Fairy Sparkle

 

There is a woman walking around in this world, and specifically on our great barbequed continent, who has earned herself an Order of Australia Medal for making people feel happy.  In this day and age of the overwhelming sadness which is a suicide epidemic, of people with their faces stuck to the unreal, animated screen of a phone every second of the day and addicted to the weird act of the selfie, doesn’t that seem a very opposite thing to do?

I thought she be worthy of a story!

The woman’s name is Fairy Sparkle. She lives in a gypsy caravan, and dresses in silvery fairy wings, a gorgeous shimmering crown, a fluffy puffy fairy gown and wanders the café cultures of Sydney with loud bells tinkling. She cares not what people think of her living her life, no lapses, as a real fairy.  Here she is. FairySparkle

Now, everyone is worthy of a dose of happiness, and of someone helping them to get it if they’re having trouble with the job. I reckon that’s the way God designed us – to be happy and to make others feel the same. But we tend to get too busy and can’t fit it in. Or too wrapped up in trying our hardest to grasp happiness for ourselves – no brain space to work it out for others.

But there is a little pocket of the world whom I believe are the most deserving – kids. Born naturally happy – unless you’re a terrible two when you’re sometimes happy sometimes completely psycho – kids should not feel that deep sadness some adults feel because experience has bitten off a bit of their happiness. But some children do unfortunately. You can find them in Children’s Hospitals.

These dark places hold children who are dying. Children who are suffering, severely, and know they might have a lifetime of it. Not happy Jan.

But, Ms Sparkle has changed that. In 1991 she worked in IT – she was a suit! She decided to leave that job (phew), change her name by deed poll to Fairy Sparkle and became a full-time volunteer at the Children’s Hospital in Randwick. Of this, she says: “I followed my passion, I just love it. This is my life’s work.” She sold everything and is homeless, travelling in her silver VW beetle, and sleeping in her little silver “fairy pod” caravan which sparkles all over inside like the night-sky.  She says: “I don’t see it as giving anything up really, because what I’ve gained is far more real to me, than what I gave up.”

“First you have to choose to be happy, and then, just turn up!” Fairy Sparkle OAM.

As well as spreading her love and happiness to sick children and their families, Fairy Sparkle has taken it up as her mission to create fairy gardens at hospitals. If you’ve ever stayed for more than a few days in a hospital you will know how important this is – somewhere you can get fresh air, somewhere you can see the sky, somewhere you can explore, sit, chat, eat, and somewhere you can forget about the terrible world you’ve been ensconced in on the dark inside for such a long time. The first garden was built in 1999 at Randwick, now there are twelve gardens dotted around NSW, from Orange to the North Shore of Sydney, touched by Ms Sparkle’s very own hands, and many more across the country who have taken up her idea for their own space.

I met her when I was in hospital with my little baby Molly for a couple of months, and we found the magic of peace during turmoil in her garden. Fairy Sparkle’s bells tinkling down the corridor would make the weakest, sickest kids sit up, ramrod straight, in bed in anticipation. Her smiling sparkling laughter and down to earth voice captivated their little faces for the entire time she was present. She knew all the right things to say – a very difficult job when it’s a sick and dying child, for what do you say about that?

Parents behaved the same. In fact, they are more happy to see Fairy Sparkle than their kids. Because, if someone makes your child happy, it makes you happy. But when you have a sick child, and someone makes them forget their situation for a short while, well, you want to kiss her bejangled, silvery glittery-shoed feet.

In 2014 she received her OAM. I wish I could have been the responsible person giving it to her – to thank her for the miniscule but permanently impressed joy it gave us all those years ago, would have made me feel so happy… oh! there she goes again. For the future, thank goodness, she says: “There’s a big wand I’ve got to wave and I’m enrolling all sorts of people to help me do it!” The magic will continue to grow.

I have a character based on Fairy Sparkle in my Miss Molly book. The world needs to know about this amazing Fairy.  She is utterly inspiring. And perhaps we could even take up a small part of her cause ourselves. Perhaps, over the weekend, we might walk out into the world and make a big effort to make someone we don’t know, happy.  Spread a little sparkle, you know.

