The Creative

I listened to the last peep show zoom call this morning with Bec Griffiths and Yan Palmer.  I learnt so much over the last 6 weeks. Here’s a few things that stuck in my heart and have been tormenting my brain to write them out of my head.

There were hundreds of conversations, questions during the zoom calls. I can sum them up in a few words’ creatives are brave, they are thoughtful, kind, generous, and also willing to be the hard qualities as well, vulnerable and awkward. Yes, it looks as though the creative person just posts photos on Instagram or hits send on a client gallery, collects the money(sometimes) and the work is done. Hahahah. No. Deep in my bones and each and every creative that I listened to invests a little piece of their heart in every art work. The thoughts, time, energy, and emotion to get to that finished work is immense. Firstly, the photographer or creative who offers their service in a business has sat down and specifically targeted you. Sounds creepy hey! It’s not. It is thoughtful.

The creative person wants to serve you and serve their creativity. There is a digging up of the creative’s own fears, own limiting beliefs, they invest in looking into their own heart with empathy, there is vulnerability in sharing themselves. The creative is constantly doing their own internal work so they can work with clarity, knowledge and imagination to best serve their art and client.  The creative thinks and feels into who their ideal client is, they base their business around creating a business and offerings of their art that their ideal client will fall in love with.  Fall in love with because, there is a piece of heart and soul in each piece, there is a deep and potent energy that is infused in the art and you the client connects with that.  Because when the creative is producing this work and wants to grow and expand and create with more and more people, there level of enthusiasm and energy is high and at times is hard to remember that not everyone is on the same page, not every person wants to create or explore boundaries and there is immense amount of work in building trust with clients. When you just want to say for fuck sake, I am a nice person, I take awesome photos, you are looking at my social media or website for a reason, we will have a great time, just book in with me.

There is a deep level of vulnerability, of feeling awkward, of stretching boundaries and being willing to be laughed at or feel stupid. Because for a creative person the art needs to be made. The deep calling to release it into the world then makes space for more art to flow through.

Each time a creative has to market themselves to sell themselves, launch a new piece of art or a project, promote a new offering, the practice of this is so exciting and so terrifying. Each time you do this, again it is your heart and vision being put on display.  When you hit post or send or exhibit the work in person there are feelings of joy and anticipation, pleasure and pride at your own work. Also, terror. But knowing that, to that end point, that finished piece it is from your heart, it is the creation that you are most at peace with, the art that you feel like you can let go of. It is an overwhelming feeling going down the street being celebrated on an extravagant float everyone calling your name in celebration then looking down and you are completely naked. However, these intense feelings are the driver, the stretcher of boundaries, the creator of new art work.

It is a life of forever exploring, refining, being transparent, building relationships, being imperfect, forever being curious and knowing your value. And even if your art work doesn’t attract the accolades or dollars that you hoped, you just create more, you dig deeper into you and your heart and you create what needs to be released into the world through your heart and vision.

Artists documentary sessions

I love telling stories through pictures and words. My photography work is documentary style, my writing is essay style. My heart fancies a good story, one of my joys is to tell stories, hear stories, and share stories. My website is full of stories of mine, and wonderful women that I have interviewed.  My writing is honest and kind, I cover all the emotions that hearts beat to. Telling stories is a way for me to process. To see how far I have come, to realise goals have been met (or not), to be grateful. To know that I have survived 100% of any event good or bad. I write about ordinary, everyday occurrences. I write about the love, the hurt and the special events. Pen and paper, a keyboard and blank word document are where I lay down my words. I have always taken photos for my own family, and have decided to offer another way of telling stories, so I am adding a full frame DSLR camera to my work. My focus in photography is the small moments, the details, the emotion, the everyday ordinary. There is an immense amount of trust placed in me, my eye and camera to allow me to capture images within the flow of family life that is being experienced at that moment.  I am grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to show you through my eyes your precious life.

 

Let’s document your journey. The processes of your work, the tools, your space, your hands, and your finished art work. The practice of each stage of the work. The growth and development of you, the person letting creativity, emotion, love flow through your heart into your hands and into the work of art. I understand and respect the sanctity of an artist’s studio. It is a personal space where you can be totally vulnerable and I will honour that in my work.

email me: meled79@gmail.com

DM @mrsmelindaedwards

Rural and farming family documentary session

I love telling stories through pictures and words. My photography work is documentary style, my writing is essay style. My heart fancies a good story, one of my joys is to tell stories, hear stories, and share stories. My website is full of stories of mine, and wonderful women that I have interviewed.  My writing is honest and kind, I cover all the emotions that hearts beat to. Telling stories is a way for me to process. To see how far I have come, to realise goals have been met (or not), to be grateful. To know that I have survived 100% of any event good or bad. I write about ordinary, everyday occurrences. I write about the love, the hurt and the special events. Pen and paper, a keyboard and blank word document are where I lay down my words. I have always taken photos for my own family, and have decided to offer another way of telling stories, so I am adding a full frame DSLR camera to my work. My focus in photography is the small moments, the details, the emotion, the everyday ordinary. There is an immense amount of trust placed in me, my eye and camera to allow me to capture images within the flow of family life that is being experienced at that moment.  I am grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to show you through my eyes your precious life.

