Marriage equality vote: yes

Australia has returned a majority vote of yes to marriage equality! It doesn’t mean the legislation has changed, it doesn’t currently mean anything for our family. But the cultural change is clear. One day my daughters will live in a world where it is normal that their mothers can be married. We danced and cried and celebrated in the rain in the city after the announcement yesterday. 

Then we spoke with a reporter about how hard this has been and the road yet to come. It was published at InDaily as A bittersweet victory, after months of heartbreak.


Rose is recovering

The news is good for Rose. Our doctor considers that she has merely been unlucky lately with multiple illnesses and infections, rather than suffering from an underlying problem we haven’t found yet. Irritatingly there was no discharge summary or even a record that she had been in the ER, much less any test results. But she is recovering and rebuilding her strength. 

I am thrilled. I was so worried I nearly threw up in the waiting room before we saw her doctor. She is deeply precious to me, utterly irreplaceable and unique. 

I had a wonderful day in the studio this afternoon, just playing. Then I bought Rose some little gifts and flowers from the city and came home on the bus feeling like I could fly. We recently celebrated 5 years together. She is my home, my family, my safe place. I love her to bits.

My lovely oil painting is progressing and I have begun to work on the colour layer. Some tones such as the pink in her cheeks and yellow in the dress will be added in glazes over the paint. I’ve been learning so much, it’s such a novelty to have instruction, as I’m mostly self taught in my preferred mediums. This class is the first oil painting tution I’ve had and it’s been very enjoyable. Mixing all those skin tones! There’s a great many hours left in this one yet. 

Post TEDx and life is good!

TEDx was amazing. One of the most challenging experiences, akin to giving birth (but much quicker and with more laughing). I’d only managed to finalise my script a week beforehand and I knew in my bones that I was too rusty to have a 14 minute monologue memorised in that time. I did my best, but still had embarrassing blanks on the red dot. Fortunately it still went well!

The rehearsal was terrifying. My first time standing on the red dot I spoke the first page of my script until I blanked, then I had to sit down right there because I was about to faint and/or vomit. I felt like a needy, insecure diva, which was not particularly nice. I’m more used to being the person holding things together than the ‘talent’ in the middle and I was very conscious of that different role and found it a bit awkward. 

But it was also wonderful. I gave myself permission to soak up all that extra care and nurturing. I felt like a star! So much love came my way. Friends attending on the day, gift bags and flowers, my family putting up with the talk consuming everything else for the week. It felt extremely special to be in the middle of it all, and I realised that it’s not wrong or bad to be in the spotlight like that, is merely that everyone should get it some of the time. We are all the talent in some way, all experts in something. So I soaked it up and hope to share it around. 

On the night itself, complicated arrangements happened to look after Poppy, and I changed into my new dress, pinned the top shut, ran my lines one more time, got fitted with the mic, and went on stage. 

There’s a moment where you flip from terror to connection, and standing in front of nearly 1,000 people I could feel them all, like a warmth, the weight of their attention and the questions they are asking of me. Can you be trusted? Will you hurt us? Can you show us what you mean? Will you take us somewhere we haven’t been before? Can you bring us home again? And I say to them with word and hand and smile and joke, yes. Come into my world for a little while. And so we did. I talked about sex and being human, and I lost my place and blanked so badly Rose had to rescue me and call my lines out from the audience. We lived what I was sharing about: that it’s possible to be imperfect with grace and humour, that a great partnership can navigate tricky situations. That a sensitive discussion can feel safe. People seemed to really connect with it, nodding and paying close attention. I muddled through and made it safe to muddle.

I had a heckler, which I did not expect! I heard later the people seated around him were angry with him and shut him up quickly. Apparently someone told him people like him where why I was doing a talk like this. I feel so honoured to hear that, there was such a sense of unity, of common ground. 

The messages afterwards from people there or over email have been very affirming. All the way through I’ve done my best to hold tightly to my reasons for doing something so extraordinarily difficult – that it is meaningful and needed. I watched a lot of TED and TEDx talks about sex while preparing and most were what we are used to about this topic- clinical or research based. That’s valuable for sure, but when I’m sitting in a bed in my underpants there’s a big gap between that knowledge base and the conversation and experience I’m about to have. I could have written that talk and it’s a lot more removed and protected, a lot less intimate and exposing. But I have found there’s value in sharing and talking about this on a personal level, and it seems I’m not alone in that.

Poppy and I went off on a bus adventure yesterday! Here we are nibbling on plum leather from Grandma’s garden, and life is good.

I haven’t yet hit my anticipated post performance crash. I’m not sure why, I have some guesses…

  • It’s on its way but I’m still too excited currently. Maybe after the videos go up online? It doesn’t really feel over for me yet. 
  • I outsourced it. Rose had a couple of intense tired anxious feel awful days afterwards.
  • I did it before the performance. That sounds ridiculous, but to be honest the lead up was so difficult and since doing it my overwhelming emotion is relief. Intense, delightful relief! I did not enjoy the preparation much, but having gone through it I’m extremely glad and happy to have done it. I feel very fortunate and privileged. 

    We’ll have to wait and see what happens next! My awesome Office Manager suggested that I write down all the projects I could do next so I can start exploring my options, and it’s making my heart incredibly happy. I’ve had so many dreams for so many years and they all feel suddenly tangible and possible.

    I’ve so enjoyed taking the last few days off completely and absolutely soaking up my lovely family. Extra support and scheduling are making so much difference to my life. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next projects. And I can’t wait to share the TEDx video with you all. 

    Rethinking Money

    For my Studio Opening last weekend, I created a goody bag of treasures. This was partly to deal with my anxiety about charging tickets for the first time. I was charging tickets to deal with my anxiety about catering for an event when numbers were unknown. I also like to use small events like this to test run tools or things I want to offer such as my point of sale system, ticketing, or catering. There’s always glitches to iron out and skills to learn, and I like to figure this stuff out small scale first. The irony in this instance is that selling tickets created such severe anxiety for me it nearly completely incapacitated me to actually run the event. I’m working on this. I’ve been reading and exploring about Abundance through a book The Abundance Code and video by Julie Ann Cairns.