 “I think real magic, the real magic, is when you can’t explain what is happening but the effect is undeniable.” Fairy Sparkle OAM.

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A Wise Man and a Bright Star

The day began with the usual unsatisfying vomit; a dribble of bile in the cup of my hand and some in the loo. Not even Christmas Day, with all its miracles, could offer up a reprieve.

I wandered out of our guest bedroom to see a quartet of teenage cousins slothing out of theirs.  Four kids would be nice, I think.

If I was the Virgin Mary.

We all assembled around my aunt and uncle’s Christmas tree in their Southern Highlands loungeroom. The surrounding window’s shone in a beauty of a day – one worthy of new beginnings.

I took the chance, during a brief moment of hush: “We’re pregnant!”

There was teary, surprised giggling all round. Except from my uncle Laurie, who disappeared. What? All my life I’d heard, “You’d make beautiful babies with him”. And now that I am, he walks out?

This man, Laurie Curley, was a colourful character with many shades of intensity – from outbursts of extreme emotion, to the deepest of poetry, to being the life of the party, crackling with hilarious and inspiring stories. On this day, I didn’t know what sort of reaction this exit meant.

After a time, he walked back in. He sat next to me silently – possibly the only moment he’d ever been soft and quiet in his life. He opened a wee black velvet box, revealing a diamond ring, shaped like hands in prayer, and with tears, said: “I have had this for you, for that baby in there, for a long time. Congratulations my darling.”

That baby got out of there eight months later and was the precious miracle that Christmas day had indicated he would be. Oliver. Little boy of peace. He lived up to his name from the moment he lay, with a head shaped like a butternut squash, perfect in my arms.

But with such deep peace, it would transpire, came crippling shyness and uncertainty for this boy. Social situations were debilitating. I believed I had the only toddler in the world who was frightened to death of a playground.

We tried everything to make life seem a little less scary for Oliver.  We thought we were doing well, until the preschool teachers suggested he go into a Child Anxiety Program. We never got there.

He started school, knowing no one. He looked up that day, took a shallow breath and was the bravest person I’ve ever known. I cried: Not because I was losing a child but because I’d gained a stronger one.

But again, the school teachers suggested our little boy go back to that Program. Rather than fixing anxiety, the recommendation generated more. We said no thanks.

A few years later, as Oliver struggled along, special uncle Laurie passed away swiftly from a violent and hideous fight with cancer. We went to see him toward the end. He still found a slice of strength to talk farts with our kids, making them giggle, as always, before collapsing into bed with his morphine. Our children were quiet as we drive home from that visit in the Southern Highlands.

There are some who have completed their work in life earlier than others, and Laurie’s was certainly a life well lived. Once more my husband and I defied popular opinion and took our children to farewell their influential uncle. Oliver lead his siblings in sprinkling the coffin with roses and I could hear Laurie as their flowers flourished around him: “See? Don’t you listen to them, my darlings – you do what you want – anything you want”. It was a saying I’d heard many times over the course of my life. A saying Laurie breathed in and out everyday, with flamboyance and verve.

Oliver’s confidence and friendships began to grow with age. But then one by one, the friends drifted away to other schools and towns. At the start of this year, his little brother whispered, “Mum, Oliver sat by himself at lunch time today”. And then every day, and throughout the year.

As Christmas 2016 approached, Oliver asked about Laurie, three years in Heaven by now.  “Mum, can you tell me that story where uncle Loz didn’t go to the party, but walked around the corner and fixed up the poor kids’ house?”  It was the story which marked the beginning of the charity, Qantas Cabin Crew Team, for which Laurie received an OAM.

A few days later Oliver came home saying he had made a speech at school about an inspiring leader in history. I was thinking the teachers meant the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai. Oliver had chosen Laurie.

It turned out that speech was to the Principal and a panel of the school’s senior teachers.

Later that week, that Principal chose our little boy of peace as a Primary School Leader.

