International Women’s Day, 2018

Why We Should Celebrate International Women’s Day.


As I was driving to work this morning, a caller to my favourite radio station was critical of the fact that the station was observing International Women’s Day as part of the day’s programming.

“What’s it going to achieve? Do you think you’re going to change everything in one day?” He spoke politely, but went on to dismiss the value of this, and every other, “touchy-feely day”.

While my initial instinct was to dismiss him as a sexist pig, his cynicism challenged me to consider that there might be many folks out there, and possibly not just men, who doubt the benefit or validity of such an observance.

This is what I would like to say to those with that mindset:

Observing International Women’s Day is definitely not going to change everything on one day. That’s not what anyone is expecting.

It is a chance to celebrate the changes that have been made, and to remember those who worked so hard to introduce them. It’s not even exclusively about gender equality – so many women have made significant advances, even when it was still almost entirely a “man’s world”. Think of Marie Curie or Ruby Payne-Scott making significant scientific and mathematical discoveries that have had a huge impact in many other areas of society. Think of Rosa Parkes and her courage that inspired so many. Think of the countless women who have worked for freedom, or justice, or civil rights for all people, not just women.

It is a day to remember that the rights and freedoms I have as an Australian woman were fought for by many – not just the suffragettes. Nurses at the battlefields of major conflicts, teachers, doctors and medical researchers, writers, women who raised their sons to respect them and therefore other women, lawyers, filmmakers, journalists— they and countless others have contributed to the privileges I enjoy in the 21st century.

It is a day to remember my own mother, grandmothers and aunts who worked hard to provide and care for me, but also to teach me and demonstrate for me what it means to be a woman of strength, confidence and integrity. It’s also a day to think of my sisters, cousins and friends who encourage and stand beside me when life is hard, because they model those same qualities for me time and time again. They remind me of not just what I am, but who I am.

It is a day to consider what legacy I pass on to my nieces, my students, and my readers. What do I want them to learn from my example? I want them to know they are enough. Strong enough, good enough, beautiful enough, deserving enough, talented enough, smart enough, and worthy enough. They do not have to take any else’s bullying or abuse. They do not have to accept other people’s bad behaviour. They are under no obligation to “measure up” to the yardstick of anyone else, male or female. They can make of their lives anything that they decide upon and set their mind to. They can face challenges with courage, and they can overcome whatever would seek to undo or defeat them.

These are the women I write of in my poems, blog posts and stories about women of strength and beauty.

That, my friend, is what this day helps me to achieve, because it sharpens my focus on those things for a time.

So, happy International Women’s Day 2018.

I hope that you will think of it in terms of gratitude and humility. I also hope that every woman will use it to both be inspired and be inspirational.


What Will Make Me Refuse To Review Your Book?

You can’t promote anything worthwhile with bad behaviour.

This is a Public Service Announcement.

I find myself to be in an awkward situation: there are some individuals who have decided that it is appropriate to send messages to my inbox and to my email, asking with varying degrees of insistence that I might read and review their books.

I know everyone wants reviews and sales. I do, too. It seems they have overlooked the fact that I, too, am an author. Perhaps they think I am a professional reviewer – I’m not.

I read and review as much as I can, but I can’t and won’t take requests or demands from authors. I read and review what I want to, because it interests and entertains me, not because I am asked to, and certainly not out of any sense of obligation.

If it’s okay – and it is – for people to not want to read and review my books because they don’t read either of my genres, it has to be okay for me to make that same choice.

For that reason, there won’t be a lot of certain genres on my TBR list or book blog. I just don’t want to read them.

I don’t accept free books. It is only on a very rare occasion that I ever have. I buy books so that I can give a verified purchase review. In fact, I buy a LOT of books, and I’m more than happy to do that.

But I will not buy something I am not interested in. I work too hard for my money and my time is in too much demand for that.

So please, don’t embarrass us both by asking, or insisting, or nagging me to read and review your books. If I am interested in them, I will. If my inbox is full of your repeated demands, there is absolutely zero chance that it will happen.

