ANZAC Day.

“They march to honour sacrifice…”

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April 25th is ANZAC Day.

It’s the day that unites Australians and New Zealanders in remembering the sacrifices made to preserve our freedom and way of life by all Australian and New Zealander soldiers and  their allies, not just those who died at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.

Last year, on ANZAC Day, I wrote this poem. I published it on my blog then, and it appears in my book, ‘Nova’.

I wanted to share it with you again today, because it’s so important that we remember exactly what our rights and freedoms as Australians have cost. They didn’t just happen. Time and time again, young men and women have served our nation by fighting for the freedoms and values that we hold so dear. Many have lost their lives. Many have been injured – and not just physically. And many families still grieve for those who never returned.

‘Remembrance’ does not tell the whole story. It’s a glimpse of men and women, young and old, military and civilian, gathered together on ANZAC Day to pay tribute to those who served, and particularly those who gave their lives for their country.

Our country.

My country.

I can never repay that debt. I am not expected to.
But I can pay my own tribute.

Lest We Forget.

Promo Nova Remembrance ANZAC DAY

The Importance Of Minding One’s Manners On Social Media.

The choice between being either the low point or a bright spot in someone’s day isn’t so complicated.

I was motivated to write this post by an experience I had a few weeks ago.
I posted a question on a blog post by someone who presents himself as a successful and popular author.  He probably is, but his response to my question was quite scathing. When I explained why I hadn’t read every blog post he had posted, he was so rude that I took screen shots. Of course, he had no idea that I took screenshots, but it made me feel better because I had evidence to support my increasing dislike for him and his condescending attitude. Who did he think he was, anyway?
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ScreenHunter_410 Mar Asshat Identity Concealed 2
(I’ve concealed his identity here because I don’t feel like getting sued or anything like that.)
At this point, I made a decision to never buy his books, nor to help promote or encourage him in any way. I suspect several others probably made the same decision. When a friend went to read the exchange between us, he had deleted the whole thing, so I am sure he realised it wasn’t a good look for him. I highly doubt that it might occur to him to apologise for his rudeness, but I will never know, because I had promptly unfollowed his blog, deleted him from my twitter feed and blocked him on all social media.

Sure, my question might not have been the brightest or best he’s ever read. Even so, his response was condescending and made me feel really low. Who needs that kind of negativity in their life? I certainly don’t.

As an author who uses social media to build a following and hopefully sell my books, I can confidently state this is the least desirable outcome from interacting with others.
There is a valuable lesson that, whatever our profession might be, we can all take from this: never, ever, be an asshat to someone on social media. It’s far too easy to damage a reputation or a brand that you’re trying to establish and promote.
The choice between being either the low point or a bright spot in someone’s day isn’t so complicated. If people ask a question about your book, your blog, or your dog’s hind leg, simply be thankful they are interested enough to ask. Engage with them. Being friendly doesn’t cost anything, nor does it mean you have to pledge eternal friendship.
You will walk away with your integrity and your potential readership intact, if not a little more loyal towards you. As a writer, you can’t put a price tag on that.
*My original working title for this post was, in fact, “Why One Should Never Be An Asshat On Social Media”. I tidied it up a little. You’re most welcome. 

PSA: How to proceed if we disagree.

Please, be very, very careful about what you defend.
More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.

I don’t take sides in politics.
I take sides in life.
 
I side against prejudice, hatred, family violence, oppression and injustice.
 
Therefore, I will state quite openly that I do not endorse Trump as POTUS. At the same time, I do not endorse Madonna’s comments either. There are Australian politicians and various other public identities that I do not endorse, for exactly the same reasons.
 
If something I post offends you because you don’t agree politically, stop and think before you jump down my throat and give me grief about it.
Am I saying “I hate this person”? No.
I’ll be saying “I don’t like this action or these words”.
They’re very different things.
Chances are, if someone on the other “side” did or said that, you’d criticise them for it, too.
 
Consider that I will call *anyone* out on bullying, lying to the nation/world, or inciting mistrust, hatred and violence. I will not accept misogyny, sexism, sizeism, ageism or racism as “humour” or “lighthearted”. 
Today, it might be someone you like. Tomorrow, it might be the person you don’t like.
 
Please, be very, very careful about what you defend. More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.
 
I am not your enemy unless you make that choice.
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Love Trumps Hate. 

In the aftermath of the US election, it’s important to remember that there’s anger on both sides. Many, many people in the US, as well as elsewhere, feel marginalised and overlooked. For some, it’s been many years of actually being treated that way. For others, it’s hopes and dreams that have been kept out of reach by social forces that they haven’t been able to change or address. You only have to study a little bit of US history to see those things happening.

I think of this election as a pressure cooker – after a long time on “high”, the thing blew its lid off and left a heck of a mess when it did.

