20 December 2013

14 : Something Blue No More!

Zen Tattoo's!
There's nothing quite so inspirational as having a permanent reminder to keep you motivated through all of the hard times; especially when that reminder is a Zen proverb tattooed on your arm :)
I have to admit that I really love that feeling of satisfaction when you are able to achieve something you really want by simply using your power of choice, of free will.  Doing something for no one else but for yourself. 
My first tattoo was a Christmas present from my children, two years ago, and I absolutely love it.  A beautiful angel with the name of our baby, that we never got to hold in our arms but loved just as much as our other children, followed by the names of my six children.  Surrounding their names are six footprints representing each of them and a beautiful Celtic endless love knot and the letter A cleverly interwoven into the tattoo as a symbol for my husband Andrew.  A beautiful representation of all those that are important to me, a permanent reminder of all that I love!
I had always felt that I would like to get another tattoo but waited until the time was right.  As much as I absolutely adore my first tattoo which is on my lower leg, I really wanted to get a new one  somewhere on my body where I would be able to see it often and it could inspire me.
I wanted a phrase that was short and simple yet said so much in only a few words; the Zen proverb 'The obstacle is the path' did that for me.  It sums up my life so far and reminds me of the future, of where I should be heading when I lose my way.  The meaning is obvious yet hidden within, it means that those big obstacles that keep interrupting your life are supposed to be there; don't think of them as something you need to avoid and put you off, see them for what they really are.  The obstacles are placed in your way to give you the opportunity to conquer, allowing opportunity for growth and reaffirming that by doing this you ARE on the right path.  The obstacle IS that path.  So profound, so succinct, so true!
The 11:11 figures have been special for both my husband and I for many years now, it became a strong symbol of hope for us when we lost our baby Amelie.  It has consistently remained a strong symbol that has helped with so many decisions over the years and acts like a pointer in the right direction for us. I chose an ensō circle or Zen circle to surround my 11:11 symbols.  The following article explains the meaning behind ensō circles more eloquently than I could:
Ensō (circle) is a sacred symbol in the Zen school of Buddhism and is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy, even though it is a symbol and not a character. You may hear it called the Circle of Enlightenment, the Infinity Circle and even the Lost Symbol of Reiki. If you actually took the meanings of the two Kanji symbols that make up the word, ensō would translate as Mutual Circle or Circle of Togetherness.

In the the sixth century a text named the Shinhinmei refers to the way of Zen as a circle of vast space, lacking nothing and holding nothing in excess. At first glance the ancient ensō symbol appears to be nothing more than a miss-shaped circle but its symbolism refers to the beginning and end of all things, the circle of life and the connectedness of existence. It can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment.  It can even symbolize the moon, which is itself a symbol of enlightenment—as in the Zen saying, "Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself." In other words, do not mistake doctrines, teachings or explanations, which are intended to guide one toward enlightenment, for enlightenment itself. Ensō can also represent the moon's reflection on water, thereby symbolizing the futility of searching for enlightenment outside oneself.

Ensō symbolizes many more things including: strength, elegance, the universe, single mindedness, the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect. It also represents the oneness of life and all things contained within it, the spirit of harmonious cooperation, personal development and refinement of character, the visible and the invisible, absolute fullness in emptiness, simplicity, completeness, endlessness, perfect harmony, the circle of infinity and the cyclical nature of existence. The ensō is a manifestation of the moment, an expression of absolute enlightenment, a visual manifestation of the Heart Sutra and a representation of our true and innermost self. The ensō is a universal symbol of wholeness and completion; "form is void and void is form." When viewing ensō, one can see that that form and void are interdependent and, in fact, define each other. There are so many definitions available, that each of us is truly left with the responsibility to select or create our own definition of ensō.

An open ensō may express the idea that the ensō is not separate from all that is; rather, it is a part of something greater. The open circle reflects that the ensō is not contained within itself: but opens out to infinity. It might also speak to imperfection as an essential and inherent aspect of our existence. Ensō can be the open circle of emptiness in which the self flows in and out while remaining centered; or it can be closed and express a mandala or cosmogram. Leaving the ensō open is like leaving room for the spirit to flow in and out of the circle of emptiness; allowing it to breathe. Breath and emptiness are essential ingredients for meditation, contemplation and the creation of a spiritual life.


15 December 2013

14 : Zen - Something Borrowed

A Zen Inspired Poem...
If you think you are beaten you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't;
If you want to win but think you can't;
 It's almost a cinch you won't.
If you think you'll lose you're lost;
For out of the world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will;
 It's all in a state of mind.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger and faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins
 Is the man who thinks he can.
Author Unknown
Zen can be described as 'releasing conscious, directed thinking, you allow random, unrequested thoughts to arise to awareness - a torrent of ideas which reveals a choatic universe normally hidden from us. It requires courage to face such thoughts and it requires real effort to become detached from it all, learning how our own thoughts are a source of our suffering which must be let go in order to achieve genuine peace and harmony.'
The word Zen has become part of the English language, but what exactly does it mean?  It’s much easier to answer the question “When is Zen?”, for that answer would have to be “Now!”.  The whole point of Zen practice is to become fully aware, here and now.  To come home to the present moment; this is truly where we live.  Thinking verbally takes us far into the past, or into the distant future.   But both past and future are fantasies, since the future isn’t known and our memories of the past are often quite distorted accounts of what really happened.  Zen exhorts one to “Come to your senses!”, for when we get lost in thoughts of the past or future, life passes us by.   When one mindfully dwells in the present moment, one completely dissolves into whatever activity manifests.  One becomes the activity.  Most people have had peak experiences, which all involve being so totally involved with life that one’s sense of separateness dissolves into the experience.  Very Zen.  The word ‘Zen’ is the Japanese attempt at pronouncing the Chinese word ‘Chan’, which in turn is the Chinese attempt at pronouncing the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyana’, which translates as ‘meditation’.  And indeed, the word Zen conjures up an image of motionless Buddhist monks lost in deep meditation.  This mysterious image becomes less mysterious when you realize the monks are simply practicing being here now. http://www2.bc.cc.ca.us/resperic/what_is_the_meaning_of_zen.htm
The principles of Zen are not part of a religion, it is more a state of being and understanding the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of any particular scriptures.  It is a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind, it is described as a way of being.  It is something very much of interest to me and I have found inspiration in many of the principles of zen.  I have found a zen proverb which is forming the inspiration for my new tattoo:


