Tag Archives: Diary of Anne frank

Weekend Coffee Share… 25th February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. If you’re quick, you can snatch a birthday cup cake or perhaps even a few mouthfuls of pavlova. Have you ever tried pavlova? Many consider it Australia’s national dessert, although New Zealand has put in a formidable claim that it was made there first. I won’t get into that here. All I’ll say, is that it’s a pretty fail safe dessert for me to make and I’m well known for my pav.

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The remains of the pavlova.

Yesterday, our daughter turned thirteen and on Saturday night, she had five friends over for a sleepover where they watched and grooved to Grease. I tried to give a bit of a Pink Ladies touch with pink cupcakes, but was too busy trying to get the house sorted out to get too creative. Our daughter was also at dancing all Saturday and I could be sure that any decorated efforts would be appreciated or deemed “embarrassing”. Geoff and I retreated to the other room, but we could hear their excitement and involvement in the movie. They know all the words of the songs and probably the script, and really got into it. Of course, it really helped that the school is putting on Grease as their musical this year, and a number of them including our daughter, are in the cast.

I might’ve subtly  suggested they watched Grease. You see, I had a slumber party for my 13th birthday out in this outdoor room in my parents’ garden, which we called the playhouse. I can’t quite remember how many people we squeezed in there, but there was no room for rolling over. However, what I also remember about that party was that we also watched Grease. However, back in 1982, it was on video. Moreover, although one of the girls had lived in America and had watched the movie 12 times already, the rest of us hadn’t seen it, which meant we didn’t know all the words to the songs and couldn’t sing along. I also think we stayed sitting in our seats and weren’t bouncing around dancing like the lot who were here Saturday night. Indeed, we felt rather subdued and I wished I could’ve been a part of my daughter’s party. Indeed, I’m already planning my own Grease night! I might also need to have one with my original group of school friends too. That would be a real hoot. Well, it might be…

Another element of deja vu about my daughter’s thirteenth birthday, was that I gave her a journal along with a copy of A Diary of A Young Girl, which is the uncensored version  of: The Diary of Anne Frank. This was no impulsive purchase. However, I am glad I didn’t forget about it. You see, my mother gave me a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank when I turned thirteen back in 1982 and she also gave me a journal to write my own diary. I called my diary Anne and for many years that continued and I was in effect writing and talking to Anne Frank. At the time, it was just the two of us and it never occurred to me that millions of young women all around the world over many generations did the same. When I landed in Amsterdam in 1992, I naturally went to the Anne Frank Museum. It was, of course, an intensely personal and incredibly tragic experience. However, as I’ve grown older and experienced the trauma of my health and disability issues, I’ve also come to experience her tenacity and uplifting spirit as a survivor, even if she didn’t make it at the end. Anne Frank has a lot to teach my daughter about what it is to be a young woman surviving in dreadful, hostile circumstances but I hope she will also experience that sense of friendship. That in the midst of all her ups and downs that Anne is there with her. That she is always on her side…a staunch ally. Personally, I don’t think you can have enough of these people in your life. By the way, I should mention that while I felt very close to Anne Frank as a teen, I haven’t forgotten that she didn’t get on with her mother. I feel quite close to my daughter, so I hope that remains a fundamental difference.

Given the birthday and the party, last week was rather busy. However, I wasn’t as focused on getting ready for the party as I should’ve been and left much of the cleaning til Friday and Saturday. The trouble was that I’ve been making great progress with a writing and research project I’ve been working on and I didn’t want to lose momentum. Moreover, I am naturally concerned about pausing during a project in case it gets shelved. Yet, for most of us, it’s impossible to stop everything around us for six months and get our writing project or book finished without interruptions. Moreover, as much as I love my writing, I’m also a people person and need human interaction. I’m also married with two kids and three dogs and we’re active in our local community in multiple activities. So, we lead quite a richly textured life, which I personally believe enhances my writing, however, you still need to be able to sit down long enough to get it written and that does seem to be a difficulty for me. How about you? Are you juggling too many eggs and dropping more than the occasional one?