Ordinary everyday moments are the thread that make up our lives, our work, relationships, the seasons, the process of an “ordinary day”. Rural/ farming families have a unique life and extreme circumstances, from the location, the distances and the weather. All factors that seem common place, “ordinary” to you. However a wide range of the population have no concept of your lifestyle. The grit, the resilience, the humor, the extremes that are only a few hours from their own front door.  I capture the moment, preserve it in a single click, one that you didn’t realise was so special. You are unique, brave, strong and spirited, you are connected to the land, environment, Mother Nature like no other.  I would be so humbled and honored

to work with you in a documentary session. It would be 2-3 hours of me spending time with your family doing whatever it is you are doing on the day. Hanging out at home, in the paddock, the yards with immediate and or extended family, working, cooking, eating, playing whatever the day brings, I will try my absolute best to blend into the background. I will capture the people, the animals, and the landscape. Mostly I will capture the family bonds, the connection, the memories, details of your life and loves. You will receive from me 20-30 high resolution images your life on that particular day.

email me: meled79@gmail.com

DM @mrsmelindaedwards

Family documentary session

Hi, my names is Melinda and I love telling stories through pictures and words. My photography work is documentary style, my writing is essay style. My heart fancies a good story, one of my joys is to tell stories, hear stories, and share stories. My website is full of stories of mine, and wonderful women that I have interviewed.  My writing is honest and kind, I cover all the emotions that hearts beat to. Telling stories is a way for me to process. To see how far I have come, to realise goals have been met (or not), to be grateful. To know that I have survived 100% of any event good or bad. I write about ordinary, everyday occurrences. I write about the love, the hurt and the special events. Pen and paper, a keyboard and blank word document are where I lay down my words. I have always taken photos for my own family, and have decided to offer another way of telling stories, so I am adding a full frame DSLR camera to my work. My focus in photography is the small moments, the details, the emotion, the everyday ordinary. There is an immense amount of trust placed in me, my eye and camera to allow me to capture images within the flow of family life that is being experienced at that moment.  I am grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to show you through my eyes your precious life.

Ordinary everyday moments are the thread that make up our lives, our work, relationships, the seasons, the process of an “ordinary day. All events that seem commonplace, minor moments that happen every day. I want to capture the moment preserve it in a single click, that moment, the one that you didn’t realise was so special. Life; people, health, wealth changes. Nothing stays the same, everyday ordinary images captured in that very moment stay the same. The smile, the hands, the details of the space, the connection, the love. Let’s seize those moments! So you will have the images that I capture of your life to look back on, the “ordinary, honest” moments that will start a conversation, leading you down memory lane, to times, people and places that have changed, grown, moved on, some forgotten but cherished.

 

A documentary session with me would be 1-2 hours of me spending time with your family doing whatever it is you are doing. Hanging out at home with immediate and or extended family, cooking, eating, playing. Spending time cocooned at home with a new born. Playing with toddlers, lounging like lizards with teenagers. A cup of tea with grandma. All stages of life babies to oldies. I want to capture images of the fresh new babies and the creased, wise and knowledgeable.  Any and all seasons of life. I will capture the people, the faces, the setting. Mostly I will capture the family bonds, the connection, the memories, details of your life and loves.

 

email me: meled79@gmail.com

DM: @mrsmelindaedwards

Bang! Bang!

What a way to finish my role as a Brisbane Festival Citizen reviewer.  Bang! Bang! Rhonda Burchmore’s delicious, high energy show that is made from her wildest fantasies (mostly men showing a lot of skin).

The Courier-Mail Spiegeltent is a “tent” where the audience is seated in a circle around the stage and cat walk. The circle a traditional form to gather and turn your back to the outside world and enjoy a show. Mirrors and stained glass windows are a feature in the tent, wooden flooring grounds the high energy circus feel, there are intimate booths tucked away along the perimeter of the tent and alcohol flows from the bar. This is where Rhonda’s alter ego, Ruder, along with her guest star Rob Mills danced, sang, and tap danced down the cat walk while the live band played classics; one being Tom Jones, and contemporary music of Miley Cyrus.

We sat in our fourth row seating with electric anticipation at seeing the show, Rhonda and her talented party spread their energy and enthusiasm through the whole Spiegeltent. The seventy minutes of the show flew by as the audience clapped, and danced in their seats along with the classics and the mash-up of songs. There was wolf-whistles and appreciation for all of the deliciousness on the stage (Rhonda’s words). Bang! Bang! Is a sexy production with plenty of six packs and skin on show. There was sequins sewn on to magnificent costumes that sculpted to perfectly fit toned performers bodies. There was men in cowboy chaps and women in tiny leotards, there were sparkly high heels that danced with perfection all over the stage and cat walk, fantastically fun hats, glitter bombs and bubbles. The audience was treated to dancers in concert at floor level within the reserved seating next to the stage.

