wings and things

Feathers and figs

Well the whole lawn is strewn here and there with the feathers shed by our peacocks. Periodically I go around picking them up and last week Dina (my decluttering expert) tied them into bunches to be sold and she bought 20 herself, so I made $20!


Don’t worry. I don’t keep a display like this on top of the stove ordinarily; I just put them there for the picture.


As you can see, peacock feathers are varied. The above picture shows the underneath feathers.

The lawn underneath the two ancient fig trees is also strewn – with dead figs. Tip: never step on a dead fig and, if you do, clean the sole of your shoe immediately. Dead figs are like superglue!

I have been picking and giving away as many figs as I can because the heat is killing them off fast. This morning was a bit cooler so I picked heaps and they are now in a sink full of water to drown the ants. I’m taking them into the guys at the restaurant Ming works at. They go very well with blue cheese.


Picking figs always reminds me of Gar, Anthony’s mother. She would always want me to try to pick the topmost fig by hook or by crook and, yes, we usually used her walking stick to do so.


So, with the figs and feathers, I am feeling quite rich!


I can’t do this until I do that!


You know that feeling that you can’t do something you need to do until you do something else first? For example, here are some conversations with myself over the two-and-a-bit years since Anthony went into the nursing home:

I can’t have people visit until I clean the house from top to bottom;
– I can’t go on a diet until I have eaten all the cheese;
– I can’t sort my old paperwork until I have sorted my new paperwork (well I think I have a point there!)
– I can’t turn over a new leaf until Monday because Monday is a good day to turn over a leaf, or perhaps Sunday if the date is not an odd number (a little bit of OCD?);
– I can’t do the washing (laundry) until I find it;
– I can’t get back in touch with that old friend until I find all of her emails to me that I didn’t answer, and answer them.
– I can’t get a decluttering service to help me until I do some preliminary decluttering by myself (yes, this has worked to some extent);
– I can’t make healthy smoothies until I have the ingredients to make healthy smoothies with;
– I can’t write anything new until I sort out all my old writings (in case I find something potentially brilliant that has publication potential);
– I can’t blog until I’ve read everybody else’s blogs;
– I can’t have fun until I have solved all of the problems in my life and the world;
– I can’t think new thoughts until I have figured out all of the old thoughts;
– I can’t breathe easily until the person I love can breathe easily too (literally and figuratively);
– I can’t cook a beautiful meal until I feel hungry enough to do so;
– I can’t quit my old bad habits until I develop a comprehensive list of goals for new habits and that will take me a year or so;
– I can’t go back to work in any capacity until I am happy;
– I can’t get up early in the morning until I want to get up early in the morning;
– I can’t re-friend that person until I figure out why we became estranged;
– I can’t pick the figs until I figure out how not to be bitten by hundreds of ants;
– I can’t read this novel until I’ve read that novel….

These excuse-ridden conversations with myself go on and on and on and, even though the above conversations are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, all of the ‘can’ts’ and ‘untils’ have culminated in a great, big “I give up!” feeling of absolute hopelessness.

I kind of figured this out this morning as Dina (from Chaos-to-Clear) helped to declutter the back veranda which was crowded with boxes and crates of Ming’s baby toys, legal documents, empty diaries, sentimental quotes, letters, postcards, a lot of photos, and a multitude of bits and pieces. She and I could both see how I had obviously tried from time to time to organise all of the ‘stuff’ but I had to swallow my embarrassment at all of this spider-webbed clutter!

This is a photo of before Dina arrived:


It took around four hours to clear/sort/discard/box up/categorise most of the veranda stuff and at 2pm we stopped and I looked at what we had done. The feeling of freedom and elation was indescribably good. And then that feeling was trumped by the feeling of hope!

And it is only now that I see, in retrospect, that I must have been in a state of absolute despair, to let the house and its contents get the better of me in terms of clutter! Of course this was not just because of Anthony going into the nursing home (that was terrible enough) but all of the ghastly other stuff that happened in those two blurry years – Ming’s surgery, my mother’s broken bones after falling twice, the car accident which I can hardly bear to think/talk/write about despite the fact that everyone survived.