Coming back to my research project, I’m currently researching and writing up about a collision of two ships in Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne in 1924, which resulted in the loss of six lives. My Great Grandfather, Reuben William Gardiner, was Second Mate onboard a massive collier the Dilkera when they hit a small steamer the Wyrallah which ended up steering across their path. This was at a spot called The Rip, which is renowned for its treacherous currents even today. The papers were full of interviews with the survivors and closely followed the resulting Marine Court Inquiry. As it turned out future Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, acted as Junior Counsel for the owners of the Wyrallah so that adds another element of interest to the case. Here’a link to a post I wrote about it:  When Two Ships Collide

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Our feet at a contemporary/lyrical class two or three years ago. Guess which foot belongs to our teacher?

The other big development last week, was that I did my first adult ballet class in two years. These classes are run by my daughter’s ballet teacher and I love them. I have a pair of proper, ballet-pink, shiny satin ballet shoes with ribbons and all, along with the theatrical pink ballet tights. However, I managed to pick up a black tutu at the opportunity shop and I have a black t-shirt with a butterfly printed on it and that is my uniform. I wear this mad get up to have a bit of fun but I also do it to encourage the others to have a good time, and not be too self-conscious. After all, we’re there to spread our wings, not to chop them off. We have a full range of abilities in the class including a professional dancer who has come through the studio. Dance is such a liberating experience. Yet, for most of my life, it was terrifying, inhibited and I felt so self-conscious and awkward. Of course, it didn’t help that I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) until my mid twenties and had serious gait and coordination issues, which were usually just referred to as “unco”. However, it’s amazing what a bit of plumbing can do to the brain, and I’m not only still alive but I’m almost coordinated.

Anyway, I wasn’t too sure how I’d go at the ballet class after a two year gap and my breathing has deteriorated in that time. However, I managed to pick it up again reasonably well and certainly didn’t embarrass myself. I was one of the crowd.

Well, that’ll have to cover it, because it’s well past time for me to get to bed. I hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Beyond Anne Frank…Her Father’s Gift to the World.

Yesterday, I visited the Sydney Jewish Museum to see two overlapping exhibitions: Anne Frank- A History for Today and Otto Frank’s Lost Letters. This was naturally a deeply moving experience and it was wonderful to recapture the intimacy I shared with Anne Frank as a 13 year old and revisit it now as Mum to my  13.5 year old son and almost 10.5 daughter, who are about to step into her shoes.

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As a writer, it always interests me how we hear a story from a certain perspective and then we rediscover the story completely when we see it through someone else’s eyes. After all, when you read The Diary of Anne Frank, you are drawn completely into her world, her perspective, her heartbeats. We know nothing about how the rest of the people in the annexe saw her.

Otto Frank is the only survivor and the best one  to provide that outside insight into Anne . He said:

“For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Otto Frank

As much as we revere Anne Frank through her diary, her father is has a different, but equally important. After all, he had it published and gave it to the world when he could have locked it away in a drawer. This was all her had left of his precious daughter…along with his wife and older daughter, Margot. However, he shared it with the world and gave millions, upon millions a precious soul mate who knew them intimately in ways we couldn’t even express to ourselves. She is the voice of the misunderstood teenager, the Jewish people, the oppressed, the writer and much more.

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Anyway, following the publication and subsequent translation of Anne Frank’s Diary, young people wrote letters to Otto Frank  and he replied. Although copies of the letters he received have been retained by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, he didn’t keep copies of his own letters. So, in 2015, a world-wide search began and the Australian Jewish Museum located two Australian women who had written to Otto and had kept his treasured replies…Diana Munro and Anne Finlayson. Indeed, Otto Frank became quite close to Anne and called her the “Other Anne” and they met several times, becoming good friends.

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So after getting off the train and slowly walking along Darlinghurst Road taking photos, I arrived at the Jewish Museum. I have never been there before. I’m immediately struck by how this isn’t like your average museum. It’s more like a home, a definite Community Centre and no doubt a sacred place for Jewish people. It is cared for, loved and polished. As I said, I felt like I was being invited into someone’s home and made very, very welcome.

The exhibitions are upstairs and I’m conscious of time pressures because Mum is minding my kids and I wasn’t supposed to be detouring after my medical appointment. So, I’m trying to make sure I see and absorb Otto Frank’s letters and return to see rest. Yet, the exhibition of letters from the Holocaust attracts my attention and I had a quick look.

Back to Otto Frank…

There is correspondence between Otto Frank and a young New Zealander, Diana Munro and Australian, Anne Finlayson. The letters on both sides are incredibly deep and philosophical and you get to know just a bit of who Otto Frank was as a person, Anne Frank’s father and also someone determined to make the world a better place for the future, fight against the sins of the past.

