Friday, 30 March 2012

Dog Rescues - re-homing a rescued dog. Guest Post by Dr. Susan Wright.

When an organization makes a rescue, whether it’s one dog whose owner has passed away or a slew of dogs being hoarded and treated cruel, they all have one thing in common - they need a second chance in life. These dogs need someone who will love and care for them for the remainder of their life. These animals need to be re-homed.

What is Re-homing?
Re-homing a dog a process of finding a suitable owner and home where they will be properly cared for and engage in a new life that provides them security and love. Most often rescued dogs have endured a life many would never wish upon any animal, yet alone a human being. Rescued dogs have been mistreated in some way, whether they were abandoned, neglected, abused or confined to unfit living conditions. This type of treatment to an animal can really affect its behavior and confidence and may result in some serious behavioral issues.

Are Rescued Dogs Safe?
Though rescued dogs will more than likely have some behavioral issues, whether it is trusting humans, anger or shyness, most often, rescued dogs have been evaluated and worked with by professionals that have deemed the dog to be safe for a new home. However, if you are considering taking on the responsibility of adopting a rescued dog you should be aware of everything you are signing up for. Taking ownership of a dog is a big undertaking and will require a lot of time, money and effort. Especially, when taking in a dog that has had a less than perfect life up until now. When adopting a rescued dog it is more important than ever to make sure you are in the relationship for the long haul. The dog needs to trust and be dependent on their new owner, someone they can feel confident and
secure with.
How are Dogs and Homes Matched?
Rescue organizations want to ensure possible owners are ready for the commitment of owning a special needs dog by making interested families undergo a series of steps and compatibility matching. Most often they are requested to fill out an application, usually associated with a fee, as well as a lifestyle questionnaire to help determine the type and breed of dog most suited for the family, as well as even a series of home visits to ensure adequate living conditions, followed up by visits once the dog is placed to ensure everyone is adjusting appropriately.

Re-homing a rescued dog allows an animal that has lost his will, know that he is loved. The dog can begin living the type of life he deserves. Rehoming focuses on rehabilitation. Adopting an abused dog is helping take a stance in the movement of humane treatment of animals and caring for these God-made creatures. There are so many dogs that need a home that is filled with care and love to help them become the dogs they were made to be, loyal, loving and dedicated to their owners, man’s best friend.
Image Credit Donated in Support of Indiana Animal Protection League

Dr. Susan Wright is an author, a wireless dog fence expert and a veterinarian. Susan writes informative articles on the health and care of dogs.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to get back up after licking the carpet (staying strong in the face of humiliation).

I was licking the carpet, my tongue covered in fluff and the distinct taste of trodden-on chewing gum filling my nostrils. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but having just tripped over in front of a class of year nine students, I was certainly becoming more intimate with the floor than anticipated! I had barely regained my breathing, when I began to pick myself up with dread – what would they say?

Oh, how quickly those delusional dreams of keeping a class mesmerized and entertained for forty-five minutes are sucked up like sand into the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner! Teenagers to a graduate teacher are like fruit-flies to a rotting plum – they can smell you a mile away. They know how to set you up. They can sense your dis-ease with swapping from the role of student (which you’ve been comfortably filling for most of your life) to teacher (which you’ve only been filling for a couple of days, weeks or months).

Inevitably, a new teacher gets swamped with a load of cliché’s from the first day they start. ‘Don’t smile till second semester!’ ‘Show ‘em you mean business – come in strict from the beginning!’ ‘Don’t tell them too much about yourself!’ Great advice – but not that practical when you don’t know what to expect of ‘them!’ Individually, high school students are pretty nice, on the whole. Even pairs, or small groups, they are generally quite friendly and polite. They may even answer you when you ask them questions. But sometimes, as a CLASS, it’s a whole new ball-game.

I had a certain English class in my first year of teaching. They were year tens, and they’d had plenty of practice in baiting new teachers. They could smell my fear from a mile away - they knew I was scared and they were going to make the most of it. It started out quietly; interruptions during my instructions, little comments across the classroom. I didn’t know what to do – should I tell another teacher, or would that look incompetent? Was it worth issuing a detention? I wasn’t sure, so I just left it. And the kids took this as an invitation to rev up their efforts.

