Wednesday, 21 March 2018

I Feel Like Myself Again

Last year Jalen had a major photography assignment which he had to develop throughout the year.  He had to come up with a concept and then show he developed it, and then submit his final assignment.

He told me that he always remembered when Noah was in the ICU (and we knew he may pass away) that Aaron said to him while they were walking together outside the hospital 'you never know what is going on in someone's life.  Everyone here looks fine, but they may have something terrible going on like us'. 

That stuck with him and he decided for his photography assignment he wanted to portray that in some way.  His first idea was to take photos of people looking happy, but standing in places that you wouldn't necessarily think was a happy environment.  He took photos of a friend smiling at the cemetery, another friend in an abandoned building and Harri in a burnt out building.

He then thought about how he could portray it better using video, as he could tell someone's story more.  He talked to his teacher about it, and he agreed that it was a good idea.

Jalen chose to make three videos,  (and had photos to match) for his major assignment, and they were shown at the Newstead College arts night at the end of last year.  There were three TV screens on the wall, with headphones to listen to each video.  Around the TVs were the photos that he took.  

He knew straight away that he wanted to tell his own story as he's obviously been through so much in the last 6 years and if you just met him now, you wouldn't really understand how far he's come. 

He just started grade 7 a couple of weeks after Aaron died, and it was a tough year.  He missed so much of school because he felt physically sick every day from the trauma and grief.  It was so hard to help him, when I was going through the same things myself, but I also had to go to work and help Harri and Kobe with their grief.
He got some great feedback from his video, and we were told that there were many people in tears. Some of his teachers couldn't even watch them, as they knew it would upset them too much.

This is the first video which is his story and how he 'feels like myself again'.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Some of my favourite days over the summer holidays were when my whole extended family were together.  It was the first time in years we had all been together.  We were of course missing my Dad, Aaron and Noah and wish we could've all really had been together.

It was so good to have my sister Nicki and her family over from the USA.   We all spent an afternoon at the beach and the weather was actually terrible, but it didn't dampen our spirits. We were all just happy to be together.

 These cheeky girls always love finding crabs and putting them down my back!

We couldn't miss the opportunity to update our family photos.  Erin came along to meet the whole family, and I don't think anyone scared her too much! :) It was also great to have her there as she was able to take our whole family photo for us.

We hope that it won't take too long before we are back together again, as my brother Jared and his wife Becky are about to have another baby, so we will need to get more photos soon. Notice Jalen and Harri in the back on tippy toes!

My siblings and I are all very different.  I'm the eldest, then Jared (on the left), Christian (Chrish), Eden (on the right), we had another brother Daniel who passed away from SIDS at 9 months and then Nicki was born after Daniel died. 

There are eight years between Nicki and myself so Mum and Dad had us all very close together.  I really don't know how Mum did it all, as she was home with all of us while Dad worked full time.

My brother Jared is known for ruining photos by sticking his finger up very discretely.  I have many photos from this day of him doing just that! It actually makes us all laugh as that's the Jared we know and love.

All the cousins were so excited to be together.  Jay, Noah and Harri are always the odd ones out as they were a lot older than the rest of their cousins, but the others are all very close in age.

Out of sixteen grandchildren there are twelve grandsons and four granddaughters. 

I love this photo of Nicki and Alex's son Hyrum.  He's so cheeky and such a live wire.  It was nice to get to know him more, as they lived in Melbourne before they moved to the USA over 18  months ago.

This photo makes me laugh so much.  We were all taking photos of the cousins together, while the guys are playing with Eden's drone.

The little boys absolutely love my older boys and had a great time with them.  Jay would always ask Ezra 'who's your favourite cousin?' and he would reply 'Harri!' because he knew it was cheeky and funny. 
Kobe had the best time with his cousins.

I love these pics that Chrish took of my boys.

I also love this sneaky shot that Chrish took.  Harri is always so lovely and affectionate with me (he gets that from his Dad) and loves putting his arm around me. 
While Nicki and Alex were over from the USA, it was their son Alex's 10th birthday.  He chose to go to the Aquatic Centre with his cousins for the day. It was a great choice as it was fun for the big and little kids (and adults!).  We had such a fun day.


 I'm so graceful!
 Ezzy loves chatting with Harri.
Holding on for dear life!
Ezra cracked us up because one day he said 'Jalen is a man!'.

It was so lovely to have all my family together for a short time.  I hope it's not too long until we are together again.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Our February - One Second Everyday

How can it be the middle of March already!?  By far my two favourite apps are Instagram and 1 Second Everyday.  I always wondered if I would get sick of recording a video everyday, but I find that I just do it naturally as I love recording memories and it's such a fun way to do it. I love looking back each month and remember what we were up to.

My 1 Second Everyday video from January is at the end of my summer holiday post, but February was such a mix of going back to work and enjoying the end of summer as much as we can, that it didn't really fit with any particular blog post, so I'm posting my February video separately.

