Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mrs. W - a personal account of a childhood in care

Attention - some images and text in this blog post may upset those people living in denial that child abuse and youth suicide exist

I was born January 1977, that makes me just over 34 today (april 2011).  In the 70's there was not much room in society for single mum's so there was alot of abortion's or fostered out children in those times. My life started out a little lucky, I was born into an already large family of my mum still at home with her Mum n Dad and 3 sisters and one brother, so I had a Nan n Pop and 3 aunties, 1 uncle and we all lived under the one roof.  Life was great, even though I don't remember my Mum much at that stage - my Nan was always there for me she was never a particularly cuddly women but neither was my mum!  So I was used to a distance in that way but my Nan somehow by just being there for me-always - it was like a cuddle.  Dinner was at the same time EVERY night so was bath and bed - there was such a strict routine it hugged me like a blanket! 

I remember kinder and I remember Nan and I remember the family dog and sometimes I remember my aunties n my uncle-I struggle to remember my mum..
Even though we shared the same room together-she used to come home very late at night I was already tucked up fast asleep.  It wasn't until I was' around 13 my Nan would re-call stories that made her cry, she said when my mum walked in the door, I would run for a cuddle...but she used to push me away...maybe it's lucky I don't have these memories, for my sake.

My mum had a few boyfriends, but one guy stuck, when I was 8 yrs old, I was introduced to "Bill", he was an overweight, stocky, short man - not  particularity attractive, with those scary tinted glasses - when he came to the door to take my mum on a "date" I do remember getting a "chill" I did not like him from the moment I met him!  But Mum must have seen something in him, a few mnths later they were married, and I was whisked away with her to live with him, less than 6mnths later my step brother was born (you do the math!)

While all this was going on un-be-known to me - "Bill" was legally adopting me, so I now carried his surname, also they took over the local Cake shop,  things (on the outset) looked rosy for my Mum...but that was not the reality, the following is quiet a chilling but brief account of my next 4 yrs within this family unit....take a breathe  (me too), and...lets go......

While business was strong, we had a life plentiful, we ate out nearly every night (which suited mum as she could not cook), we could have anything we wanted.
And my mum did - she had drinks on tap - yes she became an alcoholic-almost overnight (to me anyway), her judgment was blurred - she became extremely abusive to me and I now became my step brothers carer - I was just over 8.5 but had to grow up over night, I was changing nappies, feeding him, bathing him, because my mum either couldn't or she didn't want to, all I remember my baby brother eating at one stage was custard - I did not know what else to give him-know one told me-I did what I I also grew to resent him-something I regret, even to this day!

While my mum was drinking scotch for breakfast lunch and dinner- my new "dad" paid alot more attention to me-something that was new to me and as I was having a particularly tough time with my mum, I was coerced into spending alot more time with him. He showered me with attention -which was something new to me, and turned me against my mum who now had resorted to withholding me my breakfast as I had to clean the house every morning-top to bottom, before school, so I had to wake by 6am, feed and clean my baby brother-who sensed the stress by this point he started to eat holes through his blankets, then I had to vacuum, mop, scrub the whole house- EVERY morning before school, so my first meal would usually be lunch-maybe a packet of chips and a big M from the canteen. 

Anyway  the alcohol she inhaled everyday almost all day turned my mum into a monster, she would beat me endlessly either with her fist, the vacuum cleaner steel rod, a wooden spoon and once she came at me with a kitchen knife, it was now official - I did now also resent my mother.  So "Bill" pounced, I had to work in the family business, I worked after school every day AND I was forced to go in to work 5am Sat morning, just with him...alone, a good 3 hrs before any staff were due to start - that's when it started...

"Bill" by the end, had raped me for over 4 yrs, he used more than his personal bits to do so-anything that was lying around would suffice, there was one time I saw some remorse in him, it was one particular time he made me bleed...I ran and hid, he never came to find me - now this stuff is very hard to talk about so I am skimming over lots, but I have not to my sadness forgotten much at all, it still feels like yesterday-at times-especially now-now that I have children of my own.