While I could’ve typed these quotes up and prettied them up a bit, these are photos I took at the exhibition. I particularly wanted to share these with Merril Smith from Merril’s Historical Musings to thank her for telling me about the exhibition and I felt very much like we were there together and had a coffee and chat afterwards.

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What I noticed first about Otto Frank’s letters was that they were typed. His typewritten letters instantly reminded me of my grandfather’s typed Christmas newsletters and their different circumstances. The type also places his letters in the past, in a different era and they feel special.

In addition to reading the letters, there was an excellent exhibition about Anne Frank’s life, the Holocaust and the secret annexe. This was a great refresher for me as it’s been 25 years since I visited her house in Amsterdam.

Since I visiting the exhibition, I’ve found that if you speak to ten different people about how The Diary of Anne Frank has touched their hearts, you could easily get ten different answers… all valid.

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A replica of Anne Frank’s Diary on display.

That’s because in this complex diary commenced on her 13th Birthday, we each find something that relates to us in such a personal, intimate way. It’s like she’s peering deep into the inner-most secret passages of our soul, speaking out the cryptic writing on the wall and somehow made sense of it all. She has a clarity of vision which is astounding in anyone and I’m not going to put down young people by saying they can’t see more clearly than adults because so often they can.

Australian author, Jackie French said in conversation with Yotam Weiner, Education Manager, Sydney Jewish Museum:

“It is so easy to think of people who suffer, or have suffered, as other than ourselves. The very magnitude of the Holocaust means that single voices can be lost. Anne’s words make it personal. It is so very easy to lose track of major events in history. There are many to remember. It is much harder to forget the voice of Anne. Anne has been my companion, perhaps, for the forty six years since I read her book.”

So, if you’re interested in seeing these  exhibitions, you will need to hurry into the Sydney Jewish Museum. The exhibition closes mid-November.

 

xx Rowena

You might also enjoy reading about our vigil commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Anne Frank’s death last year: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/anne-frank-70-years-on-our-vigil/

The Journey of A Thousand Books Sets Sail.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Do you remember that incredible, mind-blowing feeling when you finally found THAT BOOK when you were young which suddenly opened up the world of reading? That sense of discovering your very own Disneyland, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of treasures…all through the pages of a book! It’s something you never forget!

For me, that book was The Diary of Anne Frank, which my mother gave me for my 13th birthday. It was a very conscious move on her part as she really wanted me to share her love of reading and experience that wonder for myself. After a few misses along the way, it worked. Anne Frank the same age as me, a writer and someone I could relate to in so many ways. Moreover, her diary was also non-fiction and I’m still not really much of a novel reader.

However, reading the The Diary of Anne Franknot only sparked my love of reading, it also encouraged my love of writing and inspired me to write my own journal which I called, apparently not so originally, “Anne”.

Of course, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Now, as a parent, I’ve found myself in my mother’s shoes, trying to engender a love of reading for our son. To take him beyond all the many books which we have read together snuggled on my lap, to the point where he’ll want to grab a book and read it for himself. That like the rest of the family, his books will also become his friends. However, this transition is not necessarily a given, even if you come from a family of avid readers and even writers. It is a path we each have to work out for ourselves. That said, as parents we can increase the odds by providing good maps, compasses, encouragement and, of course, a strong torch (It could even be the same torch you used to use to read in bed when it was supposedly “lights out”!)

Trying to find this game-changing book for our son has been a bit hit and miss and certainly hasn’t been helped by his love of the dreaded computer game, Minecraft.

Perhaps I’m getting old but I’m convinced electronic games are a much greater evil than the box ever was in our day. The TV also used to go to sleep in those days and wasn’t awake all night. I’ve lost track of the friends who’ve woken up in the middle of the night and found their kid playing Minecraft or similar. It’s there 24/7,. That is, unless you lock it up in the garage like we do during the week. Well, at least that’s the iPads.

Anyway, it now looks like he has finally found THE BOOK. For 11 year old Mister who is pretty interested in maths, this book is The Big Book of Numbers by self-confessed Maths Geek, Adam Spencer. If you haven’t heard of Adam Spencer, you can check him out here: https://adamspencer.com.au/ I can assure you that he comes highly recommended and by none less than Monty Python’s John Cleese: “If you find this book boring, you should be in a clinic.”

Mister asking Adam some questions from the book. Yes, he had read it...I was so proud!

Mister asking Adam some questions from the book. Yes, he had read it…I was so proud!

Well, as it turns out Mister wasn’t the only one reading The Big Book of Numbers this week. I am almost ashamed to admit it but I also crossed to the dark side. That’s right. I was reading it too. I even enjoyed it and could even understand some of it. For someone who sticks with 10 digit arithmetic, that’s a glowing endorsement!

I mean I live, breathe and even eat the thesaurus.

After all, as we all know, the world is divided into two very distinct camps. There’s alphabet soup on one side and number soup on the other and never the twain shall meet. That is, unless you’re talking about someone who is off the charts smart. What my son calls a “brainiac”. Just to clarify that, this word is used to the best of my knowledge, as a compliment, not as an insult.

Once wasn't enough. Reading the book in class on Open Day.

Once wasn’t enough. Reading the book in class on Open Day.

The reason I crossed to the dark side was simple. Adam Spencer was visiting the kids’ school this week as one of the Dymock’s Children’s Charity’s Book Bank Ambassadors and I was do the publicity for the P & C. That had me behind the camera, grabbing a friend to take notes and then writing what wouldn’t be a churned out press release afterwards. With this job ahead, naturally I felt I had to read the book, especially as Adam Spencer’s face has been calling out to me from the cover for the last six months. Indeed, we’ve almost been having a dialogue. You know how it is when all those books you have piled up beside the bed and all around your desk and almost up to the ceiling, all look up at you with those adorable, irresistible puppy dog eyes saying:”Read me! Read ME!”

You do end up with quite a guilt complex, don’t you?!

Adam Spencer at school this week. Quite a change of pace to Sydney University's Manning Bar!

Adam Spencer at school this week. Quite a change of pace to Sydney University’s Manning Bar!

Yet, just to add further fuel to my guilt, Adam Spencer and I went to Sydney University together where not all roads but a great many, led to Manning Bar before, during and after lectures. Just to set the record straight, I wasn’t much of a drinker but I was a talker. Anyway, Adam and I weren’t what you’d call friends but were possibly “mates”. That’s a sort of generic term we use in Australia to describe just about anyone you’re a bit friendly with over those few degrees of separation. Close friends of mine were friends with him.

Adam Spencer gave the kids an entertaining and mathematically mind-boggling presentation which culminated with his enthusiastic message to “Read! Read! Read!. However, for me personally, the greatest moments were those few unplanned minutes afterwards where the “maths geeks” popped out of the woodwork not only wanting copies of their Big Book of Numbers signed. They really wanted to talk with Adam and share his world, even if only for a few brief minutes because they’d found someone like them. Maybe, they weren’t quite “the best mathematicians in the world”, which is how my son referred to Adam, but they spoke the same language. Who knows? Perhaps, there was a young mathematician in that hall whose whole life path suddenly opened up to them. That after hearing and meeting Adam Spencer that they now know who they are and possibly even where they belong. That is a struggle for anyone I think and a possibility, which was opened up by this great opportunity. By having the opportunity to step outside their usual sphere and experience something else.

I certainly know Adam Spencer’s visit and his book have opened up my son’s mind and have very definitely lit a spark. Who knows where that will go. He is only 11 and his journey is only beginning. As Lao Tzu wrote so well:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

The only trouble is that as an 11 year old, Mum and Dad somehow need to keep up!

So how about you? What was the book which launched your love of reading? How about kids? I love to hear your stories!

xx Rowena

About Dymock’s Book Bank

To find out more about the Dymock’s Children’s Charity’s Book Bank Project, click here: https://dcc.gofundraise.com.au/cms/bookbank

Anne Frank 70 Years On: Our Vigil.

Last night, as part of a global tribute to mark the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank’s death, we lit candles and read passages from her diary out loud and recorded them to post on the official Facebook page.

My husband and son take part in our vigil to honour the life of Anne Frank.

My husband and son take part in our vigil to honour the life of Anne Frank.

I don’t know if anyone else in the family really appreciated its significance or what it meant to me personally but they went along with, no doubt what they thought was another one of Mum’s crazy ideas, somehow sensing that there was some import somewhere.

This is one of the passages we read out. I chose this one because although Anne Frank suffered, she also saw the good and had a real joie de vivre, even while being imprisoned and in hiding in the Secret Annexe.