    Julie explores the things that block us around money. Anyone who has been following me here on this blog knows I have some big ones. At first I was embarrassed to even be seen reading a book like this. The word ‘money’ on the cover was bad enough, the word ‘rich’ was unbearable for someone who has been choked by the idea that being a decent person and earning money was frankly incompatible… that intentionally seeking money was vulgar and repulsive. I’ve also been pinned by an intense sense of responsibility to support my family and give my kids opportunities. Crushed between these ideas my anxiety has been extreme and I’ve been grappling for a path I can walk.

    So I’ve been reading in small doses and journaling, and my thinking is shifting. I’m exposing myself to people who are ethical about money, people who want to make money but without exploiting or harming others, and people who care deeply about social justice and vulnerable people. I’m digging into my history and pulling out the stories I’ve been told or telling myself. With the tickets for my opening – $4 each to help me nail the catering and not get caught running an open tab in case a million TEDx people turned up unexpectedly (numbers are more likely to be accurate when people spend even a small amount on a ticket) – I finally found the thorn in my heel. That it was okay for others to value my work but not for me to assign it value of even the smallest amount. I wrote on my heart that day ‘You do not have to like, value, understand, or pay for what I do. However, I’m allowed to’. And finally, after 4 huge meltdowns, I’d named the distress and the panic drained away so I could breathe again.

    The model I’ve run my networks in is one of charity, which is brilliant in some ways but problematic in others. Not being included in a community with something of your own to offer – only being the recipient of care – carries a cost and a distress I’m all too familiar with. 

    The model I’ve been running my business on, where I scatter myself across many skills and let clients set the price and value of my work also needs rethinking. With good clients it doesn’t work so badly, with some it leaves me vulnerable to exploitation. Either way it’s an irritating unexpected hassle to deal with when hiring me should be simple, comfortable, and create confidence that of course I will do, to a high standard, what I’ve been contracted to do. 

    Rose and I have transitioned from her working and I run the household to the reverse, which has been a huge goal for many years! I am thrilled. Now I want to grow my business with the goal of moving us out of public housing into a secure, larger home. But I’m also taking the pressure off myself. I’ve realised the brutal imperative I’ve been experiencing to be financially independent now, is really not borne out of my values, but a parasite that’s attached itself to me from other’s beliefs. Right now it’s most important for my family to have a parent who is somewhat sane, connected, and nurturing. Burning myself out costs all of us too dearly.

    Not so many years ago I was homeless, profoundly ill, isolated, and struggling to survive. My business has been a passion for many years and it is growing well. It’s okay that it’s not supporting us yet. It’s okay that I still have skills to hone and tools to develop. It’s okay that I’ve mistakes the way. And it’s okay for me to explore my values around money and deliberately set out to create a sustainable business. To find my own elegant and ethical way to blend my passions for creativity and meaning with income. 

    Poem: Marriage Equality

    Here, we are having a postal vote about marriage equality- equal rights for same sex couples. It’s been a nightmare, triggering abuse from strangers and bringing up terrible memories. Both Rose and myself come from backgrounds where who we are and how we love was not at all okay. There’s deep wounds there. It’s hard to understand what that feels like if you haven’t lived it. So here’s a small extract from my journal, recently. 

    I’ve no words for this, no words
    No persuasion, no speeches, no points strung together in sequence
    What I have is a strangled cry
    Tears I can’t weep
    I’m frozen and desiccated
    An old tree curled over itself
    Here is where my heart broke.

    This is me, as a child, curled on the floor
    Weeping and silently screaming as I beg god
    To make me other than how I feel.

    This is me, wanting to die
    In my body is still the memory of that shape
    Laying on the floor, wrapped around myself
    My hands like claws, the taste of vomit in my mouth.

    My body at night remembers the shape of that pain and returns to it
    I lay on my side, curled around a self hated so deep, a terror so profound
    I have no words or even tears, just the deep grieving in my bones
    The void in the pit of my gut
    The sickness in my heart, a kind of keening
    Oh, oh, ooh
    Let it not be
    Let it not be like this
    Let me keep my face turned from those days
    The voice in my head that tells me I’m worth less and should die
    Don’t make me look at the fear and loathing in your heart
    The darkness in your embrace, the disgust in your eye
    The purity of your sacrament that is not for me
    Let me keep my arms around the peices of my heart
    Don’t tear me open like this
    Don’t tear us open where
    All your hate falls out
    All your brokenness.
    How am I to bear it?

    I’m asked to speak
    To write, to share, to show
    We are normal/sane/loving/safe
    To lead from fear to hope but
    I’m not here anymore, I’m long gone
    I’m the little girl on the floor and I don’t have those words
    I’m stuffed with darkness and the night and the violence of your rejection that leaves no bruises
    I’m broken on the floor while the most sacred parts of my life
    The deepest and most beautiful things in my world
    My love, my beloved, my children, my friends
    Are tossed around me by
    People who are not choking on a memory of pain so vast
    It still reverberates in my mind and binds my tongue
    I’m still on the floor, screaming in fear.

    My little girl nurses at my breast
    Through the small hours where my sadness
    Demands company and keeps me awake
    She will not know this anguish
    It will be alien to her, outside of her
    One of your voices, perhaps, but not
    My voice
    Not her own voice
    Taken and used against her
    Not set into her blood or bone
    A wound from outside perhaps, but not
    Swallowed and poisoning from within.

    That is the world I want for her.
    No hand turned against itself
    No bloodletting agony or self flagellation.
    Where I know your rejection so intimately
    I want her to know only bewilderment, only confusion.
    To be outside of it,
    To have grace for it,
    To know for certain that she is loved.

    Gastro for everyone

    It’s been a rough couple of days after a really wonderful week. We’ve all caught a particularly nasty strain of gastro. Poppy came down first and has recovered, Rose and I have been hit hard. Star has just come down today. It’s played havoc with Rose’s other health challenges. I managed to get her through the echocardiogram she’s been waiting for several months to have. Then all hell broke loose that night. It got me while I was walking Poppy to the shops to buy groceries, I struggled home. The world’s most useless home doctor visited for Rose who had been violently ill for hours, took no vitals and gave her an anti nausea med to pointlessly vomit up. With Star in the kitchen and me on the couch vomiting into a bag with Poppy on my lap, Rose got up and passed out, crashing to the floor. It was terrifying. I called my Mum and an ambulance. We were all really stressed, and Star wasn’t sick yet so I couldn’t even give her a hug.

