The Handmaid’s Tale


The Handmaid’s Tale, a series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, has just been released in Australia. Last night I streamed it, determined to watch only the first episode and have an early night. Of course, that didn’t happen. What ended up occurring was I watched all ten episodes. It was confronting and terrifying,  yet it somehow made my resolve stronger. As a survivor of sexual assault, physical violence and fundamentalist religion disguised as faith and obedience, I am acutely aware that the depiction isn’t a grim warning about what may happen. For survivors it is a remembrance of what has already been, and what we must guard against.

The order decreed in Gilead is the ultimate submission by women. Not having access to money and property nor control of their bodies. It is a world I don’t want to live in. It is a world I have lived in. Having scriptures spouted to suit whatever situation befalls, and to claim it as evidence that the perpetrator is in the right. Women and girls being told that they are here to be pleasing and pleasant, first and foremost. The exquisite rebellion encapsulated by reading, driving a car or etching words of encouragement for those who come after you in your cell.

I vowed that if I survived, I would fight for my daughter to not have to endure a speck of what myself and my contemporaries endured. I was fourteen when I uncovered that grown men were placing bets on who would obtain this child, far away from home. My mental fortitude kept me alive, even as they sought to destroy me, discarded as collateral damage in a war I knew nothing of. I hadn’t been taught the rules, so how could I be expected to play? We must arm our daughters with knowledge, fill their hearts with empathy and love, and make damned sure that no part of The HandMaid’s Tale is a part of their future. I know of too many incidents of women who are infertile sitting in far-right churches, and left crushed after it is announced that yes, it is indeed a fertile church, and one of its members is pregnant with her fifth child. Everybody applauding, amid laughter that God has rewarded this place with ripe fruit. The women who can’t have children or who are undergoing IVF feel as though a sword has pierced their soul upon such occasions. Worth is down to how fertile you are, and home-making lessons are offered and encouraged. The women are kept ‘accountable’ to each other. How exhausting and depressing. Freedom is found when you can be whomever you want in this world. It is not found in your dress, your submission, nor your fertility.

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.

 

The Good Girl Stripped Bare


I have just finished The Good Girl Stripped Bare (ABC Books), by Tracey Spicer, and have a cacophony of emotions coarsing through me. There is utter outrage at what Tracey endured -including being sacked via email from her job as news anchor after having a baby- and sadness, frustration, incredulity and a deep gratitude that Tracey Spicer has helped pave a smoother road for the young girls of today. She is also hysterically funny and brutally honest, a delightful combination! This is a book that shall stay with me; the wisdom contained therein shall be passed to my daughter, like a baton in a relay. I think many women will be able to identify with the various scenarios Tracey describes, a reality that saddens me. I find it ironic that I read this wondrous tome in the same week that broadcaster John Laws relayed that he insists that women who work for him must wear skirts and bare legs. The age of the dinosaur is fast becoming defunct, thank goodness, going by the commentary on social media over his remarks. Run, don’t walk, to grab a copy of this book.

Parades and Time


I am behind on finishing my next book, behind on finishing scheduled articles and behind on my blog. I was anxious about all this, until I remembered that everything has a season. Term 4 has been jam-packed with activities, all of them joyous, though time-consuming. I wake at 5am, and get into the day. The Lyrica I take twice daily (as well as other meds for pain), see me crawl into bed by 8pm most nights. By the time the homeschooling activities are done, there is just enough time for dinner and preparing for the next day. My daughter is a bundle of energy, and when I put it to her that if we worked hard this term, we may be able to finish a little earlier, she readily agreed! Another two weeks, and we shall be done. We will have time to explore, to see friends and rest. Oh, and I shall have time to write regularly!

There have been trips to the theatre, parks and beaches. We went to Sculptures by the Sea, which was fantastic.

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We took part in a parade, my daughter as a Scottish warrior, resplendant with a sword, and I as some sort of wench! We had a ball, and as I watched my daughter and her friends brandish their swords, I felt pride.

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We made scores of felt angels and lavender balm for a home school market, have been to numerous workshops and traveled far and wide. The days have been busy, though good. Summer is almost here, and it is time for a break. My daughter will still be learning as she plays and writes scripts with her friends, summons up new songs to sing and performs science experiments at home. Every life has a season, and now is the time of writing.

The Secret Garden


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I was asked along to a talk at the North Sydney Community Centre this past week, to hear Wendy Whiteley and the esteemed journalist, Janet Hawley, talk about the paradise behind the lush tome, Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden. Janet has written a heartfelt and intelligent book about her friend, and also of the remarkable history of Lavender Bay. Jason Busch’s photography is outstanding! It is the ultimate coffee table book. Wendy appeared first, her hair wrapped in an elegant black scarf, a sprig of lavender pinned to her jumper. She had a commanding presence, and hypnotic crystal-blue eyes. Janet Hawley sat next to her, an elfin lady with a dulcet voice, and to our delight, Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia was the interviewer. He confessed that he had only been to the garden for the first time the day before. He had fallen under it’s spell in an instant, and plans to help out there for many a year to come.