International Women's Day - Local Hero

Recently a friend messaged me to ask if she could pass my phone number onto her friend, who was inquiring about a speaking engagement.  I told her it sounded scary, but it was fine to pass it on.  I then got a phone call from Beck who works for the Clifford Craig Foundation, which is a medical research program. 

She told me that every year they hold a luncheon for International Women's Day and they have a main guest speaker and also a 'local hero'.  She told me that his year the main guest speaker was going to be Jelena Dokic who was former number 4 tennis player in the world.  She said she knew about my story and had read my blog, and had hoped that I would agree to be the 'local hero' this year.

I laughed and said I don't feel like a local hero, but after talking about what it would involve I agreed to do it.  The week before I met with the MC Sara, who was so lovely.  We chatted about how the day would run and that my part involved a 10 minute Q&A session where I would already know what she was going to ask me as we would chat about it then. 

She asked me what two messages I would really like to get across to the audience as she wanted to make sure that came out during our conversation on the stage.  I said there's so much to share, but I thought the two most important things I want people to know are that when someone is grieving the way you can help them is to just allow them to grieve. There is no wrong way or right way and everyone grieves differently.  So many times I hear 'it's time to move on', 'he would want you to be happy' or 'when is she going to stop talking about them' but pushing away how you feel doesn't help anyone, especially not yourself.

As a friend the best thing you can do is to be there and be a listening ear. Don't try to push away how someone is feeling, because it may be uncomfortable for you. 'Moving on' doesn't have to mean getting remarried.  I have moved on in many ways as I have no choice but to, but just because I don't want to get remarried doesn't mean I'm not 'happy'.  I also said that how someone looks on the outside, doesn't always reflect what is going on the inside.

The other message I wanted to get across was that you can't always choose what happens to you in your life, but everyone has a choice about how they respond to what has happened.  I shared with her that I had suffered depression and anxiety and you can't change how you feel, but I had to make a choice to ask for help and go on medication at the time.  I still make choices every day, even though things are still hard.  It doesn't fix things straight away, but eventually you can look back and see that those little choices that you made every day has helped you along the way.

Sara was lovely and said she was so excited for me to speak at the luncheon as she could tell I was going to inspire a lot of people.  I was glad that it was going to more of an interview up on the stage, as I didn't really have to prepare a speech, but was more just having a chat and sharing my story.

On the day I was so nervous.  I had been really busy at work and had hardly thought about it, and then all of a sudden I realised that I would be speaking in front of 350 people.  I'm not a huge tennis fan, but know a little bit about it and some of the bigger players.  I knew who Jelena Dokic was and just remembered her as this young blonde haired girl who was an incredible player, but who was always causing a drama. I remembered her Dad who was aggressive towards the media and I knew there was some controversy about her not playing for Australia at some stage, but playing for her home country instead.

When I arrived early for the luncheon I was taken to a room by Beck and Sara, where Jelena was doing Media interviews.  She looks a lot different to the girl I remembered, so it was hard to imagine that the Jelena Dokic I was with, was the same as the young blonde haired girl.  When we were introduced she was lovely and shook my hand and said she had heard a lot about me, and she was sorry for what had happened to me.  We got our photo taken with Beck before we went in for lunch.
We were both taken to our seats, and it hit me then how big this was and how many people I would be speaking in front of.  I knew that everyone was really there to hear Jelena though, so I tried not to stress too much, and just enjoy lunch.

While we eating we chatted to each other, and she was so down to earth and easy to talk to. She asked me if I was on Instagram and said she wanted to take some photos to put on Instagram afterwards. I admitted to her that I didn't know heaps about tennis, but told her that I recently took the boys to the Launceston International tennis finals and how much they loved it and that we had been playing tennis for fun recently, and how terrible we were!

I was so happy to have a couple of good friends in the crowd who had gone along with their other friends and workmates.  It was also lovely to see a few familiar faces in the crowd.  The food was delicious and Jelena and I swapped our food as she didn't like salmon, but I love it. 
The food was amazing, but I think I was so overwhelmed with the whole day that it was hard to enjoy it!
While everyone was eating main course it was my turn to speak.  Sara was an awesome MC and just made it all so relaxed and easy.  They put a family photo up behind me as she introduced me, and it was obviously a huge shock to many people in the audience that Noah passed away and then Aaron passed away, as there was a huge gasp from the audience as she said it.

Sara asked me to share my story in a few minutes, and I talked about Noah's diagnosis and how we were just starting to feel like things would be okay after he passed away, when Aaron passed away.  Sara mentioned  about being awarded the Barnados Tasmanian Mother of the Year in 2015 and asked me to share the story I told her when I found out that I was in the final, as she thought it was very funny. 

