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!

Brain Week, University and Hope


We have had a dizzying week, filled with grace, learning and love. We had a mum and her son come to stay for a little while. They have been on the road for almost a year, and are finding it difficult to locate permanent housing. One day we shall look back with horror that a single mum and her children found it so tough to secure housing. I could think of nobody with such a vested interest in being the perfect tenant. They are travelling South, and I pray that they find what they are looking for. Everybody deserves a permanent home.

My daughter attended a robotics lecture and tour at Sydney University this week, and also went to a Brain Week Open Day at UNSW. She loved being on campus, and was fascinated by all she saw.

IMG_6521This is a picture of her exquisite and beautiful brain activity! I love the violet!

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Casula Powerhouse, Paul Trefry, 'Homeless Still Human.'
Casula Powerhouse,
Paul Trefry, ‘Homeless Still Human.’

My daughter felt emotional as she observed this sculpture, looking deep into his eyes. Everybody deserves permanent housing.

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I attended dinner for a dear friend’s birthday and was delighted that Hannah Erika Music were playing. It was a sublime night. I met a designer, who disclosed that she is dyslexic, and her dream is to empower young people who have dyslexia. I can’t wait to see the glorious clothing she produces after she sets up her business. It is important that dyslexic kids hear of such adults, and have the chance to tour universities, attend workshops and see all the opportunities that are available to them. By ten, most have had deflating experiences and had trials beyond what an adult could comfortably endure. My child loves science, art, music and drama among many other interests. I know she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do in life, not in spite of her dyslexia, but from it. She already thinks outside the box, is extraordinarily creative and curious. These qualities will hold her in good stead.

We also saw a beautiful performance at the Seymour Centre, of Huang Yi and Kuka My daughter asked if the performers had fun coming up with the choreography between themselves and the robot (Kuka). Huang Yi answered an emphatic yes, and went on to tell her that he believed in his dream, and found others who did too. He told her to never let go of her dreams. It was lovely advice to give a little girl with a bucketful of hope.

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Lastly, I had to share the recipe for these fruit balls that my friend made. They are amazing! Mix Coconut, Almond Meal, Honey, Vanilla Essence, Lime juice and peel and Chia seeds together and roll into balls.

 

A Whirlwind Week


On Sunday, we watched a short film that Rev. Bill Crews is putting into a festival. It centred around the homeless residing in two parks near Central Station. How it must feel to be out in the elements in heatwaves and bitter cold… Many in society have a tenuous grip on their security, and it would take but retrenchment or ill health to plummet them into the homeless community. Perhaps that is why many look away. Fear will do that. A lady talked about her daughter’s high school, how they went to one of the parks, armed with sleeping bags. The kids asked questions and listened to the people table their stories. The people became human beings with back-stories, rather than ‘the homeless.’ What a wonderful thing to do!

In the evening, I took my daughter to Govinda’s, a vegetarian restaurant in the city. My daughter proudly ate a lettuce leaf, and some sunflower seeds, and then devoured a bowl of ice cream! She has promised me that she will try new food every day, and I am holding her to it! It would be great to expand her repertoire from beyond Vegemite, apples and Lavash crackers! Okay, she does eat more than that, though barely. Kids can become fixed with their eating habits. I have found that when I leave it up to my daughter to uncover the joy of a new food, it ends much more happily than if I had forced her to try it!

On Monday, I was waiting for the bus with my daughter, to go to drama class. The lady I befriended at the bus stop a few weeks ago pulled over and offered us a lift. Bless her, she went out of her way to take us to the train station. My daughter was impressed with her Hello Kitty seat covers and the delicious air conditioning.  It beat waiting in the blazing sun! Australia is having a very hot week! How wonderful it is when strangers become friends.

We were at a show yesterday, and I was seated next to a stranger. She was an older lady, and she asked whether my daughter was having a  day off school. I explained how she is home schooled, and that it has been great for her dyslexia, to be able to take her time. She told me about her grandson, and how he is dyslexic. Sadly, he has no confidence in his abilities, and left school early. I was able to give her some details about the Exodus Tutorial Centre-among other resources -whom may be able to help. Her eyes lit up, and I knew it was not by accident that we were seated together. She lives not far from me either! Life is a strange and wonderful thing!

It has been a whirlwind week, and it is only Wednesday! More activities have been heaped onto my plate, and at the moment, I am eager for them. I haven’t started the medication for my nerve pain as yet. I have been warned by my doctor and those on it, that whilst it is effective, it will certainly cause drowsiness. I am making hay whilst the sun shines! It is going to be factored in within the next few weeks, making home time necessary. Life is cyclical, isn’t it? I am in the season of crazy-busy, and within a month, I will be in the cycle of repose whilst I get used to this new medicine. Nothing lasts forever; not the whirlwind, nor the sleepiness. Its a matter of adapting to your situation.

