Category Archives: About Me

Dear Mr. Turnbull

It won’t come as a surprise to many readers that I think Donald Trump is a cretin.  About a month ago I was feeling my usual sense of outrage about the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, but I was expressing this upset in a series of Facebook angry face icons, and article shares with like-minded lefties on my newsfeed.  The problem is, it wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to do more than be a social media activist – and marching at rallies is not my thing (too much walking!)  Writing is my thing though: so I decided to mobilise my anger and tell someone that matters how I was feeling: the PM of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and my Federal Member, Tony Smith MP.

Dear Mr. Turnbull,

I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling outraged and disappointed by the US political decision to ban refugees and immigrants from various, predominantly Muslim, countries.  I am relieved that, for the time being, the judicial system has halted the travel ban, and that a US federal appeals court has turned down the White House’s emergency request to resume the travel ban executive order.

It’s a troublesome reminder of how dangerous and prejudice the Trump administration is promising to be.  I am frightened by this explicit discrimination based on religion and the underlying tone of it harks back to some very dark times in world history. I don’t believe the rest of the world can sit by, mincing our words, trying to placate a bully.

It is easy for me to be a keyboard activist.  To use the sad face and angry buttons on Facebook every time I see an article that disappoints/angers/WTFs me. But for me, it is now not enough to agree with my peers about how horrible the whole sorry affair is, or to share petitions, or shake my head and laugh at Trump memes.

So I am writing to you as the most senior representative of the Australian people, and ask that you convey what your constituents are telling you.  That many of us; millions of us, are opposed to the actions of the US administration and we urge them to reflect on their history and role as providers of safe passage and opportunity for generations of refugees and migrants.

I would also ask the Australian Government to reflect on our own local pedigree of being the ‘lucky country’ and land of opportunity for many.

Let me be very clear: I am not opposed to Border security.  My father enjoyed a long and respected career as an Australian customs officer.  I get it.  I’m not saying ‘come one, come all don’t worry about the process.’  I understand there are very real threats to the safety and security of the community.  I believe that with appropriate checks and timely processing of asylum seekers these risks can be mitigated, and it is our global responsibility to offer sanctuary to the people who genuinely need it.

I don’t think your job is easy Mr. Turnbull.  I don’t think that Mr. Trump is open to a fair and respectful discourse about the subject.  I understand there is bureaucracy, and power hierarchies, political ramifications, and alliances that you need to consider.

But it is unethical and dangerous for you to be complicit in a so called ‘safety measure’ that specifically targets the Muslim faith.  You own party touts to believe in the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.

You recently said it was not your place to “run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.” You must understand this decision reaches far beyond the shores of the US.  It is your responsibility as a leader to speak up about issues and conflicts that affect a global community.  It is your role to try and assert your influence and to speak on behalf of citizens who don’t have a hotline to the decision maker’s office.

Given my own personal opposition to the discriminatory and inhumane approach to refugee and immigration intakes, I am putting my money where my mouth is.  In addition to this letter requesting your action (cc’d to my Federal member Tony Smith MP) I am making a donation to the Unicef Syrian Refugee Fund and to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.

Thank you for your time.

Last week Tony Smith MP responded to my email, and he acknowledged the points made in my letter. His office called me more than once to make contact; he wanted to assure me he had read every word.  They were cordial, patient and pleasant to talk to.  I feel lucky to live in a country where I have both the access and the means to be heard by members of my own government.

Tony towed the party line, and stated that the domestic policies of the US were not something the Australian Government should or would comment on or interfere with.  He also acknowledged the points I made about Australia’s Border Security policies: he respectfully disagreed with my position on this; acknowledged my opinion, but stood by the current policies for offshore processing of asylum seekers.

I’m publishing this letter now because, whilst I am still not satisfied that our Government is meeting its ethical obligations of acting against injustice, Tony’s response proves that you can reach the decision makers in Canberra if you try hard enough.

Maybe you might like to express your thoughts on a particular issue that is important to you.  If you do, follow this link and Contact your PM.