My once sheltered life with my Nan had now been ripped from me, I was whisked away, adopted, and then raped and abused, physically, mentally and emotionally by both my mother and my step dad, but I found a way out When I was 12, my school had a "say no" seminar. 

That day I found out all about what's right and what's wrong and what was happening to me was VERY WRONG!  I did a runner I was found by my best friend and her mum. They took me to their house, I told my story and they rang CSV.  So in one day I went to school just like any other day, but all this unfolded there after, and before the school bell rang I was taken by CSV back to my locker to collect my things - kicking and screaming I was taken to a country police station

And now I just remember sitting in a corner of the police station with just the clothes on my back hugging a bear a constable gave me (I called it "Dakin" :) ) and much later again - I was taken to my first ever  foster home to later spend another 3 weeks there - it was not the saddest time of my life being taken out of home - but it was the scariest. 

I begged them to take me back home even though I knew what would await me there - I just wanted to go back home-to what I knew-the untold future that awaited me, frightened the hell out of me!  I was so frightened of what my mum would do to me once she had me back home-that I begged to go back-they would not and  could not take me back they said-so I cried for days not believing them when they said I will never be back home-I thought my mum will find a way to get to me somehow-someway!  I knew how much she hated me-resented me!  This was sure to take her over the edge!

Now in a turn of fate, while I was staying at my new foster home-completely miserable, crying and alone...a call came-it was for me they tell me it's my "Pop" - I couldn't beleive it!  But it was true, while I was in my foster home - my "parents" were interviewed and charged - my mum fessed up to the police and so did he- and only a bit was said to my Pop, but it was enough, he found me and I was now back with my Nan and my Pop-life was good again........for just a little while.

Before I turned 13 my Pop took very ill, I had to go-they couldn't keep me-I ended up in a youth Hostel in Melb's North, I was on my own-with new faces, new issues, new problems. The one thing that I did have from all this was, I was back to where I came from - I had some friends I had known and we met back up again-one of them was my now current husband who I love with all my heart and always have-my one-
and only true love!  

This hostel was very different for me-we had a live in family-but they looked after sometimes up to 6 of us at a time-plus their own kids too, there was kids that came and went like a revolving door - but there were some like me who stayed on for years then were old enough to move on, one of the "stayer's was "Trevor" he, like all of us there had an awful childhood, he was abused by family
and pretty much neglected.

I got on with my life pretty much I got a p/t job to earn money so I could have nice things (but I was also still at school), now Trevor was one of the ones who decided he'd use his time at the hostel by dropping out of school, running a muck-causing a bit of grief for all of us - we had lots of "group meetings" but he couldn't stick to the rules - he used to escape through his window at night, we had a curfew-but he didn't listen.

The boys got to sleep altogether in one room, they used to play up all hrs of the night, they were in the next room to me-we were never aloud locks on our doors for our own safety -they used to tell us-but when the boys kept escaping they put window locks on all windows - that didn't stop "Trevor".  

See he was like a puppy that just needed a cuddle and some acknowledgment at times - when he didn't get that-he would do silly things - one night (after much a strange smell wafting from the boys room-yes drugs) he tapped on my window in the wee hrs of the morn - I yelled at him to go away, he said he had something to show me - so I crawled out of bed and go to the front yard - well he had stolen a car and was very pleased with himself so much that he had to show me - much like a puppy brings a bone to show his owner, I said he was crazy-and going to get in big trouble-he just laughed at me, jumped in the car and sped off running straight through a roundabout and on the wrong side of the road!

All was quiet again for a bit, but then weeks later, "Trevor" asks me for a razor - I was suspicious and asked him why-but he assured me just to "shave" - he looked scruffy so I said "OK, use mine but I want to see it when your done!"  

