The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever!


My daughter and I and some dear friends went to Sydney Park last Saturday to pay homage to Kate Bush, whilst at the same time, denouncing domestic violence. I used to listen to Wuthering Heights as a young girl, living under the oppressive understanding that a violent and possessive man would be deciding when my life would end in the near future. I didn’t have to imagine him telling me that I was ‘going to lose the fight,’ nor have ‘bad dreams in the night.’ He told me routinely, and I indeed had bad dreams. I imagined coming back dressed in red, banging on the window, trying to get somebody (anybody), to hear me and welcome me in. Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned joining so many others, dressed in red, dancing to this song so many years later! It was a powerful remembrance of how far I have come, watching my little girl twirl by my side. St Peters has a special place in my heart. I was a young poet/artist when I lived there, selling my wares to the little shops up King St. I would take my little dog, Mitzi Winstopple to Sydney Park each evening, and dream of the future.

In preparation, I raided our fancy dress box and my daughter found a 50 cent gown that fitted her beautifully.

It was cathartic, and I felt cleansed. We wandered up King St to the Union Pub, where scores of other Cathy’s gathered. We bought felt hats for $10 at a bargain store, and I told my friend of my life in St Peters, and the sadness I felt at leaving. I came back not only to pay homage to Kate Bush, but to retrieve something I had left behind; myself.

The next day, I paid for my dance. I wept with the pain, but it was worth it. If there is a price to be paid, always make sure it’s worth it. Two days later, my spine is coming good. I can’t wait until next year!

 

Getting my back up


To get from my town into the city, I have to take a bus and then a train. I usually have a spinal brace on, and carry a lumbar roll wherever I go to place in the small of my back. I take pain relief beforehand. I can cope with the stiffness and discomfort quite well, but if something extra is required, it messes with my system and the trip home is hell. I have had times when I have been doubled over on the trip home-whether by car or public transport. I was taking a certain medication twice a day to help the sciatic pain and I must say, it kept me walking. However, it was rendering me a zombie in the mornings, and I craved bed so I could go back to sleep. I now take one dose at night time, and whilst the pain has crept back during the afternoons, at least I can function in the morning and get my daughter where she needs to go.

For over twenty years, I have been in extreme pain, though I can still recall a time when I wasnt. I remember what it was like to skate, dance and be flexible. I miss those times. I have learnt what I can do by discovering what I can’t; where my limits are. My days are structured to the letter. Morning weights to keep my bones strong, and physio exercises for my spine. Brace and Tens machine after a shower and liniment. Morning medications to help with pain and inflammation. Of an evening, I have a bath, my medications and am usually in bed by 8.30. The relief of laying flat at the end of a day! I wake several times with the pain during the night. If I am held up during the day, and can’t take my meds at the usual time, the pain gets out of control, and I am almost delirious because of it. I have to have excellent time management.

One day a few months ago, I was given a friend’s newborn baby to hold. I have difficulty lifting-even raising my arms is excruciating- and whilst I loved holding this precious bundle, I was in agony for days afterward. I resent that the pain limits my ability to lift a precious baby. When my daughter came along, I bought a crib that I could wheel around the house, lifting her onto my lap when I was in a rocking chair to avoid strain on my spine. If my baby ever has her own babies, I want my spine to be strong enough to do the same. This is one major reason I work so hard in the here and now on my back!

Sitting for any length of time is a challenge. All the weight goes to three dessicated discs in my lumbar spine. If I am sitting too long in one spot, the pain is out of this world. Laying down is the most comfortable position. I worry when I need to take long car rides or plane trips, as I know pain will be a companion. I just want to try and hold it together. I am on as little pain medication as I can get away with, acutely aware of the balance between being functional and not. Without it, I would hardly be able to walk, let alone get out. I have had a few incidents lately when my right leg simply wouldnt do as it was told. I fell over in a toy shop, and a dear lady raced over with my daughter to help me back up!

