Thursday, 8 March 2012

IWD 2012- a gift to share

A 'choose you own adventure' post today. Very interactive - click on the click-able bits of the post as you wish.

Here is a gift for you for International Women's Day (the poem at the start is only 3 or 4 minutes). If you are a bloke reading this - pass this on to a great woman in your life.

On first seeing this... it took my breath away. In fact the second woman on the incomplete list below received the hard cover copy of this poem as a gift when she graduated from high school last year. It was given to her by me and the first named woman on the list...

This is an an incomplete list (sorry if I have missed you) that honours: the brilliant women in this blogger's immediate world; women I am lucky to call friend; women who inspire; women who have participated in a Time & Space Mother-Son or Mother-Daughter program (and wrote their name on the evaluation sheet) and, some women I haven't actually met but whose work and ideas I respect.

And this is an incomplete list of course because, as always, you are welcome to join in the discussion in the REPLY box below... feel free to add your honourable mentions and tell us a bit about the great women in your life.

So here goes (in no particular order, except for the first one) ...

Lisa J (aka The Mighty Lisa)... best friend and soul-mate,

Amber J - A young woman with great taste in Indie music (Dan Mangan is a recent addition to this blogger's iTunes account thanks to Amber J). There is a wonderful combination of toughness and gentleness in Amber. The other day I saw her consuming her course reading notes before she actually had her first class on her first day at university. I admire Amber's courage, kindness and zest for life. Me and the Mighty Lisa's first-born.

Joan J - the lady who listened to how my day was at school for thousands of afternoons in the seventies and eighties. She does brilliant work these days as a spiritual director, and granny, amongst many other roles that include being my mum.

Clare McG - super nursing director and mum who is hosting an exchange student, Lara, from Germany this year because well, she thought it would be a great experience for her pre-school and primary school kids. That is generous. Clare is my favourite sister.

Sisters-in-law, Leah, Rita and Nicole (well Nic will officially be my S-I-L by about 4.30pm this coming Saturday), Ann (my sage mum-in-law from Chester, UK) and all of the aunties and cousins (& cousin Col and Aunty Ros from Gruyere) over there. Special mention also to my wonderful nieces... Lucia, Sasha, Ruth and Tierney - young women now or some time soon.

Hilda Jennings, my Nana (RIP) and Grandma (RIP) - my brother Greg (the one who is getting married this weekend) wrote a beautiful blogpost that captures what Grandma meant to us all.

My NSAA friends and colleagues inspiring women doing good work - De, Tania (is writing a blog from a Mum's perspective called 'Surviving Year 12') Taruni, Phillipa, Gillian, Ailsa, Yvonne, Helen Mac, Melina and The Mighty Farrug' (inspiration). Former school teaching car pooling buddies Lizzie and the Harvenator and also Cate, the hardest working person I know, and wise mentor to boot.

Then of course there are all the locals - Robyn, Rosie, Caroline, Clare, Sandra, Pauline, Heidi, Miki, Leeanne, 'LGSpencer', Marnstorming and Moi (have a browse around Moira's CD, One Step Forward - there are songs here so pertinent to this day... she won an award at Port Fairy for Why Not Let a Mother and my favourite Moi song is Until You're Old, a poignant tribute to her mum).

Valerie, Kalindi (hey kids look for the carefully placed affirmation cards from your teacher on your 'vision posters', displayed in your extraordinarily 'finessed' classroom), Christine, Bonnie, Haidee and Sue who helped at the Silkwood School Mother-Son night and Bella, Oceana and Jess who were outstanding panelists at the Father-Daughter night.

Celia Lashlie - Champion delighter in the good news there is to tell about boys. Celia's other strong passion is in support of incarcerated women. One of the best speakers I have ever heard.

Another Celia, Nardis and Julie (love your Compassionate Flow blog Jules) - all have reconnected in recent times. It has been great to be back in touch.

Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin - a lady who has worked tirelessly, as a bridge between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia. Probably has done more 'welcome to country' ceremonies than anyone. Massive Saints fan.

Sarah Kay - you saw her above in the clip. I love the story about the girl in the hoodie.

Mem Fox - thanks to you and Julie Vivas for Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partidge, my favourite all time picture book.

Leslie Cannold and Cecily (@happychatter) - last year I watched Leslie and Cecily engage in a Twitter debate on the Chaplaincy Funding issue. Different points of view - treated each other with respect. With no wish to be patronising, not a bad lesson in how to have an argument for us fellas.

A thought too for all women in the midst of a health battle on this IWD. Jacinta, we hold you in our heart every day.

And penultimately... here's a few faves from the Twitterverse @rosaliquidink , @peace_ , @SamJaneLane and @alihilltweet

Finally, I salute all the mums and mentors who have turned up at a Time & Space Mother-Son or Mother-Daughter session and if you put your name on an evaluation sheet in the last few years, you should find it here...

