Newsies


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I didn’t quite know what to expect when I attended the preview of Newsies, a movie filmed on Broadway during a live performance. The sublime music and spectacular dancing entranced both my daughter and I, dropping us gently into New York circa 1899, and the beginning of an uprising. The whole audience cheered for the street-smart newsboys, and sneered when the villainous mogul slithered onto stage. It is heartwarming, especially knowing it is based on real events and real lads. It opened up a discussion with my daughter about trade unions, and how essential they have been in bringing workers decent conditions. I highly recommend taking the kids to see the movie this Sunday.

Here is an article from the illustrious Elissa Blake on Newsies.

Newsies is being screened for one day only, on Sunday 19th February at Event Cinemas. Book here.

 

 

Grant Hackett


I read the following with dismay yesterday. It is a road many families have walked. I have walked… Some of my friends have also walked this road. It can start gradually, sneaking up on both the individual and those who love them. They don’t want to do what they once loved. They retreat, becoming uncommunicative. They find no joy in anything. You may find that they are drinking more than usual. You may uncover just how much when you put the bins out and see the many empty bottles in the recycling. There is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, and they are either refusing to talk or aren’t capable of telling you. It is frustrating, as in social settings, they can be  quite animated-jovial even-which masks what is really occurring.

When it all falls apart, it is often dramatic and spectacular. It can be after years of seeking help for the person. Marriage and family counselling, dietitians and alternative healthcare practitioners (to get their diet right and make sure that they have no deficiencies), AA, NA, GP’s, brain scans, blood tests, and so much more. There may be brushes with the law, and unpaid bills and fines. You may feel as though you are grieving a loved one, though they are right in front of you. You would do anything to retrieve their essence.

Thousands of families across Australia are facing the same agony as Grant’s loved ones. Right here and now. Finding appropriate help is time-consuming and exhausting, particularly when you are dealing with someone who denies they have a problem, or who tires of being on the merry-go-round. Who could blame them? Services tend to be dislocated from one another, and having to relay the story of why you came to be in somebody’s office time and again is wearing.

After five exhausting years of not knowing what the heck was going on with their partner, a friend was relieved when a diagnosis of depression came about. It was short-lived, as the antidepressants put them in free-fall. After another year of tumult, it turned out that they actually had bi-polar disorder, and the medication was causing them to rapid-cycle. They are doing so much better today, though life can still be challenging. The whole family or friendship group may have to adapt to a new normal. Stressors which the person may have coped with in the past, may cause them a set-back in their recovery. I hope with all my heart that Grant gets the help he needs, and I hope that his family can feel our support. It highlights the urgent need for prompt and cohesive services.

For urgent help, contact Beyond Blue or the Black Dog Institute.

Tracey Spicer


I loved this esteemed journalist before she wrote this piece and I love her even more now! Why do people talk about little girls in this manner? What the hell is wrong with people? The girls are at an age when they feel self-conscious enough with all the changes taking place. We have had the hottest weather on record throughout this Australian summer, and have all had to trawl out shorts and singlets to survive. It isn’t done to attract attention; far from it! My daughter has abandoned dresses and exclusively wears shorts as it makes climbing easier and safer! Little girls have no knowledge of the impressions of sick individuals and thank heavens for that! By remarking on their looks, you are making them play an adult game, of which they know nothing.

I remember growing up in the eighties, when any adult felt free to comment on everything from my shorts, my style and my looks. It always gave me a sick feeling, because it was sick. I wasn’t praised for my intelligence, rather my appearance. I would hope that society has evolved to the extent that a grown man feeling it is okay to remark on a young girl is held in the contempt it deserves. Feel free to ask my daughter questions about her dreams, her hobbies and her schooling instead.

The Travelling Life


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A homeschool mum made contact with me in the holidays, telling me that she was going to settle for a term in my hometown. She mentioned that she had a daughter,the same age as mine. We arranged to meet at a local park, and as soon as we met the pair, we were in love. Both presented with the broadest smiles and the girls went off to play, becoming instant friends. As I was offered a plum, the lady told me of their life.

