CAST LIGHT ON THE SHADOWS LONG.

Seven years ago I wrote the “Shout” post on this blog. It’s over two and a half years since I wrote “Tell me, what’s fear to you?“; the post that went viral and took my words to people all around the world. June marked fifteen years since my Daughter was murdered and next February will be the thirtieth anniversary of her birth. I turned 48 years old myself this week.

In all those years there is one part of the night my Daughter Number One was murdered that I have never written about. In her powerhouse performance “Nanette” Hannah Gadsby talks about how the things we leave out, the things we don’t say, the things we hide from ourselves and from others can end up shaping our narrative. She says “You learn from the part of the story you focus on”.

Last month was the Pride march here. Son Number Two and I were again proud to march with PFLAG. Last year we brought two friends with us. This year we brought five friends with us, mostly young people. Pride, for me, is a celebration of love and community. I see people around me struggling with identity and worth, purpose and meaning and if there’s one thing I can still be certain of, it’s that we really can’t have too much love and community in our lives.

As we marched I was thinking about the “coming out process”; how for some it is momentous and for others it’s anti-climactic. Some feel compelled to make a statement while others think their sexuality is no one’s business but their own. Some fear losing their families, their jobs, their homes, their lives.

It made me think about the #metoo movement; why does anyone speak up? I think the reasons why people don’t speak up, in general, are pretty clear. Whether it’s in a courtroom, the schoolyard, online or in the media the risk for vilification and ridicule are huge. Recently, in Ireland, there have been protests after a lawyer there argued that the teenage survivor’s choice of underwear had been implicit consent to sexual intercourse. While my mind was screaming “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?” to that there came the heart wrenching response from a Scottish mother whose 17 year old daughter killed herself two weeks after the trial of her rapist, during which she was compelled to hold up her own underwear in the courtroom, three separate times. For fuck’s sake. There are so many valid reasons not to say a word, to anyone, ever.

My Daughter Number One kept her secret. Until she found someone she loved and trusted enough to share it with. Shortly before she died she told her Very Best Friend that her murderer had touched her inappropriately when she was younger. Her Very Best Friend was thirteen years old. In the brief time between her disclosure and her murder, my Daughter and her Very Best Friend argued about her telling someone else. Someone who could do something. The Very Best Friend tried, over and over again, to get her to tell. My Daughter was trying to protect us, her siblings and her mother, that much I know. I don’t know what she had been threatened with to keep her quiet but she was brutally raped and killed, so I don’t doubt her judgement that the threat was real.

The psychologist from the Sexual Assault Unit that I worked with shortly after Daughter Number One’s murder said that, in her opinion, Daughter Number One had been testing the waters by disclosing to the Very Best Friend. She was met with a loving, supportive response. She was listened to and believed. In all likelihood, the psychologist thought, she would have made further disclosures, if only she’d had the time. If only she’d had more time. We all ran out of time.

My Daughter Number One’s Very Best Friend was thirteen years old when she rang him from a public phone box in the dark of night, shortly before she died, to say that she loved him and would miss him. Her murderer spoke to the Very Best Friend and told him that he was letting her call because he “knew how much she loved him”. He was thirteen years old when the police came to his door the next day to tell him my Daughter was dead. He was thirteen when he attended her funeral.

By the time the inquest rocked around her Very Best Friend was fifteen. He was fifteen when he sat through the evidence produced and he was fifteen when it was his turn to sit, alone, in the witness box. So many lives spun off their trajectory when Daughter Number One’s life was savagely ended. The Very Best Friend took paths and made choices that devastated me and I carried the grief and guilt for what had happened to him just as much as I did for what had happened to my Daughter.

I didn’t ever write about the Very Best Friend. He was so young, at first, and then, when he was older my own shame and guilt and reluctance to cause him any more pain kept me quiet. When my post went viral two years ago I had a message from the Very Best Friend. He said that I could write about him if I wanted to. He said he was ok. He said he still missed my Daughter Number One, but that if what happened hadn’t happened he wouldn’t be the person he is now and he’s GOOD with who he is now.