I guess I just tried to pretend I was coping okay. I concentrated on the good kids, ignoring the ones who were causing the problems. I had nothing to compare them with, really, so I blamed myself for their bad behavior and didn’t seek help. My emotions were beginning to fray – in the mornings I was dropping my son off at crèche, and dealing with his sadness. Then at school, I was running around being busy – too busy to face the problem I was having with these few students. I hated this class. I was beginning to dread turning up to work – and all because of this one group of fifteen year old children!

It all came to a head one day when I was feeling particularly vulnerable. I’d had a minor car accident in the morning, not enough to go home, and after dropping my son off again, I arrived at school. I had that class first off, and in I went. I greeted the students as usual, began the lesson, hoped that for once we could just have a normal lesson where everyone listened and did what they were supposed to. But they started on me about three minutes later. It had grown from little comments across the classroom, to public verbal insults about my ability as a teacher. They went on and on, and eventually I just blew it. Tears poured down my face and by body began to shake. I sat on the chair in the corner and pretended I wasn’t there, like an ostrich with its head in the sand.

I could hear them whispering behind me. The class had gone quiet. One of the nicer students asked if I was okay, and I sent her out to get another teacher. In a couple of minutes another teacher arrived to take over, and I went outside.

A crucial decision had to be made - would I stay out here, maybe go home, and never return? Or would I have a drink, take a few breaths, and head back into the classroom? It was a hard decision, but there was one thing I knew – if I didn’t go back now, I would never go back. I had to face the firing squad. I had to endure the humiliation of returning after my break-down.

That flight of steps to the classroom had never seemed so long and steep, and as I opened the door the teacher looked surprised. She had probably assumed I wouldn’t return. I stood in front of the kids and said, ‘Let’s get on with this lesson, will we?’ They were quiet. They listened. They did the work I had set for them.

Soon the bell rang, and one of the girls who’d been causing the trouble from the beginning came up to me with a note, gave it to me, and left the room.

‘Sorry Miss, for making you upset.’

And in that small act, she changed from a scary, unapproachable monster, to a human being. I realised that I hadn’t been connecting with these students, because I wasn’t really seeing them as people. People just like me.

Something changed after that day in that class. Don’t get me wrong, there were no instant miracles. There was no sudden perfect group. But we seemed to have some kind of connection that wasn’t there before.


That carpet sure smelled. I slowly got up, expecting the class to be in fits of laughter at my clumsiness. I brushed myself off, waiting for the reaction. Nothing. Students were just sitting in their seats, waiting expectantly for the class to begin. The girl sitting nearest me asked if I was okay. I put my books on the table and said I was. We had a quiet laugh. The lesson began.

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Royal Telephone

The three of us sat together at Grandma’s funeral. Three women, my mother, sister and I, there to pay respects and say goodbye to the woman who shaped our lives. We sat on smooth wooden pews, cool to the touch and hard to the bones. If it were winter, the bitter icy draughts of the town would have crept beneath our outer garments, infiltrating our inner thermostats to leave us shivering. But today we sat in reasonable comfort. Grandma could not have chosen a better season to die .

Sitting around at home, we had cried tears of sadness and joy, the memories and emotions bringing forth release of many years of struggle and pain. But now we had to make a decision - what song to choose for Grandma’s funeral? It was a hard choice to make. She was a great person, who had worked hard and faced many personal challenges, but it had to be admitted that Grandma was never headed for sainthood. Although this funeral was in the Anglican church, where she had married my Grandfather many years earlier, I don’t recall her attending any services. She was born a Baptist, married an Anglican and at the end of her life, though it was never official, I think she may have considered herself Catholic. She once came home to her family as a teen to announce with gusto,

‘I’ve been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ!’, much to the great mirth of her family. I don’t think the conversion lasted long. She sang ‘Yes, Jesus loves you’ to me in my childhood and gave me a Bible in my adolescence, stating that it was her duty as my godmother, but I think she’d given up on the idea of any other traditional god-mother duties. When I successfully passed my driver’s licence, proudly driving to her house to show off my skills, I was presented with a St. Christopher’s medal, for protection of travellers. She’d bought it from the nuns down the road, two women who had become an important source of company and support for her during her last few years, when she was housebound.

