Thursday, October 27, 2011

A photo journey through the Yarra Valley

I had planned to spend the two days following the Problogger conference in the Yarra Valley. I had a lovely cottage rented. Unfortunately, I ended up spending Saturday in hospital in Melbourne. That's a story for another day, but I will say that if you're going to get sick in a foreign country (fail), please do so in a city where you have a friend who is a doctor who can help you navigate the system (win). Thanks Felix.

For now I will offer you this bit of hastily-formed opinion on Australian vs. U.S. emergency medical services:

Australian health system:
  More efficient
  More affordable
  Friendlier doctors

American health system:
  Better drugs

So there ya go.

Okay, now, let's move on to the Yarra Valley. To get to the cottage I had to wind through narrow, tree-lined roads that looked like this

I stopped in Healesville for lunch and bought a necklace at a local artist's co-op.

About an hour later I arrived at the cottage

And straighaway saw that I needed to take a bath. A really, really long bath with candles and incense.

I fell asleep to the sound of kookaburras and awoke to find the refrigerator was stocked for breakfast.

There was a light rain outside and a mist fell over the valley.

On the way home I took a few detours to visit more artist's studios. I bought this mug

...and these painted rocks.

I was grateful for the borrowed set of wheels (thanks again, Felix).

So grateful I stayed on the left side of the road the entire time (unless there was only one lane).

I returned home to a friend's house that evening and was greeted with this.

Seriously Felix, you've outdone yourself.

Can't believe I actually had to go home the next day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Speak Out - one survivor's story

Last month I told you about Speak Out, an initiative that uses social media to bring awareness to the important issue of domestic violence. On Friday, November 18th, people around the world will blog, tweet or otherwise share thoughts and information on DV. The aim of the event is to normalize the conversation around DV and encourage victims to speak up and seek help.

What will be happening

Throughout the campaign I will be sharing the following on Wanderlust:

1. Stories from survivors
2. Informative articles on the dynamics and hallmarks of domestic violence
3. Several giveaways to encourage participation

I've put up a linky here and you can enter your name now to particpate. You don't have to be a blogger to enter. Just commit to speaking out via some form of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc). Thank you to everyone who has agreed in advance to take part on the 18th.

One woman's heartbreaking story

Today I'm sharing with you a post that comes from a woman who wrote me back in March to share a story that is every parent's nightmare -- the loss of a child. In fact, it was her email that convinced me to put up the post which first named my husband's crime and outlined the reasons I was afraid to go home.

This guest poster has asked to remain anonymous, as she is still embroiled in a legal battle with her ex.

I ask that you be considerate and gentle with your comments (as you always are) and know that if you have a history of violence, this or other survivor stories may be triggering.

Here is her story

* * * * *

My story began in July of 2007. I was the single mother of a very beautiful 2 year old girl. The relationship between her father and me had deteriorated, as relationships often do, and I found myself casually dating again. I never introduced any prospective suitors to my daughter. Ever. Until Sam came along. I had known him almost my entire life. He was my first love in junior high. We lost contact in the ten years after graduating and reconnected through mutual friends. For the first time, I felt comfortable introducing a man to my daughter. He seemed to love her from the start. 

A little over a year after reconnecting, we were married. Five months into our marriage, my daughter came down with flu like symptoms. Low grade fever. Vomiting. Lethargy. . I assumed this was a recurring ear infection and we decided Sam would take her to the doctor on the following day. Shortly after 9am on Monday, March 9, 2009 my husband calls me at work to say the nurses at our pediatrician’s office are performing CPR on my baby girl. An hour later she was pronounced dead. I was 3 months pregnant at the time.

Within 24 hours of her passing, my family and I were whisked into the sheriff’s department. I hadn’t even had a chance to digest everything that had happened and suddenly I’m being interrogated by detectives regarding every personal detail of my life. I spent the next 10 consecutive hours in the sheriff’s office before I am informed that my husband confessed to slamming his knee into my daughter’s abdominal cavity causing the internal damage that ultimately took her life. Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt.