I still haven’t written about him until now. I can’t even tell you why now feels like the right time. Just that I want to honour their friendship and my Daughter’s love for her Very Best Friend. He heard her and he believed her. And I will always love him for that. For my own sake, too, as I scroll through his photos, I need to focus on seeing the Very Best Friend as he is now, a grown man who survived and is good with who he is and where he is at. While I don’t ever expect to not feel guilty for some of the negative impact my Daughter’s death had on the Very Best Friend’s life, I’m thinking maybe I don’t have to carry it around with me every day. I’d rather be proud of him and happy for him, instead.

All of the people and all of their lives and all of their words and all of their hearts and no man is an island. We are all connected and the choices we make every day can literally change lives; our own and other people’s. I was lying in bed in the home of a Beautiful Friend. It was after 1am and, sooner than I was happy to acknowledge, it would be time to get out of bed to babysit her Magic Kid. I was reading Twitter when I saw a Jim Jeffries tweet that Russell Crowe had retweeted. Son Number Two and I had gone to see Jeffries last time he was in town, in a packed Arena holding 10,000 people. I knew he was touring again but I couldn’t afford tickets this time around. In his tweet Jeffries said he’d be at an open mic night in town that night. And I thought to myself that, if my Beautiful Friend came home to her Magic Kid early enough and I made my way home in time, Son Number Two and I should check that out. He’s always up for an adventure and life is short, you know?

The Beautiful Friend arrived home and drove me to my place. Son Number Two and I got ready and by 4.30pm we were on our way into town. We arrived just after 6pm, to find a handful of people outside the club. A young guy in a suit promptly informed us that there was a list for those who had pre-booked and a queue for those who had not. There were many people who had pre-booked and no guarantee of getting in. We joined the queue. Just before the doors opened at 7pm the guy on the door, who had been clicking off the numbers of privileged people on the list as they passed, turned to us and said “You guys will get in. I don’t know about the people at the end of this queue but you will definitely get in!” The half dozen people who were in front of us when we arrived had been found on the list and gone in already, so we were at the head of the queue. And shortly afterwards we were waved up the stairs.

Entering the club a gentleman with an English accent, also looking sharp in a suit, asked me if it were just the two of us and I answered yes. He seated us in the third row, just off centre. We were under three metres from the stage. Phenomenal seats! It would be understating it to say we had a brilliant time. The venue was intimate, the entertainment high quality and the experience sublime. It was a once in a lifetime experience and with all the shit things Son Number Two and I have been through together it was cool to do something that goes partway to balancing the ledger. Everything happened so smoothly to get us there, things falling into place like dominoes. When you factor in all the variables we definitely beat the odds. But sometimes you do. Someone has to, right?

When I spoke to my Daughter Number Two about how her Sister died we talked about the Very Best Friend as well. When Daughter Number Two chose to speak about her Sister for a school public speaking assignment she asked the Very Best Friend for help. When a young friend of her’s wrote to my Daughter Number Two and told her about some risk taking behaviours she was engaging in, she heard her and she believed her. Then my Daughter went and told a trusted adult. She said to me “I was worried she would be angry with me. She was upset, but not with me. I told her about my Sister and why I had to tell.” There are so many reasons not to say a word but there are just as many reasons to speak.

We can never really know all the people who will hear us, or the impact we have by the choices we make. We will never know how far the ripples of our lives will go. But I can guarantee that you will touch many more people in this life than you can possibly imagine. That is your superpower.

Safe onward travel x

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THIS WOMAN’S WORK.

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

IT’S EASIER TO BELIEVE IN THIS SWEET MADNESS, OH THIS GLORIOUS SADNESS.

We are hurtling towards the end of the year and soon 2017 will be done.