11 December 2013

14: RIP Little Blue - Something New

RIP Little Blue...
 Little Blue first arrived 11/12
 Little Blue (top) with other discus 11/12

 Early 2013, growing well...
Sept 2013, Little Blue (left of centre)
faded and smaller than tank mates...
September 2013 - officially stunted
11/12/13 is a very sad day for me... Today I had to put down my 'Little Blue' stunted cobalt discus.  If you recall my September post http://ajmaaa.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/7-stunted-discus-something-blue.html I discussed how my cobalt discus was officially stunted, where he didn't grow like the other discus.  It happens sometimes but they can often still live normal lives.  Unfortunately my little guy didn't make it; he went from being one the most feisty discus in the tank to hiding and refusing to eat.
Already small he couldn't afford not to eat, he was a little bugger because he ONLY ate black worms, refusing all other foods offered.  I used to break up the dried worms, which are cubed, into two pieces so the other discus could fight over one lot while 'Little Blue' sneakily got plenty a short distance away by himself.  I hand fed this little guy every day...
I made the decision to remove him from the tank last week when I noticed he had become emancipated and was dark in colour - not a good sign for discus.  I threw every medicine I own at him, but it wasn't enough.  He became skeletal thin and I had to make that hard decision this morning, it was time...
RIP Little Blue - I will really miss you...

08 December 2013

14 : Something Old - I Hope....

Post Assault...
Well my brain is working better, and my hands are working better, and as a bonus I can even nearly feel ALL of them!  My how we take for granted those simple things in life: to think, to feel, to function.  Considering my line of work is about helping people, I had never even really considered that I would be assaulted at work and that it would have affected my life as much as it has. 
I am beginning to understand what the term 'king hit' really means; with it touted throughout the media so much recently I feel extremely lucky to have actually got off with my life!  A recent article in 'The Age' stated that ''One-punch'' assaults have claimed 90 Australian lives since 2000, mostly in booze-fuelled bashings.  The victims were killed either by a single blow to the head or when falling and smashing their heads against the hard ground after being knocked unconscious.'
The difference with a 'king hit' single punch is that it often renders the poor victim unconscious, it is that blow to the head or the fall to the ground which then causes the head injury, quadriplegia, paraplegia, coma or death.  The reason one punch can cause such a problem is because the person being assaulted has no idea the hit is coming and is not prepared for a blow of any kind, let alone one to the head.  Although the king hit blow to my head thankfully did not render me unconscious, I remained on my feet - somehow.  However, because I had absolutely no idea it was coming, it turned what may have been simply a bad hit to the head, to one that caused my head to be thrown back so violently it caused a significant whiplash injury.  This, in turn, caused a concussion injury when my brain was suddenly thrown about inside the vault of my skull, bruising it and causing problems with memory and concentration which was to continue to affect me for weeks.  The facial bruising and swelling was really a very minor part of the injury sustained, however, the only one visible to others.
It's amazing how something that was fuelled by alcohol, and perhaps other influences, can cause such a ripple flow on affect to all involved.  It's one of those things that unless it actually happens to you, you really can't anticipate or appreciate it.  My injury has caused time off from work for not only me, but also for my husband, who has needed to take significant time off from work at his own expense to help care for me and our children.  It has also caused me a huge amount of stress and concern about returning to a job that I have been doing for 14 years, threatening our family income if I am unable to return to a job I once loved. 
The whiplash injury is something that I will require ongoing management with as it has caused me numbness/tingling/pain in both arms/hands which has been both a frightening and very worrying side effect.  In addition, the discovery of a new cervical disc bulge to add to the two others that I had sustained from a previous work whiplash injury, where a member of the public rammed into my ambulance, is distressing!  With physio and medication I am physically getting there, psychological issues are something that will take a lot longer to work on.  Unfortunately, for me, this assault has been added on to my previous memories of the many other attempted assaults and other traumatic issues surrounding my line of work.  I hope it is not the straw that breaks the camels back, but time will tell...
As much as I have enjoyed helping many, many other people in my time as a Paramedic, life is just too precious to throw away for a job.  With millimetres being the difference between walking and breathing and even of living, millimetres perhaps is just not enough of a buffer. 
Maybe I need to concentrate on my writing now that my fingers can type better and my brain has remembered how to work again.  Maybe I will just stay indoors and safe from now on...

17 November 2013

Short Break from Blogging...

Blogging Break...
Apologies for lack of blogs recently.  I sustained a head injury at work as a paramedic, as can be seen in my last blog post 'black and blue'...  I have not been able to think straight for the last week and hope to get back to blogging again in the future.  However, for right now I am unable to blog.
AJ Maaa

