wings and things

The party animal is back!

Ming has taken the good car down south, with a best friend, to a New Year’s Eve party because he only has an automatic licence and our very old ute (truck) is manual, so guess who is driving that? Yes, me, and it is so ancient that just turning the steering wheel left and right etc., on even a short drive, is equivalent to a two-hour arm workout at the gym (not that I’ve ever done that).

We finally have a date for the court case – 22nd January – but until then Ming still has his driver’s licence, so he is making the most of it. Of course, since the car accident, I am very nervous about him driving but, except for the aberration in October, he is a careful driver and is not a drinker, so I hope they both have a great, safe time, but look forward to their return tomorrow.

Ming is off all of the strong painkillers now and just needs panadol occasionally; the bandages are off and he is definitely straighter again and the pre-op. pain has gone. It was a bit of a shock to see that the new scar is almost as long as the one from his original scoliosis operation (almost the whole length of his spine) so I guess they had to rummage around a bit to replace the two broken bits of titanium – yes two! and pack crushed bone from the bone bank all around the area to ensure it all knits back together.

I have probably posted these photos before, but I like them because they show his character. Yes, we have our arguments and conflicts, and we wrestle in different ways with the anxiety about the accident, the kids, the future, but we always talk things through. It is so good to see Ming bouncing back again.


Happy New Year, Ming, my wonderful party animal son, and may all your dreams come true!

Note: Luckily he doesn’t read my blog any more because he would probably cringe at my sentimentality here – ha!


One Way!

A couple of weeks ago I had to get Ming to Perth (2 hour drive) by 6.30am, so he could be admitted into the hospital for corrective surgery to his spine. By the time we got to Perth, I was a bit flustered so, when I turned into a one-way street next to the huge hospital, I lost my nerve at the hospital’s ticket-taking machine, so I backed out into that same one-way street and parked the car.

Several hours later, my dearest friend met me for lunch at the hospital and we walked back to my car so I could put more coins in the meter. As soon as he saw my car, he exclaimed that it was pointing in the wrong direction and warned me that I might get a fine. Well he was right! And here is the proof – me standing next to the car with the $70 ticket in my trembling hands.

photo of Julie

It strikes me now that this photograph may be symbolic of something but I am not sure what!


My friend, Nicola

“Nicola” is a sort of pseudonym for one of my very best friends. The other night, Ming and I were invited to go to her place for drinks but the day got complicated with Anthony home again; unexpected visitors; food shopping; a dreadful hour back at the nursing home in the late afternoon when Ants was almost too paralyzed to get from car to his room despite my help; hurting my stupid back lifting him; Ming getting his bandages wet and me having to peel them off to see a much longer scar/wound than I’d expected, not being able to find the betadine, a rather nasty altercation with the beautiful brat, planning the exciting visit to see my youngest brother, wife and kids the next day and liaising with my mother about this; answering calls on my stupid, non-working, cutting-out phone; getting a headache; and forgetting to put beer in the fridge – argh!

But Nicola was expecting me so, by the time I’d done the bird feeding/watering/yarding, I was kind of ready to go but then Ming and I had another altercation and I ended up yelling at him because the same drugs that were making him all lovey-dovey are now making him monsterish – another argh!

So I rang Nicola and said we couldn’t come (I only told her a bit of the above which is already an abbreviated version of the hell of the day) and she said that it was okay.

I now think that the sentence, “It’s okay” is the best sentence ever invented because it says everything. When someone lets you off the hook of a commitment that you have broken by saying “It’s okay” your whole heart stops holding itself tight and starts beating out a beautiful soft song of gentle understanding and relief.

My reputation for letting people down at the last minute is something that I am not proud of but it stems from the days/years when I was looking after Anthony at home. I became reliably unreliable!

Thanks, Nicola, for your understanding and empathy and amazing friendship. You are a rock!



An unexpected gift!

On Christmas Day, my mother (Meg) came over to the farm to have lunch with Anthony, Ming and me. Well, actually she brought lunch! You see we always have Christmas Eve at my mother’s place and she puts on a FEAST, so I figured I could cheat this year and not bother with my own feast and just feast on her leftover feast and that was a great decision haha! She even brought half of the giant pavlova which Ming and Anthony vacuumed down in record time.

Anyway, before we ate, my mother handed me a letter. “This is your surprise,” she said. I already knew she was bringing me a surprise and she had hinted it was a wheel of Jarlsberg cheese (my favourite), so when I opened the letter to read it I assumed that, instead of the cheese, she had decided to write me a loving letter. I already knew she loved me so I was about to say that I would prefer cheese until I began reading ….