‘As long as this exists’, I thought, ‘this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?’
The best remedy for those who are frightened, lonely or unhappy is to go outside; somewhere they can be alone, alone with the sky, nature and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity.
As long as this exists, and that should be for ever, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances. I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.
Oh, who knows, perhaps it won’t be long before I can share this overwhelming feeling of happiness with someone who feels the same as I do.”

– Anne Frank: ‘Diary of A Young Girl, 23rd February, 1944.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve spoken to the kids about Anne Frank and or the horrors that she endured due to Nazi anti-Semitism and no doubt it’s going to take a few more attempts for the penny to finally drop and that one or both of them might also see the value in journalling as well, which I would love.

Our tribgute to Anne Frank at Sydney's Palm Beach. We lit a glowing circle of tea lights.

Our tribgute to Anne Frank at Sydney’s Palm Beach. We lit a glowing circle of tea lights.

The way I see it, the kids are like piggy banks. One coin might not seem like much and rattles around feeling lonely inside piggy’s empty belly. However, one by one, those gold coins start adding up and pretty soon that piggy is getting heavy and seriously worth breaking into. You have loot! You can go and blow all those savings on that much desired “something”!! (Sorry, I’m a spender not a saver. If you want investment advice, you came to the wrong blog…make that the very wrong blog!!)

When I was growing up, girls weren't supposed to even surf. There are so, so many things my daughter rightfully takes for granted!

When I was growing up, girls weren’t supposed to even surf. There are so, so many things my daughter rightfully takes for granted!

So, hopefully after last night, a few more gold coins have gone into their precious heads and they will appreciate and not take for granted the freedoms they have. The ability to say what they think without being put in gaol, although it may land them in time out! To appreciate that being able to walk along the beach, is a blessing and not something to take for granted because for us it is always there. I hope they will also appreciate that although alot of kids and teens feel their parents may not understand them and that some level of conflict with your parents is almost a right of passage through the teenage years, that they are very much loved and all any of us really can do is try and do our best. We are all mortal with feet of clay.

It has taken me the best part of a life time to appreciate that in my own parents. Even now, I’m now ashamed to admit that I’m their harshest critic. Mum and Dad, I am incredibly sorry for that and commit to change. It’s all very well to champion the Golden Rule but it’s also something I need to implement myself. As I somehow commit to change, I’ll just add that I’m not alone in this. Aren’t we all guilty of judging harshly and being so incredibly demanding of those who brought us into the world? They were no doubt young and naive like the rest of us and didn’t quite realise what they’d taken onboard. That parenting is a lifelong journey. That birth was only the beginning.

Although I’ve posted this link to an interview with Otto Frank, Anne’s father, before it’s worth repeating. He speaks such wisdom and like the rest of the world, we wish he could have had his family back. I could imagine the horrors he has endured!!

Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWRBinP7ans

Like so many I cherish the memory of Anne Frank and send her our love and this quote I love from The Little Prince by St Exupery:

“You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Love & blessings to you all and may we all know and appreciate what it means to live  in the free world and the joy of being able to step outside the four walls we call home!

Rowena

Anne Frank: A Global Tribute… Tuesday 14th April, 2015

While being more renowned for being out-of-synch than having perfect timing, it turns out the timing of yesterday’s post sharing my journal-journey with Anne Frank, was absolutely perfect…even uncanny!! You see, tomorrow, marks the 70th anniversary of her very tragic and untimely death in Bergen-Belson, a Nazi concentration camp.It’s almost like she whispered in my ear so I could find out and be a part of a global tribute: #notsilent. Now, I’m spreading the word and encouraging you to get involved too!

The Anne Frank Trust and Penguin Random House (UK publishers of The Diary of A Young Girl) have joined together to mark the 70th anniversary of Anne’s death with a one minute campaign called #notsilent.

Instead of a one minute’s silence to commemorate the end of Anne Frank’s short life, we are invited to read out loud a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing at any time on or after Tuesday 14th April.

There are further details on their web site at: http://www.annefrank.org.uk/what-we-do/notsilent This includes a selection of passages suitable for a one minute reading to choose from. Alternatively, you can choose one yourself, or you can read something you have written about your own life and hopes. You can start or end your reading by explaining why you want to do it.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank ice skating with friends prior to going into hiding. Such an every day thing, which takes on incredible significance when Anne and her family could even do the basic things we take for granted.