    The sadness of missing out on the marriage equality rally in town with so many friends and beautiful families.

    Rose is still in hospital but slowly on the mend. It looks like she fractured her kneecap in the fall, but although she smacked her head she’s got away with a lump and a nasty headache. It’s taken a long time to rehydrate her and weird and worrying test results which are slowly coming right. It’s horrible not being well enough to go be with her.

    So I’ve stayed home in an angry agitated state of helplessness, sickness and anxiety. Star looked after Poppy all yesterday, thankfully. I dealt with the nights, a cycle of vomiting, crying, nursing, and napping. I put out a call for help but the few kind souls who offered I told to keep away, they had important reasons not to be exposed. Families are so vulnerable in times like this, we have so few formal supports. If I was employed in child care no one sane would ever put a child in my care but there I am putting out the rubbish and vomiting into the driveway, and sorting out my meds and water bottle while a one year old screams and  hangs onto my trousers. We are very lucky to have such good informal supports. My Mum came and cleaned for us, Rose’s Mum did some shopping and took Poppy to hospital to visit her. 

    Hopefully we will all be together again and recovered very soon, because that has been a tough couple of days and I could sure use a hug!

    5 years with Rose

    Yesterday was our anniversary. ❤ I’m so proud of us. It’s strange and a bit painful to be celebrating our relationship at the same time that the marriage equality plebiscite (a postal vote about same sex marriage) is going ahead here. It’s stressful and consuming a lot of emotional resources. We hate it. 

    But here we are, 5 years in love. My tiny unit is stuffed to the seams. My once solitary and lonely life is unrecognisable. Through thick and thin, Rose and I have woven something beautiful; dark, bright, strong, and precious. We’ve kept believing in each other, in ourselves, and in our family. Not all the time, sometimes only a little bit, small scraps of hope in dark and painful times. But enough. In the good times we are so strong, so complimentary in our skills, so similar in our values. In the bad times we are strong enough to hold on. Not perfect but not trying to be. We’ve both escaped enough utopias to know that there magic in muddling through. 

    Rose and I have now been together, unbroken, for longer than any other family she’s ever been part of. The sheer amount of work she does to have made that possible is hard for people to comprehend. All the times she doesn’t run when that voice deep inside tells her to go. All the ways she’s learned to share and explain and connect so she can function the way she needs to without tearing at our relationship. She’s amazing. 

    We are struggling to balance our family, to nurture ourselves and each other along with our children. They are such a joy, so adored and long awaited and we pour ourselves out. There’s little left for each other at times, guilt and exhaustion. But here we are, celebrating us as Spring drips with honey blossoms and rain. We keep holding on, we keep learning. 

    Rose sees so much of me, sees me so real. She believes in me, so unwaveringly, and walks with me whatever the path. Her kindness is her shining heart. She’s my safe place to come home to, somewhere where they speak my language and dream my dreams. 

    I’ve been incredibly lucky in so many ways. Every year with her is a blessing. She’s absolutely unique and I love living with her, sharing all that we share, waking beside her every morning. She is my beloved and I am hers. 

    Nesting under critters

    I’m doing a great deal of reflecting at the moment on my work and career and how I’ve got to where I am now and what’s next. 

    One thing I’ve resolved to change is the way my imposter experience makes me relate to others. When people value my work I can become overwhelmed and avoidant. At my first solo art exhibition, several people approached me wanting to buy work. I took their email addresses and promised to get in touch the following week. Instead, I froze up and didn’t speak to most of them for 3 years! 

    It’s difficult to run a business with this approach. 😉 So I’ve been making time to meet and touch base with others lately, to hear about their projects, discuss potential collaborations, and gather skills and find resources. It’s been quite wonderful. 

    Today was a bit exhausting driving all over for appointments and meetings, but this evening has been wonderful – talking to long distance friends and being nested under critters. I’ve got a lot of good people around me and they make me feel that the blocks in front of me are not so high, and the dreams not so out of reach. ❤

    Happy first birthday, Poppy

    Cake is in the oven, baking. I have backup sponge cake in case of emergency. I’m nursing her to sleep then I’ll make chocolate popping candy spiders for treats, and whip a white chocolate ganache for the cake. Nothing is essential and if anything doesn’t get done, everything will be fine. Nothing needs to be perfect. I can’t quite believe I’m making my daughter’s first birthday cake! I’ve been waiting for this a long time. 🙂

    Reflections on the past year:

    When Poppy was about 6 months old, I baked peanut cookies. I was gifted a second hand Kenwood mixer for Christmas and I love it. I learned to bake using my Mum’s mixer and I feel very at home, delighted, familiar. Our baker comes out and hums happily around the kitchen, thinking of Grandma. Flour sprinkles into the floor like the lightest snow.
    A few months ago was bin night. As we dragged out the bins Rose and I started pulling weeds from the front yard on impulse. It was dark and starry and the garden had been soaked so the earth was soft and wet. In about 20 minutes we filled our green compost bin. We had mud on our feet. Grasping nettles firmly in the dark, fingers fumbling around thorns. A dark joy rising, to be in the earth, in the night, hands in soil, the scent of roses.

    Changing Poppy first thing in the morning. She wakes with a sleepy smile and stares into my eyes. Milk runs down my body and spatters like rain on the linoleum. Poppy is so alert and so focused on the world around her but in moments like these it’s just her and I alone and something wordless between us. I have to watch for them or they are easy to miss. It’s a kind of knowing, quiet and strong.

    Sick with gastro. Wracked with pain and vomiting. Crying quietly so as not to wake my family. Poppy needs milk. I lie on my side too exhausted to weep and Rose brings Poppy to nurse. I have to hold both her hands or she is like a kitten and folds her sharp little nails deep into my breast, kneading. Her hair is fine and soft as down. I fall in and out of sleep. In my mind I am alone, unloved, unlovable. I have no tribe and no one is coming. The world is dark and cold and everything hurts. It passes.