We must remember that people don’t always vote from a perspective of good policy. People vote because they long for a change, they yearn to be heard… or at least to feel as though they have been heard. Sometimes it’s a reaction to something as visceral as revulsion over what one candidate or the other has done or is accused of doing. There was a whole lot of all of that in this election.

This election in itself won’t fix anything. A new president, regardless of identity, is a figurehead. The real problems lie in the structure of the society under that leader. The anger and polarisation of the American society will only get worse while people engage in anger, vilification and distrust – of their leaders, yes, but particularly of each other.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t hold their government and its actions to account. I’m a very firm believer in doing that. But let’s not destroy each other in the process. Let’s ensure that our commentary is focused on what needs to happen, what needs to change, and how we can work together to achieve that.

Personally, I don’t think either candidate was a good choice for uniting the country, or solving the underlying problems. That has to come from the people, and it starts with one, then two, then more, choosing to build rather than tear down.
I pray for America, and I pray for the world that still looks to her for military and international leadership. I pray for Australia, because we’re guilty of all the same things.

Today, I choose love. I choose encouragement. I choose peace. I choose friendship. I choose positive over negative. I choose proactive over passive.

Will you join me? Will you work to make a difference, too?

Book Review: ‘Tompkin’s Academy for the Extraordinarily Gifted’ by Tabi Slick

This is a really good story with lots of twists and turns, some of which are absolutely heart-stopping. It’s the story of Izara and her journey of discovery of truth about herself and her twin brother, Kain, as they confront a world they had never dreamed of.
The story has some incredibly dark moments, so I’d recommend it for an audience of 16+ years of age, but it also has strong elements of hope despite the  odds.

The characters are relatable and very engaging. As a reader, I didn’t always like Izara or Kain, but that actually made them more believable and intriguing.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the number of regular typos in the text, which I found annoying: they didn’t really detract from the story at all, but I am a stickler for those things, and I did find it distracting.

The book ended on a cliffhanger, so it wasn’t satisfying in the sense of getting answers or resolution, but it definitely whets the appetite for the next instalment!
I want more of Tompkin’s Academy!

Four stars.

Dumb.

 

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Haters can be so dumb.
I wonder if the guy who made the sign was in a hurry, careless, or just genuinely ignorant of the mistake he made.

Everything about this annoys me. Especially the hate.

I have no time for people who will brand all the members of one group by what a few people, who claim to be the representatives of that group, do.
I resent their attempts to change the fabric of society and the blanket statements they make.

As I’ve said before, IS claiming to be Muslim is like the KKK or Hitler claiming to be Christian.

So I decided to take the sign literally and have a little fun at the haters’ expense.  Just because I could.

No offence is intended. Unless, of course, you’re one of the haters.
Then it’s a bonus.

Disappointment, disillusion, and indecision.

I’m really disappointed in a few particular people at the moment.

All my life, I’ve been taught to be honest, to be kind, to mind my manners, to not cause offence, to be the first to apologise, to be a gracious and forgiving friend, and to overcome hatred with love.

However, I’m seeing more and more of exactly the opposite from people I have always respected.  And today, I find myself feeling very hurt over the way some of them have treated me and/or people that I love and value highly.
I’m not even questioning how much I mean to any of those individuals, because it’s glaringly obvious that I don’t mean much to them at all.
That kind of reality check is tough going at the best of times, but when people who position themselves as leaders in a community or social group let you down, and then blame you for it… well, that sets a person to thinking seriously about why one is still part of that group.

It’s not just an issue of being offended or having my feelings deeply hurt. It’s come to the point of really questioning if my values are the same as theirs, and if I can condone their actions when I so strongly disagree with them.

I certainly can’t remain silent and have no intention of doing so, but I am searching to find a way to challenge those negative behaviours and stand up for what I believe in without doing more damage.

I can’t just let it go: if I don’t say anything, they’ll certainly do more damage, and besides that, I’d be that person who didn’t speak out against the things that caused my very close friend and/or myself considerable pain, so that is not an option.

It’s a tricky position to be in.

So, for now, I’m biding my time and trying to deal with my anger. I’m hoping that it will subside enough to be able to say what needs to be said rationally and patiently, without being spiteful or vengeful, but that’s still only an aspiration. I don’t want to hurt them in retaliation – what I’d really like is for them to see that they’ve been doing the wrong thing, and acknowledge that and take responsibility for what they’ve done, even though the consequences of their actions can’t be undone.

Oh, Paris.

My heart is breaking for the people of Paris, the nation of France and all those who are grieving or sharing others’ grief because of the events that are unfolding there right now.

While we don’t know all the details, we do know and must remember these things:
Not every Muslim is responsible.
Not every refugee is responsible.
We must not engage in vitriol against either group of people;
nor should we tolerate others engaging in hatred against them.

To do so would be to lose our own integrity by lowering ourselves to doing exactly what the perpetrators hope we will do.

