Tag Archives: Lindt Cafe

A Conversation No Parent Should Have.

Last night, I had a conversation with my nine year old daughter which no parent should ever need to have. We talked about what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

I didn’t instigate this conversation but I didn’t shut it down either.

amelia-ballerina.jpg

My daughter is performing at a large event in a capital city and Australia is on a high terrorist alert. While a terrorist attack at her performance is unlikely, it’s not impossible. In the past, our geographical isolation  has protected us from global conflicts. However, isolation can so longer save our precious country from what happens “over there”. It has already happened here more than once and a former work colleague of mine was among the hostages in the Sydney Siege this time last year. So, I know first hand that these things can happen to you or someone you love.

While this awareness could turn you into a victim, being a Scouting family,  my thoughts were for her to “Be Prepared”. That this isn’t a time to stick our heads in the sand…especially when she has concerns.

Our daughter simply asked Daddy where she could buy a suit of armor. He told her that you couldn’t buy them and that he thought they were illegal. I’m not sure if he said any more but I decided to follow up her question. Given events in Paris and, as much as I have minimized exposure to the news, I knew what she was really saying. She is afraid of a terrorist attack.

When I was her age, a notorious murderer broke out of jail and I was terrified. In my mind, he was heading straight to our place and I was locking the windows and barring the doors. My Dad reassured me, talking about the likelihood of him turning up at our place, a tactic he has often used since and is a classic approach to reducing anxiety. He also told me that he would protect me and knowing that my Dad was some kind of super hero, I believed him. Of course, he didn’t turn up and Dad retained his incredible super powers.

If we were dealing with the same kind of threat, I would give my kids much the same kind of advice. I’d also tell them that our dog, Bilbo, would fight to the death to save us. We all know that while he looks cute and fluffy, he knows how to be ferocious and would die for us.  No questions asked. He’s a dog!

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Our Philosophical Dog walking along beside the tide. He doesn’t like getting wet paws.

However, these terrorists aren’t operating by the old, conventional rules. These days, having a simple cup of coffee or going to a football match or a concert, can be life threatening. These terrorists are striking at the ordinary, which means that your average Jo(e) needs to be prepared.

quote-be-prepared-the-meaning-of-the-motto-is-that-a-scout-must-prepare-himself-by-previous-thinking-robert-baden-powell-9820

Obviously, a writer-poet without any military training, is definitely no expert on surviving a terrorist attack. However, I read how people survived inside the Bataclan Theatre and have also had my dose of TV to add to the mix.

This was my advice:

  1. Try to stay calm and think. Keep breathing.
  2. Find the exits. If you are close to an exit, try to get out. Getting out safely is your best option.
  3. Hide. Try hiding under your seat.
  4. Pretend your dead.
  5. When you’re outside, find the Police.

I forgot to mention about listening to her teacher. We know her really well. Of course, she would look after our children like her own but under exceptional circumstances, Miss might just have to do the bolt.

Amelia's dancing shadow

My daughter exudes such joie de vivre dancing at the beach. She shouldn’t have to think about shadows!

While the chances of her being caught up in  a terrorist attack are slim, talking about what to do in an emergency is a good idea. That’s why we have things like fire drills and we just can’t assume that we will be with our child in an emergency. Or, that we won’t get separated in the chaos, like an Australian father and his 12 year old son in the Bataclan Theatre.

Indeed, the day of the Paris Attacks, we had a severe hailstorm here. I had just ducked out for a few minutes and while I was gone, the hail smashed through a section of roof. Rain was pouring in and we had to get the State Emergency Service out to put up a tarpaulin. We’ve been living in this house for 14 years and I’m pretty sure it’s the first hailstorm we’ve ever had. So, the unexpected can happen in all different shapes and sizes and a few survival skills go along way. That, in addition to book knowledge, we all need life skills. We need to know how to get through a crisis. How to save ourselves.

For my daughter, too, knowledge also means being empowered. She has some skills. She has some ideas about what to do and how to respond. So, instead of going into a panic, she can be level-headed and perhaps even help others in all sorts of emergencies.