I’m disappointed I had to write this post. Sometimes, though, one has to make a stand in the interests of self-preservation.

Those responsible should consider themselves warned: the next step will be a permanent block.


Two-sday Surprises.

Sometimes, a small surprise can mean a whole lot more than its face value might suggest.


This morning didn’t seem any different than most when I left the house to head to work, but it proved to hold two lovely surprises.

The first surprise came in the form of a shop assistant who remembered me as her teacher from a number of years ago, and happily recalled the things she had studied and learned with me. An adult now, and with a different hair colour, I had not recognised her, but she knew me straight away.

It was nice to hear that she thought the books we read and the lessons we drew from them were valuable, and that history classes were interesting. It was wonderful to see that she had grown up into a confident, friendly and polite young woman with a lovely personality.

Of all the fond memories she recalled, though, one in particular had a profound effect on me: “You were the one teacher I ever had who showed me that it was okay to just be me, because that’s who I was meant to be. It’s something I have never forgotten.”

Wow! What a privilege to hear a former student say those words. I have struggled for many years with self acceptance, and as a teen I knew full well the agony of not fitting in with a particular crowd. Even then, I had the strength of will to resist peer pressure and not buy into many of the pitfalls that offered themselves to me at bargain prices and opportune moments. But that didn’t mean I was free of the wish to be someone or somewhere else – a desire that has recurred several times since.

Yet, somehow along the way, I managed to communicate something valuable about self acceptance to at least one teen in a similar situation.

I wonder if that knowledge would appease or satisfy those who think I push too many boundaries. Being part of a fairly conservative school, church and family, I take both pleasure and pride in not exactly looking conservative. I don’t intentionally break the rules, but I don’t mind testing their limits. My opinions often differ, and my willingness to assert them can make others uncomfortable. I don’t see that as a problem, though. There is merit in challenging people to see different perspectives and to accept differences. I’d like to think that people might become so used to my differences that I will need to think of something new to do to keep them on their toes.

My second surprise was a note on my desk from ex-students who had a reunion on Saturday night. I attended the reunion: it was a lovely evening of catching up and reminiscing. I didn’t realise, though, that they had left me a love letter on their tour of the school. How gorgeous that they still know how to make their English teacher happy and proud.


Positive Reviews!

There’s always a bit of trepidation when you do something new and you’re not sure how it’s going to go.


There’s always a bit of trepidation when you do something new and you’re not sure how it’s going to go. ‘Leaf’ has been available for just over three months now, and I’m very thankful and excited to be getting positive reviews.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I am really thrilled about these two readers’ responses  that I’ve received recently.



Both of these people, and others who have given my writing positive reviews and ratings, have encouraged me more than they realise.  Sometimes being a writer is a really lonely thing, because there’s a whole experience and process you have to go through before you can know if anyone is actually going to understand and connect with what you’ve written.  To know that my poetry has had such an effect on people is both motivating and incredibly humbling.





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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.


The challenge of not being an angry poet.

Last week I was talking with Sean about my poetry. He challenged me to write something that wasn’t dark and negative. I had to admit that while my prose writing is quite varied, there was definitely a mean streak in my poetry.
I promised that at some point, I’d give writing some more positive poetry a shot.

That got me to thinking about why I write the way I do.
Lately, my poetry has been the place where I’ve been able to say what I think and feel when it would be inappropriate to say those things aloud to the people who need to hear them. Keeping one’s friends and one’s job is generally considered to be a good thing. Writers have long considered their work a place of refuge and sanctuary from the world around them, and a safe venue in which to voice their thoughts and responses to the difficulties that life throws at them.

This week was a tough one on a number of levels, and it’s not unusual for me to get very creative when I’m feeling oppressed. On Thursday night, another friend told me that she was concerned that my writing might get me into trouble if the wrong people were to read it.
“How?” I asked her. “Nobody is identified, not even me. No place or situation is specified. It could be about anyone, or anything.” Besides, I thought to myself, those would be the right people. 
To be honest, if someone reads one of my darker poems and thinks it’s about them, which it most likely is not, they probably need to take a long, hard look at themselves to see if there’s an issue they need to address. As they saying goes, “If the shoe fits, lace that sucker up and wear it.”
My writing is about my experiences and my feelings, or those of the people close to me, but it’s not specific to us. Sometimes, it’s pure fiction. My intention is to share glimpses of human experience, emotions, and responses to the challenges of survival in a difficult world.  I’m really not always angry; those are just the poems that are the most cathartic to write. It’s the least expensive therapy known to mankind.