To be honest, I’m not sure I will miss it. Next week, here in Australia, we find out the result of our criminally wasteful, hate mongering, progress delaying postal survey to see if some of us can have the same right as the rest of us. And still nothing will change, because this postal survey doesn’t actually change anything – except the degree to which people now feel free to spew hate about a certain group of us. Oh, and the millions of dollars less we now have to spend on silly stuff like education, health, the homeless, the environment. All those trivial things which can’t really matter much if we have money to burn on what is essentially ugly confetti at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe they are seeing how many more mass shootings they can cram in before the end of the year because gun control is a less attractive alternative (What. The. Actual. Fuck. ?????!!!!)

SIGH. If only we could use our powers for good.

Guys, I’m exhausted. The last few months have been intense. Good things and bad things, both, but intense and I’m weary.

Son Number Two graduated high school recently. This is a good thing. I am incredibly proud of him. I know how far he has had to travel and the obstacles he has had to navigate. I didn’t finish high school. I was pregnant with Daughter Number One by age seventeen. I went back to tertiary studies after having children but I didn’t finish high school. Son Number Two is the first of my children to finish high school. His graduation was a big deal to me, for his sake and for mine.

I don’t think I anticipated just quite how much of a huge deal it was to me until we actually attended the ceremony. Son Number Two had to be there early for a rehearsal so he’d gone ahead with his friends. I was attending with one of my friends. As soon as we entered the ceremony room tears started streaming down my face. Luckily the lights were low and I held on to my friend tightly as I struggled to compose myself. I managed to contain any sobs but the tears quietly snaked down my face for a long time. Before proceedings had even begun; before the graduating class was even in the room. Eventually, my tears slowed, then stopped. ‘Ok’ I thought, ‘I’m ok, I’ve got this under control.’ And I did. Right up until one of the speakers asked us to think back to when our students had started school.

I do remember when Son Number Two started school. He started school eight months after his big sister was murdered. My little boy’s world had been blown apart and at that stage we were still lurching between the inquest and other court proceedings. There was no security. There wasn’t even much familiarity. Everything and everyone Son Number Two had ever known had either been brutally ripped from his life or changed almost beyond recognition, including me. He was so small and so defeated. I remember standing beside his desk – was it an orientation or the first day? I can’t be sure. What I remember is the sheet on the desk and his downcast eyes as he said ‘It’s too hard. I can’t do it.’

It was too hard, because everything was too hard. Over the years I’m not sure things got easier. Times changed. Schools changed. Six times over the course of his educational career. It’s only really been in the last several years that Son Number Two has had any confidence in his abilities or discovered there were actually things he enjoyed about learning. He was lucky to have some help along the way, someone who cared enough to see his real potential. Someone who, one way and another, inspired my Son to start living up to that potential. Like me, he has very good friends. Son Number Two took the road less travelled but he got there in the end. I am so proud of the young man he is and so excited by who he is becoming.

I was completely overwhelmed throughout the graduation ceremony. My head was pounding. We were seated near the door so after Son Number Two had sauntered from the room like a rock star my friend and I went into the hall to wait for him. We found him as he and his friends went to get a photo together at the end of the corridor. The entrance to the building was at the other end of the corridor and, as we waited, the corridor started filling with people spilling out of the ceremony room. I could feel my throat closing over and my chest getting tight so my friend and I elected to head outside for some air.

Son Number Two finally emerged. We took some photos and exchanged hugs and wished him on his way. I was staying at my friend’s place so my Son and his friends could celebrate at ours. As soon as I got into my friend’s car the sobs I had been containing broke free. Noisy and ugly. We made the short journey back to his place where his daughter had dinner waiting for us. I went to get changed into less formal wear and then walked out to the back patio to sit with my friend. As I walked through his back door the nausea I had been trying to suppress all evening overtook me and I walked straight past my friend and threw up in his back garden.

There were so many conflicting emotions. My focus had been my Son but the empty space where Daughter Number One should have been felt emptier that night. As proud and happy for him as I am it is bittersweet for me that he is the first of my children to graduate high school. And I fruitlessly wonder how much more of his potential he would have realised, or how much sooner, if things had been different. I let the anger wash over me and let it go. It is what it is. And really, as far as he has come, it is still only the beginning for my Son Number Two.