I have written about all of these things in past blog posts but I am reluctant to re-visit those posts because….

– I can’t re-visit all of this painful stuff until I learn how to stand up straight and tall and and smile at the monster!


Note to Ming: I promise not to go to the dump with the rubbish until you get back from your holiday. We shook hands about this so please trust me! (This deal he and I made is another story!)


Overcoming the terror of getting a massage.

Tomorrow I am seeing a person who I have known about for some time. She is a qualified personal trainer and masseur and she is the daughter of my friends who own our local butcher’s shop. I don’t quite know why I am so terrified but it is probably due to the fact that I don’t particularly like taking my clothes off and I am really hoping not to have to do that ….

Today I finally got the courage to go to Karissa’s place for a massage and it was fantastic to meet this wonderful young woman, and to have everything explained so clearly before and during the massage. Karissa has this way of making even a somewhat tactile-defensive person like me be okay with taking most of my clothes off, drape myself with towels and lie face down on the massage bench. Karissa left the room while I prepared myself and then she knocked on the door before re-entering the room. I was nervous and feeling naked but then all of that nervous nakedness succumbed to her respectful covering of my lower body with towels and then the massage itself. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the massage (having only had a couple of these in my life) so I was a bit shocked when Karissa found these painfully ticklish points in my back, neck and shoulders. After the session, I had to go to work at the nursing home and I felt quite giddy with both the effects of the massage AND the discovery of this amazing practitioner.

Thank you, Karissa, for eradicating the terror!


Small mercies

I have just found out that my lifestyle assistant/occupation therapy role in the dementia house of the nursing home where I work part-time will now allow me to feed those residents who can’t feed themselves. I will also be allowed to serve food and drinks (previously a no-no due to the risks of choking/dysphagia) but now that I have seen the training dvd twice, and filled out the dysphagia quiz/questionairre, I am allowed to help, rather than hover, during mealtimes.

Not only that, the three of us who alternate in this role have had our 3-6pm shifts extended by an hour – to 7pm – which is a wonderful idea because it will allow for a more relaxing atmosphere before and after meals.

I am still finding my feet in this job and today I felt a bit at a loss when the wheelchair walking was limited to inside (due to the heat – 36ish) and, after taking F, Y and B through the inside of the complex, from house to house, I came back to find that M’s daughter had begun a very successful table ball game (rolling a plastic ball to and fro).

M’s daughter is really competent with this game thing, whereas I am still a newbie and not very good at playing games, so I am learning a lot from her. She visits her mother every single day at the same time and when I see her I feel relieved to have her bingo expertise!

It is hard sometimes to find ways to provide entertainment because I am pretty hopeless at card games and jigsaws and arts and craft; I much prefer a conversation and today B and I had a hilarious one.

E, the OT boss, says that to be unhurried is good and to go with the flow is even better but it is harder than I thought it would be to just relax into this role. The unpredictability of how each of the ten women feel each day from 3pm is, of course, the governing cue and if someone is anxious she is the first person I comfort either with a hug or a walk or a conversation. Today, S. was, as usual, crying so I said, “C’mon, S, it’s not that bad!” And she looked up at me, bared her teeth and said, “Okay, Mum!” We all laughed – residents and staff.

B said “Told you so” in her droll way, Y said “Leave me aloooooone!” and J, who hardly ever shows any feelings, smiled at me just before I was finally allowed to give her dessert.

Small, wonderful mercies!


The end of an era

Well today I said goodbye to the last of our geese, and the duck, Zaruma (pictured above). The first photos (below) are from 2011 when all except Godfrey were little. The latter photos show them all grown up. The reason? Too many casualties via foxes and the dogs who lately have been able to get out of their yard by hook or by crook and they attacked my beloved Zaruma the other day (that was my turning point).

So I was having to pen the birds 24/7 plus the dogs versus birds argument was becoming a regular source of conflict between Ming and me. So Ming advertised them on the internet and an animal loving couple came to pick them up at 1pm yesterday.

I was dreading it and didn’t even want to be here at the time but Ming was at work so I had to be. I didn’t want to see Woody, Seli, Ola, Diamond, Zaruma, and even grumpy old Godfrey, traumatised.

Well I needn’t have worried. Belinda and Tom arrived with a trailer and a few big cages, water containers, and when she saw my eyes fill, she gave me a big bear hug and told me to go inside while they caught “the gang”. So I did and wrote all their names on a piece of paper then made myself go back outside immediately to oversee things.

AMAZINGLY, Tom had simply gone up to Godfrey and picked him up, carried him to their station wagon and put him in a cage in the back without the slightest fuss from Godfrey! For those who don’t know, Godfrey is the gang boss and has been so protective of the others since they were little that he turned aggressive, and he BITES! But he didn’t even attempt to bite Tom.

Even though the rest are so tame I could easily have picked them up and put them in the other cage, I just couldn’t do it because I was so sad. So Belinda and Tom did it and talked softly to them to calm the more panicky ones (Woody – oh my poor heart!) and it only took around 10 minutes – smooth and gentle and I felt incredibly relieved!

Belinda and Tom live two hours away but they are better equipped, with huge yards for all of their poultry, big swimming ‘pools’ etc. so it’s wonderful to know they are going to a great place and will be there by now. We have exchanged email addresses so she can send me some reassuring photos, so I feel great about it all now.

But after they left, I cried like a baby. I will miss them and the amazing peace they brought me in the months before Anthony went into the nursing home.


Thank you, Belinda and Tom.
Goodbye, Gang.



Lately I haven’t felt like reading or writing anything much. Despite this temporary aversion to words, I have plodded in and out of other people’s blogs and/or Facebook posts and have begun copy/pasting bits of my own blog into a possible book about Anthony and Parkinson’s disease but the initial buzz of this latest project has abated to a low hum. I know that this is worthwhile so will continue but re-reading the bits and pieces of posts I have written over the last three years of our unwilling venture into the landscape of Parkinson’s disease and dementia seems to have rendered me wordless. I draw enormous encouragement and inspiration from other people’s words but have become sick and tired of my own wilting voice.

The strangest thing about my own silence has been in acknowledging other people’s silence, especially those with dementia with whom I interact at the nursing home in my new part-time job as ‘lifestyle assistant’. Initially (a few weeks ago) I accompanied the wheelchair walks with my loud voice – admiring flowers, pictures on walls, the automatic door, the delicious smells coming from the kitchen etc. But, over the last couple of days, I wheeled various women around the gardens of the nursing home property in silence – just listening to whatever they had to say or, if the person were unable to speak, I shut up too. The unbusy silence of these short journeys seemed somehow wrong at first but I now see how my silence allows whoever is in the wheelchair to smell the roses, see the pictures, hear the greetings of staff, touch the hands or shoulders of other residents, and converse with everyone we come across.

I have never loved a job as much as I love this job, but some of the lessons learned, via the different kinds of emotional suffering people with dementia endure, leave me speechless. Touch has become much more important than words and, even though I am a huggy person, hand massages aren’t really my forte but these really work in calming some people down.

Now that Anthony has entered this dementia phase of Parkinson’s, I am learning once again how to listen better, how to shut up, and how to be comfortable with silence. I really believe in this silence thing now but am not sure. I know that with Ants my silent presence in his room, or wheelchair walking around the grounds, frees him from the responsibility of conversation now that he has kind of lost track of language.

Anyway, perhaps, sometimes, silence IS golden.


Everything (a poem)

When you are inside the blah balloon
floating above the world,
tossed about by moody winds

you can see everything, EVERYTHING
up, west, down, left, north, right, east, here, south, and, yes, there too!

And in between all of the circumferences, you have
a clear, detailed view
of the whole wide world, but

from the blah balloon, your view is distorted
by plastic
and motion sickness
and fear of falling.

So what do you do?
Do you stay inside your safe, up-in-the-air balloon
upset and shocked that in the whole wide world
you are absent?

Or do you scream triumphantly,
pierce the wall of the balloon with your un-rude finger,
fall to the ground with a THUMP

stand up,



Anthony book 1: Three years

January 9, 2015

This week marks the third year that Anthony was admitted into the nursing home for respite and never came home again.

Except to visit. The shock of it.

This is what I wrote in my blog at the time:

Jan 11 2012 Breaking

Yesterday, Son and I broke the news to Husband that his two weeks in the nursing home lodge might need to be extended, might even be indefinite and that this has been recommended by three of his doctors. Son reinforced this by starting a verbal sparring match:
Son: We can’t look after you anymore, Dad!
Husband: Well, you’re not much of a son, are you!
Me: C’mon, guys, give it a rest.
Son: Dad, can’t you see you need nursing care?
Husband: I’ll get better – wait and see. Don’t give up on me. Where’s my wife?
Son: Her name is Julie, Dad, and she’s crying in the bathroom as usual.
Husband: What the hell is she doing that for?
Me: Sorry, just had to go to the loo.
Husband: Are you okay? You look terrible. You really need a haircut.
Me: I know.
Son: Argh – I’ll meet you out in the car, Mum. Bye, Dad.
Husband: Wait – give me a hug.
Me: He’s okay; he’s a teenager.
Husband: Why is he so ….?
Me: He’s angry.
Husband: I love you two more than life.
Me: Us too.
Husband: You better go.
Me: Yeah, the brat’s waiting – give me a hug.
Husband: See you tomorrow?
Me: See you tomorrow.
Breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking, breaking…. br

Perhaps it is this strange anniversary of almost unbearable emotional pain that has rendered me numbly bleak (bleakly numb?) over the last few days.

Lately, the shiny wonder of having discovered different ways of happily being in the nursing home for so many hours per day with Anthony has begun to show its first lace-like signs of rust.



The elusive parrot


I bet you can’t even see him! Every morning I wake up and through my bedroom window I see these guys all over the giant pear tree but as soon as I venture outside with my camera they hide!

I’ve never seen this variety of parrot here before but then again my observation skills are not well honed and it may be that I have mistaken this breed of parrot for the very common ‘Twenty-eight’ parrot. Here is a link to information about the 28

Unlike the 28, this elusive parrot is multi-coloured – greeny blue at first glance but with an underside of red, yellow and sometimes a red cap – absolutely beautiful! I’m going to keep on trying to get a decent photo but it is difficult to see them in amongst the pears.


It feels like a bit of an adventure to me – figuring out what kind of parrot this is, and training myself in the art of observation (and getting up early again, early-bird-catches-worm and all that!)

Once upon a time I would have been shocked at the idea of bird-watching, picking flowers, noticing the sunset, growing tomatoes (okay well I grew two before they died), cooking a curry from scratch, listening to music without doing something else at the same time. I would have thought what a waste of time! But now all the wing flits, the snow of wattle blossoms on the lawn, the aroma of a simmering curry, and the constant squawking of the crows, peacocks and this elusive parrot – all of of this life stuff, simple, small, daily details – makes me appreciate every single moment I have left with Anthony.


The peacock dance

Every morning at around the same time, King and Prince do this incredibly synchronized dance next to the water tank. Usually I watch them from the bedroom window but today I went out to take some photos and when they saw me they seemed to put some extra effort into their routine. A couple of the females came up to me in the hope of bread but when they saw I had none, they turned up their beaks as if to say ‘well you’re just as useless as those two fools flirting with the water tank.’

The peahens’ indifference to the peacocks’ efforts is hilarious to watch and it is a wonder to me that any chicks are produced at all! Anyway, I watched the peacocks dance for about an hour (yes they can do their routine for well over an hour; it must be exhausting), then I came inside with a big smile.

I will take the photos in to show the women in the dementia wing of the nursing home where I volunteer on the weekends between 3 and 4pm, and to show Anthony of course.




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