Hunger-Roxane Gay


I have just finished ‘Hunger’ by Roxane Gay, and am feeling a plethora of emotions. I too have had a complicated history with food, created by trauma. I was on an eating disorder unit at fourteen, and rather than healing, I learnt a heap of new tricks to stave off weight. I chose to starve myself, in an attempt to deny the emotional pain of its sustenance. I also had bulimia. Some of my friends were frail, too weak to move out of bed. A few of my friends were at the other end of the spectrum, the weight providing a cocoon. One of my friends, Annie, had a complicated relationship with her abusive mother. A young woman in her twenties, she suffered the indignity of having to be weighed at the train station on their luggage scales. Her eyes were azure-blue, and boy, we had fun, making the best of a bad situation. She and I would have food fights in the day, and give each other facials of an evening. Annie was one of the most beautiful people I have ever known, taking this kid under her wing.

I learnt a lot about how it feels to carry extra weight, and the outrageous discrimination she faced. People didn’t really see her; they didn’t give themselves the chance to delight in the intelligence and compassion she conveyed in conversation. Over the months, the weight fell off her, but as we all know, the fight after the fight is the hardest of all. As she said to me, there was anger at those whom sought her out where once she had been discarded. It were as though they now deemed her worthy. The memories and emotions long suppressed, rose to the surface of her being, and now had to be dealt with. I lost touch with Annie after our time together, though think of her often.

As an adult, I have had friends who felt unsafe to sit in my dining chairs, lest they break, and I couldn’t blame them. I turned my chairs over, and noted that they were flimsy, a single bolt holding the structure together. I felt angry on their behalf. Life shouldnt be such a battle, and everything from airlines, buses, and cinema seating is so tiny, particularly when armrests are featured. I immediately replaced my seats, going to an op shop and buying a dining set made of solid timber. My guests can now sit and chat without being uncomfortable. Roxane’s book reiterates the challenges and judgements that befall a larger person. It shouldn’t be this way, not in this day and age. I long for the day when we really see each other and also our intrinsic worth.

 

SistaCare 2017


My daughter, her friend and myself were invited to SistaCare 2017, held at the Exodus Foundation. Rev. Bridget Perkins-Ocean organized the day, along with a bevy of helpers. Students and teachers from Ultimo Tafe did hair and makeup for the ladies in the church. It was a delight to see the women and girls see themselves through fresh eyes.

Dress for Success Sydney gifted the women from the Exodus Women’s Group new outfits, and boy, they looked gorgeous! Dress for Success is an amazing initiative, dressing and styling ladies who are looking to get into the workforce, or need outfits to attend weddings, funerals etc. The ladies then see themselves through fresh eyes, imagining all they are capable of. What was inherent and hidden, buried under trauma and life events, has been reclaimed. My girls were thrilled when asked to lead the fashion parade!

The girls with Reverend Bridget

Reverend Bill Crews was there to greet everybody, and both the beauty school at Ultimo Tafe and Dress for Success gave a talk about their services. It was then time to eat, something my two models were very much looking forward to!

Two very brave and inspirational ladies then told us of their pasts, the details of which were gut-wrenching. To look at their radiant smiles, you would never know what they have endured. Women need to tell their stories to one another; to have a circle of mighty and courageous souls to depend on. I would like to thank everybody who made this event possible. To walk into the food hall and see it so lovingly decorated, was glorious. I was the first seated and it gave me such happiness to see the look on their faces as the guests entered. The tables were set for them, resplendent with china tea cups and flowers. The first step to having a woman recognize her value is to treat her as a precious, valuable person. Giving her back what was once taken. The Exodus Foundation, Dress for Success, volunteers from Ultimo Tafe and the speakers did just that.

 

Vivid, Wirrimbirra and how to talk with kids about terrorism.


Psychologist John Blythe has the following advice on how to talk to kids about the latest horrors. I was grateful to read it before I sat my daughter down to answer her pressing questions. My heart is with all who have suffered as a result of these atrocities.

There is evil in this world, the energy denser than tar, and yet there is goodness, shimmering and light as gossamer. There is also beauty, and thank goodness for that!

We had a little walk around Vivid last week. Sydney can get bitterly cold this time of year, and the food trucks supplied us with chilli bowls, hot chocolate and tea. Scores of volunteers of all ages cheerfully directed the crowds, and strangers chatted and greeted one another. I would suggest going on a week night, rather than the upcoming long weekend, as it is far less busy!

Waratah

We also went to Wirrimbirra Sanctuary, where we met the following characters.

There is evil, but there is also light and beauty.

 

Bill’s Meeting with the Dalai Lama


Bill Crews wrote about his profound connection and recent meeting with the Dalai Lama. It is simply one of the most exquisite, transformative pieces of writing I have ever encountered. Grab a cup of tea, sit quietly, and be prepared to be elevated by this blog piece.

Royal Easter Show


We went to the Royal Easter Show on Friday, and had a wondrous time. We uncovered that our little bird, Friendly, is in fact a White Pie Face. She would have won first place, for sure! She’d have loathed to be put in a little cage though, finding a way to escape in all probability, releasing all the other birds too!

One thing I love about the show is learning about new products about to be launched. We came across a group of delightful ladies, who managed to tame my daughter’s thick hair, without causing pain. The brush glided through her mane, and afterward, her hair was silky and shiny! Impressed, I bought the brush and their peppermint and lavender Nit deter and detangling sprays. You can find Tangled Kids Hair Care here.

