Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Meet Chris, Ian and Victoria (the sheep) of Purple Dove Awareness Group and Food is Free.

They welcomed Theo and I to their home with (literally) open arms. We had never met before, but that made no difference. A few text messages and we are friends.

This would be the case with anyone they meet, I’m sure. In fact, complete strangers have benefited from their generosity for many years already. Things don’t always turn out the way you might predict.

We’ve come to The Summit, outside Stanthorpe, today to learn how to weave ghastly grey grocery bags into waterproof sleeping mats for those who are sleeping rough. Along with that skill, we’ve learned of the quite phenomenal work of Chris and Ian. If there is an hour in which they can help someone else, they’re probably already doing that.

Within a year of Chris and Ian’s marriage, Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given 10 months to live. That was 10 years ago. Now, between treatments and surgeries, Ian and Chris run garage sales and market stalls and organise the markets at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds on the fourth Saturday of each month. The funds they raise are all sent to support both prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Not long ago, they set up raised garden beds, a lot of them, on their own property in which they grow a variety of vegetables. These are cared for by them and placed in a stand by the road at the end of their long driveway, not to sell, but as part of “Food is Free”.

“We don’t want people to feel bad if they need help,” said Chris. “When it’s like this, they can come past and take what they need without having to ask for it and perhaps feel like they’re being judged.”

And it’s becoming a cooperative part of the community. Someone left a note and a bag of miniature shampoos and conditioners near the veges the other week. They had a surplus and knew someone else might benefit from it.

There are helpers, too. Sometimes there are 10 or more people weaving bags into mats under the watchful eyes of Victoria, the mower sheep.

“Victoria was Victa,” explained Ian, “Then we turned her over and she’s Victoria. We bought her to be friends with out other sheep, but they don’t like each other, so she’s up here with us.”

Victoria spends her days being loved and fed by visitors – including Theo, mowing – obviously, and being followed by the cat. Wherever you find Victoria, the cat will be there, curled up comfortably on Victoria’s body, enjoying the pre-production, nature’s own, walking blanket!

Like me, you probably think that this is a pretty big undertaking for a couple who are, ostensibly, retired. It didn’t start with these activities and it hasn’t stopped with JUST these, either. Not at all.

In 2015/2016, Chris was part of Walk for Life. With Ian trailing her with their caravan and car, Chris walked around Australia for 12 months! Raising money for both prostate and breast cancer, Chris walked each day. They raised about $40,000! And that seems like it was just the beginning of the philanthropic story. As they travelled and stopped to sleep each night, Chris and Ian met many homeless people and those who were living in their cars; it’s more common than I realised. When they returned home, they decided to do something to help and it grew from there.

During the hour and a half I visited, Ian took two phone calls and this meant they were heading out to pick up a large donation of furniture as soon as we left, before a doctor’s appointment later in the day.

“That happens all the time,” Chris told me, “People know we help so they often ring us to pick up things like that. They also know to call us of they’ve got people who need something. We can usually put something together. Do you want to see the container?”

We walked past more garden beds, and Victoria and the cat in the shade, to unlock a newly purchased, roofed by Ian, container. This now holds all the goods that Chris and Ian can’t house elsewhere until it finds its home with someone in need. Shelves of blankets, toiletries, clothes, towels, appliances, furniture, knitted beanies, items for markets and garage sales and….loads of things, line the walls. All are totally organised so Chris knows she can put together a package with ease, depending on the specific need.

I’m sure there is more that I didn’t ask about or find out about, after all we were only there a short time, but I do know that these ventures need time and support. From what I know, Chris and Ian are unlikely to ask for any assistance, but if you’d like to see a little more of what they’re doing, encourage them, and possibly support their efforts to support others, I expect they’d find a need to fill. You can visit their Facebook pages below.

Thanks again, Chris and Ian, for your welcome, your hospitality and the great work that you are doing every day (and the zucchinis!).

Not your ordinary boob job!

Each Monday night, I hold a children’s group while their parents are learning about Loving Our Kids on Purpose. I currently have 8 kids from 3 years to approx 7 years old. Tonight I took them to the Primary playground (it has a gate they can’t open and this is important!). For the past 3 weeks, the older boys have been playing “Super Secret Agent Assassin Ninja Zombie Heroes” and this week one of the SSAANZs was under the lowest part of the fort.

