Looking Back on 2017


As I look back on 2017, images and memes peek out at me.

There were fireworks over Sydney Harbour, a celebration with 1.6 million people.

There was exhaustion on every level, and grief for a young lady who passed before her time. Conversations have been more open as a result, and many a brave demeanour has slipped. It is time for us all to be transparent, and to let it be known when we find it hard to face another day. It has rattled me to the core, the falling of people who can seemingly do anything, face anything and survive anything. We have our limits. It is time to practice self-care. This can often mean rebelling against that which we feel primed to do. Isolate? Seek out company instead. Depression is a liar, please remember that.

There has been wildlife and adventures, and extraordinary days that I am glad I survived to see.

There was this extraordinary daughter of mine. I knew when I had her that I had been given a luminous gift. Some days when I find it hard to conjure energy for myself, I find it for her.

There was Sydney and marriage equality.

There was my  home town and traveling to NZ to be at my beautiful friend’s wedding.

There was grieving our friend, the bird-watcher; changes in image, and getting up close with Meerkats.

There were Wuthering Heights enactments…

There was glorious Melbourne.

There were Memes. How can something so small, say so much?

 

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The Nest


I had been given very little hope of ever having a child with IVF (after three attempts). Despondent, I went for a walk in a local park. I was standing under a tree, brushing away my tears, when an empty bird’s nest fell at my feet. I took it as an omen, and cradled the precious gift. I still have it- behind glass in my cabinet-eleven years later.Just the other day, I was walking with my daughter, and the nest pictured above landed at my feet! I marvelled at the time and effort that went into building it; a perfect home and  refuge. Of course, it came home with me, and my little bird was just as enchanted as I, coming close to inspect the handiwork. Nests and eggshells from newborn chicks are items I tend to find regularly. What are yours?

Marriage Equality, Sydney Rally and the Plebliscite


Oh Sydney, I have fallen in love with you anew! You have a way of enticing like a siren’s call. I love the egaliterian spirit, witnessed a few day’s ago at Circular Quay when a businessman and local character playfully teased each other. I love the Vietnamese family who run a takeaway at the station, where my daughter buys her strawberry donut each week. They put it in a bag as soon as they see her approach.

Hopping on a ferry will take you to numerous islands around the Harbor, and a day spent walking around the city will see you stumble upon magnificent gardens and street art.  You will see lovers and love in all its forms on the streets of Sydney. Today, a rally is taking place for marriage equality, in preparation for the upcoming plebiscite, a staggering and demeaning waste of over a hundred million dollars. It is ultimately a human rights issue, and the community is demanding equal rights, as well they should. The turnout is astounding. It is time, Australia. Love, that is what it comes down to. That is what makes a family.

 

 

Dawn the Diamond


The world lost a treasure a short while ago, named Dawn the Diamond. She would frequent the seats scattered about town, chain-smoking and handing out gifts to children. Impeccably dressed, her favourite colours were purple and red. Wearing green felt hats and scarlet-red coats in winter, she had a style that can only come from being a free spirit.  Dawn would buy the homeless and battlers a cup of tea and sandwich from her favourite cafe, and after time spent with Auntie Dawn, their burdens seemed lighter. Her place was open to anyone and everyone, though of a day she could be found at her favourite pub before gathering admirers on the bus stop seats. She loved my daughter, and they were entranced with each other upon meeting. Throughout the years, we shared many a bus journey, Dawn retrieving some errant goodie from her bulging bag for my little girl.

Our trips aren’t the same anymore, for Dawn became ill and passed suddenly. Winter can be cruel to the elderly, and in her last week, she wanted to get the message out to please don’t smoke, as it makes the bitter season that much worse if you were to fall ill. I went to her funeral, Delta Dawn playing as she entered. The church was packed, everyone in colourful attire as requested. I keep looking for her on buses. I keep hearing her laughter in my mind. Rainbows bring such joy, though when they disappear, the oblique clouds seem to be more apparent. Keep shining, Dawn the Diamond. You made unadulterated love and joy appear easy to both create and come by.

Getting through Hard Times


If you had told me as a teen that I would live to the grand age of which I find myself, I would have laughed. I would not have believed you for a moment. I had been clinically dead, in coma’s, had repeated seizures without regaining consciousness, had my spine shattered, and much more besides. I wanted to die more than I wanted to live most of the time. Those moments when I experienced pure joy were often found in nature, and boy, those times sustained me. I can recall without struggle the moments a bird would land on me from out of nowhere. I recollect the dragonflies and butterflies encircling me near streams. In those moments, I realized that I in fact wanted very much to live… Really live, and not just exist.

As a young adult I faced infertility, health worries, safety concerns, and poverty. I have had my heart broken, been deceived and financially ripped off. I have been humiliated, retraumatized, and faced great pain. When the first wave hits, you don’t know how on earth you are going to survive it. It all seems too much, especially when placed upon an already rocky foundation. Trauma on top of trauma.

I have learnt what helps by learning what doesn’t. Here is my advice for getting through tough times.

  1. Do nothing. That’s right, just breathe. When you receive frightful news or it feels as though your world is breaking apart, just be. Your adrenals will be pumping hard, as will your heart. Your stomach will be churning and your brain will reach for fast responses to the crisis. You may even think of reaching for something to quiet the discomfort. Don’t do anything whilst you are processing the crisis. Breathe deeply, run a bath. Cry, scream or confide in a loved one. The situation isnt going anywhere, so just stop for a moment.
  2. Write it down. Get yourself a notepad and describe what is happening. Pour it all out, and then make a bullet list. List the steps you need to take for resolution. What would help you in your grieving? Time away from everything that is familiar? A support group and counselling? A tribute to the person you mourn? How about financial worries? Maybe write a list of all the businesses you need to contact to explain your situation and organize payment plans. You could apply to AirTasker to accept jobs to bring in extra cash.
  3. Once your list has been finalized, I hope that like me, you feel a sense of empowerment. Now it is time to ask for help, whether that be from friends, charities or professionals. People don’t know what your needs are if you don’t articulate them. You give them a precious gift by allowing them to assist you.
  4. Be extra kind to yourself. You may want to run or sedate yourself with booze or pills. You may want to stop caring for yourself and partaking in all the rituals you usually do. Please don’t. Now is the time for reflection, to sit with your feelings and reach healthy conclusions. Your body is under enough duress without adding to the load. It is time to reach out, open up and if possible, go for walks. Many solutions have been reached in my life by long strolls.
  5. Get all that stress out in a creative way. Whether that be by writing a blog, or keeping a journal, painting or drawing. It all helps.
  6. Imagine your life in a year. What will it look like? One thing is for sure, you won’t be in the same place that you are now. Nothing in this world is stagnant. We keep moving forward, even if we can’t imagine that as possible. If you are horrified at the thought of your life remaining the same by this time next year, it is time to change that which brings you dread. Life and time have a way of changing things, and it is much better to reach conclusions and embark on new beginnings of your own volition.
  7. There have been times in my life when I couldnt imagine surviving the enormous crisis pounding down on me. I couldnt imagine wanting to. By doing the things listed above, I did survive, and have a beautiful life. I weep when I think how my life could have ended before it even began. How I would never have had the opportunity for emotional healing to take place, nor hold my daughter in my arms. I shudder when I think of not having survived to meet the splendid people in my life today, nor see this morning’s sunrise.

I can tell you this with assurety, if I could survive, then so can you. This season of winter won’t last forever, and spring will offer new life and along with it, growth.

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.

 

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!

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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.

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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

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I met my daughter’s Embryologist!


Softly spoken, her voice redolent with kindness. An English lady whom I only saw in scrubs and cap, highlighting her beautiful skin and soft eyes. We had three frozen sperm and one follicle, that is all. It was my last chance. I woke from egg pickup with ‘2’ written on my hand. There was a chance this follicle may contain nothing; two was beyond all expectation! This lady watched them grow and divide, and I held my breath. One divided too rapidly, and perished within days. The other burst into a blastocyst; which was terrific news! This lady wished me luck during the embryo transfer, and gave me the dish my embryo had grown in.

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Eleven months later, I brought my miracle back to meet her, and she held my child in her arms. Years passed, and the scientist moved far away. We became reacquainted on social media. She sent a message that she would be staying nearby this Christmas, and another IVF mum and I planned to meet her with our girls. When I walked in and saw her, I squeeled with joy. My daughter was overwhelmed, meeting the lady whose picture is on our fridge; who carefully watched her as a little embryo. We hugged and looked at each other in wonder. Such a long road from where we started to having a ten year old child! I showed her the dish, and she noted the ‘2’ on the plastic. We had a moment of silence and I appreciated that the women present understood the heartache behind the second number. We talked ‘IVF speak,’ and I laughed that nobody else would understand our conversation!

