failure to launch

So, my one big task for this summer (apart from cleaning my room) was to start a blog. University starts again in about four weeks, and I have failed already. I don’t really have any excuses either, which makes it worse.

What have I done this summer? Not a lot. But I survived it without too many disasters, which is more than I can say for other years.

  • Nathan and I went on our first ever ‘just us’ holiday.
  • We both got to see Hobart for the first time.
  • I am now officially a ‘fairy godmother’.
  • I got all the Christmas shopping done with minimal tears, anxiety or last minute freak-outs.
  • I went to the beach a lot.
  • I spent some time with Dad before he went back to Singapore.
  • And my room is ALMOST clean.
The most entitled dog.
The most entitled dog.

It was nice to just be able to enjoy things for once, rather than coasting from one disaster to the other. There is so much I want to finish in the next few weeks, before the long hard slog of the academic year begins. And even though I have failed so far, I will try my hardest to actually make this blog a thing.

tin can in the sky

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow.

This shouldn’t be a problem, except that it has been a while, and I’m not quite as brave as I used to be.

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In our Taiwan days, we flew a lot. One time, my sister Cait and I even flew back to Australia by ourselves. For my tenth birthday, my mother and I flew to Hong Kong for the weekend. When we came back to Australia to live, we were constantly jetting back and forth between Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, to spend time with my dad while he was working interstate.

Fast forward… it’s been a long while, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I suppose I haven’t been on a plane as an adultWish me luck!

EDIT: I survived! It was bizarre.. I’m so used to flying on BIG planes, that I got on the little 737 and was like, “this is it?”. It was one aisle flanked by rows of three seats. Nathan was a total pain by telling me a ‘story’ before we took off, about us crashing into the ocean and dying, and how Posie would miss us forever, and how she’d shed little puppy tears and her little puppy heart would break into a million pieces when she learned that we died in a horrible plane crash. I punched him in the arm.

Though I did get a laugh out of this –

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We were in the emergency exit row, so there was extra signage about how we had to open the doors if there was an emergency, etc. I chose to read this a bit differently.

If you can set things on fire with laser beams that shoot from your eyes, don’t look out the window!

 

my little dog

I love her so much. I really, really, really do.

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When we brought her home from the pet store*, she only weighed 900 grams and could fit in the pocket of the dress I was wearing. I decided that her favourite colour would be red, so we picked out the tiniest red collar they had in stock (it was still too big for her). The lady tied a tiny red bow in her hair and put her in a cardboard box, and she was mine.

As we sat in the car marvelling at how tiny she was, we tossed some names around. Claudia? Rosie? She was the colour of miso soup, so that was up for consideration. But as soon as I said Posie, I knew it was her name (Nathan later admitted that he wasn’t thrilled about having such a feminine dog with such a feminine name, but now, she couldn’t have been called anything else).

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The first night, we tried to be strong. We made a makeshift puppy pen, by wedging some bookcases into an L-shape, forming a square with the corner of the living room. She had her brand new bed, some water, newspaper on the floor – “she’ll be fine”, Nathan kept reminding me. But when she started to cry (which was more like a squeak), she broke me. I scooped her up and let her snuggle with me in our bed, with my arms positioned around her like a little fence. I was so scared that Nathan would accidentally roll on top of her that I barely slept at all.

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However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. We were woefully unprepared for a dog. And I spent the first nine months thinking that Posie hated me. She hated being patted or cuddled. She bit me constantly with her little needle-sharp puppy teeth. She would refuse to eat her food, then squeak like her world was ending as soon as I took it away. She would fish tampons out of my handbag and shred them into fluffy white clouds. Every time the front door opened, she would find a way to wriggle past my ankles and take off down the street, like she never intended on coming back. She also managed to eat an eyeshadow palette and chew through at least six pairs of heels. Including some very special, very expensive shoes that Nathan bought for me, when we first started going out.

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I took it all personally. I wondered if I had chosen the wrong dog. Posie was so independent and flighty, more like a cat. She was, and still is, a bit of a bitch (ha). But somehow, around the nine or ten month mark, she relented. She bolted into the backyard like a bat out of hell, chasing an imaginary cat. As soon as she reached the far fence, she turned her gaze up towards the tree, where a bird was just minding his own business. And then she started yapping.

“Posie (insert last name here)!” I growled across the yard. I hate when our dogs bark in the backyard – I don’t want to give our neighbours any reason to hate us. For the first time ever, Posie actually responded. Her ears flipped back against her head and her tail sank between her legs. She gave me those famous puppy dog eyes and crept back towards me, through the long grass, then sat at my feet. I couldn’t believe it – this bratty little dog actually cared what I thought, she didn’t want me to be mad at her. I scooped her up and gave her a pat, and she snuggled against me, as if to say – we’re friends again, okay?

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Ever since, she’s been my darling little dog.

*I wish I could say that we didn’t get her from a pet store, but we did. Please consider adoption first, then reputable breeders – don’t support puppy mills and backyard breeding. 

Rupert, the wonder dog – part II

**This is Part II of my first post about Rupert’s health issues. You can read Part I here**

Reflections, seven(ish) months later.

I’m having a lazy day and writing this from bed, propped up by pillows with the laptop on my knees. Rupert is curled up, sleeping at the end of the bed. He snores like a person, sometimes punctuated by little whimpery barks if he’s having a particularly vivid dream. Posie is, of course, busy doing her ‘job’ of guarding the house – patrolling windows and French doors, watching for any wayward neighbourhood cats that dare enter our yard.

I have a theory about dogs, that they love having a job to do. A raison d’être. Just like people. I suppose it makes them feel important, or like they are contributing somehow. Nathan’s childhood dog Marshal would help bring the shopping inside, waiting by the car for someone to give him a bag to carry. My childhood dog, the million dollar globetrotting Xiao-Gui, was a bit of a Florence Nightingale – she would take up residence on the lap or bedside of whoever was sick, or in need of some comfort, and stay with them until they felt better. Posie looks like a bit of a princess, but she’s a fantastic watchdog. The barking can be annoying, but there have been times when I have been endlessly grateful for it. 

I’m not sure what Rupert’s job is, but today at least, he’s off duty. Or maybe he’s retired now. After everything he has been through, he’s earned it.

His eventual diagnosis was idiopathic pharyngeal dysphasia, which ultimately doesn’t say a lot. The veterinary team that cared for him at the hospital started with a long list of suspects, but ruled them out one by one, until we came to this – a condition without a name, a reason or a cure. The first few weeks after he came home from the intensive care unit were harrowing. Apart from twice-daily steam sessions, multiple rounds of tablets and constant supervision, Rupert required hand feeding three times a day, then being held in a sitting position for half an hour to ensure all the food went down. At first, he was so exhausted just from having pneumonia that he gave up after only a few morsels.

It was touch and go for a while, but eventually, things started to look better. Not all at once, of course, but a series of little moments that gradually gathered momentum. Rupert wagged his tail when my sister came to visit him. He got out of bed by himself to go searching for a teddy bear to snuggle. He started giving me his big-eyed, pathetic Oliver Twist tragic face again, when he’d eaten all of his dinner and was hopelessly full, but still wanted more.

It’s about seven months since his ordeal. He snores and coughs a lot, and still has to be hand fed (luckily, only once a day). We have to be vigilant about signs of pneumonia, but he hasn’t had a single relapse. He spends his days sunbathing on the lawn or napping on the sofa, but runs around like a madman and bucks like it’s a rodeo whenever he gets excited. And he’s still Posie’s BFF. Looking at the spirited, vibrant little dog he is after less than a year of recovery, I can’t believe how many people expected that we would just give up on him. It’s just a dog. He’s had a good life. He’s done his dash. It’s not like he’s a child. 

He is not disposable. And we will not give up on him. The vet staff have mentioned many times that Rupert is lucky to have been adopted by us, and that we were willing to do whatever we could for him. But we are the lucky ones. Rupert has done (and is still doing) his job – loving us – unconditionally, unwaveringly, without expectation. Dogs are so selfless and giving of themselves, and after everything Rupert has gone through in his life, it’s amazing that his love for us (and everyone he meets) just keeps coming and coming. The very least we can do for him is love him back.

supermodel documentary hour

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Sorrento, the day before Melbourne Cup.