Rhonda Burchmore is the epitome of professional, and talented after 30 years in show business. Australian audiences love her and the Brisbane festival audience was screaming their appreciation to her as well.  I was in awe of her fitness and energy, she is so much fun and of course her legs that go for miles were featured. She completely owned the Spiegeltent stage. Bang! Bang! was a perfect party atmosphere. So grateful to have seen the show thanks to Brisbane Festival.

Betty Grumble : Love and Anger

The award winning, Betty Grumble, surreal showgirl, obscene beauty Queen, and Sex Clown, brings to the Brisbane Festival.

“Betty Grumble Love and Anger”.

Love and Anger the show, is an excessive assault on the senses with Betty stripping all the way back to, the two, most powerful human emotions. Love and Anger.

The book, The Scum Manifesto, is the thread that weaves its way through the show.  The book written by Valerie Solanas, and published in 1967. The book centres on valid social concerns with a beaming spotlight on patriarchy. Valerie wrote:  Men have ruined the world, and it is up to women to fix it. Betty in her own wild approach to Valerie’s views, highlights that; women are still grappling with the same stories, conversations, and fears 51 years later. Betty Grumble is a conversation starter.  Conversations you never thought you would have. These dialogues are shocked out of you through various forms of expression.

On entrance to the Block at QUT’s Theatre Republic the room is shrouded in a cloud of incense. Betty is quietly standing at the front of the stage a book covering her face, walled in by suitcases, and a white backdrop with scribbles of black writing. Betty welcomes the crowd and lulls us into a sense of community – that we belong in this space. She takes the time to assure us that all reactions are welcome, and if our senses are overwhelmed there is no judgement in having to exit.  Betty is enthusiastic, and excited to share her show and so it begins. Betty Grumble Love and Anger, draws philosophies from The Scum Manifesto, Betty recites passages of the book through out the show, venting through an in your face, shocking and confronting communication of women’s liberation, the worship of the divine feminine and a woman’s body as a political playground. In an extravagant way Betty shows how movement, creativity, and art is used to heal and expand the spirit of woman. A stripping naked of all barriers and exposing vulnerability in a safe womb like space. A singing vagina. A touch of magic. Cabaret dancing. The show involves science experiments, painting, and flower arranging in the extreme. Conversations on relationships. Relationships with yourself, Mother Nature and the environment, patriarchal relationships, mother/ daughter connections, bonds with your siblings and the weight that you each carry.

By the end of the show, the full frontal nudity was not so shocking to my friend and I that sat through the 60 minute show. Our drive home was an explosion of hilarity, tears from laughing and shock and at one stage chest pain. The conversations and questions that were screamed hysterically through the car were a testament to Betty and the boundaries and comfort zones she pushed within us.

Romeo is not the only fruit.

 

Romeo is not the only fruit was staged at the Theatre Republic – The Loft, QUT Creative Industries as part of Brisbane Festival. I was gifted the two tickets as part of my role as Citizen Reviewer. It was not on my wish list, however, I was looking forward to seeing a show that I hadn’t even glanced at.

The loft was kitted out with simple cardboard cut outs as the set for the show, oversized cardboard cut outs for the props as well, the costumes were plain (there was sequins at the end) and the main focus was on the script with a side of singing, dancing, and a dead lesbian chorus who manage to show Juliet who she really is and to embrace it.

The show is a modern romantic comedy based on Romeo and Juliet’s tragic story. It was a show of stereotypes; a romantic comedy, with lesbians that were up against cultural and racial barriers, discrimination and oppression. The show traipses over each stage of a coming-out story and in a comedic way is literally a big “fuck you” (that’s the closing song) to the “normal” white, heterosexual public who have their head up their ass (The mother said Juliet had her head up her ass about her ambition to be a pilot, and not wanting children) and don’t take notice of the multicultural, diverse world we actually live in.

Juliet (Margot Tanjutco) meets the new neighbour Darcy (Louisa Wall) and from there blossoms their romantic relationship. Juliet and Darcy are put through a series of trials, all stereotypical including Julie’s lesbian awakening, and family dinner with the overbearing Asian mother, a marriage obsessed G-Ma encouraging Juliet to settle down and marry a man and give them grandchildren the normal way, a night out at a gay event, and eventually attempted murder.

Some of the comedy went straight over my head, however, the crowd of maybe fifty thought it was hysterical. During the dinner of pasta made by the Asian mum, I found myself thinking of cooking the same meal for my family this week, and was trying to remember if I had the ingredients. During a tutorial with a cob of corn I was put off because I won’t be able to look at corn the same way again.

I am grateful for the experience to see of all these diverse shows that Brisbane Festival bring to the city and the people of Brisbane to enjoy.

Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project supported by Yirrmal.