Well, I had gone to bed, and later I awake to find him standing over me with wrists out - I turn on the light with a find he had slit both wrists so badly that blood was spurting out and sprayed his face, I nearly fainted but my brain said "save him"!  

So I grabbed both his wrists and ran with him upstairs to get our, the carer and "Trevor" went to the hospital-me still holding his wrists as tight as I could in the back seat, we got to the hospital-and he came up with some lame excuse that it was an accident-but because he lied the Hospital staff wouldn't treat him!!!???  I am still amazed at this, even today-they turned us away!  But Trevor needed stitches!  It didn't matter-we didn't matter or he didn't matter - after long hrs of arguing and back n forth with the hosp...we went home-he was shattered!  We all were. 

He was kept up stairs with the carers that night-then all I can remember one night-a few weeks later, our carers sat us down-minus Trevor. we asked where was" Trevor" - they said he had been taken by police, he has stolen another car-this time got caught-and he had caused an accident, he was charged and placed in youth detention.  Life kinda was still after that-see "Trevor" was cheeky and naughty - but he was still just a boy-and he did crave what we all do, that is someone to love us-but he chased it in all the wrong ways

...6mnths later, just as I was starting to wonder about "Trevor", we were sat down again by our carers - this time was different - this was no usual house meeting-the air was grim, and after a long pause our carers spoke - they told us......
the reason we haven't been able to get onto "Trevor" lately is, "he was found dead - they say it was suicide"................

And so that was that - I can't remember what we all did that night- or what we said there after - all I know is we were all extremely sad - even though my life and the peoples around me in that house had encountered some things that would shock the pants off your regular citizen - this bit of news pretty much took the cake for a lot of us - it was a huge thing to be in your early teens going through -what we're been through-to then hear one of your house mates is dead-that was a first for me, and a very sad one at that.

After a few years we all took our leave one way or the other from this Hostel, I kept working, left school at end of year 10, work and earning money was more important for me than study, just so I could buy things and have nice clothes n buy a car - I did all of that - so did many of my ex-Hostel house mates-we all found our path eventually - even though our road wasn't paved as much as other kids our age - it had its fair share of bumps and pot holes - but we got through.

Here's to holding your head high, believing in yourself and remembering it's never too late to become what you might have been.

Mrs. W
(names and dates have been changed to protect people)

I would like to thank Mrs. W, for her honest account of just some of the things that have happened in her life. She wrote this post herself, which as far as I'm concerned was a very brave thing to do. I began to edit it, but decided that the way it was written came from a very personal place and it reads as such. I hope this brings some light to someone's life who has struggled with similar issues. Mrs. W, now has a loving husband and family of her own.... des.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Calm Photographics

I am pleased to introduce you to Katey, a wonderfully generous person who is living her dream. She has donated prizes to our project and has been my 'official' photographer for publicity shots :o)

I started taking photos at around 11 years old when my mother gave me her old instamatic camera. I love the feel of it in my hands and my passion was grown when I did work experience with a cairns photographer at 15. On returning to school I spoke to my art teacher who began to tutor me after school. He is a well-known portrait photographer with some of his work being shown in galleries around Australia. 

The smell of the dark room and the magic of the image appearing before my eyes confirmed it, I was hooked!!  In year 12 we were asked where we wanted to be in 10 years and my goal was to have my own studio.  It then took me 13 years to realise my dream!  
The couple who were told they could never have children - Rick and Chloe, they are now expecting a little boy in June!! (next lot of maternity photos done on 10th may so look out!!)
At Christmas 2009 I was a stay at home mum to my son Jonathan, who was one at the time, when I decided that 2010 was going to be the year of “yes”. I had been asked by friends over the years to do photos for them and always said no being too scared they wouldn’t think my work was good enough. So I went on eBay, upgraded my 35mm Nikon F70 to a digital Nikon D100 and then set about designing business cards, doing free shoots to work up my folio and the ever impossible task of deciding on a business name. 

