Four Funerals knocks 'em dead!

We performed "Four Funerals in One Day" at the Arts and Health Conference to great international acclaim!. It was so exciting to see a full auditorium of international people clap madly and give a standing ovation to the incredibly talented team of Alan Hopgood, Michelle Hall, Jenny Seedsman and Margot Knight at the completion of the performance! The forum that Alan and I convened was equally well received. It was also really exciting to have Ambassador for Ageing, Noelene Brown in the audience. Gotta say I was a little star struck having watched her on television when I was a kid!

Four Funerals has done really well this year touring widely in metropolitan and rural Victoria and interstate. Everywhere we go, people really engage with the concepts explored during the play and enjoy the interaction of the forum. So many people have said to me that they were a little nervous that it would be 'morbid" because of course the topic is death, but it's wonderful to hear people laughing during the performance and to hear their responses afterwards. Things like "It was funny, I laughed out loud but it made me think at the same time" are common things we hear from people.

Next year we hope to take "Four Funerals in One Day" back interstate and to do some more performances in Melbourne and Victoria. If you're interested in bring it to your town..........let us know. We'll go anywhere! It's a great way to get your community thinking about how they can support each other by having timely conversations about death and grief.

Special thanks to my close friend and colleague Alan Hopgood and to our wonderful team of performers for making "Four Funerals in One Day" the success it has been to date and I can't wait to see it go international in 2010!

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Arts and health Australia Inaugural award for Health Promotion

Receiving my award
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Some speaking gig shots from 2009

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Conference and speaking engagements are finished for the year

Well all of my speaking gigs are finished for the year now and it's been a busy one! It was great to speak at the national Palliative Care Australia and Asia Pacific Hospice conference "Together 2009" in Perth in October. Met some wonderful people from all over the world and was thrilled to be speaking about leadership and resilience to health professionals who are usually so focused on caring for others that they forget themselves!
Also had a great time at the inaugural Arts and Health Australia conference in Port Macquarie where I gave a keynote address on encouraging communities to talk about death and grief. This was a wonderful conference organised by the ever resourceful Margret Meagher and I was thrilled to win the inaugural Arts and Health Australia Award for Health Promotion.....very unexpected, but a great thrill!
Utopia International Retreat in Noosa was again a blast. I had the joy of being Master of Ceremonies as well as giving a keynote and running a workshop on working with grieving clients. It's amazing that people from the holistic, metaphysical and complementary therapies areas are sometimes not prepared for the depth of grief that clients carry with them when they come for a massage or an energy treatment. It was great working with these inspiring and experienced practitioners who openly embraced 'role play' exercises to practice their new skills as grief supporters!
I also did a bucketload of two day seminars for Ausmed all over the country this year. Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on "Dealing with Disruptive Staff Behaviour", "End of Life Care", "Counselling in terminal illness", "Leading with emotional intelligence" and "Compassionate Management". It never ceases to amaze me the wealth of knowledge and experience we have in the health professions. I love doing these two day gigs 'cause it gives me an opportunity to engage with lots of health professionals, particularly nurses, who are so passionate about what they do, but often not supported by their organisations.
I truly believe that nurses need to re-engage with the inate spirit of nursing....the ability to connect on an intimate level with people at their most vulnerable. This is the craft of nursing and we sometimes forget that and hide behind the technology that has become such a part of the modern profession.....more on that another time!
Next year is shaping up to be just as exciting with lots of gigs booked already, so keep your eyes on my website to see where I'm speaking and when and lets have some more fun together!!
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Headgear to challenge the spring racing carnival!

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Making circlets at Utopia

Utopia was about all sorts of things and I got to share my "elemental" self by running a "faerie circlet" making workshop during registration and boy was there some creative head gear made by people!
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Utopia 2009....What a BLAST!!!

