Ponder Kindness Part Two

There is nothing I like more than meeting a person who surprises you with a character that is refreshing and far from mundane. This interview with Fr. Rod has created a joyful series of conversations that spark the mind. The most refreshing facet of this man and his beautiful wife Kerry is that even though at times I am sure they fear the backlash that comes with being a messenger, they march on. They march on not because they revel in it. They march on because it is a calling. It is a calling that they cannot ignore. It’s the stuff that your soul emits in unison with your heart so strongly, that to ignore it would be emotionally dishonest. This is why the congregation has grown, this is why many Australians are intrigued and captivated by the message Fr. Rod echoes, its quite simple: compassion and kindness for everyone.  Not everybody agrees. Is it easy? No way. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

 

Planet Spectrum

This boy from the Hunter Valley, the son of conservative country party graziers is now the voice of many. In Part Two we chat about the lighter things in life; cubby houses, Lucifer, climate change, Netflix and so much more…

Kirsten: Ok, so now I am shifting the subject, but if there’s music that’ll get your foot tapping what would it be?

Fr. Rod: Can you believe I am not a huge music fan? (I audibly gasp) But, if there were one it would be Jazz. And improvised, very highly improvised Jazz. I think the biggest-selling Jazz album ever was Miles Davis and Arlo Guthrie, and they came together and basically just cut this thing like nothing in the day in these jams sessions.
I was actually out having drinks last Thursday night, and the guy at the piano was the guy who composed the music for the Compass documentary, and I asked him if he could play this because he’s a very clever musician. So he started playing it.

Kirsten: Okay, so I ask everyone this question as we always get the most interesting responses. As a child did you like tree houses or cubby houses? What would be your preference?

 

Rod: I’m a cubby house fan because I don’t like heights.
I can remember, we must’ve bought a new refrigerator or something at one stage when I was little kid. So, I created this cubby house out of it, and I spent a good couple of years in this box.

Kirsten: (Laughs) There you go.

Rod: But I did climb trees from time to time. I’m not fond of heights, though.

Kirsten: If you could meet with your 25-year-old self and give him a piece of advice, what would it be?

Fr. Rod: Don’t drink so much. Don’t waste a lot of time, money, and brain cells and use that money to travel. I kind of regret I didn’t, I should have. I had an opportunity to go overseas when I was 20, and I never did, and I still regret that to this day. I wanted to travel in my late twenties and early thirties.

Kirsten: What made you decide, was there a moment, was it a series of events, which lead you to be in service to God?

Fr. Rod: Well, there was no Damascus road. In fact, it was a long journey of resistance to an insistent call and people sort of encouraged me to be a priest and me agreeing at each step along the process to engage in that. At the same time, I was totally expecting that I’d be rejected by the Church and so I found myself, you know, the day of my ordination, not really understanding how I had got there. And there’s a sense in which I’m still in that process. I’m daring the Church to throw me out.

Kirsten: So I take it you’d have to walk a pretty fine line.

Fr. Rod: Sometimes.

Fr. Rod: While I’m accused of being progressive, I am, I think fairly theologically orthodox and especially regarding patristics in the early Church years. I know I’m not seen as orthodox by contemporary Protestant conservatives, but they’re not really orthodox in terms of the Great Theologians.

Kirsten: But I think too, one of the reasons people find you progressive is because you guys have a real social presence. You are literally streaming online. You’re on Facebook for starters and churches don’t usually have a strong following on social media. This is not your usual stiff upper lip, cause no waves Anglican church!

Fr. Rod: 150 followers is the average for many churches.

Kirsten: Exactly! You’re up front and center, you do it very well, but it’s also the way you explain theology. It’s very friendly, it makes sense, it’s logical, and it’s not stale. People want to listen to you.

Could you tell me a little bit about your passion for climate change?

Fr Rod: Yeah I have to say we have been very focused on the last few years on refugees. It’s taken over a bit of the agenda for obvious reasons, and in more recent times focus has been on the marriage equality debate. I am hoping this will be resolved quickly and we can get on with other things. Note: this interview happened before the wonderful marriage equality results

I mean, the climate is the ultimate question for us, for our generation, my children and my grandchildren’s generation. It’s going to be the defining subject over the next 100 years. It’s the defining ethical subject; it’s the defining scientific and economic question. It’s the new paradigm. We are the economic paradigm in which we have been in for the last 70 years. It’s crumbling after the GFC. We’ve propped it back up again, but it’s crumbling, and the emerging paradigm has to be the environmental and ecological paradigm. It’ll be the new economy.

Kirsten: The new economy?

Fr. Rod: Yes it has to be. It’s farcical to watch the old right clinging to their coal philosophy when even AGL are saying, um no, that’s old, that’s the old we aren’t interested anymore. They know money is in renewables and clean energy! You know we are so close to this renewable technology being introduced, so why on earth would you invest in coal fired?

But there will be ethical and moral questions to ask in this process, and I think this is where theologians need to be.

KM: You are bringing back the cool. Reminding us of why we look to women and men that question everything and bring our ethics and what we stand for to the forefront. Which leads me to this part of my questioning: Why is it seemingly so uncool sometimes to be Christian? I said to someone at a dinner party that it seems to be very zen and modern for people to be Hindi, Buddhist, or even Zoroastrian, Muslim, anything other than Christian. But it seems to be very uncool to be Christian; this seems a bit unfair!

Fr. Rod: Yes they seem to be the flavor don’t they? (Hearty laughter injected from my interviewee)

Fr. Rod: I think the life and teachings of Jesus, has an enormous amount to offer society. The basic doctrines of Christianity are an anchor that we let go of at our peril in that sense because we float off into this sort of nothingness. But I think we can get a bit obsessed with that side of things and not so much on the social ethics.

Kirsten: Outside of all of this theology, as a regular bloke, what do you like to do?

Fr. Rod: I don’t get much time to relax, it’s quite foreign to me! I grew up in an environment where you didn’t take holidays, and so my brain isn’t programmed in that way. Which is not a very healthy. I am not very good at relaxing, I try and take time each day to walk. I am 55 Type 2 Diabetic with high cholesterol, a very typical 55-year-Old Australian male. (more laughter)

I enjoy getting home, after a long hard day and having some cheese and bikkies, a glass of pinot noir; occasionally I get to veg out I will binge watch something on Netflix. I just finished binge-watching Lucifer.

KM: NO WAY! Are you serious? Ok, if you are watching that, I am so watching that! What did you think? (I am shocked, gaping like a goldfish and laughing).

Fr. Rod: Well it was challenging for a while because Lucifer’s Dad- God is portrayed as a very capricious character, very punishing and I was resistant to this! I am like: God’s not like this! He’s not like this! But the more I watched it; I think he is portraying God in a way in which many people see God. And while it made me uncomfortable, and I don’t believe God is like that I had to acknowledge that this is how many view God.

EVERYTHING

And you know, Lucifer is the devil, and he does kind of challenge in the show this idea of “the devil made me do it” type stuff. He comments that humans make their own choices and actions, his only job is to punish them, he doesn’t make them do anything. Not that I believe in that either, but I have found it challenging, thought-provoking. Its the antithesis of what I believe but it reminded me of how endemic folky religion is in our culture. Because that is what a lot of people believe. I am a Game of Thrones fan.

Kirsten: Now I like you even more. (grinning) This is my all-time favorite series. We actually have a GOT night at our house with friends and eat special dessert. Seriously.

Fr. Rod: I like Tyrion Lannister, he is the archetypical human in that he is carnal, but also has a social ethic, that he actually doesn’t want people to be hurt.

