Winter’s Silver Lining

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I really don’t like winter. I think there might be a slight international misconception that Australians don’t have winter. I can assure you that we do. While our whole country may not get entirely shrouded in snow, we get plenty of it in some areas.

Just last week we had a rare snowfall just outside my city, and the chilly days that followed have reminded me that the next stop south from where I live is Antarctica.

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I dread this time of year, but there is one great blessing amongst all this. We get to see the sky. Unlike some countries, we are not subjected to a months-on-end existence under an oppressive blanket of cloud.

Yesterday morning I drove to work beneath a cobalt blue sky with the sun shining through my windscreen. It might be cold, but blue sky is not uncommon here in winter, and it really lifts my spirits.

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Sometimes the sunshine confuses the jonquils and lilacs, and they bloom early; fragrant beacons of hope reminding us that spring will come.

Living in the driest state of the driest continent, where we tend to believe we’re drowning if we get three days straight of rain, I’m reminded of how blessed we are to still have dry sunny days, even in the middle of winter.

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Flying North for the Winter: Half Full

20130710_145039I think Jess and I will look back at this trip and laugh at the irony of escaping the cold to find ourselves in the rain. We’ll laugh about that, but mostly we’ll remember the good things, because experience has taught me that even the most horrible trips can get glorified over time.

And this one certainly wasn’t horrible. For three blessed days and four nights, I didn’t have to worry about being cold. Sure I always had a jacket, but for most of the time I could wander the streets in a t-shirt.

Cairns truly is a city in a garden. It’s a beautiful, vibrant melting-pot of cultures –  even in the rain. Wherever we went, restaurants, information centers or tourist sites, we were assisted by people from all over the world; English, German, French, Welsh, American and Asian.20130710_112504

We were tourists in our own country and the ‘locals’ were foreigners.

We rode in a gondola, high above a rainforest that inspired some of the scenes in Avatar, and shopped in hippie markets. We ate in a restaurant overlooking a rainforest and meandered in a heritage train past mountains and waterfalls and through tunnels carved out of stone.

20130710_144948We ate Turkish food and wandered the esplanade at night, following it up with some amazing gelati. We went horse riding through cane fields, chatted to people from all around Australia and the world, had a massage and shopped ‘til we dropped.

So really, it’s all about perspective.

You can read the ‘glass half empty’ version of our trip here: Flying North for the Winter: Half Empty

Flying North for the Winter: Half Empty

1338463_59722516I usually don’t travel during the school year because my health is too fragile to risk anything that could interfere with work. But this year, seeing photos of friends travelling through sunny Europe as I was sitting in South Australia feeling cold, I was itching to find somewhere warm to relax.

So I booked my trip to Cairns, imagining posting my own enviable facebook pics of blue skies, sun and ocean.

When we arrived it was raining and it hardly stopped. I think I got more rain in three days of Cairns’ ‘dry season’, than I’ve had all year in SA. We didn’t see a single beach and thoughts of going out to the Great Barrier Reef were squelched due to ‘unseasonably bad weather.’ On top of that, my body reminded me continually that I’m exhausted from the end of term and that CFS has stolen my right to be a good traveler.

I felt like a fool having bragged that I’d be posting photos of a gloriously enviable summer, and to rub salt in the wound, SA had unseasonably warm weather this week. While I was sitting in a wet cloud, they were having days of sunshine and blue skies, and some of my facebook friends actually posted pictures of themselves at the beach! In July!

As I sat on my bed on our final night, listening to the thunderous pelting of the rain on the tin roof, my phone chimed. I looked at the weather notification. “Warning: Cairns. Chance of showers.”

Because there are always two sides to a story, stay tuned for ‘Flying North for the Winter: Half Full.’

My Lucky Country

I was at the movies the other night to watch Gatsby with some girlfriends.

We were quietly chatting our way through the fifteen minutes of pre-movie ads, when this one came on. The conversation faltered as its magnetism drew us in. I made the comment that ‘there’s something about this ad that is just so me,’ and we watched in fascination as it unfolded. We tried to guess what it was for, and I got it: My state; my home.

I’ve always been proud to be Australian, and ads like this make me see why.

If you have a favourite ad from your country, city or state, I’d love to see it. Send me the link!

Calling Someone an ‘Ape’ is only Racist if Evolution isn’t true.