Well Utopia 2009 lived up to all expectations. International speakers, ceremony, ritual, relaxation, creativity and some contemporary research. What a combination "> Over the coming weeks I'll be sharing snippets of the presentations from Utopia 2009 recorded during the course of the three days. The enormous investment of time, energy and financial support by Sue Coombes and Simone Matthews was evident from the outset. The co-creators of Utopia 2009 had left no detail to chance. The venue was decorated beautifully, the schedule was timely and the food and Saturday night concert amazing. The range of speakers on offer from Jeremy Donovan's inspiring presentation on Aboriginal spirituality and the moving closing ceremony he facilitated, assisted by Steven Farmer, to the practical use of personality trait identification and skill building that Mike White has developed for Aussie school kids to help them achieve academically. From Lia Scullen's amazing "Sounds of Sirius" channelling to Michelle Brennan's work photographing and analysing orbs. From Steven Farmers sharmanic meditation to Simone's presentation on fate and destiny. Jain 108 spoke of his love of maths (yes that's MATHS!) and sacred geometry, to Mz Marg Gill's presentation on building your business. It was all there...........and that was just the keynote addresses! The workshops were just as diverse and informative.

As I have told you previously, I was the Master of Ceremonies, a job I really enjoy and I must say, thanks to the wonderful team of volunteers, particularly Donna and Anne-Marie, my job was made so very easy.

The beauty of Utopia is that it grew from a vision Sue Coombes had to provide a place of retreat and learning for people interested in spirituality, complementary therapies, metaphysics and human evolution. Sue recruited a partner in Simone Matthews and together for the second year, they overcome stress, financial pressure and anxiety to share themselves and their passion with the presenters, the volunteers, the exhibitors and the attendees in a way that truly created a sacred space for everyone to do what it was that they had come for.

On a personal note, I met many old friends as well as new ones. I had an opportunity to talk about death and grief (which always makes me happy), I got to listen to some international experts and to nurture myself in the warmth and sun of Noosa. What a great way to spend a weekend!

Sincere thanks to all of the people who made Utopia was a blast!

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9/9/09....does it make a forth 9 or is it 9/9/2009, therefore two 9's and one 11 and what does that mean anyway????

Today being the 9th day of the 9th month in 2009, must mean something special, or does it? If you google the number "9" or today's date you will find a plethora of numerological information on the number nine and the universal impact of the nine energy. Nine represents compassion, love, service and morality. Nine is also the number that represents 'endings', whether that means death (in a physical sense) or death of some part of our lives that we have outgrown, it doesn't really matter, it's about completion. Completion of a task, completion of a mission or of a way of thinking. Now I'm no numerologist, in fact I have far more natural affinity with words than numbers, but the visual beauty of 090909 cannot be denied.

Some numerologists refer to today as being more influenced by 11 than 9. How do they come to this conclusion? Well they add 9+9+2+0+0+9. This is significant why? Because 11 is the master number, which means it is doubly powerful in its attributes of awareness, compassion and intuition. The number 11 is truly representative of the "Utopian" philosophy of equality, nurturing and service for the good of all.

In my view, today provides a wonderful opportunity for us to take a moment to reflect on the 'big picture'. What am I doing to serve my fellow man? What aspects of my life are not serving me well? What am I ready to let go of now? What can I do to build my sense of self worth? How can I show more true empathy and compassion to the people around me? How can I make the world a better place?

So it doesn't matter if you think numerology is a lot of baloney, the positive nine attributes are attributes we should all aspire matter what the date is. So maybe today is just a reminder to us to STOP, THINK and DO something of service to the people around us, and surely that is a good thing?

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Farewell to my friend Patsi

Those of us who work with dying and grieving people always try to work from a place of understanding and compassion, but it's not until someone WE love dies, that we remember the PAIN that death causes the people left behind. Last week I sat by the bedside of my dear friend Patsi Graham for the last two days of her life. It was Patsi who taught me about humility. Not because she talked about it, but because she lived it. Patsi was one of those gentle, loving people for whom nothing was ever too much trouble. She had a passion for life, for her husband Col and for her kids. She lived a life of service to others, to her friends, to the residents she cared for at the hostel, to anyone who needed a hand, but by no means was she sombre. She could party with the best of them.......and she did. She taught me to play the spoons, she introduced me to REAL Irish music (not the diddly dee stuff) and she had an infectious laugh that always resulted in tears.....the happy sort.
I could tell you a million things about my friend Patsi that made her special, but as I said, she was humble and so I'll leave you with her photo, which will tell you all you need to know.
When someone we love dies, it can often make us question ourselves, our beliefs and our purpose. What's it all about? What does life mean? What am I here for? My friend Patsi never spent much time navel gazing, she just got on and did whatever needed to be done to make the world a better place. Maybe this is what true philosophy is all about. Forget the big words and the prognostication. Maybe its as simple as listening to your heart and doing whatever it is that brings you joy, for after all joy is infectious and only comes from a place of genuine benevolence. If we are joyful and bring that joy into the lives of everyone we have contact with surely that's a life purpose?

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What's Molly doing at Utopia International Retreat?

Molly talking to the masses at Utpoia 2008.

Earlybird prices for Utopia International Retreat finish on August 31st, so get your act into gear and register for a life changing weekend of learning, healing, networking and fun! I'm acting as Master of Ceremonies again this year at Utopia, which I must say gives me an immense feeling of POWER! Being able to kick international speakers off the stage because their allocated time is over can be very fulfilling, although it can make you a little unpopular with the speakers. This year Utopia has brought together an amazing array of international speakers who will be covering a wide variety of topics over the weekend. I'm giving a plenary and conducting a workshop, but you'll need to listen to the interview I did with Mz Marg Gill to find out what it is I'm talking about.
For some fun and frivolity I'll also be doing a "circlet making" workshop on the Friday, so people will be able to make a headdress to wear for the duration of the weekend............nothing like bringing in the fairy energy to get the mischief happening!
Sue Coombes and Simone Matthews and others have invested an extraordinary amount of time, energy and money in putting Utopia together and ensuring that it provides a world class venue and program and I encourage you all to support the initiative. Utopia International Retreat provides an opportunity for you to network with like minded professionals from a broad range of disciplines, to learn cutting edge strategies for healing yourself, your clients and the planet and to relax and have fun in the beautiful natural environment of Noosa.
You can listen to the interview I did with Marg (before it even goes onto the Utopia website) ">by following this link. You can register for Utopia by clicking here I encourage you to subscribe to the Utopia Newsletter so you can keep up with breaking news on the event AND I hope to see you there on October 16-18th 2009!

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Molly gets her Churchill medallion!

Well I submitted my report and now the real work starts! I attended the Churchill Fellows Association of Victoria dinner on July 31st at Bayview Eden, where I was presented with my beautiful Churchill Fellow medallion! The medallion was designed and made by a previous Fellow and I must say I felt a little like an Olympic athlete, but thank goodness we weren't given a stuffed was far more refined!
It was great to catch up with my "alumni", the other 2008 Fellows, most of whom have completed their travels and returned home. It was wonderful to hear about the projects that the 2009 Fellows are doing and I must say I was really impressed with the diversity of subjects, from green transport initiatives to supporting same sex attracted high school students........Winston would certainly be proud of the breadth of talent and enthusiasm we have here in Victoria.
Just a reminder to you all. If you feel passionate about something and you want to make a difference, seriously consider applying for a 2010 Fellowship. The time is right to start thinking about planning your submission NOW, so get off the couch and change the world!!!!! Type remaining message over this text.

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The Churchill's what did I learn?

It's important to remember that you learn things every day. Some things change your life, some things change how you think, feel and perform AND some things you learn are just useless bits of information that you didn't know before.
I was lucky to learn some life-changing things, some things that changed how I think and feel and a smattering of useless information along the way.

The big picture, philosophical stuff I used as the basis for the report I wrote for the Churchill Trust and so I won't share that with you here, (but if you would like a copy, feel free to flick me an email). NO, I'm going to share the kookie, surprising and useless information I learned, and maybe for one of you it could be life changing! So here we go.

