Category Archives: Family
It’s usually played at remembrance ceremonies and funerals for soldiers. In some ways, this last post isn’t very different from that of a B bugle call playing in the distance as the sun rises to remember brave soldiers and battles fought.
Only this time around, it is my battle and not those I’d reflected on in remembrance.
In the past ten months, I found out I had cancer cells, had to sit around for six months waiting to hear if they got them all (which they did… I put it down to telling them to f#@* off), sustained an arm injury which tore me away from work and study for six months, was physically assaulted, someone deleted all my websites, I had to move house unexpectedly, couch and floor surfed for nearly four weeks and to put the cherry on top, was in my new house for two weeks and got broken into. And this list certainly doesn’t count all the other lemons, some of them just too damn bitter to recollect in an open forum.
Do you know what it’s like to feel like you’re losing your sanity? And you don’t even know why? To sit on a tram, only to turn around half way on the journey because you just couldn’t be around people? Finding every excuse in the world why you couldn’t, wouldn’t, just damn well didn’t want to see anyone. How going through a box of tissues in a day was normal and you became used to darkness descending at 7am, forcing a day under the covers in the hope you would wake up and it would all just be a bad dream.
I knocked back the anti-depressant prescriptions : I had a tried and tested tool of focussing on the small things that bring us to life. Besides, I didn’t need to add to the GDP to make Australia an even greater country. I withdrew from most of the world, including friends, was careful where I went, who I was with and what I was doing. I continued to sketch, write and outwardly seemed to be alive. Internally I was desperately trying to fight off the insanity of how I was feeling and it was only because I never forgot who was hidden inside that the embers kept alight.
Last year I celebrated my birthday by climbing Mt Agung in Bali, celebrating with friends on the coast and on returning home, had one fun karaoke night with some beautiful people, recognising the awesome of every page within my chapter 39.95. This year’s birthday, I struggled getting out of bed, I didn’t want to see anyone, managed to stretch myself for lunch and at the very last minute braved it in a room full of strangers at a story-telling night. The theme was turning points, and half way through the night, I decided to share a few of mine. You can’t have had a full life like mine and not had some turning points that have whipped your life 360°.
At the height of my stress levels and depression, the assault happened. Talk about hitting you when you’re down. Thank goodness #b03, a daily blog commitment, came along. Every day I sat, sometimes, all day, to pump out a post on something great that happened in the day or a reflection I had on the past. I credit this month, along with #MindfulinMay, for dragging me off the floor and keeping me focussed, on my writing, and my sanity. That, and a very humbling post from a wonderful friend who had taught me about purpose and owning your story and the comments from people when I made it to the final three of a blogging competition. They were all part of my turning point to understand the power of self-responsibility to take control. That and the realisation I was on a collision path.
This soldier was ready to stand up and start fighting. And again, whip my life 360°.
I started this blog when I accepted a challenge. I do have stories to share that could change the world, but this blog was always primarily to help me change my own world. Considering all the lemons that life had thrown at me, at first I wasn’t entirely sure I needed anymore challenges. So the preface was I would keep writing until I, or anyone else, didn’t need it anymore.
That time has come.
Over the past two years, I’ve never written for anyone else nor felt the need to promote my thoughts to the wider universe. It was my therapy. My passion. And my need to focus on the fact that life is unrelenting in its gifts of experience, people, opportunity and self.
I realised wealth and GDP prosperity are definitely not predictors of life satisfaction. We’re spending more money on ‘stuff’, making children’s hospital wards like first class resorts, building multi-million dollar social housing complexes and still don’t have enough, designing more prisons and detention centres, spending big on credit cards, destroying native forests with big trucks and large tools, spending more money on bicycles, house and car locks as theft increases, employing more police, consuming more food, alcohol and cigarettes, spending more money on pokies than on rates in many local council areas, donating more money to charities and yet have more social problems than ever before, destroying our natural wonders with mines and urban sprawl with excess for sale, earning more, still fighting the war in Afghanistan and our spending on anti-depressants is hitting all time highs. Yay : at 1371 billion dollars, we’ve got one of the highest GDPs on the planet. We should be so proud of ourselves spending all that cash so wisely… and happy.