So, I’ve now come round to thinking that this is the sort of conversation all parents need to have with their kids. Not just about terrorism but about how to respond in an emergency. Children might be young but they’re incredibly resourceful and being small can be quite an advantage. Being good at hide & seek could even save their life.

Being prepared isn’t giving in to worry. Instead of weakness, you’re actually coming from a position of strength.

If you have ever read the words of La Marseillaise, fighting the good fight is what it’s all about. We don’t lie back and let the bastards win.

 

Take care and and I feel we are all particularly conscious of just how precious our loved ones and our communities are and I continue to pray for some kind of resolution and a new beginning.

Family shadow Byron Lighthouse Easter 2014

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

I would be interested to know your thoughts. We really do live in a new world where the old rules no longer apply. Now, the anticipated target could indeed be the exception. While this doesn’t make sense, this is our new reality.

xx Rowena

 

The Struggle to Heal: the broken foot and the Sydney Siege.

Have you ever considered the different way we respond to physical injuries versus psychological trauma? There’s absolutely no stigma going to a physiotherapist to treat your physical injuries, whereas admitting to seeing a psychologist could well open a whole can of worms.

Quite a double-standard, isn’t it?

It’s now almost been two months since the horrific terrorist siege gripped Sydney as a gunman held 18 people hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place at the heart of Sydney’s CBD. While the hostages each have their own story, I am addressing the ripple effect which spread beyond the Lindt Cafe and held Sydney in its grip and is still rippling in the shadows. As evidenced by the thousands of floral tributes which overflowed through Martin Place and a Facebook request to send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids spread; many, many people were deeply moved and grief-stricken over what happened. We truly and genuinely cared. This concern is naturally mixed with grief, fear and compassionate empathy and there’s naturally a need for psychological healing here too. There has been such grief for the Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson…two courageous heroes…strangers we’d never met before.

Flowers Martin Place

Flowers Martin Place

The night before the siege, I broke my foot and I felt this coincidence provided an opportunity to explore the differences between physical and psychological healing. The hostages were interviewed at length on TV last night and they each have their story. Naturally, I am very mindful of their trauma and send them my love and prayers. However, I’m looking further afield at how Sydney is responding to its psychological wounds. Are we undergoing treatment?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I returned to Martin Place for the first time since the siege last week on my way home from a series of medical appointments. I usually go off on a bit of a detour on the way home and quite intentionally don’t declare my whereabouts. This is Mummy’s secret escape…an absolute indulgence. I usually end up in a gorgeously quirky vegan cafe in Sydney’s Surry Hills. There’s a portrait of “The Vegan Mary” at the entrance and they make the most scrumptiously divine Coconut Chai Lattes. They’re like drinking a coconut cloud.

However, this time I decided to go to Martin Place and pay my respects to the siege victims and survivors. I didn’t know what to expect. I naturally thought I’d get emotional when I reached the Lindt Cafe but what surprised me was the creepy uneasiness I felt even walking through Martin Place. Quite out of character, I wondered whether I should report in and call home. Let my husband know where I was just in case. After all, nobody knew I was anywhere near the city. I was meant to be on the train heading home, in the absolute opposite direction. If something happened, no one would know I was there. Not that anything was going to happen. After all, lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice. That said, we didn’t expect it to strike the first time either. Now, we’ve woken up. Sydney is on alert. Not red alert but we’re certainly no longer asleep.

You see, despite the superficial rhetoric that Sydney is back to normal, things have changed. Something has shattered and the pieces don’t quite fit back together like they used to. Everything is just ever so slightly disjointed, out of kilter. Although we’re getting on with it, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel or haven’t been changed. It’s only early days and it really does take time for any kind of healing…physical or psychological.

As I mentioned, I broke my foot the night before the terrorist siege. Therefore, the progress on the foot front provides a good platform to discuss how Sydney is psychologically recovering from the siege versus the physical healing of the foot. I should also mention that I live with a severe life threatening auto-immune disease and been through a bit of trauma myself…especially where my kids are concerned.

