I learned about Entitled via a friend who volunteers with Shining Stars. Apparently, the author was going to donate $5.00 from every book sold to this charity. As winter descends, Shining Stars is needed more than ever. They feed the hungry, provide essentials to the homeless, ensure people fleeing domestic violence have clothes and furniture, and new mothers have all they need for their babies. I could easily wax lyrical about all they do, wallpapering this blog, but you can read more about them on their website. I ordered a copy of Entitled, eager to help Shining Stars and also support the Author who was making such a generous pledge.
I could not put this book down once I started! How often have we been blasé to the homeless on our streets? How often have we pretended not to see them? If we avoid eye contact, we won’t have to engage with them. Children tug on their parent’s arm, to enquire as to why people have no home, and are shushed, then hurriedly moved on. The protagonist in this story is no different. If we create a chasm between them and us, it means that we don’t have to digest the unappetising reality that many of us are only a few pay slips, or a medical disaster away from the streets. We believe that they must have done something to create their situation, or didn’t try hard enough. It brings us peace of mind, that we are somehow masters of our destiny, and they are not.
I read Entitled in one sitting, thrilled that not only had the author nailed what it means to be destitute, but also what it means to be broken down then rebuilt. The people our heroine meets on the street are the truest friends she has ever had. They may well be the only friends she has ever had. I have seen homeless buddies run and fetch hot tea for another with the last of their money, or offer food and a blanket to a newbie. This is unadulterated love, something which Shining Stars has in abundance. Several societal ranks are featured in this book, with fate conspiring to have them meet, and learn from each other.
I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
You can order Entitled from the following:
To make a donation to Shining Stars, or to find out more, click here.
We had a cold snap in Sydney last week, and a friend of mine tweeted that ladies should head to the menswear section to locate flannelette pyjamas. Not only are they $10 cheaper than the women’s version, but they have pockets! Outrageous!
Western society is geared toward providing comfort and ease for the token ‘average’ caucasian male. If you don’t fit this demographic, then it’s bad luck! It reaches into every portion of life. Don’t believe me? Why are women’s haircuts, clothing, shoes, luggage, eyewear, etc, so much dearer? Girls are not entering STEM fields at the same rate as boys (women only make up 16% in Australia’s STEM fields). SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity), has also thoroughly researched the topic.
Now onto a different (though related) topic… I have uncovered my new heroines, courtesy of this Washington Post article. A group of teenage girls discovered that their looks were being rated by some of their male counterparts. What happened next was not only brave, but ultimately cathartic. It was transformative for the young women, who found they were heard and respected. It was as valuable for the young men, who finally understood the hurt and humiliation their actions had caused.
If only we could transform the prototype of the average caucasian male, of whose comfort society is built for.
I recently met up with a friend whose partner (in secret), had racked up substantial debts, which they were repaying at $550 per week. If you asked her partner what he’d bought, I don’t believe he would be able to tell you, such was the lack of value placed on the items. It has added up to a huge chunk out of their wages. Financial abuse is insidious, tied in with emotional and mental abuse, and at it’s heart, control. Ultimately, living with someone whose goals aren’t aligned with yours, is unworkable. Being lied to, having money taken out of your account and being forced to withdraw what you have saved in order to live, is more common than most people think. It consists of regularly making up excuses when you can’t afford to go out, whilst trying to keep the household running and school supplies bought. It is incredibly stressful.
I have seen and heard it all in my time. I have seen people I love left with nothing after sacrificing everything, in order to pay off debts that aren’t even theirs. I have seen people trapped by ill health and other issues, rendering it harder to leave. I have seen people promised money over the Christmas period, or a partner swearing that they would pay their share, and then not do so. I have seen it all, and wept with those on the receiving end.
I have written an ebook about financial, emotional and mental abuse, available on Amazon. It is such an important subject, and my main goal was to help people feel less alone. The fact that you are still here and fighting for yourself and any children you may have is extraordinary! It takes such a massive effort (and toll), when you are locked out of your own life; financial matters and fines, debts and betrayal hidden from you. If this is you, keep going, please. I have seen lives rebuilt after suffering these particular traumas. I have seen a woman five years down the road- and now financially secure-cradling the hands of another, promising that they too shall get through it. I believe her.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
-Photography by Jason Busch
For further information, click here.
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.