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The Dash

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

In the busy results-driven lives we all lead, when something doesn’t go to plan and life throws challenges at us, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the turmoil. Then those moments touch our lives that remind us what is really important. Most of my followers know that along with neuroscience, I specialised in developmental psychology. What you may not know, is what that actually means. Developmental psych isn’t just about the stages that children go through as they grow and learn; it’s about the changes that people go through, from the emotional to the cellular, from conception through to the end of their days. It’s life. Or as some call it, the dash. It’s not about a 100 metre sprint, but the part in-between the beginning and the end. On a tombstone, it seems like such an insignificant thing – a little line between two dates – but it represents something so precious. Featuring two wonderful artists this week… both the youngest and the oldest illustrators of Remember, I want to talk about it all – the lives we lead, the time we share and the development that occurs along the way.

In my first blog, I spoke about character… and how our experiences shape us as we grow and learn. As a writer, I am still in the ‘baby’ stage of my journey… still learning to crawl and wondering if I’ll ever make it out of nappies. But I’m not alone, and there are so many of us out there in different stages of our careers, finding our way in this crazy journey that is life. Talking about being at the beginning of a journey, without further ado, I’d like to introduce the youngest artist to submit an illustration to Remember, just 11 years old, Miss Taylah Barba. A vibrant and beautiful personality, you may recognise her from the cover reveal promo a few weeks ago. She loves her school, friends and family, her pets, and riding her bike. Her favourite things are unicorns, chocolate, sour lollies, thrill rides, dogs, cats, birds, and most other animals. Connected to her community, Taylah loves attending weekly art class, chess club, karate and playing the flute, and one day, much further in her journey than she is now, she hopes to become a police officer. She says that she is ‘…so excited to have my picture selected for this book!’

Some other people who are excited about being part of the Remember community, are the Goodna RSL Sub Branch Women's Auxiliary. Generously providing some financial support to assist with the book production, they do a lot of great work in the veteran community. They hold Bunnings sausage sizzles, run raffles, sell military merchandise, partake in the Jacaranda Festival, and run craft stalls. Then there’s their delicious home baking too. In the past couple of years they have raised funds to purchase a defibrillator for the Frank McGreevy Function Centre, and being animal lovers like young Taylah, they are currently raising funds for an Animals Lost in War Memorial at the centre. If you’d like to support these hardworking ladies, they’ll have some beautiful wares for sale at the Remember Book Launch BBQ. It could be a great chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping for the craft lovers in your life.

If your Christmas budget is a bit higher than that, you may want to have a look at the incredible work by Mr Glen Gillard. A veteran of six years in the regular army and doting Poppy to two adorable little girls, Glen’s journey as an artist involved a great deal of study and learning with various tutors, and an ongoing commitment to improve and develop his skills. Now a full-time artist, while taking time to spend with his lovely wife or tranquil garden, he paints across a range of themes including seascapes and still life, and his preferred mediums are oils, watercolour and pastel. With more than 20 solo exhibitions to his name, he has won dozens of first and second prizes for his stunning artworks and has been commissioned to paint numerous public murals. A historian at heart and fellow empathic creative, the tale behind his captivating illustration in Remember is incredibly moving. Like so many of the world’s greatest artists, he sees the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary, and always finds something beautiful in the world to immortalise onto canvas. Throughout his impressive life journey and many valuable contributions to the art and wider community, he holds a positive attitude and continues to work hard, ‘having much good work to accomplish.’ And all the while, he still revels in the cherished time to bottle feed a baby in his arms. An extremely kind man, my son was rapt at meeting him and seeing his incredible Brisbane studio. Glen is an inspiration to so many.

If we spend too much time getting caught up in the challenges we face, we can miss out on the joy. Every minute spent worrying is a minute that could have been spent working towards a solution and too often we think there’s more time. But the dash is all too short, as being later along on life’s journey teaches us, and it’s important to find the bliss in the little things. Be it a garden, a painting, or a moment with our loved ones. Through some defining turning points as well as those sometimes seemingly insignificant experiences, I’ve learnt that it’s important to say ‘no’ when I need to, because that means I can say ‘yes’ to what’s really important to me. I no longer say, ‘I wish I had time for that.’ I make time. Because the thing about the dash, and about life… is that it doesn’t go on forever. Like any story, it has a beginning, a middle, and at some point, an end. How we choose to spend the time that is gifted to us is what determines what our dash represents. It’s our actions that have impact in the world. I’m never too busy for that.

