Staying Soft in A Hard World

Thursday afternoon school pick up started as usual, Noah played on the playground while we waited for Kiara to finish school.

Then thisnews story  http://au.news.yahoo.com/latest/a/-/latest/18708796/cairns-gunmen-sighting-scares-kids/ developed, forcing the parents and students into “lock down” at the time in which the school bell would usually be ringing.

We hid under desks in the darkened, locked classroom for over 45 minutes, with the lock down siren blaring the whole time, and getting updates every 10 minutes over the school loud speaker.

When the police gave permission, we were all allowed to go.

The gunmen did not venture anywhere near the school, our school, along with other schools and businesses were put in lock down as a precaution, yet for hours afterwards I could feel my heart beating so loudly in my chest, and my nerves felt very shaken.

For days afterwards I felt as though tears were constantly threatening to spill from my eyes, and I found it really hard to articulate why, especially since others who went through the same thing seemed to be calm about it and moving on with their lives.

Then I realized what it was that got me feeling like this.

It was seeing my little girl huddled in a ball under her desk, giving me a feeble smile when I walked in.

It was watching my son’s wide eyes as he wanted to know what was going on.

It was the little girl in Kiara’s class who would let out sobs every now and then, and had a face white with fear.

It was the confident student teacher who came in for placement a few weeks ago, and choose Thursday to come back and visit this class, only this time she was huddled in a ball, looking absolutely terrified.

It was leaving the school at last and seeing a young boy whom had almost outgrown his Mum in height, absolutely sobbing in his Mums arms, and seeing his Mum holding back her tears at the same time.

It was answering my kids questions about the gunmen, and lying to them that they had been arrested, when in fact they hadn’t, purely because I did not want them to fear anymore.

It was the fact that although we live in a part of the world that many people only dream of visiting, although we feel safe as we walk our kids to the park, or play with them in the front yard, you can never ever really say that you are 100% safe in any place.

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It was thinking of all those darling little kids and teachers whom have gone through school lock downs that have not had such a happy ending.

It was imagining what it must be like for some people in various parts of the world who have to live in fear every, single day.

It was the fact that my son has since had nightmares about gunmen, and that the kids at a birthday party we attended yesterday were role playing that a gunman was on the loose and they had to have a lock down.

Their pretend screams sent shivers up my spine.

Then I saw this picture on the internet.

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I have seen it before, I love this quote, and I think it was just what I needed to see at that point in time.

When our kids practiced the Lock Down drill last year- (something I never even knew about when I went to school), a few of them were scared even in the practice, it was something we as parents imagined they would never have to use, and hope they never will have to use again.

I spent my time focusing on all the fear the whole situation instilled into these little people, but then I took the time to think of the great moments I also viewed.

I saw a group of 6 and 7 year old’s pool together their left overs from lunch and share with each other.

I saw my daughter passing her drink bottle around to those who were thirsty.

I saw a lovely girl crawl under the table with Noah and read him book after book.

I saw classmates cuddle their friend whom was very upset.

I saw a group of little people come together in a scary situation, and remain brave and calm, and beautiful.

I witnessed staff and teachers at the school put their own fears aside to look after the well being of their students.

I felt part of a community, that are there to look after each other when things get tough.

The tears are still threatening to fall at times, at moments when I catch myself thinking too much.

I’m not being naive or melodramatic, I know there was no moment of almost dying that day.

The thing I feared more than anything, was that somehow this whole thing would make innocent little kids start to believe that they live in a really horrible world.

And while there are some horrible people and horrible things that happen in this world.

It is not all hard.

We just have to remind ourselves of the soft parts.

 

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Sparkles

As many of you know, my family and I have been fostering  rescue cats through  North Queensland Animal Rescue  for a little while now.

All up, we have fostered a total of 10 cats now, and it has been a truly rewarding experience for our entire family.

It is also very ironic that before fostering cats, I had never ever owned one, to be honest, I actually thought cats hated me!

February this year one of our foster cats was delivered to us.

She had been found wandering the streets, and once more research had been done, we realized that she had been missing for 6 weeks, being fed by lovely people in a nearby old peoples home.

She shot out of her cat carrier the moment she arrived,  running to hide in the darkness under Kiara’s bed. Whenever anyone came near, she would howl in fear and visibly shake. There was even a very cranky hiss to be heard at times.

Though I wasn’t ever scared of her, I could tell the poor thing was just so frightened.

It was our daughters turn to name a cat, so she choose “Sparkles”

Hiding in our bathtub

Hiding in our bathtub

It took forever to gain her trust, and still for weeks she would hide away.

That serious look never left her face.