Kirsten: His transformation in the show is pretty entertaining and so complex!

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Fr. Rod: Yes, because he is vested in good, even though he is a drunken fornicator and even a user and abuser of women which I hold to be highly immoral and terrible. But his complexity fascinates me. I enjoy the religious metaphors in the show, the use of faith metaphor because I think that’s quite challenging too. You know, we are in the process of electing a new bishop… (and there might be a few GOT’s comments, as well as Dutton…I am leaving the next 10 minutes out, what gets said off the record stays off the record) (grin inserted).

 

The conversation continues in Part Three… where we discuss some serious business like Homosexuality, Kingdoms and that Heaven thing people get so hung up about.

Inspiration to Outback- a journey

Having children often presents many changes in life, there is a whole new chapter in your personal story that reveals itself in many ways. But for one Australian mother, it brought a compelling journey into fitness and success beyond belief.

From the footpaths of her hometown Kyabram to the advertising banners on the side of Melbourne City Trams as the poster girl for fitness, Liz Sefton has achieved what I see as inspirational and motivating. These words can get thrown around a lot in the world, however, for this powerhouse Kyabramite, they are the perfect fit. The Ultra-marathon runner and passionate health advocate has a passion for helping those in her community in a way that echoes enthusiasm to everyone who knows her. It is Ponderings pleasure to present Liz’ story, as we know it will inspire you too. Why? Well, put quite simply- she’s a bloody legend.

"Six years ago, not long after having my second 
child, I was ready for a change. Initially, my goal was all about being skinny, being able to look good in a pair of jeans and feel comfortable enough to wear a bikini."

This prompted me to join a popular 12-week online transformation program. This was the start of my journey, with my initial goal evolving to be more purposeful and giving me the platform to achieve things I never thought possible in my life journey. I could now reach my own goals and at the same time be an example for others around me.

An interest in running ensued. A walk around our small country town boundary eventually built up to running it. From there my confidence grew enough to enter small fun runs, building up to a half marathon and then running my first marathon as a way to raise funds for my Cerebral Palsy afflicted niece, Amelia. If you had have told me that I would have run a marathon before I turned 40, I would have laughed.

After the run, I took a hiatus of sorts from pounding the pavement and instead concentrated on my journey. It was then that three like-minded ladies came to me with a challenge. A challenge which would not only see me running 250km over six days in the majestic Simpson Desert, but also make me an ultra-marathoner. This idea seemed so crazy that I thought why not? The Big Red Run would challenge me physically, mentally and spiritually but also allow me to raise much-needed funds for Type 1 Diabetes.

You never truly know what you are capable of until you push yourself to the limit. What better way to do this with The Big Red Run, a race with a difference. A combination of the remote location, breathtaking scenery, the people, volunteers, the participants, a challenge of mental and physical strength all contributed to making this adventure an experience of a lifetime.

I look back over the past six years with immense gratitude. The weeklong event of The Big Red Run provided much reflection time on my life journey. I felt total gratitude that I had taken a leap of faith all those years ago.

This path has enabled me to fulfill many goals, as well as being the catalyst for finding my life purpose. I’ve been able to go back to study and pursue my passion in health.

I’ve been able to become a committed fundraiser for various causes which enables me to serve others but has also seen me grow as a person, building my confidence, self-belief and communication skills. I have met amazing new people and made connections that I never thought possible. It is a fantastic feeling to have the community behind you.

It is through surrounding myself with this community that I am empowered continuously to be my best self. I’ve been lucky enough to have found an inspiring mentor in leading aromatherapist, self-care, and environmental health expert Kim Morrison from Twenty8 Essentials. Kim also happens to have set a world record in ultra-marathon running representing Australia! I was instantly captivated by her ethos, charisma, humor, and passion around the importance of self-love, and participated in her health and lifestyle education course.

Twenty8 has been such an integral part of my natural health journey and provided so much education about the power of essential oils, chemical-free living and self-care rituals. But even more so it enables me to belong to a team which supports and lifts one another up by connecting, caring, collaborating and contributing!

For me, it has provided clarity around who I am and what I am capable of. It inspires me to make a difference in the world in my unique way, by encouraging and empowering my children and other women to acknowledge their strengths and inner beauty through the rituals of self-care.

Over the past six years I’ve learned that no matter who you are, or what you are dealing with, you can achieve anything and create change once you start taking action, no matter how small. Give yourself permission! See it, believe it and just do it!”

“Set a goal to achieve something that it is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time!” Bob Proctor

Ponderers you can see why I wanted to talk to this champion right? Liz Sefton is a living testament that with a crazy idea, a whole lot of passion and commitment you can achieve just about anything you put your heart into and the rewards are bountiful. Liz is the epitome of the Ponderings ethos- Inspire Reflect Prosper. She is a Qualified Food Coach and Health & Lifestyle Educator supporting clients in making step by step changes to their food and lifestyle so that they can permanently reach their goals.

For more information about Liz, her journey and her pursuit of Natural Health go to: The Nourishing Home Facebook Page

and her Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/lizsefton/

Girl Boss

A few years ago now, a young writer who worked for an eco-mag got in touch with me to do an interview about my business at the time. When I read the article I was so taken with her work deciding then and there that this was one human to watch. A couple of years later and her journalism degree complete, the young woman who started to emerge was even more talented and dedicated. To put it simply, she is a marketing genius, a social media influencer and fashionista with a pedigree background in fashion and design. She is also the owner of the dynamic Melbourne Social Media. She is a a wordsmith, a sweetheart and a really nice human! I asked Renae recently what it felt like to be a girl boss. She smiled, and said “I hadn’t really thought about myself like that.” Humble and brilliant. Ponderers, I would like you to meet Renae Failla- A Girl Boss! 

Renae:

I’m 22 and I can officially say that I am a GirlBoss. Funny word it is. Some of you may have heard it, yet, it’s only been in the past couple of years that it has really taken full force. 

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The Urban Dictionary defines a GirlBoss as “A woman in control, taking charge of her own circumstances in work & life. Someone who knows her worth and won’t accept anything less…She is empowering and inspiring to those around her. She kicks ass! A girlboss knows that if you don’t have big dreams and goals, that you’ll end up working really hard for someone who does.”

I didn’t realise years ago but now I can really recognise just how empowering that word is.

 

From a very young age, I was always drawn into the power of communication and
maybe a slither of the glitz and glamour of the Fashion Industry. The movie Suddenly 30 was released in 2004, I would have been 9 years old. The one thing that I took away from that movie -I wanted to work for a magazine. I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to experience the satisfaction of putting your heart and soul into a physical thing which women, young and old, would buy as an escape from the real world.

I loved to read – in fact, you would regularly find me with the latest version of a fashion magazine reading for hours. I would read cover to cover and run my fingers along the charming graphics and text.

Following this, The Devil Wears Prada came out in 2006. I was 11 year old. This has now become my favourite movie of all time. The drive, passion and determination of both Andy and Miranda motivated me. So I thought to myself I need to stand out from the crowd and I need to take every opportunity head-on! (the movie industry as an influence- who knew?) 

Year 9 was a life-changing year. I met a lady who fuelled my passion and helped me snag an amazing opportunity. She was my English teacher, lets call her Miss D. With her assistance I was offered work experience at Dolly Magazine in Sydney. I assisted with every little thing possible living out my real life The Devil Wears Prada dream, although I must point out that I had a very different experience than Andy.

Getting that working experience helped to evolve my determination even more, fuelling it with a design set out in my mind of what would come next.