    Zoe has a new passion for escape. She jumps our 6 foot fences and escapes when frightened of fireworks. New Year’s Day I call everywhere and Rose visits the local pound looking for her. I’m a tangled mess of grief, guilt, fear, relief, and shame. She comes home herself, exhausted and sleeps for 2 days. She whines and wakes everyone up several times a night to investigate the back yard for possums. I sleep her in the laundry with access to the back. For one night she is content. The second night she gets into our neighbors yard and then panics and can’t get back into ours. She’s hysterical by the time I find out and go over to bring her home.

    Zoe guards our home and barks at passers-by. Each time Poppy is startled she bites me when nursing. One nipple is bloody and mauled. It won’t heal until I get a cream to treat infection. I rest it for days and pump on that side. The air conditioner floods the bedroom. It rains on the nappies that were drying on the line. Poppy loves Zoe and plays with her tail. Zoe kicks Poppy in the face. It’s all too hard. I’m pinned between love, responsibility, and fear. Fear of judgement from others paralyzes me. I can’t find a way through. I spend the morning in bed crying. I’m rescued, family takes Zoe in and cares for her. 

    I miss her every moment. My home is so peaceful. People walk past our house and Poppy nurses unaware. I go from 15 bites a day to 1 bite every 3 days. The guilt is like a tidal river that comes up and down. The stress eases away like floodwaters draining, leaving mud and debris and wide open blue skies.

    A friend we haven’t seen often visits. I cook pancakes. We watch cute animal videos on YouTube. Poppy loves cats but bursts into tears at the video of a hedgehog taking a bath. Star plays the guitar in her room and my heart melts.

    Rose has a tooth extraction. It’s a difficult procedure and there’s a lot of pain. Five days later she’s still hurting. At 4am she’s overwhelmed by it. I hold her. We can’t tell if it’s infected or just slow to heal. There’s only the ER open. We talk through options. I push for hospital but she’s demoralized and afraid. What if there’s nothing wrong and they are mean? Hospitals are not safe places for Rose. I stroke her hand. She falls asleep with an ice pack nested under her ear like a little red and white bird.

    Rose is napping and I am cooking dinner. Star has cuddled Poppy to sleep. Frying chicken sets off the smoke alarm. I run out to it and clip our esky  (cool box) on the way, breaking my little toe. Rose races out of bed to help me. “Poor love!” she cries, “I’m so sorry I slept, I can do the rest of dinner.” I push her out of the kitchen, hopping. Snarl at her “Go away! I’m being nice to you! I’m cooking while you nap, don’t wreck it!” Rose wisely decides not to argue. Poppy sleeps through the whole thing.

    Poppy shows the developmental signs she’s ready to start trying food. Strawberries, nectarines, and watermelon are big favorites. Banana and mashed potato not so much. As she gets older she discovers the pleasure of dropping food then stomping on it until it’s squished into her toes. She giggles madly.

    I crave bed with a single-mindedness that’s embarrassing. The sheets are changed far too infrequently but I’m so tired by the end of the day I never care. Crawling under my blankets is a kind of bliss. My evenings are spent anchored by one nipple to a small person. I learn I can download books onto an app on my phone. If I turn down the screen brightness and add a blue light filter, it’s almost like reading a book but can be done one handed in the dark. I’m thrilled.

    Poppy discovers she can squirt milk by suckling then coming off the breast and leaning on it with her hands. She shoots milk up her own nose and giggles. I spend half my life damp. She hates the breast pump with intensity. I pump milk for day care and she stands at my knee howling with despair that I insist on sharing her milk with this mechanical baby. If she can reach it she pulls the plug or runs away with the hose. 

    Poppy gets older and doesn’t coo at me like a little dove anymore. But she does sometimes talk to me in soft little hoots like an owl. She lays beside me in bed, kneeding her sharp little toes into the soft skin of my belly. Her eyes are night sky blue and dusted with stars.

    Rose takes Poppy on adventures to gardens or the zoo. She comes home full of joy and exhausted and falls asleep on the couch after dinner. Poppy hurls all her belongings over the loungeroom and sits in her toy box. 

    I pick Poppy up from daycare. She runs towards me and we snuggle. My heart explodes. She touched a chicken today, I’m told. Or licked a fence. Or carefully piled dirt on a doll. I wish I could book myself into daycare. It’s been a long time since I touched a chicken. She cries for exactly 1 minute, then falls asleep on the drive home, every time. 

    Birthday mornings are presents in the big bed. Rose wakes is all for the minute Poppy was born. Star tears a little corner on the gifts so Poppy can unwrap them herself. Poppy tears apart the wrapping with a huge smile. She gets duplo, a wooden toy, an octopus bath toy, a frog book, wooden whistle, small trampoline, and baby bike. Everyone decides 7am is too early and goes back to bed for more sleep. It’s a good day. 

    Happy first year, little love. You are my bright and shining joy. 

    Birth Workshop

    I had a beautiful, and traumatic birth with Poppy. It’s complex. I was glad to have the opportunity recently to attend a birth workshop with Rose and unpack some of my experience. If you’re in Adelaide you’re welcome to attend the presentation of our group’s reflections this Wednesday. Details here.

    Poppy fell asleep in my arms in our last workshop. Rose snapped this shot of me while we were meditating. She is the most beautiful, joyful, tender heart of my world. It was precious to reconnect with that sense of the sacred that was so present when she was born. 

    Star needs surgery

    Our lovely Star has badly injured her knee while sparring in her Taekwondo class. A black belt student accidentally kicked her with so much force it’s ruptured the ACL, torn cartilage, bruised the bones, and sprained another ligament. She’s spent a week in a splint from her hip to her ankle, another week going around to medical appointments, and is now in the care of a physio and walking short distances. The knee has begun to seize so she’s on a program of gentle exercise, rest, and ice to squeeze the fluid out of the joint and regain some of her range of motion in preparation for surgery. 