After much discussion, her daughter, my mum, suggested playing Jimmy Little’s song, ‘Royal Telephone’, as the main funeral hymn.
We sat on those pews, hip bones starting to ache, as the song, popular in the 1960‘s, began to fill the church, and we swapped the name ‘Jesus’ for ‘Grandma’:

‘Telephone to glory, oh what joy divine,
I can feel the current moving on the line,
Made by God the Father, for his very own,
You may talk to Grandma on this royal telephone.’

The telephone was a strong symbol of who Grandma was. She called my mum every day and her grand-daughters at least a few times a week. When I went to uni, she would ring at the most inconvenient of times, much to my annoyance! But as irritating as her calls could sometimes be, they were also a comfort. Some years later, when I went into labour with my eldest daughter, Grandma was on the other end of the line, talking me through the contractions. Her voice provided the link I needed as I entered a new and somewhat terrifying stage of my life and prepared to give birth in a big city hospital where you were just a name on a page. I had no idea about how she would have been feeling then, but in hindsight, I realise now that the birth would have brought back many difficult memories for her. Her first baby, a perfect little boy, had to be dismembered during a botched delivery, in order to save my Grandma’s life. After this, she fell into depression, hiding herself from the world for months, until a doctor ordered her to stop feeling sorry for herself, and then she became pregnant with another baby, this time a little girl, my Mum.

Mum’s relationship with Grandma was an unwritten contract. Grandma was, understandably, overprotective and Mum was afraid to push her boundaries. Grandma’s desire to control everyone and everything led my mother to become more attached to her father, who she adored and idolised throughout her life. Grandma chose who her daughter could be friends with, refusing to let her play with those she didn’t approve. As her daughter became increasingly independent, Grandma became frustrated and clingy. She didn’t approve of her first marriage to my father, nor of her second. When my sister and I were born, she never allowed us to visit the ‘other’ grandparents, who lived a couple of blocks away in the same town. When we got older, she voiced her opinion strongly about which boyfriends were suitable and which were to be despised, calling them ‘It’ or ‘The thing’ if they weren’t up to scratch.

Helping clean up her house after she died, I noticed that every item of furniture had left a pale outline on the wooden floorboards. They had stood in the same place for twenty-five years. It would have been longer if it wasn’t for the house fire that had burned her old house and furniture to the ground, twenty-five years earlier, apparently from a burning cigarette. Grandma was a smoker for years, keeping it ‘secret’ from my Grandpa by spraying air freshener around the kitchen after each smoke. She never did come clear about her habit, although it was obvious to us all, including Grandpa.

She was always fastidious in the house, and everything had its place. If I moved an ornament to one side, she would always notice and ask me to move it back. Even a box of tissues, always the same brand, had an established spot on the bookshelf. A cardboard cut out Christmas pudding that I’d made in kindergarten was hanging in the kitchen, stuck with a piece of yellowing sticky tape, curling at the edges. I peeled it off reluctantly before I departed from the house for the last time, leaving a shadowed outline in its place.

Grandma’s greatest desire, since she was a little girl, was to become a nurse. Because she was growing up during the depression, and her father struggled to support his family, Grandma had to leave school after the eighth grade. She worked in factories until she was married, then took on home duties full time. Although she never became a qualified nurse, she took on the job of nursing her own child and two granddaughters with great satisfaction. She was always overjoyed if we were coming down with a temperature, hoping we would soon be taking on the role of patient.

Grandma enjoyed her work at the Lincoln Textile Mills, where she worked between the years of 1939 - 1945, a job opportunity which arose as the men left for war. The stories she relates of her time there are of strong friendships, good company and support in times of crisis. One story she liked to relate was of a black out that was held one night, when she was helping out with the Red Cross, packing food to send overseas for the soldiers. The lights were all out, as required, during which time the ladies giggled and chatted to pass the time and take away the fear. When the lights suddenly came back on at the end of the black-out, a lady was heading out the door with a huge stick of German Sausage tucked under her arm! Grandma and her friends had a good laugh over that one, and the story was retold with much mirth many times over.

Her brother went missing during the war. She remembered the postmaster coming to the door,
‘Mrs McQueen,’ he said. ‘Your son is missing, presumed drowned.’ Grandma heard her mum screaming at the door. They wrote after three months to say that for official purposes, his death must now be presumed.
‘In my parents’ hearts, they never did believe he was dead’, she recalled sadly.

