Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Quarantining depression

Depression and suicidal feelings are more common than many of us realise. And they are never easy issues to deal with; fear of getting it wrong, making things worse or just not understanding what's involved prevents many of us offering help where it is needed. Which is why it  is so important to bring depression and suicide out of the shadows. 

One of my earlier memories was sitting on my mother’s lap and being asked to smile for the camera by an uncle. Though the picture today merely shows a pixie-headed pouter, what I remember most is the feeling when the photo was taken - that there was a hole inside my chest slowly absorbing all joy, or indeed, any emotion I could feel. I was around three years old at the time.

That hole has grown in pace with me. When I was fourteen, I had a big family fight and my mother and sister sat with me and placated my emotions until that familiar hole came and found me to suck me clean of feeling. Hours later when they were all asleep, I turned off the tv and blandly declared it was “time to kill myself”. It was a perfunctory statement, like I was going to put the bins out. Suicide, as part of a mundane evening ritual, viewed with no emotion from the safety of the hole in my chest.

The next morning I was found unconscious and choking from a massive drug overdose and spent the next few days comatose in intensive care, followed by another month in hospital. It was my fourth or fifth attempt to kill myself.

My capacity for suicidal thoughts and depression continue to this day. That urgent whisper to lurch forward when I stand at the train station or busy intersections. The practiced imagination of feelings, how my body would collide and pirouette in the air before breaking. How a bullet might feel exploding into the shell of my skull. That occasional kneel at a pew to ask a god I rarely believe in if I can die. And then there’s the ultimate motivator, a constant thrum whispering that death is a solution, an ever-present and ever-offered option, just waiting for me.

Depression can also be exacerbated by other stresses or injuries. For the past two years I have tried to recover from post traumatic stress disorder. Not a mental illness, but an injury, acquired from a psychologically abusive relationship where my fragility was stretched so thin I doubt I will ever shrink back to my original size - that dependable form who trusted others and didn’t fear intimacy. That injury compounds my depression and adds a geyser of adrenalin to going out in public, even if it’s just to check my mailbox.

Meet me and you wouldn’t know I battle suicidal thoughts, depression, an injury or that I’m trying to not listen to that urging voice. In person, I’m confident and warm and, through the haze of cigarette smoke I carry with me, possibly even charming. I probably wouldn’t tell you about my mental illness because I’m not interested in sympathy and I’m too wary of how often people respond to depression with ignorance.

Despite the constant call, I haven’t attempted suicide in many years. Having struggled with therapy and pills for years, instead I had to hack out my own path, using hope to pull me through. For me, the path is the hope that I can finish the books I’m writing. I hope to be the sort of person who can break her addiction to Febreeze and actually do laundry on a regular basis. I hope to visit Japan again and swim in that overwhelming relief that comes with surrendering your language, because even wankers need hobbies. I hope to pay the fucking cat registration fee. I hope to never unleash the sadness of death onto my daughter. I hope to see her grow up, I am fascinated by her potential, whimsy and will.

I’m sharing this now because we don’t talk about the personal experience of depression enough, or dismiss it as a 14 year old’s muddled Tumblr rants. Using my story is important, not only to combat the shame associated with mental illness, but also to demonstrate that no depression is alike. It is an illness that afflicts and contaminates each brain differently.

So many people talk about depression with singularity, as a fog that either persists or lifts in exultant victory. It is more like a fog than we realise - not just in how it feels but also how it is made. Trade molecules of water and ice for chemistry and genetics, swap temperature and wind for personal events and you create the fog but the factors collide and collude to create something different every time.

Yet, we seem to give depressed people the same reactions and advice before listening. As valid as the advice is to reach out and seek help, it is just as crucial we help people understand how to listen or respond. No amount of #RUOK? will help if we don’t answer to the response.

People with depression have heard it all before. “But was it a serious attempt?” they ask, “or was it was just a cry for help?”, as though we have the luxury of extra tears. “If only….” they daydream, unaware of our reality, before concluding “suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness, a way out for the weak”.

Still you try to tell people. You meet with the GP who won’t listen to your medical history and prescribes antidepressants that make you avoid looking at the mirror lest you see the feral creature you feel you’ve become, one that could let out an endless scream if you trusted your body enough to open your mouth. But you don’t trust your mouth, body or your mind, and now you don’t trust the medical profession either.

Or perhaps you reach out at work and have to deal with a HR department that wants an invasive level of information to put in your personnel file before allowing you to visit a counsellor. The stain of having your mental health catalogued on file along with your work performance is enough to make you go back to your desk defeated.

Then there are the people closest to you who will either lose interest after any more than three conversations on the topic or offer their own quick fix solutions - because apparently one good experience is all you need to turn your life around. I have been told to lose weight (because it will find the ultimate antidepressant: a boyfriend), wear more dresses, just cheer up, go for a walk, an eyebrow wax, go out more, go out less, be all about baths, just stop focusing on sadness, listen to upbeat music, take vitamins and - in one spectacular experience - had a spiritualist perform an impromptu exorcism on me to rid me of alien spirits.

Talk to someone? Sometimes there’s no point talking if these are the only people to talk to.

Despite the excellent progress made by committed organisations, there is still a disconnection between depressed people and the communities imprisoning them. People report feeling isolated when battling depression and yet so often many of us are responsible for isolating them, whether it is by rejecting their request for help or rejecting them socially, professionally and medically.

Perhaps the isolation can be traced to how we care for people with depression. Our model of care when it comes to depression is one of complete social, therapeutic and professional quarantine. We tell them to reach out, only the draw the curtains around them to hide them from view.

We must come to the point when we realise we cannot quarantine depression or suicide.

Over the next few days, if not weeks, people will share their stories of depression or suicide. These are not cynical grabs at a news cycle or attempt to hitch their wagon to a falling, broken star. They are accounts that have broken free from the enclosing screen of privacy.

End the quarantine. We need to talk about the global rise of suicide rates. We need to examine if our culture of isolating the ill is really the best way to provide care.

But most of all we need to listen.

If you are in trouble and need some help, there are many places you can find it.

Your GP can help you find a therapist experienced in dealing with your particular issues and help you with a mental health care plan so medicare will cover 10 sessions for you with the registered therapist of your choice. If you can, it might help to ask around online or people you know who have found a good therapist. Not all of them are good and not all of them will be a good fit for everyone, it''s ok to walk away from one who is not helpful and try again to find one who is.