11 November 2013

13 : Black and Blue - Something Blue

The Harsh Reality of Emergency Work...
I've been involved in one way or another for the last 14 years in emergency ambulance work; from volunteer, casual, student Paramedic right through to Paramedic.  I've had the privilege of helping people when they are at their most vulnerable, invited into people's homes and their personal world, becoming a part of their life story even for just a little while.  Being with a complete stranger during the worst moments of their lives, having to apologise that there is nothing more we can do for their loved one, is tough. 
It is a privilege to be the one that is there to help, to be the very difference between life and death, to be a part of a team that provides calming reassurance in times of stress and pain.  To have the skills and experience to coordinate and manage an entire disaster scene that unfolds before your very eyes.  To be the one that is there to help bring new life into the world, to watch that very first life breath for a brand new little human being.  To share those special once in a lifetime moments with others.
Those are the absolute wonderful moments of my career, the saves, the reassurance and comfort in times of heartache that we are able to provide.  Sometimes the very sight of our green uniform walking calmly into the scene is enough to make everyone breath a sigh of relief.  Those are the reasons that I keep doing my job, why I put myself at risk day after day, night after night racing at high speed toward imminent danger and unknown emergencies.  To make a difference, to help others, to be rewarded in more ways than money could ever compensate.
Unfortunately, the harsh reality of emergency work can also mean that we too are exposed to the world at our most vulnerable, working amongst environmental and physical dangers.  More and more our work environment is evolving into dangerous and highly emotive scenes, we are dealing with people who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, mental health issues and caught amongst the unpredictability of violent behaviours.  I have had the personal misfortune, as many of my colleagues have, more times than I care to remember of being under personal threat and caught amongst violent scenes.  Usually managing to escape physically unscathed at the very least.
Now I can add to my long list of near misses and war stories, that only colleagues can truly understand, a sad tale of when I was caught by surprise and struck to the face in the line of duty.  This is not the reason I joined the ambulance service, to be put in personal danger.  I don't expect that when I am helping another who is under their own stress and pain to be lashed out at and injured myself.  Injured in more ways than a simple physical blow can ever reveal. 
Today on this day of remembrance 11th November at 11am I too will remember all those that have lost their lives in war and fought for their countries.  I will hang my head low and remember and silently wish that we could all change and learn to stop fighting each other, as fighting and hatred does not just exist in times of war.  It exists whenever we allow it.  Lest we forget....

05 November 2013

13 : Baby Bear is Back!!! - Something Borrowed

Brother Baby Bear Arrives...

Well baby bear isn't quite back, but I am pleased to report that his brother has made it all the way to Australia to meet the boys.  The boys and I found a mysterious package left at our front door this morning.  We carefully ripped into the soft packaging, postmarked United States, hoping it was going to be a nice surprise.  Sure enough, poking cheekily out through the top of the package was a cute, soft black and white panda face.  The boys were ecstatic, brother baby bear had arrived at last after his long journey.
Although we will always be sad about not having original baby bear with us anymore, we are quite certain that he is up to all sorts of adventures wherever he is.  As, despite the state wide search, he has not been recovered. Considering he was such a naughty bear this hasn't been all that surprising, but it has been quite heartbreaking.  The boys now have a picture of baby bear proudly displayed on their playroom wall, they can look into his cheeky face once more whenever they are feeling sad and miss him.  Baby bear will always remain a special part of their childhood, even though he is no longer with them in body he remains with them in spirit.
During the car ride to school this morning it was almost as though baby bear had never left at all.  The high pitched squeals of delight that only baby bear could have caused were echoing through the car, but today of all days, no one got into trouble.  Looks like brother baby bear is set to be just as naughty as original baby bear was, and we are all very thankful for that ...
Brother Baby Bear with Baby Bear portrait...

04 November 2013

13 : Nature meets Suburbia - Something Old meets Something New

Nature v Suburbia
Living in a relatively new housing development on the very edge of the metropolitan area certainly has its up side.  Our estate has evolved around the natural flora and fauna of the area where purpose built wetlands have been created to encourage local bird life.  You really begin to appreciate how successful this mix has been when you go for a nature walk only metres away from all the newly built homes, primary school, kindergarten and child care centre.
It is special to quietly observe the local rabbits at sunrise and dawn nibbling away, to enjoy the variety of water fowl and other bird life amongst the purpose built water catchments and along the river that meanders through the estate.  However, something I don't think I can ever learn to appreciate is the ever so natural and absolute abundance of flies that accompany me on my walk.  I may have started out alone on my Spring walk today, enjoying some peaceful quiet time, however, I most certainly did not finish alone.  Instead, I managed to collect a large population of the local flies that seem to think that sticking with me and bringing all their mates along for the ride is some kind of human sport.
Despite the flies and the ever threatening wind gusts that are just part and parcel of living in a valley, I don't think I could ever tire of walking amongst nature.  I enjoy most of all watching the native birds and other animals raise their families year after year alongside our human ones.  If you are really lucky, and look very carefully, you can sometimes even catch a glimpse of a lazy Koala or two snoozing in the gum trees safely towering above us all.
 Dawn, two rabbits bouncing off in the distance ...
 Cocky season! Sulphur crested cockatoos in the school gum trees...
 Purpose built wetlands
 ... complete with natural water fowl
 Where's Wally?  A parrot hidden in a gum tree...
 A kookaburra sits in the old gumtree...

03 November 2013

12 : The Beach - Something Blue


It's nice to get away, even for a short while, and spend some time at the seaside.  We visited last weekend and, although it wasn't typical beach weather, we still managed to enjoy that unique experience that being alongside the ocean only can bring.  It doesn't take long to manage to get completely soaked in that salty water that is so hard to wash off, but it is so worth it.
We walked along the beach, collected and examined shells, wrote our names in the sand and walked through the shallow water as the waves crashed upon the shore.  Of course a trip to the beach is not complete unless you learn to skim some rocks along the water, watching out for seagulls of course, and finish off with some freshly made ice creams  I'm looking forward to this Spring weather changing into Summer so we can enjoy some more trips to the seaside, perhaps enjoying a swim next time and letting the boys loose to create some more sand castle creations.  The opportunity of simply lying back and relaxing by the shore would be most welcome. 
There is something magical about being alongside water that has a way of overwhelming your senses, with a calming effect that even a few minutes worth seems to last for days ...