I had my life planned out. I was going to finish my University Degree, get a good job and work my way up in the corporate world. I was quite happy with this plan and I was doing just that in a marketing assistant role.

Joseph Campbell said “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us,” I was forced to do this one day when an opportunity came my way that I never dreamt was possible. A lady whom I aspire to and look up to gifted me a business. That business was the product of a successful social media business. No strings were attached only a true belief in me and my writing. That business is now Melbourne Social Media and is one of the things I am most grateful for in my life.

I was told, “I wish that somebody had given me an opportunity like this when I was younger”. I was scared, nervous and excited at the same time but I knew that if I didn’t take it on I would not be living to my fullest potential. And so a piece of advice to all of you young budding dreamers out there, when someone believes in you hold onto that with all of you might because it is one of the greatest things of you will ever experience.

Everyone has a few rare pivotal points in their life. I lived through my two that have made me the person I am today and I can undoubtedly becoming a GirlBoss was the third.

I now work in marketing, alongside growing my new business every waking hour. Who knows what the future holds, but you never find out what the possibilities are unless you step into new spaces!

For more information about Melbourne Social Media visit www.melbsocialmedia.com or email Renae at office@melbsocialmedia.com.

Ponder Kindness

For those of you that have followed Ponderings over the last few years, you will know that my preoccupation with faith and the existential self-has been a big part of my life. It has been this dance that has grown into a study of religion and anthropology. I have often shied away from discussing it in more detail in this space because beliefs are so very personal and I don’t want ever to alienate my beautiful tribe of Ponderers. But a certain person came up on my radar that beckoned a bit more, capturing and challenging the hearts of Australia. But I will get to him shortly. Shall we bravely ponder?

In these years of seeking and learning, something has struck me, again and again, and that is how many of the world religions have the same stories, themes and metaphors (just different characters) and many of those involved in spiritual awakenings and happenings outside of themselves, across the globe, across thousands of years are similar. Stories of angels, of burning bushes, Damascus like happenings, wearied souls seeking solace in abandoned places away from people to have spiritual epiphanies, there are countless stories etched into our history.

Planet Spectrum

A few things get me perplexed in thought. Want to hear them? It has always intrigued me how science emerged from the belly of religious study, from humans looking outward and asking “where did we come from?” yet over the centuries science and religion have parted ways- at times fervently in angry opposition. Evolutionists can believe in God, but no one talks about it. Mohammed and Moses apparently both had assistance from Angels called Michel, and Jibrael (Gabriel and Michael -different spellings, but the same dudes with wings) but no-one talks about that connection.

Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern belief structures all over the planet going back thousands of years value much of the same fundamental questions and stories. When I was studying religions from around the world at University, I was gobsmacked. Why? Because in the genesis of these religions: the core sentiments are the same. Houston we have a problem. We argue over the right and wrong of it all. Yet it is marinated in the same concepts. Literally.

It needs to be said that people can also lose faith in those religions when those in higher positions of so-called authority let them down.

Abuse of power within any human organization exists and is destructive. Religion is no different. Some people are drawn to leadership so they can be more powerful than others, this is certainly true. However, the truth is: if you were to study every one of these religions they have episodes of power abuse in every single one of them over the last 3000 years. Why? Because humans are involved. Give me a group of humans and I will show you shades of morality in every degree that all form this human tapestry. The respect for everyone’s belief system falls out of favor at times; others are more PC, and acceptable, wouldn’t you agree? Some are popular, and some are not.

EVERYTHING

But what about the others? What about the leaders that have a calling to help humanity that is nothing short of inspiring?

The leaders that are not afraid to remind us of our ethics and morals as human beings on this planet? The moral compass bearers that are separate from state and carry the mantle, asking the ‘bigger’ questions about the condition of Humanity? Many of these women and men have spent decades studying the human condition, theology, the aesthetics of human goodness and not- so- goodness. They are often experts in the species we call human’s spiritual evolvement, going back thousands of years. They have that calling.

I first saw Father Rod Bower from the Gosford Anglican Church on Facebook, doing a live church sermon, and I was nothing short of captivated. This enigmatic man was calling for humility, calling for the fundamental rights of human beings to be respected. In Australia, we are quite fervent in our differing beliefs about “boat people” and refugees. The key piece of information people need to remember is according to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our measuring stick on Planet Earth, every human has basic needs, if you don’t meet them, you are in significant strife with the UN and in danger of moral corruption in the worst possible way. Something that Fr. Rod Bower is reminding us about recently, just this week he chained himself to our Prime Minister’s Front Gates in protest against current government actions with The Manus Men.

His flair for troublemaking is exemplary- the Gosford church sign out front takes the traditional messages of faith and turns them on their head. The original one that tickled the Nation’s fancy: Dear Christians, People Are Gay, Get Over It, Love God.

On another particular live stream Fr. Rodd spoke about getting the basics right. If we get the basics right like hospitality and kindness, the rest of human decency will flow and be activated. Like a true scientist, he was unpacking the ideology and examining the pieces. This was not fodder being jammed down one’s mortal throat for salvation, but something more.

It was when an atheist friend and I were discussing this clergyman going viral on Facebook that my friend turned to me and said- that guy makes me want to go to church, he makes me curious. It was at that moment I knew I had to chat with this man. So I traveled up to Gosford to meet with Fr. Rod on a lovely NSW sunny day and what transpired was hours of laughter, thought-provoking and interesting conversation, that I have put together in a 4 part series. I hope you enjoy it. It isn’t always as expected, and it verged on curious.

Kirsten: Father Rod, one thing that has me intrigued is how you contextualize and present your message. You’re a storyteller and a brilliant theologist. I’ve had 3 atheist friends see your stuff on Facebook and have said, ‘that guy would make me want to go to the Church.’

Fr. Rodd: (smiling) We have a lot of atheist followers; or so-called atheists.

Kirsten: The moment you have someone in opposition to your beliefs asking “what has this person got to say?” is a pretty cool moment to have. Have you had non-believers that have become curious about what you teach?

Fr. Rodd: (nodding) I mean we’ve 50,000 or something followers on Facebook. I’d say a good half of them would be, probably more than half would be very least agnostic. There are a couple of very committed atheists who comment regularly. It’s terrific.

I recently spoke at the Atheist and Humanist society at the University of New South Wales. I’m fascinated by atheism. In that, the God that atheists ‘generally speaking’ -have rejected is the same God I reject. I don’t have that God either.

Kirsten: Agreed! (I’m now grinning ear to ear because this conversation is getting awesome).

Fr Rodd: And that’s the version of God that everyone should reject. It’s variations on Zeus, it really is. The idea of God sitting on the Mount, manipulating the affairs of humanity, and most theists believe in that. It’s a concept that’s been justifiably ridiculed. As it should be.

Fr Rodd: It’s a far more sophisticated concept. I just get frustrated with the superficial; I’m not saying atheists are superficial, but there’s a superficial atheism that is Dawkins’s atheism. It just sets up this straw man and knocks it down, and that shouldn’t be atheism.

Leaderboard Ponderings 3

Kirsten: Absolutely. I get incredibly excited about current science, and it seems, the more science progresses, the more it seems to prove the source of a divine architect. Or I love it when I read that Einstein and C.S Lewis started out trying to disprove the existence of a “designer” or an “architect” and could not. It hasn’t been done. Just because we don’t have the answers, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Fr. Rodd: Well I’m utterly fascinated by quantum physics.