I came about the name Calm Photographic while teaching my son the sounds of letters. We were doing the letters of my name, Kathleen Helen Mary – Ka Ha Mm, Calm, and the rest is history!! I did everything possible to expand my business from running Facebook competitions to donating photo shoots for raffles. I found the Connect to Aussie Mums an invaluable resource and made a lot of wonderful contacts in the process.

I decided to specialise in family, pregnancy and confidence photography. 

Some of the greatest jobs I have done were the year 12 formal of a group of disabled students, a 15 day old little girl on a Harley Davidson chopper, pregnancy photos of an infertile couple and the confidence photos of an opera singer who had lost her waist length hair to chemo. The joy on their faces when you give them the end result and they see just how beautiful they are regardless of what they have been through is just priceless. 

I love to hear the stories and have been told my business name is very appropriate as I have a manner which puts the client at ease and make the whole process extremely enjoyable.  (I even got hugs from an autistic girl who doesn’t even hug her own mother!)
Miss Ella on Chopper Mikes Harley Davidson. This was done for daddy as a very special surprise. Mummy and Daddy are the couple who were told they would never have children so she is a very special little girl and is about to be a big sister!!
Meanwhile my husband and I had been trying to have our second child and imagine my surprise when I discovered I was pregnant in February after only 7 months of trying! (Jonathan had taken 3 years to conceive) I decided I was going to continue doing what I loved right through my pregnancy as it was after all the year of “yes”! This proved to be a struggle in itself as chasing toddlers is difficult at any time let alone rolling around on the ground with them at 8 months pregnant! 

At 7 months I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes which was a HUGE shock as we have no family history of diabetes. So on top of it all, I felt sick and tired most of the time but business was picking up so it was no time to quit. In September my grandfather, who I am very close to, was hospitalised with what was thought to be gall stones but was later diagnosed to be gall bladder cancer. We had visits from my brother and sister (who was also pregnant with her fourth child) and I were also doing my sons day-care school photos! I was starting to struggle both emotionally and physically. 

My last job before going on maternity leave was a wedding in Townsville so we drove down at 5 in the morning and I worked through till 11pm that night! (32 weeks pregnant mind you, I gave birth at 36 weeks) While it was my first wedding I was thrilled with the results as was the couple, I stressed immensely over the work fearing they would hate it! 
L-R Alex, Hannah, Kate and Hayden. This was their year 12 formal for Cairns state high, on the night Alex won an popularity award!! They were such a beautiful group. Hannah does not show affection and came up and hugged me several times, she dosnt even do that to her mother!
In November I delivered the last of the school photos and our second son Joshua on the same day and decided to resume work in January after a short break. Two days after his birth my grandfather passed away and I was told as I had had a C-section I was not to drive to Innisfail for the funeral. Yeah right!! With the help of some wonderful drugs and the support of my family we made it through. 

I thought with great anticipation that I would still resume my business the following January. This was not to be as Joshua fell ill and had to be hospitalised 5 times between January and March of this year. During all this time I had not dealt with my grief of losing my grandfather or the stress of the past 12 months and succumbed to a bi-polar depressive episode. (I was diagnosed with bi-polar in 2006) I sought help from the wonderful staff at the Cairns base mental health unit and am now adjusting to new medication and having regular therapy to deal with all the emotional issues incurred in the past 12 months. 

Kriss and Emily - Kriss has Aspergers, really fun kid!! We had a ball doing these pics - were also first client in my studio!
Needless to say, I did not go back to work in January, rather in April of this year. I have since set up a studio in a friend’s home office and have started advertising on my Facebook page again. In response to a few call outs on this page I have now got 3 pregnancy, 3 newborns, 3 confidence and 2 family shoots booked for next 12 months after not quite a month back! I am so excited about the future and everything seems to be falling into place again, the creative juices are flowing and the babies are all healthy and happy! I think the thing I have learned from my year of “yes” is that no matter how hard it gets, you can’t give up, it will only get better – eventually! While my business may not earn us a huge amount of money, it is the most rewarding career (besides motherhood of course!) I have ever had as it is mine, I have grown it from nothing and it is something I love!  
Joy has stage 3 breast cancer and this picture was taken during her 2nd round of chemo when she lost all her hair (she had waist length jet black hair!)She is an inspirational beautiful woman!!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jillybear... a young girl with a big heart!