And if writing is not your thing, and you too are concerned about the global refugee crisis, why not send a few quid to the organisations who are doing their best to rescue those in need of liberation.  Unicef, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

In short: If you see something, say something. (Seriously: say it.)

 

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The things I’ve learned 

I often look to the new year lamenting the things I didn’t get around to, the resolutions I failed to keep.  That fun run never registered for, the volunteer work that never eventualised, that novel draft still an incomplete hodge podge of scribbles shoved in a bottom drawer.

Last year I told myself I would write this year; write well and write often.  With just three blog posts to my 2015 name you can see how that promise to myself went.

So I’ve decided to reflect on the things I have learned, experienced and observed this year, rather than dwelling on my terrible commitment to unrealistic goals set during the drunken summer evenings of 2014.

In no particular order, here are my key takeaways from 2015:

  • Sweat rash is a debilitating condition.
  • I should take a break from Facebook.
  • Blondes do have more fun.
  • Boxing is gross regardless of gender.
  • Medicine balls are most springy when ricocheting off ones nose.
  • The smaller the world gets, the less we love each other.
  • Magic Mike XXL is a cinematic masterpiece.
  • Effective leaders seldom care what others think of them.  They concern themselves with good strategy and doing right by their people.
  • Toilet training is expensive.
  • Frankfurt book fair is the Disneyland of word nerds.
  • I heart Justin Trudeau.
  • Being de-commissioned = boned.
  • Shopkins everywhere!
  • Three year old kinder = participation obligation.
  • Diets will be the death of me.
  • Thermomix is a cult.
  • It matters how you explain world events to your kids.
  • Music can be medicine.
  • I will always snore while having beauty treatment, resistance is futile.
  • Kale chip are not chips.
  • Time hurts all wounds.
  • Blogging on an iPad is shit.
  • Jon Snow lives… Please… Doesn’t he? 

The lesson that sticks with me most from this year is something a dear friend told me as she considered some of life’s tough stuff. I’ve thought of it often throughout the year, and reckon it makes sense of things that are often too complex to understand.

Some people go through life like a swim in the ocean. It’s exhilarating, refreshing and enjoyable. To surf above the waves, salt drying on your eyelashes, sun on your shoulders, laughs in the breeze. Every so often, a big wave comes through, a bit darker than the others, and it pulls you under the water.  You bob up for air, sometimes frightened and effected.  Each new swim will remind you of that moment but, for the most part, you carry on splashing around in the surf.

Look under the surface though, and there is someone near you being dumped over and over again. Each wave is dark and pounding on them.  They may look like they’re swimming along with everyone else, but listen for their gasps between each wave. Your friend may not be swimming strong. Are they smiling or struggling? Reach down and give them a lift above the waves – they might not be showing it but they’re about to slip under.

And if you’re under the water with a lung full of salt put your hand up – even just for a second… Someone who loves you will notice and try to pull you to safety.


In short: look out for your mates and avoid Kale chips at all costs.

Start to Write (Right!)

For my whole life I’ve described myself as an aspiring writer.  One day I will write a great Australian novel.  At the moment, all I can manage are some irregular blog posts about other writers who I envy unhealthily.

Except this week something weird happened in the cosmos that made me think; maybe I could actually START a story.

At a work ‘getting to know you’ session a group of us were asked to choose from a series of scattered photographs on the floor an image that best represents us.  I looked on the ground and found this:

shredded paper

When I introduced my picture I explained, ‘One day I want to write a novel, but this is as close as I’ve gotten so far.’

That afternoon I received an email from a publishing friend who drew my attention to a writing course.  ‘It’s happening this weekend, it’s not expensive, and they have a few spots left.  You should enroll!’

I took this as a bit of a sign and registered for the course.

It was called Start to Write.  And so I did.

Run by Allen & Unwin’s Faber Writing Academy, something felt right when I walked into the classroom.  Shelves and shelves of amazing books, and not a corporate motto or inspirational ‘goal’ poster in sight.

photo (3)

What I loved about the Faber Writing Academy (apart from the super elite sounding name) was that within 15 minutes I was exercising my fingers and my brain by writing.  Writing just like that…no hang ups, no procrastination, no structure planning or chapter outlines.  Just brain dumping onto the page demonstrating hardly any skill! What we all spewed out was quite terrible, and shall never see the light of day.  But it was an exercise in creativity. And it was food for the soul.