Kirsten: Me too! (this is the bit where I have to restrain my excitement for the ME TOO moment lol)

Fr. Rodd: Because I think it is where theology and science come together, and it’s where science is almost forced to start to borrow theological language. I mean the big bang theory was first postulated by a Belgian Catholic priest, Father Georges Lemaitre and it almost required the mind of a theologian to come up with that. So that’s where I’ve been fascinated.

Kirsten: I can’t get my head around the fact that so many people do not realize that much of science was born in the church. The separation of science and theology intrigues me. The origins of science began within the Church. It was a man looking at the stars asking ‘where is God?’ that started this journey.

Leaderboard Ponderings 2

Fr. Rodd: Yeah. All the great universities started as theological colleges essentially.

Kirsten: So, tell me, how did you go with the Humanist Society?

Fr. Rodd: We had a ball!

Kirsten: Do you get thrown some curve balls?

Fr. Rodd: Well, not really because I’ve thought a lot about that kind of stuff. I sowed the seeds of doubt in the atheism. (smiling)

Kirsten: (Laughs) that is brilliant. What fun. You had answers Father Rodd! You went in prepared lol.

Fr. Rodd: Once you get beyond the superficial atheism and join them in rejecting this, there are other concepts.

Kirsten: What are you reading at the moment?

Fr. Rodd: I’m actually reading a book, by Simon Longstaff from the Ethics Center. It’s just little vignettes on ethics.
Kirsten: So, I take it that you like moral philosophy?

Fr. Rodd: I do like moral philosophy. I think part of the passion I have around some of the social issues, refugees, and climate change come from that passion for social ethics—how do we best live together as human beings?

Part Two of our Conversation Next Week: Lucifer, Game of Thrones and Why First Century Jews got it right. Oh and Dutton, we can’t forget him.

For those who would like to assist in Fr. Rod’s current quest to help go to: https://www.asrc.org.au/

Close The Door Polly and Turn the Kettle Off.

To close the door on energy that does not serve you, and makes you feel less than- is OKAY- I have learned. You see; I was raised to believe that we must forgive everything. Every. Little. Thing. I believe this ideal was forged with good intent. However…

I took it literally and without really understanding what true forgiveness was. What ensued over the course of much of my life was a doormat mentality, often allowing other people to walk all over me often unbeknownst to them I am sure. A lack of respect? Possibly. People only do what they can get away with don’t they? Hmmm. Ponder.  

But it wasn’t because I thought I was less- than. It was because I believed in second, third and fourth chances. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. God knows I am sure I have had bad moments where I have unintentionally mistreated another human. I would hope to heck they would forgive me too. You see my reasoning?

I have always been good at identifying people’s pain. Happy people don’t treat others terribly. So therefore if someone was treating me like sh*t- I empathized, tried to understand and got on with it. To the frustration of others, it seemed.

That is until it started making me sick. Literally. Have you heard the lingo? Dis-ease. When the body is the opposite of ease. The Black Dog loves it, laps it up like mother’s milk and then some. That sneaky little guy sleeping under the table grows into a wolf biting at your carotid artery before you can squeal mercy. It does terrible damage. Because we humans have layers. Like Shrek, and we tuck them deep down for later on. So deep, we can even forget they are there.

 

Now as a person who has successfully shaken off the wolf, this is not something you want happening, particularly when your life has hit a crossroad of “uh-oh, might not be here for long, better sort my personal baggage stuff out.” Not to mention the fact that there is now NO ROOM for negativity. There is only room for real. For healing. For love. Yeah right. We are human remember? Skin and bone, flesh and faulted. This stuff isn’t like blowing a bubble with a good detergent. This is PURGING people.  

This discovery is where an interesting theory starts to gather potential in your soul. You can sit there and reflect on the “other person” or “People”  “making” you sick. Or you can take a look at the behavior around you and work out if it is heavy, if it is light, what can be learned from the situation and then take responsibility for your space. Then move on.

Yup.

Because if you don’t, guess what happens? You allow yourself to become a victim. A ‘them’ mentality ensues, and this is very heavy, very unhealthy and unproductive. 

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Who knows who is right and wrong? It doesn’t really matter in the long run. All that matters is that it is no longer compatible to smiling, to laughing and to a lightness of spirit. It is no longer compatible with honesty and reality.  A weakness and degradation can set in, or the worst- being emotionally dishonest with yourself. Where you tell yourself pretty lies to hide the pain, you paint the black scuff marks of your life with glitter paint and call it forgiveness. This can be particularly hypnotic when the forgiveness echoes from a place from long ago. You simply must look after your spiritual and psychological health as much as your teeth, wearing clean clothes or washing your smelly bits.  Not in that particular order either. 


Genuinely unpacking moments and acknowledging them, wishing another human all the best and cutting the chords without negativity takes a lot. It takes personal permission. You aren’t doing anything wrong, wishing lousy health or nastiness on anyone. You are just saying internally and in your heart – goodbye, thanks for the learning, but I can no longer continue to drink this poison. Sometimes you can even cultivate a real sense of peace, the kind that lets you take a sweet big deep lovely breath. Occasionally you can also release with love.

You could really be doing that person a favor too, by releasing them from the hold. If you believe what many do- thoughts have power, thoughts are “things”, the last thing you want is to be shooting out thought arrows at other humans. Keep your arrows to yourself. It is so vital to our life to treat others without hurtful intentions. 

So, how to do it? How to move forward with grace? It ain’t easy. I am still learning every day. But I know someone who does know how to begin the process. Because this is what it is – that very chic word right now- Process. A series of moments that are stepping stones that lead to what one hopes for- an epiphany. Leaps can be uncomfortable, but they are so very necessary. 

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I spoke with Practitioner Des Carter. This man and his amazing family of healers (yup, there’s a tribe of these peeps) have been a part of our family’s health recovery for the last 10 years. I will leave you with Des’ words of wisdom. 

How important is it to forgive in our lives? For some people, it is relatively easy to forgive, but for others, it seems impossible and deep down resentment builds and life does not flow as it should.

The following prayer by St. Francis of Assisi shows us how we can cultivate the essential quality of compassion that can lead to forgiveness.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.

Where there is hatred let me sow love.

Where there is injury let me sow pardon.

Where there is doubt let me spread faith.

Where there is despair let me bring hope.

Where there is darkness let me bring light.

Where there is sadness let me bring joy.

Grant that, I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.

To be understood as to understand.

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

In pardoning that we are pardoned,

And in dying that we are born to eternal life.

When we really take these words into our heart, the true meaning of forgiveness is revealed.

What does it mean to forgive?

Firstly it does not mean that we are approving another’s behavior in any way. What it does mean is that as an individual, we are able to free ourselves from the power this person’s behavior has over us. When we release this person from our conscious thoughts, we take back our power, therefore allowing us to be free. In freedom, we are able to really live our lives as we should. If we feel good about ourselves there is no room for anger, resentment or unforgiveness. We begin to attract positive experience to our lives, with value and appreciation of our true selves.

About Des Carter:

Des resides in Geelong Victoria, is an experienced Trainer, Kinesiologist, Reiki Practitioner, NLP Practitioner, Holistic Human Development Therapist and Meditation Teacher, who works in private practice. His passion is assisting people to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem enabling them to address personal issues in their lives.

Contact: M: 0432 925 063. E: desc@descarter.com.au. W: descarter.com.au

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The Motorbike Chic Saving Lives

At a dinner party one night, a conversation started about an awe-inspiring surgeon who saved the life of a woman at our table. This surgeon was astonishingly passionate, friendly and warm, who many years later still cared for those she saved. The moment the table was abuzz about her, I knew I had to interview her. When I found out she was at the Alfred Hospital, the connection grew strong, and we went on a hunt to capture a moment of this incredible woman’s life and ponder with her.