We arrived early at the Tivoli, picked up our tickets from the box office – general admission standing. The space at the Tivoli has an art deco, old world feel, in the lighting, mirrors and elegantly crafted bar. We secured our place at the front of the intimate flat area in front of the stage – I wanted a good view of Yothu Yindi (Yolngu for “child and mother”) the band that has won eight ARIA awards and in 2012 was inducted into the ARIA hall of fame.

The acknowledgment of country and the minutes silence for ancestors was the foundation of the show. Yirrmal a sensitive, open hearted man from North-East Arnhem Land,  supported Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project,  a songwriter and guitarist he treated us to his classic songs and also new work that will be released next year. That man. He has a striking voice, a voice that produces ground shaking vocals that express his own very personal experiences and stories through his songs.  Then came the highlight, Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project, some of the classics they played were: World Turning, Timeless Land, Mabo and of course Treaty.

All day, I was excited to see a band at The Tivoli, enjoy some music, and have a champagne.  I was thrilled that I had been gifted these tickets as part of the Brisbane Festival. What I didn’t expect to feel at a concert on a Sunday night in Fortitude Valley, was a strong mystical experience. Unrestrained but sensitive, determined, beautiful performance connected to every level of energy within me. The whining high pitch of voices in language, the vast grounding echoes that seemed to shake from the earth through their bodies into the songs. The deep vibration of the didgeridoo, the rhythmic blow of the clapping sticks. Then the contemporary electric guitar, piano and saxophone complemented the traditional sounds in the new work that has been created. The beat, words, and movement went for two and a half hours, the crowd swelled at 8.45pm when Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project came out to entertain. I stood with an unobstructed view of the stage with my husband at my back and the rest of the crowd moving and dancing along with the flow of the music, the stomping of feet and the music made the floor pulsate, I was totally caught up in the palpitation, moving with the beat and the ancient sounds reaching all the way into my heart.

I drove the hour home thrumming with energy, but also teary and tired, like I had emerged from a deep meditation. The sounds and energy had moved something within me. The power of the words in the songs, the indigenous sounds, and the energy that was brewed in the venue was incredible.

Symphony for me

When we arrived the Arcadia was overflowing with families, enjoying family day at Brisbane Festival. We however, were on date night. We came into the city early to enjoy the vibe of Brisbane Festival, it took a while but we snagged a high table after stalking the previous occupants and enjoyed a beer, champagne and gyozas and the view of Brisbane. We headed to Divine and had some fun photos with the angel wings on the wall. Then I was drawn to the water again where, my husband had to drag me away from the river of light show to head to the Concert Hall at QPAC for Symphony for Me.

We headed to our fourth row seats for our first orchestra. What an interesting concept created by David Berthold and the Brisbane Festival team in 2015, to combine Brisbane’s public and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and arrange them both into one free show. To share personal experiences and how the selected piece of music has made up a snippet of the soundtrack of their life and in what way the pieces of music means to them in their memories, and what an honour to hear it in the concert hall played by some of the world’s best. Some of the stories were of romance, of fear and intimidation in their birth country, of visiting a liberated country, of remembering childhood memories with a parent that has passed. Pieces of music that young musicians have ambition to one day play.

I sat in my seat with my husband next to me and while the stories of others was lovely to hear it is my own memories that will stay with me. The conductor is a fun memory of the night. With each story and with each person he met on his stage he was generous and seemed genuinely filled with joy to present the music to them, he was entertaining to watch with the orchestra, and with his interaction with the audience. Of course the movie themes bought back memories of watching them with my movie buff of a husband. Hedwig’s Theme, Main theme Pirates of the Caribbean: The curse of the black pearl, Main Theme Forrest Gump and Main theme Star wars. What I, will remember of the music, is a romantic night with my husband. Sitting in those chairs together holding hands and appreciating such talent and skill, I was in awe and grateful to watch ultimate professionals in their field create such beauty, memories and emotion, to the point that I had to bring out the tissues.

While the people that chose the music had memories tied to the piece of music, I kept wondering if the conductor Brett Kelly and the orchestra, felt something similar. Knowing that the music they perform and the beauty of it stays with their audience, I wondered if they ever appreciate their own work.  I found the whole experience fascinating.

Thank you again Brisbane Festival and Aruga for the opportunity.

Stalin’s Piano

Treasury Brisbane Arcadia was alive with energy and rhythm and we soaked it all up as we enjoyed the wood fired pizza and champagne courtesy of Brisbane Festival vouchers. The free #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light show had hundreds of people in the precinct with their phones out turned towards the Brisbane River. All captivated by the water fountains dancing in the sky, the coloured lights, lasers and the indigenous voice telling the traditional story of the dreaming serpent. What a way to start the night before we headed to the Cremorne theatre for Stalin’s Piano.

Being awarded this opportunity to be a citizen reviewer as part of Brisbane Festival means that I have been gifted experiences like Stalin’s piano by composer Robert Davidson. He talks of the voice being like music, we create music every time we speak, every time we express ourselves and the more passionate we are about our message the more musical it sounds. Robert created Stalin’s Piano and it is a tapestry, a multi-media show featuring politicians, creatives, and thinkers of history in pictures, words, recorded voice, archival footage and the main thread that holds it all together – virtuoso Sonya Lifschitz potent on the piano.

This is a fast paced sold out show of 65 minutes. I had a hard time dividing my attention between Sonya and the screen. I didn’t want to miss out on the action on the screen, but, I was not going to miss out on watching the woman on the stage. The weave of the music and the multi-media on the screen was so refined and perfected that the music was the guide for some of the 19 musical portraits, and then would fade into the background for others. I likened the show to flicking thorough social media where I get distracted by the screen, consciously needing to focus on the real life happening around me, talent, creativity, skill and hard work. But, the mind and eye gets distracted by the pretty flashing lights, the words and every now and then the messages on the screen will inspire. Frank Lloyd Wright talking about housing and architecture, Arthur Boyd in conversation about writing and painting, the genius Maria Yudina’s story, the images of concentration camps the talent, creativity of musicians, writers, artists having their freedom, their life, their beauty taken away from them, not only robbing them of life but the world of their gifts.

Stalin’s piano – I kept thinking of it as Sonya’s Piano, had me drawn to the creatives and the thinkers of history. Their message – make the art, get messy with the paint, write the words, and play the music. The creatives are culture, the creatives colour our world, and represent their countries with beauty. The art, the music, the words draw the crowds, opens minds, and has audiences thinking on a broader scale about life and humanity. Music, voice, and creativity is human, it is the rhythm of life.

Rovers

 

Rovers is the first show in the seven that I will see for the citizen reviewer role that I have been gifted from Brisbane Festival and Aruga PR. I placed Rovers as one of the top picks on my wish list. As a woman and mother myself, I am fascinated with how our mothers and ancestors influence our lives. How we all hold the wisdom and knowledge in our DNA from our ancestors. How we have rooted in us the traits and lessons from stories of the women before us deep within our center. I wanted to see this show with my West End living friend that I share many great stories with, so, I traveled an hour south to Brisbane to pick up my plus one and take us for a night out.

The show started with a welcome to country, this always gets me in the heart, I was equally in love with the use of the traditional language spoken by Roxy / Jessie. The use of simple props meant that the focus was on the women on stage bouncing off each other’s energy and enjoying performing together after 21 years. The comedy came as side splitting relief to what could’ve been an intense and heavy piece of work. The voice over added a modern multi-media facet to the show.

Barbara and Roxy / Barbara and Jessie traveled, to the center of the country and heart. Rovers was about four women, played by two in one show. The layers of four women was intricately knitted together in a back and forth weave between reality, memories and stories. The tales of wild, tough women trekking the depths of their hearts and country, memories exaggerated or diminished by the retelling of the tale over time. Barbara and Roxy pulled from the heart of their knowledge, skills and friendship to take the audience seated in the intimate space of The Block at QUT’s Theatre Republic, on a funny, drama filled adventure exploring and reliving the important stories, memories and women that shaped them – Aunty Barbara and Grandma Jessie. At some stages in the hour long show, I was anxious that I had missed important parts of the back and forth story. However, writer Katherine Lyall-Watson and director Caroline Dunphy had that covered with one or both coming out of her character and clarifying the memory or the story and where the recollection or tale originated. The show ended on a fun note, we left with a smile on our face and wrote positive comments on the feedback form given as we exited.

Whenever my West End friend and I go to an art gallery we always pick our favorite art work. So what was my favorite part of Rovers. The intimacy of the setting and the language. I took away from it that, the work we do on ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and how we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and explore our hearts and country is what carries on in DNA. Our stories and memories will be recalled and carried on to future generations. So be the wild, adventurous, funny lady.

VISIBLE

I am not the type of woman that enjoys going places on my own, I would prefer to share an experience with family or friends. However, if I am at a book store, art gallery or museum please don’t come near me or talk to me. Leave me be in my own world, let me sink in to the emotions of the work, the beauty or the ugliness. I had to make the trek to Brisbane to pick up goodies for the Brisbane festival that I am a citizen reviewer for, so while I was in town I made the most of the opportunity and visited QAG.

A city dwelling friend knows my love for a bit of culture and recommended I have a look at the Tony Albert ‘Visible’ installation.

I illegally parked at the office of PR company Aruga to pick up my food and wine vouchers, t-shirt and lanyard for the Brisbane Festival, I raced out of there before I got towed. Paid the $17 for parking at the cultural centre and bought a burnt, too strong coffee from the museum cafe, forcing it down at an outside table watching the rain clean the city trying to remember the floor I parked my car on.