While I did play my violin in the Christmas concert straight after breaking my foot and I also staggered into school the next day despite excruciating pain to watch the kids perform in the end of year talent show, that all stopped after the x-ray. Once I knew it was broken, it was sentenced to 6 weeks in the protective boot and I was also prescribed Panadeine Forte and had to rest it. The kids were incredibly caring giving me a massage and doing everything for me…at least for a few days!! I’ve been severely ill before and the kids have never given me the red carpet treatment rolled out for the broken foot. That really intrigued me.

Six weeks later, I’m starting to ease out of the boot and started physio. Of course, she’s not sending me straight back out there cold turkey running along cracked and broken footpaths wearing my high heels. No, she’s given me a couple of very simple, basic exercises, which require many, many repetitions. These are aimed at retraining the nerve endings in my ankle to stop it from flipping over. This retraining process sounds very similar to the neuroplasticity in the brain. Hmm…I guess that means I have a brain in my foot.

While nobody’s been pressuring me to get over my broken foot, I do feel that Sydney is being pushed and expected to recover from the siege quickly. While it is important to reclaim our city and not let terrorism cramp our style, this can also be a gradual process. We are allowed to inch our way back and not just jump in the deep end when we’re not ready. It’s also perfectly okay to get professional psychological advice and support just like I’ve had physio to help my foot recover…even if you weren’t one of the hostages and perhaps don’t even work near Martin Place.

Boys Don't Cry.

Boys Don’t Cry.

I try to laugh about it
Cover it all up with lies
I try and laugh about it
Hiding the tears in my eyes
‘Cause boys don’t cry
Boys don’t cry

The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry

 

 

 

This psychological pressure to simply get over it is exemplified by these no doubt well-intentioned words from our esteemed Prime Minister Tony Abbott: “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual”….

“Our thoughts and prayers must go out to the individuals caught up in this. I can think of nothing more distressing or terrifying.”[1]

Does anybody else see the contradiction? How could we simply go about our business as usual when 18 people were being hostage by a seeming terrorist? While people have been sympathetic and understanding about how long it takes a broken foot to heal, there is quite a double-standard when it comes to psychological trauma and scars. There’s this expectation that psychological wounds should heal quickly…almost like clicking your fingers…especially when you were indirectly affected. However, it seems quite logical to me that if you go through a dreadful, traumatic ordeal that you would have some kind of lasting reaction. Moreover, this reaction deserves (at the very least) the same kind of treatment, respect and TLC that my broken foot has received. This can include learning techniques and skills from a trained psychologist just like I’m getting exercises for my foot from the physio. After all, if you have a significant injury of any sort, it requires treatment.

Whether your wounds are psychological or physical, professional advice can boost the healing process. It makes good sense.

To make sense of the psychological kickback from the siege, we need to return to 15-16th December without injecting hindsight. While it is easy in retrospect to minimise the threat this lone wolf gunman posed, he had staged his campaign with maximum impact. Firstly, he chose the prominent Lindt Cafe opposite the Channel 7 TV Studios in Martin Place for maximum coverage. Then, he bluffed his way through the siege claiming his backpack was a bomb and that other “brothers” had bombs in other strategic locations in Sydney’s CBD. This threat had to be taken seriously and brought Sydney’s CBD to a grinding halt. The pre-Christmas rush vanished leaving an eerie ghost town behind. The Opera House and Cahill Expressway had been evacuated and Martin Place Train Station was closed. This was perceived as a potentially serious terrorist attack on Sydney and was dealt with accordingly. Thank goodness, it wasn’t but we still went through “the motions”.

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Since then, events in Paris have also dwarfed what happened here. However, Sydney could have been a different story. We can not minimise what people have been through because something even worse happened somewhere else. Once again, that is the power of hindsight… something anybody who lived through the siege, didn’t have at the time.

As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the siege has rippled far beyond the hostages and their families. TV and other forms of media bring events right into our lounge rooms in vivid technicolour, drawing us in. We are human beings, not robots, so of course we have emotions, feelings…a response!!! Moreover, although Sydney is a big city, it still has an intimacy about it. Somebody always seems to know someone involved. As it turns out, I used to work closely with one of the Sydney hostages many years ago. I must admit I felt quite shattered hearing her talk about the intense trauma she endured on TV last night…especially when we were so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all those years ago. That was my first full-time job.