“You really can do anything you want, my darling.”

wiseman-bright-star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hung Household

 

Not to be out done by our country’s not-so-Prime Minister, I find myself this week sitting constantly in a Hung Household. Also known as school holidays.

As the Speaker of the House it is my principal duty to preside over the House and maintain order in the House, uphold the rules of procedure, rule on points of order, and protect the rights of backbench members. Except sometimes this Speaker feels like a backbencher as well.

Kicking off the debate is the Karate Party – oldest boy child with some sort of testosterone surge going on. His policies revolve around the importance of all sport, sleep over’s and TV. He is also well known for his strict policy that all younger siblings being kind to one another – called his protection policy.  He gets a lot of votes from the Upper House (Mum and Dad) for this latter policy.

The Karate Party is sometimes in close alliance with the Always-Right Party (also his younger brother and second in line in the Lenehan Senate).  At other times the two parties are in complete opposition.  The Always-Right Party can swing the Speaker of the House with clever arguments and the odd tantrum.  But no matter how hard he tries, the Always-Right Party will never, not even a tiny amount, influence the policy of the party who sits next down the line to him in the Lenehan Senate….

…Which is the Sustainability Party. The only female on the floor, the Sustainability Party has to fight for her life for equality and a voice.  Aptly named, this Party can sustain a high pitch wail for much of the day and sustain a nagging argument for an entire week.  She can persuade one half of the Upper House (Dad) easily on her policies using these methods and a tiny twist of her little finger.  

Then we have the Shooting Party. It’s a simple policy for this last seat in the Lenehan Senate and three year-old boy: All older siblings, the Upper House and any visitors to Parliament must be shot with a Nerf gun. Great antagonist to the Sustainability Party’s main policy of wailing. Interrupts the Always-Right Party’s sense of what’s right in the world, and is always testing the patience of the Karate Party’s protection policy.  

The Lenehan Senate has been on a constant campaign trail this school holidays.  It’s a battle ground, with each vying for the Speakers attention, via methods of loud voicing of opinion and also by physical example. Such as this:  The Shooting Party wakes late, enters the TV room by stealth while all other parties are still, half-asleep, formulating their plan of attack for the day. Then, BOOM! he shoots them all dead. And it’s on. At 5.30am.  The Karate Party gets up to do what he does best, swinging and kicking and keeyah-ing all over the place. The Always-Right Party is trying to explain at 500 decibels that shooting people while they’re still half-asleep is taking unfair advantage, and the Sustainability Party has begun her day long sustained squeal.

hunghouseholdf

The Speaker rises to her feet.

No one notices.   

She raises the gavel.

No one notices.

She orders the Members to excuse themselves for one hour to their rooms.

No one notices.

She thinks about being history’s second only ever Speaker to permanently expel a Member from the House.

Instead she stages her own #Brexit.

 

 

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #2

“It’s just really important to Sam,” enthuses Marsha with a look of utter distress on her face about the whole situation, whilst simultaneously checking Facebook. “Soccer is a huge passion for him and he really looks up to the coach, sees him as the most important thing in his life during the soccer season – oh my gosh, Carolyn’s at it again with her status updates complaining about having no help at home, bor-ring….If no one else is doing it for you, get off Facebook and do it yourself woman,” mimics Marsha as she swipes Carolyn off the screen in disgust.  

“You know,” continues Marsha, back to the important topic of soccer, “when their coach doesn’t turn up, not only does the team fall apart during the game, but the boys don’t feel like they’re worthy of their “esteemed” coach’s time,” she sighs, withdrawing her French polished fingernails back to their phone typing.     soccermumsbagcoach

“Hmm,” agrees Beverly, mother of the star striker of the team. She’d not been happy since the beginning of the season when her division one son had been relegated back a level to division two. “This is what happens in the lower divisions, it’s just rubbish, no one commits, no one cares.  I think I’ll talk to the club director about it. See if they can give us a new coach – one who actually has the team winning as their top priority.  When he does turn up to coach he’s too soft, like they’re just there to run about and have a giggle.  Perhaps we can pay a coach?  Volunteers just don’t work.”