My city dwelling friend and I always pick a favourite piece whenever we visit a gallery together, the pieces I have chosen as favourites for the Tony Albert work were not visually beautiful, but emotionally moving. The “Moving Targets” 2015 is a stripped back shell of a car with the bonnet and boot popped open, TV screens fill the inside of the car with images of young indigenous males. The blacked out space is intensified with the walls covered in wallpaper. The wallpaper being digital images of bare chested aboriginal males with a target positioned over the centre of their chest, these images made up the award winning series “Brothers” 2013, the brothers are young men from the Kirinari Hostel in King’s Cross. The dark space, the stripped car, the stares of the indigenous men lining the walls was intense. I had a sense of fear, intimidation, and darkness a feeling of wanting to flee from the dark back into the light airy open space of the gallery. The red targets on the chests of the young men plastered on the walls signifys the men as targets of society. However, I was drawn to their chests, to the targets and thought of the hearts that beat there, the history, the ancestral wisdom that pumps in their blood.

On the outside wall of the “Moving targets”, The “Aboriginalia” wall hung. A white wall covered in kitsch household items popular for the 50’s and 60’s coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, tea towels, ash trays and souvenirs, commemorative tea spoons, wall hangings, figurines and a pinball machine decorated with images and caricatures of indigenous people, in the colour pallet and textures of the time green, orange, brown a bit of velvet, plastic and wood. The Aboriginalia wall was equally racist, fascinating and disturbing. I didn’t spend much time in front of the wall, but the piece stayed in my mind. It made me sad- these items are so recent in our cultural history. It made me want to spend time with works that celebrate the indigenous culture. I do love that the work hasn’t left me, that it has raised awareness, thought and conversation.

Like I said not beautiful pieces but thoughtful conversation starters. My favourite.

Marina Meier

Marina.

A magical, sparkly shop was where we scheduled our meeting, surrounded by stained glass lighting, imported handcrafted Turkish rugs and handbags, time pieces hanging from every wall, sparkling jewels and trinkets on every surface. The aroma of the coffee machine seduced us away from the window shopping and straight to Bengü, Gallery B’s exotic owner. Marina and I took our preferred beverages to the alfresco area at the back of this little wonderland.

Marina is a woman I have worked with before, I wanted to know her story, and how she found herself specialising in boudoir photography. She starts by telling me the photo sessions are a process of healing, healing for herself and the woman that she is working with. She takes a deep breath and starts what she tells me is a long story. How she feels she was pushed into the decision to take this path, but the backstory is important part of her journey that she feels is her destiny.

“As you know I was born in Kazakhstan, which was part of the Soviet Union. I have a German / Russian background and am from a small village, so quiet conservative. After the revolution there was all of this equality, and woman could do whatever men could do. There was no limits they could be engineers, they could be astronaut if they wanted. But at the same time, it was two extremes woman in Soviet Union was like traditional woman, who take of the family, who takes cares of the children, cooks, cleans, and takes care of her husband like another child. But she goes to work as well full-time”.

“But there is still a lot of degrading thoughts about woman like “chicken is not a bird and woman is not a human”. Of course it isn’t the whole society but it is still part of the culture. Woman body, nude body, sexuality, sex there was no talks at all about this. It is all taboo. There was all negativity around the body and it wasn’t like I had that sort of relationship with my mum where we would talk, when I was becoming a young woman. So everything about that body image and sexuality was taboo and it was dirty and it was bad.

Marina remembers negative dialog around a woman that had left the village in her twenties unmarried, studied, had her own money, apartment, a career women. Listening to this harmful gossip as a child Marina thought no little girl would want to grow up like this woman. Much the same if you got pregnant out of wedlock or divorced, women were pushed into a mould of being a second class citizen. Marina tells me about her beloved Grandma’s story.

“I feel her presence at the moment. My grandma had quite a difficult life, she was divorced. My grandfather he was an alcoholic and quiet aggressive when he was drunk, my mum tell stories that she would break a window to run away, when he was in this aggressive mood. And I guess if my grandfather didn’t leave the family then my grandmother wouldn’t get divorced from him because it was taboo and he left the family when my mum was young. My grandma, single mother of four, working full time. They did not get married because of love, they got married because my great- grandfather and grandfather were drinking together one time and well it became more or less an arranged marriage, it wasn’t love at first sight, it wasn’t a beautiful life and I think that it is best for my grandmother that grandfather left, but it certainly didn’t make her life easier. She never married or had another partner. At any family wedding or event my grandmother would sit in the furthest part of the room from my grandfather. When they were buried, there graves are next to each other. It is quiet ironic, it wasn’t planned, it just happened, my grandmother died first and then my grandfather died a couple of years later”.