Adrianne, Alanah, Alex, Alexandra, Alicia, Alison, Alison, Alison, Alison, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Andrea, Andrea, Andrea, Ange, Angela, Angela, Angela, Angelina, Anita, Anita, Anita, Anita, Anita, Anita, Ann, Ann, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Annette, Annette, Annette, Anni, Annie, Annie, Antoinette, Barbara, Beatrice, Belinda, Belinda, Belinda, Bernadette, Bernadette, Breeda, Bridget, Bronwyn, Bronwyn, Byron, Carina, Carmel, Carmel, Carmel, Carmel, Carol, Carol, Caroline, Caroline, Caroline , Carolynne, Cate, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Cathy, Cathy, Cathy, Caz, Cecelia, Celeste, Celia, Cherie, Cheryl, Chris, Christine, Christine, Christine, Cindy, Cindy, Cindy, Claire, Claire, Claire, Clare, Clare, Claudia, Collette, Connie, Cristina, Dani, Daniel, Daniel, Daniella, Deb, Debbi, Debbie, Debbie, Deborah, Delia, Delwyn, Denise, Denise, Diane, Diane, Dianne, Dianne, Dianne, Dina, Dolores, Donna, Donna, Donna, Edwina, Eileen, Elaine, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elle, Elsie, Emily, Fali, Fanny, Felicia, Felicity, Fiona, Fiona, Fionna, Frances, Francesca, Frankie, Fulvia, G, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gen, George, Georgie, Geraldine, Geraldine, Gill, Gill, Gillian, Gina, Giulietta, Grace, Grace, Harshini, Hazel, Heidi, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helena, Huyen, Ida, Ingrid, Ivy, J, J, Jacinta, Jackie, Jacqui, Jacqui, Jacqui, Jacqui, Jai, Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane, Janet, Janine, Janine, Janna, Jaqueline, Jayne, Jeannine, Jen, Jen, Jennie, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jill, Jo, Jo (regular correspondent on this blog and thanks for the prompt last year Jo - hey Bill, blog more!), Jo, Joanna, Joanne, Joanne, Joanne, Jodie, Jodie, Jody, Jose, Josh, Josie, Joy, Joyce, Judy, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julienne, June, Justine, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karine, Karmen, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kath, Kath, Kath, Kath, Kathryn, Kathryn, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy , Katie, Katrina, Katrina, Kelli, Kelly, Kelly, Kerri, Kerri, Kerrie, Kerrilyn, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim Ian, Kirsty, Kris, Kylie, Kylie, Kylie, Lauren, Leah, Leane, Leanne, Leanne, Leanne, Leanne , Leigh, Leonie, Leonie, Leonie, Liljana, Lillian, Lina, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Lindy, Lindy, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Livia, Liz, Liz, Liz, Liz, Loretta, Loretta, Lori, Lou, Louisa, Louise, Lyn, Lynda, Lynette, Lynne, M, M.A., Madeline, Mandi, Mandy, Mandy, Mara, Mara, Maree, Maree, Maree, Maree, Maree, Margaret, Margaret , Margie, Margot, Maria, Maria, Maria, Marianne, Marianne, Marie, Marie, Marina, Marion, Marlies, Marly, Martine, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary Rose, Maura, Meg, Meg, Megan, Megan, Megan, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa, Melissa, Mich, Michele, Michele, Michell, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Miriam, Molly, Monica, Monica, Monique, Nadia, Naomi, Naomi, Narelle, Nat, Natalie, Natalie, Natasha, Natasha, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Ornella, Pam, Pam, Pam, Pamela, Pamela, Pati, Patricia, Paula, Pauline, Pauline, Pauline , Pearlyn, Penny, Peta, Peta, Peta, Pina, Pina, Polly, Prue, Prue, Prue , Rachel, Rachelle, Rae, Rebecca, Rhonda, Rina, Rita, Robbie, Robyn, Robyn, Romaine, Roni, Rose, Rose, Rose, Rosemary, Ruth, Ruth, S., Sabine, Sally, Sally, Sally-Ann, Sam, Sam, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandy, Sara, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Seb, Seema, Sephanie, Shane, Sharen, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharron, Shenna, Sherri, Sheryl, Shikha, Sibi, Siew Lin, Silvia, Sim, Simone, Simone, Simone, Siobhan, Siobhan, Sonia, Sonya, Sonya, Sonya, Sophia, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue-Ellen, Surekha, Susan, Susan, Susie, Susie, Suzanne, Suzette, Sylvia, Talei, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy, Tania, Tania, Tania, Tania, Tanid, Tanya, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Terri, Theresa, Theresa, Therese, Therese, Therese, Tiffany, Tina, Tina, Tina, Toni, Toni, Tonia, Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Tricia, Trish, Trish, Trish, Trudy, Tuyet, Vanda, Veronic, Veronica, Vicki, Vilma, Vita, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Younga.