- How to make Fried Green Tomatoes that make a "crunch" when you bit into them
- That in America they make the biggest "small" pizza's I've ever seen!
- That I make better Irish stew than I ate in Ireland (despite my kids referring to it as 'depression" food)
- That taxi drivers in London are a friendly bunch of chaps
- That the top graduation present for young women in Florida is not a new car, a watch or a gold pen, but............ "butt implants"...........yes, great chunks of silicone being implanted into their bottoms to make them BIGGER (this will never take off in Australia, we're too hung up about our bottoms being big as it is!)
- That racing pigeons are a resilient bunch of birds
- That people who were born in England get cross when you call them "British" not "English"
- That you could make a fortune in Dublin if you were an orthopaedic surgeon. (I must say this is an assumption based on the fact that I saw hundreds of people using walking sticks/crutches etc. who looked like they needed hip replacements)
- That I don't have a good understanding of what "zen" REALLY means!
- That there is something different about a baguette made in Paris
- That toilets really DO flush anti-clockwise on the other side of the equator
- That when you're away for a long time, you start saying "gidday" to people just so you can hear yourself say it!
- That you can get a suntan in Ireland even when the wind is so strong it could blow you to Tasmania!
- That I have caught the same disease as Elaine from exclamation mark affliction!!!!!!!Just can't stop using them!!
- That when I haven't had a haircut for nearly three months I start to look like '70 keyboard aficionado, Rick Wakeman
- That blogging is cathartic and helps you remember the little things you would otherwise forget..........oh and it's much quicker than longhand.

and finally, as Dorothy once said, "There's no place like home"

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Everybody's talking about Michael

Michael Jackson is dead, Prince needs two hip replacements..........where does that leave me????? It's so strange how the death of someone famous polarises opinions. Michael Jackson's tragic death has had an astonishing impact on the world at large but I don't know quite HOW I feel! Like everyone else, I grew up with Jackson's signature "OOH HOO" blaring from the radio. I watched the launch of the "Thriller" film video and was astounded at that now much replicated dance sequence. But my first brush with Michael was when I was a student, living in a terrace house in Richmond with my friend Maureen and we would watch him singing "Blame it on the Boogie" on our crappy black and white T.V (we were students after all, we couldn't afford colour). I remember us both thinking how gorgeous he was in his dinner suit with his 'fro' and that ENORMOUS '80's bow tie, but then something happened.......he started to change.

By the time I watched him on telly with my own kids (little though they were they loved him too) he looked like a different person and it wasn't just his visual appearance, it was his whole persona. I must say I "went off" Michael just after the "Dangerous" album and felt far more excited by Prince, Bjork and others who were pushing the boundaries of "pop" by incorporating rap, jazz, coral and classical influences into their music. I guess I actually "went off" pop music per se, not that I'd ever really been someone who was into "Top 40's" music, but Michael had always been different.

So, by the time Michael died on June 25th, I rarely thought about him. All of the courtcases, the financial stories, the weird outbursts, the masked children etc. had drifted by me virtually unnoticed, I no longer had an "investment" in him. With this in mind, I was interested to observe my reaction to his death. Like most of the world, at first I couldn't believe it, I thought it was a hoax. Then, once confirmed, I like the rest of the world spent every waking hour for the next week watching Michael Jackson "tributes" on the telly, abusing the hosts for interrupting the music clips with their inane babble. I felt sad for his family and somewhat guilty for opinions I had expressed about him in latter years. I watched with interest the media "circus", the distraught fans, the impersonators and the community response to his death. I wondered at the outpouring of intense grief from people who had never known him personally, of kids who weren't even born when "Thriller" was released and it reinforced to me the whole concept of "centrality", of how we often associate a person with significant times in our lives.

For me Michael Jackson provided the soundtrack to my youth and therefore his death is a reinforcement to me that "those days are gone". I will never be able to recapture the excitement, the adrenaline, the anxiety, the angst of those years when I was evolving from a teenager to an adult and I guess Michael was one of the links that took me instantly back to the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings of those days. In a way his death represents the death of THAT PART of my life and therefore I am entitled to grieve for that loss. And this is what I've been witnessing on a global scale. Even for those who have never liked Michael's music, he was such a huge figure on the international stage, that there would be few people in the world who do not know of him and therefore it is likely that he represents to all of those people similar aspects of themselves as he has to me.