 

Assoc. Professor Sue Liew holds the position of Director of Orthopaedic Surgery but most of all she holds the smiles and hearts of many she has helped in the intensive and incredibly demanding role of surgical lead. Deemed as one of the most intensely stressful and time-consuming occupations in the world, with a focus on Spinal surgery, lower limb reconstructive and complex pelvic surgery- trauma based orthopedics is not for the faint of heart.

The day of the interview arrived, and as I walked into the ward, everything started to feel familiar. The smells, the shape of the benches, the direction of the lines on the walls. I sensed a disturbance in the force. I had walked smack bang into ward 3East- Ground Zero for me, two brain surgeries and a place I had spent more time than I cared too. It was a place of incredible people trying to save lives- a place I feel so much gratitude for and yet it is a place of intense sickness and tragedy. At times when I visit there, I feel like I can almost taste it in the air.

Heroes walk the corridors, gratitude floats along stronger than antiseptic but so does the tears of those who haven’t made it. Such is the place of spinal and brain injury trauma. I remember on one visit I asked my admissions doctor if she worked in neuro- she responded that she could not, it was too tragic and depressing even amongst the wins. I know right? Whoa.

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As I seek out the location of Dr. Liew, the smells of the ward remind me of my sleepless nights and painful healing. The two people who died in my room. Right next to me. The man who was told he only had a few weeks to live and cried. He did not cry about his short life but for how on earth he would tell his children. The beautiful woman who reassured me that her condition was worse, and yet there she was still alive and fully healed. The nurse who visited me every night to talk to me about the wonder of Angels. The scent of hospital food trolleys sparks memories of vomiting uncontrollably and shaking from the drainage tubes that came from inside my brain. I want to walk backward quicker than a cat in a dog show. But then I remember that I am not here to have my skull cut open, I am not here to have a painful injection or procedure. I am re-defining my experience here in this place. I am here to step behind the curtain and spend time with one of the medi-heroes, the do-er of great things in a different capacity and I breathe out the jitters.

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I put one foot in front of the other. I press the buzzer and a lady opens the door- with a huge smile and a curious look. Like she might not have been sure why I wanted to interview her. That’s a hero for you. They are often unaware of the awe that surrounds them. These ward wizards who have sleepless nights, rigorous hours, hectic meetings, helicopters landing by the moment with bodies broken from all over Oz waiting to be put back together again. The somehow, the paperwork, the board meetings, the director hearings, the research, professional development, the surgical meetings, the school drops offs, the family dinners, the family life- they don’t often have time to contemplate their wonder or bathe in the gratitude of those they have saved. There are so many ‘the-s’ but just not enough time. You get the picture right ponderers?

As I interviewed Sue Liew her eyes glitter with humor and interest. She is razor sharp and emits a grounded warmth. She is one of the first people I have interviewed that have enquired about me, and at times it felt like I was being interviewed- her interest in others and the non-self position was incredible.

There is a total lack of ego. Which without being unkind, I have to say is extremely unusual in a human with such a high position in medicine. So this is one chic I would love to share a beer or two.

K: So why did you become a surgeon?

SL: I like processes and systems – and was good at lots of different things, so I ticked off the things I didn’t like. I did engineering first, but once I got my hands in there, I couldn’t wait to become a surgeon, to fix things or be involved in active medicine. I loved surgery, it’s similar to engineering and reconstructing, you are rebuilding.

K: Thank goodness you found it. You have an impressive position and career, and this hospital takes in trauma nearly on the hour. It must be incredibly demanding and on-the-fly. It would be super demanding and disruptive to your personal life too no doubt.

SL: She smiles. (there are no words needed, we both get it).

K: You’re a woman in a very male-dominated industry. Have you ever encountered inequality directed at you? Did you have female mentors that paved the way for you?

SL: I have had all male mentors- I have been incredibly privileged and encouraged by male counterparts. I haven’t experienced gender inequality just encouragement- always. I know that might sound weird when you know, you hear about it happening so much in management positions- but I truly have had nothing but incredibly positive experiences. Does that sound strange?

K: I think that’s really refreshing, I like that answer.

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K: Many people see surgeons and doctors as an elite kind of person of authority- often on a pedestal, and think money, prestige, etc. as well as heroic tendencies, but when I had to rely on this field to save my life I would often ponder about the surgeon. Like I have often thought that this person who operates had to spend years and years studying and researching, doing exams, doing assignments and thesis work, hours of interning, etc. to get to this point so they can save a life. A parent had to help pay a LOT of money to get this kid to a point where they are saving lives. What do you say to this?

SL: (Smiles- she thinks I am funny I can tell lol) Engineers, the finest minds now standing in an industry of prestige, once spent hours emptying ashtrays and pouring beers at the local. A medical degree does not support itself. Often they come from humble beginnings and well over a decade getting from a to b just to be able to work in this field.

K: So I take it you’ve had humble beginnings?

SL: Still do! (laughs) I came from very hardworking parents who valued education and opportunity. I worked my way through uni waitressing and was a barmaid in Werribee. There were times of confusion and lots of work. I was originally doing engineering at RMIT, then swapped over to Monash to do medicine. I hated it! Then I tapped into spinal trauma, and I secretly liked the challenge and became very focused- it’s like a vocation you know? It gets into your blood. I like to solve a puzzle and find a difficult diagnosis thrilling. But I didn’t always know I wanted to be this person, I just knew education was important. I think it’s important for people to know that you don’t always have the answers at the beginning! It can be a long road.

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K: Does being a mother change you as a doctor?

SL: Well, my husband and I went on a holiday and came back and had a family. We had four kids between the age of 34 and 40. We called it the “fog” lol. Pregnancy does something that is for sure; it does something kind to you. Having children can give you perspective. I had a lot of support. My parents and my brother moved in with us into a bigger house, to help with the cooking and childcare. I breastfed all the kids for 6 months and had 12 weeks maternity leave. My husband was well established in his job too, so his position was able to support and was flexible. It helps.

K: What do you enjoy?

SL: Bikes, motorbikes.

K: Really!? That’s so cool. Is that the engineering mind coming in? For improvements and fixing things up?

SL: Yes! Reconstructive is like a series, an evolution of practices, forming a succession of surgeries and many hours re-building. Except you are working with people.

K: This has been the part I have heard so much about you, is your people skills! So often in a specialized area of medicine, people skills aren’t always the focus lol, would you agree?
SL: Well, the thing is, I am glad I guess that I get along with patients well. I see the mother, the brother, the sister and the child you know? (she shrugs humbly, but there is a strong connection here, you can see it in her eyes) But you know, so many of the country’s unique minds are incredibly focused on solving this one problem- or fixing this puzzle that is causing danger to a person’s life, they aren’t really thinking about how the conversation is going. They are thinking about the surgery or are compartmentalizing the systems and processes. You are sort of glad they have that kind of mind if that makes sense?
What about you? You seem to know a bit about this world? Do you have a medical background?

K- (laugh) no! But I have spent some time on this ward, and am happy to tell you I am glad I am here talking to you and NOT for the reasons I was here originally. (I then go on to tell her a smidge about my story on the ward- we know some people in common, and she extensively asks me about my life, we seem to spend a lot of time laughing and unpicking each other’s brain.) It turns out she is good mates with my surgeon number 2- who is a bit of a legend in these parts.

K: If you could have a chance meeting with your 25-year-old self what would you say?