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Styling’ up my porch with some petunias, geraniums and an old chair we found on a nature strip.

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Yours truly as some sort of terrifying drag queen/flamingo hybrid, for our goddaughter’s first birthday party.

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Nathan modelling some homemade walrus tusks.

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Posie obviously shares my literary tastes – Other People We Married by Emma Straub.

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Obligatory shoe shot (aren’t we 20-something creative types contractually required to take these sorts of shots?).

a while

This blog got lost for a while, under deadlines and handkerchiefs and empty boxes of panadol.

But it must become a habit. Like jogging. Or choosing steamed dumplings instead of fried. Or picking my socks off the floor without being asked. Even if I write about nothing, it’s better than writing nothing at all.

Must keep swimming. Must not be self-defeating whenever I make progress. Must stop deleting half-poems and half-stories. Must not get overwhelmed at the first test.

Rupert, the wonder dog – part I

**This was originally posted on tumblr, but I felt compelled to repost here. You can read Part II here.**

I don’t normally use tumblr like a journal or a diary, but I’m a bit miserable and needed to ‘write it out’.

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Little Rupert is in intensive care. The hospital sent this photo on Saturday night. He’s spending his time between a nebulizer, an oxygen tent, and having endless blood tests. If he’s well enough for anaesthetic, tomorrow he will have an MRI on his brain, a barium x-ray and they mentioned testing the fluid in his lungs and taking muscle biopsies. Apart from the pneumonia, he has a mystery auto-immune muscle wasting disease.. they originally thought it was masticatory muscle myositis, but it seems to be affecting his shoulders and his ability to breath and swallow, too. The vets are confident that it will be treatable, but he has to get past this pneumonia first.

It’s not a nice or reasonable way to feel, but I wish this was happening to some other dog. Rupert’s biggest ambition in life is just to be cuddled, or sit on someone’s lap. He is so gentle and spirited, and his favourite trick is throwing his body weight backwards in your arms so you have to hold him like a baby.

What we know of his history is so awful – before we adopted him (free to a good home, in the classifieds), he’d had two years of being passed around between people who weren’t prepared to or able to look after him. Before that, he had been in the pound. He was free because of his separation anxiety – he is so desperate to be loved, he would go to crazy lengths to prove how submissive he was.. like peeing on the couch. We’re working on that! He still has some scars from his past life – some strange grooves on the back of his canine teeth, possible from chewing on a cage; if he ever sees a plastic bag on the floor, he immediately claims it as his ‘bed’; he loves his little sister, Posie, but he gets incredibly agitated around other male dogs. We don’t know when his birthday is, we don’t know what his first name was, or where he was born.

It’s so cruel and unfair that this should happen to him after everything he’s already been through. But if it had to happen, I’m glad it’s happening now – because unlike everybody else who gave him away when it got tough, we’ll stick with him through this.

the moral of the story is…

My main intention with this blog is to force myself to write. I find myself paralysed, all the time, when faced with blank spaces. Or having an idea that is so unusual, and feeling completely incapable of getting it down without destroying it. Like catching a goldfish only to smash it between overeager hands. Expect drivel and spelling mistakes!

Another intention (an easier one) is to collect all the bits and pieces of my life (and everything outside of my life) that inspire something. Memories have holes and vested interests, and they are very good at constructing lies and distorting things. So, this will provide a little time capsule for me.

Currently, I am working on a couple of pieces involving fairy tales. For uni. One of them is a fairy tale of my own design, the other piece is a school essay in which I tear a tale apart – Hansel and Gretel. It’s amazing that everybody knows this story, yet everybody gave different answers when I asked on facebook what the moral or ‘lesson’ was.

Don’t eat people’s houses.
Don’t trust kids.
Don’t trust adults.
Don’t trust your parents.
Don’t trust witches.
Don’t let your parents name you Hansel or Gretel.

I can’t pinpoint one overall moral either. It’s incredibly ambiguous, especially when you try to consider it as an instructional tale for children in 1857. It’s especially concerning when you consider the stepmother dies at the same time as the witch. Perhaps they are the same person..