Paddy O’Reilly led the course and enveloped us with encouragement and good humour.   We read other published works, and interpreted their merit.  We read each other’s work and enjoyed the language and construction of sentences, dialogue, and character.

And during the course of the day it seemed like everyone had their own moment of clarity.  Translating our favourite family anecdotes into a short descriptive story sparked an intangible energy.  We all had a little buzz.  A shifting in our seats.  It made me think faster and bash typos quickly onto the screen.  We all identified moments in each other’s stories that meant something, something that the writer should grab onto.  Should think on a little more, and maybe somehow weave magic from that a-ha twist in the tale.

I’ve always been one to structure my work.  I imagined my journey of writing a novel as one that involved story-boards, chapter outlines with post-it notes, smoking endless cigarettes, glasses askew, labouring over a keyboard with research papers at my side. The ending clear in my mind right from the beginning.  But I don’t wear glasses. And I’ve never bloody started.

Paddy said she writes in the dark.  Not knowing what is coming, but just letting the words flow.

I think I need to do the same.  To give this a proper crack.

From a (genuinely) aspiring, and ACTIVE novelist.

Grieving for Dummies… or anyone really.

It’s been over two months since my last post, which has, of course, broken my resolution to write frequently and regularly. But I’ve been finding it hard to write something new. Something to push my last post down from the top of my feed. Somehow it doesn’t feel right to post a new reading recommendation that would sit atop my more important words for my late cousin. It seems flippant to bang on about a book that’s a ‘must read’ and relegate ‘Words for Lori’ a little lower on the page.

I’ve been trying to think of something to write that contributes to the below, which was written in grief, just before the funeral of Lori. A little time has passed, and the grief feels different, but it is still stubbornly there with no sign of abating.

And then I got this text message:

Phone message (3)

A reading recommendation from a group of bereaved parents (one of whom is my best friend, hence the explicit language.) They said the book has helped them with the unimaginable grief of losing a child. “It’s actually really therapeutic and funny too.”

The thing is, I already knew about the book. Lost and Found by Brooke Davis has caused a huge stir in the publishing world (which I am a part of). The author, Davis, was the talk of London Book Fair this year, and the rights to her debut title became the subject of a huge international bidding war.

In real life, the author’s mother died in tragic circumstances, and writing this book was inspired by her loss. In June, during her first media interview with Australian story, she said:

“There’s this idea that grief has a beginning and an end and with it comes all these buzzwords and concepts about stages of grief, like anger and denial and acceptance and closure.

 

“That way of announcing how grief should be makes everyone feels like they’re doing it wrong. And there’s no wrong way – it’s all right.”

So now I am reading her book.  I’m about halfway through, and it is utterly breathtaking…  (Review to come)

It’s made me think more about grief though.  Did you know there is actually a Grieving for Dummies book?  That may sound facetious, but I actually understand the demand for a title like that.  It’s hard to get a handle on grief, and to accept that it will be with you throughout life.  It doesn’t go away, it evolves. The pain of it, perhaps, becomes bearable with time.

Well, that’s my understanding of it anyway.  Yours is most likely different. 

When I was in high school, I had a friend whose father had passed away when she was much younger.  Occasionally she would miss a day of school, and I’d ask her if she was sick. “I’m just grieving for my Dad,” She’d tell me with clarity. Huh?  Didn’t he die, like, ages ago?

Looking back now I amazed that she was so mature, calm and at peace with her grief.  (She obviously has a remarkable Mum!)

And when I heard of the girls who recorded their late sister’s voicemail greeting, just so they could listen to her voice, I thought: ‘god, how torturous.’  But then I found myself trying to remember that same girl’s laugh, her voice, and our conversations: so is the recording in my mind really any different?