    She will need a reconstruction of the ACL, which is done by harvesting from her hamstring muscle/s. Until then she is not able to do any sports or other activities apart from walking. 

    This would be tough for any young person but there’s an extra dimension for Star. She’s been struggling with back pain since she came into our family, and we found a gentle and skilled osteopath to support her. Her assessment was that the pain was being caused by chronic muscle tension – related to trauma and anxiety. (On a small level we all do this when stressed – grind our teeth or get tension headaches. Some of us hold more tension through all our body and unless we take care to tune back in and ease the muscles, we can suffer terrible pain as a result) Star’s osteopath eased the pain with massage and recommended a regular exercise program. 

    It took a long time for Star to find something she felt comfortable with and we were surprised to discover she turned out to love and excel at Taekwondo. She’d recently graded, getting 94% and progressing to yellow belt. She was in the process of arranging to train an extra day a week, as well as taking on a yoga class with me every fortnight, and with the regular exercise was no longer needing to see the osteopath.

    I can’t emphasize how essential care of your body is when there’s trauma or anxiety. I didn’t know this when I was young and went on to develop fibromyalgia and suffer intense pain for many years. Posttraumatic stress is a risk factor for fibromyalgia. I’ve been thrilled to see Star’s back pain reduce and her sleeping improve, and I’m daunted by how we’re going to manage now she’s only able to walk.

    It’s looking like it will take a couple of years for her surgery on the public system wait list, so we are currently exploring ways of funding it privately. It will cost about $9,000, plus rehabilitation. Unfortunately when I sought private health cover we were unable to include her in our family cover because she is not our biological child, and she was too young to sign herself up independently. So we expect to have a little cover through the sports club insurance, but most of the cost we’ll need to arrange ourselves. We’re still figuring that out. After the surgery she will still be off sports for another year while her knee strengthens. 

    It’s been a big blow for her and us. But we are doing our best to support her through it and scaffold her with the resources she needs to recover. She’s had the most incredible response to it, from using breathing techniques to deal with the initial severe pain while waiting for the ambulance, to her resolution to practice life skills for when things don’t go according to plan. Her willingness to accept and embrace her own real, painful feelings but also look for the positives is admirable. I am so proud of her. We never choose life experiences like this, but we can learn a great deal from them, especially with some support to process and reflect. So that’s what we’re doing!

    In sickness and health

    Poppy and I yesterday, visiting hospital. Rose had a very long day of health tests, and one of my best friends had a miscarriage. There’s been a lot of sickness and loss in my world lately. I’m heavy with sorrow and doing my best to be with the people I love. No one should have to endure such things alone. Always my heart aches for the people alone in the ED, especially the elderly. I’m struck by how often I’ve done this, on my life. Sat by the side of someone in pain. And how lucky I’ve been to have someone there for me, holding my hand, parking the car, remembering what dates symptoms started. 

    I had a dream the other night that I opened a whole new part of my business, offering personal support for people. I’d done doula training and was there for people in birth or death or at other vulnerable times – at the dentist, getting a pap smear, navigating a psychotic episode, dealing with a severe pain flare… All things I’ve done and learned to do to a high standard in my personal life (although sometimes impaired by my own crises – I’m sick and pretty exhausted this week, I doubt I’ve been at my best in this role). In my dream, I called this work ‘Life Support’ and I could be there myself or teach people how to hold the space for their own loved ones, and of course, themselves. It was very beautiful, hard but very satisfying work.

    Rose and Poppy are recovering from the flu at the moment, and Star and myself have head colds and sinus infections. I spent half of today in bed feeling very sorry for myself. Days like today I’m glad I often work from home, my desk is next to the heater and piled with tissues – I’d certainly not want to bring my bugs into an office. It’s not pretty at the moment, but we’re patient and it will get better again. 

    Together we are stronger

    It was a good day and at the end of it, I’m snuggled into a warm bed with my daughter. My heart is so happy and so damn proud. My family have been through an awful few weeks. We’ve been really hurting. A great deal of loss and sickness and heartache, one after the other. Yet here we are, holding each other gently. Listening and learning and finding what we need. There’s been a lot of self care, reflection, debriefing, and making space for big, painful feelings going on. We are an amazing team, I’m really so in love with us. My heart is full.

    Robert Oster Inks

    I received some beautiful new inks by local maker Robert Oster and I’ve found a little time carved from work and family and sleep to paint and play. Aren’t they stunning? I’m thrilled, and it’s very special to have inks made in my own area.

    Lovely Star suffered a bad knee injury at Taekwondo the other night and our whole family spent all night in the hospital with her. We are still such a young family ,(she only came to live with us 18 ago) all the time we encounter new situations and have to decide how we will deal with them. We decided that everyone would come and be together. It was a long night but we kept our spirits up. She’s home now in a splint that goes from her hip to her ankle. She was amazingly tough, using breathing techniques to manage the pain of damaged ligaments and dislocation while waiting a long time for the ambulance. She’s navigating the loss of independence and needing help with everything with good grace. I’ve taken some time off work to help care for her and we’ve borrowed some movies, and friends have been visiting. It’s miserable and painful, we’re waiting for a referral to an orthopedic specialist to find out how badly it’s been damaged and whether it will heal on its own or needs surgery. 

    It’s been a challenging few weeks, Rose is recovering from her heart problems, and Poppy is still getting over an ear infection and tonsillitis. I’m a bit up and down with so much going on. Snatching time here and there for a little art helps keep the lethargy and greyness of depression at bay. On the bad days I cry a lot. On the good days Poppy and I dance to music in our socks. Either way, there’s dishes to be done and nappies to be washed and the ceaseless clockwork of keeping a household functioning. The rage has eased and I’m much more patient still. Rose tries to create time for inks because, she says, when there’s art on my day, I’m my better self for all the rest of it. Kinder, wiser, gentler, more grounded. My heart was green and teal and tranquil and my brush flowed.