So Michael has died, as has my youth, however I realised the other day, I wasn't "grieving" in a personal sense. Yes, it's sad that he has died, but I felt more sad for him when he was alive, to be truthful. As far as the death of my youth, well there are just as many joys in the growing wisdom that (supposedly) comes with age, as there are joys in youth, or I think there is, but then unlike poor Prince, I don't need a hip replacement, so maybe I'm not qualified to comment yet. Maybe I'm just not old enough to have an opinion on ageing..........YET!

If Michael leaves an enduring legacy (apart from his catalogue of music) I hope that his death has required parents to talk to their kids about death and explain to them that death is a part of life and that it's OK to grieve for someone who you considered central to your life.........even if you have never met them.

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Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

When I left Melbourne, what seems like a lifetime ago, I don't remember the flight to Los Angeles being that long, but maybe that's because the couple I was sitting next to (who were doppelgangers of Laurie and Noelene Danaher from Sylvania Waters) kept ordering me brandy and cokes!

I must say at the start of the journey Noelene and Laurie were lifesavers as the airline staff seemed far too busy doing whatever it is they do in that little room with the blue separator curtain, to come and see if any of us in cattle class wanted anything! Thankfully Noelene and Laurie's diligence saved me the embarrassment of having to ring the call bell and face the wrath of a flight attendant who had been interrupted from her very important work in the little room with the curtain, by some worthless passenger. The problem occurred when I fell asleep. I don't know if N & L hadn't noticed my snoring or the fact that I was most probably grinding my teeth, but when I woke I found I had four brandy and cokes lined up on my tray table and given that I was in the window seat, this made a trip to the loo impossible until I had dispensed with the line-up of little plastic cups! In the end, I had to thank N & L most graciously for their hospitality, but requested that they cease and desist, so that I could ensure I wouldn't roll off the plane when we arrived at LAX.

No such problem on the way home! Again I was in the window seat, but sitting next to me was my beloved, who is just as apprehensive as I am about ringing the call bell unless there is an emergency, and a complete lack of any liquid refreshments doesn't qualify as such in our lexicon! So it was that by the time we had received our second tray of brown mushy goo, with hard bread roll and a salad that consisted of four lettuce leaves and half a cherry tomato, I thought, "That's it!" and rang the bell. After some time, the flight attendant stuck her head around the curtain, looked down towards me and disappeared again. After a few minutes, she was leaning over Phil, glaring at me "Yes?” I could feel the "now look what you've done, we'll be punished for this" vibes coming from Phil, who I expected to chime in at any minute and say "It wasn't me Miss, SHE rang the bell!!!" I took a big deep breath and asked her for a drink, she "tutted" and walked off, without thinking to ask Phil if he wanted one and I certainly wasn't going to call her back, God knows what would happen!

Eventually she came back with a plastic cup, filled to the brim. "Brandy and coke" she said as she flung it at me. I wanted to say "WHAT...........NO ICE????", but I didn't. I could feel Phil winding himself up to ask for a drink too, but by the time he got the courage to open his mouth, she was long gone, having disappeared again behind the blue curtain. I offered him a sip of mine, but he graciously turned me down, and sunk into his chair looking as dejected as a kid on Christmas morning who found potatoes in his stocking instead of presents. Where are Noelene and Laurie when you needed them?????

Our flight home wasn't all bad though, we flew through a marvellous lightening storm somewhere over Indonesia, but I didn't tell Phil, because I knew he watched far too many of those "Air Crash Investigation" shows to see the beauty of it. I also watched a great movie with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in it, though as usual I fell asleep before the end, so don't know if they ended up getting together or if it finished like "An Affair to Remember" with Emma Thompson in a wheelchair pretending she was fine, some years later.