“When we moved to Germany I was eighteen. I married when I was twenty. I started to study photography at the same time and the first few years, I was still influenced by my Russian/ German background. The first day when I went into the photo studio where I met my mentor who became my best friend, I opened the door and walked in, and there were pictures everywhere framed and unframed. The first picture that got my attention was a picture mounted behind the counter. It was a black and white a2 size, it was a pregnant women, just the torso. I couldn’t see much of her face it was turned to the side, she was a silhouette. She was nude. She was completely naked. I could see her bare breasts, I was looking at a nude pregnant woman. A nude picture of a pregnant woman on the wall. It was a shock for me. Who would do that! Why would they do that! In my head everything about nudity was supposed to be private and intimate. Your nude body is supposed to be very, very private, and it was kind of dirty. It was so shocking. I was so shocked”.

marina photo 1

“So every day I started to come to this classic portrait photo studio. Classic, you know, families, babies, new borns, pregnancy, weddings, passport pictures, corporate portraits, communion photos. But she also specialised in art nudes, studio boudoir sessions. There were not many at the time showcasing pictures like this, it was a speciality that she really loved. Sometimes, when we would put pictures in the window to display them, we could come the next morning to the studio and have a lot of cigarette butts in front of the window, there was also a lot of rotten eggs thrown at the window!

As her internship progressed Marina immersed herself in her role, the work, the people and their stories, she thrived on this experience where everything was different and new. She came to recognise that the women in these photos weren’t models. But, beautiful normal people, everyday women, teachers, mums, accountants, all beautiful.

“Looking at these made me see that, oh my god, these are normal people, it’s not Sodom and Gomorrah, they not prostitutes, it’s not dirty. At that moment I was 20 and I was naïve and had all of these background stories in my head. Then I started to meet these people because I was assisting my mentor while she was photographing. Over the years I would get to know these people, because they would be photographed when they first become a couple when they are so in love, and they wanted pictures for the Christmas for the family and then photograph their wedding and then photograph the pregnancy and the first baby and the second baby and then first day of school. Then mum comes in and says: “I feel like I have lost myself I want to feel sexy, I now you can take these pictures, can you take these pictures of me? I mean I know I have cellulite and my belly isn’t beautiful anymore because of the stretch marks.”

“I really did feel like a part of a family. We were giving pieces of our souls, because it was all analogue photography and I was standing in the dark room developing these images, and I would stand there and cry, because, I would remember the story she would tell us. The intimate stories, the sad stories, the happy stories and they would all make me cry”.

That is how Marina started as a photographer, she eventually out grew her surroundings in her professional and personal story. She needed to escape, so she ran as far away as possible, to travel and study English. She landed on Australian soil on the 26th October 2007. Flying back to Germany she resigned from her job seeking professional and personal growth elsewhere. Berlin became her new residence and her new partner her home. At the time, in the back of her mind was a dream to be self-employed one day. But she never felt ready, she knew she had the talent and skill to be successful and thrived on the connection with her clients. However, arriving in Berlin she was took on a job as Manager of a photography studio.

“When I started the job in Berlin it was very different because I was on my own, I was managing the studio, and at some point I got apprentice’s that I was responsible for. I didn’t have as much contact with the clients anymore, there was a separate studio and shop and to make it more efficient I only had contact with the clients when I photographed them. I never had a chance to meet them before the session or when they would pick up the images. It started to become more money making and not about connection and that’s what made me burn out”.

Marina’s health started to suffer. Marina wasn’t eating or sleeping, her body was expressing her soul’s unhappiness as physical symptoms. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. The studio’s clients were happy with what they were getting, but this didn’t sustain Marina, she had lost the connection with the whole process. Her creative work wasn’t coming from her heart anymore, it was money making. Boudoir photography was growing in Marina’s portfolio in the time she was burning out at the studio. Boudoir is founded on trust. Photographer and client would meet before the shoot, she painted the faces of her client and then Marina captured the essence of the woman in images, during their three hours together. Marina would not be rushed with these creative connections with her clients.

“The boudoir shoot is how I got to know my clients, they come to the shoot and I was doing the makeup. This is where they were telling their stories, they were sharing things they probably never shared with anyone. I photograph them and see the transformation from shy and nervous, to working half nude in front of me, and we become friends, that was magical.

marina and bengu

Boudoir is not about sex, I see more of the sensual, intimate, yes it could be sexy but it is not necessary for it. It’s about the 40 something years old mum with five children that comes to me and says, “I can’t look at myself in the mirror, what I see there is so disgusting”. From being a young woman, to the abuse, to the five children, she is an amazing person I see the beauty in her eyes. Yes, she has wrinkles, her body carried five children, she nourished five children. I see the miracle of life, the miracle of giving life, the miracle and beauty of her. When she looks in the mirror she has lost the connection to her femininity. She lost connection to herself, to who she is. She is working full time, she is a mum, she is a wife, she’s a friend, a daughter, there is so much and she always puts herself last. Somehow there was something in her that realised she needs to change something that is why she has started to do things outside of her comfort zone. That is when she discovered what I am doing”.

After chasing this same connection with her clients from continuing her work at the studio and increasing her boudoir sessions, she applied for a job in Switzerland, she travelled for three days to explore the possibility. She cried for the three days, at the end of this release Marina’s heart told her that if she took this job she would be in the same situation but with a different view.