The ensuing year and 5 months leading up to the criminal trial were a nightmare. Sam recanted his confession and feverishly denied any involvement in my daughter’s death, despite the fact that the autopsy report specifically coincided with everything he originally admitted to doing. I spent days and weeks in interviews with detectives and district attorneys. I watched as my house was ransacked for anything that could be considered evidence. I was in and out of court on bond hearings and had to watch as Sam’s family pleaded for his release from jail. 

I never was given an opportunity to grieve for my baby. There was no peace. As the trial date approached, I spent more time being interviewed by the DA. The questioning was relentless and often personal. It felt like a sort of emotional violation. An emotional rape. I was forced to discuss intimate details of our life with perfect strangers, some of them male. I cannot truly express how embarrassing that was for a grieving, pregnant mother. My husband was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 55 years in a state penitentiary.

Sadly I cannot say this was a victory. My daughter is still dead. I will never hold her again or tell her how special she was to me. Nothing will change that. The aftermath of the investigation and trial has been equally impossible to cope with. I was robbed of any opportunity to grieve, and I can’t get that back. 

Our society places unrealistic expectations on crime victims. I can’t tell you how many times I was told to get back to work. It will make you feel better. There should be no time limit on grief. Two and half years have passed since she died and I still feel broken. In addition to coping with the manner in which she passed, I struggle with the trauma I experienced during the trial. 

Despite the fact that I was the victim, it was up to me to prove my integrity. To prove that I was a good mother. A good wife. A good employee. A good citizen. I honestly became confused as to who was actually on trial. My husband didn’t have to prove anything. When the district attorney discovered I began dating again, she admonished me. She basically called me a whore. The memory of that conversation still stings today. 

It is impossible for anyone who has not experienced the loss of a child to understand how devastating it is. How could she possibly judge me for seeking comfort in another human being and why did it even matter? I wasn’t the one who brutalized my child. I wasn’t the one who was indicted. I wasn’t the one standing trial. But yet I was.

Sam’s family fully supports his claims of innocence and are vocal in their low opinion of me. There is no place I can go publicly where I don’t constantly look over my shoulder. I’m astonished how drastically a traumatic event can change a person. I had always been a confident, positive woman. I now live in a state of constant distress. Recurring nightmares. PTSD. Worrying about the intentions of every stranger I meet.

I am currently fighting for divorce and termination of his parental rights to our child. One would think in a situation like mine, divorce would be simple. He was convicted of murdering my little girl. This is a no-brainer, right? Wrong. He (and his very powerful attorney) thinks this marriage is sustainable; therefore I have to fight tooth and nail to end it. Despite his conviction, I still have to convince a judge and jury that he should have no involvement in the rearing of my young daughter.

I’m dumbfounded to think he, as a convicted felon, has more rights than me. Crime victims take a back seat to criminals in our country. There are individuals who devote their lives to better living conditions in prisons or the repeal of the death penalty while people like me desperately grasp at anything resembling a normal life. So far I have a come up empty handed.

* * * * *

Kristin here again. Please leave some love and support for our guest poster today. She is a remarkable woman who has extended concern and support to me, despite her own struggles. I have so much I want to say in response to her post, but this is her floor and I will leave my thoughts for another day. Much love to you my friend.

And please, if you haven't signed up yet, make a commitment today to speak out against domestic violence.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everything is beautiful

As I was sitting aboard the Melbourne-bound Qantas jet, I began to wonder whether or not I should even be taking this trip. Everything connected with it seemed to disintegrate at the last minute, many of the plans I made falling through. At the11th hour I was left having to rejigger my expectations. In particular, I had plans to spend the weekend after the conference at a beautiful cottage in the Yarra Valley with a special friend, but just days before the trip that connection ended in such a way that I was left feeling hurt, confused and a bit stunned. And with a non-refundable payment for the cottage on my credit card. I asked around among friends to see if they wanted to spend the weekend there with me, but everyone either had other commitments or children to watch or an early ticket home.