02 November 2013

12 :Child's Play - Something Borrowed

Living Through Imagination

How wonderful it would be if we were able to tap in to the mind of a child, to see the world from their perspective and enjoy again the fascination of make believe and raw imagination.  I know I would love it.  Imagine if a young child had the skills to be able to write a book and tell their story, their point of view of the world.  What a fascinating read it would be.  Unfortunately by the time we are able to converse properly, particularly through written form, we have already begun to lose much of that magical fascination of make believe and imagination.
Although growing up and learning about how the world works is truly fascinating and a necessary part of life.  Losing that part of us that lives in a world of imagination and make believe, where almost anything is possible, is a sad fact.  Of course there are many of us that don't want to truly let that part of ourselves completely go and enjoy losing ourselves within fascinating sci fi stories, living amongst different worlds of imagination through books and films.  However, it is not quite the same, as adults we understand that this is make believe and can choose to lose ourselves for a short while.  As children, however, they don't always fully understand where make believe ends and reality begins.  The older we get the more we realise exactly when we are enjoying imagination and it becomes a choice. 
As a parent I truly enjoy watching my two youngest Master 4 and Master 7 act out the games that reside in their minds.  The older they get the stronger the mix of television shows, movies and books influence their play.  Through play they learn to make sense of their world, a world where make believe and reality are truly a scrambled mix.  Sometimes it can be very hard for them to understand the difference.
Before life becomes all too serious it's nice to be young and enjoy the time to play, grow and expand our minds.  Those of us that are fortunate enough to hold on to parts of that kind of thinking grow up to be truly creative individuals and often don't conform to society norms and expectations.  However, we need a world with creative thinkers that can imagine beyond the four square walls of the classroom, and tap into that creative part of ourselves that we all once enjoyed in freedom as a child.
So while we can still enjoy it I will continue to run with the boys from the pterodactyls that chase them on our walk to school, and hide from the T-Rex that inevitably jumps out at us when we walk through the 'forest' near our home.  After all you really have to watch those very fast and pesky velociraptors that force our mad dash for the car.  It's nice to be part of a world where dragons are real, even though we kind of really know they're not, and are their friends.  I envy that the boys have such loyal friends to fight along side them in a world that resides in that special place we all have deep inside of us; our imagination...

31 October 2013

12 : My Zebra's Arrived - Something New

Zebra L46 Pleco
Such an exciting day today!  I woke up to a message on my phone, which was sent at 4am from a fish breeder in Melbourne, letting me know that my first two Zebra pleco's (hypancistrus zebra) are on their way.  The Zebra L46 Pleco is a species of catfish that are endemic to Brazil and found in the Rio Xingu River.  These fish and others native to the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River, are threatened to become extinct.  It is thought that the construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the Xingu River in Brazil will cause severe reduction in flow of the river, threatening the natural biotope for these fish.  These catfish were first discovered in the early 1990's and were exported in high numbers due to their popularity.  The Brazilian government but a ban on their export early in 2006 and since that time their prices have increased dramatically, they remain one the most popular catfish amongst aquarists.  The only available specimens in Australia, and many other countries, are those that have been tank bred and their prices are extremely high.
I had always thought that these fish would be impossible to find, however, I have since found a community of fish breeders that are currently breeding them and managed to purchase two so far.  I have a few more on hold from a different breeder, which are currently growing out big enough to survive the plane trip to my house.  They are long lived fish, 10 years plus all going well, which makes them extremely slow growing and slow to mature to breeding age.  Therefore, when I received my morning phone call to let me know they had safely arrived at the airport this was a very exciting call.
So far so good, both fish are healthy and were very active immediately when unpacked from their foam box.  They are now settling into their new tank, I even managed a few photo's before they inevitably go into hiding.  They are an extremely shy fish and their natural habitat is deep in the river where they reside amongst caves and rock crevices.  Fingers crossed my two survive their experience of flying interstate and settle well.  I'm hoping in a few years time they may even decide to breed, fingers crossed, they are approximately 2 - 2 1/2 years old and about 5-6 cm long.


30 October 2013

12 : Puppies - Something Old!

Boxer Puppies
Four years ago our Boxers had puppies!  It was both an incredible and daunting experience all at the same time.  Our female, Roxy, was already five years old and we figured probably too old to have pups when we got our Boxer male, Aragorn.  Apparently not, within a year Roxy looked suspiciously fat.  A check up at the vet confirmed little puppy skulls on the ultrasound.  She was pregnant!  Exactly when she would have them was anybody's guess. 
Our dogs are just that, dogs!  Therefore, they reside outside where nature intended, but I wanted Roxy and the pups at the very least to be warm and safe and separated from the male dog - just in case.  We also had another older desexed dog named Rusty, a Cocker Spaniel and Jack Russell terrier cross, relatively harmless but we didn't want to risk it.
I'm not sure how I knew but I sensed when she was ready to have her pups.  Maybe having six kids of my own helped, however, I had never dealt with a pregnant dog before.  We have an area around the side of the house that we could separate the dogs and we coaxed Roxy there, setting her up with a lovely warm bed.  Nothing happened that night but during the next day things began to get moving.  My son came home from school to check on her.  Despite the fact I had only just checked her an hour before, he came racing back into the house with the news I was dreading!  Roxy was having her puppies and one wasn't moving!
Great!  Worse nightmare taking place before our very eyes.  Her first born pup was perfect and a good size, but he just wasn't moving.  We wrapped the pup anyway just in case he was slow to start, but he never did recover, he was dead.  Throughout the rest of that night we agonized over watching another seven puppies birthed.  She did a great job and was a natural mother, doing all the right things exactly as she was supposed to.  It was absolutely amazing to be a part of this experience.  The whole family was gathered around to welcome each new pup and will it to live.  All seven pups were born alive and Roxy was healthy; exhausted we all went to bed.
Unfortunately the next day my son found another dead pup, it was the runt of the litter and when he was born we had not thought he would survive.  I had already buried the first pup, and there I was digging another grave.  This was not how I wanted to experience puppies, we had pictured fat little puppies bounding around the yard with their parents.  Instead one by one, a day at a time, I was burying poor little puppies.
After the second pup died we noticed a third pup being excluded from the group; we removed her and began to hand feed her.  We cared for her for an entire day and night but eventually decided we should return the pup to Roxy.  Unfortunately, despite only being back with the litter for a couple of hours she did not survive, it was my son yet again who found her.  It wasn't meant to be, it was survival of the fittest taking place before our very eyes.  It was cruel and horrible to witness and I was left to bury a third puppy.  I vowed never to go through this again; one litter was heartbreaking enough.
After constant checks on the pups every few hours, buying and installing a heater for them outside, the remaining five pups seemed to thrive.  As Roxy was truly an outdoor dog she panicked when we tried to move her and the pups into the laundry, she began to throw her pups around frantically trying to find a safer place for them.  We quickly moved her back outside and she and the pups settled again.  It was just so bitterly cold, we were worried for them all.  The heater definitely helped, and we put up sheets as a wind break for her cozy little area.
It was damn hard work helping Roxy raise those five very boisterous Boxer puppies as they grew, feeding several times a day when they were able to eat solids.  Cleaning and caring for them, but it was a wonderful experience all the same.  All the children thoroughly enjoyed cuddling the puppies as much as they could, all our pups were raised with children from the day they were born and have grown to be wonderful calm family dogs for their new owners.  Turns out one of them grew up to be a bit too fond of people, she pines all day long when her owners go to work and has to be babysat by an elderly grandmother!
Four years on and we still get to enjoy one of our pups all grown up.  My eldest daughter kept one of the pups, Ruby, who comes for visits to see her parents quite regularly.  I have been sent photo's of the other puppies with their new owners over the years which has been really nice.  I am quite thankful that there have been no more pups as, even though we all enjoyed the experience, giving them up at the end was truly heartbreaking.  We all really developed a bond with them and it was so rewarding watching them grow and progress.  I must admit I even miss opening up the laundry door each morning, only to be bowled over by five Boxer pups pushing their way past me into the house.  All the children and I would race around trying to catch them one by one.  I'm sure each of them would wee on the floor about three times each before they could be scooped up and encouraged back outside ready for their breakfast.