On her visits to Bendigo, she would slip me a block of chocolate, saying,

‘Enjoy it by yourself, love, don’t give any away!’ She was always worried that I would lose or give away my belongings. I once lent an electric fan to my boyfriend, who had moved into a flat. Grandma asked about it every time she visited. When he and I parted company, she made sure I asked for it back. When it was finally returned to its rightful place, she joked about it, ‘Jim’s come to give back his fan(ny)’ She had a wicked sense of humour. She loved to turn nursery rhymes around when we were little, a favourite was;

‘Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was black as charcoal,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The wind blew up her ….’

She once rang up to tell me a funny story. The Anglican minister had visited, trying to talk her into attending a service. He had sat on a cushion I’d sewed in one of my crafty moments, which was filled with tiny white bean bag beans. The cushion had split and the white beans clung to his dark trousers with a strong static determination. She tried to help wipe them off, balancing on her walking frame for support, but it was to no avail. He left in a huff, looking like he’d been caught in a Kyneton blizzard.

Grandma was a woman who never had a chance to live up to her potential, because of the times she was born into as well as her personal circumstances. Her letters were long and lively, her handwriting a perfect, flowing script, grammar and spelling always accurate. She’d studied elocution as a child, and always loved reading poetry to herself and anyone who wanted to listen. A man once wrote to the ‘Australian Post’ magazine, asking who the mystery reader was in the Kyneton library who would circle the number nine on page nine of every book they read. ‘They must have read every book in the library’, he wrote. It wasn’t a mystery to us, we knew how many books Grandma read and her favourite number had always been nine.

If only there was a phone to glory. I could call Grandma and talk about my life. I’d discuss the ups and the downs and talk about how living sometimes involves so much pain, but also so much joy. I could talk to her as an adult, not a child, and I would tell her I’m sorry for not spending the time with her I should have as a teenager and ask if she’d forgive me. If the phone rang and someone called out,
‘It’s only Grandma!’, I wouldn’t leave it ringing, cross at the interruption. I’d dive for the phone, sit back in a comfy chair with the receiver to my ear and prop my feet up on the ottoman, ready for the best night of my life.

Copyright © 2012 Sue Oaks

Saturday, 24 March 2012


The last time I jumped on a trampoline I had to jump straight back off and run to the toilet! Might put that down to having had three kids, the last one weighing 11lb, 12oz.

It wasn't like that in the old days though! My trampoline, at one time, was like my world. I could jump from each corner to the middle, across ways, onto my back and over to my tummy. I would commentate my trampolining, being the commentator, competitor and crowd all in one. I would alight the trampoline with grace and bound off in great abandon!

When it was finished, I would bring out my book and lie in the warm sun, looking at the cats and dogs when they sat underneath... when my face was squashed against the black webbing, I could see through the tiny holes which framed each scene, highlighting the action of the insects on the grass, the sleek shine of the cat's dark fur, the funny licky face of the dog who couldn't quite reach me.

And best of all, when my sister came out ... I could reach out and zap her with its static electricity!

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

When you're out on the streets anybody can stomp on your head

I was homeless once. Luckily it was only temporary, and I was able to sleep on my friend's couch for a few weeks. I wouldn’t have thought of myself as homeless at the time, but it fitted into the definition of secondary homelessness (Chamberlain and Mackenzie, 1992) having found myself no longer wanting to spend the Christmas break at my parents' home in the country -  the culmination of years of emotional abuse from my step-father.

Not long after this experience, I was thrown from my naivety. As a volunteer at a homeless person’s transition home, I began to understand what tertiary homelessness might look like, living with a handful of men and women whose odd behaviour spoke volumes about their lack of connections. This itself was a rich experience, but I wanted to know more then, to know what it felt like to have no-one, and no-where to go. I was unaware of the political incorrectness of what I wanted to ‘learn’ and what it might mean to a homeless person to be approached by someone like me -white, middle-class and educated, with a family living in the country whom I could call on for assistance if it really came down to the crunch. But being young, I believed myself strong and brave, and without thinking I stepped out of my comfort zone and into the depths of Melbourne.

The city is a cold, lonely place in winter, and this part of the city was particularly so. We saw him around a lot – an old man with a scruffy beard, baggy unwashed clothes and who pushed around a bike loaded with his worldly goods, singing to himself, his one bulging eye facing a different direction to the good one. This night was not unusual, he was walking along the footpath, pushing his bike, and we began to walk beside him. He kept walking, mumbling and singing, occasionally seeming to enter into conversation with us, and we followed, not taking much notice of the time or of how dark it was getting. And after about an hour, we became aware that we really had no idea where we were. But we followed him anyway.