“What are you doing under there, Ninja Assassin Zombie?” I asked.

“I’m making a booby trap!” he replied, happily.

“That sounds fabulous,” I said. “All the bad guys better watch out!”

“Yeah, anyone who comes under here gets their boobies chopped off!”


I’m not kidding. He wasn’t being cheeky, not silly about being able to say “boobies”, just an obvious answer when you’re 7, apparently.

When I could contain my laughter and breathe normally again, I couldn’t help but broach the subject again. I’m a teacher, it’s kinda my job, you know?

“Did you know that even though they’re called booby traps, it doesn’t mean that boobies get chopped off?”

I had not finished speaking before he jumped in, shocked that I would even suggest such a thing,

“Yes, it does. That’s what happened to my dad!”

“Pardon?” This I have to hear.

“Yes. That’s what happened to my dad in First War 2. He went in a booby trap and got his boobies chopped off. That’s why he’s got no boobies any more!”

I’m not often speechless.



PS. Thanks to Dee Hudson of Striving to be Kind for the “Conversations” idea.

Anniversary Truth…and love.

Neal and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary yesterday.

Much to the disgust of our children, we did not go somewhere romantic, have a dinner out or holiday somewhere advertised as a couples’ getaway. Instead, he slept so he could work again last night and provide for us while I spent the day with my mum and aunty and the kids.

We bathed dogs, made Anzac biscuits, sat in aircon, picked up my cousin’s car, moved furniture and made dinner. The day before we bought a car, which, contrary to registry lists and romance novels was not platinum and was fully financed after a slightly nervous wait. We will pick it up sometime.

Hopefully prior to me taking the small kid away for the weekend to see friends and have a Wild Mountains adventure.

I decided not to post to Facebook yesterday as Neal already had and he’d written some really honest and lovely things about me and our time together so far. People have congratulated us and I really appreciate that.

This morning though, I saw one of those copy and paste and share posts and, as I read it, felt the honesty of it and decided to share it here instead. I don’t want to get too caught up in the idea of writing for likes.

If I’m really honest, which isn’t easy, even some of what’s written below isn’t always the truth of long term relationships, be they friends, family or spouses.

Sometimes it’s weeks of being irritated with everything the other person does and not wanting to admit that it’s more because you’re irritable than anything they may or may not do. It’s about not having been effective budgeters, again, and trying really hard not to argue about that. And sometimes succeeding. It’s about figuring out your life isn’t a romance novel or movie and being ok with that, even when you love them (books and spouses). Sometimes it’s about having one person always giving massages and the other one pretending to for about 3 minutes each year to ‘balance things out’ even though they never intend to change the status quo. (Let’s all make assumptions about who does what in my relationship and be kind to the author, ok?)

Sometimes long-lasting relationships are about reading books or going to seminars that will help, in the hope that some of your newly-found knowledge will transfer to the other person by osmosis, because they clearly need to learn this stuff! It’s about awesome kids you’ve created together who you now disagree how to raise. Or loving one another even if you don’t always like one another.

Despite my many qualifiers above, it isn’t all tiptoe and testiness; compromise and buts. Sometimes it surpasses rom coms by miles! Sometimes you say the right thing at the right time and your spouse really understands how you feel about them…in a good way. Flowers and chocolates are always good, so are Xbox Gold passes and 3D printers and pies or Coke at the right time.

We’ve found love exists in silently agreeing to listen like you care to stories of ‘a student of mine’ or admiring ‘the best blood-spatter painting’. Or just knowing that you cook and I fill in all forms. Ad infinitum.

We’ve found love is hanging onto God because you can’t hang onto anything else and make it. And if we can struggle and succeed through like this, you can, too.

Thanks to Catherine for sharing.