As I reflect on my 158 bloody rippers over the past two years, I realise how so much of what makes life worthwhile is not measured : the innocence and joy of a young child, the strength of our relationships, the beauty of our art, digging out our courage, a breathe of fresh air in the midst of nature’s best, the setting of a sun. If our existence and success were measured by life’s joys, we’d all be abundant. And not just our country.
Despite the lemons, me and life have managed to still walk hand in hand:
- Finding old memories
- Bucket lists
- Completing my first biathlon
- Fridge notes can change the world
- The power of courage
- My first tattoo
- Noticing everything around you
- Letters to Santa
- New found love for sketching
- Top ten travel experiences
- Ten things I value
- The nurture of nature
- New year wrap-ups
- A better planet
- All the bloody rippers
With the setting down of the sun, I will remember them. I may need to come back to this safe space at some stage. But unlike global wars over the centuries that we just don’t seem to be able to learn from, it’s time to hold that mirror up and use every one of my darn lemons to push me into neutral territory.
As much as I appreciate social media for its ability to connect me to so many amazing people I have had the pleasure to cross paths, the doors it has opened, the information it has made available, the world it allows you to explore, and the access it provides to new opportunities, events and people, our friendship is going to take a small hiatus. At its core, it is an incredible resource, but right now, I need to commit to my own projects and not learn about others. I need to open my own doors and not simply peep into others. I’ve explored the world and it’s now time to start exploring my visions. I want photos with my friends because we’re out doing things together. I want to be able to come back from my hiatus taking action on my loves and not simply liking everyone else’s.
It’s time to say goodbye to the external forces and hello to the internal power.
A few years ago, I had a dream about a domain name : www.give.com.au. As a direct result of my experiences overseas, I spent a lot of money and time to build a pretty big fair trade website, working with projects I had visited and researched. I wanted to change the world, or at least make a small imprint on some communities that had made a huge impact on me. Fail. External and internal forces were at play and it’s only recently I came to the understanding I was never going to be able to sell hand bags : I hate shopping.
By understanding the power of my story, it is now I truly understand that before you can give to others, you must begin with yourself. You must be able to stand up in your own power and at the end of your life, whenever that may be, be proud of what you did, what you didn’t do, who you loved, what you let go of, what you accepted, where you went, who you journeyed with and the person you were. All the ideas I have had over the last few years will now be married to create a new www.give.com.au : one that encourages you to give to self, and others. My journey has allowed me to meet the people I needed to meet to make this happen, and for once in my life, I’m putting my hand out to accept some help.
I want to give my writing purpose in a new way, leaving the scope of my life and the joy it brings to focus on some inspiring people that know what it’s like to find purpose. Before I never cared about who read what I wrote. Now I do. I want to start work on my biography. And I want to create some really fun projects allowing others the space to give to themselves… every little part of them and not just a glory box of stuff. www.thedinnertable.com.au is a big part of that : bringing people together to share, connect and create. I still want to change the world in a small way and everything I do will have that as its underlying glue.
The biggest opportunity we have on the planet right now is not to solve any of the world’s greatest problems. It is to inspire a society of change-makers. That change-maker starts with me.
Right now, I’m so glad I’ve had 43 jobs, travelled to 43 countries, have some amazing people in my life, have lost count of the amazing experiences I have had, stood up and fought the battles and now lay down my weapon of choice for the past two years to get on with it.
Three days ago, my friend Richard who had already done so much for me by allowing me to explore purpose in a three day retreat, again put out his helping hand and invited me to a Real Leadership workshop. One of the activities was to pull out from a large selection three pictures that represented three timeframes, one story. With a grin, Rich heckled me for doubling the selection, knowing only too well that in this case, I needed to own my story.