A single mum, she had once had a mortgage and a life overseas, but when her daughter was born, realized that things needed to change. She sold everything, and they began their travelling life, living out of one suitcase each. Her daughter is so unattached to possessions, that at free craft days in libraries,she routinely gifts her creations to the teacher, so she doesn’t have to carry it! The experience of creation enthralled her more than the end result. The mum produces work on the internet, so can move anywhere in the world in a beat. They mind other people’s homes, cars and pets whilst they are away, thus cutting their costs.

When they arrived in my town, it was during a heat wave, and they sought refuge at the local club, sipping iced water and enjoying the free WiFi until the kitchen opened for a cheap meal. The daughter told stories of staying in an Italian village, and could recall the history of the cobblestone streets. They have been on discount cruises, and travelled the globe. The mum said that ditching her possessions was freeing, and I have no doubt it was. She expects things to work out, and they do! I recommended a dance school, and the mum contacted them, and next thing, her daughter was cast in a production! The next issue was locating cheap dancing shoes. A shoe shop was closing down, and everything was heavily discounted. She was able to buy a few pairs of shoes for $9 a pair (that were worth far more), the last of the ballet and jazz line. She said that this sort of luck occurs regularly, and they never stress about opportunities, money nor anything else.

Her daughter is resourceful and curious, open to new experiences. The girls are going to do a kick-boxing class together after my new friend found a cheap class in my town (which I knew nothing of)! They create wonder and community wherever they go. They are two of the funniest, life-inspiring folk I have ever come across. Things I have learned in the three weeks I have known them:

  • We talk ourselves out of travel and grand experiences the moment the delicious vision enters our minds. We don’t have enough money… We can’t do it…It would be too hard…
  • You can do anything you set your mind to, even with limited resources.
  • Decluttering is the go! Aim for experience over stuff.
  • Once something new comes in, an old piece of clothing etc, must leave.
  • Enjoy the thing whilst it is in your life, then gift it to someone else. We are doing up an old bike for the young girl to ride whilst she is here, and when she leaves, we shall gift it to someone else.
  • You are going to be alright, and everything will turn out okay. Trust yourself and the universe.
  • Have faith in your abilities and resourcefulness. You can cope with anything that life throws at you!
  • There are far more wondrous people in this world than bad. Take it from these travellers, who have stayed in scores of places throughout the world and met hundreds of strangers that have become friends.
  • Kids don’t need stuff in order to have a secure childhood; they just need you.

I feel stronger and braver since meeting this family, and am looking forward to shaking up my world. They seemed to blow in, like a leaf shaken from a faraway tree, brushing my shoulder and garnering my attention, admiration and love.

The Rooms I have Lived in…


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I have existed in many rooms throughout my life, and have lived comfortably in others. I had ballerina wallpaper in one, and the dancers had no faces. No eyes with which to see out of, nor mouths to scream with. There have been many hospital beds, and places in ICU. I have been in several rotor beds, which turn you and help you to get used to being upright again. I have shared rooms with three others and had my possessions rifled through. Throughout the night, I got used to sleeping with one eye open. At fifteen, when I feared my life was coming to an end, I had a solitary room down the end of a dark corridor, a bare globe offering a garish, dull light. It was freezing cold, and I had an essential oil ceramic pot near my bed to disguise the putrid smell of mould. There was the room in a refuge, a large space filled with bunks. The kids would voice their fears as to where they would go once they reached the maximum time allowed at this temporary facility.

I have rattled around a room with a wallpaper motif of guns. I had a soundproof space and I would look in the dresser mirror, and study my scars. I lived in a little room at eighteen, with a donated table. My bedside table was an upturned box I had painted. It was stifling hot and loud, the residents of the share house keeping a radio on the other side of the curtain separating their space from mine. The next room was in a series of old horse stables, made from stone and converted into bedsit’s. My landlord was called Moses, and so I found myself living in a stable, Moses collecting the rent by tapping on the window each Saturday morning! There have been rooms where sleep wasn’t had, and flashbacks were frequent. There have been rooms where I recuperated after surgery, crutches and wheelchairs, braces and walking sticks crowding the corners. My favourite of all the rooms I have known is my current one. Women being treated at Catherine Hamlin’s Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia knitted the blanket on my bed. A glass lamp I found on the side of the road offers light. The exercise equipment I use to keep my bones strong is strewn around, and crystals and books are gathered, along with makeup in all the colours of the rainbow. It is a well-ventilated and quiet retreat, and my favourite place to write. I can rest my spine whilst I do so. After so many dark, dank and depressing rooms, I finally have a space where I can rest, dream, recuperate. It is important to have a room of your own. Oh man, the places you have to trawl through before you get there!