There are also those people who work in or near Martin Place and those who frequent the Lindt Cafe but through some almost freakish twist of fate, they weren’t there that morning. They slept in. Missed the bus or were sick. Started a diet and swore off chocolate. Just like the siege survivors are asking, “why me?”, they could well be thinking: “It could have, or even should have, been me.” That intense sense of identification, another form of survivor’s guilt, deserves compassion just as much as my foot and yet these walking wounded have no walking sticks or boots to communicate their angst. Their own grief and anxiety seems hard to understand and perhaps even self-indulgent, attention seeking. They could well have a whole Pandora’s Box of questions, emotions and fears even though they were nowhere near the place. They also deserve hugs, understanding and compassion.

The whole question of the future of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place confronts these psychological scars head on. Personally, I can’t understand how they could ever re-open it at that location but others have called for it to re-open and there will be a touching memorial inside. I know the chances of a repeat of the siege must be statistically unlikely but with all of Sydney open for coffee, I’d rather be gentle with my soul and go somewhere else. I don’t need to go through that emotional stress…especially when I’ve never been to the Lindt Cafe before.

I’d much rather head back for that heavenly Coconut Chai latte in Surry Hills and think about something else…like a buying a box of Lindt chocolates at the supermarket.

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that just as people may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivors can also experience post-traumatic growth. I have experienced both. It would be an intriguing process if only it didn’t hurt so much!!

[1]The Australian Financial Review: http://www.afr.com/p/national/islamic_state_linked_terror_grips_Ck62N1NvnYuygeXu1rfXbI

 

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

 

 

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask what you can do for your world!

The countdown is ticking: 10,9,8,7,6,5,,3,2,1..Happy New Year!

In the light of recent tragic events, I sub-consciously found myself reworking the words of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, in  this rogue terrorist era where there seems to be no respect for national boundaries, this variation seems far more appropriate:

“Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for your world- Rowena.

It is my heartfelt desire that we now extend our vision way beyond our own back pockets. As overwhelming as it may feel at times, somehow we need to attain a more global perspective and not just switch off because it’s” happening somewhere “over there .  We need to switch on to both the good and the bad of what’s happening elsewhere and have a heart. It is our world and it’s the only world we’ve got. Moreover, both spiritually and environmentally, it’s pretty obvious that it’s long past time to act. Our world is gasping  for breath with a breaking heart but we still have hope.

This is a big paradigm shift for me personally. I’m more of a “think local” sort and there is always more than enough to do here but that no longer means switching off to the bigger picture but somehow just stretching my boundaries a little. That’s what growth’s about.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, the “baddies” are still out there. Moreover, as recent events have shown, they’re no longer over there but also over here.

As much as we would like to believe that we are well-camouflaged among the hundreds and thousands, who’s to say we or someone we love dearly won’t suddenly be plucked out of the multitude? Be one of the unfortunate “chosen ones”?

Hero-victim of the Lindt Cafe Siege Katrina Dawson was just going out for a morning hot chocolate with a colleague and friend. Tori Johnson, was just going to work just like Principal Tahira Qazi who was shot a day later in in Pakistan. These were just ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Eight children died in Cairns seemingly murdered by their mother and aunt…just ordinary kids.

Who is immune?Who?

Me, of course.

Statistically-speaking,  it would have to be a particularly stupid terrorist to see our place as any kind of target. It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera House. The only way a terrorist would get here was if they got lost.  Indeed, they’d have to be very lost. They wouldn’t  even bother knocking on my door for directions to somewhere strategic. We’re a long way off the beaten track unless perhaps they’re heading to the beach.

