Suicide

 

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My mind keeps slipping to dark places.  Why?  It has been globally reported and each time I search for an update – to seek out the why, I see the images, replay the memories – the time of knowing the living life, an enormous life of wife, family and parents – dear sweet elderly parents, still living.  A life of substantial achievement, opportunity, adventure and purpose beyond the comprehension of those of us more ordinary.  So, why?

My closed eyes see her bouncy beauty, enduring elegance – mother, wife, friend and a woman of faith.  Where is she tonight and how can she possibly be able to draw breath with a heart that has been pulverized.  Her story of dedication, care and support altered into an existence Continue reading “Suicide”

The Gift

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Recently I have been bestowed the most treasured gift that I could ever wish for – words.  I write because I love words, love writing with them, reading them, making up stories in my head with them, thinking about them but most of all I love receiving them. Especially when they are completely unexpected – what a true gift!

I received the unanticipated treasure from my husband’s Dad, Henry Alexander Caughey (always known and adored as Harry) who sadly passed to heaven on the first day of February, 2017.  Over thirty-five years I have written letters to my family, my husband’s family and dear friends.  Long before email and of course text message, I actually used to handwrite letters and cards.

My surprise was not only that Harry had held on to all or some of the letters, it was the magical experience of discovering that he had written a message on one of my letters, long stored in his beautiful wooden writing desk to be discovered after his passing.  The sentiment was simply beautiful.

I wanted to share a letter I sent to Harry when he was in his final year.  It was not handwritten as it took a very long time to draft, and many tears as I knew I was writing my final letter to Harry and deeply thinking of my own sweet Dad who had passed six years previous.

Dear Harry,

There have been important men in my life, my fabulous brothers, relatives by family and marriage, a few colleagues and a few select number of men I would name as friends.  Only four men, the four most impactful and dearest of men to me would I say that the term ‘important’ does not near enough convey the place in my heart and life that they hold.  They are my father Alex, my husband Shane, my son Harry and you, Harry.

My father held himself to the highest standard of human integrity and honesty that is possible.  He came from the poorest of backgrounds and yet money meant nothing to my father except in the sense of its essential nature to support his family.  He was beyond generous but never a fool.  His word was a given – always.  I am only beginning to understand how much of who he was as a man, husband and father was because of the fabric of his heritage.  I am very proud to be his daughter.

It would take pages and pages to tell you of the impact of Shane on my life.  There has not been a single day I have doubted his love, integrity and commitment.  A deeply private man who demonstrates his love of me and our children to his very core everyday in a thousand ways.  He is a clever man who has achieved a great deal, but only I can tell you Harry – he is a great man who has never wavered from being the finest husband and father that you could ever want of him.

My Harry, a man I know – but in many ways the boy of my heart and because I had just one son – I can freely love him as my boy, my best boy, my favourite boy and can never think of him without smiling and feeling that physical warming of my heart.  He is outstanding and for me packages up such good character with much of it coming from Alex and Shane and you.

Now Harry – you.  I always think of you with love, gratitude and thankfulness.  I am thankful for the man you produced in Shane.  There are too many attributes to name (even following AFL…it gives him such pleasure – ‘most’ of the time). 

You showed him how to be a man of character and purpose, with strength of will, impeccable morals, unflinching loyalty and worthy of trust.  He got it from you – thank you so dearly.

He did however, inherit a few other traits also – lost wallets, misplaced glasses, missing car keys, lateness (usually doing a good deed somewhere) – thanks for that too!

Harry – you welcomed me to your family without judgement and with an open heart – thank you.  You never interfered, but you were always willing to give honest advice when asked – thank you.  You are great fun and the best company.  I have seen you bear the weight of immense popularity at times but you always managed to spread yourself evenly somehow.  Thank you.

I am truly blessed to have such heroes of men to be in the most pivotal of roles in my life.  I wanted to put down some words to share with you – to show you my thankfulness for your loving part in my life.  To thank you for Shane and for my Harry.  You and my Dad are very similar in many ways and this is the biggest compliment I can pay you Harry.

