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.

 

Vegetarianism


I became a vegetarian as a pre-schooler in an act of rebellion. My family were dedicated carnivores, and frozen veggies were used as an aside to the main dish. I hated everything about meat; the smell, texture and the very thought of eating an animal. I guess that some of us are meant to partake in salads decorated with edible flowers instead! The more I was made to eat meat, the further I rebelled. I simply couldn’t bear it. Every cell in my body rejected it. This was back in the days when vegetarian food wasn’t found in supermarkets, and as a teenager I would spend a fortune in health food shops and whole food grocers and also partake in feasts gifted by the Hare Krishna’s. I have been to many parties where the only thing I could eat was a piece of bread with butter, and still long for the day when fundraising sausage sizzles have a vegetarian option (controversial, I know)!

People ask about nutrition, and worry that we vegetarians aren’t getting what we need. I will tell you a story… At seventeen, I was set to have a major operation, where massive blood loss was anticipated. As a result, I had to go to the blood bank every few weeks in order to store blood in advance. I had filled in that I was vegetarian on the form, and they were certain my iron count would be low upon testing. As it turned out, it was extremely high! I make sure I get enough protein too, which has been imperative. I have had months laying in hospital, recovering from spinal surgery. As a result, my muscles atrophied, and I had to work hard in rehab every day in order to walk again and keep myself upright. I also have grade 4 endometriosis, and it has been suggested by more than one specialist that you should limit your intake of meat. Rather than have it every night, have a day or two off. I had already banished it!

The most annoying thing about my chosen diet is that on night’s out, everyone is more interested in my meal, asking for a bite. It also happens when I order a vegetable pizza! They abandon their meat-lover’s and come over to mine! Despite having chronic spinal pain, I am healthy. I have enough energy to rise at dawn and race through the day. I believe that your body tells you what it requires, and I simply obeyed the request.
For further information on how to be a healthy vegetarian, go to Eating Well.

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!

img_0291

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.

img_0294img_0296

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

img_0277

Your Worth…


img_9167

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.

Flower Markets, Pie shops and Friendship


IMG_8027

Some time back, I went through a hellish week. I hadn’t endured such concentrated crap for quite a while. Unpleasant people from the past tried to sneak back into my atmosphere via social media, money that I was assured would be there to pay essential bills wasn’t, and I was devastated by other events beyond my control. “What on earth is this?” I shrieked, to nobody in particular. “I’m a good person!” The week before, I had been blissfully unaware of the universal dump that was about to be bestowed on me. I wasn’t at all prepared. The thing with trying times, is that they are often beyond our control, but not our capabilities, despite stretching us to our limits.

I knew that I was in strife when I couldn’t stop my arms from trembling, and my hands from shaking. I lost my appetite and three kilograms in a weekend. I was exhausted and longed to rest my thumping head. I was on the loo constantly, my digestive system unable to cope with the stress. My heart felt as though it was leaping out of my chest, and I felt numb; disassociated from what was occurring. All the above were symptomatic of the massive adrenaline rush I was enduring. I couldn’t articulate what I was going through, and so I retreated. I didn’t want to burden anybody, anyway. I longed to disappear. I couldn’t see a way out of the situation I was facing. I felt I had let my daughter down, even though events had been out of my control.

There was a little tap at my door. A friend had been working around the corner and had called in to see me. My eyes were rimmed red from crying and sleep deprivation. Upon seeing me, she held me close, then took me for a drive. We stopped at a pie shop off the beaten track, and I ordered a vegetable pie. They began to make our pies, and we were shown to a round table, the linen tablecloth and colored serviettes adding warmth to a chilly day. There were flowers on each table,nestled in bright vases, and we enjoyed the best pies of our lives. The pastry was flaky, and the filling had just the right amount of seasoning. Afterward, my friend took me to a flower market. We were allowed in the cool rooms, and admired the floral displays. My daughter was asked if she wanted to pick out some flowers to take home with her, and her little face lit up. The dear lady who was running the farm even let us look out the back to see where the gerberas were growing in massive irrigated sheds. Watching my daughter play with the little dog on the farm, I felt the oppression of the past week loosen. The lady at the flower market was gracious to this stranger, and I am sure she could sense that I was fragile on this day. As for my friend, well, she did more for me than she will ever know. She enabled me to escape my own mind, gifting me temporary reprieve.

IMG_8012

The next 24 hours, saw two other good friends call in, and I cried some more as I relayed the impossible situation I faced. What they gave me in terms of support, love and compassion outweighs anything I could calculate. They are indeed my sisters, and they effectively pulled me back from the abyss, and helped me seek ways to continue on. You can feel overwhelmed when a friend is facing a crisis, particularly when lacking funds, time or the health to physically assist.Let me assure you, that real friends understand all that. I equally treasure the cup of tea I was made, a friend opening her house to me, the phone call I received and the heartfelt messages I was gifted. Just knowing that you aren’t alone is enough to sustain you, and bring you clarity. Each and every kindness shall be recalled and valued always.


I still haven’t any resolutions to long-standing burdens, but at least I have a list of steps I can take, right here and now. I feel a little more empowered, and certainly stronger than I did throughout that horrific weekend. It all started with a country drive, a quaint pie shop and a flower market.

Christmas in July


img_1195

We have some English ex-pats as friends, and they invited us to Christmas in July celebrations. My mate Dianne loves Christmas, and couldn’t wait to revisit it at the halfway point in the year. Out came her glorious white Christmas tree and decorations. There was enough food to feed several families, and my daughter devoured five Yorkshire Puddings, declaring them a winner! The feeling around that table is one that I delight in, laughter, irreverence and warmth. Hilarity ensued when I found myself locked in the bathroom, unable to get out as the door handle was missing! They heard my little screams eventually!

There were games aplenty, which produced more laughter.

img_1192 img_1198

Oh, and a snow fight indoors! It was eventually taken outside. I loved that the family couldn’t care less about the mess left behind. They were living in the moment, and it was great fun!

img_1199-1img_1193

These Brits mean business with their snow!

Santa even made an appearance, to everyone’s joy, and we were each given a gift, as a sort of incentive (bribe), to behave until December 25th.

img_1190 img_1196

I feel overwhelmed that I was welcomed into this family’s celebration. They do real, they know that mess can be cleaned up, and that it is great fun to make! They play games and have fun. They laugh at guests who get locked in their bathroom. I adore them, and I love that Christmas can occur in July.

IMG_7918 IMG_7920

 

Sacred Whinging Spot


11666974_987838961249949_1253077824_n 11653462_987838824583296_805839096_n

I used to live near a lush reserve, groaning with Weeping Willows. I had a sign on my front door, advising (pleading), for guests to let all the negativity go at the threshold, and come into the house with fresh energy. As a hermit, my house was sacred, a place where I was protected from doom and gloom. A sanctuary where magic existed alongside art and the sound of my typewriter clanging away. I had a business, Avalon’s Gnome, and created a world away from the everyday. Heaven knows, I knew that irritations would arise, as would anger. I just didn’t want to pollute my space with the residue.

I came up with the idea of a having a designated Sacred Whinging Spot. I went for a walk, and found the perfect place. It was a covered area with seats, nestled in amongst the Weeping Willows. I would stuff a cob loaf with ricotta, tomatoes, basil and garlic, and take it along with a thermos of Irish coffee to this space, and when nobody was around, I would let it all out. In between operations, I would relay my fears. I wept, I raged, I told people off in my mind and I expressed my irritation at circumstances and situations. I would eat my Cob loaf and drink my coffee, and leave refreshed. Heck, if you are going to have such a sign over your front door, you have to practice what you preach! I lived in this Federation brick house until it was knocked down to build a unit block. It was one of the happiest, most serene of my many abodes, and I am pretty certain that a part of that had to do with my rule. There were no arguments or words spoken in haste lingering in the rooms. Once my aggravations were expelled at the Sacred Whinging Spot, they were pulled into the earth and transmuted into pure energy.

12096075_10153240137163990_8619453239373150594_n 11356126_973455312688314_1216141052_n

Maybe its time to resurrect the notion of a Sacred Whinging Spot, to ensure my home is acoustically clear. Letting it all out whilst surrounded by nature and trees that sway sympathetically in the breeze. There’s magic in that!