*Lifelong commitment is not what everyone thinks it is. It’s not waking up early every morning to make breakfast and eat together. It’s not cuddling in bed together until both of you peacefully fall asleep. It’s not a clean home and a homemade meal every day.
It’s someone who steals all the covers. It’s sometimes slammed doors, and a few harsh words, disagreeing, and the silent treatment until your hearts heal. Then…forgiveness!
It’s coming home to the same person everyday that you know loves and cares about you, in spite of and because of who you are. It’s laughing about the one time you accidentally did something stupid. It’s about dirty laundry and unmade beds without finger pointing. It’s about helping each other with the hard work of life! It’s about swallowing the nagging words instead of saying them out loud.
It’s about eating the cheapest and easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at 10 p.m. to eat because you both had a crazy day. It’s when you have an emotional breakdown, and your love lays with you and holds you and tells you everything is going to be okay, and you believe them. It’s when “Netflix and chill” literally means you watch Netflix and hang out. It’s about still loving someone even though sometimes they make you absolutely insane.
Living with the person you love is not perfect, and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s amazing and comforting and one of the best things you’ll ever experience.
(Go ahead and share a picture of the person you love and copy and paste this, make their day.)*

Love and veritas,

Eski 🐛

Mind Your Language!

It may not come as any surprise to you that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for words, meaning, phraseology, etymology and all things language. Due to Mummy interference, I expect, my kids learned to read very early on, the latest taught himself. I can validate just about anything; waffle and buzz words are a specialty and my poetic license renews quarterly, but I think this shortest kid, currently 5, is going to outstrip me. The imagination is amazing! I’m actually thrilled! 😚

Tonight’s moment:


Hiss! Scratch!😼

MASTER 5 (M5):

Ow! Aargh! (Genuine fright and real tears follow) 😢

VSC: exits quickly stage right 💨

M5: is gathered up by next youngest brother and mummy for cuddles

Sniffle. Sniffle. (2 minutes maximum)

M5: I want VSC to apologise! 😡

MUMMY: How would you like her to do that, sign language or meowing? Has an ‘I am hilarious’ look on face.

M5: 😠 I just want her to say sorry for hurting my foot and my feelings.

MUMMY: I know, but how can she do that? ‘Meow-ry, M5’?

M5: I have to tell her she’s not being pleasant and when she does that, I feel like she wants all the love and doesn’t want me to have any love.

MUMMY: 🤤😲😨 Pardon? (Apologies, but WTF would seem appropriate here.)

M5: repeats previous statement, with feeling and lip quiver. 😭😢

Where does he get these things?!

Last week we caught up with friends at an indoor play centre. M5 appeared to be immobilised in a very small ball pit by an unknown Miss 3 waving/hitting with a small kids’ book. From 3 metres away, I could see the look of surprise, shock and indignation on M5’s face, “Why would she do that?!

I called to him to move away, a few times actually, before he shook off the apparent petrification and took two steps backwards. Miss 3 followed, book raised. By this time, all five of the mums with me were watching, interested in the stand off. Miss 3’s mum realised what was happening and stepped in to move her daughter.

Noticing all of us watching, M5, totally serious, raised his still tiny forefinger stiffly and intoned with purpose,

“If she does that one more time…


I am thankful that I was sitting on the floor. We all fell about laughing, much to M5’s disgust. He walked away to more mature interactions in the cubby house.

I did feel the need to tell my friends, still laughing, that we don’t teach revenge as a matter of course in our home.

Love the odd little being so much!

🤣 Eski

Things that make you go, “Hmm.”

Sometimes families are wonderful. I love my ‘little’ nest of people and the small menagerie we have accumulated. Sometimes they drive me to distraction or make me long for a distraction, sure, but they are there and they love me. They tell me so. In words, in teacups, in cooking, washing, technological assistance and cleaning up cat poo.

Sidenote: I am a grown woman with 4 children but I cannot clean up after cats without gagging. This appears to be my kryptonite. Which, when you think about it, makes far more sense than actual kryptonite. Pretty green stones vs icky cat mess. It’s a no brainer.

Anyway. Love is obvious in these and many other ways in my household.

Throughout my extended family, love is shown in other ways. We don’t live in the same city, so visits are always wonderful. Phone calls, texts and emails are also appreciated. Invite me to stay. Pay for a trip. Buy coffee. Hug me. Talk. All say, “I love you.”

My in-laws are a mystery to me. They say “family is everything” but I’m left wondering when inaction speaks louder than words. And even of words, there are few. Mostly mine.

The kids and I will be in town for these dates. Let me know when we can see you, please.


Arrive tonight. Let me know when we could catch up.



What is going on? I do not understand. No acknowledgement. Certainly no possible plans. Just nothing.

Hmmmm.  I’ll try Facebook. I’ve seen your posts, I know you’ll see this.

Kids and I arrive tonight for 7 days. We are planning our time and would love to see you. Will you let me know what might work please?