Where was he going? Was he going back to his house? Was he staying at a hostel? Curious, we continued wandering, keeping him company. Gaps between houses grew further apart, the suburb became leafier, elm trees throwing eerie shadows across the wavering light of the moon and the few street-lamps that dotted the area. We came to an oval. Expecting him to turn off before this, we were surprised. Why would he come to an oval? It was then he entered the little brick building, with its typically pungent odour – the public toilets. It was there where he laid down his blankets to sleep for the night, and nodded us away. We looked at each other helplessly, and started the journey back without him. On the way back, we didn't say much. Both of us were shocked about what we had witnessed, and distressed that we didn't know how to help him.

When I walked back to my bedroom at the hostel, with its lockable door and comfortable bed, I felt as though I was living in luxury. It changed my whole perspective on the world, just that small moment in time. I have never forgotten that old man and I think it was one of the things that has inspired me to enter the career I am in today.

Homelessness is about a lack of connectedness.  
Is there someone you could connect with today?

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012


Monday, 19 March 2012

I give up, get me a beer!

(Thanks to David Martin for the following guest post)

Try to start the mower.

Take out the spark plug and light a match to burn off the excess fuel, just as Grandpa showed me all those years before.

Shit, it’s on fire!
Flap it out. Shit!
Smother it. Shit! Grandpa, bad idea!

Water. Water. Water. This $10 hose has got kinks in it. Shit!
O.K just put ten litres of fuel in that tank that is now burning. Shit!
Damn, shit, F***, shit…..OK smothered it now…….

Heart is beating very fast. Don’t know if that is good! Breathe… Sit down….

Take stock of the situation. All the plastic stuff on the engine is dead. But I have to get that lawn mown! Lucky that I have another dead mower with good plastics. Start again.

Two hours later, have rebuilt my mistake. But still not starting! This is such a mongrel time-waster when all I want to do is get rid of this place.

Borrowed the neighbour’s mower now. Absolute dream. I get the lawns done in record time.
Back to the shed to look at the burned out mower. Tear comes to my eye and dries up just as quickly. It’s f****d.

Get me a bloody beer!

photo courtesy of

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The unattainable dream.

Do you remember the Useful Box on Play-school?

Can you recall, like me, that awesome moment in the show when John or Benita would say ‘it’s time to get out the Useful Box’, and out would come (like magic) sheets of coloured paper, bottles of glue, fluffy shags of cotton wool and, my favourite, with its crisp sound of rip and tear – sticky-tape.

I was one of those kids who could sit happily in the corner of my Grandma’s house, on the wooden floor-boards beside the front window of the lounge, making things. Grandma would collect plastic meat trays, empty match-boxes, card-board rolls and other scraps, which I would use to make all sorts of things. Little dolls, cars, houses, people, and animals. She also taught me to sew, and I would cut up small pieces of fabric and sew them together with patient but childish stiches.

Eventually I was spending hours hand-sewing things, as well as dreaming up little projects in my spare time. We didn’t have much in the way of fabric, mum would give me some of her old cut-offs, most were in plain colours and not very exciting. This didn’t deter me, though. Well, at least it didn’t deter me until I came across the unattainable dream.

What was that, you ask?

My heart tightens as I recall this, so affronting to my childish mind as it was, but I will tell you the story.

When I was a child of about nine years old, I had a friend named Rhonda, and I would sometimes visit Rhonda’s house to play. Rhonda had an extensive doll collection which she liked to line up across her bedroom floor, ordered from large to small, so we could admire them. We couldn’t touch them, just stand in awe and admiration. I once sat on her bed and when I stood up, she smoothed out the covers behind me. In many ways it was a conditional friendship, one where I never felt I could be quite myself.

On one of my visits to Rhonda’s, she took me into the back room that she called the sun-room. This was where her mother did a lot of sewing. It was then that I saw it. The sight of what my eyes laid upon what was like a lolly shop to another child. Not your average lolly shop, a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory kind of lolly-shop. There it was, in the corner, leaning against a table which supported a sewing machine. A mammoth sized clear plastic bag, overflowing with scraps of colourful fabric, a gallery sized palette of colour and a museum sized collage of textures – Heaven!!!!

