The pointy end of the year

by Veronica Foale on December 17, 2014

in Children

I can hear my children screeching in their bedroom, intermingled shouts of laughter and DON’T DO THAT twining around each other until I want to scream just go the fuck to sleep, please god sleep.

Guilt twinges. In the wake of horror you’re meant to cherish your children because elsewhere in the world other people are mourning theirs, but I’m out of cherishment, out of patience. I want them to sleep, so for an hour, or maybe two, I can just sit here and be an adult with my husband. No screeching, or screaming, or attending to cries of bottle me mummy, I needa you, and he hurt me why can’t I have it it’s not fair my life is ruined.

In the cool light of a school morning everyone will regret not falling asleep earlier, except the toddler who will have spent a happy three hours trying to play with my face in the wee hours, falling asleep again forty five minutes before my alarm goes off.

It’s the pointy end of the year and we’re all tired.

The older kid’s screaming drags the toddler from her bed and I clench my teeth together determined not to shout. I’ve shouted too much lately.

But it does no good.

Laughter should not sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.

One child: query cerebral palsy; mild. One child: query generalised anxiety; food restricting; weight loss. One child: trapped in the chaos and fighting for attention.

No wonder we are tired.

Christmas is coming and I can’t wait; we need the long lazy days of summer when the heat presses us all against the floor, to lay there in puddles of sweat and fatigue, too hot to fight or scream or throw a forty minute tantrum when I say no dessert.

I’m still working the antidepressants out of my system, a system requiring them for pain relief, but who needs pain relief when it comes with a side of crippling depression? Antidepressants causing depression seems like a roundabout way of fucking everything up, but what do I know. Nothing of brain chemistry and how to make joints stop hurting when I really just have things to do.

It’s been six months and maybe I can write again.

The toddler shrieks again loudly and I am suddenly very grateful that the next baby born in this family won’t be mine, or need anything from me except the unconditional love of an aunt.

And so I write it all out while a child pats me on the stomach and seriously tells me a story about hurt knees.

I thought I’d forgotten how to do this.

We launched a business and for a while there, writing wasn’t the driving part of my day. Losing yourself in the swirl of soap and the science of cosmetics, it’s easy to forget to remove the words from your head as the days stretch long and you’re working working working.

I love it though, the chemistry and the science of it, I love the testing and the creation and the pride in a well made product. My job is so much fun, and then people give me money for things I have made. What kind of magic is this?

The very best kind, it turns out.

But I want to write again, need to write again. The softness of SSRI’s has worn away and life is bright and sharp again. A blessing and a curse.

The light fades and the house gets quieter. The big children have stopped screaming, finally worn out from a long day at school. The toddler is curled up against my side, a warm weight against me as she strokes my arms and drinks a bottle.

Tomorrow will be better, when the last day of school is done and the days are long and full of sunshine.

Tomorrow will be better.


Everything is a mess, but I think that’s okay.

by Veronica Foale on July 23, 2014

in Navelgazing

The house is a mess.

That’s where I’m at. It’s where I’m stuck. The house is a mess and I cannot function in this chaos.

I can hear my older children cackling maniacally in their bedroom. They’re meant to be asleep and it’s fingernails on a chalkboard.

They’re meant to be asleep and instead they’re in there laughing and throwing things. The house is a mess and the children aren’t sleeping and the TV is too loud and someone has lost the remote because the house is a mess.

It’s everything and nothing all at once.

Move through this space for long enough with stories so big you can’t tell them and you’ll find your words disappearing too, all the while the house is a mess and the children are too loud. Everything is too loud. Too hot, too cold, nothing is just right. I’m Goldilocks and everything is broken, ruined forever, or wrong.

I miss writing.

The baby turns two in less than a week and I wonder where that time has gone. Of course I wonder where the time has gone. I spend a lot of time wondering where my time has gone.

There’s 7 weeks until we launch our business and I don’t know where that time has gone either. I spend hours daydreaming about soap, oils, balms. I wonder where the line is between beneficial and therapeutic, how to label, where to advertise. I make, create, tweak, test, retry. I take notes. I am writing, but this isn’t writing. A book of recipes and notes isn’t writing.

Did I remember to jot down what happens when you add blue mica before the lye water? Did I remember? I don’t think I did. It turns green, in case you’re wondering. A beautiful sea green, but not the blue I was after.

I’m a soap maker now, but I’m a writer too, and I miss writing.

All my websites languish under the weight of stories not told. Of disability, and disadvantage. Stories of triumph and failure. Winning and losing. I’ve lost my thick hide, jabbed too many times in the soft places and I am all full of holes.

How do I tell stories now? How do I tell the truth when my truth brings out the witch hunters with their pyres and fires.

Witch, witch. Burn the witch.

I don’t know what I’m doing any more.

I miss writing.