Marsha looks at her watch.  It looks so out of date now, she must get herself one of those hot new Marc Jacobs’ timepieces.  “Five minutes late again. This is just ridiculous, where’s the man’s commitment, I ask you?”

“Exactly.  It might as well be us out there coaching them,” spits Beverly angrily.  “We turn up with our kids on time, we put in all this effort when we could be at home in the warmth, feet up, watching I’m A Celebrity –”

“Oo, do you think Shane Warne will win?” asks Marsha getting excited.

“For sure – Oh, here he is, FINALLY!” says Beverly loud enough for them to hear in the next suburbs’ training grounds.

But coach Tim doesn’t hear the women.  His mind is still back in that hospital with his little girl fighting the whooping cough ravaging her tiny body.  On his wife who is falling apart and on his boy, slinking along beside him who is suffering on all fronts as his family dances with death.  He gives his little Matthew a hug as they walk up to the waiting team. His wife had said it would be good to get fresh air, try and do life as normal for a while.  Him and Matthew had missed last week’s game when their baby girl had been rushed to the Children’s Hospital – maybe a run around with his mates and a bit of his beloved soccer will make him forget for just a small while. He tries to remember how to smile: “How are my boys? I heard you played an awesome game last week, lots of great passing and marking, well done, high five!  I was really upset I missed it…”

School Camp

Ahhh, school camp. It’s a challenge for a parent, is it not?

Firstly the packing list.  ‘Old t–shirts and shorts’.  Read: Complete and Utter Fashion Dilemma, might as well have written ‘pressure mum and dad to buy you the latest Nike gold plated futsal sneakers and scuff appropriately so it looks like you always wear this kind of stuff camping’.  school camp copy‘Underclothes’ – will he remember to actually put them on?  And a ‘Sleep Sheet’ – seriously? A sheet inside a sleeping bag is just a recipe to wake up wrapped like an Egyptian mummy – best use for it is to give it to Tarzan.

Secondly, interpreting the safety and medical forms. ‘Signs of asthma’ – well, can’t breathe is a good start but if you want anything pre-emptive his mother is just going to have to come because I’m the only one who can tell, ok?  Then we have the list, ticking yes or no, of all possible ailments – heart problems, night terrors, broken bones, concussion, operations – no, no, no, he doesn’t want any of these, thank you very much, you just bring him back the way I packed him off. Then there’s the good old ‘other’ at the end of the list – I take this to mean they want to know he sneezes 3 and a half times when he gets up and that if he wears soccer shin pads too much he will get eczema underneath them so you need to line them with a Libra Thin and Breathable. Well, you asked.

And thirdly, and most importantly, THE WORRY!  Will he have enough to eat?  Will they burn the toast, just exactly the way his mum does? Will he make it to the toilet during the night? And if he does, will he remember it goes in the toilet, not all around it?  Will he have a friend in his room?  Will he spew on the teacher on the bus – did they read my note? (actually, bad luck if they didn’t). 

And, will I survive missing my baby so much it hurts in my chest and my stomach till he returns?  

Yes, I will.  Because I remember how he stood taller when he returned from the last one, like he’d had a concentrated infusion of confidence for the past three days.  I remember that smile which tells me he’s feeling on top of the world.  I remember how he still talks about the log wrestling from his first camp all those years ago, and though I have many and varied skills as a mother, giving him a chance to log wrestle is not one of them.  And I absolutely remember his answer when I asked him if he’d been ok while he was away:  “Yes mum, I had a really great time.” He showered me with the biggest hug I have ever had. “But it’s good to be home now.”

school camp 2

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #1

I DIDN’T GET THE AWARD FOR SPORTSMANSHIP!” he spits at his mother, devil-red in the face, smoke pistonning from his nostrils. The 9 year old striker’s fists begin to crack closed forcefully, his tiny brain struggling to makes sense of it all, teeth grinding in fury.

“Yes, I was watching the award ceremony,” responds his mother, also seething with disgust.

He starts up again: “Little -”

“Now Brutus, darling, remember we don’t use the F word in public places like this, it doesn’t look good,” says Mother, ever responsible.  “I’ll talk to Ben Botson about it. Someone must have been in his ear.”  She walks out of the Man Untied clubhouse, confident in her promise. ‘Cheats’, she thinks – ‘the kid and the club director.