Gnome Convention


On the 26th January, the Gnome Convention was held at Glenbrook Park. This annual event is put on by the Rotary Club of the lower Blue Mountains and we look forward to it all year!

 

 

It is whimsy at it’s best. We were entertained by the extraordinary bush poet, Greg North. If you haven’t experienced his act, you are missing out! Check him out here! img_0553

Brendan Kerin had us enthralled with not only his music, but stories. Did you know that the Didgeridoo’s actual name is Yidaki? It originated from the top half of Australia and was named the Didgeridoo later on as that is the sound it seemingly makes.

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We bought Gnome Hats, and had a grand time amongst the gnomes and fairies. It is my birthday today, and I bought this delightful Green Man incense burner (the smoke comes out of his head) for $15. We all need whimsy in our lives, and knowing that the money raised goes to charity is extra incentive to get your gnoming game on!

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Sizzling in Sydney


It’s almost time to get back into the craziness of Term 1 of Homeschooling. We have had many days at home, decluttering and organizing, reading and resting. One of my daughter’s friends came to stay for a few days, and my heart nearly flipped out of my chest when I heard them talk as we went for a walk. They chatted about how they were both their mum’s last chance. How we were both down to one follicle. They talked about being miracles. I am glad they both understand that they truly are! Sydney has been hit with many days of searing temperatures, and we have sought comfort in the southerly winds offered by the coastline.

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Performers at Luna Park
Performers at Luna Park

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There have been a few visits to Luna Park. I purchased an annual pass for my daughter a few months back, and it has proven it’s worth. She can enjoy the rides and then swim next door in Nth Sydney pool to cool off afterward. If I go once a month, it works out to $8 a visit. At the back of Luna Park, you can walk to Lavender Bay, and visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. On the way, you will uncover treasures such as these.

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We took some little fairies there to replace those that were pinched behind magical little doors. It seems they have gone again, but I will continue to replace them when I go there. It’s a bit like life; your gifts may be stolen or crushed, but you keep on getting up and giving it all that you have. You must.

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A friend was bitten by a bee at Luna Park the other day. I thought she was having a lend for a split second, as you don’t expect to find a bee by the water! She wanted me to pull out the stinger, but I thought I might make a hash of it, so we hurried to the First Aid room. The first aid lady was efficient and friendly, and as the stinger was taken out of her neck, I assured my friend that it was good luck to be stung and it meant she was incredibly sweet!

My daughter and I have met all kinds of characters on our city adventures. She complimented a fellow on his bright hand-painted shirt and it turned out he was an artist from the Southern Highlands. We waved at the lucky travellers on a cruise ship as our ferry went by, and met a lovely elderly man who comes down to Circular Quay most days to watch the boats and people. On Saturday, I dropped my daughter’s friend back into the city to meet her parents, and the girls noticed that a sky-writer had written TRUMP in large letters, spearing the blue film above us. This started a diatribe from the ten and eleven year old’s, unscripted and delighting everyone waiting to cross at the lights. Many were women on their way to march at Hyde Park. I am glad our young girls have a voice, and feel able to use it. I am glad that they can debate and know that their opinions shall be valued.

Our Home by the River
Our Home by the River

January has been a time of crushed ice, cold drinks, cold packs and swimmers. It has been a time of parades at Luna Park, park dates, pools and oceans. It has been a pilgrimage or two to the Secret Garden and dancing to buskers we meet. In Melbourne, it has been a time of mourning. Sydney stands with you in your grief over what occurred in the Bourke St Mall. I hope you can feel the solidarity. There but for grace and timing, go any of us day-trippers, who think nothing of walking along a boulevard or mall. Now more than ever, we have to hold onto one another. To donate to the appeal for victims of this travesty, click here.

Mocktail Parties and Kindness


 

My daughter’s friends invited us over to their place the other day. It was around 44 degrees inland, and they live near the water, so it was a fortuitous offer! We were invited into their flat and handed a menu!

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Hawaiian music softly played, and when I looked around at the decorations, I almost burst into tears. So much effort had gone into this afternoon; it was an affirmation filled with care and love. As for the menu; what to pick?! Everything looked delicious! We started off with the Rose Mint Tulip whilst we waited for the other guests.