Some links that might be of use: 

Some reddit depression posts are very good for people who aren't able  to speak out loud about what they're feeling.

Beyond Blue is a useful starting place for facts and symptoms. 

Dnet is an online support site with information, research, links and an online chat room. 

Published in Weekly Email

Milton puppyClick here for the update.

Last Wednesday night I was sitting on my bed eating a sandwich. This is not an unusual thing. My Italian Greyhound, Milton, was jumping around me hoping for scraps. Also not an unusual thing, until he tripped, fell off the bed and bashed his face against the corner of my dressing table.

Anyone who is at all familiar with IGs will know the unearthly screaming they do when they’re hurt, it’s indescribable. And LOUD.Milton and The Australian

He did that screaming thing and then his nose started to bleed. And bleed. And bleed. It went on for two days.

The first time I took him to the vet I was told he would be fine, that I should just keep him warm and quiet and they put some adrenaline in his nose to stop the bleeding.

The second time they tried to put swabs up his nose (he said no) so they put more adrenaline in his nostrils and told me to bring him back the next morning.

The third time they did another adrenaline treatment and told me to bring him back in two hours.

By the fourth time he was too weak to stand and was starting to lose consciousness. The adrenaline obviously wasn’t working so they kept him in to sedate him and put the swabs in his nostrils. He bled through them all. I know how much blood he was losing because it had soaked through every towel and blanket I own.Milton at the window

So on Friday evening the vet told me to take him to the emergency vet hospital. He was cold and limp and barely breathing. And *still* the blood was coming from his nose.

The vet at the hospital told me that they have stored blood – which has red blood cells but no coagulants, and plasma, which has platelets but no red blood cells. She said he would probably need a whole blood transfusion if he was going to survive. Whole blood could only come from a live donor. She asked if I knew anyone with a large dog who might be willing to help.

At that point I had trouble even knowing what dogs I have - three: two whippets and Milton, the whippets were too small to donate blood.

Crowd sourcing blood is not something you do very often, but within 10 minutes on Twitter my cri de couer had been retweeted over 100 times and I had three strangers ready to drive their big beautiful dogs all the way across Melbourne to save Milton’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

That was the point that I started to cry and felt like I’d never be able to stop. How do you thank someone for something like that? I’m supposed to be good with words, but I’m utterly at a loss.

Milton, of our three dogs, is my particular dog. He makes me laugh, walk, talk, listen, play and rest. There are times when I cannot bear human contact, but he is invariably, staunchly, always loving and comforting. Sometimes his is the only love and comfort I can take. Losing him would hurt in ways I would never get over.

All through that night, as I waited to find out if he was going to die, I watched strangers and friends, and even one or two people I know don’t like me very much, share my plea for help and offer concern and support and practical assistance.

No one can ever tell me again that social media is facile and pointless. No one can ever tell me that retweets are not genuine care or that sharing status updates is pointless clicktivism. Last night retweets and stranger’s concern saved my dog’s life and told me, in one of my darkest moments, that I was not in that moment alone.

Since then, as the realisation hits that I’ve just spent next month’s rent on hospital fees and we’ve still got days of tests and at least one more transfusion to pay for, friends and strangers have been asking me to set up a crowdfunding page so they can make sure Milton gets all the treatment he needs and we don’t end up homeless.

UPDATE

The day of Milton’s accident I thought I had lost my job. I didn’t think I could get next month’s rent together. I didn’t think I could pay for any more treatment if he needed it. I thought I’d be homeless with 2 teenage children and before that I would have to watch Milton die. It was a moment of sickly churning terror I hope to never experience again.

But it was only a moment, because I put my bank details/PayPal details in and tentatively sent this article out. Within 3 days those friends and strangers from the internet I mentioned above had sent me a combined total of $3,025.

Cue another flood of tears.

Milton is getting better every day now. He’s still very tired and weak, but yesterday, while I was getting dressed, he ran off with one of my socks and buried it under the couch cushions. It was one of the happiest moments of my year.

The vet says she doesn’t think there’s any reason to think it’s an ongoing blood disorder. There’s been no problems with taking blood from him since the accident, which would be the case if there was an underlying illness. He used to love eating possum poo (yes, I know) and she suggested he might have found something from a possum who’d eaten poison, or he could have just bled out too quickly and been too small to recover. Whatever the reason, she’s going to keep monitoring him for the next few weeks and, as you can imagine, I will probably never take my eyes off him again.

And it turns out I haven’t lost my job. It’s been cut back, but not so much that I can’t keep a roof over our head.

I will never ever forget what social media did for me and Milton that night. It saved his life, saved my sanity and kept us safe in our home. I will never be able to say thank you enough, I will never be able to really explain how scared I was or how much the response helped.

The vet bills came to a total of $2,744. I can’t think of any reasonable way to send money back to the people who donated, so, unless anyone has any objections (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), I will send a donation of $281 to Lort Smith Animal Hospital, because they do, when they can, treat injured pets if their owners can’t pay for it.

Oh, and next payday, I will be getting pet insurance!

_

 

NOTE: Someone pointed out that people can be terrible and it's possible that someone could do something like this as a swindle. So I've posted photos of some the bills below. Others from the last few days will go up as I can find them. And I will ring both vets on Monday and tell them they can give out details of the invoices to anyone who rings to ask. 

The two vets he saw were at St Kilda Vet Clinic and the Pet Emergency Specialist Centre. Phone numbers are on both their sites. 

 

 

Lort Smith Donation 

 

bill milton

 

milton bill

 

milton bill

 

 

Milton bill

 

Milton Bill

 

Published in The Shout

There’s an interesting connection between hysteria and hardship, the two are often joined hand in twitching hand, inciting chaotic displays of macabre oddity.

One such hysteria was the dancing plague, or St Vitus’ Dance. People were overwhelmed by a compulsion to dance and would jig endlessly for days. The dance compulsion spread like a virus, a mania transmitted to cloud the unclouded and force them to move.

Some sufferers would travel from town to town, dancing and picking up more participants, caught in the thrall, infected by inexplicable hysteria.

Musicians were often called in to play, in the mistaken belief it would ward off this mania, which may well be the origin for the Pied Piper of Hamelin’s tale.

