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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Hip hip hooray #healthyhipsweek

When I was young, I would curse my hips because they wouldn’t make my legs and feet turn out like my amazingly beautiful ballet teacher. If they would only do their job then I would look just like her – despite the fact I had brown short hair, was a plumpa-lumpa and nothing like her 6 foot tall willowy goldilocks.

When I first entered high school, my hips were the place I used to roll my uniform skirt up and over, so that instead of the hem reaching that daggy spot mid-calf, it flew somewhere above-knee. Then, as beachgoing became the mid-teen activity of choice, I became increasingly interested finding and exposing my hip bones. Ultimately, I decided that there were none in there and continued on eating.

As I grew into 20-something, my hips became important in the right way they should be regarded – my physical health. The discovery of a back problem which would be my companion forever, meant more attention needed to be paid to my hips – keeping them straight, strong and stretched, meant I was giving my back the best opportunity to remain healthy for as long as possible.  

I became a married woman. And started yoga. The two were not related. Or maybe they were: My husband’s work took us to living in some weird and wonderful places, and we experienced some really challenging times.  In each place I did yoga for excercise. Time and again I would hear “our hips are the place we hold our fear, our emotional junk drawer, where we put emotions we don’t know how to handle”.hip replacement

Next: Babies. Pregnancy, hips widening, birth, lots of sitting and breastfeeding, and muscles relaxed to the point of being floppy – man, I was a good yogi. A happy hippy time.

Then my mum had an accident and shattered her hip. She had to suffer through a night of the most horrific pain I’ve ever witnessed, before being given some new jewellery – a metal hip ball and joint. A long recovery, and 10 years later the thought of using her hip normally still generates fear.

And another life hip event: A baby with a hip infection. Nasty old pneumococcal disease settled in our six month-old baby’s hip joint, eating it away. She is classified disabled, although right now you would never know to look at her skipping, cartwheeling and being the most beautiful ballerina she can be, much to my delight. She is a true miracle.  The time will come when her hip will get cranky and we will deal with that then. Operations will be soon. But for now, every day, I appreciate her special hip, as we call it, because it reminds me the body is a gift, to be looked after and appreciated for it’s capacity – with a ballet leap and a cartwheel while I can.

So cheers to Healthy Hips Week. Keep them healthy, keep them “junk free” and appreciate them for more than just a pair of hip bones in hiding.  

 

 

No fear to lend an ear

According to the World Health Organization, depressive disorders will be the leading cause of the global burden of disease by 2030.

This was one of those statements which hit me with a great big sledgehammer in the chest.  I found it shocking. I felt the heaviness of infinite sadness settle inside me.

The very same day my big boy came home with a writing competition about changing the world.  I told him this fact I’d read, and I could see him visibly changed by hearing it, as I had been.  He decided to look into it.  A hefty ask for an 11-year old, but unfortunately that’s the tough old world our “tween’s” are living in these days.

Who might get depression? we asked ourselves. “Someone who doesn’t get 300 likes on their selfie,” he said. “A mother stuck at home with no kids to care for anymore and no life,” I said. “Someone who works too hard like Dad,” he said.  I asked, “What about your sister when she goes to high school?” and he nodded looking worried. “My brother could have been depressed when that person in his class was being mean all the time,” he said. “Nanny?” I asked. He nodded, not knowing a reason why his loving nanny might get depression, but knowing that depression picks on anyone the black beast chooses.

What does depression look like? we wondered. “It might look like a bully” he said, “who is covering up his sadness by being a bully.”  I asked, “What about kids who don’t eat, or eat too much?” and he nodded with an assuredness which frightened me.depression “Or people who drink too much alcohol or take drugs,” he added. “What about quiet people?” “What about old people?” “People who’ve come back from war?” “People who are too busy,” or “people who are not busy at all.”  And then, “What about suicide mum?” I nodded. Yes, depression can look like suicide. How sad, sad, sad that this plague currently thrives in the world of the young. “Or maybe it’s someone who seems bright and happy on the outside and you just can’t tell at all,” I tried.  And he agreed. “That’s pretty hard, that one,” we decided.