In short, the past is represented by the darkness of which I believe is an important part of my story as well as the strength to stand up from the battle and move forward. The loose threads of my life have been ripped apart to now allow me the ability to bring them all together as a conduit towards the future. I can’t do it alone, I need variety, and I welcome everyone else’s playlists to inform and inspire the future journey. No matter how far apart, how little time we spent together or how close we are, I thank those deeply who have travelled with me on the journey so far and welcome those who are yet to come. And as for the future? One of my favourite films is “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring”. Through stunning cinematography, it is a journey through life’s lessons and at the moment I feel embedded in the contrast of those seasons. I want to continue that journey, knowing I have some handy tools to keep the weeds at bay and there’s going to be one garden I am now ready to focus on… and I want it to flourish.
As for right now, it’s off into the spring sunshine to sit and design “A Beautiful Day” and a gratitude project as required of my Masters in Wellness and then plan to make them happen. Who ever thought when you decided to study at university for the first time in your life, you would be allowed to write about what you’ve written about for two years… just when you’re playing the last post.
Life… it can be so
you bloody ripper!
To Richard, Angie, Glenda, Gregory, Michelle, Steph, Damien, Dani, Yvette, Nynke, Inge, Aaron, Carol, Adam, Diana, Jarrod, Kal, Mike, Annie, Linnet, Calm in the City, Mindful in May, #b03, SLAMALAMADINGDONG! Poetry Slam, Arts in Action, Stillwaters, Enchanted Evenings and The Holos Group. Thank you for being my brakes.
Today, I attended a poetry workshop facilitated by community poet, Padraig O’Tuama. The workshop was to develop skills in writing stories of sorrow and sadness, inspired by the words of others, particularly in the community sector.
We were asked at the beginning to share a line from a poem or poet that took us somewhere. I responded with the notion that everything inspires me: I am an observer of life and the world around me. And that is what inspires my words.
After five hours sitting in space, being provided with space, words inspired thought and thought created words.
Today, I understood the true power of words to take you somewhere.
Words are so much more than a jumble of letters.
With Padraig’s permission, I took the basis of the workshop and crafted the words of others with those of my own, scrawled with pen on paper over the course of the afternoon and those spinning round in my head after an extra long walk home due to being so lost in words, I missed my tram stop.
As I write, I will inspire thought. And thought will create words.
Held in their collided form, words have power.
No one likes a collision.
But they make you stop.
Where have words taken you?
The recesses of a dark alley
Where no light shines?
Is painful paradox
What is needed
To make us change?
Sanitised death or the
Of a life fully lived
Through love and pain
Experience and shame
Fear of letting go
Like a balloon floating to the sky
I say thank you
Knowing that I will not hold you again
Words inspire thought and
Thought creates words.
Blank pages left for the
I hope your grips are firm.
Not all slopes are slippery
They are simply steep.
Keep going. Up.
So that a path may be revealed before you
And glad that there are gladder days beyond these days
Because you were born
And you will learn most from situations
Did not choose
Have you been telling secrets that
Should not have been told?
Do you want to hear the truth?
Don’t tell anyone.
I can’t tell anyone.
I want to listen to you.
I am trying to listen to you.
I still am listening to you.
I really want to listen to you.
Do you hear?
What if she was your daughter?
I don’t want you to listen.
I want you to hear.
Lost in the abyss of first world problems
And old world dreams.
The smack sellers
sleep in the park
Their pain perhaps
Not quite fully understood
By the family dwellers
Will their mothers keep inviting them back
Again and again and again
Do they even know they’re there?
Do they even care.
Why do we feel the need
To resolve a human story
Can it not be simply lived?
A story does not express
The finality of a story.
It is the instrument you choose
In the morning
Which shifts the story.
Sadness and darkness
Bundled in a box of glory
Thank you for your gifts.
Joy. Elation. Silence.
These are the instruments I choose.
Where there is space
There is thought.
And where there is need
Don’t just do something,
Give voice to the voices
Silenced by the lies and secrets
Of untold paths
And words not told.
How do I know you are who you say you are
When you lie only to yourself.
If you can survive, survive it well
The facts of life
And stories of locked out lovers
Lamenting lost keys.
