The Tide is finally Turning! (trigger warning)


I won’t go into the details of the crime, other than to say that the offender was sentenced to a paltry six months in prison, though looks set to serve only three. When I read how his father sprang to his defense, and attempted to minimize his actions, I couldn’t believe it. Here is the victim’s stunning Impact Statement.

The sense of entitlement regarding the offender, both before and after his insipid crime brought back memories. You see, I was this girl, and he and his family remind me of another one I encountered… The offender in my case had a long history of violence, and menacing behavior, starting when he was still in primary school. He set fire to the family home after an argument, and his parents covered for him. Using a compensation payout, he repaired the damage, and all was forgiven. The occasions of violence -which they knew of and either overlooked or helped him escape the consequences of -are many. Then, he met me…

The night of my fall, his parents stayed with him, as he was under police guard in the ER. I was placed next to him at first, a curtain separating us. There was meant to be a bedside hearing in the morning, to charge him with attempted murder. He called out to me all night as I lay broken and bloodied. His parents soothed him, promising that it would all be okay. I was fifteen, and he was 26 years of age. They arranged for him to be transferred to a comfortable clinic the next day, of where he stayed for the next year. They attended court with him when I turned sixteen, and again, never left his side. I was by myself when I had a conference with the Prosecutor and detective on the case in a side room. They hired a cruel lawyer to attempt to discredit me. Despite being assured that he was set to plead guilty on all charges, he changed his mind at the last minute. I watched him walk from the court a free man, his family smiling and congratulating him whilst I stood there broken.

I am tormented by the thought that he may have been aided and abetted after he left that courthouse in terrorizing other girls. I tried to put him away and protect others… The outcry and rage shown to this offender (and regarding the justice system and his father’s response), have comforted me. Times are changing, and I am so very glad that I am here to witness it. When this happened to me, we had no internet. I was effectively silenced. There were letters to the Ombudsman and relevant authorities, but there was no public forum in which to share what had occurred.

Parents can no longer aid and abet these offenders without public scrutiny. Their outcries of unfair sentences and ruined opportunities for their boys will no longer be tolerated. At last, at last!

The Wishes of a Child.


Delighted to have found a dandelion.
Delighted to have found a dandelion.
She makes a wish for mummy to not be in pain.
She makes a wish for mummy to not be in pain.
It works. At this moment...
It works. At this moment…
All I can feel is the purest wish of a child.
All I can feel is the purest wish of a child.
More wishes made on a coin.
More wishes made on a coin.
Always for mummy's back.
Always for mummy’s back.

 

Rosa.


I wrote the following ten years ago, when I met an exquisite artist named Rosa. Her sister had taken her life in the same clinic I had been put into at fourteen. I may have known her.

 

Tortoiseshell tresses slide down her shoulders.

Ground sunshine irradiated from her soulful eyes.

Her voice is a feather, floating through the ether as a dream.

Rosa is a mermaid or Undine;

A fey creature flicking the contents of fountains and springs,

Quenching our very hearts.

In her gentle  hands she holds coral in rich hues of garnet and peach.

As she catalogues history and restores houses, Rosa restores my faith in the endearing strength of sweetness.

I reflect on delicate lace work built of iron, which shall never break.

When I speak to sister Rosa, it is akin to whispering the contents of my heart to an ephemeral cloud.

A cloud which is fine, like gossamer, and is able to reach in and touch my soul with an opaque love.

Rosa, our beautiful rose, grafted from a past which was both sweet and tumultuous.

She is a wondrous combination of rubies and roses, lemons and lavender.

Winter.


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Winter, it’s here again. Yesterday heralded the changing seasons, brutally and abruptly. The sky was grey, and morning and dusk were shrouded in a fog. The rain poured down, and the wind was icy. No easing into this season. The green and vibrancy of the garden receded and everything appears to be withering in preparation for death. Before I was abducted all those years ago, when my home was a mouldy old icebox of a room, I recall climbing under the grey blanket, pulling it up to my chin, and hugging my knees to keep warm. I remember the cold. The sort that gets into your marrow. I was so cold in the months leading up to the lightning strike. When I woke on the ground, I was shaking from being utterly exposed. I have never liked winter, and as a child would get as close as I could to our gas heater. I remember the delicious comfort when I was wrapped in foil by the paramedics to entice heat into my broken body. Since my fall, I have dreaded winter. Not only for the abysmal memories, but for the ramping up of my physical pain. Spinal arthritis doesn’t take too kindly to frosty mornings.

The anniversary is coming up, and strangely, I will rejoice. Rejoice that I am here, and my book was published. After this watershed, I will celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She was born in winter. The only event of beauty throughout my life’s winter’s. Her birth has replaced the scarred, knarred horrors. She was born at the tail end of winter, and heralded the arrival of spring, of birds nesting and flowers in bloom. I will go for walks in a coat and hat, make soup and celebrate the best of this season. Time brings healing. I know that winter won’t trumpet the end of my life, as I once feared. I wish I could reach through time and space and tell that young girl.

My Spine, Part 2.


When I broke my spine again, I had a small child to look after. I should have been on bed rest, followed by bracing and possibly in a plaster jacket as well. When driving, I would psyche myself to go through a roundabout, as the pain would make me scream when I turned the wheel. Once a week my daughter would go to occasional care, and I would crawl back into bed. ABC kids was a godsend in the months that followed. I had to take heavy-duty painkillers, and relied on buses to ferry us about as driving was out for the most part. My daughter and I danced in a coordinated manner, and she would help me in so many ways. It made our bond stronger, and she reflected the enormous pride she felt in assisting me. I could either sink or swim, and my child kept me buoyant. Pneumonia followed, as I couldn’t breathe from the base of my lungs. Home Care sent a dear soul to clean up my house once a week. I looked out the front window, and saw an elderly lady struggling up the three steps to the front door. She would groan, trying to vacuum and wince when she mopped. We ended up having cups of tea on her visits, she regaling me with stories of days gone by. I couldn’t put her to work!

Body cast at 17 years.
Body cast at 17 years.

My local neurosurgeon says that he cant operate for pain relief, as it simply wouldn’t help. When structurally I am unable to walk, or breathe, then we will go in. He encouraged me on my last visit, telling me I am doing a good job. I have to keep moving, and exercise every day. Whether it be a walk, swim or visit to the gym, it helps. I feel connected to a body I spend quite a bit of time attempting to escape. I do weights, and work out on the cross trainer, as it doesn’t provoke agony afterward. A scientist friend put me onto Zen Spray by Martin and Pleasance after I broke my back again. I find it helpful, and it can be used on fracture sites. I have a lumbar brace, which holds me together and provides some comfort. I use a walking stick, as without it, I fall over, particularly when tired. I have learnt not to compare my days with others. Anything accomplished, whether it be sitting at my desk, or pegging up washing, is a triumph. I take medication to help with the pain at night so I can catch a few hours sleep, and if I have a busy day coming up, I have to plan for it. That means resting before and after, just laying flat, and pain killers. I have a TENS machine, which I use frequently, and wintergreen oil helps soothe the arthritis.

I will be trialling new hormones to compensate the bone loss in the next few months, and seeing my neurosurgeon at St Vincent’s. I feel blessed. When I suffered the breaks through the thoracic region, my right arm couldn’t be lifted high, and I suffered constant tingling. It is somewhat better, enough that I can write and grip things. Positive self-talk is a must for the mornings I crawl to the bathroom. “You can do this!” I insist. When I am out and the pain ramps up, I work out how much longer I have to be upright before I can rest. Funnily, it helps. “Almost there!”

One wrong move, or carrying too much weight, and I can feel (and hear), the scaffolding go. I have come home from grocery shopping in agony, which nothing tempers. Relaxation music and meditative cds are a blessing as I try to escape the pain at night. Bowen therapy has also been a help when the pain isn’t acute. It is worth trying to maintain your mobility and limit the daily pain. I know what it is like to feel helpless, to have pain drag you down. I know what it is like to feel isolated, removed from the wonderful things going on outside you. Be kind to yourself, surrender when you need to, and do something that shall help you feel good. It is a mental battle, living with pain. Be your best advocate.

My Spine.


Since my back was broken in the fall at fifteen years of age, I have had almost twenty years of intense pain. Operations, grafts, casts, hardware, braces, physio…I have endured pain that I never would have imagined. I lead a ridiculously full life in spite of it all. At fifteen, I had a hip graft and Harstshill rectangle wired in. The next year, the hardware was taken out as it had slipped out of place. At seventeen, I had operations to save my life, as my spine had collapsed, crushing my stomach, heart and lungs. At twenty, I had surgery to remove the rods screwed alongside my spine. Nobody knew how I would cope or be able to hold myself up without them.

Harrington Rods.
Harrington Rods.
I had further surgeries to shrink the three remaining discs after they bulged out. I went through pregnancy with metal filings and chunks of bone lodged in my spinal canal (too risky to remove), and a spine made out of old hip and rib grafts, fused from the thoracic region down. I would have endured hell itself to have this child. I went to the physio department of my local hospital regularly, and did hydrotherapy daily. Some days, the pain was disabling, and I was in a wheelchair toward the end of my pregnancy. I developed gestational diabetes and had to inject insulin, and when I went into labour, my sugar levels were uncontrolled. The obstetrician couldn’t risk a general anaesthetic, and we had to chance administering a spinal anaesthetic. I was warned that there was a risk I could be permanently paralysed, and they only had one opportunity to get it in place. I breathed deeply and didn’t move an inch, and it worked!

Throughout the next year, my spine was weaker, and as my oestrogen levels dropped-the result of medication I was taking for endometriosis- my bones weakened. I slipped over when my daughter was two, and heard a frightful snap in my back. The pain was so intense, I could hardly breathe. With no-one else around, I had to pick myself up, and take the stroller back to my car. I drove home, knowing that I had broken my spine. I certainly had, from T10-T12. For those who have injured their backs, the following will make sense to you. In my MRI report, it stated, “At C5/6 there is arthrosis bilaterally, contributing to foraminal narrowing on the right (foramina are channels where nerve roots exit the spinal cord). At C6/7 posterior broad based disc osteophyte (bone spur), protrusion is seen. In the thoracic spine, there is anterior wedging of T7 vertebral body with approximately 30% loss of height anteriorly. Subchondral bruise related to the left T6 costovertebral junction, being degenerate in nature. In the lumbar spine, posterior step deformity of L2 relative to L1 remains. Disc dessication (dried up discs), are present at L5/S1. At L4/5, there is a degree of facet arthropathy of the large ligament in back. L3/4 there is again arthropathy associated with scar tissue related to previous laminectomy, involving much of the upper lumbar spine. At L2/3 the facet arthropathy indents the posterior aspect of thecal sac (the membrane surrounding the spinal cord).”

The report above was tabled almost five years ago. Things have gotten worse. Being in early menopause has made the pain more intense and my bones more fragile. An attempted murder half a lifetime ago, and I deal with the aftermath daily. I can handle the pain, but what hurts is not being able to go horse riding with my daughter, nor skating, nor cycling. If I fell over, the damage would be catastrophic. How do I cope, and what have I learnt? I will tell you in my next blog piece.

I Am Thankful.


I am thankful on this gorgeous autumn day.

Bristem.
Bristem.
Firstly, for this little fellow. His name is Bristem and I found him at a fete for $3.00 on Saturday! Handmade in Nundle, he is the inventor of new games for the elderly to play in ‘Elador.’ He waits patiently for a friend to come by and see if he enjoyed his new card game. Wouldn’t it be lovely if folks that invented games for our lives had Bristem’s good intent and his friendly features? A girl can dream!

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I am also thankful for tie-dyed doilies. Where have you been all my life?!
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Also, tiny fairy doors, leading to magical portals of splendour. We all need to escape now and then! The news is filled with stories of truth being released from hidden corners; people finally granted the peace which being heard conspires. The survivors of Robert Hughes, and now Parramatta Girls Home… I hope they find a friend like Bristem, devising fun games to take them away from the memories. To have the colour come back to their lives, as bright as my new doily. To have a means of escape as handy as my little fairy door. Most of all, I hope they have a new beginning. I am thankful that they held on. I am thankful for their bravery and stoicism. I adore living in a world with these souls.

My Friend in her Nineties.


We used to go down to Ashfield Uniting Church each Sunday, a trip that took an hour each way. It was worth the travel, to see our friends and be a part of a wonderful community. A dear little lady, Joan, joined the community, and had a vibrancy about her. Shortly after I discovered I was pregnant, she slipped me a card. It was addressed to “The lady with the long blonde hair, who brings her little dog to church.” Mitzi Winstopple- our miniature schnauzer-adored our Sundays and we made sure he was always a part of it. I opened the card, to read of her delight that I was having a baby. It touched my heart so. Eight years later, Joan is still in contact, and in her late nineties. She still lives independently and is a source of inspiration to me. Her recent letter, “Your daughter is a miracle baby-one that was born despite hardships. You would have enjoyed the Bill Crews Trust Film Festival that was on last month. Very provocative films-social themes to make you think and perhaps change your views.” How wonderful that a woman in her nineties embraces change and loves being challenged! Salt of the earth.

Another dear soul I think of often is Betty. She was in her eighties when we met, and everyone thought I was her granddaughter as we had the same features. She was so excited on hearing I had given birth, that she took two trains and a bus to come visit. She ended up in our town, wandering the streets. A dear couple took her home, fed her, then dropped her into a mutual friend’s store. This lady in turn, locked up her store, and drove Betty around. The joy when she picked my daughter up… It still fills me with overwhelming gratitude, that a dear elderly lady went to such lengths to celebrate my daughter arriving. Bless all the feisty, spirited older ladies. Now and always.

Betty.
Betty.

My Treasure.


I found a hand-crafted nest by Melissa Fraser the other day. My daughter and I looked at each other, she with a twinkle in her eye. “You have to get it, Mummy,” she said. She has been enamoured with eggs and nests all her life. Long before I explained that she came from one precious follicle, my IVF miracle. After three cycles of IVF, I had reached the end of the road. Despair was my constant companion. I changed clinics, and somehow it felt right to give it one last shot. Due to have my ovarian activity evaluated, I went for a walk in the park. Some of my cycles had produced no activity, and only one had brought forth a solitary follicle which was tiny. I held a glimmer of hope this time around, for reasons unknown. I was about to take a step, when by my feet fell a little bird’s nest, complete with a blue egg. I could see the jagged edges, where a chick had pecked its way out. I picked this little nest up, and brought it home. A hopeful sign. I had the one follicle, and was asked if I wanted to go ahead to egg pick up. There was a chance this casing wouldn’t contain anything at all. Referring to my precious nest, I said “let’s do it.” An angel is in my life because of it.
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I bought the precious nest from a gallery, and my daughter placed two fabric birds in it, our penultimate symbol of hope.

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My Daughter.


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Eyes dabbed with cornflower ink,
Sprinkled with Herkimer diamonds.
Curls prepared from sandalwood shavings.
Cherubim cheeks and rosebud mouth.
A dear little girl sent from heaven.
We whisper in a language known only to a mother and child.
Your visage is my inspiration to cope, to work, to live.

Darling girl, who dreams of butterflies and fairies.
Beautiful girl, who plays until the sun grows tired.
Beloved of the heavens and earth.
The angels chorused when you were born,
“This child shall do extraordinary things!”
I can feel it.
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Your spirit radiates like a blazing sun,
It exudes the promise of joy everlasting.
I can’t wait to see the woman you become.
The charming, confident, assured young lady.