I gave my daughter money, and aware that once that was spent, there was no more, she impressed me with her cautiousness. She decided to spend a portion on a gorgeous pendant, with a picture of where the moon was on the day she was born. It was a gorgeous blue moon, which glows in the dark. You can find the jewellery pieces here.

We bought hats and tried out Sydney’s new light rail system.

With my bunged-up back, my daughter decided against doing any rides solo, and instead we stopped to admire the fashion, animals, cakes, flowers and art.

Some people are outrageously talented!

My advice for getting the most out of the show:

  1. Download the Royal Easter Show App. You can select showbags and put in your preferences and date you will be attending. An itinerary will be selected for you!
  2. Download the Opal App! I typed in Royal Easter Show, and an alternate route to the way I intended to go came up. We caught a train and then an express bus right to the gate. So easy!
  3. Decide what you want to do and see before you go. You will end up walking around aimlessly otherwise!
  4. Get money out as soon as you get there, and stop for a cuppa, a snack and a toilet break before venturing further than the nearest facilities!
  5. Comfortable shoes are a must, and drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
  6. Enjoy yourself! Stick to a budget and research showbags before you get there. This advice is imperative! You don’t want to be wandering around the showbag hall without knowing what you are intending to buy!
  7. Buy showbags  just before you leave!
  8. Enjoy yourself! The show has a proud history, and is a celebration of agriculture, creativity and joy.

Melbourne


I recently flew down to Melbourne with a wonderful group of friends. People have raved about how beautiful Melbourne is, but it surpassed all expectation. From the moment we checked into our apartment on Flinders Lane, there was a sense of coming home. A lovely friend was minding my daughter, and I found myself abandoning the infamous mental list of things I must do.

Laneways were emblazoned with art, and a Romani musician delighted with his violin. Scented candles and essential oils beckoned you into little shops, and my mind was torn, as I decided on where to eat, and what to eat! There were so many choices! Within an hour of arriving, I had fallen hard for Melbourne. It’s architecture is stunning, and rather than dismantle its history, it seems to preserve it. It is easy to get around, and the public art is astounding! My soul wept with the beauty it was being fed. I stood in Bourke St Mall, silently remembering those who perished a few short months ago. There was almost a holy reverence at play amongst the crowds. We shopped and dined at Chin Chin, a funky bar/restaurant, which catered to our individual requirements with aplomb. We walked to South Bank, ate at cafe’s and pubs, and had an exquisite time. Melbourne is far cheaper than Sydney, that’s for sure! It felt as though it didn’t matter what your leanings, you could find your tribe here. I was sad when our three days came to an end, and it was time to fly home. Melbourne, you have captured my heart, and I can’t wait to come back with my daughter.

 

 

Surrender


Surrender is  tough, particularly if you are a control freak! I had been having trouble with pain in the sole of my foot, but was mindful of money over the Christmas period. My doctor is excellent, but charges over the Medicare Rebate. I needed new scripts, and thought about asking about my foot, though decided against it. It would have meant a short consult would be billed as a long one, and I was on a budget! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I was billed the higher fee anyway on my way out. When it got to the point where I couldn’t walk without agony, and my spine was affected, I sought help from a GP who bulk-billed. X-rays and Ultrasounds led me to a surgeon. I was given a gift, by meeting this remarkable human. He scheduled my surgery,and then the consult was spent with him regaling me with stories from his remarkable life. He had come to Australia to study medicine, and he talked of how he felt stuck between worlds when he went back to his native country. He talked about when he first started his practice, and was invited to a property for dinner with his family. There was a sign out the front, saying ‘Animal Kingdom’. It certainly was! When his kids went into the living room, they were delighted to see a kangaroo sitting on the sofa, watching TV!

I have lost count of all the operations I have had; all I know is that there wasn’t room on the hospital form to list them all! This foot surgery wasn’t the worst of them, that’s for sure. Mind you, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated what an essential job one’s feet play until now. The stuff we take for granted is mind-blowing. We hold on so tight in our lives, to people, places and circumstances, as though through willpower alone, we can control the outcomes. I have always loved the feeling of release, when I am put under. I can feel myself slipping away from consciousness, and yet it is a relief rather than something to fear. I can let go for a little bit, and let the theatre staff (with their eclectic taste in music), take over.

Before the anaesthetist came, my surgeon showed me a collection of photographs he had shot throughout the years on his Iphone. He had taken up photography after his wife had died, and the images made me well up. There were pictures of zebras, waratahs and spiders and it were as if seeing them for the first time, from another level. He remarked that people fail to stop and see what is in front of them; the beauty and terror. He is right. So much of our life is spent trying to avoid big feelings, and ignoring beauty. Maybe I can learn to stop a little more. Maybe I can learn to release and surrender, without having an anaesthetic. Perhaps each second of the day doesn’t have to be accounted for. I want to see waratahs and zebras from a different light too. If a busy surgeon can find time to stop and surrender, surely I can.

img_0292

 

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


img_1801

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.

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.

img_0508 img_0472

Performers at Luna Park
Performers at Luna Park

img_0458

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.

img_0477 img_0479 img_0480 img_0476

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.

img_0433 img_0503

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.