I shared how embarrassed I was when I got the call that I was nominated and in the top 6, as I didn't feel like I deserved it, and how I didn't tell any of my friends about it until I had to when I was told I was in the top 3 and had to invite people to the ceremony.  She then said she hoped that I knew now that I was deserving of the award and I said I still didn't think I was, as I'm just a regular Mum like everyone else who gets cranky with their kids.  Everyone in the audience clapped when she said that I was very deserving of it which was so lovely, and she kept pushing, so I then said that I can see that I've helped my boys through their grief, but also that I am just a normal Mum and had been yelling at the boys to hurry and get their shoes on that morning.  Everyone had a laugh at that.

Sara also wanted me to share about my work, so it was very easy to speak as I got to talk about the things I love the most - my work and my family.  She then asked me to share my two messages I would like to get across and before I knew it the ten minutes were over (and it only seemed like it went for half the time). It was so nice to feel and hear so much support from the audience and it was nice to be able to sit down and relax knowing my part was done.

After I spoke lots of ladies came up to chat.  One older lady told me that her husband had recently passed away and how hard it had been, but said that if I can do it then she can. She then started crying and said she hardly ever cries, but said how good it was to talk to someone who understood.

Another lady came up and asked me if I recognised her. I knew her face, but couldn't work out how I knew her.  She was the funeral director at Noah's funeral! She said how great it was to see me, and to see how 'well' I was doing. She said she really appreciated what I said about grief, and said she is going to share that in her work. 

Jelena then spoke and shared that although she was such a successful tennis player, she suffered many years of terrible abuse from her father from the age of 6, when she began playing tennis. She was abused physically and emotionally if she didn't play well, or even when she did! Nothing was ever good enough for her father and she lived constantly in fear about what he would do to her. 

After she spoke she signed copies of her books, which a book shop was selling at the event. 
I went and bought one and when I took it up to her to sign she said she would've given me one. I told her I didn't expect her to do that and was happy to buy it. 
She's an amazing athlete, but what's even more incredible is that she did so well despite (and even because of) the abuse she suffered from her father. I thought I knew about her from the media, but really no one knew what she was going through, or if they did they didn't or couldn't do anything about it. I felt so much for her when I read that everything she earned was signed over to her father, before she finally 'escaped' the abuse by leaving when she was older. She almost committed suicide and her story is incredible to know that she was once a refugee, became the number 4 tennis player in the world, while being abused to terribly. 

She wrote a beautiful message in it for me. I read it over the last week and am blown away by what she's been through.
When Jelena was signing books she asked me to hang around till she finished, so we could take some more photos together.  She was so lovely and kept saying how inspiring I was, and asked if we could swap phone numbers. She told me she is going to be starting up a foundation later in the year, and would love for me to work with her and for her to be able to help me.  We swapped numbers and have texted each other since meeting, and it's just so strange to see 'Jelena Dokic' pop up on my phone.

 A couple of days after the event Jelena posted this on her Instagram! I was blown away and couldn't believe that she had even posted about me, let alone said such beautiful things (she said I work with high school kids which isn't correct - they're way too scary for me!).
Most of the time my  life is very boring, but then something like this comes up, and it's exciting and amazing to meet people like Jelena.  We spoke about how sharing our stories helps us to heal and how she wasn't ready to share hers until now, and how writing is very draining emotionally.  I told her maybe one day I'll write a book but for now it's nice to be able to have the opportunity to share my story in other ways.

Newstead College Awards

Jalen started year 12 by taking things very easy.  I don't think he realised how much work it was going to be, but after a few of months it hit him that this was his chance to work really hard and do the best that he could, to make sure he got into the course he wants to do at Uni.

He worked really hard and really enjoyed the year.  His college have their award ceremony at the beginning of the year, as they need to wait for their results to come through at the end of the year.
Jay was asked by his Theatre Performance teacher if he would perform with another student a piece from their play Emma.  He was hilarious in it and did such a great job when they performed the show, so it was great to be able to see him up on stage again. 
During the summer holidays he got two letters in the mail, to say that he would be receiving a subject award and also a special award at the ceremony. He absolutely loved his Media 3 class and I knew that he was doing really well in it throughout the year, so we assumed he was getting the Media award, but we weren't sure what the special award was for.  It was lovely to hear that a lot of his close friends and  Erin were also getting awards.

Jay won the Media 3 award, and also received the Newstead College Association Award.  When they read what the award was for, I was so proud of him.  It was for a 'positive attitude, resilience and independence'.  When I think back to how Jay was after Aaron passed away and see how he is now, I can't believe how different he is.  Even though his college teachers could see those traits in him, they really would have no idea how far he's come since grade 7.  He was very excited that he also received $200 as a part of that award.
It was lovely to have my Mum there for the award ceremony.
It was so nice to see all of his hard work pay off.  I know that his 'gap year' is going to fly and it won't be long till he's studying again, and he's so happy that he was accepted to do the course that he wants to do (Bachelor of Media).

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