As the plane crossed over the dateline, the sun rose and the passengers were beginning to awaken, I poked around on the screen in front of me for a movie to watch. I came across American Beauty and hesitated a moment. It had received so many awards when it came out but I had never watched it because I was put off by the thought of an adult man having an affair with his daughter's friend, which is what I understood the movie to be about. But I watched it anyway and realized it was about anything but that. It was about learning to live authentically and seeing the beauty that is present everywhere, everyday, in all that we do. There is one part of the movie where a young man has filmed a plastic bag dancing in the wind and watches it over and over because he finds the dance so beautiful.

As the closing credits rolled, I felt hot tears pour down my cheeks and thought, yes. In that moment, I saw the arc of my life before me and the beauty inherent in all of it. I saw the shock of the assault and criminal case and the disintegration of the old structure of my life, I saw the birth and sudden death of this newest relationship, and my coming and going across continents. I felt my heart expand and thought, “It is beautiful, all of it.” Because it is. I cried for a long time, silent tears of gratitude.

* * * * *

Today Kirrily and I drove up into the Dandenongs. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we wound beneath the canopy of towering eucalypts. I just soaked it all in and I knew that everything about this trip was right. That what I needed was a window of silence in this place that is my spiritual home. To stay, alone, in a cottage in the mountains and just soak in the energy of this place, which has always been so transformative and restorative for me.

On the way back we stopped at a cafe in the mountains and sat outside under the trees. My body was buzzing. I could feel the old, familiar energy of this ancient land working its way into me and I cried again. More tears of gratitude.

Life is beautiful. All of it. The joy, the pain, the connection, and looking with compassion upon those unable to hold a connection.

We are all here, feeling our way along on our individual journeys and while we may be too often immersed in the painful aspects of our lives, how can we not look back upon it at the end and say it was anything but beautiful. It simply is.

Kirrily (Sunny Side Up) and her lovely daughter Lolly

This tree, at the summit of Mt Dandenong, is called The Wishing Tree. Legend has it that if you make a wish and look through the hole in the branches, your wish will be realized. Can you guess what I wished for?

It will be realized. I can feel it in my bones.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Woo hoo, I made it to.....Brisbane?

Oh Qantas, I had such a crush on you. And then you had to go and do this? I'll refrain from making any comments about the strike and just assume this whole experience has been an exception to what in the past has been exceptional service.

After 3 flights, 30 hours in transit, an hour of sleep, a 2 hour delay while seated aboard my aircraft in LAX, 2 missed connections, and 2 hours in a line with a couple hundred angry passengers (security was called to deal with 'passenger rage'), I've finally made it to Brisbane. Which would be so lovely had I actually planned on coming to Brisbane. Unfortunately, I still have yet to get to Melbourne and a bed (or couch or piece of floor even) on which to crash.

I'm going to look at the positive however and give a big whoop whoop that I am back on Australian soil once again (and able to console myself with a Violet Crumble).

I would love to think of something pithy or even witty to say here, but apparently my brain doesn't function well on two nights of no sleep. So instead I will point you to a piece I wrote that was published in the latest Digital Parents blogozine. It's called We are Good Mothers and you may have read it before on Wanderlust a while back. But since we mothers are so good at the guilt thing, go read it again. We need reminding time and again that we're doing a good job.

My Melbourne peeps, I so look forward to arriving in your fair city. And my lovely Brisbane peeps, if only I had known I would have this bit of time here, we might have had a chance to visit (if you could have ignored the fact that I look like a zombie with swollen feet who just yakked up lunch for the third time due to 14 hours of turbulence. Best stick with virtual me for now).

Ah, Australia, see what I'm willing to endure to see you? What a strong spell you cast, you amazing hunk of terra firma.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dammit Woog, see what you've done

I was all set to put up a serious post launching the Speak Out campaign when I made the mistake of clicking over to Woog's blog, where I read about Polyvore and admired all the lovely ensembles she had put together to represent the Sydney tribes.

So of course I had to check out Polyvore and ended up jacking around there for a couple of hours. It occurred to me that while her ensems were very clever, they did not represent Midwestern Stateside fashion in the slightest. So, in the interests of fair representation, I put together an outfit for moms from my neck of the woods.