I start antidepressants in the morning. Last time I couldn’t write on them. Now I can’t write anyway, so maybe they’ll change something. Maybe it will be better.

Who knows.




Twenty seven and desperate for help, I stepped from the office building, wrapping my jacket tightly around myself. The air was bitter, a sign of the winter to come. I began to walk, as quickly as I could. Twenty minutes to home, if I was lucky. If my foot held out. If I didn’t run into trouble.

The streets were dark and empty and I berated myself for not leaving sooner. Arguing a little longer hadn’t helped meĀ  anyway.

The wind whipped past me as I walked, finding every threadbare patch in my clothing.

Walk faster Lia. You’ll be warmer then. Ignore the pain.

I lied to myself, but what else could you do? There was no money for a bus, certainly no money for a taxi. Two children at home with my elderly parents, all hungry.

Mental inventory. There’s two potatoes, flour and some tins of corn. If I’m lucky, the animals won’t have discovered the new shoots and we’ll have greenery too.

We’d be okay, tonight.

Half way home the buildings started to fall apart. I ducked my head and tried to look invisible as I limped past, the pain in my foot increasing.

It wasn’t enough.

“Hey love!” The coarse shout rang out from behind me. “You want a good time? You look like you need a fuck.”

I walked faster wishing I could afford a gun to make this walk easier. But then I’d be just as bad as everyone else. Struggling to survive. Muggings at gunpoint. Rape. Worse.

If I just keep walking…

I pulled my head even deeper into the jacket, trying to shrink.

Footsteps behind me. A hand on my shoulder. He spun me around.

“Oh boy, you’re a looker too.”

“Let me go.” I snapped.

His fingers dug in deeper, harder. I tried not to wince.

“What’re you doing, limping round here at this time of night?” His voice was hard. A man protecting his turf from the danger of the crippled woman. “You looking for work, love?” He grinned at me. “I’ve got all the work you could want right here.” He grabbed his crotch.

I didn’t respond. I could still get out of this.

“I’d even pay you. How about that, love? You come over here for just a minute and you walk away twenty bucks richer.” His eyes roamed over my clothes. “You need the money, dontcha love.”

God forgive me, I considered it. Just for a moment. $20 could buy food for the week. We could eat. Survival prostitution. We all sell what we’ve got until there’s nothing left. How would this be any different?

Common sense kicked in. There wouldn’t be $20 at the end. Just a cold bleeding out on the frozen ground after he was done. I gritted my teeth, squared my shoulders and looked up at him.

“You don’t want me. I’m disabled.”

I hated it. I hated to say the words, but there they were. Truth, stark in the face of reality.

He snatched his hand back off my shoulder, looking at me, trying to find my problem. Sometimes it isn’t as visible, and thank god for that or I’d never have survived this long.

Three steps backwards, he looked me over again. I could see the gears turning in his head. The limp. The poverty. “You’re an abomination, woman,” he hissed “you should have died at birth. They should have taken you away.”

He turned away, disgusted.

I walked away, faster now, before he got together a gang to try and right the wrong my parents had committed in hiding me.

A warm living room in late Autumn. A woman screaming and straining on the floor, blankets and newsprint between her legs. A midwife crouches between her legs.

“Come on Imogene, just one more push. One more push and you’re done.”

A man sits behind her, whispering encouragement. A steady stream of positive energy.

You can do this, the baby is almost here, you’re strong, you can do this.

Another midwife in the corner wrings her hands, glancing at the mother to be. She’s too old, she thinks. She should never have fallen pregnant this late.

The woman screams, the sound torn from her as the baby emerges, as I emerge into the air, shouting my displeasure.

The room falls silent. The woman pushes herself up onto her elbows.

“What’s wrong? Give him to me. Give him here.” Desperation in her voice, she tries to sit up.

The midwives glance at each other.

“It’s a girl. And there’s a problem.”

The story goes, they bribed the midwives into silence. My birth is written as a death and I am hidden away while they try and fix the mistake nature has wrought with my legs. The twisting mess left behind by a fault somewhere along the way.

Not my fault, but I’m the one suffering anyway.

Nine months later, a faked pregnancy. They forge me a new birth certificate. My autumn birthday is turned into a summer celebration. Suddenly I exist, albeit my legs bundled tightly. Will I ever walk? Will this be the biggest mistake ever?

The charges for hiding a deformed child are harsh.

Is it worth it?

Twelve years old and I am sitting at my desk in school. The agony shot up my leg, making it hard to concentrate. My father was testing a new brace to try and strengthen my ankle.

Loose pants hide the bracing around my leg. I hate them. I hate myself. Why am I alive?

The lesson continues, drumming itself into my brain. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be the child who lived.

“Now class, a history lesson. Many years ago, women weren’t able to call on the Collectors to take a child who wasn’t whole. Women kept their children, no matter what happened.”

