wings and things

From listless to listful

Over the last few weeks I have discovered something wonderful about lists. You know, the kinds of lists that read like this:

– pay bills
– ride bike
– groceries (don’t forget toilet paper!)
– change bedsheets and do the washing
– vacuum house
– write 1,000 words of new book
– ring plumber
– buy new hoses to replace leaky ones
– see Anthony
– cook a healthy meal
– catch up with other people’s blogs
– wash car
– plan next week with Ming
– ring Mother to arrange lunch
– start new filing system
– get prescriptions from chemist
– book lawnmowing people
– do tax
– return library books
– start taking photos again
– start praying again
– make soup
– make a cake for Anthony and Ming
– go to bed earlier and get up earlier
– do a cull of clothes
– sort out rubbish to take to the dump
– do tomorrow’s list

Okay so, despite the fact that none of the above tasks is, in itself, onerous, it was this kind of list, that rendered me listless. (Interestingly, the word ‘list’ derives from the Middle English word, ‘pleasure’). I would only ever be able to accomplish a few of my listed tasks, I would then feel like a failure….

Eventually, I realized that this kind of list-making was making me extremely unhappy, so much so that I could hardly face each and every day. I resented each and every task I didn’t get done and each and every goal that went by the wayside.

Nevertheless, every night I would make another list for the following day. Energized by a pre-midnight spark of incentive, I would make more do-able lists. But with no job to go to, with no Anthony at home to care for, and with Ming out of school, there was rarely anything on my lists that couldn’t wait, so it felt as if I were continually failing myself.

As a result, the familiar depression curled itself into a small bundle of rock-hard heartburn that only left me alone when I was asleep. So I slept away many days in June until, on the 29th, I woke up with a new idea; I would write my daily lists differently; I would write them backwards instead of forwards; I would write what I had done every day instead of what I should do.

– paid all of the bills
– communed with dogs
– did all folding and put a load of washing on
– cleaned kitchen meticulously
– made a cake!
– saw Anthony from 1 – 4.30
– bought a bunch of coriander for the first time in my life
– made a curry from scratch
– washed hair
– communed with birds
– watched a show with Ming
– began reading a library book

To have done even some of the things I had listed as to-do for weeks (but not done), catapulted me out of my fug and into a fantastically different way of seeing each day. Now, with my listful notebook always handy, I list every single little thing I do on every single day – everything from washing my hair to planting strawberries; everything from poaching eggs to making friends with a new resident at the nursing home; everything from catching up with long-lost relatives to picking camellias for Anthony’s room.

This new listful method has also evolved into a better daily routine whereby I am in the nursing home every afternoon, seeing Anthony, doing the volunteering, seeing Anthony again and usually getting home by 6pm.

It is so wonderful to NOT be listless!


Ming was successful in his audition!

For those who don’t know, Ming has been doing ‘extra’ work over the last couple of weeks but last week he had to properly audition for a more serious role and he got the part! It’s only for a trailer for a film/TV series pitch so it is very early days but of course I am already seeing his name in lights haha! He is the main supporting role in what looks like a political drama comedy and he will play the part of a rather arrogant young up-and-coming politician.

As the rehearsals and filming will take part in Perth (2 hours away), he will be staying with friends and family as he has done for the last couple of weeks. I told him to increase the list of possibilities so that people wouldn’t get sick of him, but he just said, “Mum, who could ever get sick of me?” I decided not to answer that question.

So exciting!


Sweet and Sour

I don’t like sweets, desserts, chocolates, lollies, and would much rather have cheese and crackers.

This morning, Ming and I went into town to pick up Anthony for a doctor’s appointment for both of them (I am the mere chauffeur – ha!). Ants needed one of his skin cancers burned off with the liquid nitrogen spray thingy, and Ming needed a new prescription for something.

Tonight, when I rang Ants to say goodnight (this only seems to work every few days), a nurse answered and immediately handed the new telephone receiver to him.

I said I was just ringing to say goodnight and he said that this was very sweet of me and, after we hung up, I remembered how, initially (when he was 41 and I was 17), he was so horrible to me but, occasionally said things like “Jules, you are so sweet!”


The littlest peachick

Yesterday morning, just outside the back door, you took bread from my hand for the first time,
even though you are the littlest peachick.
Surrounded by your peacock father and his brothers, surrounded by your peahen mother and her sisters,’
you raced all of them and won each piece of bread I tossed onto the ground,
even though you are the littlest peachick.