How can you fix depression? we now really wanted to know. He was touched by this  policeman’s story… Kevin Briggs worked as a highway patrol officer on the Golden Gate Bridge for most of his career. When it was built in 1937, this majestic San Francisco bridge was deemed by the chief engineer Joseph Strauss to be “practically suicide-proof – suicide from the bridge is neither practical nor probable”. From then, to now, there have been over 1600 suicide’s and the number is relentlessly growing.  The lucky one to two per cent of people who survived their jump, knew the second they let go that they had made a mistake and they wanted to live.  Kevin Briggs came in contact with hundreds of suicidal people on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Without any training in mental health or suicide when he began, Briggs felt all he could do was simply be there next to the people standing on the precipice, and listen to them talk. For as long as it took, he would stand there and listen – he mightn’t be trained, but any old person can listen, so he did.   Of all he came in contact with, Briggs saved all of those hundreds of people attempting suicide because he listened, except two.  Hundreds of people are still in this world, and eternally grateful to Kevin Briggs for listening that day.  It turns out they wanted to live after all.  That their depression actually could be healed. And it started with someone lending an ear.

“But that’s not that hard to do, is it?” asked my son.

 

Do you think we can something to avoid the 2030 depression epidemic?  How can we help or heal individuals? 

Lifeline 13 11 14

Black Dog – www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Beyond Blue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Missing Mother

Breaking News:  Reports of a possible missing person. 

A stay-at-home mother from Sydney’s Insular Peninsula appears to have disappeared. The missing mother is known as a woman who quietly and boringly got on with her life as a housewife and children’s Uber driver.  She was not known as social, being as she was mostly stuck in the kitchen and kitchen’s do not talk.  Nor was she known as adventurous – going to Coles was a big day out – and those close to her say that she likely may, or may not have, left of her own accord.

The missing mother was released from her cage – err, household, last Thursday.   She was sighted at Sydney Airport with a woman said to be an old friend from school.  The old friend was allegedly feeding the poor unsuspecting missing mother champagne at 8.30am.  It is not known if this friend is an accomplice, as she is also usually a mother at home, or if she is a suspect.

The missing mother and her friend were then seen at Auckland Airport, with yet another friend, who is a known policewoman, leaving the airport with a bottle of Tequila.  Kiwi’s, cops and tequila – it is not looking good.

It is believed the missing mother was planning to attend a wedding.  The word “Chenery” was overheard by witnesses on numerous occasions – detectives suspect this might be secret code for ‘Brewery’, which was the possible wedding venue, or it could be the bride’s name.  Despite the alleged wedding being full of cops and lawyers, detectives are not holding out much hope that law enforcement would prevail. They know their own kind too well.

Local fisherman, next to the wedding location, believe they spotted the missing mother, although personality descriptions do not match accurately.

mohawk-sideways-copy
Facial composite of the missing mother

  The missing mother’s family in Sydney said it would be very unlikely to be the same woman if she was seen dancing all night long and up on the stage pretending to be Salt n’ Peppa to the popular 80s song “Push It”.  The family also refute claims that the mother would put a fluorescent pink mohawk on sideways for something called a “photobooth”, accidentally or not. 

Nor would she ever be seen singing into love hearts on sticks, somewhat like a microphone, which the bride had painstakingly decorated her wedding venue with. Her husband said it was always, always, a wooden spoon or kitchen implement she sang into.  

There have been suspected sightings of the missing mother back in Sydney.  But the woman singing Whitney Houston while she baked, and dancing to Salt n’ Pepper while she vacuumed, did not resemble at all the drab woman who once stood in that apron in that spot, so those claims have been dismissed.  Other reports say this same all-singing-dancing  woman did not have a nightly glass of patience – err, wine – as the missing mother used too.  Justifications along the lines of a detox of gin,  tequila and other unremembered beverages, have also been dismissed.

The search continues.

 

Practising Kindness. Kind of.

My late rising New Year’s resolution is kindness. Be kind, show kindness, kind, kind, kind.

It’s everywhere – the new catch phrase to counteract narcissism generated in our age of the selfie.  Me me me it’s all about me, verses Be kind to one another. I should have been an anthropologist or psychologist instead of a mother.  (Same thing, I hear you say? Need one as a mother, I hear you say?)

This woman is fabulous – take the 10 minutes to watch Orlay Wahba speak on kindness, it will change your life.  http://blog.ted.com/the-magic-of-kindness-orly-wahba-at-ted2013/  She nails why kindness is essential and exactly how it makes the world a better place.

So I’m going to be kind. I’ve already started.

I was really kind yesterday when my toddler screamed his way out of swim school, all the way to the car, screamed when I asked him to get in the car, then screamed about me locking him out of the car (never leave a child unattended inside a car), then continued his little screaming argument all the way home.

He is still alive. See? Kindness.

