Best Party Ever

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With all that has gone on in my life over the past twelve months or more, like separating from my ex-husband, including settling on a financial arrangement to enable myself to keep the house that I purchased entirely out of my resources seven years ago. Then to one of the saddest happenings in my life, the passing of my dearly loved 92-year-old father on 6th February.

A little under two months on I felt it was time to stop stressing and really celebrate life. So I went about planning the most amazing milestone Birthday Party ever on the 4th April.

Friends and close relatives from Sydney, including my eldest daughter, her husband and my grandsons came to Coffs Harbour to help me not only celebrate my milestone Birthday but a freedom party from the controlling ex-husband as well.

Two of my work-related colleagues from Sydney; now close friends surprised me with the musical, including singing entertainment, which enabled everyone, especially me to dance the night away. The music was so wonderful, that it encouraged everyone to dance; some who hadn’t danced for years got up and strutted around the floor. If guests couldn’t dance for whatever reason, they sang along with the perfectly chosen music.

This was the first birthday celebration without my ex-husband, whom I had known for nineteen years, but only married for the past seven years, looking annoyed at everyone enjoying their selves, especially me.

There wasn’t an ounce of sadness during the evening only enjoyment and happiness filled my house. Friends and relatives from Sydney met my friends in Coffs Harbour and the conversations just flowed abundantly.

When you are fortunate to have good friends and the most amazing family, life is good, never undervalue what you have in the decency of your chosen friends and of course family, they are the people that help you make your life so enjoyable.

I certainly value my friends and wonderful family and try not to take them for granted.

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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!      

Living With Someone Who Makes You Feel All Alone

The trigger for commencing writing this story was after reading a quote from the deceased actor Robin Williams

“I used to think that worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not.

The worst thing in life is the end up with people that make you feel all alone.

-Robin Williams, Actor”

I can concur with feeling ‘all alone’ in a marriage.

For the past, nearly seven years up until nine months ago when we decided to separate, a decision at the time was very painful for me, but the right thing to do, as our marriage was too difficult when the other party has unresolved issues, which they are not prepared to work on resolving.

To remedy my loneliness’ in our marriage I got involved in community projects, where I felt that I was making a difference in the community. In an attempt to encourage my husband, I tried to get him interested in similar projects which he would enjoy.

Unfortunately, he had no interest in anything much, just wanted me by his side 24 x 7 doing nothing much, other than the occasional coffee at a café’ where he would read the café’s newspaper and I would attend to my iPhone’s emails and messages. Some existence!

When you are an active person, who I am, sitting around the house doing nothing is not the type of existence in my older years, especially when I retired early from senior management positions.

Now nine months on from our separation, I feel more content and certainly not feeling alone.

The Magic of Yamba

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With one of the most stressful years’s nearly over for me, I had the wonderful pleasure of spending Christmas 2014 with my eldest daughter, her husband and the grandsons in Yamba NSW. My youngest daughter, who also celebrated her birthday joining us on Christmas day together with my best friends, topped this Christmas off for me.

Yamba is a quaint little coastal town only 150 kilometers from where I live on the Mid North Coast. It is best known for its magnificent prawns, which we managed to devour together with all the Christmas trimmings.

Waiting at the wharf on Christmas Eve at 6am for the prawn trawlers to come in with their fresh catch gave us pleasure knowing that our prawns would be fresh as and that they would last, well hope for a few days made waking up so early beneficial. Although by Boxing Day the thought of having to eat more prawns was starting to wear off, we managed.

The unbelievable pleasure of waking up each morning to the best ever sunrises over the lake was spectacular! All I wanted to do was just sit and stare into the early morning sun rising while drinking my cup of tea, grab the camera and click away! The cup of tea tasted so special. Everything that had gone on throughout the year for me seemed to fade away into insignificance, well for a while anyway.

I am now back home and ready to start off another year with renewed vigor, which will hopefully give me the strength to ensure that 2015 is a year where I can start afresh, plan the life that I want and be with whomever I want to be with.

Thanks to my eldest daughter, Corinne and her husband, Nigel for inviting me to join them on their wonderful holiday in Yamba, NSW. It has given me time to reflect on my life with renewed enthusiasm.

Wake Up Call

This is not about waking up to go to work, attending an appointment or anything like that it is about realising after spending the last week with my elderly Father, who is gravely ill and hasn’t really come to terms with preparing for his passing.

As stressful as this week may have been for everyone, especially for myself having to drive down from Coffs Harbour to Sydney in the pouring rain knowing that my Father had been given only a few days to live.