That said, I won’t be staying home forever. At the moment, our whole family in on holidays living in some blissful state of suspended animation. The kids are currently playing with the dogs and I would be spending some time at the beach if it weren’t for the broken foot and the mega cough. Very few of us live in a concrete bunker and neither do those we love. We catch the train. Enjoy a show at the Opera House and might even pause for a hot chocolate and a chat with a friend.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed vaccine against evil or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In 2014, we have witnessed yet again the harm that one or the few can inflict on the many. It is my heartfelt prayer for 2015 that the good of this world can come together and have a truly transformative impact. Turn the mountain of evil on its head so humanity can learn what it is to love and be loved on a global scale. Surely, this doesn’t have to be a rosy-coloured fantasy? That together, we can all join hands and somehow make it happen. After all, it’s amazing what people will do to achieve profit and greed! Just imagine how our world would change if we also applied that strength, focus and determination to being nice to each other instead?!!

The power of love.

The power of love. Photo: Rowena

The Golden Rule: Treat Others As You Would Like to be Treated!

However, that change isn’t going to come easily. It will come at a personal cost. Starting out small, it begins with you and me. The trouble is that despite our best intentions, we are still only human. Made of yin and yang. Let’s hope and pray that if we each make just a few small changes, the forces of good could gain enough momentum to turn things around. After all, just as one person has done so much harm, one person can do so much good!!

 

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,

it is better that you should leave your

work and sit at the gate of the temple

and take alms of those who work with joy.

Khalil Gibran

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

However, when it comes to making these changes myself, I am more than aware of my own feet of clay…one of which is currently broken too, by the way. For me, all these good intentions begin at home with my husband and kids. It is easy to wax lyrically writing lofty, philosophical principles. It is so much harder to walk the talk 24/7.My house is a mess and I struggle to teach my own kids the golden rule, even through my own example. However, that doesn’t mean that I should just give up.  Throw my hands in the air or fall in the mud on my sword. Like all of us, I just need to keep walking with God in my heart and “Try! Try! Try!”

 

2015 is the UN International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. After the moral darkness of the last weeks, this seemed like quite the antidote. We have been through the darkness and now we are heading for the light. Well, this theme seems to  be focusing more on the physical not metaphorical properties of light but perhaps we can adopt our own slant. I am certainly going to light a candle or two and let the light shine through the darkness.

Love

Love. Photo: Rowena

Through this blog, I have really managed to connect with a whole range of people around the world. Through the eyes of a little white dog, I have experienced a touch of Hawaii. I have been to India and enjoyed a meal. I have been to Ireland connected with a families all over the world. Shared words, art, photography and walked in so many different pairs of shoes and I’m sure I’ve become more enlightened by stretching my boundaries getting to know all these incredible, intelligent and thoughtful people.You have changed me and my world.

Now, let’s back to writing down those resolutions.

Hmm…It looks like giving up chocolate can wait. Now, in 2015, just being plain nice is so much more important!

Arnott's Nice Biscuit

Arnott’s Nice Biscuit

Lindt Cafe Siege, Sydney: Please Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids.

In the aftermath of the Martin Place Siege, a request has gone out via Facebook to send Christmas cards to the children of hostage Katrina Dawson who was tragically killed.

I am just the messenger.

No doubt you have heard about the dreadful siege held at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place this week. I have honored the two of the hostages, Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson who lost their lives  in previous posts. While not discounting the enormity of grief felt towards Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson’s three young children aged 8, 5 and 3  lost their mum.  At such a young age, that loss goes beyond grief.

Steven Isles has sent out a request via Facebook to send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s children. The cards are being sent c/o their uncle’s office. Sandy Dawson is a well-known Sydney lawyer. In a very public case, Steven Isles’ own father, Senior Sergeant Mick Isles, disappeared on his way to a training course in 2009 and his body was never found. Isles said that when his father first went missing, he remembers lots of people dropping off meals and letters to show their support.

‘You feel a bit bombarded at the time, but on reflection you go “Wow” – it certainly was a welcome distraction to have that much support,’ he said.

Mr Isles said he was talking about the tragedy amongst friends when he came up with the idea to start the Christmas card drive.

STEVEN ISLES’ FACEBOOK POST

CHRISTMAS CARDS FOR Oliver, Chloe and Sasha Dawson. Let them know we are all thinking of them.