Most days I cope, but there are days that are so abysmal that I break down. I fear that the time has come to undertake corrective surgery to keep me going. Then, I come back from the abyss. I hope the centre holds for a little bit longer. I am not frightened of what lays ahead; I just want to be strong enough to hold my grandbabies one day.

 

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.

Homeschooling in Australia


I have been homeschooling my daughter for just over two years now, and as the second term of 2017 comes to an end, I reflect back on our time. It has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have seen my daughter’s self-esteem and happiness escalate, and she confidently looks people in the eye when talking. She has joined the RSL Commemorative Youth Choir, and sung at Government House and taken part in camps. She has acted in plays and film, taken part in many social groups, and knows what she wants to do, and how to get there. The parents and kids we have met whilst home schooling are friendly and welcoming. My daughter has re-discovered a love of learning. We try to balance workshops and trips into Sydney with days at home, hitting her workbooks and online resources. Things I have learnt are as follows:

  1. Parents need to trust their instincts when it comes to their child.
  2. I went overboard when we started, purchasing copious amounts of resources! I found I needed only a quarter of what I ordered. Streamlined educational resources are best, and my daughter certainly has her favourite online programes and workbooks.
  3. My daughter favours starting early, ploughing through, and finishing early.
  4. It helps to make a timetable each day. My girl loves to know what is coming up, and be able to tick off each task when its completed. She also loves to know the details of our outings; what time we are leaving home, who will be there, how long the classes are and what they entail.
  5. I add the details of what she has studied or where she has attended workshops to her year file each evening, whilst it’s fresh in my mind.
  6. Preparing food the evening before a big day is advisable, and saves a fortune when out and about!
  7. We follow the school holidays, and try to stay at home as much as possible. After a busy term, that to us is heaven! She loves catching up with her old school friends in the holidays.
  8. I like to go through the house after each term concludes, gathering up old resources, craft, art supplies and clothing she has grown out of. When you work in the same space in which you live, it helps to have it tidy, and keep track of what is needed in the term ahead.
  9. Holidays are great for slowing the pace. A sleep-in is decadent, as are lovely long walks. Home schoolers need to rest in the break.
  10. We chat about scheduling for the next term; what she wants to do, and where her interests are leading her. There are so many fantastic opportunities, that we have to narrow them down.
  11. I highly advise those who are new to home schooling in Australia to join the Home Education Association, and also if you are in Sydney, Shen.
  12. I make her a Vista Print school album each year, consisting of all the activities she has undertaken. It is a lovely way to commemorate her school year.
  13. We plan to go swimming, the movies and shopping when school is in, as it is less busy. We make up the time by rising early or spreading the work over a weekend.

This past term, she has taken part in the Australian Young People’s Theatre classes, been to several performances at the Opera House, taken professional dance classes, done lino printing, learnt about film-making, how the brain registers emotions and much more, on top of her lessons at home. There are sacrifices to be made, and it can be a costly affair. I know of parents who, after pulling their kids out of school, have had to sell their home or sacrifice a second income in order to educate their children. They do so happily, particularly after seeing the early results of their decision. I am learning as much as my daughter, and each day is a joy. I only wish we had started homeschooling sooner!

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.

 

Update on Health Services


Remember how I wrote about my friend and her admittance to hospital? Well, she came to my place after having pathology done, and over a cup of tea, there were many tears, borne of frustration and overwhelm. She works as a casual with the elderly, and if she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid, so she has had to pick up as many shifts as she can. The specialist who ordered her scans wanted them done before the end of this week as he is going away on a conference Friday for two weeks. She tried to book in, and found that she will have to wait a month! Three sections of her spine shall need to be done as well as a brain MRI. She knows that her symptoms are a sign of something amiss, and as you can imagine, is desperate to find out what. It seems incredibly cruel to make a person wait for answers when they still have to work and somehow function in the interim.

She missed a call from her GP the other day as her phone dips out where she lives. She was let out of hospital with a severe headache and many symptoms to fend for herself. By prolonging diagnosis and treatment, the health system actually loses money. It makes no sense! It was made clear to her that if she was willing to pay for the MRI’s, she could have them done immediately. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the thousands of dollars this would necessitate. Being in a private health fund means nothing in this circumstance. It shouldn’t be this way. My job as her friend is to help keep her spirits up whilst she waits.