These heinous acts are down to a few extremists who hate freedom and resent anyone who dares to have it. It seems that in their world view, they are the only ones who should be allowed to do as they please.

I hope that Justice and Karma act swiftly. Whichever of them gets to those responsible first, that’s okay with me.

Exhibiting the Courage to Care

Today I was privileged to accompany 45 students on a visit to the Courage to Care exhibition in Portland.

We heard the personal story of a man named Harry, a Holocaust survivor from Poland. Harry’s story was incredibly powerful. So were the tears he shed while telling it. You couldn’t help but be moved by this first-hand account of the terrible things that were done during World War II. 

Courage to Care exists because they are passionate about telling many, many stories just like Harry’s. Given that we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, they know that it won’t be long before there are no survivors left to tell their stories to the generations that follow them. 

  

The message is not just about the Holocaust. It’s a message against any form of prejudice, hatred, intolerance or bullying. Differences between people are only ever superficial; underneath our skin, we’re all the same. 

Everyone who visits the exhibition is encouraged to be “Upstanders, not Bystanders”. It’s hard to leave without experiencing the conviction that you will never accept or condone discrimination again.

I cried as Harry told his story, not just for Harry but for every family who lived through the same thing. I cried for parents who lost children, children who lost parents, and siblings who lost each other.  

I cried again when I read the stories of two families in Rotterdam who worked with the Dutch Resistance and help save Jewish people from the Nazis. They almost certainly knew my grandfather, who worked for the Dutch Reaistance throughout the war, and was personally hunted by the Nazis as a result. 

   

My Opa told me stories about his experiences during the war when I was a young girl reading books like ‘The Hiding Place’ and The Diary of Anne Frank’. They were always very serious and quite emotional conversations. It was very important to him that I understood how important it is to oppose evil and to stand against hatred.

He told me more of his story when I was a little older and studying history. I guess he thought I could handle more of the horrible truth then. It certainly made my studies more personally relevant.

 It also explained why he would leave the room or turn the TV off whenever there was a scene where German soldiers marched or where Hitler addressed the crowd. I don’t know why I hadn’t made that connection before, but after that, I could not watch those scenes without thinking about how powerfully real and haunting it still was for him and, doubtless, everyone else who had survived it. I was very privileged today to meet Harry, to shake his hand and talk with him. I told him about my grandfather and the connection with the stories displayed in the exhibition, and cried again. He hugged me and we shed tears together.

Honestly, I’ve never been such a sook in public. The whole experience was very moving, and not just because it made me think about my grandfather. 

I saw the students responding in a similarly emotional way. They spoke up about bullying, booing at footballers, and the way different ethnic groups in Australia are perceived and treated. One of my students, a young man who generally seems to have not a care in the world, had tears in his eyes, just like I did. 

I saw the light in the eyes of the Courage to Care members as they were inspired by the responses of the young people in front of them. The conversations were serious and sombre. 

Every student took a wristband and put it on immediately, proud to be an Upstander. 

There is hope yet for our nation and our world. Young or old, we can make a stand against hatred and vilification.

All that is needed is the courage to care and to stand up for what is right.

  

Broken.

You did… what?
That was you?

I’m stunned. I am horrified.
I don’t know what to make of this.
I never would have believed that of you.

You’re the one who speaks of unity and trust.
You’re the one who is supposed to look after us… to look after me.

You’re the leader. The protector. The mentor. The guide.
At least, I thought you were.

How can I trust you now?
There are shards and splinters of faith scattered all over the place.
The fine, toxic dust of of doubt is still in the air, settling slowly, tainting everything, choking the life out of the relationship between us.

You lied. You cheated. You schemed.
You took every opportunity to work things for your own benefit.
How carefully you wove the web of deceit, trying to camouflage your actions and to conceal the heart behind them.

As for unity… you chose to break that, too.
It was no accident. You knew exactly what you were doing.
At some point, you decided that your own interests are more important than our interests… that your future takes precedence over any shared future that we might have had.

Maybe you hoped that you could do what you did without anyone knowing.

Maybe you hoped that you could evade the consequences that were always going to be inevitable.
Maybe you thought that people would just trust you to do the right thing, and  that you wouldn’t face any questions.Could you really have believed that such betrayal could go unnoticed?
It’s impossible to imagine how.
Maybe that’s a confirmation of just how different we are.

Don’t tell me I don’t know anything about it.
Don’t tell me that it has nothing to do with me.
This has everything to do with me.

This has everything to do with how I look at you, how I respond to you, how I respect you.
Only now am I beginning to realise how little I ever knew you.
I always assumed you were genuine. I never questioned your integrity, or my loyalty to you.

That’s all changed.Everything has changed.
I don’t even want to be in the same room as you.
I don’t want to hear you try to rationalise what you’ve done.
And you certainly don’t want to hear anything I have to say to you.

Don’t tell me everything will be okay. It won’t.
Things will never be the same again.