Anne Frank ice skating with friends prior to going into hiding. Such an every day thing, which takes on incredible significance when Anne and her family could even do the basic things we take for granted.

How you can get involved

STEP ONE:  Select an extract suitable for a one minute reading. This can either be an extract from Anne’s diary, you can download our selection here, or you can choose your own writing. While you read, either alone, in a group, in your classroom, home, work place or public place, we ask you to film yourself and upload it onto a video sharing platform of your choice (Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr etc) ensuring the video is available to view publicly.

STEP TWO:   Send us the link to your video, by posting it on to the Anne Frank Trust’s Facebook (Anne Frank Trust UK) or Twitter (@annefranktrust) pages, using the hash tag #notsilent. Alternatively, you can e-mail your video via we transfer to siama@annefrank.org.uk.

STEP THREE:  We also ask you to share your one minute clip throughout your social media to encourage others to join in.

Thank you for participating and honoring Anne Frank’s memory in this way. We will together be #notsilent.

By the way, here’s a link to my post: A Life Saving Journey with Anne Frank: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/a-lifesaving-journey-with-anne-frank/

Thanks to Merril from Yesterday and Today: Merril’s Historical Musings: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/ for spreading the word and now it’s our turn.

Although it’s a bit last minute, please spread the word and pass this on. Anne Frank touched so many hearts in so many different ways and this is an opportunity to keep her light alive. It also provides the living with the opportunity to come together joining hands as a diverse, global community to honour a vibrant life which tragically ended so utterly alone and to stand firm against the spread of racism, discrimination and hate in our contemporary world.  After all, Anne Frank has demonstrated that one person really can influence the world and work for for good.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
― Anne Frank

Love and blessings,

Rowena

Why Journal?

As the Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues and today, which should have been a simple Saturday, has now become J is for Journal, my tune is starting to switch from Edith Piaf’s “Je ne Regrette Rien” to: “Why Why Why Delilah?”

When I first took on the challenge, I almost thought it would be too simple. However, even though I already post most days, I’m usually writing about the day’s events or something which has fired me up, rather than conforming to any kind of set format. So far, I been needing to do quite a lot of research to complete the daily post and by the time I’ve uploaded the photos, the day and even the night are gone. At the same time, however, I can feel myself being stretched and challenged and participating has really helped me take things up a notch. Growth usually comes at a price, after all. I’ve also discovered some fabulous new blogs… a fabulous kaleidoscope of people and tales.

Another complication for me, of course, has been that the kids are currently on school holidays and we’ve gone away to an absolute slice of paradise at Sydney’s Palm Beach and I have no intention of spending the whole time with my head stuck in my laptop. I’ve been out kayaking the my daughter while my husband and son were out sailing today and I also had an impromtu paddle to rescue our dog Lady yet again after my daughter noted she’d left our backyard and was heading for her favourate rabbit hunting ground. Later in the day, we went for a drive to Whale Beach. It was a bit late for good photography. However, we all enjoyed clambouring over huge slabs of sandstone which have fallen from the cliffs throughout time and feasting on the dusky pinks of the fast-fading light.It was so timeless and serene, that we almost drifted in suspended animation. That is, until Mister who had been showing off his rock climbing skills one minute, was now well and truly stuck!! As they say, pride goes before a fall and he was along way up and the ground was naturally, a long way down.

I’ve divided this post into two parts:

1) Why journal?

2) Journaling: Dear Anne.

Why Journal?

When I was 11 years old, I started writing my first journal or “diary” as it was known back then. My teacher was a committed and passionate diarist and he just encouraged us to use a student diary, which allowed about a paragraph’s worth every day. The aim seemed to be establishing that routine, the consistency rather than writing pages and pages and not being able to keep it up. While hardly the Diary of Anne Frank, this diary does talk about the arrival of our first dog, Lassie and so I really treasure it. Having something like that from your childhood is so very, very special. At least, it is to me.

As much as I rave on about the virtues of keeping a journal and a regular one at that, I must confess that my commitment has waxed and waned and over the years, Consequently, my diaries read more like a series of stepping stones than a smoothly flowing stream. Indeed, quite often, it’s been quite such long leap in between entries, that I’d make it into the long jump finals. This is hardly surprising because I struggle to even comprehend consistency, let alone maintain some kind of routine day after day after day. That said, my blog shows that I’m somehow capable. It’s just that I’m inconsistently consistent. Or, perhaps Aldous Huxley got it right:

“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead”.