 

 

 

 

Magnanimity


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My wonderful friend, Swamiyesudas has just posted a piece about kindness over on his blog, urging everyone to perform an act of kindness each day. Imagine the ripple effect! My child never ceases to amaze me with her understanding of kindness. A few weeks ago, a little friend of hers had to have some medical tests. She was concerned about her friend, and wanted to go along for support. We were just about to leave the house to go meet them when my daughter turned around and ran into her room. She came out with her beloved bulldog, made at a soft-toy party a few years ago. She gave it to her little friend, and the joy exuding from both of them lit up the train carriage as we made our way into the city. Her friend had found a light sabre on their last playdate, and gave it to my daughter to keep. My kid hadn’t forgotten her kindness. It is hard to describe how ecstatic my daughter was when we bumped into her friend at the shops a few days later. There she was, clutching the bulldog. “She loves him!” my daughter exclaimed. “Yes, she certainly does!” I smiled.

Last weekend, I took her into the city. There were hoards of people around as we strolled through Haymarket, and I grabbed a hold of her hand. Suddenly, she paused. She retrieved the pocket-money from her purse and went over to a man sitting on the ground. He had two little dogs next to him, and was strumming The Beatles’ Blackbird on his guitar. She gave him everything in her purse. He looked up and smiled, tears in his eyes. As we continued walking, she said, “mum, I have a tingle all over. Giving feels wonderful doesn’t it?” Yes it does darling, yes it does. A child noticed a homeless man and his little dogs. I hope that he does indeed take his broken wings and learn to fly.

As we walked through Darling Quarter, we came across a table filled with exquisite paper flowers. A lady smiled at my daughter, and handed her one. I took an information card. They were giving away flowers in honour of Esther Day. Esther was sixteen when she died, and her wish was for people to spread love to others. She would be proud of these beautiful people, I am sure. Kindness is given and received, in an endless cycle of magnanimity.

My daughter with her Esther Day flower
My daughter with her Esther Day flower

The next day we met a grand elderly lady called Anna at the bus stop. I told her that I had been admiring her colourful way of dressing for the longest while, and had been meaning to tell her. She would board the bus smiling, her slight figure clothed in emerald, sapphire and ruby-red hats and coats. We got into a conversation, and she told us that she volunteered at our local palliative care ward, sitting with loved ones, offering cups of tea and comfort. My little girl was regaled by her stories, and sat with her the whole bus trip, Anna’s arm around her. Kindness goes around in an endless cycle of magnanimity…

To learn more about Esther Day and many other inspiring projects, check out The Deluminators

Bill Crews


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My spiritual home is Ashfield Uniting Church, always has and will be. There are times when I don’t know what I believe anymore, and yet I gravitate back to Ashfield. People speak their mind here. It is gritty and real and full of love. The sermon was about celebration, and understanding that there is something to be thankful for every day. It may a rainbow appearing overhead or the breath in your lungs. At morning tea, Bill put on an Australian Story from 16 years ago. He stood to the side of the hall as the matriarchs of the church appeared on-screen. He watched as Speakers Corner in The Domain (a lively corner of Sydney in the 60’s),sprang to life. Pictures of him as a young engineer were presented. Here he was, in his 20’s, minding his own business, when he had an epiphany. He left it all behind to live and work in The Cross. I had tears. I remembered watching the show all those years ago, and deciding that I needed to go to this church, to meet him.

He also showed us a 7.30 Report segment on the literacy program. I can’t adequately describe how it felt to watch children who had been discounted and neglected by our educational system come back to life. They were beaming, their shoulders back and heads held high at their graduation ceremonies. This program has changed their lives and futures. It is being extended to Liverpool in the near future. Bill was there when I went into premature labour with my daughter at twenty weeks. He sat by my bedside and celebrated when the rupture in my waters sealed and the contractions stopped. He was among the first in the maternity ward when she arrived safely at 36 weeks. He held her and prayed over her.

Here, they do real. They argue and get cranky, and cry and laugh. Your life can be in ruins and you can be dishevelled and you will still be loved. That makes it a rare and special place. To donate or find out more, head to Bill Crews’ website.

Stained Glass Wolves


 

Stained Glass Wolves
Stained Glass Wolves

In my travels, I met an extraordinary young lady called Celia. She started Stained Glass Wolves on Facebook. It is for ‘victims and survivors of abuse, homelessness, domestic violence and the people who support them.’ There are two projects on the hop at the moment, Basic Love Packs and Knitting to Spread the Love and Warmth. The mascot is  The Mistress of Awesomeness and she certainly is! Apart from everything else she does, she is also a singer-songwriter.