My gift of giving proceeds from Remember to veterans, is about more than just the money it will make… It’s about showing soldiers and veterans everywhere how much they matter. What a powerful action it is that people in the community want to stand together with me and say, ‘Yes this is hard work, but it’s nothing compared to your service’. It’s a special way to say ‘thank you’ to the men and women who stood in those heavy shoes for us. After reading the book, Mates 4 Mates, Community Ambassador Kevin Humphreys eloquently said, ‘What a gift; to walk a mile in our veterans’ shoes – the gift of empathy.’ I often say about my writing that they are my words, but their stories. Because of the life I’ve lived, and the high level of empathy my experiences have taught me, I was able to walk a mile and take readers on that adventure with me, to have a glimpse of what it was like. I think it’s so important that we all share our stories. To quote Morgan Harper Nichols, ‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’

That’s all I’m doing. Sharing stories about the mountains that I, and others, have climbed. Whether those mountains have been crawled, run, or walked. And at the start of my journey as a ‘baby’ writer, even if I do soil my big-girl-pants along the way, I know that every mistake is an opportunity to learn. There are much bigger things going on in the world. I’m not writing what’s popular or primed to be a best seller… just what is in my heart. To me, there are more valuable things in this world than what money can buy. And that’s the kind of wealth I hope to find along my journey. Stepping back from the busyness and challenges of life this week, several things happened that reinforced that lesson to me, that I want to share with you today, on the anniversary of what would have been my first daughters 4th birthday, had she made it into this world. A dear friend’s sister-in-law and mother of young children is suffering kidney failure, while another friend’s mother has just been diagnosed with stage four bone and lung cancer. These were a heartbreaking reminder of the fragility of life and the prearranged nature of the dash. We never know if we’ll have more time, so I hope we always remember to spend it wisely. May we always have the courage to compassionately say what’s on our minds to the people who need to hear our words of encouragement, love and support.

A couple of week ago I talked about our local heroes, and the people we spend time with shaping the people that we are. At my write-in a couple of days ago, with some other ‘baby’ writers Monica, Jayne, and Gemma, as well as Izzy and my own baby, Lucy, the quote made famous by Jim Rohn came to mind; ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ Five intelligent, compassionate souls, and more wisdom and university degrees between us than you could poke a stick at, made that morning a beautiful time investment, and a promising outlook for who I might become tomorrow. And not just me, but my children as well. I’m so grateful for all the early experiences they have in their lives, because of the everyday examples of people connecting and helping others. Their lives being shaped because of how the people around us choose to spend theirs.

Some time that I am certain is going to be well spent, will be during the Remember Book Launch Tour. Last week I promised I had some exciting news about it, and here it is…On Monday 28th October three of the illustrators will be joining me at Australia Zoo for a very special pre-launch celebration! If you’d like to come and say hi and talk about the book, our stories or yours, we’d love to see you there.

As you can imagine, I’m busy getting ready for the big event, as well as the official tour which kicks off on the 31st October. Aside from that, I’m also busy being a mum. Trying to give my incredible children at least half the life that my beautiful mum gave me. One of my favourite quotes by Oprah states that, ‘The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.’ Becoming who we are doesn’t happen instantaneously… it happens over time. One turning point, action, and experience after another each culminate to create the person that we are. With hard work, gradually, one baby step at a time, we grow. A bunch of great seconds well spent turn into minutes well spent, which become hours well spent, then days and weeks, and before we know it, months and years. Then one day, at the end of the dash, we’ll look back and smile, at a life well spent.

Today, I’ll be at the beach with my kids. We’ll take flowers to the waters edge, as we do every year on the day we recognise Elizabeth’s birthday, and we’ll build sandcastles, jump through the waves, and make the most of this precious day.

Thank you for sharing some of your treasured time with me today… a little part of the dash. For some, it might be a turning point, for others, an already learned aide-mémoire. For others still, ten minutes they’ll never get back again. It’s your adventure.

I hope it’s the grandest dash you can imagine.


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