Thank you for the wonderful, caring, cheeky, entertaining old boy that you are Harry Caughey.  XX xxx

Harry left me a message on a letter I wrote to him about the naming of our son – Henry Alexander Caughey born in March, 1992 and named after his grandfather (Poppy). Henry was not a popular name at the time and Harry was not the ‘hot’ name that it is today.  There had been a naming tradition in the family which had slipped in this generation so that when my husband told me that his deepest wish would be to name his son after his father, in my heart there simply was no decision to make.  Honestly, I too was not keen on the name ‘Henry’ – Jack, would have been my choice and when I was pregnant with number three I felt for sure I would soon be out and about with Harry and Jack, the Caughey boys.  My little family colluded and convinced me of a collie pup they were already referring to as Jack.  By the way, our third was a girl, confirmed early on by scan although I was convinced it was incorrect and I had a little ‘Jack’.  Though she is as beautiful and feminine looking as her big sister – she hated ballet and piano, could beat the boys at soccer and barreled through childhood never far from her brother.

Those words, that little message are a magnificent gift and legacy that I shall pass on to my Harry.  I too shall write on the letter and keep it safe for him for when the time comes. Hopefully, he will be a much older man with his own growing family and will more deeply cherish its significance.

This inspires me to remember to send more words, deeply loving thoughts to be shared.

It has never been quicker or easier to send sweet words – have you ever had beautiful words come to you in an unforeseen manner and will you leave words as treasures, gifts and legacy?

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$5 Education

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In 1984, George Ansell was the senior studies co-ordinator at the TAFE college in Townsville in far north Queensland.  He was a highly qualified accountant who had relocated from South Africa bringing his family to Australia and remains the finest teacher I have encountered in thirty years of education.

My path crossed with George all too fleetingly when in his co-ordinator role my application landed on his desk – as I had applied without including the $5 fee.  I had assumed that I would be able to pay on arrival as in 1984 there were no methods that I could access to pay an amount of money, 800 miles away.  As the enrollment deadline was pending George Ansell paid the $5 fee from his own pocket.  I recall receiving my documents with a little hand written note attached saying as such with no hint that I should pay when I arrived.  As though that was not wonderful enough, I was further blessed to have George as my teacher for a year of rigorous accounting studies.

This two-year course was streamlined into just two semesters over one year and with no assignment assessment was graded with two-three hour exams with a one hour break between exams.  The sealed tests were forwarded for external marking to the Queensland Board of Studies.  Students waited for close to three months for the results but when they arrived I had a near perfect score.  This result would not have been achieved except for the dedicated, committed and talented teaching from George and the selfless deed of paying an enrollment fee for a name on a piece of paper.

I did work hard that year.  I took senior economics, english and modern history which were all exam based only and marked externally.  All courses were by requirement two years of curriculum condensed into one year of teaching with all content covered assessed in split six-hour examinations.  Though set over two weeks, three of my exams fell on consecutive days.  Graduate and Post Graduate studies never felt unmanageable after that year!  George also received the results of all students and could not have been prouder of the achievements.

Touch n Go life had begun and four years later after completing the last three-year teaching qualification to be offered at the Teacher’s College which then amalgamated with the university, I left Townsville moving to the southern end of the state due to an Army posting.  Here I began my first teaching job at Wilston State School.  This beautiful school was my home for the next four years, my classroom next to the remarkable Special Education teacher Bobbie, my first year mentored by fabulous Molly in her final year and all those wonderful 8 years olds who taught me as I taught them.  I loved every minute of it!  My first kids are now heading towards forty years in age!  In the staffroom a teacher told me, “You must have done exceedingly well to get into Wilston.”  By then I knew that this government school was the choice for the Australian Cricket Captain’s children (Greg Chappell) who was kind enough to do some cricket clinics with my kids! Show and tell was a heart valve one day – Dad the most revered heart surgeon in Australia at that time.  It was a positive, achieving culture and certainly a privileged landing for a first year teacher.

I did graduate with distinction which was awarded only to students with a perfect distinction award for the final eight week teaching practicum and grade point average during the three years no less than distinction but mostly high distinction.  I was one of 7 students awarded that year with a cohort around 170.  Though no written policy existed, it was understood that these graduates would be offered placement in the state system first.  Wilson could afford to be picky and I was a source of curiosity coming in from far North Queensland.  They were terrific years with supportive colleagues, good administrators, fantastic kids and well-meaning if not extraordinarily ambitious parents.