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Then slowly she got a bit more used to us, allowing an occasional pat, but any sharp movements would have her sprinting off scared.

I did all I could to show her I could be trusted, and to help her feel safe.

I made sure she had easily accessible hiding spots, and I would talk to her in a soft soothing voice.

Slowly, we got there, though some days I felt it was one step forward, two steps back.

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She started to come out of hiding more often, however, whenever someone other than family came over, she could not be found again.

I also was afraid to admit, but I was falling in love, and hard.

A few people showed interest in Sparkles, but the moment they would come, she would run off again, sometimes just crying loudly from her spot, and being visibly shaken for hours to come.

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In July, Jamie made the executive decision and suggested we adopt Sparkles, neither of us could see her easily transferring to yet another new home when it had taken 5 months of hard work for us to gain her trust.

For a while I really thought her name did not suit her, many people would say

“Sparkles is not really very “Sparkly” is she?”

Now I realize it suits her to a tee.

We were fortunate enough to watch an amazing transformation.

We were lucky enough to watch a scared little kitty turn into a lovely,trusting cat.

I think we got to witness the wonderful.

We got to witness Sparkles Shine.

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Then it was real!

We owned our first cat!

My Sparkles and I

My Sparkles and I

Jamie chuckles to himself quite often when Spakles runs after me in the house, or when she jumps on my lap as we watch tv, she has also taken to sleeping at my feet every night.

“To think you used to think cats hate you” he says

“That one is in love with you”

I proudly reply back

“And I am in love with her”

How can you not love a cat who makes a pile of laundry look glam?!

How can you not love a cat who makes a pile of laundry look glam?!

A little broken

I believe that we are all a little bit broken, every single one of us.

We all have strength that we have gained through the most hardest of challenges or life experiences.

The only problem is that our cracks are  mostly invisable to those on the outside.

A majority of the time we all go about our daily business and the broken parts of our hearts, minds and souls do not hider us.

Other times they disable us in ways we cannot explain or make others understand.

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For those of you whom have followed my blog for a while, you will remember what a difficult and challenging year last year was for my family and I.

I tried to sit down in a brief break from office work the other day to articulate exactly what we all went through and where we are now.

It was going to be a post of celebration, of moving on and showing strength in times of trouble.

I wrote and rewrote the post three times.

Tears streamed down my face, memories came back to the surface, and in the end the whole situation just drained me more than I like to admit.

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The events of last year led me to having a mental meltdown and eventally being diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression.

The mere process of getting out of bed in the morning felt like the most challenging task.

I had anxiety attacks which  disabled me and frightened me more than I could ever imagine.

I was medicated, had therapy and forced myself to be much more gentle on me.

The  whole recovery process was much longer than I could have anticpated and in the mean time I was presented with other, annoying and disturbing health concerns.

Only now I realize that Anxiety and Depression are not anything you can ever say you have recovered from 100%, they share your life, even if just by being in the back of your mind, or you may have a bad day and think

“here we go again”

For a long time I would often find myself on a floor somewhere, collapsed from the pressure I was feeling inside, more than once this happened at work, where my husband was thankfully Manager at the time.

For a long time it hurt to smile.

Many friends and family shone like bright little stars of hope as they sent me messages of courage and hope and surrounded me with love.

Sadly the moment I was at my weakest also became a time others choose to use me as an emotional punching bag, dumping piles of hate on me.

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Just when I thought I was getting strong, the haters would get me down.

Slowly, over time, their words and venom did not cut me like they used to, they did not leave me paralysed, and I am proud of that.

Unfortunately, as with any trauma, the hurt does leave some scaring behind, and that really takes some time and kindness to heal.

A year on I am so much more stronger, and I am so happy about that.

I think I really wanted to write this post now to send out some love to anyone else going through a tough time, as I know there is a lot of you.

I want you to know that you are not alone.

I want you to lean on those who love you.

It is ok to vent, to talk, to say to others “I need help”, or “give me a moment please”.

I really want to make sure that you do not put yourself down throughout this.

Breaking down is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of being strong for far too long.

Remind yourself when those voices in your head tear you apart.

Remind yourself that you are one remarkable human being.

Be proud of who you are, and how far you have come, even if that is merely that today you smiled and your heart did not hurt in doing so.

I remember a little over a year ago, a lovely lady named Leigh posted a gorgeous quote on my Facebook page.

I have searched and searched the net, but cannot find the exact words, however it said something like this:

“One day you will get through this, and you will look back and be so proud of how far you have come.”

And I did get through the rocky parts, and life has thrown more things my way, but for the last year I constantly thought of that quote.

So today I send it out there for anyone else having a rough time.