Red State Mom
Red state mom

So while I didn't get my original post written, I did manage to waste some time being unproductive.  Not to mention enlighten those of you outside Kansas. If you ever visit you'll know just what to wear. Your welcome.

I'm going to stop reading Woog's blog long enough to get some serious posts written (knock wood). Thanks for letting me share with you an example of what savvy Kansans everywhere are wearing.

Well, not me. I'll be wearing this.


Outta my way church lady. I've got a flight to Melbourne to catch.

What about you? What's your favorite time suck?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don't ever settle

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on." - Steve Jobs

Have you ever settled?

I have. Too many times. I don't want to settle anymore.

I want my life to be filled with the things that bring me joy and make my heart sing.

I want to write more often and work for a paycheck less often.

I want to spend more time being present with my kids, as opposed to simply being in their presence.

I want to love with abandon and be loved back in the same way.

I want to feel safe.

I want to make a home in a place that feels like home.

RIP Steve. I hate that bastard cancer. One day, may he leave us all alone.

What about you? How have you settled? Is there something that your heart has been yearning for that you're ready to embrace?

Do it.

"And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become, everything else is secondary." - SJ

Transformation -

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Do you see a pattern here?

I have two children, 6 and almost 9.

At night I put them to bed three or four times. Once for show and then again when they get up to tell me the other is being too loud, get a notion to jump on the bed, decide they are suddenly starving and ask can they have something to eat (no), have a burning desire to be medicated/bandaged/cuddled because they fell and bonked a knee when jumping on the bed, and finally to tell me they can't sleep.

When I go to wake them up in the mornings they grunt and tell me they are too tired. Getting them out of bed is like peeling gum off a shoe.

When I get home from work I am tired and want to sit down for a bit to relax. They are bouncing off the walls and want nothing other than for me to play with them. Now! Please???? I say give me 5 minutes and they wait 12 seconds and then come over and wheedle/whine/beg/give me boo boo eyes.

After two minutes of silence I realize the girl has confiscated my cell phone to play with the camera. “Give that back to me!”

Somewhere around minute 4 the boy decides to do an aerial scissor-kick on the way to the kitchen and his outstretched hand hits the end of a Transformers action figure (Optimus Prime) perched on the counter, which then flies across the room in a perfectly aimed trajectory and lands on the girl's head. Crying ensues.

Good thing they are so cute.

* * * * *

Last week we adopted two kittens, 8 weeks old.

At night after the third of fourth tucking-in when the kids finally succumb to sleep, the kittens are just gearing up. They tear through the rooms and pounce on top of each other, beds, Barbie's townhouse, their litter box and the children's heads.

In the evenings when I sit down to read or work on the computer, one climbs up my leg and across my chest, falls but catches itself (thank goodness) by digging it's razor claws into my skin, crawls onto my face and starts licking my nose. The other plays with my earring. I pick them up and move them to the floor. This exercise repeats six or seven times.

As I'm wrestling with one cat the other walks across my keyboard and inadvertently renames a folder '33333333333333wqq”.

Finally, I am ready to get up and start dinner. At which point I realize that both kittens have fallen asleep on my shoulders.

After dinner the kittens climb up atop a folding chair and shift the center of gravity so that it comes crashing to the floor and onto their food dishes (ceramic, they break), and the loud noise and bowl breakage startles both children who were quietly playing UNO. Crying ensues.

Good thing they are so cute.

I think I'm beginning to see a pattern...

I said give me my camera back!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I've rolled an imperfect 300

Three facts it appears I forgot to mention...

  1. I was interviewed by Digital Parents Blogozine for their article on How to Seek Sponsorship. You can read it here.
  2. Also, the September DP blog carnival is up at Seven Cherubs, hosted by the lovely Naomi (yes, I know it's October and I'm just now telling you, be quiet).
  3. Oh, and it seems my *last* post was my 300th post (in just under 2 years of blogging). Seeing as I'm a former teen bowling sensation, I like that number.

Oh, and did I mention I'm going to Melbourne later this month? Melbourne, Australia? Sunshine, beaches, animals with pockets, Violet Crumbles, men with sexy accents.

I did?

How about I tell you again.


Okay. Fine then. I'll be off...


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