I thought of George and wanted to let him know how his $5 investment had turned out. When I returned to Townsville in 1994 I discovered he had retired from teaching and was a minister.  As our family had grown and with two small ones and Miss number three on the way, thoughts of George faded for some time.

With a year of maternity leave (non paid for QLD teachers then – of course!) pending I saw the pilot part time Masters and Guidance and Counseling course advertisement for teacher candidates and crazily applied.  I still thought of myself as a newbie and was chuffed and terrified when I made it to interview.  The panel of three which had me shaking inside soon became friends and colleagues.  The next twelve months were Master of Education (Guidance and Counseling) studies on campus, training workshops for GOITs…Guidance Officers in Training…new borne Annie with me at most and then my school called to ask if I would consider returning early for a one day a week position. The year 7s consisted mainly of my former year 5s and there were major issues.  Yes, I did it.  Yes, I loved it.  Yes, I was crazy.  This was a tough school and home life was not always easy for kids.  There are times when deep down  you know you made a difference and I believe for me, it was usually in tough schools.

I had not forgotten George and found myself near to where his church was located.  On the spur of the moment I called in and found administration.  George was not well and no longer ministering.  Whilst I really wanted to contact him, I was young and did not realize that he and his family would most likely have welcomed me.  I felt I did not want to intrude and thus time passed, we moved on again and George became a fond memory.

So to my teacher George –

Thank you so much, I did really well on those senior exams and received a first round offer into my course of choice.

Thanks heaps George as I loved teaching and completed my Masters and qualified as a Guidance Officer back when they even trusted us to administer the WISC and the Stanford Binet.

I taught in primary in QLD, NSW and ACT.  I did some casual teaching in secondary. These schools were government, Catholic and Independent.  George, they all had their merits and I am proud to have such a diverse education legacy.

So George, I taught Foundations of Education Psychology in Hawaii, USA and I have never studied harder in my life to keep pace!  I also assessed student teachers across Hawaii and introduced a written reporting system to the University and School Principals (based loosely on my guidance training and reporting).

George, I tutored at UC in an indigenous program and made a world of difference for quite a few young people and in particular a talented young boxer – teaching, it just does not get better than this!

And George, my final year was spent at one of the finest schools I could ever hope to contribute to. Teaching the IB was a highlight of my career – and guess what George, I finished where I started with year 3.  Always my heart!

I know I cannot tell you all this now.  You were 60 something when I arrived in your class at 22.  But George, I wanted to let you know how your five bucks turned out.

Thank you does not cover it.  Oh and George, if I did not pay that $5 back…and I sure hope I did…but if not, I know you helped me pay it back in Education.

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Happy Day of Birth Mum

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When I started this blog, I cited one of the main reasons as legacy – looking back for the benefit of looking forward.  For many years now I have particularly and deeply thought about my mother on my birthday.  Next month will mark seven years since my Mum died in palliative care in Brisbane.  I shared fifty years with Mum, those baby ones that I don’t recall, snippets of early childhood then a whole mash of memories and feelings which make up a life.

My birthday is the sixth day of September.  It was a home birth with a midwife in attendance at 848 Argyle Street in Glasgow, Scotland.  Incredibly, this was the common practise of the era.  If a woman’s first hospital delivery was without complications, subsequent births would be at home with the midwife in attendance.  Fathers were not present in the birthing room.  Certainly during those tough years in Glasgow, men were not necessarily able to leave work nor be in communication with the home.  Childbirth was a women’s domain.  I do know that my father was home given the early morning hour I made my entrance.  More than once my mother told me the story of how the progressive midwife called my father into the room and passed me to him fresh from the state of birth.  He did not receive a cleaned, sweetly wrapped baby girl!  When I was younger I was embarrassed by this, when I was older I wished I had asked my father what that was like for him.

I didn’t always think about Mum on my birthday.  Most of my birthdays were thinking about me – what would I get? What kind of cake would there be?  We did not have parties though there was always something a bit special about dinner and a cake from the fabulous cake shop at Annerley.  Just walking into this family run shop was a treat. Butterfly cakes with real cream and a dot of strawberry jam, buttery slices and trays of beautifully crafted cakes tempting locals from behind the spotless glass counter.  The cake shop only changed hands when the owners became too elderly to run it.  It turned into a ‘hot bread’ shop with sad looking mass produced buns and donuts.