At times of such tragedy we, Australians being the resilient people do what we do best and that is band together during someone’s time of need.

There is still time. When you are at the shops or the newsagent please buy a Christmas Card and send it to the three beautiful children Katrina Dawson leaves behind.

I have spoken with Sandy Dawson’s [Katrina’s brother] Clerk and commitment has been provided to deliver to Katrina’s children all mail that arrives. Address cards to:

Oliver, Chloe & Sasha

Banco Chambers

Level 5/ 65 Martin Place

Sydney NSW 2000

Share this message anywhere and everywhere, lets get as many cards as possible to these children and lets show them how many people are thinking of them

Thanks in advance everyone.

Proud to be an Aussie.

Every card these children receive is something like a  hug, a loving thought and a reminder that there is still goodness in this world after such evil has struck.

Could you please reblog this post to get the word out. I know it’s almost Christmas and many of you live overseas but we all know how much kids love getting mail and it would be good for them to receive Christmas cards from all around the world…even if they arrive well after Christmas. Perhaps, you could even include a postcard showing where you live. These children are not needy so there is no need to send toys. These would be better given to your local charity.

I’ve pasted a link to the full story about this compassionate Christmas card project below.

In the meantime, Katrina Dawson’s family has set up a charitable foundation in her memory which will be focused on women’s education. Here is a link to the foundation’s website: http://thekatrinadawsonfoundation.org/

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 Read more about the Christmas card project here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2880158/It-s-just-token-say-Mum-s-won-t-forgotten-Man-father-disappeared-highly-publicised-case-starts-Christmas-card-drive-children-siege-victim-Katrina-Dawson.html#ixzz3ML8gHfv2

Oh Christmas Boot!

Oh Christmas Boot!
Oh Christmas Boot!
Your tinsel shines so brightly!

After breaking my foot the other night, there weren’t going to be any fancy high heels for me this Christmas. Oh no! As my witty daughter pointed out, I was off to the “Bootique” instead.

This boot might be kind of grey, clompy and unattractive but I’ve never been so happy to see a boot before in my life. It was almost an instant fix… a miracle cure. I still took painkillers for a couple of days but wearing the blessed boot made a huge difference. I can walk around and I’m not going to have a near-death experience tripping over myself on a tangle of crutches. As you could imagine, if I could break my ankle on a relatively flat stretch of grass,I would have killed myself on crutches!!

Being 8 years old, our daughter wanted to sign my boot. Even though I didn’t have a cast, that’s what you do when you’re an 8 year old kid whenever one of your friends breaks anything. You have the fun of signing the cast while the other kid endures all the pain.

MIss decorating my foot with love.

MIss decorating my foot with love.

So instead of signing my cast, my daughter and I set about turning the boring grey, boot into a Christmas tree. She wrapped it in red tinsel and added decorations. While we were snapping away taking photos, I even threw a Santa hat over my foot. Yes, we were really getting into the Christmas cheer. Just had to wait til the kids went to bed so Geoff and I could get stuck into our box of Lindt dessert chocolates which were conveniently on sale before Christmas. Last night, there was also a glass of chilled Moscato! Now, we’re really living it up!!

Carpe Diem: Seize the Day!! It's are rare occasion that I'm able to wear heeled shoes but I wore these fabulous beauties to my cousin's engagement party at Circular Quay.

Carpe Diem: Seize the Day!! It’s are rare occasion that I’m able to wear heeled shoes but I wore these fabulous beauties to my cousin’s engagement party at Circular Quay.

What I particularly liked about our creative and Christmassy makeover of the boot, was that we were taking something bad and perhaps not turning it into a positive but certainly turning things around. Turning sadness and pain into a smile, a laugh..even if it’s only for an instant. As you have no doubt found yourself, laughing at adversity and bad luck is strangely healing…even when we hurt! It might be a cliche, but whatever doesn’t kill us, does make us stronger and I’ve been through much worse than the broken foot! This means that if and when we break a foot, we can still get up on stage and perform. We can push through the pain to see our children stand up on stage and sing, dance, play their guitar, before we collapse in a screaming heap. I’ve been home all week and the kids have now been dispatched to their grandparents but we are okay. We’ve acknowledged the bad stuff and worked through it. Laughed and poked fun at misfortune and we’ve kept going.