In our culture, we are taught about coping.  We value resilience, and courage, and a stoic nature.  We express our sympathy with floral tributes, and poems in the newspaper. In the media, a carefully placed tear on an interviewee’s cheek gets a zoom in.  If the grief becomes too confronting – think sobbing, snot, swearing… let’s break for a commercial while *subject name* gathers themselves.

Personally, I pride myself on keeping it together. So I was mortified at Lu Lu’s funeral when I FULLY snorted (think Daddy Pig) into the microphone while crying through a poem reading! (At least she would have found it an amusing sound!) But why did I feel like I had to ‘cope’ in front of a crowd?

It seems jarring when exposed to another cultural expression of grief on TV. Of screaming, and chest clutching, and falling to the ground while a body, wrapped in cloth is carried above an armful of relatives through dusty streets. Why does it seem so chaotic? Because their grief is not subdued or organised? Perhaps that is the truer way to demonstrate respect for the lost. To show it and let it consume you physically. I know in moments of sheer desperation, behind closed doors I have fallen to the ground. Overcome.

I have wanted to scream in the streets about the unfairness and sorrow. But I’ve been conditioned this way. So I don’t.

So I’m not surprised that Grieving for Dummies exists, because we try to identify the right way, the dignified way to mourn our loss. And everyone’s way is different, and it can be confusing.

The sneaky thing about grief is that it is often tied to other, more paralysing, emotions: guilt, remorse and regret. Until you process and move on from those hurdles, the healing really can’t begin. And don’t be alarmed when grief catches you unawares. In a moment you weren’t expecting to feel it, and there it stabs. Take a breath. Be kind to yourself.

cupcakeFor me, it is grief that makes me find a quiet spot, and share a cupcake with my memories on January 2 every year.  It is grief that makes me hate certain Beatles songs, and love others.  It is grief that gives me nightmares, or warming dreams of childhood games with all my cousins.  It is grief that makes me sip tea from the same special cup each weekend. It is grief that makes me love the smell of Nutrimetics lipstick, and it is grief that makes me hold my breath when looking at a dog collar hanging in the cupboard.

It is grief that makes me write this post, and read that book.

 

Post Script:

In the text message, ‘VSK’ refers to the organisation Very Special Kids, which provides respite and end of life care for families children with life-threatening illnesses.

To read more about Brooke Davis, see the ABC news article I have referenced here.

Saying Goodbye… Words for Lori

On Wednesday 7th May 2014, I told a friend a silly story of my childhood. Of Wizard of Oz Games with my cousins, where I played the Lion because I liked to say ‘put em up,’ ‘put em up.’ Where Carrie played the witch because she was the most skilled method actor, and where Sally played Dorothy, because… well because she was the boss. Each and every time we claimed our roles, and knew our lines. Got into character. And there you were, trotting along on your hands and knees down the stone driveway – the ever-faithful (and speechless) Toto. You were always the ever-faithful, quiet one. The amiable. The kind.

On Wednesday the 7th May 2014, we lost you Lu Lu.

As children we played till the sky grew dark, and our Mums grew cross. Born in ’82 there was just nine months between you and Regan and eight months between Carrie and I; we were closer than just cousins.

You were a sweet toddler, and a warm child with tomato sauce on your cheeks, Cheezel dust on your fingers, and a hyper colour T-Shirt slung over your bathers.

With just one boy in the family, you were often relegated to play the role of Prince Charming or my boyfriend – despite your desire to wear the high heels and fur coats too. While our ‘dating’ play seems a little strange now, at the time, the game meant little more than being ‘grown up’ eating our spaghetti bolognaise at a big table, WITH A CLOTH, and a FLOWER and a CANDLE! During the meal I always pushed your Mum’s spaghetti to the side of the plate, and you did the same to my Mum’s dish. Another Mum’s recipe was simply never the same.

In our twenties we saw each other often. My fondest memories are of us eating deep fried anything, watching terrible horror movies adding our own narration. Bumming smokes, and drinking Bacardi, solving the problems of the world in the cold winter air.