18 December, 2013

Dearest Meg,

For many years back at each Christmas Rhonda, Geoff, John and myself, instead of giving to one another, look around to see where we might better place our giving – to someone needing a little tangible help. (We still give to each other a “little something”)

We have had Juli and Ming’s situation in mind, as in prayer, but we thought we should tread cautiously as not to offend Juli’s present somewhat fragile state of mind. So we did take our thoughts in another direction only to find what we had identified had already been resolved. We asked, what was the Lord saying to us?

Meg, we felt we needed to run this first by you as we would not like to add to the stresses Juli is undergoing, and the amount is really quite insignificant in light of what is down the track for her. Can we leave it to your judgement as how best to hand the money on to Juli. She does not need to know from whom it came. Note the cheque is payable to you.

We continue to pray for you all every day. We share your heartaches. We can’t begin to understand the feelings involved but we do understand the love of family and, of course, our love for you has always been a gift from God.


Bev and John

So I read this letter out loud to Anthony and Ming while my mother smiled knowingly. When I got to the word ‘money’ I began to realize what was going on and my heart started catapulting with a mixture of excitement and anxiety (but mostly excitement). Then, my mother handed me a checque for $1,000!

I/we could not believe it! Okay so I remember vividly playing underneath Bev’s and John’s kitchen table with Rhonda when we were very little, and, more recently, I remember re-meeting Bev and John when they visited the farm with my mother several years ago but, despite how close these friends are to my mother, I don’t really know them very well because they live on the other side of Australia.

Bev, John, Rhonda and Geoff – I am at a loss as to how to thank you properly for this unbelievably generous gift of money, but I will try here: the court costs are going to be big but you have already covered the initial payment to the lawyer. I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to raise the funds and now I am not so scared, not just because of your amazingly generous gift but also because something about your gesture has eradicated all of my fear. My words are clumsy with gratitude – ha!



My mother and I went down south yesterday for an overnight visit with my younger brother’s family on their beautiful, remote block of bushland. Ming was supposed to come too but he is still struggling with post-op. pain and that horrible post-anaesthaesia blah so I left him home (and the little break was good for both of us!)

It was the first time we had seen the kids minus their various braces, splints, crutches and wheelchair (due to injuries sustained in the accident in October in which Ming was the driver). Of course, they are not completely recovered, but they are certainly getting there in leaps and bounds.

And they glow! These three children, one 13 years old and the twins, 12 years old, have always has a special glow about them. They are high achievers (as was evidenced in the school report cards they eagerly showed us), but they are down to earth and philosophical about the trauma they have been through. I watched my mother relax into their antics – watching them swimming in their beautiful, blue dam, making crazy jokes, doing card tricks, riding the 4-wheeler, munching out on my brother and sister-in-law’s amazing steak, potato salad, coleslaw and then pavlova, and my heart did a few somersaults.

We exchanged our Christmas gifts with each other and everyone loved what they gave and received, and I bantered with my nieces and nephews, unable to keep up with their clever witticisms, as usual! My brother’s quiet chuckle and my sister in law’s loud laughter (she and I are both rather loud and vociferous), and the children’s glowing eyes, were like some sort of blessing.

Another bonus was seeing my brother’s second oldest son who is a young replica of his dad. He adores me of course but soon needed to leave to see his mates – haha! As he was leaving, I said that I had a Christmas present for him and I wanted one back so he said have a beer. It was only later that I discovered that they weren’t his beers to give – cheeky, gorgeous brat! My gift to him was super hot chilli sauce – mmmm – he might not adore me so much any more! On a more serious note, it was great to be able to hug him after so long.

Driving back home through the forests of karri trees, my mother and I spoke of how this visit had helped to lighten the load of unbearable grief and anxiety. I am not a grandmother (and probably won’t be for some time!) but I can imagine how horrific it would be to be the mother and grandmother of so many injured (either physically, emotionally, or both) by the biggest mistake in judgement Ming will ever make. The relief that four out of the five injured are almost back to normal is immense.

Now of course the hope is that my other brother and sister in law’s daughter, whose recovery will take longer, will soon be back to normal and I have never realized before how beautiful ‘back to normal’ is, until now. She, like the other children, has a quirky sense of humour and has been heroic in wearing a head-to-hip brace for soooo long now, with style and stoicism beyond her years.

I don’t think anyone in my family has ever been through a more difficult few months. Geographical distance, misunderstandings, frayed emotions, private versus public dilemmas, forgiveness, underlying resentments, joyous reunions, hugs and recriminations, guilt, fear, love and bewilderment have all factored into the way we adults have coped in the aftermath. So the recent past has been ghastly, the present is sliding into a cushion of peace, and the future is, as it always is, uncertain.

The cushion of our visit down south is what I will rest my head on tonight because sleeping properly has been impossible for so long; my mind races back to that night constantly. Tomorrow I have decided to wake up, smile, and live again.