The usual custom for this blog is that I have got permission in advance from you if your name appears in it. As you can see, this is a different post today. I hope this is OK.

Thanks for reading and Happy International Women's Day (well it's evening now).

Bill Jennings

PS - the first two women mentioned on the honours list are enjoying a celebratory glass of reasonably priced merlot on the couch as this post is published.

Friday, 2 March 2012

An Unexpected Conversation

"Mind if I play with you guys?"

"No worries," I say, shaking hands with the man in the sunglasses, "My name's Bill and this is my son Jack."

"I'm Andrew.”

We are on the first tee of a brilliant little nine-hole course nestled into the foreshore of Apollo Bay, our annual summer holiday spot. One of the beaut’ things about golf... total strangers can walk up and ask 'can I join up with you?' I like it that my 15-year-old has played the game enough to know that this is part of the etiquette.

So we all hit off and so does our conversation – no small talk on the first hole!

"What do you do for a crust Bill?"

I explain the Time & Space programs.

"Right - have you come across any situations where kids have suicided?"

I reply, "Oh, the parent-child programs aren't necessarily for kids who are in trouble. It is for any young person really and their parents."

Andrew explains, "It's just that the boy who was captain of our primary school, a few years ago... just took his life. Real shock to our staff."

"That's awful," I say, fairly amazed at how deep the topic of conversation is for a couple of blokes who have just met... "So you're a teacher Andrew?"

"Yep. Love it - the classroom for the first 18 years. PE specialist for the last twelve."

Andrew is a really good fella... I can tell.

"Gee Andrew - any reason, the boy... why he took his life?" I ask.

"No clue whatsoever," Andrew answers, "it is a complete mystery. We were reeling as a staff at the end of the year when it happened. Such a great kid."

I'm conscious as we talk, my son is quietly taking all of this in.

We tee off on the second.

"Have you got kids Andrew?" I ask.

"Daughter’s the oldest and two sons... 23, 22 and 19 years old," Andrew then pauses... "Yep, they're all doing their thing." There’s a satisfied tone indicating they’re all going well.

Third hole and Andrew asks Jack if he plays sport.

"Yeah soccer," offers the young bloke, "I'm a goalkeeper."

There was genuine interest on Andrew’s part.

We are covering a breadth of topics on every hole. Andrew explains about his oldest two who were heading overseas together. He was really proud of their get up and go.

"They’re not really sure what they want to do career-wise but they've worked hard, saved to make this trip happen."

We talked and enjoyed our golf. We all had a few good hits. Andrew actually chipped in for birdie on the Eighth.

As Jack chipped to the green, I thought back to what Andrew said before… "I liked how you said that all your kids are each doing their thing."

"Yeah, great kids. The youngest one has had his challenges. My nineteen-year-old Brett," Andrew pauses, takes off his sunglasses, "is gay."

Even though we'd only known each other for eight holes of golf, the chats we’d had till then seemed to allow the space for such a personal detail to be shared. What a privilege to be trusted.

"Wow... when did you find out?" I ask.

"He came out when he was sixteen," answered Andrew, "I'll admit it, I cried for about 24 hours but came good after that. The way I see it, my son showed great courage."

Jack has putted, joins us and he picks up the thread of Andrew's story.

Andrew continued, "I asked my son, I said, 'I've only got one question... did you become gay or were you born gay?"

"He told me 'I always thought I was gay dad.'"

It's clear that Andrew admired and supported his son. He learnt that a lot of dads 'go crook' and even worse, sometimes physically abuse their sons if they come out... kick them out of home and never want to see them again.

We are on the last tee now and Andrew remarks, "How do those dads come back from that?" he is perplexed as he says, "I mean someone you love has just come out... that is showing the utmost courage. I said to Brett, who’s highly respected by his peers, 'mate you've just shown the way and made stuff so much easier for other kids.’"

Jack then pipes up... "Yeah, one of the kids at my school came out... on You Tube* actually... you know what was really good about it? No-one gave him any crap."

"I'm pleased to hear it," said Andrew.

We finished our round, shook hands and said goodbye. The three of us had had a pretty extraordinary conversation.

Later in the day, Jack remarked, "Dad, that Andrew, he’s a good bloke."

I agreed.

Thanks for reading and as always, you are welcome to share your responses, your stories in the space below (even if you don't have a Google account, you can log on as anonymous but it would be great if you wrote your name).

* I looked up the clip when writing this article and discovered it was part of a global campaign by many people called ‘It Gets Better’. It includes this video contribution from US President Barack Obama.

And importantly if for any reason you need to talk to someone – you can call…
Lifeline: 13 11 14 Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 551 800 Mensline Australia: 1300 789 978 SANE Helpline - mental illness, support and referral: 1800 18 SANE (7263) Reach Out: