Soon I will be trekking across the country again. This is a trip that I didn’t know if I could make happen and by myself it would have been completely outside the realms of possibility. Luckily for my children and I, we have the great gift of our family of the heart. The people who love and support us in so very many ways. There are some days they make cross country travel possible and some days they make getting out of bed possible, but there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful they are there. Cheering us on, lifting us up, lighting our way.Not long ago the psychologist I first worked with after Daughter Number One died sent me photos of her gorgeous new puppy. Last week I had a phone call from the friend who rang me every day that I spent in a mental health unit years ago. Someone I’ve only ever met once in real life. Who I met through a friend I had met on Plenty of Fish. The other morning I had a message from Daughter Number One’s friend who shared her name; that is, until she recently got married! This trip, to pick up Daughter Number Two for the school holidays was made possible by, in no particular order;Another lovely soul I met through the same Plenty of Fish guy as above – THANKS GLEN MY FRIEND! The incredible mother of Son Number Two’s beloved Hope, who has been Daughter Number Two’s guardian angel on earth this year, One of Daughter Number One’s treasured school friends, who also recently made a beautiful bride, An extremely dear friend that I have really only known two years but feel like my heart has known forever, A newer friend still, who I met through the friend above, who regularly thrashes me at word games, A special friend who has had much travelling on many levels this year but has still made time and space to connect with me,A lovely and glamorous friend who has moved houses recently and mountains always,A friend who comes from my life before, before Daughter Number One died, who continues to fight the good fight for vulnerable children, The one I bought from eBay, despite their pricelessness,My dear ones who always give me a safe place to land,My favourite former housemates,My high school friend and regular bridesmaid, The sister of Son Number Two’s Best Friend and the Best Friend himself, who I trust to keep an eye out for Son Number Two when I am not there to do it, Son Number Two himself. This list above is just of people who have helped in concrete and measurable, practical ways. It is by no means comprehensive! From different periods of my life, across varying distances and on many levels we have a wealth of people checking in, supporting and encouraging us and believing in me on the days that I can’t. Every kind word said, every good wish expressed, every ‘I hear you!’ counts. I do not walk a day where I feel like I am doing this alone and the responsibility and privilege of knowing people are genuinely invested in us keeps me wanting to show up for them. With this support I am growing into the best version of myself I can be. More steady on my feet than I have been for a very long time. All these threads; old friends, new friends, dear friends, true friends; weaving themselves into this safety net/ security blanket that gives me enough confidence to fly. This week, literally. In my own ways I try to pay these gifts forward, in whichever way I can. Last week I attended Angelhands’ Guinness World Record Attempt and as often as possible I send the message, make the phone call, post a card, pay a visit; reaching out my hand to let people know that I am there and I that I care. For me, that human connection has been the thing that is worth sticking around for. As challenging as I often find social interaction – and I really do, in numerous ways – the not insubstantial effort is worth the rewards. Even as I sit here now, doing the things I didn’t think would be possible, it still feels surreal. It is overwhelming me a bit to grasp the reality of having such a huge wish come true. The joy, the utter relief, the continued anxiety of waiting for the next step to fall into place; I am looking forward to the pace slowing a bit so my head can stop screaming so loudly “WE DID IT!!!! WE REALLY DID IT!!!! THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!!!!”. We have the capacity to change people’s lives every day. Even our own. Especially our own. What you put out into the world matters. It counts. Sometimes in ways you don’t expect, many times in ways you will never know about. But in absolutely real ways that can make all the difference. Never underestimate the power of the little things. To my Dearest Hearts, my beautiful people, for every thing that you do and are, THANK YOU. I hope, even if just a little, you understand how incredibly huge this is and what we have accomplished together. We did it, guys. We really did. Safe onward travel x
Earlier this week a friend was taking me to an appointment and we were on the freeway. The traffic ground to almost a standstill and we were barely crawling along. I googled traffic conditions and the website said that there had been an accident resulting in partial closure of the freeway with no information about injuries as yet. The post was several hours old and I immediately thought that there must have been a fatality. As we crawled past no less than three lots of cars, who seemed to have run into each other in the barely moving traffic jam and were exchanging details, I was transported to another freeway and a rock faced wall. My hands sifting through sandy dirt at the edge of the road and finding a melted section of a car badge. Another freeway almost fifteen years ago.
In the present day my heart rate and breathing escalated and I started to cry. My phone vibrated with a message from a friend asking how I was going and I told her. Fifteen minutes later – maybe? It could have been quicker, everything was moving very slowly – another message from my friend. “No fatality. It’s a diesel spill xx”
Just over seven years ago I posted this post titled “With a little help from my friends”. This week, again, always, I have had much cause to be thankful for the beautiful people who surround my children and me. There has been so much going on, many layers of things. Those people who walk beside us make this life a gentler trip.
So this shoutout goes to ones who are there. The ones who get us. The ones who love us. The ones who pick up the slack and give us a boost. Who take us to concerts and give us safe places to land. Who know what to say and when to say it and when to say nothing at all. The ones who don’t give up or turn their backs. With all our love and thanks to you, because we seriously couldn’t do this without you! Which is really something I can’t say enough.
Safe onward travel x
Content warning: Violence against women, Domestic Violence, sexual assault, violence against children, suicide.
This is not your regular Mother’s Day post. It’s not even MY regular Mother’s Day post, although it starts about the same. Earlier this week I was at an appointment and the doctor asked how many children I had and I answered her and I cried. Then I had coffee with a friend and there was a Mother’s Day promotion on a card in the middle of the table so I turned it around to face the window. So I couldn’t see it. So it couldn’t see me. Yesterday, on the phone, a stranger told me to ‘Have a happy Mother’s Day’ and I hung up my phone and blinked away hot tears.
It’s a SHIT time of year for me. Mother’s Day is about three weeks out from the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder. Fifteen years this year. And the day before that will be three years since her father killed himself. And the day before that will mark twenty years since a beloved friend killed himself – the fun never ends at this time of year.
Then the news broke of Australia’s worst mass shooting in decades; a murder suicide with four of the dead being children. There’s been a screaming inside my head and a dagger in my heart ever since I heard.
For the innocent lives lost and the friends and family they have left behind. The first responders and all who will be touched by this in a professional capacity going forward. To their wider community, in all the various communities they were a part of. My heart just bleeds and bleeds. The devastation and destruction and just incredible wastefulness. Happy fucking Mother’s Day.
I’ve had a post half written in my head for weeks now. The more usual, for me, Mother’s Day one. The one where I acknowledge the Mothers who are without their children and the children who no longer have their Mothers. Where I remember the Step Mother’s and the foster Mothers and all the women that step up in that capacity without deserved recognition. But in thinking about it I’ve realised it’s SO MUCH MORE than that. Because if you are a woman, whether you have had children or not you can be DAMN SURE you’ve been mothering someone! In fact, it’s not just women but girls too. If you are female the chances are you mother someone in your life; partners, siblings, friends, colleagues, parents etc. It’s what we are trained to do. It’s what is expected from us.
To mother, the verb, means “look after (someone) kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.” And we do. We do. I know my Daughter stayed silent about the sexual abuse she suffered because she thought she was protecting those she loved. She literally died doing so. It’s why I can’t shut up. It’s why I won’t. Until I literally die.
We use the word ‘mother’ to denote things of import – Mother Nature, mother load, mother ship – but where, exactly, do we pay more than lip service to the significance of mothers? To the significance of women? Unicorn slippers and breakfast in bed tomorrow just really don’t cut it for me!
Let’s get some perspective on this, shall we? Counting Dead Women Australia count every known death due to violence against women in Australia. As of yesterday the tally sits at 23, so far, this year. Which means we are currently SMASHING our national average of one dead woman per week in this country due to violence against women. And this tally doesn’t even include children lost to domestic violence.
Please keep in mind that I live in The Lucky Country. A first world country. A ‘civilised’ nation. And yet I also live in a country where my sanitary products are taxed under a goods and services tax – literally taxing me for being a woman! – even though condoms are exempt. I live in a country that will pay me less than a man for doing the same job. I live in a country where abortion laws vary from state to state and abortion is technically illegal in two.
Elisabeth Moss, who stars in and produces The Handmaid’s Tale gave an interview recently in which she said hates hearing that someone won’t watch the show because it is ‘too scary’. That she struggles with the idea of that because “This is happening in your real life.” There is no question that The Handmaid’s Tale is confronting viewing. There is graphic violence against women and sexual assault. Yes, it is scary. But what is even more petrifying? Is when you watch it and realise that we are not so far removed from that possible reality. So, please, be scared, be uncomfortable, Watch it anyway and then be OUTRAGED.
Tomorrow and all the other days after that, let your outrage inspire you to action. Speak your truth, shout it loud, share it widely. Support your local woman’s refuge or collective or your next door neighbour who’s struggling a bit. Read, learn, question. And take care of your own damn self.
Angelhands is currently organising a Guinness World Record attempt for the Largest Gathering of Angels. Angelhands provides support to people affected by violent crime. This event will be their major fundraising initiative for 2018 and is being held on Wednesday 27th June 2018. This is PTSD Awareness Day and June is PTSD Awareness Month in the USA. All details regarding this event can be found by clicking through to the Angelhands website here or to the Facebook event here.
Rest peacefully Cynda, Katrina, Taye, Rylan, Arye and Kadyn.
To all of you for whom tomorrow brings sadness, go gently.
Safe onward travel everyone x
Does anyone else remember Space Food Sticks? They were these weird snack type thing. The consistency of half dried Play-Doh and with a flavour vaguely reminiscent of chocolate? For some reason I thought of them about a month ago and thought I’d buy some for the nostalgia value. But I couldn’t find any at the supermarket, so I googled them. Apparently production stopped on Space Food Sticks in 2014. Maybe there was a public outcry or a farewell ceremony but if there was I missed it. And now they don’t exist anymore.
Next month will be twenty years since a very dear friend of mine died. I know that because I was pregnant with Son Number Two at the time, and here he is, almost twenty years old. I dreamt about my friend the other night. In my dream I was so happy to see him. After all these years Malcolm, you are still so missed.
Last night I spent a couple of hours putting together a piece for my wall that I have been assembling in my head for weeks and, I guess in one way and another, I have been working on for years. It’s a huge Kmart poster size frame with a marriage equality poster from the campaign in the centre. Around that I have put photos ranging from a rainbow flag Daughter Number One had drawn, to a photo of her on her 14th Birthday – her last birthday- with her beloved best friend, to the wedding we attended before it was legal with Daughter Number Two dancing with Son Number Two, to rally’s for Marriage Equality and the memorial service for the Pulse victims. There were photos from the Pride Parade and the newspaper report from the wedding we attended that was one of the first legal same sex marriages in Australia, where Daughter Number Two wore the same gown she had worn to the non-legal wedding a couple of years before. All those times, separate but linked.
A rainbow collage of years and memories and meanings and people but mostly love. I am looking forward to hanging it on the wall, where I can see it and remember and be glad.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, we went to a camp. There was a ‘silent auction’ there. Items were placed on tables with pieces of paper where you could write your bid for the item and the highest bid would win. As we walked around looking at the items I could see Daughter Number One’s name written in her childish hand on item after item. I was appalled! Asked her what she was doing? Didn’t she know we couldn’t afford to pay for these things if she won? Daughter Number One protested strongly. She hadn’t written her name on anything! She didn’t know why it was there!
It turned out there was another girl at the camp with the same name, and, incredibly, a birthday one year and a day different from Daughter Number One’s. After that camp they became pen pals and exchanged letters for years.
When Daughter Number One was murdered there were many people I had to tell but, as silly as it sounds, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her friend with the same name. It felt too wrong. Like I was telling her about her own death almost. I know that’s not logical but that’s how it felt. It’s something I still feel guilty about to this day because it didn’t give my Daughter’s friend the opportunity to attend her funeral. I took that from her and I will always be sorry for that.
But this girl, with the same name as my Daughter, this beautiful, generous girl heard about Daughter Number One’s murder through the extensive media coverage and sent me a card. Over the years she has kept in touch with me. We chat on Messenger sometimes. She’s a pilot now, based overseas. A female pilot, which is pretty fucking special. The other week she sent me a video and the message attached said she hoped I’d enjoy it. It was footage taken by her co-pilot, in the cockpit, of her landing a plane. IT WAS AMAZING! And that she thought to send me the video means more to me than words can say. I saved it onto my phone.
All of the years and the memories and the meanings and the people and most of all the love. And I remember. And I am glad.
I left the house early the other morning to go and spend time with a friend. I thought it would be more efficient to do my make up en route so I made my way to the bathroom at the train station, where I was meeting my friend. The ‘mirror’ was a piece of polished metal and I looked at myself with the scratches and smudges and distortions of the metal overlaying my features and thought to myself that I looked the way that I felt. I thought that all of us go through days when we present a (relatively) poised and polished outward appearance while the scratches and smudges and scars we accumulate lie beneath the surface. That anyone looking at us would have no idea of what is underneath, how much it weighs to carry. And yet, we get up, we put on our faces and we go out into the world, one foot in front of the other.
A little while after writing my last post the School Captain of Daughter Number One’s graduating year, that is, the graduating year she would have been a part of had she not been murdered three years beforehand, uploaded to facebook the speech he had given at their graduation ceremony. One of Daughter Number One’s friends saw it and let me know it was there before tagging me so I could read it. There were beautiful references to my Daughter but more than that, the writer relayed a story about her that I had not heard before. In a couple of months it will be fifteen years since she died. Can you imagine what it’s like to hear something about my Daughter that I have never heard before? It is SPECTACULAR! Such a profound gift. To know she was remembered on such a significant day for her peers, to know she is remembered fondly still; priceless beyond all measure.
On my Daughter’s birthday I was looking through some of her things. She had these books – I can’t remember what they were called? Slam Books? I think that’s it – anyway, they are notebooks with questions in them and you pass them around your friends and get them to answer the questions about themselves. Daughter Number One had also answered them herself, several times in the months before she died. Beside each question that asked “Person I most look up to” she had written “My Mum”. It is exquisitely devastating to me, to read those words, but I try sweet girl. Still I try.