I haven’t really been able to hit my stride again yet. There are lots of emotions at this time of year and this year has been a long one. Not the longest, to be sure, but still. Lots of first times. Lots of last times.

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I took this photo and the one below at Stockton Beach on the east coast of Australia, mere months before my Daughter’s murder and around a year before Son Number Two started school. In the top right of the photo of Daughter Number one dancing in the waves is a corner of the shipwrecked MV Sygna. You can see it clearly behind four year old Son Number Two here.

Last year, a few days after the anniversary of Daughter Number Ones death, most of what was left visible of the MV Sygna slipped into the sea during storms. Apparently there’s only a tiny bit there to see now. Soon enough you won’t be able to see it at all.

There are only so many days left of 2017. Try to fill yours with love. This too shall pass. All of it. Make memories, take photos, go gently with yourself and others. Travel safe x

DREAMS THAT YOU DARE TO DREAM. 

Not much stuck from my childhood. Actually, that’s not quite true; LOTS of it stuck but there’s not much I choose to hold onto. This week though one thing has resonated.
As I child I was taught that if you feel like saying something you should ask yourself three things – Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? This ridiculous, non binding, divisive, resource wasting postal plebiscite has exceeded the fearful expectations of those who opposed it and the climate is ugly out there. It is being used as a platform for sinister untruths and as a license to spew hate. On a daily basis, on a deep level, people are being attacked for who they love.

Of course, this is nothing new. The LGBTI+ community has never been immune to persecution. It is the openness of the hatred at the moment that appals me. That we are being compelled to choose a side and that an actual campaign is being waged to validate bigotry. More resources wasted to generate and perpetuate hate.

I am a Sagittatarian, it’s kind of mandatory for me to be blunt and I value honesty highly. But I come back to those three questions; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? The thing about opinions is that everyone has one and I’m not going to argue that you aren’t entitled to yours, even if it opposes mine. What I am sure about though, is the neither of us should take our opinions and use them as the basis of acts that damage other people.

If you do feel you have something to say then be thoughtful around how you express yourself. Check your facts. Make sure they are, in fact, facts. Decide if you really need to say anything. Will you actually be contributing? If so, express yourself respectfully. There’s a school of thought that asserts that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. I don’t agree with that. Lots of the things I speak about here aren’t nice but I feel like I have something to contribute by not staying silent. I hope I am respectful. I try to be.
Daughter Number One’s best friend was gay. Well, to the best of my knowledge he still is! She loved him dearly. She had been to several Mardi Gras parades in Sydney before she died at 14. Son Number Two, my tall, nineteen year old, straight son, also has friends who fall outside of heterosexual norms. So do I. Dearly loved friends, some I have had for decades, some who have walked with me through the darkest of nights. Even Daughter Number Two has a best friend who shows signs of growing up to walk the road less travelled. He’s young, so who knows? My point is that whoever her friend grows up to be my Daughter will not judge him on who he loves. Because she loves him. Just as he is.

I have been so sad about this postal plebiscite. The stories both from mainstream media and people I know are heartbreaking. I go to rallys when I can. I posted off my yes vote. I write about marriage equality here and I share things on facebook. But this issue has been going on for so long now in Australia that I am able to share facebook memories from three years ago that are still sadly relevant. And, in the face of the sea of hatred that is tsunami-ing over us, it doesn’t seem enough.
So tomorrow I am going to a PFLAG meeting. PFLAG stands for ‘Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’. When I rang up today to register my interest in attending tomorrow the lady on the phone asked me for my story. She asked where I heard about PFLAG. I’ve seen them march behind their banner in Mardi Gras. I’ve watched Debbie represent in Queer as Folk. I’ve heard them speak at rallys. What’s my story? “Do you have a gay child?” she asked. And I don’t. But I could. And that would be perfectly fine with me, because love is love.
I believe in love. With so much ugliness in this world I believe in love. I know and love many beautiful people and I believe they all should be allowed to make the choices they feel are right for themselves, in their own relationships. I don’t believe ‘different’ should equal ‘lesser under law’. So, I’ll go to the PFLAG meeting tomorrow and I’ll go to the marriage equality rally next week and I’ll keep writing here about things that matter.