SL: Oh boy. Really? Phew. Ok. I would say: do something you like, life has taught you that you end up wanting that anyway. If you do something you like- you will fall on the pathway easily and not so hard. You can go to bed knowing you are doing what is right for you. Find your own way.

K: Wow. That’s an entire story in one sentence!

SL: That’s not the half of it! (laughing).

K: Thank you so much for your time, this has been awesome!

SL: You and I should keep in touch, will you swing by and see me when you are here next?

Heartsmiles.

The elusive far away creature ruling the intensive care trenches is this wickedly funny chic who likes motorbikes and was once a killer barmaid. I love it. She gets to save lives and be cool. Unfair right?

Food Glorious Food- A Warriors Tale

Is it just me or are there are a lot of people scrambling to make a buck from the wellness industry? Well, let me tell you well before many of them crawled from the primordial slime of promotion- one goddess was striking a mighty and genuine sword against the big boys of unhealthy food and the SUGAR menace before it climbed notoriety. Leaving a brilliant career, and putting her money where her passion lies, not for the bank account but the PURE FIRE of WANTING CHANGE! I know right? Awesomeness.

That woman was television producer turned Food Warrior and entrepreneur Emma Dumas.

She is on the path of good, and she has been impressing this for years, in a Food Industry that spits people out quicker than you can Snap Crackle or Pop.

A few years ago I was at a junket of sorts, a PR “place” and I was not all that comfortable or terrific and this gorgeously funky, funny chic came bouncing in with little micro-packets of the best tasting muesli I had ever eaten. There was a story to the muesli, littered with ardent and real anecdotes of a woman on a mission and a message. She began this food journey all the way back in 2004, before the wave of anti-sugar messengers. She was before her time, which in this world of commercial ideas and the hedonistic planet of food glorious food: is pretty cool.

Before you knew it, we were sharing each other’s story and clicked; it was a positivity scale of 200+. We were both overcomers of ill-health and both armed with a dark sense of humor and it became apparent we would keep in touch. She is one of the most grounded and funny women I have met in a really long time.

The Muesli LeaderboardIt has been the people like Emma who have given me the inspiration to reimagine Ponderings, so to interview and speak with this excellent human who has overcome obstacles, or smashed through them, swum, dug, crawled, some even crying and bleeding to the other side making wisecracks.

Her why? Years ago she discovered (quite a while before the “others”) that sugar was enemy number one, and she had a crack at making some healthy muesli for her friend and personal trainer Donna Aston. “They couldn’t find a breakfast to complement their fitness programs. That’s why I created The Muesli.  It’s the most important meal of the day. So if you’re investing in getting fit and losing weight – it’s important to enjoy a quality breakfast.”

You see I didn’t know this until I met Emma, but the majority of Mueslis on the market are PACKED with sugar. They don’t follow the 1 Line Rule. (ON ANY NUTRITION PANEL, CHECK ONE LINE, SUGARS. IF IT’S MORE THAN 5g/100g (5%), MOVE ON.) Or they are toasted, and all of the contents lose their nutritional quality. They are often “filled” with cheap bits and pieces instead of being nutritionally dense and rich.

All these years later and Emma and her partner with the help of their families are kicking butt and taking on the Sugar industry. Emma she is super excited about the path The Muesli is taking, as it is opening, even more, doors and eyes and created a team of people so passionate about  fixing the bodies of Australians and then moving it towards  a global scale.

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No stranger to success, Emma comes “armed with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physical Education, with 5 Carols By Candlelight, 3 ARIA Awards & 4 Logie Awards broadcasts, Series 1 of Frontline, The World’s Greatest Commercials, Great Escapes, Oz Encounters – UFO’s in Australia, plus 5 years producing The Panel, then a series of Thank God You’re Here & Santo Sam & Ed’s Cup Fever (World Cup 2010), under my belt – I couldn’t see why producing a beautiful premium and naturally sugar free muesli should be any different!”

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“It’s been interesting and I’m certainly in it for the long haul.  Turns out there’s a lot to the food industry and working in it, that does in fact, bear similarities to working for the Australian television networks.”

To see more about Emma and what makes her tick, check out her interview with the gorgeous Sarah Mackay from eco-candle company Time to Thrive.

No Eyes are Better Than Two

Some of you may know, but many of you may not- that for a time after brain surgery I was blind. Blind, about 4% vision in one eye and zero in the other. It was confronting, frightening but then the strangest thing happened- my biology morphed and adjusted. Not only did it adjust but I found myself with a whole new set of skills. I could cut through all the rubbish and get to the grit, purely because I didn’t have to utilise and get past visual cues. My hearing became almost bionic, and I became incredibly perceptive in being able to hone in on people’s emotions from the tone of their voice. Rather than being a sad event- it was one of the most incredible and profound experiences of my life. I told those I loved that I now had super-powers and the process my body went through to enhance itself without sight was miraculous. Sure I had a few brick imprints on my head – double brick homes are not favorable. But hey, dints can be sexy!

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What also became very apparent, was that even though I felt enhanced in many ways, I was not seen this way by others. I had no hair, I had many deep and shocking scars over my head, swelling to the side of my head and I had to learn how to walk again. I was disabled. I had to learn a lot of new skills and abilities, sure. But I didn’t view myself as dis-anything. I was very lucky to be alive, I was grateful to be alive, and I knew I had some hard work ahead. To many, my situation was about “how sad” my situation was, which created a “less than” mentality. Complete strangers would say lovely things edged with unmistakable pity. A huge presumption was being made, that my life was less terrific because I did things differently now. I have never looked at another “disabled” person the same again. To me, those that are “enhanced” have an evolved sense of so much MORE than the average Joe. More than. Not less than.

Within 6 months my sight returned- this was a very unexpected event. I was grateful for my return of sight, for two reasons only- smiles and colour. I missed it. I missed seeing my children’s smiles and sunsets. Everything else? I could do.

Not long ago one of my children saw a man in a wheelchair, turned to me and said: “Look at that poor man with no legs Mum.” This beautiful child of mine had empathy- a gift to be sure. But I turned to him and said “Don’t ever think that man has less than honey, look at that smile. I bet he’s happier and more successful than anyone we know. And, he’s got great wheels.” I looked at my son and saw that his look had changed from empathy to admiration towards a stranger that was “different.”

When I stumbled across this video, it took my breath away and made me smile and laugh, because it is the most accurate perspective I have yet heard about “being blind.”

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Susan has so accurately verbalized the time I had. I can honestly tell you that if I needed a judge of character, I would trust someone without eye vision that has the inner vision in a heartbeat. The best bit, she made me laugh until my belly hurt. This is a great thing. So click below and check out Susan’s adventure in failing to be disabled. You won’t regret it.

Enjoy, be sure to comment below and share this incredible TED-talk.

The Land of Ward Drobe

2 weeks ago we farewelled my darling. Nellie Florence. This was the reading we did.

Nellie Florence, otherwise known as my Nanna- she was my caretaker from the tiny age of 2 to the age of 6 until I started school. Mum worked for Nan and Pa’s furniture removalist business, and Nanna opted for taking care of me.

I do not remember one cross word. The only time I got into trouble was when it was cousin time, and for some reason when my cousin Kelly and I got together mischief prevailed. My influence of course. She admitted to me years later that often she would have to leave the room, for her terse response to the folly was masking amusement she had to hide for fear of encouraging “silliness.” But every school holidays when I came to visit for weeks on end, it would be Kelly, Kirst and Nanna time. Did we drive her nuts? You betcha. There was that one time we played hide and seek in Nan’s car; only we didn’t tell her? The police were called… oops.