Last night when I awoke after midnight, I did think of Mum.  I was trying to imagine how she must have been feeling fifty-seven years ago in labour with baby number four. My Mum was just twenty-five.  In the house that night my siblings would have been fast asleep.  My sister was five, my big brothers four and two.  In another hour my Mum would be recovering from birth with a new born and three little ones to look after.  At twenty-five I was in my second year of a teaching degree, working part time in the cash office at Target (back in the days where we would collect the cash from the registers – easily counting and banking tens of thousands of dollars on a busy Saturday morning when the stores closed at noon) and living nearly eight hundred miles from Mum and Dad’s home.  We were in our third year of marriage, we had a dog, hosted dinner parties that went into the wee hours and were not even close to thinking of having one baby, let alone a house load of kids!  My Mum had endless energy and could never leave a job undone though I must imagine that she would have had moments when she wondered how long it would be until we all grew up.

So today Mum is on my mind.  I have missed her for seven years and before that I lived a life that took me miles and continents away from her.  She was not perfect my Mum, nor am I – who is?  Mum was a softie, could be talked into most things, never ever set out to upset anyone or be hurtful.  She was clever but uneducated and nursed that missed opportunity with regret.  My Mum knew better than anyone how to have a roaring good time.  She was a fabulous dancer and as a young woman lived for the Friday night dance at the Palais in Scotland.  Mum sang beautifully, whether peeling potatoes or sitting on my Dad’s lap with a rowdy bunch of Scots at the Caledonian Club. She was happiest in the garden and grew marigolds.  Mum never complained about weeding and after three kids myself I discovered that if you are out in the garden weeding – everyone tends to leave you in peace!  I think Mum knew that too!

It’s my birthday Mum and I am thinking about you.  I’m not sad Mum though I miss you so much.  I’m just truly glad that I have so many stories and memories to put my mind on.  I know I am blessed to have those.  So thanks Mum, thanks for my birthday and Mum, happy day of my birth.

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The Good, The Bad and The Acknowledged

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I have just finished writing a brief letter to the manager of my local supermarket. Interestingly we have two of the major players in our small shopping centre.  When we first arrived earlier this year we tended to divide our dollars between the two in order to support the employment of staff at both stores.

Over time though we have found ourselves more drawn to one of the stores because the customer service is more attentive, cheery and competent.  Family members have verified independently that there is a distinct difference between the customer service at the stores.

Like many of us, I can be quick to complain when things are not right, lacking or mistakes are made.  Over the years I have tried to make time to give positive feedback when it is warranted.  Admittedly, not often enough.

My letter to the manager has taken just mere minutes and I have pointed out that the customer service is friendly and seamless.  It strikes me that the training of staff must be exceedingly competent and customer focussed – a person or several people are doing a really good job of developing an effective service culture and I want to acknowledge their efforts.

I will provide a copy of my letter to the manager of the other store.  Whilst yesterday I huffed out of there after some snippy service thinking – that’s it, I’m not coming back here anymore.  Today I have decided that perhaps reading my thoughts on the shopping experience with great service just 20 steps down the mall may provide the constructive feedback I feel this team needs without taking aim at individuals.

It’s a small thing to do – acknowledge the good but do not accept the substandard in silence.  Do both!

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Where Is Your Happy Place?

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When I consider this beautiful beach location which overlooks an island of which a large portion is uninhabited national park and forestry plantations, I define ‘happy’ as the contentment I feel along this stretch, how fortunate I am to live here and the sheer pleasure a simple walk beside this beach brings.  The stunning passage between the island and the mainland is a protected marine park.  It is possible on the stand up paddle to see an amazing array of fish but this water corridor is also home to dugongs, turtles and dolphins.

I believe that connectedness seeps into our soul allowing us to feel whether a situation is right for us or not.  We must however, be open to the message our souls may be sending.  How often have we heard a friend, relative or indeed ourselves declare how a certain house had a feeling about it the moment we walked through the door.  Real estate agents can never explain the phenomenon to potential buyers but they silently wish for it!