The garden in question was started over twenty years ago, after personal tragedy touched the artist and muse’s life. Wendy’s husband, the great artist Brett Whiteley,died in 1992, after which Wendy turned her attentions to the wasteland in front of her home. Her daughter, Arkie, was an ethereal spirit, and fine actress. She encouraged her mother’s endeavors; buying her plants for the project. Tragically, she succumbed to adrenal cancer. Losing her only child saw Wendy turn to the garden once more, for comfort and reprieve from the agony of her loss. The garden was built on land adjoining Wendy’s home, which was owned by  Rail Corp and later leased to North Sydney Council. It was neglected and overgrown with weeds. Wendy used her own money to turn it into paradise. Visitors from all over the world come to relax in this spectacular garden, and all that is asked is that they’re respectful and take their rubbish when they depart.

In a sensible outcome, the State Government has extended the lease to thirty years, with a thirty year rollover clause. Wendy would love to be given assurance that a stable of sturdy volunteers shall keep up the garden after she departs, putting in money, resources and time. She needs to have a website constructed, so that people can have a central point to gather information and leave feedback. The Secret Garden will also require a generous soul to manage its social media.  This glorious garden is her gift to Sydney. I believe that a dream team of volunteers shall come forth, and help out in the decades to come. I hope that the State Government can commit in the longer term to her vision regarding the necessity of parkland by Sydney Harbor, to bring in tourists and for the pleasure of locals. How awful it would be if Sydney were to lose it’s soul to developments suffocating every square patch of green land.  It was a daring act by Wendy, to create our first guerrilla garden, and I am in awe of her commitment. She turned a wasteland into a place brimming with life, and her grief into an exquisite  garden. I shall never forget meeting the iconic Sydney artist with the hypnotic blue eyes and the wondrous Janet Hawley.

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Wendy Whiteley and Janet Hawley

-Photography by Jason Busch

For further information, click here.

How to become a Great Writer-Sarah Brennan and Jemma Julian


Sarah Brennan is an accomplished children’s author, and she interviewed a young writer friend of mine, Jemma Julian, for her blog. I am flawed by the wisdom streaming from one so young! Check out the interview here.

There is never enough time!


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There is never enough time, have you found that too? As an aside, we often tell ourselves that now isn’t the right time. I ask myself, when will be the right time? Do we wait for the planets to be aligned? Sometimes, you have to plunge straight in. I don’t know where time goes, I honestly don’t. 24 hours has glorious potential when I wake at 5am, but I soon run out of sand. My daughter and I are planning on opening an Etsy shop by the end of the year. I have a desperate need to take her to the opera, the theatre, each and every cove and parkland around Sydney. I can’t sit still. I am afraid to stop. The truth is, I don’t know how to anymore. I find my release by helping her locate her point of peace. We went and saw The Peasant Prince yesterday at the Monkey Baa Theatre, and I watched the joy on her face as she “got” the lesson regarding never giving up, believing in yourself, and trusting your instincts. I realized that my point of peace is wherever she is.

I am sometimes terrified of failing her. The worst moment of my life was when I almost died after surgery when she was three years old. They let her ride with me on the trolley, and she stroked my hair on the way to theatre. I am her teacher, her guide and her parent. I am everything to her. I have been putting off having medical tests because I am quietly afraid. I have been waking in the middle of the night, crying in pain. People don’t witness this war going on within my body. It is getting worse. If I fall down, there is nobody to pick up the gauntlet. What occurred with my last surgery scarred me. It was close. I had bigger surgeries, before I had her, but I was filled with the bravado of youth and had nothing left to lose. Now I have everything. I keep on keeping on, but shall get the tests done and see a surgeon. I am on Lyrica at present. I don’t know if you know of it. It was designed for epilepsy, though is also used for neurological pain. It has knocked me about as I get used to it! I am willing to try anything. The bone and metal shards left in my spinal canal literally feel as if I have been knifed in the back. I guess I had been, many years ago.

My daughter is on school holidays, and as we walked to the park today, I stumbled. I told her to go ahead as we were meeting friends at a playground. After she left, I looked down, and there was this nest.

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Lovingly created, the chicks had flown and it was discarded. I picked it up, and carried it to the playground. I have always found nests to be my symbol of hope. One dropped to my feet when I was despondent during IVF. I still have it. Every time I have been in hospital, a dove has perched on the windowsill of my room. It can’t be coincidence. As I caught sight of my daughter playing with her friends, the pain diminished. I brought the discarded nest home with me. My evenings may be filled with pain and I may no longer be able to sit on a bench without back support. My lungs may struggle, and I may find it all hard and lonely. However, when I look at a nest or a bird, my resolve strengthens.