On one of our few ‘kid free’ nights we celebrated a birthday in the city. An apartment on Southbank, a meal of Chinese dumplings, a bucket of cheap wine, and a ghost tour of old Melbourne Gaol. The tour guide (a b-grade actor dressed as prison warden) was interested in our welfare and our experience at the Gaol. Wanted to make it authentic, and spooky and scare our girly pants off. That, and stare at our boobs. You showed your naivety then Lu Lu. While Carrie and I laughed into our palms and briskly tried to escape his weirdness – you asked more questions. Wide eyed, spooked and intrigued. Thankfully you also wore a scarf!

We giggled in fits, as you and Carrie tried on a Ned Kelly mask, staged a bag snatching, arrest, and murder – all in costume (meant for school excursion visitors) until we were politely asked to move on by our pervy, but clock watching, guide.

One of your favourite quotes; just for shits and giggles, explains many of our actions and activities. They weren’t ground-breaking, or law-breaking or trail blazing or unique. But shit… we had some laughs.

When Ella took us all by surprise and entered this world on my birthday, you gave her my name as her middle. Unselfishly, you wished me a happy birthday, while I sat awestruck at your new baby girl, your calm and your love for that little mystery bundle, who had become your everything in just a moment.

The kindness and warmth you demonstrated as a child never waned. As a young woman, you believed in justice, in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and in seeing the good in people – even when they didn’t always deserve it. You were a devoted aunty, niece and sister. You were compromising, gentle, thoughtful and clever.

The last time I saw you, you were pretty, and smiling, and serene. We waxed lyrical on a hot summer’s night about your sister’s happiness, the CFA, destination weddings, our girls, and our futures. You were loved that night, on that special occasion – although I forgot to tell you so.

If I had that evening again, I would have not rushed a goodbye hug. I would have kissed you twice, and held your slender fingers, and told you that you were beautiful, and to take care of yourself, get some rest, and I’ll see you soon. And I would have made sure I did.

I am so sorry Lu Lu. Sorry that I let inconsequential shit get in the way of a phone call or bad Thai takeaway and simple ‘how are ya?’ I’m sorry I didn’t understand just how unwell you were. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you how much I wanted you to get better.

I’m sorry that I can’t help plan your hen’s night and make you wear a penis tiara. I’m sorry that I can’t make fun of you in a wedding speech, and I’m sorry I don’t know Gavin well because he was so special to you. I’m sorry that you won’t see Ella as a young woman because I know she will make you proud, and I’m sorry you won’t lament your wrinkles, or hold a grandchild, or have too many candles to blow out on a birthday cake. But most of all, I am just sorry. Sorry that your body was too tired and worn out. Sorry that you have gone and we can’t have you back. Sorry to say goodbye. So late.

Happy Birthday to Me… and please vote!

They see Easter is a time for new life right? Well just one year ago, the tiny project that is theBOWreview was born. Yep, its official – my blog is one year old!

And here I am reflecting on the same time last year when I started my long weekend jotting down name ideas for this very blog. I purchased my domain name, chose a WordPress template, started working on an About Me post, and promised myself that this would not be like my other fads in life. This project was a keeper.

In truth though, theBOWreview has been a long time coming. The idea came about some years ago when a friend was going on holiday and she asked me what she should read on the beach. Then I found myself sending her a mini review on everything great I had recently read, and I bloody enjoyed writing it for her. I suspect she ended up just buying a Marian Keyes at the Newslink, but none-the-less, it ignited an idea.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t read every night, that I realised how important books were to me. You see, when I had my baby three years ago, we were blessed with the most adorable, clever and breathtaking night owl that ever graced the planet. We went through around nine months of sleep deprivation. The kind of tiredness only a sleep school patient would understand. Getting up eight times a night, rocking for an hour to be rewarded with a 40 minute cat-nap, when ‘Me Time’ was closing your eyes while on the toilet kind of tired. In fact, my life was such a blur that I didn’t even think about books or how much I missed them. Of course, people recommended books to me, (please god, will they just shut up about Tizzie, fucking, Save our Sleep Hall?) but I was rather tired, cranky and generally too spaced out for any meaningful action such as a library visit.