Mark, eleven years old with freckles, interjects: “But what did they do with them?”

The teacher shook her head sadly. “They tried to pretend they were normal children, with the chance to live.”

Suddenly I am screaming inside my head. “But I deserved a chance to live!”

The dual mental states of a child who should not exist: I demand to be here, I demand to survive, while simultaneously being told I shouldn’t exist.

I don’t say anything, my head down, breathing through the pain. My left leg had straightened easily. My right one, not so much.

“And what are the Collectors, children?”

Mary shouted from the front. “They’re there to Collect any problems nature gives us. Just like a baby bird without wings won’t survive in the wild, so should not a deformed child be allowed to live.”

Mary’s father was the Mayor. She knew all the rules. I hated her.

The teacher continued. “Many people throughout history exposed children who were deformed, making humanity stronger. There’s no room in a strong society for disability. Remember that children.”

My leg throbbed. I wondered if she was right. My mother called this brainwashing and promised I was perfect just as I was, but I didn’t believe her.

The bell rang and my class flowed outside for lunch. I limped after them. The teacher noticed, concerned.

“Are you okay Lia?”

I nod. Drummed into me my entire life. “I just twisted my ankle, Miss. It will be okay.”

She frowned. “You twist your ankle a lot, Lia.”

“My mother says I’m a clumsy child.” I lie, straight faced.

Nineteen and walking down the street with friends, their skirts swishing around their thighs. My limp is barely noticeable.

“Why don’t you wear skirts Lia?”

I shrugged. “I don’t like them much.”

They teased me for a minute. Did I have scars from being whipped as a naughty child. Did I have ugly knees? Had anyone ever seen me in a skirt?

I try to smile, but it’s hard. Society says I shouldn’t exist. I hide who I am.

There’s a group of activists I’ve heard about. Trying to change the perception of disability. It’s not working, but they try anyway. The Collectors are after them.

all for one
and one for all
until we stand against the wall

Society had become stricter. Firing squads. Children taken. A three year old who couldn’t talk was removed from my street last night. I could still hear his mother screaming.

The conversation flowed around me. I am a rock in the middle of the stream, here, but not a part of things.

I want to join the activists. I want to change the world.

The sun streams through my hair and I keep walking, down the street, safe in my perceived wholeness. Invisible in my disability.

Twenty five and watching my life fall apart before my eyes.

“I know you say you just sprained your ankle again Lia, but you’re always limping. It looks bad. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to let you go.”

Shock. “You’re firing me for spraining my ankle?”

“No. I’m firing you because you’re perpetually limping.” He lowered his voice. “I like you Lia. I don’t know what your problem is, but I suggest you hide it better. I’m sympathetic, but not many people are.”

Unspoken words. You’re not whole, you can’t stay, you make us look bad.

I leave. No job, no money, no way to feed the foundling children I worked to save. No social support.

Twenty eight and hiding in a basement, a candle in the middle of our group, the light flickering.

“We can’t keep going like this. We have to fight.”

I’m the only disabled person here, the only one left. My leg screams at me every day now.

Around me are parents who had their children removed.

“We have to make a stand. Disabled people are exactly like everyone else, you just have to give them a chance! Let them be part of society.”

The shouted whispers get louder. We can’t be found here, huddled and plotting.

“Things have to change. We used to support the poorest in our society, now we murder them.”

“You don’t know they’re murdered, Anna.”

Anna rounds on her. “They certainly don’t return to society when they’re all grown up, do they? Murdered. The lot of them.”

Her five year old had been taken six months ago after a virus left him a paraplegic. “No use to anyone” they said, and drove him away in their van while she screamed her throat raw.

The despair is thick. How far we’ve come. That an idealistic reform for The Good Of The Country could do so much damage. Could break people’s souls.

We used to support the weakest in our society.

Where did we go wrong?




How can I celebrate?

by Veronica Foale on January 26, 2014

in Poetry

How can I celebrate on this day,
this Australia day.

When the date marks the invasion of the land,
the rape, the pillage, the slavery.
How can I celebrate our sunburned country,
when we built it on the back
of such misery.

How can I celebrate?

When we treat our indigenous people,
like they ought to be grateful
for what we do to them.
Sit there and thank the white men,
for stealing your land, your children, your souls.
Your culture.
You’ve got McDonalds now,
and hey, progress right?

When we lock up refugees in places akin to concentration camps.
When we dehumanise and demonise anyone
who isn’t white and shouting
‘Straya cunt.

When the racism is so ingrained, people honestly believe
today is a day for equality.

It is not,
and I cannot celebrate.

For how can I,
when our government accidentally invades Indonesia,
and then says
Whoops, sorry mate, totes an accident.
We didn’t think you’d notice.
When we bully, and coerce, and push and strangle.