The kids were so loving and sweet. Mister brought me over a foot rest but Miss decided to be the foot rest herself.

The kids were so loving and sweet. Mister brought me over a foot rest but Miss decided to be the foot rest herself.

It just would have been nice to have had a hassle-free Christmas this year after going through chemo last Christmas and spending Boxing Day in hospital. After all, as much as you can put a positive spin on a chemo Christmas, it’s still what it is. As much as that chemo saved my life and brought us hope at a very dark hour, there are still many, many other places I could have been. Yet, that’s okay. I am always thankful. The chemo didn’t hit me as hard as I’d thought and instead of being in a cast this Christmas, I have a removable boot and I can get my feet wet. This is a very significant point when you’re spending summer at the beach.

In other words, I can acknowledge my gripes without becoming another Grumpy Cat.

Whatever happens in life, we have to keep moving and keep turning our bad luck into our funny stories, jokes and anecdotes. That, along with my faith and knowing that God is with me no matter what…these are the things which sustain me along the road and give me hope.

By the way, I must admit that I’ve felt mixed emotions eating Lindt chocolates after the siege. I live near Sydney and Martin Place is at the heart of our city…particularly now as it overflows with floral tributes, tears and love for the hero hostages who lost their lives in the siege. Is it okay to enjoy a beautiful Lindt chocolate when those precious people lost their lives in the Lindt Cafe? Shouldn’t I be more noble, self-controlled and simply go without?

I have given this a bit of thought and decided that it is okay to both eat Lindt and give Lindt this Christmas. It’s not that I believe in just getting on with it but I think it’s okay. You can’t blame a chocolate for such evil…only for the usual temptations of over-indulgence. Perhaps, this is being presumptuous, but I don’t think the hostages would want us to stop buying Lindt on their account. They were all lovers of Lindt which is why they were in that cafe in the first place. I also have to admit that I have terrible willpower and what with my broken foot and dreadful cough, there’s no better remedy than chocolate…especially Lindt!!

After breaking my foot, I’m particularly hoping a chocolate a day will keep the doctors at bay…especially before Christmas!!

xx Rowena

PS: It is a strange irony that I managed to ski at Perisher for 5 days without falling over and yet broke my foot simply walking along the grass at school.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Martin Place: Only 9 Sleeps Before Christmas…

As you would probably know by now, the siege in Martin Place ended tragically with the deaths of two hostages and the gunman. While the siege has been coveraged in ample detail in the media, I wanted to offer a tribute. I didn’t feel I could just keep blogging about our Christmas and dance and christmas concerts and making Christmas cake with my son under the circumstances. I wanted to honour the victims of the Martin Place Siege and send my love to their families, friends and colleagues and as a mark of respect.

Tori Johnson, 34, was the Manager of the Lindt Cafe. Like most of us, he’d simply gone to work but he never came home. Johnson was killed attempting to disarm the gunman.

His parents released a statement describing their pride in their “beautiful boy”:

“We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for,” the statement released through 2GB presenter Ben Fordham read.

“We’d like to thank not only our friends and loved ones for their support, but the people of Sydney; Australia and those around the world for reaching out with their thoughts and prayers.

“Our deepest gratitude to the NSW police, armed forces and paramedics for their tireless efforts.”

Former colleague Genevieve Collier posted on Facbook: “R.I.P Tori Johnson, at times we both hated each other, and at other times we’d be hysterically laughing. You gave me so many chances even when i was a little s*** eating all the lindor balls and pretending I was a barista. You had a good heart, and I knew you were in there protecting everyone.”

Source:

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/martin-place-cafe-siege-police-storm-cafe-and-kill-gunman-sheik-man-haron-monis/story-fnhnv0wb-1227157498633?utm_content=SocialFlow&utm_campaign=EditorialSF&utm_source=PerthNow&utm_medium=Facebook&nk=85b48321ae410590e37671c1f7b4d9f4

Katrina Dawson, who died protecting her pregnant friend, was a wife and mother of 3 little children aged under 10. Like all children, her kids would be counting down the number of sleeps before Christmas and then suddenly…

Katrina also had a brilliant mind and was a very respected and successful Barrister.