By the time we reached Melbourne I was in a heightened state of anticipation. From the moment I'd booked my tickets before Christmas last year, I had pictured myself walking through the big glass doors at Tullamarine, wheeling a trolley weighed down with suitcases and duty-free plastic bags, into the arms of my adoring family and friends, just like in the opening sequence of "Love Actually" (without the Hugh Grant voiceover obviously............though that would be nice). I had replayed this snippet in my mind a million times. When I was marooned on the windswept and lonely station at Castle Cary, this was the picture that kept me warm. When I was sitting in my lonely room during the disappointing overnight stay at a particular hostel in America, this was the picture that made me feel safe. When I stood in the aisle at Notre Dame overwhelmed by the inspirational spiritual energy of the place, this was the picture that kept me grounded. So you will understand, I'd built this scene to a crescendo..........and now I was on the brink of experiencing it. OOOHHHHH!!!

We arrived safe and sound and moved effortlessly through Customs and, it felt good to hear the friendly voices of my fellow Aussies asking me about the contents of my bag and welcoming me home. I must say I found the electronic “Swine Flu Temperature Detector” tunnel I had to walk through a little confronting, but thankfully despite my long sojourn away from home I didn’t trip off the siren and flashing lights. This must be the first time in my life I was REALLY glad not to be considered “Hot”!

Finally as I approached the big glass doors, trolley weighed down with suitcases and duty-free plastic bags, my beloved at my side, everything was going according to plan. The doors opened and we walked through to……….nothing. No cheers and squeals of delight from adoring fans, no Craig Armstrong piano soundtrack, no “Welcome Home Molly” signs………….NOTHING!

I looked around in desperation and then from the corner of my eye I saw a blur of movement. As we rounded the corner of the barricades, I was almost bowled over by a cute little dot, flowers in hand, who threw her arms around me and said, “Mummy, you’re finally home”. Two more arms encircled me, this time strong male arms, “We sure missed you Moll”. Em and Johnny were my welcoming party, my daughter and her beloved, both so happy, both so excited and then I realised that what Hugh Grant said is right, it doesn’t matter how many people are in the arrivals lounge at the airport, what matters is the feeling they bring with them and at that moment I knew “Love really is……. all around”

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Back to Dublin

After our amazing journey of discovery around the wilds of "the west", Phil and I returned to Dublin for our last night with Michael and Craig. Of course they greeted us with with rapturous warmth and were eager to hear of our adventures in the wild parts of Ireland. How do you condense such an emotionally charged, physically stimulating and spiritually challenging week into words that do it justice............of course you can't, but really, Michael and Craig "got it" without us having to say much at all. It is wonderful to spend time with like minded souls who don't need things "spelt out" to them, but can connect with the energy you emanate and understand.

Our final night in Dublin, was appropriately spent "at the pub", where Phil and I finally succomed and tried our first taste of Guinness. At the risk of losing all credibility I may have earned to date, I must confess, one sip did it for me (and not in the way you may expect). I've got to say it tasted like an amalgam of the cold, dark water of Doo Lough, the smell of the muddy bogs and the creamy foam of the treacherous waves at the base of the Cliffs of Moher................most appropriate, but not quite as appetising for me as a nice, crisp, clear Pino Grigio. In fact to be perfectly honest it tasted bloody awful, but there you go, maybe my Irish heritage was missing that vital ingredient that would ignite in me a passion for a drink that everyone else seems to think is the "nectar of the gods". So I stuck with my wine and revelled in my "Aussieness", which some may also say is lacking, given that I simply can't come at beer either!

We finished our evening with a beautiful meal at a little restaurant that provided snuggly blankets over the back of the chairs in the outdoor eating area............brilliant!!!

It was with sadness (but excitement too) that I attempted to stuff two plus months worth of travelling into my suitcase late that night. So much experience, so many miles, so many countries, so many new friends, so many memories, SO MANY STORIES!

And the journey continues for just a little longer.

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Some really pretty landscape pictures

No words, just pics! Words are not required when you are in the midst of landscapes like this!
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