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Many mocktails were consumed, before we headed over the road to the water. The kids swam in the bay, a southerly breeze tapping on our necks. I have often felt out-of-place in this world; not quite knowing where I fit in. Today I felt as though I had experienced a home-coming. To have a family welcome us into their home and elevate a routine day into something special, delighting each of the senses, was wondrous. The day finished with home-made pizzas and more mocktails. The kids had a wonderful afternoon, as did the adults. We talked beyond the superfluous, delving into deeper subjects. We came as we were, and were accepted. We didn’t need to dress a certain way, have a certain address, bank balance, credentials nor look. We came as we were and were handed mocktails, infused with love.

 

Ice Sculpture
Ice Sculpture

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A girl called Sam


It was a blisteringly hot morning, but we decided to go anyway. We were meeting a group of ladies for a walk along the river bank. Half-way along, we encountered a majestic horse and his petite rider. My friend Karen not only smiled as they approached, she went up and asked to take a photo. The rider was happy to oblige, and said her name was Sam. Sam told us that she travelled to South Australia to gain her handsome companion, mentioning that she has joint issues, so needed a calm horse. She trotted alongside us in the heat, and disclosed a part of her story. Sam is twenty-five years old, and autistic. She had endured leukemia and a car accident in the past ten years. Her dream is to take part in a big fundraiser in the city later in the year (I will post details at a later date).

She has known more pain than many other young women, and yet still she rises. I asked what keeps her motivated and she pointed at her dancing horse. “Him.” Children approached and adults stood in wonder on their approach. It was obvious that he knew how handsome he was. The love between the pair was heartwarming; they were in complete symbiosis. It were as though they were an extension of each other.

This young woman’s dreams shall come true, of that I am certain. She deserves them to, after the long and hard road she has travelled. I am grateful to my friend for reiterating that when you feel an urge to approach a stranger, it is the right thing to do. Sam was gracious and I think, grateful to have people to chat to by the river. Her strength and courage shall stay with me throughout the year ahead.

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Your Worth…


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I hope that 2017 has been treating you kindly, thus far! After sharing scores of conversations with friends over the holidays, I have realized that a central theme is finances. Time off work (with or without holiday pay), Christmas, birthdays and having money for activities over the school break can be stressful. The bills have a way of arriving straight after Christmas, and demand attention! Some of my loved ones have confided that they feel judged as they balance their commitments. Instead of being given a pat on the back, encouraged that they are doing good by keeping afloat, they have been looked down on. Nobody knows what goes on behind the scenes in other’s lives. Nobody gets to see the sacrifices. Forgoing a script so that your child can have fruit. Forgoing a dental visit so that your child can see a movie with friends. Commendable sacrifices that nobody but you know of.

I wish that we would give each other a break, and listen to the subtle nuances in another’s speech. If they hesitate to make plans, suggest something that doesn’t require expenditure. Set up a tent in the back yard for the kids to camp out in. Set up a sprinkler so they can cool off. Have a sleepover, go for walks, offer dinner at your place. The relief will be palpable! Often, people want to connect, but don’t have the money for dinners and other expenses. It is summer, and we all want to be outdoors, enjoying it. It doesn’t require money.

Being aware of other’s commitments is a kindness on your part. Your worth and theirs isn’t reliant on how much free cash they have in January. It is the integrity of their heart, their capacity for love and sacrifice. Their warmth and their friendship. I had the privilege of going to see a young couple with two kids. The children don’t want for anything and have sturdy role models. The dad can look at a varied assortment of food in their kitchen, and put together an incredible meal. They grow their own vegetables and rarely go out to restaurants. They sacrifice and have made a joyful life for their little family. One of the happiest nights of my life was shared in their company, over a simple meal. I listened to their plans and hopes, and am sure that they will accomplish them all.

As I pay my bills this month, I will give thanks that I am able to do so. There may be trips to the beach and local swimming pool, but there will be more time at home, having friends over and getting back to basics. I will acknowledge the friends who sacrificed to give their family a good Christmas, and who forgoes personal necessities in order to give to their child. These are the sort of people you want in your life. As with everything in this whirlwind life, a tightened belt doesn’t last forever, but the fond memories of how one coped and had fun doing so, will remain.