28 October 2013

11 : Turquoise Discus - Something Blue

Discus Eggs
Red Turquoise Discus guarding his eggs

In the world within my discus display tank nature rules.  The tank is located at the entrance of our home and the fish have to put up with strange humans madly dashing past, big and little, and occasionally stopping to stare at them.  They also have to deal with food falling from above at regular times throughout each day, rather than searching and foraging for themselves.  Their environment may not change much day after day, but their world is buzzing with activity with many species of fellow Amazonian fish.
The tank may look like a natural fish paradise to us, and for these discus it is, yet it is not quite the same as swimming in large shoals amongst twisted tree roots in a semi dark world where they would be naturally found in the rivers of the Amazon.  However, my discus get to experience for the first time in their lives swimming amongst submerged tree branches and aquatic plants, they have natural rocks and substrate on the base of their tank and best of all can hide from the world when they feel they need to. 

These fish are often kept by well meaning enthusiasts in bare bottomed plain tanks, on display at all times which goes against their natural instincts to hide, yet makes it easier for the aquarist to keep their tank in pristine conditions.  These fish don't get the opportunity to learn how to hide and to look for morsels of food hidden amongst the natural crevices of a tank, their tanks are vacuumed clean after each feed and their tank water can be changed from anywhere between 50 - 100% daily!
Although my tank cannot ever be truly like the amazon, the lighting is the biggest detriment.  If I kept the tank darker then I would miss out on the opportunity to be able to witness these magnificent creatures.  My discus are friendly and used to me and feed from my hand, they recognise me when I walk past their tank, I do try and keep their environment as natural as I can.  If I wanted to breed these majestic kings of the aquarium I would separate the pairs that have formed naturally as they grew, and move them to a much smaller bare bottomed aquarium with one single breeding cone in the tank for them to lay their eggs on.  In this environment they would be free to raise their babies without predators and I would have multiple discus fry to raise and to sell.
However, I do not want to do this.  I cannot justify taking my discus pairs from their home tank and causing them stress by removing them away from their natural environment.  I would dearly love them to be able to successfully breed in their display tank but the chances are remote.  There are simply too many other predators in their tank, including the other discus who love the taste of fresh discus fry and discus eggs.  Despite all this, my Discus do keep insisting on breeding and laying their precious eggs on natural tree branches or sometimes on the glass of the tank and guarding them fiercely.  None have made it much past the wiggler stage, but this is nature at its finest...

27 October 2013

11 : Memories and Time - Something Borrowed

A Reunion of Memories and Time ...
Last night was our 25 year High School Reunion, it was a night of lots of hugs, laughter, tears and reminiscing of old times.  Even though a quarter of a century has passed since those final school days it feels like just yesterday when we were last together.  Time is an incredible concept, the world keeps spinning and the clock keeps ticking and yet our memories remain the same. 
It's hard to know whether we are all exactly the same in reality, or whether we simply become exactly the same only when with each other; feeling like we are teenagers once more.  The difference is now we can boldly walk up to the bar and order an alcoholic beverage without fear of being asked our age.  I almost felt like I should pull out my ID last night, and then smiled to myself when I knew I didn't need it.  Actually, it would have been a privilege to have been asked.  It would mean that a stranger also thinks that I still look as young as I once did, and not just my friends that assure me I look exactly the same.
How on earth can you make up for 25 years lost in only a few hours?  The answer is you can't possibly, however, you can certainly enjoy trying.  I just loved to hear what everyone was up to, I felt happy that all my friends were doing well and living their lives, each in different and interesting ways.  All of us have experienced both hard and good times over the past quarter of a century, but the night of memories concentrates on the good times and recognising how far we have all come. 
For a short while the world stood still and let us catch up again, it allowed us to relive those early years and fill in some of the missing gaps.  But memories are just that, moments in time already lived and then you move on.  The night moved on too before we could stop it, becoming a new memory for us all.  A fresh memory to add to all the others, one that we can access whenever we want to be with our friends again.  When we want to feel that special connection and remember that we have people in this world that care for us.  People that actually think of us more often than we could have ever appreciated, that genuinely want the best for us and are proud of our achievements quietly from afar.  That is something so special that even time can't take that away, memories belong to us forever and connections will remain unbroken. 
It felt wrong to say goodbye, it was hard to believe I wouldn't be seeing them all at school again on Monday, but those days are long gone.  There will be school on Monday, but not for us, now that privilege belongs to our children.  There is no such thing as goodbye.  When we next see each other it will be tomorrow, no matter how many years away tomorrow will be ...