    Ink on my fingers

    Today was lovely. Rose is on the mend. I’ve taken a few days off work for everything not urgent, and rallied the tribe to help keep Rose and Poppy company during the couple of meetings or gigs I needed to attend. I’m feeling better myself after getting a bit more sleep – Poppy seems to have reached her sleep regression a bit early, she’s stopped one of her day time naps and is sometimes up in the small hours too. Last night Rose walked her around the block so I could rest up a bit too after cluster feeding her in bed for several hours, and today Rose slept while I looked after Poppy. 

    My headspace crashed when I got sick too, but today I really enjoyed myself. I am feeling a little obsessive about some new art supplies and enjoying researching them and how to use them. I played with inks and typographies, and got back onto Pinterest. I’ve also been cooking the past few days which I love. I’ve made warm chicken salad, cauliflower soup, warm pumpkin and sweet potato salad, and pear and rhubarb crumble. As much as I love working I really do enjoy some aspects of home life, and I’ve missed cooking. We are now looking at doing a bit of a roster for cooking because Rose appreciates a bit of time off and having a nice meal made for her too. 

    It’s also been really nice to hang out with Poppy all day. She finally fell asleep at 3pm after being grouchy all day and I tucked her up under a blanket and just snuggled her on my chest and smelled her hair for an hour. It was magic. Star and I walked with her to the local playground and we planned parties. Star, Rose, and Poppy all have birthdays within a week of each other! This will be our first year trying to balance them all. I’m determined to make sure all my girls feel special.

    I’m also looking into professional development opportunities, trying to figure out which skills to strengthen for my business. There are some very interesting graphic design, illustration, and media communication courses out there, but so far nothing part time or flexible enough to fit around my work… Doula studies also really interest me but the unpredictable career seems challenging to combine with my other responsibilities. Community consultation has been an incredible joy to be part of, but SA is a small pond for work like that. Extending my skills in service design and evaluation, and organisational culture could be an excellent fit, but again the career is a little uncertain. Certainly there are books calling my name to write them, but only madmen consider writing a viable career. I’d love to add some more skills around arts administration and curating too, and graduate level public health is interesting as is community development and policy writing. I just can’t quite see where my next step is or what my particular career path might look like, so it’s hard to know where to prepare and what skills to strengthen. Hmmmm! 

    I’m ecstatic to be working full time between my various skills, and determined to grow my business. I’d like to be secure enough to move my family into a larger home in private rental, and to wean off welfare as much as possible. Currently I’m supporting Poppy to have swimming lessons and keeping a second vehicle running for Star to have driving lessons in and I can’t tell you how proud that makes me. I went to the chemist when Rose got sick and pulled $100 from savings and spent it all on medications and vitamins and probiotics and didn’t need to go without a basic need to do so. I don’t really recommend adopting a teenager, having a baby, and starting full time work within the same 18 months, it has been brutal at times and the bad days are pretty black. I have never worked so hard in all my life. But it’s also wonderful, so many dreams come true. I endure the bad days with help from friends, and soak up the rest as best I can. Keeping a small person (and the rest of us) alive for a whole year feels like a massive achievement and I’m looking forward to celebrating it!

    Nursing Rose

    My darling Rose is sick. Tonight we’re tucked up on the couch with cauliflower and bacon soup, watching Harry Potter. 

    That’s a considerable improvement on last night where she was hanging out in the ER and I was shuttling between her and the girls at home. Fortunately nothing is seriously wrong, and with a few weeks rest she should be feeling a lot better. She went in to have pain in her chest and leg investigated in case they were a heart attack or a blood clot. The chest pain turned out to be inflammation in the lining of the heart, and the leg they believe is a ruptured cyst. Both painful but not dangerous. She’s feeling pretty miserable and has also come down with tonsillitis, poor love. It’s really not been her year, she’s had so many health challenges and difficult circumstances to navigate. She’s still an incredibly devoted parent but is needing some extra down time and support. Fortunately work are understanding so we’ve both taken a few days off. Poppy missed us both badly and has been really unsettled today and struggled to sleep orv play by herself. So we’ve cancelled day care tomorrow to give her some extra snuggles and hopefully with some love and rest we’ll all be feeling a lot brighter very soon. 

    My lovely Rose

    I came home from work the other day to find Rose sick and tucked up on the couch under a blanket. I washed some dishes and made dinner, which is always a bit tough when I’ve been away all day because Poppy is so sad that I’m home but still trying to do other things. I nursed and cuddled first, and played and sang to her while cooking but after awhile it wasn’t enough and she was crying holding onto my leg. Rose got up and tickle-chased her around the house. My home rings with baby giggles and whoops of delight and I feel like my heart is going to burst.

    It’s been one hell of an adjustment, this year. Brilliant, but huge changes and new skills needed. I had a great conversation with my shrink my other day who helped me get out of a hyper-critical mindset I’ve been stuck in and my heart is so much lighter. 

    Rose and I have been hurting, feeling like however much we love each other, our relationship was withering. A desert was opening up between us. We moved between talking about love and marriage and having more children, and wondering if we might break up and fall apart, bewildered by how our relationship has changed so much in such a short time. And under everything else has been a kind of fury in me, killing every living thing around me. Every day a few more trees dead and the desert a little bigger. 

    Fear will do that to do you. I want to be good enough. I want to keep my job. I want to get my family out of poverty and cramped public housing. I want to raise my girls well. When I’m terrified I’m not good enough, when I feel like I’m straining under a load too heavy to carry, when I’m giving everything and it’s still not right then terror has teeth in my soul and a kind of violent frenzy grips me. I try to succeed through criticism, motivate myself through brutality. Every imperfection is magnified and my campaign of self improvement is bloody. Every error I make – or Rose makes – must be corrected immediately or we will live like this for the rest of our lives. There’s no time to learn, no space for growing and talking over and trying again. Gone is the beautiful ‘muddling’ of our pre-parenting days. The stakes are high and perfection is the baseline of acceptable. 

    We tear apart. Even when I bite down all the harsh words and speak none of them, my rage boils just beneath my skin and we can both feel it. I burn like a nuclear bomb and the fallout is soft, silent, deadly, and widespread. 