I drooled at the bag. I tried to not look too desperate, but it would have been impossible to hide the sea of desire which washed over me. I had to ask. I looked at Rhonda and made the proposal – could I have a few scraps from the bag? She looked at me for a second, then replied –


Not deterred, I asked again, ‘Could I have just a couple of tiny scraps?’

‘No!’ she replied, lips tight and expression indignant.

I went home with empty pockets, and when I got there, my little sewing box and my material collection suddenly appeared pathetic. So that's it, the sad story of the unattainable desire. Heart-breaking, wasn't it?

Many years later, when I was old enough to buy my own things, I purchased some beautiful fabrics in all sorts of colours and textures, and I was given a terrific sewing machine, which I had a lot of fun with. Best of all, my kids had a huge Useful Box that I continually re-stocked – where I could lose myself once again in the joys of creativity. Heaven!

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Barbie and Ken - should they be banned?

Are Barbies by Mattell the dolls that academic feminist mums tend to buy their daughters? Usually not, which is probably why Mum didn’t get me one for ages. So it was an exciting moment when I got my first brand new Barbie… a moment that was shattered soon after when my sister played with her roughly on the trampoline, breaking off her leg. I thought she’d broken off a piece of my heart, too!

Barbie has been a large part of many people’s lives, I guess I can safely say mainly girls’ lives – but I’m sure boys around the world have enjoyed them very much too, just as girls have enjoyed Tonka trucks – I remember I was pretty excited when my Mum let me buy a cap gun at one stage, too!
Some children just weren’t interested, like Sharon, (who described herself as a bookworm and a Tom-boy in my recent Facebook survey), but I think they will be part of the memories of many adults today.

Jade loved Barbie and she and her two sisters had dozens of them. They had loads of accessories too, the house, trailer, spa, convertible car – all the fun things that children can get lost for hours playing with. Jade’s brother got his share of the fun – he used to pull off Ken's arms and legs and he'd magically transform into Astroboy! Barbies seem to bring out the beast in some of the male species. My friend Shirley wrote that she had never had barbies herself, but her daughter Bec had quite a few, and when she and her brother Adrian had a big fight, he would take the heads of Bec's Barbies and hide them in the garden!  
I was a feminist, academic mum for a while (or at least I was trying hard to be), dead keen on banning anything Barbie from my house. Which, of course, created a desire for the dolls in my daughter that was like a bush-fire longing for fuel, causing me to eventually cave in and buy her the so longed-for doll, which soon had a number of siblings and friends. Sadly, we only had one Ken for many years, and the girls had to make do with Action Men – did this warp their young, feminine minds? It could have created the thought that ‘real men’ have to be very buff and well-built indeed.

They were a good tool for socialisation, my Barbies. When I was ten, I would gather up the bag of Barbies and her accessories, and take them over to visit my friend Linda. She had a massive collection of Barbies, too, with a whole stable full of Barbie horses! This added quite a new element to my imaginary play. It led to some conflicts, too, as we negotiated whose imaginary scene would be the one to work with that day. Vicki experienced similar conflicts with her friends, although she didn’t have a Barbie, she had a Sindy. Vicky discovered that when she took her Sindy doll to her friend's house, who had ALL the Sindy furniture and the Sindy horse and Sindy car, her friend got jealous!

My girls had a Little-Bo-Peep Barbie doll one year, and it wasn’t long until some rough play ended up with a be-heading. The girls, not deterred (after the initial tears, that is), called her Pop-off head, and she became the centre of a whole new game.
Last year the kids came around, all grown up and big as they are now, and I got out the bag of Barbies. The memories that poured back! A lot of fun was had, until the positions they started to set them up in got a little out of hand, and I decided they had to go back in the bag, before big-kids ideas warped the old memories too much. Now I’m keeping the bag in my ‘granny cupboard’, in the hope that one day some little people will enjoy them again. So do I think they should be banned? Probably not!

Thankyou to Shirley, Vicki, Jade and Sharon for your comments in my Facebook survey. Much appreciated!

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Risking the Thrill of the Spill

How many of us get in the car to go to work, adding to the smog in the atmosphere and the flab on our waistlines. So I decide to rebel, and pull out the bike to launch myself off on a different start to the work-day.

Off I go, pushing up that first hill, calves working already, then soaring right down the other side and feeling like I'm about to fly over the handlebars at any minute - when I squeeze the brakes - I can hear them squeal!, down I go, twisting between the crazy cars that pull out of nowhere, feeling like a winner as I ride faster than the cars that are stuck at the traffic lights and whip around the corner, past the 7-11 and pull up hard at the back gate of our office. OK - it was only 5 minutes, but it was a great way to start the day, and I didn't have to buy any petrol.

Photo courtesy of Chantelle Riordan.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The self-inflicted injury

I try not to scratch it, truly I do, but my hands race like hungry rats to my ears. My head is burning, it feels like someone poured a jar of boiling hot peanut butter on my scalp, which has made its way down my back, burning a layer of skin on its way.

Why didn't I do the patch test? Pure laziness or perhaps complacency, to be kinder to myself. I have no excuse, I already knew that I am allergic to some hair dyes - having learned the hard way numerous times. But here I am again, suffering the consequences of trying to fight nature.

It's raining. I am driving in late afternoon, into a story-book picture of fluffy white clouds and pretty blue sky. Across this palette, a delicious light sheet of cool moisture floats down and invites a rainbow to keep it company in the sky. It doesn't quite take away my discomfort, but distracts me for a while. Nature can be so beautiful.

I must say, I am tempted to go 'gracefully' grey. Let's add to that, wonderfully wrinkly, fabulously flabby and fearlessly floppy! Now, back to that scratching.

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Monday, 5 March 2012

Evil Eye - the man with the evil stare

He’s watching me -
That man with the evil stare.
He knows all the things I’ve done wrong,
And all the things I’m going to do wrong in the future.

He butts into jokes,
He snarls from the side-lines,
Never is he short of a sarcastic line
To add to the conversation.

How come I can’t erase him?
That spoil-sport,
That ‘told you so’ taunter ,
Who tries to trip me up as I enter the room.

Who said you could get confident?
He asks snidely,
Turning the pages of the paper,
with his red, pointy nose embedded in the print.

If he was drawn in grey-lead,
I’d find a huge eraser
And rub him out…

Even if it caused the pages to tear.
I wouldn't care.

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Does anyone remember Drexel Rubenstein?

He was a character I invented in grade five, and he took on a kind of life of his own. Yes, this sounds a little crazy, but I talked about him as if he really existed. He even began to join our social group!

You could describe him as a kind of nerdy superhero, and I introduced him into a play I wrote for school, dragging him on stage as one of the characters.

I had fun bringing him to life before the play, creating him out of old clothes and socks which we stuffed with newspaper, sewing him together and adding a plastic bag as his head, face drawn on in permanent marker. He was bulky, awkward, and blooming heavy, but he was a success in the play, adding in a bit of an unexpected element to surprise the audience.

After his moment of fame, he sat around my bedroom for years getting dusty, until mum couldn't stand him anymore and he came to a sad end, ripped apart and distributed piece by piece into the rubbish bin.

I miss him, the old Drexel Rubenstein. Perhaps he can come back into life in a new form?

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Friday, 2 March 2012

School morning ... Teenager !

Car engine is gently humming as we wait for its final passenger. Who would this be? Is it the year 7 student, still excited and finding his place in the new, bigger school? Is it the year twelve student, eyes focused on the goal of succeeding, aware that this is a vital time to put in the effort ? Or is it girl in year nine, up all night on phone and Facebook, now stuck in the bathroom battling with make-up and hair extensions ???
I back out the car, resigned to the fact that I'm going to arrive late to work today! TGIF.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dust between the creases - a snippet of memoire

When I was little I had lived in the bush, away from the main town and the prying eyes of the men and women who gossiped as they turned the goods in the shops over in their sun-withered hands. Away from them sat the little weatherboard house where our strangely shaped family lived, framed in a forest of ironbark and wattle.

Wildflowers grew with abandon, little egg and bacon bushes and flowering grasses which dotted the undergrowth, emitting rich aromas which changed every season. There was dust there too, but not this red dust, which enters a home uninvited during a storm and is found in the strangest of places for months afterwards.

There was no mirror in that little house and no need for one. Every day was a new beginning, to wake up with the rising sun, eat a quick home-cooked breakfast and head eagerly outside, leaping off the old wooden verandah and into freedom. Days disappeared in a world of my imagination where I had no need to see myself.

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012