24 October 2013

11 : Brother Baby Bear - Something New

Baby Bear's Brother Found...

It is with regret to announce that Baby Bear who featured in week 9 Something Borrowed blog http://ajmaaa.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/9-baby-bear-something-borrowed.html has officially been declared a missing bear... 
It appears that he made another naughty choice 48 hours ago when he snuck into the car for a routine visit to Granny's house and her specialist appointment at the hospital.  Master 4 reports that baby bear was up to his usual antics and tagged along for the majority of the day, it is unknown at what point he disappeared.  It appears he may have attempted a dangerous parachuting game where he attempted to fling at high speed out of the rear window of the car.  Unfortunately, as baby bear was not wearing a parachute this stunt has ended in tears.  Despite internet searches, multiple drives up and down Main North Road searching for his remains and visits to the hospital, there have been no signs of baby bear.  Unfortunately baby bear chose to perform his most dangerous of stunts on a day of extreme weather conditions.  Wild winds were blowing huge trees across the state onto roads and houses, therefore, a small panda bear didn't have much of a chance in these conditions.
Both boys have been in tears and hoping when the weather improved that baby bear would find his way home.  Despite officially missing for 48 hours we were unable to fill out a police report; due to his previous mischievous behaviour the police were not confident he was actually missing.  It is thought that he may, in fact, be simply off on another of his adventures. It is indeed possible and the boys and I have decided most likely, he is probably so busy on his new adventures that he may not have time to make it home at all.
We spent the morning searching eBay for other missing panda bear adverts and found, by complete chance, baby bear's brother!  He is also from China, just like baby bear, and has been cared for by an American family.  Due to brother baby bear's bad behaviour they have put him up for sale.  The boys decided that they would love to welcome him into our home and are eagerly awaiting his arrival.  Due to international flights he may take a few weeks to arrive, we are hoping that he doesn't also decide to go off on naughty adventures like his brother.
Farewell baby bear, we will always fondly remember you and miss you and hope you enjoy your new adventures.  The boys are looking forward to explaining to your brother just how naughty you were and teaching him how to play all your games with your two best friends ...

forever in our hearts baby bear ...

23 October 2013

11 : 25 Year School Reunion - Something Old

1988 - 2013
This weekend is my 25 year School reunion from our last year at High School, of which I didn't actually attend!  It was 1988 and I decided that school wasn't for me, after only 1 week of Year 12 I decided to move on and attend Business College instead.  I was awarded Dux of my class at Business College and qualified with a Secretarial Diploma in one year.  This was an interesting twist of fate as I found myself pregnant at the end of 1988 and needed a job, due to my qualification I managed to gain a position as a secretary in the Commonwealth Bank.
It's so hard to contemplate that an entire quarter of a century has passed since those school yard days.  Its incredible, thinking back, how the people that you only knew for a fraction of a lifetime managed to influence your life.  It was a time when the opinions of your friends mattered more than anyone else.
The school I completed my education at was a senior school that only went for 3 years, some of these people, basically the boys, we really only just got to know before school was over.  However, the feeder school was an all girls school from year 6 to year 9.  I joined half way through year 6, so for me I spent just over 5 years with the majority of my group of friends.  Some came and went along the way, but for me it was the longest period of schooling life that I ever spent with the same group of people. 
I moved many times as a child and attended many different schools.  I had the very unfortunate experience of attending year 1 in three different states of Australia over 2 years, due to different rules in each State.  The early years of school were extremely confusing to me and I soon learnt to give up making friends altogether ...
This is why it was really nice to have had the opportunity to stay with the same group of friends throughout the final years of my schooling.  Despite being taken away from the freedom and the warmth of Darwin when I first moved back to Adelaide, and enrolled into an all girls school, I managed to make some great friends and have some amazing schooling adventures. 
During the early years at my all girls school we got up to all sorts of mischief, who could forget those fond memories of  turning our classroom into a scene from Excalibur the movie.  We all imagined that the Lady of the Lake was living in the carpet, and we would leap from our chairs to the door, losing points if you touched the carpet.  I remember when we made our own letterboxes on our desks to fit all the notes we would pass around the class, even nominating different posties to post them bumping around on our chairs. 
Although looking back I realise we were particularly mean to some of those poor relief teachers that dared show up at an all girls private school, we certainly had some fun at their expense.  The look on their face when they would walk into a class where all the tables and chairs were facing the back wall, with us all sitting in unison, assuring the teacher that this was how we always sat in our school.  Then there was the perfectly timed stand up; where we would all just stand up at a pre organised time or start clapping, the baffled teacher would ask what we were doing but we would only assure them that we were doing exactly as we were asked.  Watching the poor relief teacher ride away on his bike with no idea of the fresh chalk marks all up the back of his suit jacket was always a giggle... 
It was that camaraderie and friendship that only school friends can have, it's a time in your life that it's you and your friends against the world and you believe no one else could ever understand your daily dramas.
The last time I saw many of my school friends was at our 10 year reunion, 15 years ago now.  It's going to be very interesting to see how much we have all changed and find out how everyone has spent their last 25 years.  What an amazing opportunity to reconnect with those people that, even if only for such a short time, were so important in our lives and to each other... 