    We talk bewildered. Why? What’s happened? I used to be kind, now I’m scary. The word abusive is brought into view and something in me drowns in tears and despair. It’s true. How did this happen? Why am I like this? How do I stop? What’s happened to me, to us? I used to be her safe place. I hate myself. I cut deep into my own heart, looking for the cancer. Trying to be better. Imsorryimsorryimsorryilltrytobebetter. Self hate and rage and terror add intensity. She has nightmares of me. The desert just keeps growing.

    Stop and look at what you’ve achieved, says the shrink. Tell me about your skills and success and accomplishments. Vividly. Feel them, in your heart, in your body. Embody them. Bring them from head knowledge into the rest of you. Every time the criticism, anxiety, or despair comes. Remember your successes. Be kind to yourself and to her. Go back to your healing roots. Get away from delusional self improvement, terror of failure, and brutal perfectionism. 

    I come home and we sigh with relief, hold each other tight. The war moves away, out of my skin and bones. No more nuclear winter. The rage leaves like a bad memory of a dream I once had. We touch again, unthinkingly, lightly, like leaves falling. We kiss. When she’s hurting I feel only compassion. I can see how hard she’s trying and how battered her heart is. Her brilliance begins to shine again. She can think more clearly around me, show her strengths better, be more competent. I can see how skilled she is, how amazing she is. I fall for her all over again, her eyes like hazelnuts and green pine bark, her hair a halo of curls. She crawls off the couch and chases Poppy around the house, who squeals with delight. The forest fire stops raging and I become a small fire in a hearth once again, bright and warm and safe to be close to. Banked against the cold night and able to roar if needed, but not burning down the house.

    Life becomes a joy again. There’s pain around me, confusion, darkness, death. But a relief bubbles up through it all. She’s my Rose again and I’m worthy of her trust again. She lights down in my heart like a bird nesting. My demons murmur but they don’t run the parliament. The darkness is there between the stars in our eyes, the taste of death and blood. Our hopes like ships upon the waters. The smell of our baby in my arms, milky kisses on my cheek and the quiet steady ache of my arms to have her in them. Finding my way back to connection for each of my precious family. Remembering laughter is what makes the night shorter and less savage. 

    And I’m blemished but no longer the snake in our nest. The knife in my smile is sheathed. She doesn’t flinch when I walk near, my beautiful love, my beloved. In her bad dreams she stirs and I wake. She reaches for me in her sleep, fingers tangled into fingers. My heart croons peace to hers like a dove. The joy in my world is like the moon rising. She rests her head against my heart. She rests her heart within my arms. I’m hers again. I’m hers. 

    A good day

    The perils of a home office in a very small house…

    Rose and I have had a beautiful day. There was a lot of anxiety for me but I muddled through it and I’m proud of the work I did today. Friends with good news visited for dinner. I made risotto and between us Rose and I got half the collection of dishes done, and 4 loads of laundry away. Poppy tipped a leftover bowl of milk and cereal on the kitchen floor, then jumped on the soggy sliced bananas in her socks, squealing with joy. There’s been hugs and gentle conversion and connection. It’s been a good day.

    Melbourne by night

    This is how Poppy lets me know she’s ready to head out. 🙂

    All the cultural delights of Melbourne, and so far Poppy has been most impressed with this port in the floor. 🙂 We had a great night roaming the markets and city.

    How to tell if it’s been a rough night number 651: you find yourself googling ‘how to tell if you’re a narcissist’ after broken sleep, cold room, fibromyalgia pain, and a little person with night terrors. Feeling a bit fragile today. Off to see Van Gogh. 

    Poppy and I visit Melbourne

    Here we are sharing a chocolate cherry waffle on the way!

    We are hitching a lift with friends and going to spend the long weekend in Melbourne. Rose kindly set up the trip to give me a proper rest. Mammoth work projects and end of financial year business admin has been taking a toll. Even more pertinent, Van Gogh is being exhibited at the NGV and it’s not often in your lifetime you get a chance like this!

    So we’re all packed and off on an adventure. I’m nervous and excited and don’t quite know what to expect traveling together. Rose has held my hand through all the jitters and worry about traveling and how much still needs to be done at home. Now I’m feeling free and light and hopeful. Getting back onto this blog has been wonderful, even though there’s so much pressing work. I love to feel connected to my online world, and to reflect on what has been and what’s yet to come. It calms me and give me focus, helps me find my connection to myself again. 

    I feel alive again. I get lost and find my way home, over and over. Right now I feel alive and bubbling over with joy.

    If you’re in Melbourne this weekend and want to catch up, sing out. 🙂 

    My amazing day off

    What a glorious day. 

    I stayed up to 3am last night finishing the major project my team and I have been working on for weeks, the state wide consultation. Today was planned for a quiet, family day… Taking Poppy to a sensory play group, hanging out with Rose, catching up after all the long days and late nights I’ve been working lately… Tonight was date night and I had free movie tickets from my birthday waiting to go. Thursdays seen to be difficult days to make plans for lately. 

    Instead of most of that we wound up supporting friends through labour and birth! Rose cared for kids while I was support person in the birthing room next door to the room I birthed Poppy nearly 10 months ago. What an extraordinary privilege! 

    So strange that so many things I’m doing at the moment overlap the same skills sets – birth support, facilitating groups, mentoring, consulting, crisis support, workshops and education, parenting​… Being able to connect, listen, tune in, hold the space, and get out of the way are all essential skills in each of those areas. I feel like I’m falling over my primary saleable skill set, the one linked to income, finally making sense of it. Funny, just the other day I was writing up a consult that discussed the formal vs informal economy and I thought about how much my world has been in the informal and how people have been incredibly generous and supportive because I have been generous and supportive. As I’ve transitioned to full time work I’ve been feeling a little sad at moving away from the informal, at being less available for friends and family and attaching a dollar value to my skills and time. 

    But on the other hand, at times I’m able to do what amazing people have done for me – throw money at a problem and help it go away. That’s new and wonderful.

    Today was an opportunity to be there for a friend and I felt so many shifts in myself too. I’ve been struggling with birth trauma since Poppy came into the world nearly 10 months ago. I rarely talk about it and I’ve been wrestling with it, finding little keys or insights here and there but still deeply lost. Today, seeing birth through the eyes of a support person instead of the one giving birth, it felt like a circle that had been broken came together again. I could see things differently, literally from the other side. I could experience and connect back to my self in that place. I could be an anchor and hold the space for those there today. Being present and connected and witnessing something incredibly precious.