You will get through this, it may seem hard right now.

But one day, you will look back and be so very proud of how far you have traveled.

Just promise me one thing please.

Be kind on yourself xoxo

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Kiki Koala

7 years ago life was full on with a little baby girl.

A little insomniac, colicky baby girl.

We named her Kiara, we had a few names to choose from, but when we uttered the name “Kiara” to her when she was freshly in our arms, she blinked.

To this day, and forever, we will tell her that she choose her name.

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On one of the many days that I was pacing the house attempting to calm my little screaming, overtired, upset girl, I found myself whispering “come on Kiki, it is all ok”

By the time my husband returned home, the name Kiki had stuck, and from that day forward, our little girl had a nickname.

Sometimes I found myself calling her “Kiki Koala”, after all, the cuddly Koala is  my all time favorite animal, and my little Kiki sure clung onto us like a Koala.

A friend overheard the new nickname and asked if I had heard of the Australian teddy, also named Kiki Koala.

I hadn’t, and as I was attempting to find something/ anything to help my now 6 month old sleep, and had also read that a baby can sometimes be comforted by their own teddy or blankie, I was desperate to see if I could find a said Kiki Koala in our town.

Turns out a soviner shop stocked them, and I raced in to purchase this beautiful, soft, pink Koala teddy.

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I hoped and prayed it would help in some way with the sleeping of my little Kiki.

It really didn’t help in that department, (though you wouldn’t tell by the photo above!)  but it was obvious that she liked this lovely new toy of hers.

image (3)Kiki Koala came on family holidays, outings, trips in the car.

She was hugged when Kiara felt sad, or tired, or hurt.

Before we knew it, Miss Kiara was a big sister to Noah, and Kiki Koala joined them on quiet movie days, or craft activities.

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As Miss Kiara grew, Kiki Koala faded with the many washes, and sagged a little more as time wore on.

She joined us camping, and on many other adventures.

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Everyone started calling Kiara “Kiki” too, friends, teachers, people who had just met her.

In fact, when a friend made her birthday cake, she didnt even ask, she just wrote “Kiki” on top.

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Kiara seemed to love Kiki Koala more and more each day if that was possible.

If she could not find Kiki at bed time, she would not go to bed until house wide search had found her.

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I love watching my big girl fast asleep cuddled up to her teddy.

She acts like she is all grown up, experimenting with jewelry and fashion, but I know she is still a little girl, my little girl who needs a teddy to hug up to at night, who will soothe her to sleep when she is tired, chase away those bad dreams and make her feel better when she is sick.

Kiki Koala was starting to look a bit old and tired.

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I searched the internet to find a new one.

The toy maker had gone out of business, and the new ones cost a fortune.

I left it for now.

Then this weekend something amazing happened.

We used our family locals pass to go to the zoo.

We enjoyed looking at all the amazing wildlife, including my favorite, the Koala’s

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Our Kiara had taken her wallet along with her, certain that there would be something in the zoo souvenir shop for her to spend the last of her birthday money on.

In we walked, and there we saw an amazing sight.

A Kiki Koala display, complete with various size and coloured teddies, books, pens, magnets, key rings, jewelry and more.

Squeals from my little girl left Japanese tourists looking around in alarm.

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She took time to look at each item, smiling with excitement the entire time.

In the end she choose a smaller Kiki Koala than her original and a necklace, bracelet and ring set.

We knew where to come back for Christmas pressies.

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Squeals and chatter of excitement came out of Kiara for the rest of the day. I knew she wasn’t just excited about finding a new “toy”. I know for her it was like finding a room filled with her old friend.

She even went to bed talking about how amazing it was to find a new Kiki Koala today.

I realized then that this little pink Koala has become so much more than a teddy over the past 7 years.

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It has been worn out and faded, the old one is a lot more rougher than the nice smooth new one, but Kiki Koala has become a friend, and a part of our family.

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Kiara got sauce on her new Kiki at lunch time, so she made her first trip to the wash and was still too wet at bedtime.

So old Kiki Koala took her routine spot, in her owners arms, ready to fight the nightmares, give the cuddles, and be there when my little girl wakes up in the morning, ready to face a new day.

Kiki Koala, I want to thank you.

For being more than a fluffy toy to my girl.

For filling her arms for years as she drifts to sleep.

For making her happy when she is sad.

For taking away the pain when she is hurt.

And most importantly, for being much more than any other teddy could be.

As I look through Kiaras photo albums, I see so many photos with you, this little pink Koala alongside her, facing life’s adventures together.

Thank you Kiki Koala for being one very special Koala, and most importantly, for being my little Kikis friend.