Where there is no program or title
The privilege of space
Has provided your key.
Cry in the bathroom
With a black coat hiding
The colour underneath.
When words take you somewhere
Do they really take?
Or do they give?
Where do words take you?
Just let them take you,
Today, instead of being an observer of life, I became an observer of words.
Inspired by Padraig, other participants of the course, space and the words that cut through the air and my own thoughts, this poem is witness to the untold stories of sorrow, lost love, conflict, allowing oneself to let go and the experience of being human.
The collision of words resulted in one accidental poem.
3.30 am – you will never look the same.
you bloody ripper!
If you haven’t heard of him, google will fill you in. The press releases, websites, and obituaries will be filled with a journey from talented Irish Gaelic footballer to Australian AFL champion, Victorian of the Year, Medal of the Order of Australia recipient, community campaigner, change maker, friend, much loved family man, cancer battler and inspiration who believed there was greatness in everyone.
Breath… yes, it was a big life condensed into a short timeframe.
The death of Jim Styne’s will make the news for quite some time. As will his incredible life. His AFL prowess will be recognised in lifetime honours, his children will grow up knowing he was a remarkable father and his dedication to changing the lives of young people will continue with the wonderful work of REACH. There is no question Jim deserves every accolade heralded as a result of his leadership, courage and inspiration.
Jim got me thinking….
We weren’t all born with the genetics of a great sports hero, artist, world leader, philanthropist or recipient of medals, honours and commendations. Our deaths may not make international news with a national outpouring of rest in peace and thanks.
Does that mean we should not want our lives remembered by the people whose lives we touched? For the small differences we make?
We certainly need to create a better planet for our children, but I think Jim’s death got me thinking about the need to shift the focus. The planet has been around for millions of years and has proven it can look after itself. We on the other hand, won’t be. What if we were to shift our focus to our children, inspiring them to become great leaders (from world to family), develop courage, foster initiative, thrive in community and commit to a cause and purpose. What if we stopped simply liking everything and used that force to create some real change – for ourselves and the future.
Jim had 45 years on this planet and certainly helped mould better children.
What if we could mould a generation of leaders, change-makers and individuals who lived with purpose, passion and commitment to the planet, its people and inter-generational equity.
Jim, you were right. We are all filled with greatness.
We don’t need a better planet for our children. We need better children for our planet.
you bloody ripper!
You may not see them every day.
Likely you won’t see them every year.
They may not live in the same city as you.
They may not even be in the same country.
They always make you laugh.
You feel connected, despite the distance.
You deeply wish they were here.
They are never far from your thoughts.
you bloody ripper!
And that someone just happened to be my Dad.
It might seem a little strange that I didn’t know this prior to our first grandstand fist in the air and jump up and down as we screamed for the first place winner. Me with my $1 bet and all.
I don’t like the races. I’ve been three times in my life. But when my Dad decided to make a short notice visit to Melbourne for the recent long weekend, I wanted to give him a surprise treat for his birthday. Member’s tickets.
Besides. It had been 1968 the last time he visited Melbourne. Military service. Vietnam War conscription. Life never the same.
I didn’t grow up with my Dad. But he is my Dad. And I wanted him to have a bloody ripper time in a place that has only held bad memories from the beginning of a lifelong journey of veteran trauma. You can read the Remembrance post if you want to know my real thoughts on war. Eh.
My Dad and I have always been like one of those 10 000 piece jigsaw puzzles. The big city ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s difficult to pull the pieces together. You think you’re getting there but the truth is, you’re so far from the mark you end up getting totally confused, frustrated and packing it all away into a box for a couple of years before dusting it off and starting again.
Because you need to. You never give up.
So we’re in the grandstand, both of us feeling a little out of place in the members’. Me: remember, I don’t like the races. Dad: he had to wear tailored pants, a collared shirt, dress shoes and a tie. (This is a man who lives in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Stubbies, flannies and thongs are the standard attire.) Pants were five sizes too big. Tie didn’t match. And then there was the hat.