She loved her husband and her children with all her heart and no doubt that love helped sustain her during those 22 hours…along with her concern for her pregnant friend also being held hostage. She also had a mum, a Dad, a brother, friends, colleagues. I have a 10 year old son and an 8 year old daughter, so naturally I relate to her very strongly as a Mum and a wife and like everyone else, am thinking of and praying for her husband and kids.

Barrister Katrina Dawson was simply having much loved hot chocolate before work.

It was just an ordinary Monday just like any other Monday.

There are signs hung outside the Lindt Cafe wishing a Merry Christmas. These same signs were above the windows where the hostages were forced against the glass. The media blurred their faces but we could see their hands so clearly right underneath that Merry Christmas sign.These same signs were intended to spread Christmas cheer and good will to all mankind…along with a box of Lindt chocolates, of course. Indeed, I have 3 large boxes of Lindt chocolates in my cupboard…some intended as gifts and others for personal use. Lindt is the ultimate in convenient chocolate luxury.

Ooh!!! Right then my 8 year old daughter just appeared with a Lindt Chocolate and it seems while I’ve been immobilised with a broken foot and compassion for this awful tragedy, the kids are raiding my Lindt Chocolates. This just reinforces the awful paradox of what happened in that cafe. Lindt chocolate are heaven and that siege was hell… 22 hours of pure hell and a lifetime of heartache for the victims families and friends.

How do you reconcile that? Lindt Chocolate heaven, Merry Christmas and a gruesome siege where two innocent, very much loved people who were just going to work and drinking coffee were killed? The love that our community feels for the victims and their loved ones, versus the hate which drove a lone wolf to attack Sydney at its heart?

You can’t.

Yet, at the same time we have to keep believing that love can triumph over hate, good over evil!

Despite what some of our community leaders are saying, many of us can’t just get on with it as though nothing has happened. We’re not made of stone. We’re living, breathing, loving human beings who want to do something, somehow to show we care. That such acts of terrorist violence are not acceptable. That we will stand up and fight …if only we could work out how. There’s one thing I do know. It certainly doesn’t mean picking on innocent Muslims and becoming what we despise.

Perhaps, we just need to keep following the Golden Rule. Treat others as we would like to be treated. Perhaps, it really is that simple, after all! Child’s play.

This is not the first time that Australians have been affected by terrorist violence this year. On the 17 July, 2014 38 Australians were effectively murdered when Flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine. On the 24th September, 2014 an 18-year-old man who was being investigated over terrorism was been shot dead after stabbing two police officers in Melbourne’s outer south-east.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as being geographically isolated from such evil, we have now well and truly lost our innocence. We are no longer immune if, indeed, we ever were.

I can’t get into the city to leave a wreath of flowers thanks to my broken foot so I decided to put this memorial on my blog.

Little people like us might feel powerless when confronted with such evil and tragedy but together goodness is a mighty chain and we must all join hands united against terrorism, violence but also discrimination…not just against the Muslim community. Right now, that includes accepting and helping Muslim women and other mainstream members of the Muslim community feel love and accepted.

It also means not turning people with mental health issues into the villains here either. Truth be told, who hasn’t had mental health issues at some time and certainly some are worse than others and there was Port Arthur but over all have mental health issues doesn’t make you a crazy terrorist gunman.

We know that this guy wasn’t a lone wolf. There are others out there. Not just in Australia but also around the world. Reports today told of Muslim community members who are reporting extremists and have been unhappy with the response from authorities. I pray these people are flushed out before history repeats itself somewhere else and more innocent people are put through this severe kind of anguish.

My blog is about my life and what’s going on around me and I just felt I couldn’t keep writing about all our Christmas festivities without acknowledging this dreadful tragedy before I moved on.

We sent our love and prayers to the families and friends of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson. May God hold you in his arms and wrap you up in his incredible love.

xx Rowena