“I wanna smash that dumbass,” rages on the tall, wiry boy, possibly lacking in a wide vocabulary.  “How many goals did he get, huh? huh? He can’t tackle to save his life.  A back, a defender, who wants to be a stupid defender,” he wobbles his head in mockery, striding  after his mother, the usual two metre distance between them she keeps.  

“‘Pass, pass,’ he screams like a girl – no way I’m passing the ball to him, I’m the only one who can kick goals in that whole team. Sportsmanship – can’t play sport to save himself…” He kicks at a rock, his superb goal-kicking foot hitting the gutter instead, making him near explode. “Few teeth on the shoulder in a close tackle oughtta let him know who the winner really is,” he mutters.   

Mother smiles to herself, lowering her Lycra top neckline in readiness to see Ben. So competitive was her little Brutus.  Such a great quality to have – she couldn’t have written it into him if she’d tried.  But she’ll just be right up there and making sure that Director knows exactly who their family is:  Soccer royalty is who, an A grade player since he was 5, training with a personal coach four times a week even back then. He is lucky to have Brutus in his club.  No one forgets her children. No one. Brutus will be making international soccer headlines one day, just like his hero, Luis Suárez.

LuisSuarez

Suárez showing the true extent of his skill in the 2014 World Cup

This is a practice piece in writing character’s, and is the first in a series using the soccer season I’m about to be kicking around in.  I have never met Brutus, nor Shazza his Mother, they purely a figment of my nightmares. Luis Suárez, however, is a real life adult experiencing teething.   

Two Funerals and a Brain Scan 

Last year was one of those years – I couldn’t go to Coles without catching pneumonia. At one point I just took my sick-after-sick-after-sick kids out of school and we ran away up the coast to a big wide open space with no snot in it.  Add to this a brain scan for me, two family funerals and an evil piece of a skin cancer chopped out of me, and I was about to give up and go and live with the hippies. Then I remembered those filthy dreadlocks….

Before you feel as sorry for me as I was, all remains well.  The funerals were the finale to two well-lived lives, they found a brain in my noggin, the kids got their Gloria Gaynor on and “I will survived” and 2016 is a brand spanker of a new year.

However, in the thick of it all, one asks oneself: What is the dent I want to leave in this life?

What was very clear to me at the time was that my greatest work will be – sorry Book World – my kids. 

Part of this, of course, is Book World, or becoming la Fabulous Authoress. It’s leading by that good brave, ‘go-get-‘em’ example, showing them that they too can do absolutely anything they want.  Getting up when you face plant in the publisher’s office, faceokantshowing them what having a passion means and that hard work pays dividends.  I hope and try my hardest to show them a balance – to do both mum and work in the proportions that matter to our family, and hopefully not too frenetically (although I know this last part is my biggest failing).

A funeral brings up how you might be remembered.  You think of the person you’re saying goodbye to in the best and fondest of terms – will people think such things about you? At my 99 and a half year-old Nan’s funeral, these words were in my head: She was consistently kind and strong. 

This was the answer to my question.   

When it comes down to it, when my children have to stand on their own two feet, which thankfully God-willing is not right now, what I want them to be is kind and strong. 

Rather shockingly, a Harvard study a couple of years ago gained a lot of attention when it found 80 per cent of teenage participants chose success as their top priority, over caring for others, which was chosen by a measly 20 per cent. Apparently the kids said that these priorities mirrored their parent’s priorities. Parents – what would you think of this if your child was the one who needed the care shown to them?  I want my kids to be kind.

And strong – to know right from wrong, to be able to stand up for themselves – to everyone, not just to the usual issues parents nag about like drugs and bad behaviour.  I want my fairly timid kids to be certain about their beliefs and what feels right or wrong.  I want them to have strong instincts. And good perspective and balance in life.  But not a bland life – no way! Find your passion, my darlings. 

Feels like a huge job when you write it all down. Best I get to it.