Then after nearly a week later being advised that he can be released from hospital to a nursing home with palliative care facilities.

Watching the relieved look on my Dad’s face knowing that he could actually live a bit longer and be near his wife, my stepmother of 40 years, also helped with relieving some of the angst that I had been feeling for the past week.

All that has occurred during this week has become my personal ‘wake up call’ to commence my own planning stages for my passing when I return back home to Coffs. From preparing a contingency plan in case I am incapacitated and not able to make an informed decision about my future health to what I want my passing to be like; a celebration of my life or allowing everyone to be sad and mourn indefinitely. The former ‘celebration of life’ is my chosen plan.

Not coming to terms with your final days and not planning your passing arrangements isn’t being realistic.

I don’t want to leave any of these details to my daughters; apart from ensuring my wishes are fulfilled.

Being Entertained by a Cat

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My life has dramatically changed over the past six months, especially with happily having my youngest daughter residing with me. Included in this deal is inheriting a 5-year-old Himalayan cat named Coco with a nickname of ‘Old Man’, due to his snoring.

Over these last six months, there hasn’t been a day go by without experiencing the unusual personality of a Himalayan cat. One minute a sloth and the next minute full of mischief and charging up and down the halls, in and out of the rooms, hiding in the cupboards or underneath beds, most of all we are entertained by his mischief antics.

It is like having a naughty little child, who actually knows that what he is up too is sometimes a no, no!

As soon as I commence preparing the evening meal especially if there is meat or chicken on the menu, Coco comes bouncing out of where ever he is lazing about and sits right where you are trying to prepare the meal.

With his gorgeous blue eyes looking up at you with that “what about me” look on his face. Who would not give into him and say, “ok here is some”.

Within seconds of devouring the food, he is back by your side wilfully gazing at you again!

Watching this little cat relax back on his hind legs getting ready to pounce at trying to get something off the coffee table or wilfully jump onto the ‘no-go kitchen bench top’ is so funny, especially when he charges off into the opposite direction after he has been caught. Giving you the impression he didn’t do anything wrong, yes right!

Coco has recently taken up a new role of guarding the front door when the main door is left open. He just sits there gazing out of the screen door, watching everything that happens, cars driving by, people walking past and insects flying around. Sometimes he has a visiting neighbour’s cat, and then he does his little cat-singing episode, which is a bit eerie!

If anything other than a cat comes directly to the front door he scurries off and generally hides underneath a lounge. Our big brave guard cat is not so brave after all!

Being entertained by a hyperactive/sloth cat called Coco is something that gives me a lot of pleasure and most of all it is free entertainment.

Have You Ever Tried to Change Your Name?

Well, I attempted to change my name from my married name of Mouafi back to my maiden name ‘Lorraine Penn’.

My banking account was a breeze; just showed my birth and current marriage certificate and bingo I now have my new account.

Centrelink was another story. The message that greets you when you walk into the office ‘in line or online’.

The trouble with online is you can’t do everything that is required, especially when I am trying to change my name back to maiden name. After going online to change my bank account name details via MyGov, which isn’t instant. I phoned Centrelink’s call centre and the details were changed, but I still had to go to Centrelink to verify my details and to get in that never-ending queue just to prove it is I.

My arrival time at Centrelink Office was 2.25pm I got to see a Centrelink person at 3.40pm, after being asked to wait in the green chairs area.

Needless to say, the Centrelink person couldn’t change my Medicare details, as it is a different department. Back in the bloody queue again, this time I had progressed to the red chairs to wait for another 15 minutes before the Medicare person called out my new name.

One process of name change completed in 1hr and 20 minutes via a Government Department.

It will be another month before I attempt to change my license; I need to recover from today’s experience.

A Blast From The Past

A wonderful reflection on the past happened to me recently, when I reconnected with a lady who taught me how to belly dance over an outrageous weekend approximately 20 years ago in a quaint little railway town near Lithgow NSW.

At the time, a work colleague and best friend had convinced me that taking time out from the stresses of our work and to learn something new was going to be beneficial, rewarding and fun for the both of us.

Thinking that I could actually learn how to belly dance over a weekend was going to be a challenge, but hey I am always up for a challenge, especially when fun was going to be had.

On arriving at the weekend venue we could see a large sign ‘Bellydancers Extraordinary Here Tomorrow Night’ across the front of the next-door building, a hotel. Wow! We both thought and booked ourselves into the accommodation whilst greeting other ladies who were also up for the challenge.

A gentleman who had attended a business course during the week decided to stay over the weekend to see these belly dancers too, especially the ones learning the skill. He was completely in his element, having an array of women wanting to learn to dance.