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Celia is 28, and lives in Sydney. She is currently an AIN, working in a nursing home, and is also studying nursing at university. She believes in true equality, love, loyalty, compassion,truth, genuineness, dignity and justice. She has three specific missions in life:
1. To run her charity, Stained Glass Wolves, and reach out to the broken.
2. To sing and write.
3. To be a qualified nurse educator specialising in brain trauma and also making specific care plans for individuals; working with families, carer’s and the client to make a manageable plan to give that person the best quality of life.

Celia has qualifications in mechanics, and in the hospitality industry. There is nothing she can’t do, teaching herself to knit via YouTube. As a child, she was abused in every way a young girl can be, and was told that she was worthless. She refused to believe it. How she healed, and what she has done, are truly inspirational.  She has suffered depression, nightmares and flashbacks, but miraculously survived. The heart seared with great suffering often becomes the heart with the greatest capacity for love and compassion. Nobody came and rescued her from the thatch of thorns where she lay. She retrieved herself.

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She found her calling in nursing after encountering a 104 year old lady in a nursing home who inspired her. She applied to study, and a letter arrived from the ACU. She reluctantly opened it, thinking it was a rejection letter. They instead wanted to know why she hadn’t accepted her placement. She checked her spam, and there was an acceptance email! Check your spam, people! At university, she noticed there was a scheme, offering placement overseas to the student with the highest mark. She applied and was accepted! She went to Cambodia, volunteering in health camps, and also travelled to Georgia College in Atlanta. Like I said, inspiring. She is the rainbow after  the darkness dissipates. A survivor in every sense. If you would like to learn more, visit Stained Glass Wolves.

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Runaways.


af14922d-da76-4c2d-88f4-14204f5161aeIn the last two days, I have heard three stories of runaways. Two of these people are now adults, and happily survived their tumultuous history. The other story I heard of, is about a little girl. We don’t know the full details as yet, only that she has been found. We hope she is happy, my friends and I. I was filled with dismay at how quick commentators on social media were to judge her. They said she needs a belting, to be screamed at, demeaned, reduced… Twenty years after my time,  it seems as though empathy is not forthcoming from all. A man I greatly respect told me that he slept on the streets of Sydney  for four years  as a youngster. He chose homelessness over staying in a house with a violent father. Another friend left at sixteen. “It was either run or die.” Some choice. I ran away for the first time at four years of age. I wanted to make it to my friend’s house. It was calm there. Instead, I was pursued, then beaten, and told  that I would never get away. It didn’t stop me trying. I wanted the pain to stop, to see who I could be and what I could do in this world. It was a positive gesture, assuring those on the periphery that I valued my life and wanted to live. I wanted to try.

13 Years.
13 Years.

Bad men came forth with generous offers of places to stay from twelve to fourteen. “How kind,” my mind whispered, before a cacophony burst forth from my intuition. “They will destroy you!” I declined numerous offers, and watched in despair as two of my young friends died whilst being sheltered by these characters. I rang a host of numbers on a payphone at fourteen, begging someone, anyone, to help me. The criterion was very specific, and you had to fit into the parameters. I was told I was too young, too old, and on and on it went. At fifteen, I was found after running away from a clinic. I was taken to the local police station. When I was told I would have to sleep in the cell in the corner, and I gratefully thanked them, they knew things were bad. They found me a bed in a refuge, the only bed free in the whole of Sydney. I was taken there at 11pm, and a bleary-eyed social worker opened the door. I fell on top of the mattress in the share room, and lay awake, wondering what was going to become of me.

 

In the morning, the boy’s came from their room, and we from ours. There were eleven of us. We sat at the battered dining table, and a young man wondered aloud what would happen to him when he turned sixteen, in a week’s time. He was trying to go to school, and would soon be without a bed. I was shown a binder filled with resources for kids like myself. You could have a shower here, then lunch here. By a miracle, a bed might show up over there… Nothing was coordinated. “You have to do a lot of travelling when you’re on the streets,” the social worker said. I came to the refuge with nothing, and the toothbrush, washer and soap I was given meant the world to me. I felt as though my identity had been reduced… Over the years, I have known many runaways, both teens and adult survivors of abuse. Their leaving had nothing to do with tiffs over freedom. Rather, they were fighting for their lives.

 

A friend of mine runs Street Pax, a wonderful incentive she started alone. She sources donations of useful foodstuff and toiletries, and prepares packs. She then delivers them to those on the street. They are always gratefully accepted. I will never forget my toothbrush, washer and soap. For further information, or to donate, please go to Street Pax on Facebook.