An hour later, I receive one (of 6 possible) replies:

I’ll let you know. Busy with work as I’ve been promoted.

I get it. Work is busy. I know that in my own life. But 24/7 for the next week? No time for coffee? Hmm.

A day later:

***** has left the group.

Well, that’s pretty clear.
And after that:

One (who is widely considered THE most unreliable in family) writes:

How long are you here for? I’d really like to introduce my new partner. My phone number has changed since last time so if you’ve tried to text me, I didn’t get it. New number is *******. I’ll call tomorrow when we can work something out.

Well, seems like the same old deal. It’s always this way. He’s rubbished by many family members and sometimes drives you nuts, but he ALWAYS makes time for us. ALWAYS. Actions, right?

The week before, having received no reply via text, I created a Facebook event for the youngest’s 3rd birthday. His actual birthday is just days after we go home, so why not get everyone together for a little cake? Right? Nope. Not a single rsvp from the same people. Friends from my high school days, some of whom I know better now via FB than I did at school, have replied in the affirmative. Family in law? Not one. (This happened for two consecutive years!)

I don’t know what else to do! For my own sake, I couldn’t care less, but for my children and my disappointed husband, I care a lot. What message is this sending them? Hmmmm.

Let me tell you what I’m hearing:

– You aren’t worth my time.
– I don’t want to see you.
– I don’t care that you live at the other end of the state.
– Niece? Nephews? Grandchildren? Who?

And that hurts me for their sakes.

What I want to do is tell (some of) them where to go. I want to send them this rant. I want to go visit and say it straight out. I want a reason. I want my husband to feel like a valued family member. What I want to do is tell (most of) them to stick it.

What will I do? Probably make a phone call and try to squeeze ourselves in. Make children visit so they can be roundly ignored for the allocated hour; or be told how naughty, rude, goth, lazy etc they are.  Try to make polite conversation and hope that I can communicate, pleasantly and perhaps too subtly, how important family is to us.  This will be agreed with and then ignored again til next time. Try to comfort my husband by playing nice and making more of an effort to insert ourselves where it appears we aren’t wanted so that others don’t look bad for not having seen us.

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”



Get into my head – get out of my car (apologies to Billy Ocean)!

Child psychologists recognise a developmental stage in very young children where they cannot lie. At this stage, children believe that what is in their head is also in yours – you know what they know.

While this is true for some parents – you know how mums just sometimes know? – children learn reasonably quickly that they can hide things from you and are able to lie outright pretty quickly, which is a bit of a shame, really. But wouldn’t this perceived shared understanding actually be helpful in some cases?

Imagine being unable to explain to someone how you feel, really feel, but that’s ok, because they already know. They have that access to your head. Obviously, this is not something you’d want ALL the time, but imagine the freedom of not having to explain the back story to your situation.

Possibly, for introverts at least, this seems a good thing, something they don’t naturally do. But for extroverts like me, we want you to know EVERY LAST DETAIL of the story, all the tiny bits and pieces that made up our life as we came to this place. You can’t just know where we are now, but you must want to know (well, we want you to know) all of the bounces and reflections, like a pinball machine that dropped us through the bottom and popped us back up to the new starting position.

I often find that I’d love to have that insider knowledge when I’m listening to someone else and wondering what they’re thinking. I interrupt too often, derailing the flow of their story because I want more information. For introverts, this can be incredibly distracting and irritating. I try not to do it, but I’m trying to be an active listener!

What technology would you devise to share this headspace info? What about a cloud above the speaker’s head? Like a video screen? A chip in yours that bluetooths their information to your head immediately? Nothing? You don’t want anyone to know those thoughts? What about a grip like a Vulcan Mind Meld? Google glasses? It could be interesting, don’t you think?

In imagination,


Underneath It All

If you, like me, have battled, are still living and expect to keep dealing with depression, and if you, like me, have children who also have anxiety and depression as a constant illness, then you, like me, should not listen to “Dear Evan Hansen” music alone in an office at the end of a long week.

If you don’t know the story of Evan Hansen, you can find the full run down on the Wikipedia page. Warning: I’m likely to give away at least some of the story here.

Until recently, I didn’t know of it either, but my daughter started to share the music and I noticed a theme running through the lyrics. Although the story is not scene for scene the story of my family, too many of the lyrics ring true. Here’s the parts of the first song, sung by two very different mothers, both trying to negotiate normal families, social anxieties and, unknown as yet, suicide attempts.


Can we try to have an optimistic outlook, huh?

Can we buck up just enough to see the world won’t fall apart?
Maybe this year, we decide
We’re not giving up before we’ve tried
This year, we make a new start
Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook
Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say
I’m kinda coming up empty
Can’t find my way to you
Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
Another masterful attempt ends with disaster
Pour another cup of coffee
And watch it all crash and burn
It’s a puzzle, it’s a maze
I tried to steer through it a million ways
But each day’s another wrong turn
-happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
As I go


Now I am aware of the normalities, anxieties and ideations of my family, I think, and I am flattened once again, knowing that I have still not been successful in ‘fixing’ those. So, alone in the office, I cry. And sing along.

Were this anyone else’s post, I would be hitting the comments button and assuring them that no one’s mental health difficulties are my responsibility, but parents and significant others in my situation will testify that it isn’t as easy as telling yourself that. That’s my baby, despite the age; that’s my responsibility.

I used to be able to kiss it all better and now I cannot even slightly improve your outlook with a million hugs and kisses; ongoing psychiatric or psychologist appointments or 20 iterations of medical prescriptions. I hear you. I see you. I love you. And yet, that isn’t enough. God formed you, I carried you; and I would carry you in my arms again if that would mend your broken heart/soul/feelings/brain/self-worth/mental health…….but it doesn’t and I can’t.

I feel responsible because of the statistics that I have seen. Approximately 1 in 7 young people experience an affective depressive disorder ( in Australia. Children whose parents have experienced the same are 4 times more likely, and children who have one or more grandparent who have experienced mental health issues are apparently 20 times more likely to experience some sort of mental health concern than others. How could I not feel responsible? This has been my story. And now it’s an inheritance.

Mostly, mostly, I don’t get stuck in this state. I don’t know why today is different. Perhaps because I feel alone when I’m surrounded. Perhaps because I am tired and need a good sleep (for a few weeks). Perhaps it is musically induced melancholia. Perhaps, and not so surprisingly, perhaps it is my depression coming to the fore in response to all of the above. Whatever.

Mostly, mostly, I live a Nike slogan and JUST DO IT. Whatever it is on the agenda for that day and planning for the next few. Just the same as people everywhere ad infinitum. I’m not alone in it, for which I am grateful and neither are you, for which I am exceptionally grateful.

So, what now?

Now I pack up my today; pick up another child and go home. Now I buy bread and milk and ice cream, because they are the essentials tonight. Now I wipe my face, put on different music (duh) and then cry by myself in the car, wipe my face again and smile hello as I greet my family. I’m going to be ok and, God help me, they will, too.

So despite ‘evidence’ seen from outside, we will keep doing what we think is right. We won’t push for employment and we will ignore or face down detractors who believe we are enabling millennial entitlement. We will smile, a little stiffly perhaps, at those who believe, “If you just….(insert your values here)” it’ll all be ok.

And maybe every now and then I will cry with and for my family and make all the plans, suggestions and appointments (even with bloody Centrelink) that I think will help in any small way. And I will write my fears and feelings – and lyrics that I think 5 Seconds of Summer should record. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I will listen to musical soundtracks like “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Be More Chill” (don’t ask, the trend is actually alarming me). And I will keep going. And I will be ok. And that’s what it is to be honest, and live and love. And that’s good.

**An hour later**

I have travelled the gamut of emotions in the past 60 minutes.

I picked up the recently employed child who offered to buy me dinner – win! We had a wonderful time and I felt a bit better, which was nice tonight. However, as I have explained, I am exposed to new music via my children, and tonight was no exception.

“Mum, I really like this song and I don’t really know why. Can I play it to you?”


I’ve linked the song he played below. Your job now is to decide whether my reaction was:

A) understand immediately why he liked the song and proceed to have discussion on the merits of music genres followed by singing along to John Denver and The Proclaimers (separately, ’cause that’d be weird). This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

B) crying silently with my face tilted slightly away from the passenger seat because the song describes and repeats what my eldest has tried to describe and repeat, underlined by minor chords. This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

C) both A and B and wanting to vomit and gripping the steering wheel tightly in an attempt to distract one pain with another.


The ice cream was mediocre btw.