Nan taught me from the time of being very young that it was the small acts of faith that build the bigger ones and I would ask isn’t God too busy to look after little things? And she would say “No! Because we all have angels and God around us all the time, his messengers and they help. So always send a prayer up!” We literally taught that to send a prayer you were physically sending a request from the heart, and she taught us that. So from the age of 3 I knew, you asked for a car park? You got one. In the busiest street of Burleigh Heads. You got a car park. She taught us the importance of service to others.

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It was ingrained. Others before self, others before self to the point where even now, its super ingrained! But it was service, service to others. And she showed this throughout her life. As an RE teacher to little children in primary school, it wasn’t that she was Bible Bashing as such, it was that she had an activated REAL relationship with God that lifted sorrow from her, like nothing else. It was her total saving grace all of the time, and she walked in grace all of the time. For her, the idea that other people weren’t enjoying that, and didn’t have that safety net, that sense of joy and faith horrified her. It was NOT for the select few; it was for everyone. She was genuinely worried for other people and she desperately wanted them to know the joy she knew and that peace.

When she saw people were in pain, she would talk to them about her joy and her faith, and for many, it was sometimes a bit much. But for others, I don’t know how many of you are in the room today, but I know that there are many many people that sought that grace and found it through her shining the torch through a dark time.

Another beautiful part to Nanna was her forgiveness. Her forgiveness for others was so strong that sometimes it challenged us. You would think “How on earth could you possibly forgive that act” or “this person” and she was steadfast in that forgiveness. And one time I said to her in this certain situation “How? She was my Nanna, but as I became older and more mature from a girl to a middle-aged woman, we would have this womanly chats about life and I would ask her “How? How could you forgive?” “and her response would be “But carrying around the hate, and carrying around all that anger, that’s not about them, that’s too heavy for you. It hurts you. It’s not about them, it’s about unburdening your heart from their deeds and letting them go.” Now that I am getting older I am realizing, it’s not about saying whatever that person did is ok, it’s about releasing the heaviness and handing over the weight of hatred or anger.

We have been so incredibly blessed to have her in our lives.

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There was a very tumultuous time in her life after Grandad died and we saw events happen for her where she was deeply betrayed by people she loved and cared about; she predictably forgave them. She moved forward but what came next many saw as “oh she’s just getting old” but what we saw in her was pain. She had forgotten how loved she was, to the point where some relatives would visit and she just didn’t answer the door. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to see them, it was because she didn’t believe she had anything to offer. She had lost her value to herself. She had given herself over to service in her life so much, that to not be in service to people due to old age and ill-health had to her losing her self worth.

She stuck to her routine, just passing the time. Life had lost its shine, while she stuck to her beliefs as firm as she possibly could, the nature of people had let her see a side, she probably, in all honesty, didn’t realise was there or didn’t look apon. It infiltrated. She had a stroke.

And for many many years, my sister and I had wondered how great it would be to move to Bendigo if only to look after Nanna. I remember as a little girl saying to her “Nanna, you take such good care of me, why?” her response was “because I love you and one day you might take care of me” well that must have stuck! So right through our adult lives, my sister and I have had this idea of how wonderful it would be if we could care for her. So we went to visit her after the stroke, and it wasn’t looking very good.

We checked in with Papa G as we call him- (AKA the mighty Gandalf of the 4th dimension, AKA God, AKA- Universal KingPin, and yes there is a feminine aspect. Have you seen the Shack?) do we take her with us? The resounding answer was Yes. Now is the time. The thing was the consensus in the family was that there was no way in a million years a 89-year-old Nellie Florence was leaving Bendigo, uh uh no way. It’s just not going to happen. She’s not going to leave. We went to her- we said to her- would you let us, would you be brave enough just to bring yourself to this new place so we can care for you? You will be treated beautifully, and you will have a visitor every day. To our absolute shock, she very quietly said “yes”. All she wanted to bring with her was her nighty, her favorite teddy, a picture of Jesus and a few family photos and that was it. It was a new start. She actually became excited again. We found the best nursing hotel aka del la McEncroe we could search for and it was beautiful.

My siblings and I, we went and decked out that room like it was the Hamptons. We had a ball. It was as though the Queen mother herself was moving to Leopold. It was going to look the Goods. I still remember the nurses being like “Oh my gosh, what’s with the posh designer room?” There were lots of pink things, angels, memories of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. And she got a visitor every day.

We had access 24 / 7 and she was a late night owl, so it would be nothing for us to pop down there in our pajamas of a night-time and tuck her in, or have cuppas and chats about life and love and nursing home gossip. I am pleased to report, with only being there for a couple of months, she turned to me and said “I really am loved aren’t I? I really am loved, I must be with you all doing this for me and wanting to be with me.” And I said “How could ever have thought you weren’t? You aren’t just loved, you are adored. You are the reason we are all here. You.”

And her great-grandchildren would visit and we would say to them, this lady right here, is why you exist and without her, you simply wouldn’t, ” and the nursing staff adored her, they loved her. She was beautiful, she was cute, she was appreciative, she was loved, and she told them and us, while she was there that the last 2 years have been the best in a decade and that is pretty special.

As she relaxed, the stoic sternness of propriety dropped just a fraction, she was as sharp as a tack, and her humor shone through. She developed the giggles and would have us all belly laughing until we couldn’t breathe. She would share stories about being a young woman growing up in Bendigo. Of romance, of funny tales, setting up the dance hall on a Friday night and having races on the cleaning cloths and laughing until it hurt. Of her love for Pa, for her children. Funny stories about her children when they were small.

This recent stroke, it all happened very quickly. I went to her bedside and said to her “I don’t want you to go” She looked at me puzzled and asked why? Because she knew where she was going and therefore I should know better. You see, we spoke about dying her and I. Quite a bit. We had these awful dark humored jokes about who would get there first. Who would be waiting to greet who? There was no fear at all. She would have assumed that I should know where she was going. And she said “Oh, no it’s time for me to …” and motioned her hand upward with the biggest smile. I said “I will buy you a puppy, or do you want two visits a day? What do I need to do to keep you here, because I know its so selfish but I don’t know how to be here without you in it” I tried every trick in the bloody book to keep her here. I should have known better.

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She smiled and she said “It’s all fine, it’s okay, it’s ok darling, you are going to be just fine and I am going to be here still.” 

When Nanna passed, I had my hand on her heart, and it just stopped. And she didn’t die. She didn’t die. She left. And when one leaves, it means they have somewhere to be.

It occurred to me afterward, that not only did she teach me so much about life, and about living, but she also taught me about my dying that it was a journey and it was not to be feared. So, that was her gift to us. She was a teacher, that was her thing.

For the record, you know you never  know when you are going to leave. This is true. But when a doctor tells you that you are, when your body tells you and when a Nanna feels that she is; a feeling happens. I can’t explain it. But the knowing is what sets you apart everyone else. And it isn’t depressing, it isn’t morose. It is a fact of life. We come into the world and we all leave the world.

When I was a child Nanna read to me the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she was a CS Lewis fan and his theology, and as some of you will know, Aslan the mighty lion in the tale is CS Lewis’ Metaphor for Jesus. Not tame at all, but powerful and fierce, protective and strong.