    When baby was safely here and everything was settled I dashed off to pick up Poppy from daycare. When she saw me she lit up and I curled down on the floor to meet her. She crawled into my arms and I tumbled her to smell her hair, kiss her face, hold her hands, her tummy, her feet. She feels new and glorious and her eyes are full of stars. Rose and I manage to meet at the last movie session of the night and we sit in the aisle while Poppy plays, we cuddle and hold Poppy and hold hands and change nappies and eat popcorn and ice cream all the way through Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s been a glorious day.

    Poppy has a lucky escape

    I had a terrible scare last week. I wrote this while we were in hospital for observation:

    “I’m sleep deprived, incredibly uncomfortable, and longing for home. We’re back in the local hospital with Poppy. She’s made a miraculous escape from a horrible home accident. One of the worst things I’ve ever seen is my tiny daughter curled up inside the wreckage in my laundry, her little body so vulnerable between huge besser bricks and cast iron pots. 

    I was cooking dinner last night with Poppy at my feet playing. There was a horrific crash like the house had fallen in and I spun around to see my laundry a disaster area. I couldn’t stop screaming Oh my God! over and over. I ran to it and found Poppy curled up in the middle of it, screaming hysterically. I scooped her into my arms ran for my phone and called an ambulance while checking for blood. 

    Somehow in the few minutes I made all the needed phone calls, turned off the stove, and packed a bag for hospital while Poppy wailed in my arms.”

    We were kept in overnight for observation. Watching the bruises appear on her skin at 3am was one of the saddest experiences. But all has been well! Her x-rays were clear, she’s been alert and active, and we have escaped anything serious. Her bruises are already almost healed.

    We think one of the large besser bricks grazed her cheek, ear, and shoulder. 

    I pulled her out of this. She was curled in ball where the jar of peanut butter is, under the table top, in a triangle between the dishwasher and the bricks.

    We came so close to tragedy. We have been so lucky. The overnight vigil at the hospital we just watched and waited to see if our luck would run out. She is a fearless, adventurous child, already walking and now climbing. Our lives split into the possibility of loss, both Rose and I looking into that dark place and wondering if there was a way to survive it. 

    Then suddenly, the sun comes out. Poppy is fine. We are all okay. The world keeps spinning and the sky doesn’t fall. The other life is left behind like a nightmare we wake from. It lingers in dreams. The bruises fade. 

    Tomorrow family comes to help us bolt furniture to the walls and make the home safer for a climbing toddler. 

    Poppy plays on my lap, squeals with delight at being bounced on my legs, sings Mumumum at me while I grin madly. How long I’ve waited for that song. 

    The silence did not fall. The song goes on. My heart is unbroken. My life is rich. My world is still beautiful.

    Holding spaces

    Finding myself needing downtime, debriefing, and reflection space. So many conversations and experiences to digest. I recognise that lingering uneasy feeling of needing to stop taking in new experiences and find a safe place to slow everything down and unpack. 

    I find myself thinking of the unpaid and often hidden and unrecognized work of the precious friends, mentors, and loved ones who hold a space like this. I’m seeing how to use such blessings more wisely and waste less time circling the same dilemmas. It’s a rare gift, space in which feelings don’t have to be rational or justified to be explored. I have worked hard to get better at doing it myself for myself and for others, to support people to feel genuinely safe, heard, and understood. 

    I’m deeply grateful to Rose who has created this haven for me for years now, hours of conversations that at times seem pointless, confusing, frustrating. But that commitment to validation and reflection where I’ve been able to move out of personal journals and into relationship and conversation has been invaluable to me. Her love and skill and patience is a big part of why we work so well together. She is brilliant at listening, being safe for the vulnerable or traumatised, and remembering a my wildness and my darkness when I’m burned dry and can’t recall that I’m really a mad poet who has learned to mimic a regular person but I live, breathe, and recharge best out in the wilds, running along the edge of the night. 

    I’m so blessed to have some friends who also hold spaces for me, online or face to face. Their timely connection has been the difference between lonely anguish and comfort, severe distress and pain I can howl out of my heart. I’m aware of how lucky I am.

    I’m struck once again by how many aspects of therapy that are healing and helpful are also aspects of life and relationship. They don’t have to be walled away as trained skills available only in treatment, by those in regulated relationships. They can and often are part of the very best friendships, they are part of the love that passes between partners, parents, children. 

    Eugene Gendlin recently passed away. I found his book on Focussing extremely interesting and helpful. I was intrigued that he didn’t take his ideas and lock them away in the exclusive domain of therapists, as is usual. Instead he considered focusing to be a skill any two people could learn and support each other in. Thousands of people have learned and offered this skill of holding space and listening to each other in support groups online and around the world. Precious, peer based. No power. No treatment. Connection. There’s nothing at all wrong with needing professional support. But I don’t like the locking of knowledge into silos, reserved for the experts and not recognised as the significant skill and profound kindness it is when we receive it in our personal lives.

    Mother’s Day with Kids

    It’s been a wonderful day, very precious to experience a Mother’s Day that didn’t feel like being eviscerated. Rose and I have had a day of tending. We’ve spent time with Mums and women who nurture, and reached out to a few folks who find today hurts. We soaked up the joy of our kids and talked through some of the sadness and yearning that’s part of today when there babies not here and Mother’s not here.

    Rose took us to a forest and we breathed it in. She took this beautiful photo of me on the playground, wearing my awesome birthday shirt and boots.

    We attended a couples massage class together which was beautiful and powerful and deeply needed. We sat and looked into each others eyes and cried. We touched each other and eased pain. It was one of the first times we’ve been alone together since Poppy was born, and the first that we didn’t use that time to sleep! (It was tempting) 

    We visited my Mum and Star’s Mum and enjoyed gifts in bed and sat around a campfire and did no work or housework or admin at all, just connected with each other and our people. 

    It was beautiful.