Hello Kitty Café, Friends and Sydney


IMG_7094IMG_7093

Sydney in Autumn is a sight to behold. We walked around to drama, dodging trucks and construction of the light installations for Vivid, which starts this weekend. There were buskers and tour groups taking in the history of The Rocks. My daughter has a ritual before her class. I give her money and she buys a strawberry donut from a takeaway shop at Circular Quay. The elderly Vietnamese man sees her approach, and has the donut in the bag before she asks. My daughter says they are the best donuts in the world. We weave our way through wedding parties and photographers, my daughter entranced by the gowns, but grossed out by the romance and smooching. I call our day in the city my caffeine day. When you have such extraordinary coffee and barista’s at your disposal, why wouldn’t you indulge? To redeem myself, I order the best salad in Sydney. Spoilt for choice, it is hard to settle on one, and they are a triumph of assembly. The sort that you wouldn’t bother making yourself at home, unless you had a spare hour or so.

13220960_1172027382831105_2973275658267978481_n

Scenes such as the one above take my mind off my physical pain. Thank heavens my daughter’s balance is better than mine! On this particular day, I decided to travel over the Harbour Bridge on the train, to see friends. I insisted we try the quirky Hello Kitty Café at Chatswood.

IMG_7101 IMG_7100 IMG_7099IMG_7097

My friend and I are under the care of an endocrinologist. Both of us are sugar-impaired, shall we say, and we try to behave. This was something of our last hurrah on that front, which is just as well.

IMG_7104 IMG_7103

Yes, I drank/ate the Freak Milkshake above, and was suitably buzzing and silly afterward! To my delight, they had a tofu burger on the menu.

IMG_7065

It was a sweet little café, and we enjoyed our outing. It has taken me two days to get over our big day out, but you gotta live, right? I had seen this place had opened over a year ago, and determined to go one day and check it out. It niggles at you, doesn’t it? The events you miss and promise to get to the next year, the things you want to do and people you want to see. Sometimes you just have to do it. We are looking forward to the next adventure! Sydney is brimming with them!

The Reverse


I was feeling adrift on Good Friday. Wistfulnes came upon me and I was listless. Thinking of this world and the tragedies which occurred the past week…My mind was insisting that I curl up in bed and not move. I know enough about myself by now to defy this edict. I ended up doing the reverse. I took my daughter down to the river and went for a walk. I was joined by friends and as the kids played, we chatted. On my way back home, I met another mum, who was trailed by two little boys. Her face was cast in sadness, and she disclosed that she had only been at her in-laws for fifteen minutes and already they were irritated by her gorgeous sons. Rather than stay and become more and more upset by their cantankerous  behaviour, she walked to the river. The boys burnt off energy and we had a lovely time, picking up sticks and errant treasures. 

  
My daughter was overjoyed to find that the Easter Bunny had been Easter Sunday ! There was a trail leading to the backyard, a little girl with a basket, hot on the scent. We lit a candle at breakfast time, and stated what we were thankful for. Afterward, we went to church, and were greeted by many familiar faces. This place is about love, and about service. You can be real here, and the relief is palpable. 

We messaged a friend, and found her to be depressed. She was alone in her unit, and I said that we were coming to see her. “when you are feeling despondent, you sometimes have to do the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do,” I insisted. I know from personal experience. If you feel like isolating yourself and staying in, you have to do the reverse. If you feel like drinking or binging, the same applies. Holidays are a cruel reminder of what you are missing out on, if you are alone. You see the myriad of families enjoying each other’s company on Facebook via status updates and photos. You can’t even watch TV without ads appearing, showing you how it is meant to be. Feelings of rejection, abandonment and fear emerge from the recesses of one’s mind. It is hard to escape. 

   
 I mentioned to our friend that we were going to Vaucluse House, so my daughter could take part in an Easter trail. To my delight, this friend wanted to come along. It takes guts to do the opposite of what your mind is demanding. We watched my daughter and her friend playing amongst the ancient trees, and had a Devonshire tea afterward. It was a perfect afternoon. Next time you feel like isolating, or are pressured to stay inside a home with people that make you feel unwelcome, do the reverse.