The image of joyful, compulsive dance rasps against the reality of sick people, compelled to join the muddled throng, dancing almost without volition. It sounds not unlike raves I’ve attended. There was always that toxic hour at a rave when the chill out tent teemed and the dancefloor thinned – but a determined core of the afflicted remained, a grunting and shuffling congregation who didn’t appear to be enjoying themselves but were hostage to their bodies’ determination to keep dancing on and on.

Testimony from two major European outbreaks in 1374 and 1518 suggest St Vitus’ dance outbreaks were violent, fatal affairs. Passersby who didn’t voluntarily join in were forced, even assaulted, if they attempted to deny the frenzied, unrelenting dance. Participants were herded into fields and halls as the musicians played on. Almost everyone kept dancing until they collapsed from exhaustion or succumbed to injuries. One person died with broken ribs – suggesting the outbreaks were less a rave and more a medieval mosh pit.

St Vitus' dance was not the only form of hysteria known at the time. Legend has it that a group of medieval French nuns developing a meowing and biting hysteria and others went into trances and screamed in response to the strict, sparse confines of convents.

We’ll never know what the St Vitus dancers felt while they were bopping along to pipes and lutes. Perhaps they found a moment of entrancement, not unlike the Sufis who whirl in a form of ecstatic meditation and reverence. It could have been a blessed release from their hardship, or may at least have originated as such.

Thought of this way, it makes sense that hysteria is hardship’s twisted reprieve. When we think of hardship, there’s a sense of enduring hopelessness, a cruelty or deprivation without end. No one ever really understands the reasons for their own suffering, but we all know that it always takes far too long to ease.

The dancers of 1374 and 1518 were beset by hardship. The 1374 St Vitus dance plague came on the heels of a catastrophic flood; in 1518 it emerged from the shadows cast by smallpox and starvation. Life was short and brutal, mere bleak flickers of futility.

Seen in such a grim light, hysteria almost looks like a holiday from awareness of our own mortality. It energises, and gives focus to lives dominated by unremitting misery. The human mind is astoundingly inventive under pressure. The Dancing Plague is just one of many outlets it has discovered for unbearable consciousness.

No joy or hope in life? Dance until you die.

Terrified that demons abound to torment humans to dance to their deaths? Dance to your death and hope where there are demons, so too are angels.

Bristling against restrictive societies that leave you without choice? Writhe rhythmically until you get relief from life itself.

Death and mania are the reprieve life couldn’t bring, or at least a confirmation that it will all soon be over.

Even without dances that cross days and towns, our mental and physical health are still highly sensitive to the community surrounding us, reacting unpredictably when under duress. 

The heighted stress wrought from extreme poverty, starvation, restriction, deprivation and catastrophic environmental damage is a known precursor to hysteria. While a community may be able to manage a single person in this state, it becomes an entirely different problem when large groups suffer under such duress.

When the community can’t step in to alleviate the trauma, the collective make themselves more susceptible to outbreaks of hysteria, and it can replicate like a virus through a weakened group, hell-bent on destroying them.

There are obvious parallels with today (without the meowing and dancing). Grandiose displays aside, the connections between extreme deprivation and plummeting mental health remain, as do rising concerns about climate change catastrophes and extreme poverty.

Perhaps we should put on our best dancing shoes.

 

Published in Weekly Email
Thursday, 30 January 2014

Three Men and an Almost-Penis

I’m trying to write a novel, but my six year-old son is telling Christmas stories. This one is called Zombie Lord Laser Attack In The Face From The Secret Planet.

“Then I climbed up the Zombie God and stuck my sword through his HEAD!” he says.

“And Christmas was saved?” I ask distractedly.

What was saved?”

It’s safe to say both stories have drifted off-topic. I delete the word “zombie” from a sentence about a school assembly, although not without giving it serious thought.

“Then I became a superhero! With long hair, super strength and a huge hammer!”

“Wow,” I mutter, suddenly unsure this book isn’t actually about the undead and capes. “Are you Thor?”

“I don’t know who that is.”

If I can just filter him out, I may be able to get to the end of this scene without losing my—

“Then a magic octopus lost its head.”

—shit.

This is all my fault. Six months ago I decided, with all the blithe arrogance of a stoat who’s got fed up with dancing for rabbits and decided to give passing road traffic a try, to quit my job writing for a youth health organisation and go freelance. I’d have all the freedom of working for myself. No more office, no more public transport, no more having to please The Man with his Creative Feedback, Collaborative Atmosphere and Regular, Paid, Meaningful Work.

I decided specifically to write a young adult novel, because no one’s doing that.

I’ve written a novel before. You might have seen it in the shops. If you have, please contact me because it’s the only copy in existence. It might have been entirely unsuccessful, but at least it was very hard to write.

But the main point was that I wrote it alone, in my house. I could definitely do that again, I thought as I waltzed out my office door for the final time, not really registering how terribly late it was to wonder if I could.

And I was wrong. Working alone, to your own schedule, without an external deadline is, like scuba diving or light rope play, a specific discipline few can enjoy or master. It’s not like riding a bike either, in that you neither always remember how to do it nor can reliably use it to pop a mono, even if you really lean back on a hill.

Case in point: look at that last sentence. LOOK AT IT. You just read both “neither always remember” and “do it nor can”. I wrote those things alone in my house. This shit is hard.

Four months in, I had achieved three things: a near-perfect folded-to-unfolded Clean Underpant Ratio (CUR), a rewatch of pretty much every episode of the Daily Show since he cried on September 11 and a single, skinny, timid chapter.

And the chapter was dreadful. Most of it was written after picking my son up from school. It sometimes had zombies in, and featured a man with a hammer and a cape who didn’t like to make a big deal about it.

So I did what any sensible writer would do in the face of the bad writing. I changed everything except the writing.

Specifically, I decided I couldn’t write alone any more. I called any friend who had a spare room, desk or romantically squalid loft garret, begging to come over and be watched while I type. Every exhibitionist needs a voyeur.

I sat in various houses and immediately began working. Writing. Typing. It was incredible.

“This is brilliant!” I say one day to my friend Milo as we work together at his kitchen table. “What a fool I was working alone. People are great. Let’s do this all the time. We’ll get more people! Hooray for people!”

Milo nods enthusiastically. “I know!” he says. “I’m writing loads too! This is going really well!”

And then the intercom to his flat buzzes.

“People!” I cry.

I then listen to one side of Milo’s intercom phone conversation. “Hello? Who? No, I don’t think … oh. I haven’t — I’m not the one who … I don’t know. I can’t really help. Well, I suppose I could … okay. Hang on a minute.”