It is all getting better, not worse: recovery.


Neighbours from heaven!

Anthony was in his 60s when he retired from dairy farming, due to a combination of factors including ill health. Now Ming, at 19, has been forced to retire from his job as dairy hand for our neighbours due to his back. Once he is over this second surgery you never know, he may be able to return but in the meantime he has been replaced.

Ming’s boss’s mother came over just before Christmas with a whole bag of different chocolate treats for him; she is such a gem! Below are two photos she took of Ming milking a little while ago. I was so proud of him walking in his dad’s boots and she is so glad they now have someone who can hang up the hose properly better than Ming – ha!

Despite the sadness that Ming has had to give up a job that he’d only just begun to do full-time, the fantastic thing is that we have gotten to know these amazing neighbours over the last three years and they have given us their friendship and support throughout our various ordeals. Ming said to me the other day that his boss’s mother is like his own ‘second’ mother!

I wish this extended family all the very best for 2014 and we feel indebted to them in so many ways. They are dairy farmers from way back which makes them heroes in an era when this kind of farming has become unpopular (due to the necessary 24/7 commitment).



Christmas day with my husband, son and mother.

Ants, Ming, Meg and me.


Thanks, Ma, for providing the turkey and the massive pavlova, and enabling us all to have a very cruisy day. Thanks, weather, for not being too hot. Thanks, God, for making today’s church service interesting and down-to-earth. Thanks, Anthony, for squeezing my hand on our way back to the nursing home and wiping my unexpected tears. Thanks, Ming, for being almost okay post-op. and for your humour. Thanks, extended family, for our wonderful night at Meg’s at Christmas Eve, my niece and husband’s homecoming, my brother’s homecoming (just last night!) Oh the list is getting too long so … to be continued ha!



If I had to choose a single word to describe my first niece, I would use the word “twinkling”. She and her husband arrived last night from Scotland just in time for Christmas. They are going to live here now – yippee!

Late last night she got to see her own first niece for the first time. Do you see what I mean by “twinkling”. Actually in this picture both of them are twinkling!

Ashtyn and Neve

My first niece is also my god-daughter as well as being Ming’s cousin and god-mother. I have always been in awe of her ability to twinkle no matter what, and her homecoming is the best gift any of us could receive this Christmas. She is a vital cog in the machine of this family and her presence enables us all to twinkle with delight; when she smiles, her whole body smiles; when she enters a room, she exudes beauty, grace and hilarity. She is fun and laughter and I love her so much and can’t wait to see her tonight at my mother’s Christmas Eve party.

I feel very lucky to have this fantastic, twinkling niece – very lucky!


Police Matter – Dangerous Driving Charge

It was disconcerting to receive a forwarded email from Ming’s lawyer, with the police charges outlined, while he was still in hospital. I read through the document in my hotel room with my heart in my throat of course because the bare facts of what happened are stark and frightening for two reasons: 1. They are a reminder of that terrible night; and 2. They are damning of Ming – well of course they are, as they should be.

But to have to read the email heading (above) over and over again, in my several days of communication with the lawyer, stops my breath every time. My family have all provided character statements for Ming and the children are all recovering well however full recovery is still in the distance, both physically and psychologically and this, too, stops my breath.

The court date has now been set for mid-January so finally we will know what will happen to Ming in terms of his sentencing. I hope there will be leniency but, if not, we will just have to wear what comes next and it really doesn’t matter to Ming compared to his relief that the children will all eventually be all right.

But, as his mother, my hope is rather fragile and frantic that the judge will see that he is filled with remorse and will never ever do anything like this again. Ming has agreed to accompany the police to schools in the new year to warn other children and teenagers of the dangers of what he did. His message will be simple and now it is mine: never, ever, drive with people unsecured in the back of a ute (truck). Never!

Note: We were told in the hospital that the main reason for discharging patients early was because at Christmas they were inundated with emergency admissions of car accident victims.


Ming’s reaction to yesterday’s post

Ming: You don’t seem to love me as much as I love you!
Me: Yes, I do, it’s just that the pain medications make you all touchy-feely and you STILL want my hand all the time!
Ming: What’s wrong with that?
Me: Nothing really – it’s just that I kind of need my hand back because I have to use both my hands to do the various chores. We’re home now and in a week or so you’ll be much better.
Ming: You don’t love me like you used to.
Me: You’re probably right. I read somewhere that in order for teenagers to leave the nest a certain amount of angst has to happen between parent and child to allow this transition without heartbreak.
Ming: So you’ve gone off me!
Me: Yes – I used to love you at 100%; now it’s around 50%.
Ming: What?
Me: Kidding!

Sigh! And this is only part of the bizarre conversation we had today on the way into town to see Ants.

The photo is from two years ago, before everything went a bit haywire in our lives.