Safe onward travel x
To the Students of Stoneman Douglas High School,
There are not words to convey how sorry I am for what has happened to you all. On a day most associated with love, in a place that should be associated with growth the magnitude of the horror you have experienced and continue to experience is almost incomprehensible.
I don’t pretend to know what you are going through but my heart bleeds as I imagine you going from funeral to funeral, from hospital bed to hospital bed. Even just going from day to day, as you navigate this, your new normal.
This Sunday, my eldest Daughter would have been turning 29. She would have been, but she was murdered aged 14. I don’t pretend to know what you are going through so I will speak to what I do know.
I know that all these years later, my Daughter’s friends still say her name.
You will move on from this. You won’t have a choice. Time rolls on regardless. I hope you can hold on to your outrage but not let it rob you of all that is beautiful in life. None of you have chosen this but you will get to have some choice about what you carry with you into your futures. Or how you carry it into your futures. Honouring your friends and your teachers but also, importantly, honouring yourselves. Take it one step at a time.
I hope that you can ask for help if you need it. I know that you will not forget. More than anything else, I hope that you see the change you are fighting so hard for.
Safe onward travel x
For my True x
What goes up must come down. I’m definitely in a slump at the moment but also highly strung – isn’t the English language funny? I’m both of those things and also feel on edge which sounds like I’m being torn in three different directions and actually that’s fairly accurate, if not an understatement.
As wonderful as having my children together is, it is proportionally devastating to have that change again. It is hard.
When they are together it is as if they have never been apart. Sometimes they squabble and I have to remind myself that it is normal sibling behaviour, even as the anxiety rises in me because as soon as the clock starts time is running out. ‘Play nicely guys because this is all the time we have’.
But now is always all the time we have so I try not to focus on the hard stuff to come or the hard stuff that’s been. Instead I marvel at how alike they are, how in sync they are. How much they love each other.
We talked together about Daughter Number One. It made Son Number One too sad so we had to finish the conversation when he wasn’t there. It made Son Number Two sad as well so he phoned his best friend. It made Daughter Number Two sad but she said through her tears that she would rather know all she can about her sister even if it made her sad and together we read some of the things Daughter Number One’s friends had written about her after she had died. We talked about her hopes and dreams and Daughter Number Two’s understanding of her Big Sister gained poignant dimensions; that her Big Sister was a girl not much older than she is now herself, who had hopes and dreams. Followed swiftly by the cutting realisation that Daughter Number One never got to live out her dreams, or her life.
Talking about her Big Sister and sharing our memories is the only way that Daughter Number Two will know her but they are so very alike it is uncanny. Both with similar talents and passions. Both with huge open hearts.
When our time with Daughter Number Two was coming to an end this time – just for now, just until next time – we travelled the country and beat our previous record with four states in twenty four hours. Definitely taking the scenic route! Although we didn’t have time to see everything and everyone we wanted to see we did have time to connect with some very special people who are dear to us. A constant theme here is the wealth of love and support we have to draw on and how strong our family of the heart is. They are there to lift us up, to love us and our lives are so much the richer for it.
Someone speaking to my ten year old Daughter Number Two this week called Son Number Two her ‘half brother’. It was a remark meant to belittle and diminish the bond between them. Instead, it only served to belittle and diminish the speaker, and really, who even thought that was possible?
How pathetic that an adult would try to lessen for my Daughter a relationship she holds so dear. Technically speaking Daughter Number One and Daughter Number Two are ‘half sibling’s as well. Her Big Sister that she will never get to meet. She will never get to sing a duet with her Big Sister or go on adventures with her, as she does with her Brothers. She won’t ever feel her Big Sister’s arms around her, giving her one of the hugs she was renowned for. Daughter Number Two will never see for herself the ways that she and her sister are similar and the ways that they differ. So, hasn’t she lost enough, my ten year old girl? Why would anyone want to try to take any more away from her? Why do some people have to try to tear others down to build themselves up?
And I think of all the people we are privileged to have in our lives, my Daughters, my Sons and me. I think of our family of the heart who stand with us so that we know we are never alone. I feel the fierce love that surrounds us; from one end of the country to the other, across the world, through the years and, as we head towards the fifteenth anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder, even beyond death. People who show up for us, consistently, when we need them. People who love us, even when we can’t love ourselves. People who speak my Daughter Number One’s name and remember her always. And then, I can feel pity for the person who can only define family in such limited, simplistic terms as shared genetic material. Compassion I will have to work on.
Although I feel in a bit of a slump I lean into the love that surrounds me. All the laughter and good times my children and I have shared are still with me and with them also. Even those I am apart from are always in my heart.
Safe onward travel x