Some places just feel right and though I have not lived here for even a year, this little quiet patch is very much my match!  Though it’s not just my happy place because it is beautiful, or I have shared walks, kayaking, paddling and fish and chip suppers here with my family.  It has also been a place I have been pulled to in times of deep sadness, family loss and a cooling off spot when domestic bliss needs a breather.

There is a new pup in the family, still weeks from final vaccinations and clearance to romp out into the big wide world.  I have a child like impatience waiting to introduce him to this place in particular.

I have already informed ‘His Majesty’ (a family term of endearment for Mr Husband and Father) that they are to take my ashes out on to the passage at sunset, scatter when ready and toast with champagne – and make sure it’s the real stuff and out of glasses not plastic!

Where is your special place?  Perhaps it is yet to be found and felt?

 

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Puppy Tales

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!Es otro cuento largo!  It’s a long story! His name is Pendles – not the easiest name on the tongue, though I can see he should grow into it.  I am well-informed by our resident expert on all things Collingwood that the name, inspired by Captain Scott Pendlebury is given not just for the footballer’s immense sporting prowess but most importantly for the respectful, fair, gracious and well liked man who the ‘real’ Pendles is!  There’s also an incident about bouncing a ball on a pigeon and still coming up with perfection that apparently added to the weight of naming this baby border collie – Pendles.

He is a coast boy like our dear Jack and though it is ridiculous, there is a smidge part of me that likes to dream that they have a related thread.  Though we are definite about not comparing, as Jack was our dog of 15 years – a kelpie collie cross with the look of a handsome black and white wonder but the slightly smaller frame and increased agility of the kelpie.  We all swore that boy knew every word we said – he was certainly smart and never failed to be excited and waiting for his run with the all things Collingwood tragic.

Our Noosa boy Jack supposedly fell from a ute – he was such a delightful dog when he came to us at around six months via the Noosa RSPCA (we’ll just look they told me…tell Mum you’ll call him Jack, then she’ll say yes he told the three kids who would happily have stayed behind in the cage with him – had I not relented).  Jack came to us with complete manners, a delight of an animal so perhaps someone really had lost their magnificent pup.  Well, we loved him for the next decade and a half and all in all he had a good life – not rounding up sheep which this clever boy would have easily excelled at but rounding us up and seeing three youngsters into their teens and independent adulthood.

Now Pendles – my name choice was Chewy and at present he is well fulfilling that would be name! Pendles is likewise a coast boy, not Noosa but Rosemount.  (We’ll just look I told him!) From a litter of twelve, five boys and seven girls he was the last boy to be selected.  (Waiting for us, I say!)  I have no idea how good those other little boys are being but our fella howled pretty much non stop on the first two nights!  It would be dishonest to say that the thought that we might have made a grand mistake did not enter my fogged out brain during those wee hours.  On day two we abandoned the expensive doggy pen (which he hated) and introduced him to the side yard (enormous and safe) and family peace has ensued since!

He is a delight.  He is exhausting.  He is adorable and regularly frustrating.  I believe he could be far naughtier and for us, number 5 is a very lucky number.  The sweet pup can play on his own, prefers to be where ever we are – especially where ever Mr ‘Go The Pies’ is situated.  Pendles is joy, fun and light, providing endless pleasure.  Walking him daily is a feat as his attention span is well, comparable to frozen peas just at the moment.  It is delightful to see his interest sparked by a passing leaf, a feeding wallaby on the golf course and then the fascinating lady on her patio who adored his little sit down and refusal to walk until he had one jolly long look at her!

He pops his lead in his mouth to go for a walk and I silently hope that he never gives up that puppy habit – it is so darned cute.  Although supposedly confined to the garden until the full round of vaccinations have been administered in a month – the carefully planned walk takes us down the middle of our neighborhood street where no doggie friends have peed or pooed! On Thursday we start a round of puppy training with no doubt an emphasis on training the pet owners rather than the puppies.  Presently he is a little wary of other dogs and should one pass, even at distance, he sits on his furry bottom and refuses to move.  He is not timid but incredibly curious and watchful.  Roll on Thursday and we shall see if that remains so!

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