Your big sister didn’t stand a chance and you gobbled all of her bread bits until I gently brushed you aside,
littlest peachick.

This morning, just outside the back door, I saw you again, but this time you were all alone.
I thought you were a pile of leaves blown together by the wind,
until I saw your little legs pointing upwards like the bare, autumn branches of a bonsai.
I went outside and approached you cautiously, not wanting to see what I already saw, that you were very dead,
my littlest peachick.

Your mother, big sister, and all of the others, came over very quietly to look at your dead body.
Then, just as quietly, they all stepped back, turned around and went away,
my littlest peachick.


This morning, the farm is strangely silent. Your family, usually so noisy and boisterous, has withdrawn from the vicinity of your death.
Out in the paddock, they nibble halfheartedly at the grass, looking up and around frequently, as if sensing danger, bewildered, as I am,
at your mysterious death,
our littlest peachick.

I see you now, from the corner of my heart’s eye,
high up in a tree that is so beautiful that it has no name.
You are no longer little; you are huge and your rainbow wings span the sky as you fly in and through the marshmallow clouds
of where you are now.

The littlest peachick.


“I just don’t understand you!”

Ming and I had a couple of altercations today that were impossible to resolve. This is so frustrating and painful and yet it points to the fact that we all think and feel differently and trying to match someone else’s way of doing both is impossible.

So what on earth do you do with irreconcilable differences? How does a 20-year-old son understand a 55-year-old mother who is trying to understand a 78-year-old husband? The only way, I think, is to accept the different points of view about everything, to accept each other (despite these differences), and to develop a capacity for sympathy. Empathy would be better, of course, but if the other person just cannot fit their great big size 13 feet (Ming) into your shoes, then agreeing to disagree is your best option.

I have always loved the concept of difference but I have never had it thrust in my face as much as the last few years, with Anthony’s declining health and Ming’s growing up. Neither of them understand that, at the center of this dynamic (in terms of age alone), I struggle sometimes to give them both what they need or want. And neither of them even think, unless I remind them (rather vociferously sometimes), that I might actually want to be considered too.

Perhaps love doesn’t require understanding? I am not complaining here (well maybe a bit!), or posing a feminist argument (hell, no – most of the misunderstandings I’ve experienced have been with women); I am just observing that sometimes you just have to accept the fact that you will never agree with the other person.

But you can still hug them and keep your “you are wrong!” thoughts to yourself. Ask Godfrey the gander!


“I heard it on the news.”


I was a little taken aback today, when I went up to our little local shop to get bread, and the proprietor said how glad she was about Ming. Seeing my confusion, she said, “I heard it on the news.” I told her about the reduced charges and she said she already knew which was quite disconcerting because we didn’t hear or see anything on the news. Then she said she was annoyed that they didn’t pronounce his name correctly and I laughed because how does anyone who isn’t Scottish get ‘Ming’ out of ‘Menzies’?

Ming and I are glad we didn’t see or hear his verdict on the news although I am now wondering who did. Oh well, I’m sure small town chitchat will only give it 24 hours and will mostly be positive and there is no point wondering. I suddenly realized I have been hiding away a bit by not frequenting the local shop, butcher, post office and petrol station as much as usual. It became a little nerve-wracking after the accident because I was never sure if people would ask me questions or avoid the subject (strangely similar to how people are not sure whether or not to ask about Anthony).

Stigma, embarrassment, acceptance, humility, guilt, miscommunication, shame, empathy, bewilderment, grief and joy; all of these factors and emotions and more have bundled themselves together, over so many months now, that it is difficult to know how to untangle what has become a maze that I have found the exit to. And yet, on opening the exit door, nothing looks particularly different; the grass is still brown from a long, hot summer, the mice and rabbits continue to plague us, the car needs washing, and I am very behind with the house-hold jobs.

I never experienced any sort of anticlimax as each of the children recovered from their injuries; it was just pure joy. And yet now that the court case against Ming is over, the joy of Monday has been replaced with a sense of nothingness which is, I guess, the space of anticlimax that precedes exiting the maze.

Tomorrow, I will exit the maze, having spent one final day within its mystery. I didn’t want to stay there but I had to figure a few things out like how to cope with people’s concern or lack of, how to move on with the newfound grace, faith and compassion I am already experiencing and how to be more grateful for every single moment of every single day, and every single person – especially my brothers’ families and my mother.

Tomorrow, if someone else says, “I heard it on the news,” I will allow my soul to smile as I leave the maze.

Happy Easter.



The following poem was written by my mother, Meg, before any of us knew the outcome of Ming’s court hearing on Monday. I thought she’d written it for Ming and that he was the gymnast, then I thought it might be for me because my hope was faltering; then I thought it might be for Anthony whose mobility is deteriorating; then I thought it might be for the various family members who have been affected by the car accident; then I thought it might be for all of us – everyone….

I now think Meg’s poem was all of those things, but it was mainly for our big, loud, dancing Ming!

Focus. Meg. April 14, 2014

A gymnast
On the balance board
Looks steadfastly
Towards that spot
Far in the distance
And his body
Perfectly in tune
Glides smoothly forward
Step by step

The tiniest distraction
Left or right
Behind ahead
Above beneath
He falls

Resolves next time he mounts the board
To fix his eyes
On One who beckons.

The board seems now so wide and safe
His toes spread out
His balance now regained
A joyful happy jig.
The tightrope turned into a dance floor

Thank you, Mother.


PS. I think I need to get a new photo of Ming dancing because I am quite sure I have posted this one before; I also need to throw those obscene green shorts (that I bought Anthony for a joke over 20 years ago) in the trash. Why Ming insists on wearing them constantly is beyond my comprehension!


Question: How many times do you begin again?

Answer: Every single day.


Ming's Christmas present 2010 - 'Black beauty'











Julie and Woody best






Blog blessings

I began blogging in November 2011, with no clear intention other than to write something every day, which I have for the most part. The subject matter meandered from birds to Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease, to Ming’s teenage-hood and scoliosis, to our personal struggles. I dabbled in novel and romance writing, briefly promoted my book about Alzheimer’s disease, attempted some poetry, began to write about Anthony’s and my love story, posted pictures, and generally wrote a whole lot of this-and-that.

In view of the miscellaneousness of my posts, I suppose “Wings and Things” isn’t a bad sort of blog title so I’m sticking with that because it allows me to meander in the usual way. This is obviously not good for the stats as themed blogs get more ‘hits’ but, despite wanting to make more people aware dementia sufferers should be treated with more respect, I don’t care any more about the stats.

One of the things that has astounded me about my blog journey so far has been the incredible friendships wrought (with people I may never meet in person), and the mutual support system enabled via WordPress. The blogs I subscribe to are an eclectic mix of bird, photography, illness, writing, grief, dementia and philosophical blogs (to name a few) and it is often very difficult to keep up. The good thing is that most bloggers understand this difficulty and don’t mind if you don’t read their every word/post – phew!

I would never go to a support group, I already have enough friends in my non-blog life, and I am not naturally gregarious, so I am rather astounded at how much I have come to depend on the bloggers with whom I have become close – an extraordinary community made up of some of the kindest people I have ever come across. I also enjoy offering my own friendship and support to these fellow bloggers and this has become a meaningful part of my life.

This blog has also connected me better to my already-there friends and family, sometimes disconcertingly. For example, I said to my friend the other day, “Guess what happened yesterday?” and she said, “I already know, Jules – I read your blog.”


So, in the spirit of miscellaneous gratitude, here is Diamond, our shyest goose….


…. saying thank you with me!


Cooler weather, finally!

As you can see from the pictures below it has been very very dry here but finally today it rained properly. Ahhhh! The best thing about this for me is that my nearly healed pompholyx condition will hopefully not come back. It is definitely much better now that it isn’t so hot.

Pearl and Woodroffe searching futilely for insects in the dry grass:
Michael Jackson wishing the pond were fuller:
A forlorn parrot on a dead palm branch:
Freckle and MJ waiting for rain (or bread!)
One of our many crows in a dying wattle tree:

I did a whole lot of reading today (once again) about pompholyx, and was alarmed at various people’s stories. Some people had suffered repeated outbreaks for over 20 years! One man had tried to kill himself. Another had had to quit his job because it entailed the handling of chemicals. One woman was unable to change her baby’s nappies due to the pain. I read story after story after story and it became very clear to me that there is very little known about the disease, there is apparently no cure, despite many remedies, and I have now compiled a list of vitamins and creams and potions that I will buy tomorrow. My dermatology appointment isn’t for another week and a half so in the meantime I have taken bits of advice from all I have read and will endeavor to avoid all of the possible triggers: water, soap, coffee, cleaning products, dairy, wheat, dust, tea, heat, stress, alcohol, wool, and anxiety.

I feel very positive – and cool – and a bit dirty!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,450 other followers