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.

 

Manchester


My daughter has been my companion to many concerts. Some operatic, some classical, some pop and some rock. The squeals of joy echo through my home when I inform her that we have tickets to a visiting performer. She carefully selects what she is going to wear, and we make plans to have dinner somewhere nice beforehand. Watching her dance and gaze at the performer in awe is all the reward I need. We went to Sport for Jove’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, shortly after I heard the dreadful, unfathomable news about the terrorist attack at Manchester Stadium. I looked around at all the young people laughing and delighting in the performance, and was struck cold by the thought that it could have been us. It could have been us at any performance we had attended. Afterward, my daughter chatted excitedly about the play, and how much she had enjoyed it, and we stopped at a shopping centre in the heart of Sydney for lunch. A policeman with an Irish brogue came up to us, and started chatting. It felt as though three humans were connecting, trying to make sense of the evil which had just occurred. He smiled at my daughter, and I knew that he was thanking his stars that it hadn’t been a Sydney concert. It could have been.

A friend posted a warning last night that a van had been spotted next to our local park, with a fellow lingering long enough to cause suspicion. I almost despaired. Should we now add concerts to the long list of things we need to be wary of? Are backpacks set to become suspicious, not just when left alone on public transport, but also when securely strapped to someone’s back? Parents could be rendered nervous wrecks, incapable of venturing out with their offspring, let alone allowing them to venture out by themselves. I must admit, my immediate desire was to bustle my daughter home, where she is safe. However, this is no way to live. Once upon a time, I was a hermit, a bad man stalking me. I barely left my room in three years as a teen. I remember feeling angry that my life had been reduced to an isolation cell, whilst he was roaming free.

I eventually stepped out by myself, and what a revelation it was! I determined never to close the door and put myself into solitary confinement again. I won’t do that to my daughter either. Did you know that amongst all the horror, several homeless men (who were sleeping rough near the arena), ran to help? They comforted children, stemmed blood loss and helped get people to safety. What I will say to my child, is always look for the helpers… There is always helpers. We will still attend concerts, but sadly our innocence has gone.

I would rather walk…


She is the type of woman who sweeps over you from the feet up, criticising everything from your shoes to your handbag. She makes your daughter uncomfortable with her relentless grilling, and you feel exhausted by her relentless whining. You are never asked about yourself; how you are and what is happening in your world. You aren’t asked because it doesn’t matter to her. On a gorgeous morning, there you are, minding your business at the bus stop, when she comes along, insisting on sitting near you the whole journey. By the end, you have lost all your energy, and feel discombobulated. Its probably not a good portent, when you spot a person and inwardly groan.

The other day, I was waiting for a bus home after seeing my doctor. My spine was excruciating; lifting my arm had encouraged metal shards in my spinal canal  to give a sensation like being stabbed between my shoulder blades. It had taken five different medications to get a few hours sleep the night before. I just wanted to sit in silence, and get home.

Suddenly, she appeared, like a vulture. She immediately noticed that I had cut my hair. “What happened to you!” she demanded, pointing at my head. “I felt like a change,” I replied sharply. “Why would you do that? Why?” she hollered. And in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 the critique was coming. Bugger this! In desperation, I hopped on a bus that would take me several blocks from my place, rather than right outside my home. It was worth the extra walk, to get away from her. I am starting to understand that I have rights too. A right to peace of mind, quiet, and to be respected. I dont have to be polite and sit there and take such nonsense. All my energy has to be shared with my daughter and I will be damned if I will allow the likes of her to syphon it away with dribble. Not anymore. The look on her face when I suddenly hopped away and onto the bus was priceless.

When you wake up from a fitful sleep, you tend to have around half of the vigour needed to get through a busy day. If you subject yourself to miserable people, the tank gets drained further. Dont do it! Move or walk away from anyone who pulls this toxic stunt!