I know. I look like a dork.
I’m grinning writing. I was grinning there. Who cares if you look like a dork when you’re living the dream.
You see, I learned that March long weekend, my Dad used to train and own race horses. I learned he trained winners. Being at Flemington was his lifelong dream. I also learned he’d had plenty an article written about him and his horses. And his representative football.
As we sat in seafood cafes and sports bars, devoured gelati at Southgate, encouraged and appreciated the Yarra buskers, journeyed on trams, wandered around the Scoresby Steam Festival (Dad got it right; ýou must be as bored as me:) and meandered through the laneways of the Dandenongs, I learned of his wins. His losses. His pain. His joys. His grievances. His regrets. His sadness. His rogue ways. I learned more about him.
I also learned that he destroyed most of the evidence of his life in a severe bout of depression that resulted in hospitalisation. He didn’t want anyone sorting out his life. He shared his memories. For they were all he had.
I also learned a quite remarkable story about a random and authentic act of giving. There are a few chapters to this story, and I hope to close the book on my birthday trip to Bali in June. A trip that has now become a mission because of a few more jigsaw pieces.
The city was coming to life.
Bringing out the puzzle after so many previous ill-fated attempts, allowed a few more streets to be laid. I could see the buildings. The lines were even. The picture became clearer.
I could finally see the image.
We were on the same page. We understood each other’s lives. We appreciated our differences. We valued the sharing. And we loved.
Our puzzle finally became clear. No more packing away required.
We were in the same city.
you bloody ripper!
A super big thank you to Glenda for last minute Member’s tickets. Dad may have thought he looked like a dork, but he felt like the owner of Black Caviar. His dream came true. As did mine. To see my Dad happy.
On 11 November, 1918, World War I officially ended. Since 1919, this day has become a day to remember servicemen and women who have been killed on duty since WWI – Remembrance Day.
As the daughter and grandaughter of serving soldiers, I appreciate the sentiments of this day, along with those of Anzac Day, held in Australia and New Zealand on 25 April each year to honour those who fought in Gallipoli.
This year, as I listened to The Last Post (once again commemorating those lost in war) in front of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Australia, the echo of the bugles playing throughout the city hit a chord that I had not experienced in previous years.
The consequences and impact of war have been compiled and recorded over the centuries. Our historical recording of destruction, death and suffering is heralded by Stalin:
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
This year, for the first time, I not only appreciated the real effects of war on an encompassing scale, but on an individual one.
As we bow our heads and remember those who have lost their lives, do we ever consider the little tragedies of which personal hells are made? Do we even understand them? Do we even know they exist?
My father’s absence.
His attempts at communicating over the years a distraction from his inner-struggle.
Years of pain.
Alone with his thoughts.
His eternal anguish.
Love never realised.
Gifted calendars of war by partaking in a Veteran’s family study.
An unneccessary reminder.
This year, instead of remembering lives that were lost and appreciation for those who have fought, and continue to fight, for freedom, I recognise lives that have been lost through torment. I respect the strength to survive. I honour dysfunction. I salute the silent soldiers, who battle their demons each and every day. I pay tribute to the sacrifice of dreams, passion and opportunity. I respect the impact of a lifetime of buried shrapnel from silent guns: anguish, fears, trauma, broken families and loss of life, even by the living.
For some, the enormity of these consequences never go away.
Lest we not even know. Lest we not even understand. Lest we forget.
Purple and green should never be seen. That is unless you’re five, receive a full makeup kit for your birthday, and decide to hide away in your bedroom for half an hour before your impending date with party pies, cake, balloons and pass the parcel.
The pure innocence of childhood replaces grown-up rules and fashion etiquette. A half hour of reckless abandonment replaces the need for detailed perfection.
Living for the moment and being just who you want to be, one bright colour at a time.
you bloody ripper!
Travelling alone provides one with plenty of opportunity to reflect on those people who have touched our life.
On my last journey overseas, I traversed the Cambodian countryside on buses, motodups, tuk tuks and taxis for a total of 19 hours over a three day period.