This week, I’ve managed two poems in a row that are not angry. In my writing “career” so far, that’s quite an accomplishment. Sean’s challenge has reminded me that I can still tap into powerful feelings and experiences without sounding like I want to hurt someone.  That’s probably a very good thing.

If you’d like to read my writing, you’re more than welcome.
It’s not about you.



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.


“Going home!”

Last night,  my father-in-law was transferred from the specialist hospital in Melbourne to our regional hospital because he is no longer critical. For someone who the doctors weren’t convinced would survive his injuries until ten days ago, he has come a very, very long way.

When I called in to visit him after work tonight, some of the family were still there. It was nice to see Mum looking so much more relaxed, and everyone happier now that Dad is improving and responding more frequently. I’ve heard from others that Dad has tried to say a few words, but sometimes they didn’t know what he was trying to say, but I haven’t been there when it happened, until tonight.

As I was about to leave, I said “Night Dad, I’m going home.” He turned his head and looked directly at me, raised his eyebrows and said, “Going home!”  His words were slurred the way a man talks after seventeen beers, but definite. He had responded directly and verbally to me.

There are no words for that feeling. I had tears. I wanted to sing, I wanted to cheer, and I wanted to hug everyone in the room. I knew they were all feeling it, too. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just smiled and said to him, “Yes, I’m going home. I’ll come back and see you tomorrow after work.” He looked pretty happy with that, so I smiled and squeezed his hand.

After being part of this family for 25 years, and working side by side on the farm with him for 15 of them, it’s wonderful to know that he still knows who I am, and that I’m still special to him. Even more wonderful is that we still have our beloved Dad whom we have very nearly lost twice to accidental head injuries after a fall.

Maybe we won’t have to cancel Christmas this year after all.


Tiny, huge victories.

A week ago there was not a lot of hope. The doctors thought that there was insufficient progress or response to indicate any great hope of recovery.
That changed in the blink of an eye – literally.

We stood by the bed and my husband spoke to his father.
“Hi Dad, it’s Fred.”
Eyes that had been closed for ten days opened a little.
I saw it; so did the nurse.
We didn’t know that the same thing had happened to my brother-in-law a couple of hours earlier.

Those two responses were tiny, but huge. They were enough to show the doctors that there was response and possibly recognition.
Feeling encouraged, we all sat outside in the courtyard and talked.
We looked at a patient across the courtyard, under a tree in his reclining chair, and commented how nice it would be if we could do that with Dad “one day”.

Since then, there has been significant improvement and more direct response. He has nodded slightly for yes and moved his head sideways for no.
Then, this morning, there was a golden moment. I commented to him that the family were being noisy. He raised his eyebrow in a “What’s new?” expression. Everyone saw it and we all laughed.

I could have cheered. This was the first time since his accident that he revealed his sense of humour. This was more than I had hoped for this early.

A little later I was holding his hand. I talked with him and gently squeezed his hand. He squeezed back. I had to swallow my tears. I am so thankful I don’t even know how to express it.

And now, Dad is in his reclining chair outside, in the sunshine and surrounded by his wife and sons and a few other family members. He turns his head when his son speaks to him. He dozes off and wakes again, and looks up to see blue sky and sunshine. He nods when I ask him if the sunshine feels good on his skin.
Was it really only a week ago that we thought this was a pipe dream?

We don’t know what the future holds or how he will progress, but it’s such a blessing to see that the man we know and love as our dad is still with us. His body may be a bit broken but his spirit is not.

Even through the pain, fear and despair of the last few weeks, we can see that we have been very, very blessed. Every victory is tiny, but huge.
Thank you, God.