He took it upon himself to escort us the following night to the hotel to see these Extraordinary Dancers!

Overnight this little town had grown substantially with railway men deciding to also see these belly dancers! To our shock horror, the belly dancers extraordinary were actually we learner ladies!

With some polite fast-talking and a lot of laughter enabled everyone, especially myself have a terrific weekend.

A Day at the Races

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There’s hardly a person to be seen in uptown Coffs Harbour as it is the 7th August and it’s Coffs Golden Cup Race Day!

I, together with my daughter have decided to join the crowd at the local races to do what everyone else does, bet on horses. But there is one big problem, I have no idea about how to bet on horses, nor does my daughter.

On entry into the racing club, I spotted a local business colleague, so I approached him. “Steve, how are you, can you spare me a minute?” With a surprised look, he responded, “Yes”.

“Steve like everyone else here today we want to enjoy ourselves and bet on some races, but I have no idea how to read the racing guide, can you give me a quick lesson?” He took hold of the racing guide clutched lovingly in my hand and begins to explain in what I would describe as a true punter style, which went in one ear and directly out the other. All I could comprehend was how much money the various horses had won and thought “hey this could be fun”.

The colleague standing with Steve at the time looked at my astounded facial expression and said: “if all fails just pick the horse that has the best-coloured silk shirt on the jockey”. Now that is my type of betting, simple but fun.

I hurriedly went back to the corporate ten to join my daughter, colleagues, and clients, where I proceeded to explain what I had learned about betting.

It appeared that my ability to demonstrate what I had learned was not sufficient for my daughter, but she too caught on about how much money the various horses had won. So she became our official runner to the TAB to do the betting.

Her strategy proved to be highly successful, as we won or came second in every race. She learned very quickly the importance of betting ‘win and place’ after the first race, where she had put the bet on a ‘win’ only and it came second. If we had bet ‘win and place’ our take home precedes would have amounted to some real money for the day.

You certainly couldn’t put a price on the day as overall we had the best time ever, jumping about grabbing one another when we could see our horse nearing the finishing line. We must have looked like two women off their faces, but hey we were enjoying ourselves.

A few days later I ran into Steve and he asked, “How did you go to the races?” To which I replied “we had a blast, we won $’s in every race” he replied; “great, you must have come out with heaps of money!” “Well not really as we only bet $1 to win and place”. He didn’t’ have to respond to the look on his face said it all.

However, for us, it was the best day ever!

We will be back next year and this time we will go the full hog and bet at least $2 each way!

What My Favourite Teacher Taught Me

Back in 2005, I was asked to contribute an inspirational story about one of my favourite school teachers for a collection of inspirational stories selected by my colleague and friend Robyn Henderson’s book ‘What My Favourite Teacher Taught Me’.

Read on…

Mrs. Bell, my math’s teacher, is the lady who taught me that understanding mathematics is critical to acquiring knowledge and having the ability to analyse information.

At the time, back in the late 1950s at Arncliffe Girl’s High, this was far removed from what I was interested in. But for some reason, her words stuck in my mind and have surfaced over and over during my entire life. What I learned from her has actually contributed to where I am today.

Back in the 1950s, I tended to challenge life and teachers. I can clearly remember Mrs. Bell speaking to me in rather loud tones when I was questioning her knowledge of math’s or disrupting the class by talking about the boys at Tempe Boys’ High School. Even knowing she was, without a doubt, one of the best teachers I had ever encountered, I constantly tested per patients. I was a high achiever and even if I didn’t take in all the lessons I could deliver excellent results at exam time, achieving top grades for three consecutive years. Mrs. Bell persisted with me, this ‘challenging natured’ person, whilst managing to assist the girls who found math’s impossible.

My working life commenced when I took a position in the exciting world of advertising as an accountant using the (then) latest technology in bookkeeping machines – Remington Addo X 8000. This was demanding in itself, being able to program the required ledger you wanted to work on when programming was still in its infancy.

This led me into the computer industry, initially as an accountant and then taking on the new role of Reseller Manager, whilst maintaining the financial control of the organisation.

For ten years my career has moved into developing business by improving internal communication strategies, being client focused, researching new growth market opportunities and strengthening business processes for the commercial training arm of TAFE NSW, TAFE PLUS.

When I think about my career I now realise that the words of Mrs. Bell have rung true for me. ‘Learning and understanding math’s is one of the most important fundamentals of acquiring knowledge and having the ability to analyse information.’ This has actually contributed to where I am today. Thanks, Mrs. Bell.