19 October 2013

10 : Buckets - Something Blue

Fish Buckets

Blue buckets drying in my sink is a familiar sight in our house, it means I have been changing water in the fish tanks again.  A very regular occurrence when you have 5 fish tanks in your home.  These simple cheap 10 litre buckets I bought at the local shopping centre have come in handy since I've started keeping tropical fish. 
One of the best tips I picked up on when researching how to keep fish was to ensure you have buckets specifically for the fish.  The idea is that you use the buckets for one thing only, changing fish water.  That way there are no risks of contamination, the presence of products like detergent can kill the fish and destroy the carefully maintained eco system.  They have come in handy during fish emergencies, such as when you suddenly need to find a home for all of your fish when their tank springs a leak.
We have had that twice, believe it or not, since I started keeping fish last July.  The first was because the tank was the wrong kind, a turtle tank, not a tropical fish tank and couldn't cope with the 200 litres of water.  That night the buckets were very handy, keeping the fish safe in their own water for a while until I could find something better.  After rummaging through the laundry cupboard I found a very tiny old 10 litre turtle tank that managed to hold all the fish, after a quick clean, until we could get a more suitable tank the following day.
That very same little old 10 litre turtle tank became my new baby fish tank and lasted for a while before it also sprung a leak.  Lesson learnt, don't use any turtle tanks to keep fish and if your tank is going to leak it will definitely happen at night!  The baby fish had to survive in a blue bucket until another trip to the shop found a new tank for them.  Actually having a disaster like this made me realise the benefits of keeping more than one tank, at least now I have options to move fish from one tank to another if there was a need.  I'm not sure it gave me the excuse to get another 4 tanks, but think how prepared I'll be.
I recently developed a new system to change water in my largest tank, my discus display tank, as bucketing 100 litres of water every 3 days was becoming hard work.  I bought two 50 litre tubs, a length of aquarium tubing and a pump.  I connect the tubing directly to the Pura tap in the kitchen then run the length of tubing up the steps and into the front entrance hallway, the tubs are filled directly in front of the tank.  I mix heated kettle water and water conditioner directly into the tub, matching the tub water to the 29 degree tank water.
The pond pump works efficiently, sucking the water directly from the tub and forcing it up through another piece of tubing and replacing the tank with fresh, clean de-chlorinated water.  The only problem I haven't solved is siphoning the water directly out of the tank and into the garden.  I'm still bucketing this out manually and pouring it on pot plants when the weather is hot.  However, I can bucket water out at the same time I'm filling up the big tubs now, so I am at least saving time.
If I actually had stopped the buckets all together I would miss out on my regular exercise. Other people may find the gym helpful, I don't have the time or the money for that, so fish bucketing is my thing.  Lucky for me I still bucket the water out of the other 4 tanks = plenty of exercise!
Clean up after the first tank disaster during the night...

18 October 2013

10 : Can I Borrow Your Pen? - Something Borrowed

It's My Pen!
It can be amusing to witness the exchange between two Paramedics involved in 'pen borrowing' during a case.  The reaction can vary from genuine happiness of helping a fellow colleague in a time of need to one of utter amazement that someone would allow their pen to run out of ink during a shift.
The generous colleague that happily conjures up a spare pen, carried for such occasions, appears truly happy to have been able to help out.  Alternatively, when the request is met with stunned silence and hesitation, it's fair to say they are reluctant to meet the request.  Regardless, they find it hard to think of a realistic reason not to hand over their most prized possession, even as it is peeled from their grip.
Pens in health care are treated as though they are lined with gold, finding a pen without its owner hovering closely behind is extremely rare.  Unlike items such as stethoscopes, pen light torches and shears, the most valuable item a Paramedic can possess is a working pen!

15 October 2013

10 : Vinyl is Back - Something Old is Now Something New!

LP Record Players are Back
Apparently all those old record players we ditched 20 odd years ago are now back in style, and in a big way!  There will be many that will reminisce and kick themselves for selling their old record collections, or even worse throwing them away.  Turns out vinyl is back in fashion, owning original LPs will become more valuable than ever.  Apparently it has been cool again for some time, I seemed to have missed that memo.
When I got a birthday request for my son's 19th birthday I was very surprised.  The last thing I expected a techno geek physicist student to be asking me for was an LP player and some new vinyl records!  I didn't think I would even be able to buy any modern vinyls, I was wrong, there are so many old and new ones to choose from.  His sleek, new modern LP player is one that can actually convert LP records to iTunes to play on your iPhone, iPod or iPad if you so wish. 
We found ourselves last night having a 19 year old explain to us - diagrams and all - just why vinyl actually has a smoother sound than the digital music available today!  Don't ask me to repeat how or why, it just is.  I must admit after we cranked it out yesterday - to test it of course, I whole heartedly agree.  It was as though we stepped into a time machine as the sounds of my old Platoon movie sound track LP boomed through the house, scaring the hell out of Master 4 and all the fish.  I had always believed sound must have improved with digital media, turns out there really is nothing quite like listening to vinyl LPs.
Now we know what we are getting ourselves for Christmas...

13 October 2013

9 : The Golden Rule - Something Blue...

Feeling Blue ..
I have always been a big believer in the following eleven words, also known as the Golden Rule:
'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you' 
It simply means you should treat everyone else just as you wish to be treated yourself.  Hopefully this is with kindness and respect.  There are so many kind and wonderful people in this world, hopefully more than there are that are cruel and unkind.  Unfortunately, we seem to put so much more time and attention toward those that treat us badly and upset us, rather than those that help us feel appreciated and happy.  We are kinder to complete strangers than we are to those we are supposed to love the most. 
It may be a very simplistic view of life and human behaviour, yet surely there is still hope that good will win in the end...

11 October 2013

9 : Baby Bear - Something Borrowed

The Very Naughty Bear...
We have a very naughty bear in this house, a battered panda bear sporting several sets of stitches, evidence from some of his trysts.   He is the naughtiest bear in the house by far.  He has been accused of many things over the years such as drawing on the walls in crayon; stealing biscuits; leaving food behind the lounge in the playroom; turning the TV off in the middle of an argument, breaking the TV and generally making a mess.  He is often found to be the cause of many fights between my two youngest boys, but more often the cause of most of the fun.  He is a wicked little bear and apparently very, very funny.  He even fell into the toilet recently at the exact same time Master 4 was taking a whiz.  Imagine that for unfortunate timing.  He looked ever so smart after his visit to the laundry where he trialled both the washing machine and the tumble dryer.
Baby bear is often found in hot pursuit of the boys, who are running wildly through the house,  flying through the air smashing into furniture or 'accidentally' stomped on when he falls to the ground.  When you hear those high pitched squeals of delight, that only little boys can make, you just know baby bear is involved somehow.  Yes baby bear is a very busy and active bear but amazingly resilient.  Sometimes he is so naughty that he follows the boys into the car, rarely putting his seat belt on, and trying his best to be left behind wherever we go.  You really have to watch this little guy or he may get lost, he really is that naughty.  Thankfully he is pretty good at going to bed, usually at the exact same time as one of the boys.
I really can't recall when baby bear came into our lives, or how he got his name.  All I know is he is obviously leading my innocent boys astray, all the while making it seem like loads of fun.   Still, he is part of the family now, and no matter how naughty he is or how much he makes the boys squeal with delight, he is here to stay. 