Milo hangs up the phone. He’s wearing an expression like a stoat encountering a motorway up close.

“It’s three young guys,” he says. “They say they’ve lost their phone, and someone called to say they should come here and collect it. But they don’t know which flat.”

We look at each other. “I don’t like it,” I say. “It sounds like one of those things people say to get vulnerable grannies to come down, and then they steal their pension money and spend it on pinball machines.”

“I said I’d go down,” says Milo.

“I’ll come,” I say. “For protection.”

We go down. I stand ten steps from the bottom. For protection.

At the door there are three teenage boys. Imagine three teenage boys you wish hadn’t just rung your intercom. Picturing it? Proud of yourself? Now you know how we feel. Except of course Milo is also a young adult writer, so the guys outside our door are also technically our readership.

“Hi,” one mumbles. “Um, we had a phone and that, and we lost it. Someone called to say we should pick it up here. Can we have our phone?”

Milo and I look at each other. If this is a con, it is a con without pros.

“Sorry mate, we didn’t call you, sorry,” says Milo.

“Sorry,” I call from the stairs. They squat to look up at me.

“We’re supposed to pick it up, but we can’t get in,” says another. “Can we come in? We’ll knock on doors.”

“Oh, I …” says Milo. For second I think he’s going to let them in. I clutch my pearls.

“I don’t think that’d be a good idea,” he says.

The boys move very slightly towards him. They look unhappy.

“Tell you what,” says Milo. “I’ll go upstairs and ask around myself. How about that? I’ll let you know.”

The boys look warily at each other. “Um, sure,” one says. “Sure, that could work. We’ll just wait.”

The others nod suddenly and vigorously. Milo closes the door and we go upstairs.

“What is happening?” I ask.

“I’m not sure,” he says. “I’m weirdly not in control of this situation.”

We walk past the door of his neighbour’s flat. Milo knocks.

“You’re actually knocking?” I say.

“Apparently,” he says. “This just seems to be happening.”

The door opens. Inside is a penis.

Well, not exactly a penis. The man in the doorway is enormous and muscular. But not enormous like you would imagine an enormous, muscular man to be. This man is enormous in a way that suggests he may have recently eaten another man, and muscular in a way that suggests that man may have been The Incredible Hulk.

He is naked except for a very small towel round his waist. He is bronzed, waxed and wet from head to toe. It is impossible not to look at this man and his very small, seemingly quite precariously tucked towel and not think “penis”.

“Penihello,” says Milo.

There is a short silence. The enormous man is smiling broadly at us. Penis.

“G’day!” he suddenly says, striding into the corridor and shaking our hands. “It’s so terrific to meet you! What can I do for you?”

“Um, hello, I’m Milo from next door,” says Milo, “and—”

“Hi!” says the man, and shakes his hand again.

“Sure, hi,” says Milo. He’s trying to glance over at me, but I’m distracted by the revelation that the towel is not a small towel. It’s an ordinary sized one.

“Um, I’ve just been downstairs,” says Milo. “There were these guys, and—”

“Oh, them!” says the man with a friendly chuckle. “They buzzed me too. Told them to get off out of it. Anyway, nice to meet you! How are you enjoying it here?”

“Oh, it’s fine, you know, style of thing,” says Milo. “Listen, d’you think I should ask around? About the phone? Or do you think they’re just—”

“Nah, s’fine,” says the man. “They’ll work it out. Why don’t you come in for a coffee. You guys like coffee? Just made a pot. It’s so great to meet you!”

We look at the man. He seems very nice.

“We have to go in now,” I say, mostly to the towel. “Into the house.”

“Okay then!” he chirps after us. “Come by some time! Nice to meet you!”

We go into the house. Our laptops, pulsing with such happy work just moments ago, glare at us. We sit for some time in silence.

“Do you think …” Milo says slowly, after a while, “… those guys …”

I look at him. “Well, I mean, your neighbour …” I say.

There is a pause. “Towel,” says Milo, to no one in particular.

“I think I should go home,” I say, and do, via a rear exit. I’d prefer not to be around people.

That night I’m sitting next to my son, who is improvising a new Christmas saga entitled Future City Spy Monster Made Of Christmas Trees And A Duck, when I receive a text. It’s from Milo. It’s a photo of a very neatly written note he found in his letterbox. It reads:

if you have found a phone please contact the number you called before. very precious to owner.

“Oh, penis,” I say aloud.

And that is the story of how the Spy Monster came to Future City, made from Christmas trees, a duck and penis.

This article is from the King’s Tribune Summer 2014 magazine, which includes an exclusive extract from Tim Dunlop’s book The New Front Page and articles from Brocklesnitch, Amy Gray, Jo Thornely, Stephen Herrick, Mat Larkin, Upulie Divisekera and many others. The full list of articles and contributors is here

You can buy the limited edition paper copy here Subscribers will received a $5 discount (select Summer Issue 2014 from the drop down membership list, available only until sold out) or the Kindle version here.

Published in Weekly Email
Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Rage and bureaucracy

Computer says no, so it sucks to be you.

If you’ve ever had a day where your chest caved in because you were dealing with {insert name of bureaucracy here} and you copped a fatal dose of mendacious fuckwittery, you might understand why I arrived home yesterday in a state of boiling impotent rage.

To be clear, this is not an attempt to use my media platform or my small number of twitter follows to yell DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM at the NAB. It’s just that every human not living in their own separatist colony has had to deal with some large organisation and been royally screwed by them and known that there was nothing they could do, no one they could talk to, no common sense or logic that could be brought to bear. Computer says no and now it sucks to be you.

NAB

I’ve been a customer of the NAB for nearly 25 years. Most of the time it’s just (not enough) money in, (too much) money out and the occasional reasonable requests that I pay a bit off my credit card. Then, one day I tried to pay for the petrol I’d just put in my car and I was told my credit card has been cancelled, with instructions for it to be immediately confiscated the next time it was presented. A few hours later I had this conversation:

Me: “Why did you cancel my credit card and even more, why didn’t you tell me that you did it?”

NAB: “We had to cancel a batch of credit cards because Nigerian fraud and we did so tell you about it. There’s a machine in Bangalore spitting out letters right now, they’ll be mailed out next week. Would you like me to email you an application form for a new card? We have your email address and phone number on file.”

Me: “Can you at least tell me when you will send me a new credit card?”

NAB: “That should arrive within 10 working days.”