I still recall one morning when everyone else seemed to be nursing their Saturday hangover, so I sat alone enjoying my fruit salad and rice muesli. No one to chat to, but plenty of time for reflection.
Although I sat by myself, I felt I had not come alone, but was sharing this journey with two people who mean so very much to me. A small gift to me had helped finance my trip, so I thought it only fair that if I had to endure the potholes and broken suspension on all forms of transport, that they should also, albeit in my passport.
Frank and Mary Peek are my grandparents. I still recall the weekends of my youth spent baking date rolls, choko pies and fresh custard. My favourite part of any baking day was definitely licking the thick, warm custard off the wooden spoon. Although it may be a toss up with the just baked on goodness at the bottom of the saucepan. Then again that weekend roast lunch always did have me asking for seconds. After each meal there was the wander through the pumpkin and passionfruit vines in search of a tasty piece of sugarcane on which to chew.
Children of the depression, nothing was thrown out at Frank and Mary´s house. Adorning the vj walls of their Queenslander were bird feathers, calendars reflecting a history of coronations, sporting heroes and photographs from 90+ years of life.
Frank and Mary passed away within six months of each other, having been married for 63 years. Due to illness and the cruelty of alzheimers, they could not be together in the final year of their lives. However, I made sure they were together for eternity, joining in a local tradition of placing their names on a padlock and throwing away the key atop one of China´s holy mountains, Hua Shan.
At the time of writing this, I have tears.
When people leave our lives, we can always wish we had talked more, shared more, asked more, loved more, learned more. I do. But I can also ensure that the memories I have of them stay with me and I never forget what they gave me, nor the value they placed on their family and the little that they had.
When I helped clean up their house, I found a sealed envelope. On the front in my grandmother´s scrawl was written ¨to those left behind¨. I had not been in the country when Mary passed away, and with the deepest sadness did not attend her funeral. I felt that for some reason I was chosen to find the letter, hidden in the dark recesses of a wardrobe for over 20 years.
My hands trembled as I opened the letter. I could imagine Mary sitting at her old manual typewriter, keying in the names of all her children and grandchildren. On the attached page was a short message stating the love she had for her family and her wish for their happiness.
Frank and Mary – I love you. I am forever grateful for what you gave me. You may not have been perfect, but then again, who is? You were who you were, due to circumstance, experience, need and uncertainty. You may have known no better. You may simply have not known. I forgive. I forget. I remember. I appreciate.
I hope for all who read this, that you take some time out to thank those in your life who have provided you with opportunity, knowledge, purpose and memories.
Frank, you can finally be proud. Mary, you need not worry – I am happy.
you bloody ripper!
First I was afraid, I was petrified.
The shower fog slowly disperses to allow the morning’s rendition to begin.
Born to be W-I-L-D
Windows are up tight in the Hyundai Getz, bass as good as it gets and as I crawl through the morning’s peak hour traffic, I dream all the other drivers are merely showing their appreciation and gathering together enmasse to create my very own mosh pit.
Ain’t no mountain high enough.
Loungerooms have not merely been invented to simply lounge in. Dimmers have been designed to allow mood lighting, wooden coffee tables that double as storage boxes are only empty so that they are suitable as drums and the one seater stool elevates the performer above the crowd.
Woah woah We’re half way there. Woah Woah living on a prayer.
And if you’re feeling ready to take your music to the world, there’s only one thing to be done to showcase your talent: karaoke. Throw down a few bevvies and you are guaranteed to survive.
It’s the final countdown.
Be one with the stage. Be one with the audience. Be one with the song. Be one with your stardom.
I did it my way.
Sing: even when you can’t, you can!
you bloody ripper!
Fresh white bread slathered with way too much butter.
Scattered hundreds and thousands.
Seated at a brown laminate kitchen table on grey vinyl chairs.
Surrounded by lime green kitchen benches.
Washing them down with orange cordial sipped out of hand painted vegemite glasses.
Tongue out – welcome to kaleidoscope land!