This article here gives some insight into why straight allies are important and this link will point you in a practical direction if you have time and energy to share. PFLAG can be found here and there are many groups and events you can make contact with in your state.

Travel safe x

WE’VE BEEN POISONED BY THESE FAIRY TALES. 


All we have to do, at any given moment, is take the next step. Sometimes they are big steps and sometimes they are baby steps. Sometimes they are sidesteps and sometimes we take a step back. But all we have to do, at any given moment, is take the next step. 
Last week I had the most lovely day with friends. We took my friend’s two year old, The Best Boy, to the park. Actually we took him to two parks! At the second we met a dog, named Milo, who was swinging on a swing. Chill as you please. Milo was so relaxed he even let The Best Boy push him on the swing. It was very cool to watch. Unexpected and entertaining. Milo, you are a legend. 
I watched The Best Boy navigating both the parks we took him to. His sturdy little legs and boundless enthusiasm taking him further and higher, one step at a time. His Mum was there to offer a steadying hand when he needed it; it’s good to have support around you. 

Incredibly, to me, Australia is still debating Marriage Equality. I am waiting for us to take the next step. 
Change isn’t always easy, even when it is necessary. Even when it is the right thing. Even when we know it will be the best thing. It is difficult to step out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. But if we do we can be Milo the dog, swinging at the park, sun in our face and wind in our hair. Loving life! 

Someone special gave me a little cactus plant. It had grown quite a lot and I was worried that it was getting too crowded in it’s little pot. I don’t have a green thumb and I thought that I might kill it if I tried to repot it. What I knew for sure though, was that it had outgrown it’s little pot. To keep living and thriving I would need to find it a new place to be. It wouldn’t look the same. It would have to adjust to it’s changed environment. But it couldn’t stay where it was. 
So I found a white pot, with ‘Grow! Grow! Grow!’ painted up the side. I found some lush soil and I replanted the little cactus. I gave it a little bit of water and let it have a little bit of sun. I don’t know exactly how it will work out but I know that I have given it the best chance to survive and flourish. 
There are no guarantees in life. Sometimes you just have to make your move and take the next step. Talk to a stranger, climb up a mountain, go to the theatre, walk out the door, open your arms.  Live your life. Grow and flourish. One step at a time. 
❤️💛💚💙💜
Safe onward travel x 

CARRY ME ON THE WAVES.

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The other night I was talking to a friend who had relocated for love. It hadn’t worked out the way that they had hoped because sometimes things don’t. I fervently believe that it is better to know than to wonder. As a general rule I don’t do things by halves. If something is worth doing it it worth doing fully and I throw myself into things, heart and soul. Even if things don’t work out the way you’d hoped there are always opportunities for learning and growth. You can never go back anyway, only forwards, so what use are regrets? Carry the good things with you and move on.

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For a while now Son Number Two has been telling me about a place he visited with My Young Friend and his Lovely Fiancée, extolling the virtues and the photographic potential of the vibrant turquoise water. The catch was that it would be a 4WD trip to get there. Monday was Australia Day here which meant the young people had the day off work. They asked me to come along for the ride and, this time, I agreed. It was, indeed, an amazingly beautiful place. The whole day was quite triggering for me for very many dull reasons but I allowed myself to breathe through it and soak up the beauty. When we first arrived I noted that the place had the same name as another stunningly beautiful place where I have spent many happy times with Daughter Number One. It is where my favourite photo of her was taken. To be honest, if I’d known this place had the same name I’m not sure I would have agreed to go. Since I was there already I just had to deal. And I did. Staying present in the moment. Go me! Carry the good things with you and move on.maya_angelou_love

Each day is the first day of the rest of your life! If you don’t like where you are then move on. You can only work with what you’ve got but if that’s not enough to work with then go and find yourself more. I’d be the last one to tell you it’s easy but one thing I know for sure? It’s possible! Live, laugh, love. Life is short.

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Safe onward travel lovelies x

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