10 October 2013

9 : Something New - Finished!

A Night of Good Dreams ...
Today I have woken up refreshed and positive, for the first time in as long as I can remember I actually enjoyed good positive dreams last night.  My dreams usually consist of crazy analogies that make me wonder what on earth is going on in my brain.  Last night, however, I was able to actually swim, not just wade in a pool, but swim strongly in waters teaming with sharks and  crocodiles.  Normally if I have to swim in these waters I am too afraid to get in and become fearful, sure that I will be eaten.  Last night, however, I put on my goggles, dove in and swam.  Although I hesitated for a moment when I remembered the sharks and crocodiles, I decided I didn't care and just kept swimming.  I swam stronger than I ever had before, I was able to cut through the water using powerful strokes that I remembered I was capable of.  I was able to make it to the other side without anything bad happening, I felt strong and powerful.
I also found myself in another dream where I was on a family holiday, I would normally become terrified during one of these dreams just as I began to realise it was time to pack for the airport.  I have a fear of flying which I long ago identified as more to do with not feeling in control, rather than actually being in danger of dying in a plane crash.  Normally in my plane dreams my plane either can't get off the ground or begins to plummet to the earth as it begins the ascent.  This is usually after I have spent most of my dream being frustrated, trying to organise for the trip back home but continually running into problems.  For example, I suddenly can't find the passports, or the tickets, or the phone won't dial, or my watch breaks and we are running impossibly late for the plane.  In last nights dream, however, I was the most organised person on the trip.  I was fully in charge, in control and ready to go, so much so that I didn't even need to step foot on the plane this time as I was no longer fearful of it.  
The only thing I can attribute such positive dreams to is the fact that I have just completed my first draft of my first novel.  It is a real achievement for me to have completed an entire novel in less than two months.  I still have work to do on it of course, but I've actually finished my story.  I had an idea, I turned it into a plan, I dedicated the time to writing it and now it is finished.  Finally I can concentrate on finishing my other novels that are still incomplete and begin to enter some short stories to hopefully be published. 
I just hope I keep enjoying good and positive dreams.  It is so much more refreshing to wake from having succeeded in your dream rather than spending all night trying to sort things out and feeling like you haven't slept at all.  Maybe I'll even get to run and fly in my dreams once more.  When I was a child I would dream of running so fast that I could literally take off and fly.  I have always loved those dreams and can't wait to be able to soar above all of my earthly problems in the land of dreams once again ...

08 October 2013

9 : The Two Pound Coin - Something Old

The Mystery of the Coin

Well it certainly is a mystery how it got there, and why, but because it did it saved us a lot of money.  This 2006 two pound coin mysteriously found itself wedged in our washing machine causing it not to drain.  I had spent many a wash in the last week clearing and draining the water manually, taking nearly a full day to get each load done.  Very frustrating.  In the end I had decided just leaving off the emergency drain cap was the only way the machine would work, allowing all the dirty water to spill onto the laundry floor and down the drain.  A real mess, but at least the clothes were being washed.
When you find yourself head down on the laundry floor watching water spill out of your machine, just so you can see if the little water pump spoke is spinning, you know that things have got out of control.  There was going to be no other choice but to get someone in to fix it, or worse still, to buy yet another washing machine.  Not something we can afford right now, especially with Christmas looming.
In the process of trying to work out why the washing machine would not, or could not, pump the dirty water out, I examined the outlet hose.  Unfortunately I found out that it was actually cracked, and the more it was touched, the more splits appeared.  It had deteriorated rapidly. I couldn't understand why there hadn't already been water all over the floor from this problem.  Maybe it had just happened.  If water had spilled out of this area it would not have been such a good result.  We keep all our dry dog food in a tub in the sink beside the washing machine which would have been ruined.  Also the spilled water would have made a bigger mess on the floor and risk moving the washing machine off balance, causing more problems with the spin cycle. 
My husband and I looked at the machine and were stuck with any more ideas.  He decided to tip it on its side when I was at work and see if he could see any problem where the outlet hose attached. This is when the coin came out.  A 2006 English two pound coin of all things.  We can only conclude it must have been wedged behind the outlet hose, where we couldn't visibly see or reach it, stopping the flow.  Absolutely unbelievable, I have found a few coins over the years which have found their way into the filter basket or stayed in the machine rattling around, 5c and 10c coins, sometimes even $1 and $2 coins.  Never, have I found a foreign currency coin, especially a larger one like the two pound coin.  I can't even imagine how it managed to find its way, not only into the washing machine, but to wedge itself to stop the flow of water.  None of it made any sense.  But there it was, the evidence was clear, the coin lay suspiciously wet and covered in grit on the laundry floor.
As all things seem to happen for a reason, even minor things like a washing machine not working properly, this coin actually led us to find out the hose was cracked and needed replacement.  We had tried repairing the hose with tape, but it was too far gone and cracked even more.  A quick trip down to Bunnings on a public holiday and a mere $18 later gave us a brand new hose. 
Fingers crossed this was the only fault and whilst I went to work last night my husband replaced the hose and ran through two loads of washing.  Worked perfectly both times, no beeping, no manual removal of water and no leaking from a broken outlet pipe.  It was fixed, all for $18, and all because of a mysterious two pound English coin.
We have been to England twice in the past 5 years but the last time was 2 years ago.  It is a true mystery how and when the coin became stuck, but because it did it led us to find other problems which in the end probably saved us a lot more money.  I guess we should be thankful to the mysterious two pound coin.

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