3 weeks later, after many similar phone calls and no new credit card, they sent me three copies of the card and then cancelled all of them because they’d issued multiple copies by mistake.

 

PayPal

A few months back a couple of Tribune enthusiasts were asking if there was some way they could give donations to us. We’re running on the smell of someone else’s’ oily rag, so that sounded like a good idea. I went to the PayPal site, found the code for a Donate button and popped it up on our site. PayPal immediately decided that this meant The King’s Tribune was a charity and refused to release any funds to us until we proved that we weren’t. Then, after we had provided proof of not being a charity (!?) they froze our funds again because we needed proof that the bank account connected to PayPal for the last 5 years was, in fact, the bank account connected to PayPal for the last 5 years.

Because terrorists and money laundering.

 

Another NAB:

Last week I applied for a car loan. It’s a fairly simple online process. At the end of the week I had this phone call:

NAB: “Hi, I’m just ringing to let you know that your loan has been approved, subject to verification.”

Me: “ok, what is verification?”

NAB: “Oh it’s really easy, we just need copies of your last two pay slips and a utilities bill to prove your address.”

Me: “I’m a contractor so I don’t get payslips, I submit invoices”

NAB: “Oh, that’s not a problem, just send us your last two invoices and your loan will go through by next Tuesday.”

Me *sends invoices and bill, pays $400 for vehicle inspection, pays $1000 deposit, tells seller to go ahead with the roadworthy fixes and certificate*

3 days later

NAB: “Hi, I’m just ringing to say that your loan cannot be approved because you’ve submitted invoices instead of payslips and we can’t tell that this income really exists.”

Me: “But the invoices have been paid into my NAB account for the last 7 years.”

NAB: “No, that’s not proof that you’ve been paid that income, can you send us your last tax return?”

Me: “Um, I’m a bit behind and haven’t got that done yet, is there something else I can send you?”

NAB: “Well, I can see that you’re perfectly able to pay back the loan and I can see that all your income is all there in your NAB account, but I can’t tick the box that lets me go to the next page so no loan for you.”

Me: “But you last week you told me something completely different and now I’m going to lose about $1400.”

NAB: “Yeah, sucks to be you. Would you like me to connect you to our complaints department? They won’t be able to do anything but at least I have someone to whom I can transfer your annoying call.”

 

Centrelink and debt collectors

I once had to prove to Centrelink that 2 children plus one child equals three children. It took three months and a 27 page form.

The reason I had to fill in the 27 page form is that they decided that they should not have paid me the money they had paid me so they sold the debt to Dun & Bradstreet, who would ring me once a week to have this conversation:

D&B: “Hi, I’m Numpty calling from a blocked number, could you please give me all the details necessary to proving your identity?”

Me: “Umm, who are you?”

D&B: “Oh, I can’t tell you that until you prove who you are”

Me: “Oh. Ok then. No.”

D&B: “But this is a really Big Thing and I can’t proceed until you prove your identity.”

Me: “Yeah? Wow. Sucks to be you, huh.”

D&B: “Well now we’ll be going back to Centrelink to say that you refused to talk to us and they should take you to court.”

Me: “But you haven’t confirmed that you’ve talked to me, so how can I have refused to answer? Anyway, look, I know what this is about, if you ask Centrelink they’ll tell you that I submitted my 27 page form and they’ve admitted there is no debt.”

D&B: “Oh, we can’t talk to Centrelink about your debt. Because privacy. Talk to you again next week.”

Optus

The time I bought a new phone from Optus and cancelled my old contract. I paid the next three bills they sent me and then they cut my phone off because the bills they’d sent were for the old contract not the new one and I was in arrears. Apparently they had sent a letter about it to the address on the old contract (I didn’t live there anymore) and didn’t call me about it because privacy.

 

Existence Fail

I ceased to exist a few years ago because VicRoads had put an inexplicable ‘y’ in my name when they gave me my licence. 15 years later when I got married I suddenly had 3 names – Jane Shaw, Jane Gilmore and Jayne Gilmore and didn’t have 100 points of ID in any one of them. Cue months of this conversation with a dozen different desk clerks at a dozen different government agencies:

Me: “Hi, I need you to reissue my {ID} in my actual name because it’s all got a bit confused and I don’t have 100 points of ID under any one name”

Desk Clerk: “Oh, you poor thing that sounds terrible, of course we can help. Could you just fill in this form and provide 100 points of ID under one of your various names?”

 

ATO

6 years ago my mother set up a trust fund for her superannuation. A trust needs 2 trustees so she asked me to be the other one. Every year when I do my tax return the ATO jumps up and down screaming about tax avoidance because I have not declared my mother’s income as my own. Every year I ring them and have this conversation:

Me: “Hi, you’ve sent me a letter about not declaring income that is not my income, it’s my mother’s. We sent you all the stat decs and trust documents and bank statements and mum’s tax return declaring it as her income this last year”

ATO Dude: “Tax avoidance is a very serious crime you know.”

Me: “Yes, I do know, which I why I sent you all the stat decs and trust documents and bank statements and mum’s tax return declaring it as her income this last year.”

ATO Dude: “There’s serious penalties for tax avoidance. Fines and interest payments and the like.”

Me: “Yes, I know, which is why I pay my accountant to spend a couple of hours on this every year. Can you just check the system and see all the documents from last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that?”

ATO Dude: “I’m sorry, our system doesn’t allow us to do that. You will need to provide stat decs and trust documents and bank statements and your mother’s tax return declaring it as her income and until you do we will be demanding payment on that income. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Over to you.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your Computer Says No story and we'll put it up, or subscribe (it's only $5 a month) and you can add a comment yourself

Published in Weekly Email
Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Progress and Service Clubs

Service Clubs used to be central to the existence and development of rural towns and cities. But the needs they catered to are more and more being met by government, technology and social change. Is there a future for them?

Progress ends up killing things off. Some institutions and ideas evolve enough to survive, but plenty of others simply see their time come and go as they lose their relevance to the world around them. Often we welcome these changes, but sometimes it's sad to see a part of our surroundings disappear when we don't know what will be left in its place.

That's how I feel about small towns' service clubs. Organisations that once boasted scores of members in each club, raised massive amounts of money for community projects, and provided an opportunity for people to develop stronger ties with their neighbours are now disappearing faster and faster each year.