Sometimes we have to grab time back; either that or smash the hourglass. Sometimes, time can seem to stop. It does for me when I see a transcendent performance, or delight in the antics of my child or pets. Referring to pets, that includes our hermit crabs. They can be enormously entertaining and run like the wind! The only relief I have is to seek out beauty. It is the source of that which is mightier than this merciless pain. If you look hard enough, you will find it. If you close your eyes and concentrate, you can stop time.

Amazing Writers, Editors and Illustrators to Check Out! (Part 2)


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I had the most extraordinary editor on my book. Not only is she a guiding editorial light, but she is an artist/illustrator and writer! Her name is Anne Van Alkemade and she can be found via Facebook.

Marisa Alo is a marvellous writer and illustrator and can be contacted on her website.

Sognia Vassallo-Sime has is a writer/photographer extraordinaire and can be uncovered on Facebook  and here on WordPress!

Sari Bullock has a tremendous book called Sugar Rush. She can be found at her website and on Facebook. Her illustrator, Don Ezard, is extremely talented, as you will discover here.

The delightful Adam Wallace has a whole lot of children’s books out there, waiting to be picked up and delighted in! He can be discovered at his website and on Facebook.

Linda Maree Malcolm is an exceptional woman, as you will discover upon reading Oracles in the Mist. Discover this talented author on her website.

Jenna Rothwell has delighted my child by writing Ben the Outside Dog. She has a Facebook Page and also has a website.

I can highly recommend these people, as authors, illustrators and editors.

Amazing Writers, Editors and Illustrators to check out! (Part 1)


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I am blessed to know many talented people. Not only are they remarkable writers, they are wonderful human beings. They have a high level of integrity and produce beautiful work. Check them out!

Michelle C. Monaghan  is an extraordinarily kind human being, and you can find her website by clicking on her name. She also has a Facebook page. She wrote Garlic, Hankies and Hugs to honour a wonderful tradition, inspired by her Greek grandmother. This is only the start of her writing career!

Jo Ettles website can be found here. She is a motivating and positive force for change, in your home and yourself! She also has a Facebook page. She has two books, The Shed, helping you to see your way forward, and Underneath My Clothes, encouraging women to make peace with their bodies.

Pauline James has written an extraordinary book, titled Disturbing the Dust. It has perseverance, forgiveness and love as its themes. She can be found here on Facebook, and also on her website.

Aa is for Alpacas by  Sue Carolane is a delightful children’s book. For more information, click here!

Susan Berran has a series of hilarious books for kids, and you can find out more here!Children adore her funny tales!

Check out Darcy-Lee Tindale’s bio here. She has written a book of short stories-Thumb Pickles and other Cautionary Preserves-aimed at children 9-12 years. It is both a funny and dark book.

Naomi Hunter has written a very important book, A Secret Safe to Tell. The book encourages young children to disclose abuse, and it has already saved lives from further anguish.Please check out her Facebook page.

Check out the bio for Waiting for Danica! A heart-rending, powerful, true story.

The lady behind Dreamy Belle’s Fairy Books, Gabrielle Bettels Hoffman can be found on her Facebook page and on her blog. Her stories are sure to delight young and older readers alike!

If you can get your hands on any of these books, you won’t be disappointed.

Inside Out by Anastasia Amour is out now!


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I have just read Anastasia Amour’s 14 Day Guide. I well remember how it felt to torture my body as a teenager. My eating disorder was created by a combination of insensitive words, feeling out of control of my young life and a desperate need to be perfect. Alternating between bingeing and throwing up, and not eating at all. Exercising to the point of fainting. Feeling that death was less intimidating than shedding the demons destroying me. It’s time for us to loosen the shackles, to stop destroying ourselves in the name of some ideal that we can’t really define. Self-love has to start here and now! For our kid’s sake as well as our own. My weight has fluctuated throughout the following years, due to surgery, recovery, IVF and endometriosis treatments. I have had my weight commented on when I have gained pounds, and again when I have lost those pounds. When my face became rounder after several months in a spinal bed, it was remarked on. There was little I could do about my situation and it left me feeling awful. I look back at those pictures and guess what? I see a girl who is a healthy weight! How about we stop the commentary? Let’s put it into the basket of subjects one doesn’t bring up, alongside enquiring about someone’s fertility. Inside Out is a divine little book, consisting of a 14-day guide, which aims to change how you see yourself and your body. It contains many practical tools and exercises. Let’s redefine what it is to be you, and shake off the shackles of the dieting industry. You can’t improve on perfection! Anastasia’s book contains 14 exercises that will offer practical support whilst you kick-start your body-confidence.