Jill started beading at age 3. She loves it and always makes new little
things and comes out to me to get them tied up. I've been massively into
voluntary work. I get my kids involved and have them come along to things
that are suitable.

I used to be a family day care provider and I liked to teach my kids and
others about world issues in a gentle way. I would talk to them about less
fortunate people or situations and then we would follow the conversation
with an action/activity to help or show their understanding Eg a
fundraiser or auction. I had friend who went as far as spending their
holidays in bali to help kids who were orphans. My kids were shown pics
send back via email about what a difference only a few dollars can make.

We moved from SA to NSW 12 mths ago so I became a bit of a fb addict to
keep in touch with people. I came across WAHM's who made thigns for sale
and auctions so often Id get my kids to pick things and we would bid or
buy them. Jill came to me one day before her birthday and said someting
along the lines of "mum I want you to make me a shop on facebook so I can
sell my necklaces and give the money to kids overseas who have nothing to
eat." I just about cried! A few days after her 6th birthday I collected up
all the latest things she had made and put them up on facebook. Her nick
name was always Jillybear so that why its her shop name. Things just
started selling ...from people I didnt know, so we decided to get her a
propper site.

Approx 7 mths later her online shop was ready with the help of a lovely
stranger I didnt know from a site called (now very
good friends and I met her last time I was in SA) she gave jill all the
design work of the store for free.

So young, so v-e-r-y busy: How does Jillian Pace feel about having her own website for her jewellery business?"Very excited, very happy."Picture: Gary Warrick

After the site went up she gave herself a goal of $1,000 before Christmas
and shes currently around $470.

We chose the company Australian Lutheran World Serive vs a well known
charity as they have much lower overheads than most places that forward on

She saw a few other great sites like yours and wanted to donate bulk lots
to them to use. She decided she wanted to also help smaller groups so she
has 1 album that changes every few months (from not for profit causes she
finds on fb). Currently she is helping Asppired Ltd.

We love your cause as we used to do special needs teens fostercare (crisis
care) until Jill was 2.
We are in the middle stages of being foster parents again for babies (0-9
mths) for emergency/crisis care.


(we love you too Jilly! and Mummy of course)


You can read more about Jill here:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Super EASY Brownies! Recipe by Richelle

Super EASY  Brownies
These are super easy to make and a favorite in our household with everyone!

You need:
125g butter
125g chocolate
1 1/2 cups castor sugar (normal white sugar is fine)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup walnuts (optional)
icing sugar to dust

1) Melt butter and choc together
2) Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla
3) Add choc /butter mixture
4) Add sifted flour, cocoa and nuts (I don't sift my flour because I’m too lazy and don't want any extra dishes)
5) Pour into a greased & lined tin
6) Cook in a preheated oven @ 180 degrees for 40min
7) Allow to cool in tin, cut into squares, dust with icing sugar and demolish!

My notes:
·         I use block chocolate or choc drops/buds, milk or dark, it’s good for whatever you have avail.
·         I melt my chocolate in the microwave... you want soft choc that will go smooth when you stir it! Do NOT keeping heating it until you get liquid everything as the chocolate will most likely go yuck! I do mine for just 1 minute in a pyrex (glass) jug.
·         I use castor sugar or white sugar – both work well!
·         I rarely add the nuts, mainly due to the little mouths in our household (under 2yo’s should not have nuts)
·         And most importantly, the beauty of this recipe is if it's not cooked enough, you have gooey brownies, if it's cooked a bit too long, it's more like a slice... So long as it’s not running out the tray or blackened, it’s going to be YUMMO! 

Enjoy :)
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