Travelling through rural Australia one of the things that was common to almost all small towns was the service club directory on the road in. Here, each of the service clubs would proudly identify themselves and give travelling members from other towns the information about how to find them. You'd find Rotary, Lions, Zonta, Quota, the Country Women's Association and Apex logos outside most towns, and for larger towns there'd often be more than one of each, but today the signs are fewer, or worse are nothing more than a reminder of organisations that no longer exist, with no-one left to even take their sign away.

Ironically, the amount of time that Australians spend volunteering each year is greater than at almost any time in our history, but that hasn't helped the service clubs, which, in many ways, are still largely artefacts of the early 20th century.

We're happy to participate in Clean Up Australia Day, or do a few hours at a Bunnings barbecue for the pre-school, but the prospect of heading off to a dinner meeting once a fortnight, or perhaps every week, is a commitment that very few people want to make.

When most service clubs were formed they were single gender organisations, mostly for men, that provided a social outlet, as well as a helping hand for the community. They were more egalitarian than gentlemen's clubs and less secretive than the Masons or the Royal and Ancient Order of Buffaloes, and they thrived in small towns. Service clubs were renowned for building things and taking care of people in the community for whom social services were lacking, or more likely, non-existent. They were practical organisations who would be providing free firewood for widows one week, and running a bush dance the next. At a national level, their influence was even more impressive, with achievements like founding Guide Dogs, providing free milk for school kids in the '30s, funding autism research in the 60s, and providing millions of dollars for the Life Education Vans that so many of us visited in primary school.

But progress is killing them off.

We don't need service clubs to fulfil our social needs any more, the idea of going to a meeting once a fortnight to catch up with some friends seems quaint in a world where we can instantly make contact on Facebook or Twitter. The small towns that once hosted these clubs are themselves disappearing, with a more mobile population simply leaving them behind rather than investing time in them.

Service clubs also struggled with what equality meant for them, with some organisations troubled more than others by integrating women into their membership.

More broadly, the model of a husband going off to his Rotary or Apex meeting after work while his wife stays at home with the kids simply does not fit into a society where both partners work and men are more involved in their children's lives than they would have been two generations ago.

Another of the reasons that service clubs are finding it hard to keep going is that so much of what they used to do is now looked after by one level of government or another, or by a charity that is solely focussed on a single issue. The demands we place on all levels of government today are far beyond what they were when service clubs were at their peak.

Every local council now has teams of people dedicated to creating community events, from Australia Day to Harmony Day and everything in-between, state and federal governments provide support for people that would have been almost unimaginable even thirty years ago. Every cause seems to have a dedicated charity that's being professionally run, sometimes one that was created as a result of a service club project, and have time and resources that a small club simply cannot compete with. This makes it exceedingly difficult for service clubs to define their purpose, not just within their community but for their own members. Without a strong sense of purpose it's hard to attract new members or even hold on to the ones you've already got.

Membership in service clubs in Australia is declining, and the average age of the members is increasing. While strong organisations like Rotary will not disappear completely, it is unlikely that they will once again become the social forces that they once were. Even the venerable CWA, which helped provide postnatal health services to women across the nation, has been reduced to judging scones and cakes on cooking shows to raise their profile.

In one way or another service clubs have always been a part of my life. When I was in primary school it was the Apex Club who ran the dangerously fast merry-go round at the school fete, did the sausage sizzles at every community event and whose logo adorned parks and barbecue shelters around town. When I was in my teens, one of the local Apex Clubs sent me on a youth leadership program, the Lions Club awarded me prizes for public speaking, and Rotary sent me to the National Youth Science Forum. I've spent most of the last twenty years trying to repay my good fortune through my own Apex membership, hoping to give more young people the opportunities I had. What's happened along the way is that I've been given more opportunities, making great friends and seeing the positive influence my actions can make.

Service clubs are just another casualty of social progress but their absence will be keenly felt, especially in the small towns like the one I grew up in. I have no doubt they will be replaced, there is still no shortage of people who want to help others, but I fear that we may forget the most important thing that service clubs could teach us, that helping others isn't some onerous duty, it can be enormous fun.

Published in Weekly Email
Wednesday, 02 October 2013

Diary of a Moral Crusader

23rd September

Morning meeting of the Alliance Against Children’s Bodies: one of the more lively AACB gatherings for some time. I showed some shocking slides of the latest Big W catalogue, and our Treasurer told a shocking anecdote about the pre-school prostitutes’ outfits she’d seen at the beach last week. Meeting got a bit rowdy when a woman stood up the back and demanded all children have their bodies surgically removed to eliminate the risk, and some of the more moderate members protested this was a step too far. Meeting ended with a resolution that the AACB is opposed to children being enslaved by drunken sex maniacs, and we call on the prime minister to agree.

24th September

A hard day’s work down on the picket lines outside Target. Incredibly embarrassed when I discovered that I’d misspelt “pornification” on my sign. Had to run home and correct it. When I got back the picket line had become a little disorderly as some of the protesters had gone inside to take advantage of a sale on pillowcases. Embarrassing. Immediately expelled them from the protest and laid down the law in no uncertain terms: NOBODY was to enter the store until they agreed to discontinue their lines of children’s underwear featuring “leg-holes”, a blatant attempt to draw the public’s attention to the fact that children have legs. How many children must have their innocence stripped from them before we take action? Made an impassioned speech to this effect, but a lot of people missed it because they were at the toilet. Finally got a chance to meet with the store manager, who said he was sensitive to our concerns. I asked if that was true, why was he selling THESE, and held up a child’s t-shirt sold in Target that clearly exposes the wearer’s ARMS. He had no answer – he stood exposed as a paedophile of the worst kind, and I urged my followers to pelt him with fruit. A most satisfying day.

25th September

Spent the morning looking out front window and taking notes. A lot of children going past on bikes and scooters, looking incredibly sexy. At times I had to put down my pad and weep at the ruthless murder of their childhoods. Went outside to stop one young girl of about eight and ask when she’d been sold into prostitution. She gave me a terrified look and rode away as fast as she could – no doubt her pimp was watching and would punish her if she spoke to anyone. Really depressing. Had to have a bit of a lie down after being exposed to so much provocative sexuality, but got up in the afternoon to go down to the pool and confiscate phones from perverts. Got into a fistfight with one crotchety old pornographer who claimed to be “taking pictures of her granddaughter”, but as I TRIED to explain to her, family members are most frequently the very ones who become abusers. And I saw her granddaughter – she was in the sluttiest nappy I’ve seen in years. Called the police but they didn’t seem to take me seriously, even though I made it quite clear there was an elderly rapist on the loose. Will have to picket the police station now.

26th September

Picketed the police station. Didn’t go well. They refused to arrest me no matter how many times I accused them of raping a generation. After a while an officer came out and offered me a coffee. I screamed “Police brutality!” but nobody listened. Day a total washout.

27th September

Much better day. Appeared on Today Tonight to warn viewers about how sexy their children are. Managed to slip in a lot of great statistics about how many paedophiles per square metre Australia now has. After the shooting went to café to make disapproving clicking noises at the waitresses, whose skirts were so short they might as well have been pushing vaginas down my throat. Handed my waitress a pamphlet on who to contact if your skirt is raping you, but I feel she might be so in denial she won’t even read it. In the evening I wrote an article about sexting as the cause of cervical cancer. A controversial area of clinical study, but a growing one. The links are clear: almost 100% of cervical cancer sufferers have at one time been in the same room as a mobile phone which has been used to send explicit images or is made by the same company as one which has been used to send explicit images. Hopefully my article will help put an end to the sexting holocaust.

Early to bed. Had a nasty moment when my hand accidentally touched my thigh while I was putting on my pyjamas, but the chemical shower I had installed has now paid for itself.

28th September

Had a photoshoot for a profile piece in Good Weekend. Suggested the photographer could take picture of me holding damaged children in my arms and crying, but he just wanted me sitting at the kitchen table looking disapprovingly at a banana. Then brunch with prime minister. Told him that his daughters were in danger of becoming hardcore porn actresses if they kept wearing those running shorts. He agreed to send them overseas. At the end of our meeting he tried to kiss my cheek so I bit his testicles. Think he got the message.

29th September

Church in the morning, though one can hardly even call it “church” with the standards of dress being accepted nowadays. The reverend actually allowed a girl to do a reading from the Bible while wearing shorts. I almost vomited, it was so arousing. Can only imagine how uncomfortable the poor lass felt, under all those lustful gazes. Threw a blanket over her to save her modesty, but she simply shrugged it off and I was escorted out by some VERY gropey altar boys.

In the afternoon went to a Little Athletics meet and threw paint on the competitors. Was accosted by an angry coach, but calmly explained to her that she was facilitating the visual rape of the children under her charge and that I would have her arrested shortly. She seemed to understand, although she did her best to pretend she didn’t. Called the police, who arrived with commendable speed. My bail was set at $10,000. Mother will be by in the morning to post it.

30th September

Released from lockup. Noted to duty officer how whorish her uniform made her look. She threatened to tase me. Internalised misogyny. Headed to Channel Nine studios to tape ACA interview about how elites are trying to impregnate our daughters through art galleries. Told the one about the girl who got AIDS from her midriff top. Think I made my point.

In the afternoon another meeting of the AACB, in which we resolved to all write to our MPs and demand that breasts be placed on the Restricted Substances list. On the way home saw a woman apparently trying to sell her two-year-old’s body to the highest bidder, judging from the way she was flaunting her shapely calves. Determined to not see yet another child fall through the sexy cracks, grabbed the girl and ran home.

Currently sitting behind barricade made of couches, exchanging occasional fire with police. Hoping the AACB will send reinforcements. We can’t put up with this sex-drenched society any longer.

Published in Weekly Email
Wednesday, 04 September 2013

The Parable of the Simple Whippet

Our regular The Hot and The Dead columnist, Shelley Stocken is sick this week and wasn’t able to find a hot and dead person to crush on. We send Shelley all our love and best wishes, and give you this small moment in time as a place holder until she gets better.

1. Give Simple Whippet and Speedy Whippet exactly same amount of food for breakfast.

2. Speedy Whippet finishes first and eyes the Simple Whippet's half-full bowl.

3. Simple Whippet eats slowly and carefully, trying not to be confused by his food.

4. Speedy Whippet thinks for a minute and then looks at front door and barks.

5. Simple Whippet runs to front door to see who's there.

6. Speedy Whippet immediately eats the rest of Simple Whippet's breakfast.

7. Simple Whippet returns to the kitchen and looks mournfully at his empty bowl.

8. I laugh at Simple Whippet and go back to bed.

The moral of this tale: don't be an idiot in my house because you won't get any sympathy.

Published in Weekly Email
Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Screen Time

Computers and kids, how much time is too much, and why do we feel that way?

I often feel uncomfortable discussing parenting with other people. It's not discussing bedtimes, or homework, or discipline that brings me unstuck, but the fact that my kids share my love of all things technological. I'm the parent who lets his kids have too much “screen time”.

The way some parents talk about computers and game consoles you'd think that allowing your child to use them is something akin to handing over an AK-47 and a month's worth of unprescribed Ritalin. Parents talk in hushed tones about screen time and boast of how little time they allow their progeny to spend using the types of devices which will shape the rest of their lives. The way that some people talk about their kids' use of computers is how I imagine our grandparents talked about television, or how their grandparents talked about radio, and it's just as unlikely to change the fact that all of these devices are going to be a permanent part of our world from now on.

Computers have always fascinated me, when I was young I'd make pretend ones out of cardboard boxes and paint them to look like something from Buck Rogers or Star Trek. When I was in Primary School I was given a computer of my own, an Amstrad CPC464 with a tape drive and a green screen, and I've had computers at home ever since. I've also had video game consoles for just as long, from a box that played six variations of pong, followed by my Atari 2600, various Nintendo consoles, PlayStations and a pair of Xbox 360s. This is the environment that my kids were born into, and it seems strange to pretend that the things I enjoy using for my own leisure and entertainment aren't going to be just as appealing to them as well.

Computer gaming has been demonised for as long as it has existed, being blamed for everything from creating anti-social teens to frightfully violent ones, as though neither existed before the late 1970s. The stereotype about computer gamers still seems to be that they're almost exclusively teenage boys, while the reality is that the stereotypical gamers from the 80 and 90s are now mostly middle aged, still gaming, and we have kids of our own. Just like parents who indoctrinate their kids with a love of their favourite sporting team, I introduced mine to the joys of Mario Kart and Minecraft. It seems strange to me that watching footy on the TV doesn't raise an eyebrow, but allowing kids to spend the same amount of time engaging in something interactive, challenging, and often creative is treated like borderline neglect.

Even in families where the adults aren't gamers, the type of technology that we seek to limit kids’ access to is often a ubiquitous part of our lives. Almost every morning when I sit down to breakfast, I'm doing so with my iPad close at hand. I know I'm not alone doing this because my twitter feed is full of a thousand other people doing the same thing, finding news, sharing things that they've found, and engaging with a broader community that they're a part of. It's the twenty-first century version of sitting down with the morning paper, and it's what we're modelling for our kids. Why then are people so surprised when the kids want to do something similar?

I'm not going to pretend that the distraction that can come from having a plethora of gadgets near at hand is never problematic, but we're just as likely to find that our requests are being ignored by the kids because they've got their head in a book that they're enjoying. The issue isn't, in my mind, simply denying kids access to the TV, computers or consoles, it's teaching them how to be considered media consumers. When I was growing up we had two TV channels and two radio channels, that was it, so if you wanted to watch TV, you'd watch whatever was served up. By contrast, our kids watch more programs via catch-up services like the ABC's iView, where they watch only what they're interested in, than they do terrestrial TV. I think it's pretty easy to argue that the time my kids spend watching Mythbusters is probably of greater value than the amount of time I spent watching Press Your Luck, Supermarket Sweep or Wheel of Fortune while I waited for Monkey Magic or The Goodies to come on.

When it comes to kids and technology, what I see as most problematic is parents who don't make the effort to understand with what their kids are actually doing with their time, or how they could make the time spent be more productive. It's easier to rail against the amount of time that kids spend using iPads than it is to try to tailor their experience to be something more appropriate than playing the latest freemium game designed to cause anxiety in the player and drain your wallet. Most of us agree that it's necessary to ensure that the movies, books, magazines and music that our children consume are all appropriate for their age and their maturity level, so why do so many people have such a blind spot when it comes to what their kids access from a console or computer? We don't crack down on the amount of time children spend reading simply because 50 Shades of Grey isn't suitable for them, so why is this the default approach to how they use technology?

Our children are growing up surrounded by devices that were quite literally the stuff of science fiction when we were their age. By the time they reach adulthood these magical slabs of silicon and glass will be even further embedded into our lives and culture than they are now. The best thing we can do for our children isn't to arbitrarily limit their access to these devices, but to teach them how to use them responsibly and effectively as the tools of their generation.

Published in Weekly Email
Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Letting Go

A moment in time, so difficult to hold on to. Even more difficult to let go.

The desk in my father's office has for the last 25 years had a photo of my youngest sister wearing a ridiculous headband, when she was about 9 months old. School photos came and went, but this one photo never left his desk. I could never understand Dad's attachment to this one photo above all others; it wasn't the finest photo ever taken of Sarah, even amongst her baby photos there were plenty that were better lit and composed, and yet there was no doubt that it was always his favourite photo of her. Like so many other things in my relationship with my Dad, it wasn't until I had children of my own that I could understand what that photo possibly represented: a moment in time, and a sense of loss.

In a world where digital photography is so ubiquitous it's already hard to remember the way that we used to think about photographs. For starters, photographs were finite. Twenty-four chances to record the world around you, with no guarantee that when you finally processed your film, perhaps weeks or months later, that you'd get anything better than poorly focused or overexposed facsimiles of the event you wanted to preserve. The difficulty of capturing a Kodak Moment was a challenge all of its own; so many of the memories that we hung onto were associated with photos that would turn off even the most ardent fan of Instagram filters. Ultimately, the power of even a bad photo can be overwhelming when you're trying to remember more about a time than a place.

New parents with stacks of photos of their newborns aren’t just a cliché. Almost every parent goes through the phase of wanting to share every detail of their baby's life with anyone who will listen. It's even harder to avoid this today, as your friends’ social media becomes clogged with an unending stream of baby photos and every parent’s phone contains a gallery that would have previously required a dozen photo albums to be hefted around. I wonder sometimes if being flooded with photos and videos of our kids means that it's now too hard to find those special ones that sum up those magical points in time. Looking through thousands of photos means that we see our kids grow up through a roughly cut stop-motion video rather than the quantum leaps that you make when there are only a few dozen photos taken in a year.

When you see the stark changes in your children laid out before you, you realise that every time they reach a new developmental goal you lose a part of them forever, a part that you may have loved more than any other. Gummy smiles give way to toothy grins, then to full smiles, which then start falling out again, and all along the way you are excited about the changes, but you miss what you had. No-one seriously wants to freeze their kids at a point in time and never see them change, but it's hard to accept that the little person that you loved so completely is going away forever, no matter how wonderful they're about to become.

For me, it wasn't a photo that bought about realisation of how much we lose as our kids age, but a grainy 30-second video that I shot with our first digital camera. My son was not yet two, but was obsessed with Toy Story. Every day after lunch he'd want to watch it as he drifted off to sleep on the couch for his mid-day nap, and every afternoon when he awoke he'd want to watch it again because he'd missed the ending the first time around. My wife and I truly came to believe that we had seen Toy Story more times than anyone at Pixar, and yet Buster Boy could not get enough of it. Every day Buster Boy would grab the Toy Story DVD cover, wander over to one of us and ask, with a single word, if he could watch it. It was only a few months ago, having randomly found this video in our iPhoto library that I was reminded of exactly what he would do, and exactly what he would say, ‘Woo-dee?’

It broke my heart. I was sad because I had almost forgotten the sweet lilting voice of my eighteen-month-old son and the earnest way that he would ask to see Woody on the TV. It also made me keenly aware that even with this video snippet to remind me, I could never spend another moment with that little boy exactly as he was.

It was not too long after I found the video of Buster Boy that my mind wandered to the photo on Dad's desk. It was remarkable that I had any siblings at all, there's a nine-year gap between me and my first sister, Lisa, and another two years to the second, Sarah, and after Sarah was born there was no chance of another baby coming along. When the headband photo was taken, the last baby that would ever be a part of my parents' life was disappearing; she was growing up. For my part, the images of the night that the photo of Sarah was taken have been burnt into my memory. I can't remember who took the photo, or whether the headband was put on our baby sister by me, or someone else, but I can remember that we laughed, all of us, as though there'd never been a more hilarious moment. I wonder if Dad remembers the laughter, or misses his baby girl, or simply thinks that the goofy photo of his youngest child is still funny.

Every parent is told that at some point you have to let your kids go, nobody tells you you'll have to do it a thousand times before they even leave home.

Published in Weekly Email
Page 1 of 17