Questions for Anastasia.

What concerns you the most about the media? Is it the images they use, the words, or a combination of both that is so harmful?

The current state of the media is so problematic, and you’ve nailed it. We’re a visual culture and there’s no questioning our saturation of digitally-altered images and ‘flawlessness,’ and when you combine these with language that’s absolutely littered with ideas of fear, guilt and shame- appropriated as marketing tactics…well, you’ve got a very dangerous cocktail. In many ways, I strongly doubt that we’ll move away from the current media format anytime soon-but that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me most is the wide reach that the media has now, particularly to young people. Somewhere along the way, we’ve started to blur the lines between advertising and soft porn and we’ve widely accepted the notion that “sex sells,” to the extent where ad exececutives feel it compulsory to use female sexuality as a commondity to sell everything from cars to boxes of cereal. This is concerning on multiple levels but the biggest issue I have is the age at which the exposure starts. If grown women struggle to not internalize these toxic media messages about worth, sexuality and body image, what hope do young girls have? Girls and teenagers blossoming into women are confronted with more than ever before, and the implications of this are truly terrifying.

The diet industry is more powerful now than ever before. Why do you think this is?

Its simple-because the diet industry have so craftily set themselves up to grow bigger, better and stronger with age. When you set up your consumers to not only feel a perceived demand of their own accord but to experience that demand from your actions, you’ll always have the benefit of being a supplier. That’s well and good, except its not-not at all. This isn’t just selling pens or printer toner…this is screwing with people’s mental health. This is creating insecurities, blaming and punishing people for experiencing those insecurities and then offering them a magic solution to fix the very insecurities that the diet industry itself contributed to. It’s immoral, it’s unethical and it’s damaging so many lives. What the diet industry doesn’t want us to know is that those who are overweight and need to lose weight to keep their bodies healthy don’t actually need the diet industry at all to do this. Diets and fads don’t work. They might help you shed a few kilos initially, but they do nothing to keep you healthy in the long term. Ultimately, we’re building a culture that searches for shortcuts and hacks. When we take a quick-fix approach to our mental and physical health, we’re treating the symptoms of our conditions and not the root cause. This is a huge part of why diets fail to create sustainable, positive lifestyle change-they help you to minimize the symptoms of your condition (excess fatty tissue), but do nothing psychologically to tap into the emotional issues around your relationship with food and your body. That works out just fine for the diet industry because they get the illusion of helping you whilst simultaneously ensuring that you remain a lifetime customer.

Why did you write Inside Out?

Having experienced anorexia and bulimia, I know what it’s like to loathe yourself in every way. Whilst counselling can be helpful, I also know that therapy isn’t for everyone and that many individuals prefer to educate and empower themselves on their own terms-I’m one of those people. Through my personal experiences, studies in psychology and mental health and via my own research, it’s my goal to provide sound and practical advice to women who prefer to do their own introspective work, or who don’t have access to a counsellor. ‘Inside Out’ is a resource that I wish I’d had access to at the lowest points of my self-esteem and body image. There are a lot of self-help books out there that fill your mind with “fluffy” advice on one end of the spectrum, and then highly scientific, psychological textbooks that are delivered in an inaccessible manner on the other end of the spectrum. Inside Out isn’t just for those diagnosed with eating disorders and body image issues. The techniques that it breaks down are applicable to all women who’ve ever had moments of body-loathing. Inside Out is my love letter to the reader. It preaches empowerment, validation from within and fearless body confidence-things all women deserve to experience!

Finally, how can we affirm young girls and help them to seek self-love, rather than praise from outside themselves?

The way that we affirm young girls is symptomatic of our cultural values and often, we end up forcing these ideals onto children through conditioning and selectively complimenting only the “acceptable” traits. How often do we see little girls encouraged to pursue maths, science or sports? How often do we see little boys encouraged to explore the full spectrum of their emotions? Instead, we encourage notions of femininity and masculinity as mutually-exclusive concepts-we compliment little girls for being pretty and packing up their tea sets, and we compliment little boys for being smart and rough and strong. We can make a great start by complimenting young people based on all sorts of positive traits, regardless of their gender. I believe we can go further by encouraging young people to set their own compliments and praise themselves, rather than relying on those around them to tell them that they’re pretty, smart and capable. This starts with setting an open and encouraging dialogue within the family where each member is celebrated for discussing their positive attributes. We’re all happier and more productive when we’re enabled to choose we want to be, rather than being pigeonholed into someone else’s idea of what we should like about ourselves.

Anastasia is offering my readers a very special deal! When the book launches on November 14th, this link will go live. On that date, go to the shop and enter the code below to get 15% off! This is a book that will help redefine what it is to be you, far away from societal pressures.

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For more info, go to Anastasia’s website.

Here is Anastasia’s bio.

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