Our girls both love science, and this lady set up a microscope the other miracle had been gifted for Christmas. We saw extraordinary images of cross-sections of hair, blood and many other wonders. Life-when broken down into tiny segments- really is the most amazing thing! Our girls had to battle for life, and their strength is displayed in their lives today, and shall carry them into their future. We swam in the pool on this hot summer day, the girls playing together as though they are soul sisters. I know that they are. Hours passed as we hurridly relayed what we have been up to; what the girls dreams are for their wild and precious lives.

The odds were mightily against this other mum and I, but this lady helped to see us through, changing our lives forever. How can you begin to thank her for the precious gift she handed us? Humble and kind, I pray that 2017 blesses this lady beyond her wildest imaginings. I hope the same for you all. x

Leading into Christmas…


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We attended an extraordinary home school Christmas party last week! There were craft tables, snow, disco lights, food and even Santa made an appearance! The kids wrapped up some hapless dads in Christmas paper and decorated them. We had to remind them to provide air holes so they could breathe!

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I met some dear friends at Luna Park, and we waited patiently in line at the gift shop. There were a bunch of school kids in the shop, and one asked to see the contents of a show bag. The friendly assistant held up each item separately, and gave the kid a blow-by-blow description of each piece. Five minutes passed, and he grabbed another showbag and did the same! We were in hysterics, my mind wandering to the infamous scene from Love Actually with Rowan Atkinson. Fifteen minutes later, we were served! It was kind of nice to be in a situation where the assistant had all the time in the world to help a kid make the best choice of showbag. You are meant to be on Island time during the holidays!

I coerced my friend into reclining on the moon seat, and then fell about laughing when the germ-a-phobe came across something unidentifiable and sticky with her hand!

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My daughter and I went to a friend’s house for a playdate. Now this friend is fighting a health battle, and yet had gone to so much trouble. There were red tablecloths, crackers and decorations on the tables. There was a feast prepared, and carols playing. Her gorgeous daughter had made all the kids a gift; a precious decoration for the tree. Another friend (who had endured a tough year), remarked that it really felt like Christmas now. How gracious and kind was this lady, to go to so much trouble. It is a day I will never forget.

I was having a gin with another friend, and when she excused herself to go to the bathroom, two older men-gigantic in stature came and sat down next to us. When she came back, she was alarmed to find one of the fellows had sat himself within an inch of her seat! We both shrugged and talked about how some people have no concept of space. She moved her seat around when they began to argue. Finally, the fellow who had taken over that side of the table apologized. “We are Glaswegian, and tryin’ to sort out an argument; excuse our bad language. We are very sorry.” We started giggling and couldn’t stop. Their tiff sorted, they left. I have missed this friend, and love that I’m now able to catch up with those I haven’t been able to see all year.

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This is a friend’s dog. Isn’t she beautiful?!

I have had to have a few days at home, after the spinal pain became unmanageable. Circumstances saw me having to postpone my visits to specialists and a pain clinic during 2016, something I will have to do during 2017.

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One more thought, posted by a glorious friend yesterday.

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Christmas comes early


Throughout the years of infertility, Christmas had been a lonely time. I made the best of it, putting on a coat threaded with stoicism.  However, when I was decorating the house, wrapping gifts or shopping, there was an acute sense that someone was missing. I couldn’t bear to see children posing with Santa at the shops, and the Christmas music seemed  intent on mocking my friends and I. I joined an IVF support group online, and we talked of how confronting Christmas was, and how we were dreading all the reminders. “Bugger it,” said one lady, “let’s get our trees up early!” She demanded to see photographic evidence, and we dutifully complied. There was magic in the way this act lifted our spirits; we were showing that we were still holding on, to both our sanity and dreams. Some of the ladies tragically lost babies, and others didn’t end up conceiving. Still, we all held faithful to our tradition.

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Late October, my daughter discovered the decorations in the garage and pleaded to be let loose with them. I held her off until November the 1st. Bless her, she counted down the days, and on the first of the month, she ran in, reminding me that it was time.


We played Christmas carols as we unpacked the tree and decorations. As I looked around at the assembled baubles, a lump gathered in my throat. Each represented a time and place, a year or a particular person. We talked of what each piece meant to us as we worked. ” I need to put all the Christmas things up early, like you did when you were pregnant with me,” my daughter laughed. Oh darling, it started way before I was pregnant, at a time when a precious group of ladies met on the internet to give comfort to each other. We still provide a photograph each year, to assure the others that our job is done.

We need sparkle to lift us up. We need to get out the china and silver, the candles and bling. We need to create beauty. It is akin to standing on a mountain top and shouting that you are here. The more personal strife befalls, the more we need to decorate. It was worth all the work to see this little girl beam with excitement. The season of hope is starting.