

It had been over forty years since I last saw my sister, the last time she would have been about eight years of age.

The excitement felt took over me, what if I got too emotional and fell apart by just seeing her?

Caroline sighted us before we saw her, she yelled out “their here”. What wonderful music to my ears just to hear her voice after all the years.

The forty years seemed to just fade away, she looked the same, of course, older, as we both were, but the same little girl stood there in front of me. We hugged, cried, talked continually and just stared at one another.

Throughout her birthday lunch celebration, I couldn’t stop glancing at Caroline, she was so much like our Dad, she has the same glare when concentrating on the conversation, raised eyebrows expression just like our dearly passed Dad.

Looking across and down the table at my nieces and nephew, which I have never met appeared to be strange, but wonderful. Added to the wonder is a sweet little two-year-old grand niece, her big brown eyes just melted you away. She too has that similar expression to Caroline, so sweet!

How do you really catch up on all those lost forty years? Obvious you can’t you just live for the moment, talk about anything and everything, giving particular attention to how she is feeling. Her excitement was contagious and this, of course, positioned the mood for everyone.

Frozen In Time

After recently finalising my will I arranged a suitable time to discuss with my daughters the ‘what and why’ I included certain content, especially around ‘enduring guardianship’ in my will.

This discussion was one that my youngest daughter couldn’t comprehend, as just mentioning the “if I am in a vegetable condition to pull the plug”, obviously a more legal terminology describes my intent in the document.

She thought for a while and said with a sheepish tone “oh well, we could just freeze you and when the medical profession finds a solution as to how they could cure you and bring you back to life in say 20 years, you could end up being our age, just like another sister”.

These comments changed our emotional thinking; especially mine, not that I would ever think of such a strange concept, but the notion of having some immediate fun with this idea was an opportunity too good to miss.

I directed the conversation to my son-in-law who was sitting directly opposite me and said: “just think about it Nigel I could come back after being frozen for 20 years and end up being your sister-in-law instead of the Mother-in-law”. The look on his face explained totally what he was thinking.

The House That Snores

It is a beautiful sunny day and I am stuck in trying to finalise some financials documents and all I can hear is snoring!

The rather loud snoring is not only coming from my daughter who works overnight shift work and of course, sleeps through the day. Having just completed seven nights straight in a row without any days off, her only way of demonstrating that she is exhausted is the level of snoring, sounds like a train is coming through the house!

To top off the snoring brigade in the house is her gorgeous Himalayan cat, also currently sound asleep and snoring on the office doormat, just a few meters from where I am trying to balance the financials, which is currently out by $600. His sound is not strained like; it is more muffled, like someone with asthma.

Despite the day beckoning me to come outside into the winter sunshine, I know that trying to find the ‘out of balance’ amount is vital for my contentment.

With all the non-harmonised snoring currently occurring around me, it has become disturbing, but absolutely cute when I look towards the office doormat and see such a contented bundle of ‘fluff ball’ sound asleep Himalayan cat, snoring with asthma-like symptoms all due to his snout!

Perhaps the best solution is to stop trying to find the answer to my financial query and take a novel, grab a coffee and sit outside on the balcony and enjoy this wonderful winter sunshine.

The Passing of a Loved One

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How do you actually prepare yourself for the passing of a loved one?

In my case, it was my dearly loved Dad, aged 92.  After suffering from the dreaded ‘C’ word over the past few years and especially the extremely painful last six months, he passed away peacefully on 6th February 2015.

It was hard living 500 kilometres’ away from him, even though I had visited him several times during these last several months, it wasn’t the same as being with him all the time, as my sisters and stepmother were.

Just before he passed, he managed with the wonderful assistance of my sister Cheryl, to phone and me murmur the words ‘I love you’ and within an hour he had passed away.

I knew straight away when my phone rang that it wasn’t good news. My sister Cheryl was crying uncontrollably, which immediately started my emotional decline into howling to the point of being ill.

Knowing that his time would eventually come didn’t help with the emotional feelings that had now taken over me affecting everything that I did.

Within a few days, it was a family having to pull together and plan his funeral service. Cheryl was absolutely amazing, where her strength came from I don’t know, but the love she had, as I did, for Dad excelled her into planning with my step Mother the most amazing funeral service at the Cemetery where Dad’s Mother was buried. This was his only wish to be buried near to his own Mother.

When Cheryl discussed with me ‘who and what was going to be included in the eulogy’. I said that this is something that I would be honoured to do, which I did. However, after penning the eulogy, my mind went into overdrive about all the wonderful things Dad had done for me over the many years, especially when I was young and without a Mother myself.

The decision to write in addition to the eulogy being delivered by the Celebrant I decided my own personal eulogy as a tribute to my Dad was going to be written.

This was the hardest undertaking that I have ever tried to do. I managed somehow to pull myself together and the strength came right through me to write and deliver the eulogy at my Dad’s funeral service.

Knowing he was looking down on all of us with his love shining through me and with the help of my sister Cheryl beside me I read this eulogy.

‘What Dad Meant to Me’

I have chosen to say a few words about what my Father meant to me, let’s hope I am able to get through this.

We all know what a wonderful loving man our Father was, but most of you don’t know how special he was for me. From the age of 11 my Dad became Mother and Father, as my brother Laurie and myself lost our mother Olga, she left us. Dad stepped in to be the best at everything, with a little help from his Mother, our grandmother Elsie Maude.

Being so young I needed desperately a mother, it wasn’t good enough to say it will be all right when clearly a young girl needs a Mother. Dad tried to be everything by attending those parent-teacher meetings, to driving me to tap dancing classes, marching girls and basketball championships. Even saving my backside at a time when I was threatened with expulsion from a girl’s school for sliding down the bannisters and knocking over the Headmistress.

During my teenage years I used to daydream constantly about having a sister, Dad not only produced a sister he produced three sisters Deborah, Cheryl and Carolyn, a dream that came true for me! Love you, Deb and Cheryl.

Something that resonated in my head throughout my life is how Dad would say to me when I was growing up “I will support whatever you decide to do in your life”. Although some of my decisions were not the best over the years, like getting married too young and then getting married for the second time in my later years.

The best decision of getting married so young was producing two wonderful daughters Corinne and Roanne, to which I am so extremely proud of and I know Dad, your grandfather was proud of you too. During the ceremony of my second marriage in 2007, Dad announced to everyone “I gave her away once, let’s hope she doesn’t come back”. Sorry, Dad!

You might laugh; resolving a difficult situation is hard, but not as hard as losing such an exceptional Father. I love you Dad, you will always be in my heart and mind forever!