If you are interested in the benefits of keeping a journal, or the “why”, I recommend you read here: http://www.easyjournaling.com/2011/07/101-reasons-to-write-a-journal/

Probably the main reason I keep a journal is to document not only what has happened but also how I feel about it as a form of historic record. Having started writing diaries from such a young age, I have long appreciated being able to read about the past and pick out the bits which resonate in the here and now and have been able to identify certain threads or themes, which weave throughout my life journey. Following these threads over time and reading about my personal ups and downs and revisiting the details, has really helped me gain a better grip on who I am, where I’ve been and my place in the bigger picture. I have also been intrigued that even though so much has changed both around me and within, that there is still this sense of self…me…something solid and concrete which I could stick a flag in a claim as my own. This is quite a breakthrough for someone who has been through brain surgery and even had that self revamped and even further challenges came which I became a parent and also developed the muscle disease. A sense of self isn’t something I take for granted and it has been a long battle where journalling has really helped both in terms of providing feedback on my progress but also consoling me along the way.

Another famous diary.

So, writing my journal has also been cathartic. Being quite emotionally intense,  I need to get those emotions out. If for whatever reason, I can’t express that angst, then it travels inward, a bit like poison and threatens serious consequences. After all, we all know stress does nasty things to our health. Journalling is very good. It helps to vent and let out a hell of a lot of steam!!

Journalling was particularly helpful as an angst-ridden teen when shattered romance and rejection inevitably resulted in very intense emotions and my diary and my dog bore the brunt of these. As I’m sure most of us have been there, these are the sort of emotions you can’t really put into words in a verbal way and given that friends can blab or run off with your latest love interest or “prospect”, there’s good cause for keeping a journal and sticking to your own counsel.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (1985) Poster

Since having children, my journaling has taken on another function, particularly given my precarious medical situation. A parent is something of a human super-computer watching, analyzing and storing millions and millions of snippets about their kids. Kids just love it when people reflect back on their journey, their story and all their little battles from the cut finger and surgery out at Westmead Children’s Hospital to the stitch at Little Athletics when Mister came last by a country mile and when he sang Imagine with his class in the school musical. I store all their medical histories and bits and pieces about their milestones in my head as well as in their precious “Blue Books” where everything is recorded for posterity.

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When a child loses a parent, they also lose this ready-reckoner and such a swag of memories that they literally lose a huge chunk of themselves. To combat this, I have written my own journals expecting my husband and kids to read them and need them. I have also tried to record what the kids have done and their funny little comments etc in journals that are their own. I did this much more when they were younger and and also at times when my health has reached a crisis point. It has slackened off of late as I’ve been well, busy blogging and I’ve also been wanting to hand the batton over and get the kids to write in their own journals. Miss has a had a few stop starts but when it comes to Mister, I’d have an easier time pulling teeth. Writing isn’t his thing. At least, not at the moment!!

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While discussing journalling as a family, we have found out that my husband’s Great Great Grandfather, Irishman Daniel Burke was mentioned in Jail Journal by John Mitchell. John Mitchell was an Irish radical who was exiled to Tasmania but managed to escape to America. It turns out that Daniel Burke who lived in Westbury, loaned him a horse which was instrumental to his escape. Finding a historic, personal reference like this is priceless to a history lover.

While I have extolled the virtues of writing not only a journal but also the virtues of making journalling an ongoing, life-long habit; I should also point out some challenges.

If you are wanting to really do your journals justice, you also need to re-read them and that also means thinking about how and where you are going to store them where they can be somewhat accessible but also protected against the elements. This can be quite problematic for a prolific journal-writer because storage can become a serious problem, especially if you’re on the move.

That’s where writing your journal on your computer has real advantages over using those gorgeous handwritten journals, which really do look inspirational and pretty but probably aren’t the most practical solution.

The other problem with putting all your journals in one spot is that if there is some freak of nature, one goes up, they all go up. Also, if they are private and someone else finds them, they’ll have your entire life’s story in their grasp. Is that what you want?

Naturally, anybody who has written a private journal has included those personal secrets that are your secrets and there remains that lingering question about whether they should be burned. That is an incredibly personal matter. I haven’t destroyed any of mine but I have considered it.

So do you keep a journal and do you find it helpful and if you are doing the A-Z Challenge, what did you blog about today?

xx Rowena