So it was actually two Easters ago that I was reminded of my love of reading, and the seed of this new baby was sewn. A holiday weekend away from home, not long after being discharged from sleep school ‘training’ (controlled crying with Temazepam for Mummy) and we all had started to get some rest. After such a long time getting by on broken sleep, a nap during the day and 7 hours uninterrupted at night, I was like a 20 year old drinking red-bull at a dance festival grinding away on my jaw.

But what to do during those daytime naps? Yes napping myself was an obvious option, and I definitely opted for it as often as I could. But on this occasion, after checking Facebook for the nineteenth time that hour, I was drawn to the iBookstore on my phone. Reading on a tiny phone screen definitely goes against the grain for me, but there was no bookstore anywhere near our holiday spot, and I was onto my second G&T anyway so couldn’t venture anywhere in a vehicle.

And there I found myself downloading my very first eBook. Now I can’t say my judgement was particularly good at that time: We need to talk about Kevin was probably not the ideal choice for a Mum whose child seemingly had an evil agenda when it came to sleep time, however I read that bastard in a day and a half. Books were back.

THAT look!

THAT look!

 

So as I write this post and reflect on why I started a blog, I think about significant events in my life and how books were intertwined with them.  I’ve always considered the characters in books my friends.  As a child, if you interrupted my reading you copped a death-stare; a look that I still demonstrate to this day if you mess with my lit.

 

 

One day I hope to write a great Australian novel, or the story of someone excellent and inspiring. But right now I don’t have the discipline, plot ideas or will-power to start working on this dream. But the commitment to writing a least a monthly post, and the thrill I get when people have read, it is sustaining me and my creativity for the time being.

And I’m proud that after just a year of fiddling about with this thing, that people are responding, and that I’ve stayed motivated, and that I’ve even worked out what the hell a widget is in WordPress.

I’d be grateful if you’d vote for me in the Best Australian Blogs competition People’s Choice round. The blogs shortlisted in last year’s comp inspired me to take part, and I’ll be honest – my artistic ego would get a huge boost knowing that you like me – even just a little bit when there’s nothing else interesting happening on the interweb.

In Short: Happy birthday to me. Thanks for reading!

Vote for me by following this link:  http://svy.mk/1jn6yQW
I’m listed as theBOWreview (about 3/4 down the page). You can also click on the Best Australian Blogs Logo, as seen in the sidebar above. #bestblogs14

Easter Reading

To me, Easter holidays always meant reading. By this time of year, visits to the beach were futile in the Melbourne climate, relatives began to hibernate after the Christmas and new-year gatherings, and the end of daylight savings had taken the twinkle out the pre-dinner playtime, and summer festival frequencies.

As a girl, I always looked forward to Easter school holidays. There were elements that were a given – a little more interest in RE classes before school finished for the term, the pumping fish ‘n chip shop trade on Good Friday, the customary egg hunt through backyards across the nation, the smell of burnt sultanas under the grill and buttery hot cross buns, and the all-day telecast of the Good Friday Appeal humming away as the soundtrack to the start of your holiday. Each year I pledged some pocket money in the hope that my name would appear in the ticker across the bottom of the screen, or better yet, be read out live by a Home and Away star!

But over and above these, was the opportunity to spend time snuggled up on the couch, or in bed reading. Getting through chapter books; Roald Dahl, the Baby Sitters Club, Paul Jennings, and Sweet Valley High. I spent most of my Easter break reading books. And in fact I still do.

Those four precious days off work, and an inability to visit the shops on Good Friday, offer me savoured reading time, and I look forward to it every year.

So I thought, this year, why not get in touch with the Easter Bunny, and encourage him to give kiddies a book as well as sweet sweet Cadbury Crème Eggs! Fortunately I managed to get hold of his gmail address (he hardly ever checks twitter) and so thought I would share and invite you to send him a letter or picture, letting him know what else you want for Easter.

See the picture above for details on how to receive a letter in the post from the Easter Bunny, and go in the draw to win a kids reading pack by writing the best message. (prizes drawn and announced on my facebook page so please LIKE!)

In Short: Ask the bun-man for a book as well as some chocci!