A few nights ago I had a dream that Nanna was a young woman, I was walking behind her, and she opened the door of a wardrobe. We stepped through, and she waited. She was not old; she was young and beautiful like the photos I have seen of her in wartime, elegant and classy. She stepped onto the snow, and it crunched under her shoes, and I thought- Oh wow, she hasn’t seen snow before. A massive golden-haired lion walked up, she looked at me with excitement and knowing. She climbed upon his back, stroked his mane and whispered something into his ear. He turned and walked away, she smiled and waved farewell to me, riding this massive lion. I was almost envious and knew I had to come back into the real world and woke.

So I will leave you my favorite CS Lewis Quote:
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now, at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

 

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Chat soon Ponderers xxx

 

For those that are interested, one of our favourite movies that has been adapted from The Shack stars Sam Worthington- check out the trailer:

 

Tolkien, Journalism and Dante

Ponderers, please focus your eyes on this wonderful creature- an award winning social commentator, journalist  for the Courier Mail, author, academic and columnist PLUS she reads Ponderings which makes her a fave, she is the gorgeous Dr. Karen Brooks. Some of you may know that I once ran a candle company, candle making was one of my FAVORITE hobbies which then turned into a lucrative business. I came across a book titled Tallow, and was swept away into a mystical land of magic, candles and fantasy. Who could imagine a candle maker infusing the ability to heal and manoeuvre? (Grin inserted) Karen was responsible for MANY an all nighter as I consumed the Bond Rider Series and more than a few packets of Tim Tams.

K: One of my favourite book series of all time is the Tallow series. I have never met a creative such as yourself that can write such exquisite fiction and then jump over to current news affairs and social commentary- you’re quite extraordinary in this sense. How do you make the switch and what is your secret?

KB: No-one has ever asked that question before. I think writing in the two entirely different modes, even though they’re both creative acts, makes it easier for me to shut out one and focus on the other. One also stimulates the other. You see, when I was an academic and lecturing at university, I was always writing lectures, papers and researching and my newspaper columns were, in a sense a liberating (because I didn’t have to footnote and could write in the first person!) extension of that. With the newspaper columns, I have to work to a strict word limit which is generally quite inflexible, so it’s great discipline for a writer. It teaches you to delete extraneous words. You have to write quickly, to topic, get your points across concisely, entertainingly (you want the reader to keep reading) and lyrically/persuasively. In many ways, both academic writing and the opinion pieces trained me for fiction. I researched the Tallow series very thoroughly (and do even more now with my historical fiction), but I also learned to write in a disciplined way which also meant being able to switch off while at the same time using the skills I’d been taught by great editors. It takes me one to two years to write my books, but every week, I also have to produce an 800 word column on a social or political issue. I look forward to those days (mostly LOL!) and no longer feel they interrupt my novel writing, they are just part of what I do. I don’t think there’s a secret – I simply flick over. I’d never thought about it before. But, after 17 years ( I started writing fiction and newspaper columns at the same time), I’m an old hack – at the column, that is. Still learning so much about writing fiction! So it’s not a secret, but something that I’ve become accustomed to doing and don’t think about anymore.

K: Who is your favourite character you have created and why?

KB: Oh, sheesh… That’s like asking who’s your favourite child! I love them all… however, I adore Tallow and Dante. I also love Anneke Sheldrake (from The Brewer’s Tale), Mallory Bright and Sir Francis Walsingham from The Locksmith’s Daughter (the latter being a real figure in history, he was such a challenge and treat to create from the bones of history, to make him three-dimensional) and, in my current book, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife, I have fallen in love with a few of the characters, including another real historical figure, Samuel Pepys, the great diarist, who features. I will keep the others a secret for now 🙂

K:  Who inspires you and why?

KB: My amazing husband (one in a million) and my wonderful adult children. They have always inspired me and will continue to, and not just because I should include my family, but because they are my rocks, terrific, grounded people in their own right, and my loves. My fantastic friends – they inspire me. They’re all honest, good, hard-working, talented and kind people. My grandmother inspired me because of her strength and resilience – despite being such a pragmatic woman, she also had a vivid imagination. I’m also inspired by my beloved friends, Dr Kiarna Brown (obstetrician and gynecologist in Darwin) and Kerry Doyle (CEO of NSW Heart Foundation) who are both incredibly smart, witty, kind, compassionate women who give so much to those around them. Also, my beloved friend Sara Douglass who, even though she died in 2011, still continues to inspire me for all the same reasons. People like Quentin Bryce, our former Governor General, who has always conducted herself with such dignity, intelligence, and grace. Writer Shirley Hazard for the same reason (I had the great privilege of meeting and interviewing her back in 1994). Margaret Atwood – for her powerful writing and politics. My incredible friend Stephen Bender for his integrity, kindness, insight and ethics. And my former colleague and dear pal, Professor Jim McKay for his endless support, wisdom, compassion and generous heart and mind. They’re all sensational people for so many reasons, and I’m so fortunate they’re part of my lives – whether it be in the flesh or from a huge distance or through words. I could list so many more… Makes me realise how lucky I am to have such good people in my life.

K:  Tolkien or Austen?

KB: Ha! Can I say both? It’s the brain switch thing… 😉 I still reread them.

K:  What advice would you give your 25 year old self if you could meet?

KB: Be kinder to yourself. Life isn’t a competition no matter how many people try and convince you to enter into it or race you to the finish. You will find great love if you open your heart and give it (I did, but it would have been nice to know back then when I was on the cusp of a horrible divorce); as much as it’s a cliche, really do stop and smell the roses.

Leaderboard Ponderings 2K: France or London and why?

KB: London – I am an Anglophile – the history, the messiness, the imperfections, the incredible resilience of the people, it’s amazing.

K: What music are you listening to?

KB: Albums of Restoration music – I always listen to music from the period my novels are set in as I write them.

K:  What do you like about the Australian art space?

KB: A great deal. We have such variety and talent – across all genres and spectrums. My daughter, Caragh Brooks, is an artist in Melbourne and I love her work (illustration, painting, and sculpture) and the generosity of the art scene and other artists towards her and each other. I also adore the work of Andrew Taylor in QLD. I have the work of Ken Johnston hanging in my home, some of Shaun Tan’s marvellous book covers as well as an Indigenous artist named Muly’s work. Oh, and my daughter’s work – that is proudly displayed everywhere in the home and always attracts great comments. I also like the work of Tom Roberts, Fredrick Drysdale and Jeffrey Smart. Now, I took that literally to mean “art” but if you broaden it to include other aspects, such as writing, music, theatre, film, etc. Then, I like that artists keep giving so much to culture that (and this is what I don’t like)  sometimes doesn’t seem to appreciate the enormous contribution they make. Economics may be the bones of a society, infrastructure the flesh, politics etc the mind, but art is the beating heart.

K: If you could have one minute on National TV Prime Time to give a message what would you say?

KB: Please, be more generous in your heart towards others.

K:  When is the next book coming out?

KB: In the USA, next year (The Locksmith’s Daughter – which is out here already) and in Australia, October 2018 – The Chocolate Maker’s Wife.

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For more information about Karen:

Dr. Karen Brooks
www.karenrbrooks.com
Twitter: KarenBrooksAU
Associate Professor and Honorary Senior Research Fellow IASH, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland.
Columnist for the Courier Mail.
Join Karen for great conversations and sharing on FaceBook: Karen Brooks‘ Official Fan Page – love to have you!
Author of: The Locksmith’s Daughter ,The Brewer’s Tale, Tallow, Votive and Illumination in The Curse of the Bond Riders series.
Consuming Innocence, Rifts Through Quentaris and the Cassandra Klein Quartet
Director: Sara Douglass Enterprises
www.saradouglassworlds.com
www.nonsuchkitchengardens.com