Anonymous_evolution_stepsAustralian Football has recently played host to a racism saga that has attracted huge media attention. One of our Indigenous players was called an ‘ape’ by a young female spectator. She was escorted out of the stadium, and he sat out for the rest of the game. The saga was further complicated some time later when the president of the opposing team made an outrageously stupid comment alluding to it on national radio.

I had only mild interest in this issue until I read this article which makes some incredibly valid points about the offensiveness of the original comment. There is no question that calling someone an ‘ape’ is rude. It shouldn’t have been said. But is it really racist?

Calling a white person an ape isn’t considered racist, but things suddenly change when the person is coloured. Why is that?

According to evolutionary theory, humans came from apes, and it has historically been portrayed that the ‘black man’ is closer in the chain to the ape than the ‘white man.’

Evolutionarily speaking then, calling someone an ape means rudely suggesting that they are less ‘evolved’ than their white counterparts. This crosses a social taboo, but if it’s racist then so is evolution. According to evolutionary roots we are not all equal, but somehow pointing that out in public is an atrocity.

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our origins, and realize that claiming evolutionary theory as fact, may have much wider ramifications than what we’re willing to accept.

 

If you read this post, please read my follow-up post: Apologies, my last Post hadn’t quite evolved enough.

A few things you shouldn’t say to a childless woman

Below is a condensed version of an article from The Age today that I thought was worth posting.

It is so important that we don’t make the assumption that people always get to choose their path in life.

If you’d like to read the full article, you can find it here.

A few things you shouldn’t say to a childless woman

Wendy Squires May 04, 2013

Photo Credit: Kylie Pickett

Not all women can have babies or want to have babies. Photo: Kylie Pickett

There are two words for the woman who reached over the table, grabbed my hand and in a consolatory tone announced, ”It’s a tragedy you never got around to having children. It’s the most wonderful thing a woman can do.”

Those words are ”shut” and ”up” (the printable response) or, more charitably, ”think” and ”first”. Because it doesn’t take Freud to work out this statement was patronising, assumptive and just plain insensitive.

…I wanted to thump her. Hard. Not just for me, but for all childless women. I’m talking about sisters on IVF; the ones who can’t carry to term; those who’ve suffered stillbirth or the loss of a child; the infertile; those with infertile partners; the ones hoping and waiting on a committed relationship; the ambivalent; the never intended to and don’t feel the need to justify the fact.

Most of the childless women I know do find peace with their circumstances, even if it takes some time. Until, that is, someone comes along and demands their curiosity itch be scratched as to why no kids or, worse, declares you emotionally or spiritually unfulfilled with uncalled for comments such as the one I endured.

I believe children are a gift and not a given in life, and those who receive should be grateful. They should not be offering from on high ”Oh, it is such a pity”, ”a tragedy”, ”you would have loved it”, consolations to those without – even if well intended. People need to stop and think what they are really saying to another with ”you don’t know love until you have a child”, ”I wasn’t complete until I had kids”, ”you are nothing without family” or the deplorable ”don’t you like children?”

A friend of mine who is a well-known celebrity understands this. I was watching when she was interviewed on TV once. The male host skipped through her bio with the clanger, ”You decided to choose career over family …” I will never forget my friend’s face, frozen in a smile that hid the angry tears I knew were welling. I was aware she had not chosen career over family as he so rudely surmised, but that she had miscarried her much-wanted baby late term and was told she would never have another as a result. Like most women there was a backstory to her situation, one that didn’t need ignorant supposition to aggravate.

I was with a girlfriend who had recently been told to give up on IVF and witnessed her pain when the ”you don’t know love until you have a child” remark was dropped at a party…

The simple fact – not that it is anyone’s damn business in the first place – is that most childless women today feel the decision was taken out of their hands through lack of financial and emotional security. According to a study in Australia’s Journal of Population Health, many childless women in their 30s want to have children, but can’t due to reasons ”beyond their control” such as not having a partner, stable relationship, or partner that wants children.

Perhaps in future when judging another woman on her life choices or publicly applauding your own, these statistics should be kept in mind. Not all women are awarded the same opportunities in life and not all women want or need them. Surely we can all agree on mutual respect and consideration of circumstance as a safe middle ground.

Saturday Age columnist Wendy Squires is a journalist, editor and author. Twitter: @Wendy_Squires