Part of kindness is that it brings you to noticing others. For example, like last night.  My husband must have been practising kindness because when he was putting the rubbish bins out, he noticed the next-door neighbour nicking our greens bin from the verge.  “Hey, isn’t that ours?” came kindly out of Happy Husband’s mouth, to which Naughty Neighbour replied, “oh just taking it to put our palm fronds in”.  Happy Husband practiced further kindness by not saying anything more – perhaps because his mouth hung open in disbelief but hey, the bin was theirs.  

Currently, I am practising kindness with great fervour. Along with noticing, being kind also generates gratitude.  As I write this I am looking out my window at the pool company (here is a description of them), draining thousands of litres of water-slash-money down the plughole, and jackhammering big chunks out of the concrete walls of our brand new pool.  But hey – I am super grateful that we had the pool for the kids for Christmas, because we can’t afford to eat anymore let alone buy something as frivolous as Christmas presents.  And I am tremendously grateful to the actual people who work for the pool company, because now when I turn on the news Donald Trump really truly looks like a super nice guy to me. Really, he does incredibly honourable work, don’t you think?    

So, after a successful week of practising great kindness, I’m going to celebrate. Here is a selfie of me with my big glass of kindness to myself. But we all know it’s not all about me…

woman-with-big-glass-of-wine

   

 

   

Tales of a Poolside Crime

Once upon a time there was a family who was really so very excitably excited, because they were putting in a pool!  The kids were beside themselves – the boys began kissing their future “guns” developed by swim practice, and the little girl with big plans to be a synchronised swimmer just like the Olympians (minus the snot stoppers, apparently). This pool was their Christmas present. The whole family couldn’t believe such an amazing incredible luxury was going to be theirs.

The responsible adults in the house (Dad, and Mum on a good day) met with another responsible adult from the pool company (who was suuuuper responsible because he was the owner).  Mr Pool Company Owner, who looked just exactly like a really kind grandfather, said he ran the business with his family, it had always been in the family for a long long time, and they loved to do top quality work. This was very important to Dad because he is an extra-picky engineer and loves good quality work and straight lines.  Mum’s no good at straight lines but she is right into her phone and she found it strange that Mr Pool Company Owner kept hitting the ignore button on his phone when it rang.

The day finally came.  The Foreman arrived, with some other people who loved fluorescent yellow as well, and Foreman got to work with the spray can. Foreman was very adept with that spray can and had possibly implemented some self-driven extra homework during his apprenticeship, on suburban trains.  But I digress.

A couple of days later in came a big digger. Children were going into apoplexy about it, and it was as hard to get them to school as it is to extract water from a volcano. When they came home there was the most awesome sight: A pool sized hole in our backyard! This was really going to happen!

Every day the children stood at the back door waiting for more fluorescent yellow people to arrive.  Soon Mum and Dad joined them at that window. And every day, no one turned up at their giant hole in the ground.

The sun shone. It was beautiful spring weather. And the hole began to collapse.

The sun shone. And no yellow shirts turned up.

More of the hole collapsed. pool

Mum was starting to feel decidedly irresponsible. So she called the Graffiti Sniper (being unable to think of him as Foreman anymore). Every day. And she called the office, every day. And she emailed the office, every day.

And Not. One. Person. Ever. Rang. Her. Back.

And more of the hole collapsed.

And the sun shone on.

Mum suddenly realised that this grandfatherly looking bloke was not a grandfatherly person at all. He was a Nasty Nasty Pool Crook. He did not care about family nor quality work. He especially wasn’t caring about her family who were by now really seriously down in the dumps, especially because their garden had become a very dangerous place for children.

Dad had read the pool contract before signing it (engineers do that sort of thing), and it had all these conditions in it which he considered extreme.

Like – ‘you’ll pay for any collapses’ – even though there was no conceivable reason we could see as to why they didn’t continue to build the pool after they’d dug the hole. And, ‘if contractors can’t be found to do the work (anywhere? There is no man with a shovel to dig out the dirt that has collapsed anywhere in NSW?) and it all runs over time, well bad luck you Client, you pay for those repercussions too’.  And, ‘those down payments you made? BWUHAHAHAHAHA – They’re aaalllll ours.” evil-trump-donald

Nasty Nasty Pool Crook emailed to confirm: “Yes you stupid overexcited family, we will be enforcing all of these contractual obligations. Even though you have done nothing wrong and we have done no work, we will still have all of your money and leave you with a destroyed backyard. Kind regards.”

I’d like to say this story will be continued in a little ‘Tales of a Poolside Crime’ series.  But do you hold out any hopes?

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