How can I celebrate?

When the flag so many have wrapped around their shoulders
makes me cringe,
with its message of patriotism and imperialism.
The sublte whisper of
kill the brown people, let them die, no one wants them, send them back.
A Union Jack on every corner,
God Save The Queen.

How can I be part of this,
when the shame of being Australian
eats at me, making my stomach roil.

I am disgusted,
At the things we do
in the name of this country.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Art, appreciation, and the teaching of children

by Veronica Foale on November 15, 2013

in Navelgazing

paintings on wall 002

My seven year old is beautiful, amazing and talented. I found a drawing hidden in her bedroom the other day; chalk on brown paper. It’s a duckling and I love it so much I pinned it to the wall next to my desk.

She draws things and screws them up into a little ball, lobbing them across the room to end up land mines of destroyed creativity, left for the baby to chew to pieces and for her to feel lesser, somehow.

Her imagination doesn’t match up to the skill of her fingers. Not yet, not yet.

I take the abandoned papers, smooth out their crinkled lines and point out that I really love her artwork. I tell her I’m proud of her, she has a talent, and drawing is a skill that you work at. I tell her of course her drawings don’t look like the ones in books, because she is seven and illustrators are much older than that, with years of practise. I want her to keep drawing, because it makes her so happy.

Raising children is touch and go. Encouragement and discipline. A mix of you’re amazing and keep trying because you’ll get there.

I was talking with my husband today, about encouragement, and children, and art. And suddenly I remembered my art teacher in Primary school telling me I had no talent for drawing and she didn’t know why I bothered.

I remembered having a sculpture I’d made out of clay screwed up in my face, while being told that it would never work and that I was no good.

Visceral reaction to a memory I didn’t realise I still had. My art teacher didn’t like me, and for years, I believed that I wasn’t any good at art, that I couldn’t draw, couldn’t paint, couldn’t art.

This is the power adults have over children. Turns out I’m still angry, about my sculpture, about the disillusionment that she instilled in me.

Children need encouraging in the things they enjoy, and we don’t give that enough. Flippant comments cut deeper than we realise.


For years, I stopped showing my mother my writing because she used to correct my spelling and grammar before encouraging me. I refused to let her read my homework. I didn’t bring my stories home. If I needed help with school work I went to my father, or my grandmother, who were softer critics. I was a sensitive snowflake and I couldn’t handle my mother at that stage. She wielded her red pen like a sword and she was very good at it.

Years later, I get my revenge. I hack her blog posts to bits sometimes, and put them back together, better. I am a good editor, and I learned at her feet. I write things for a living. Her red pen didn’t cut me down, although it felt like it at the time.

But I get my revenge, even as she still rings me to point out a single error in my writing.

“But did you like it?” I ask.

“Of course I liked it, but you need to fix this sentence that doesn’t work.”

She wants me to be better. I want to be better. I have thicker skin nowadays. But I didn’t then, and it was hard, and I hid myself from her.

I’m trying to be a softer parent. Walking between encouragement and teaching. My red pen is not a sword for my daughter. But then, maybe hers wasn’t when I was seven either. Maybe it all came later and it’s muddled up in my brain, a great timey wimey ball of yarn.

I remember sitting at the plastic covered desk, working on a sculpture of a fish. Smoothing and scaling and reforming the arches. I remember being proud of how it looked, of how it matched the picture inside my head. I remember the art teacher appearing over my shoulder, telling me I was no good. I remember her hands, reaching over to touch my work. Don’t touch my work. I remember her picking it up, as I watched, ten years old and fragile in my new found creativity, picking it up and crushing it into a ball. Destroying the last hour’s work, telling me I was no good.

I remade that sculpture, and gave it to my father for father’s day. It wasn’t as good as the original, and I never forgave the teacher. For the record, my parents loved the fish, and it’s still hanging in my parents house, if I remember correctly.

But it’s a poor imitation of what I started to do in the beginning.

As a writer, and an editor, I truly believe that sometimes tearing things apart and putting them back together is a good thing. Strip things down to their bones, hack out all the marrow and resculpt them into something new, something better.

Is that what my teacher was trying to do, when she reached over and took over?

My memory tells me no. I remember more than one time when she took the pen off me, took the paper, stole the paintbrush. I remember more stories of destruction than of creativity. Maybe my memory is flawed.

Maybe not.

My art teacher in Primary School was not a good teacher. She did not make me better with her criticism.

I looked her up on Facebook, earlier today. She’s not really on there, it seems. But neither is she an art teacher anymore. She’s moved on to real estate, which in my opinion, is a much safer place for her to practise her destructive tendencies.

Teaching children is a difficult thing. They’re fragile in your hands and it’s an honour to be allowed to shepherd them through to adulthood.

Don’t fuck it up, okay?

{ Comments on this entry are closed }