Big changes started unfolding for Marina, her dream to be self-employed started to manifest. She was petrified, fear of financial instability, but she had the support of her partner who was also going through changes at work. They started having hard conversations with life changing questions. Where do you want to be employed? Do you want to be self-employed here? Do you want to move somewhere else? They decided there new chapter would be in the place they met, the place Marina dreamed of as a magical country when she was a child, a place as far away from possible from all the struggle. They landed in Australia 14th October 2014.

Arriving in a new country Marina felt like a new woman, an independent woman, still fearful but excited. This is the part of the story where she was pushed into boudoir photography. The owner of the studio she worked for in Berlin, forbid her from using the images she had created and added to her online portfolio when applying for jobs in Australia.

“The images that I created the last four or five years I wasn’t able to use them, I mean I can understand if I was doing this and making my own studio maybe five hundred metres away from him but I was going on the other side of the world. It was devastating for me, this was my work, how do I apply for jobs without being able to show my work, fresh work. I was now depending on my partner, he got his visa and I was on the partner visa, I had a right to work and I had a right to become self-employed. I had no job and no website with images that I could use. I had to think about what had given me the most joy. When I was in this difficult time of depression and burn out I was thinking of quitting photography completely. I have been doing this for 13 years. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! What else could I do? This is when I started the process of self-development. I realised I didn’t love myself.

marina 2

That is where boudoir photography and loving yourself and loving your body, loving you as is, that’s where it all comes together. Seeing woman coming to me and willing to change something, willing to see themselves in a different way, wanting me to show them a different side to them, wanting to reconnect to their femininity or even discover their femininity. I felt like I was seeing this as a whole picture, and boudoir was something that I could without a studio. It was something that I was enjoying most from all the stages of my photography.

I was scared to focus, I was scared that it was too focussed. I was thinking things like; there are so many people who don’t like it, who don’t get it, who don’t understand it. Why on earth would you focus on that! You would lose so many clients, if you do family portraits everyone loves family portraits. Everyone loves baby photography! Everyone loves a new born photo, families spend so much money on it that would be easier. But, the best work I do is one on one that is where I can get to know them and connect. It doesn’t have to be boudoir it can be fine art, it can be editorial. So I kept myself safe with fine art, editorial and boudoir. When I would go to the networking events or telling people what I do I was hiding myself behind fine art and editorial photography. If I said boudoir people then say, what is that? Then when I would show pictures, some would get it wrong and then think it was dirty again, and then some would be like, “ohh, who wants to do that”!

marina workng

I wasn’t standing my ground. Now I say I am a boudoir photographer. It was a process of the last three years. There were moments where I was thinking, “gosh it is kind of going nowhere”. No, I won’t give it up. I know stories of the woman I have photographed. I have photographed a woman who’s 74 years old, who has got a husband who is sick for many, many years and she is caring for him, but she fell in love. She is 74 years old and she fell in love with another guy and she is having an affair. Or is it! I don’t know, I don’t care. She is a wonderful beautiful person and I don’t think it is bad, she is great, she is a woman, she is a human being, she’s got her needs, and it’s ok. I mean she cares for her husband. But, she is in love with someone else, and she came to me and wanted me to photograph her. For me, I want to be like her when I am 74, not the sick husband, but in love and still wanting sex and live my sexuality and not thinking, “oh, ok I am 40 and life is done”. There are so many more woman like this and I know what impact it has on their lives. It is addicting to hear their stories, and see them change and transform it is addicting. And it heals me. It is ok to love your body, doesn’t matter the scars, it doesn’t matter shape, size or age. It’s ok”.

Devoting her life’s work to women and their stories, what is the definition of woman for Marina?

“Woman there is so much that pops into my head, though the first things maybe that silhouette. The next thing is pain and growth and love and seeds, like plants and their seeds. Growing the seeds putting them into the earth and seeing them come up and growing and giving fruit”.

If you love reading this and would like to read more interviews. Why not back me financially? I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Please head to the bottom footer and leave your email, so that you will be notified every time I publish a LUV interview.

Also click the follow button on my Facebook and Instagram.

Yvonne Rinaldi

matriarch

ˈmeɪtrɪɑːk

noun: matriarch; plural noun: matriarchs

  1. a woman who is the head of a family or tribe.

“in some cultures the mother proceeds to the status of a matriarch”

    • an older woman who is powerful within a family or organization.

“a domineering matriarch”

IMG_6983.JPG

I am perched on the edge of the visitors chair in Yvonne’s office that is reminiscent of a fishbowl. Two of the four walls in her office are floor to ceiling windows looking over the grounds of Caboolture Montessori School. Next to me is Yvonne’s collection of Elephants, every colour every size. I draw in a deep breath while taking in these beauties, thinking of the traits I know about these extraordinary mammals and the matriarchs that lead them – wisdom, strength, intelligence, natural born facilitators, social intelligence, openness, decisiveness, patience, confidence, and compassion. The banging in my chest, the fluttering of wings in my belly and my shaky hands, do not at all mirror the woman sitting comfortably in her office chair, stockinged legs crossed, arms lounging on the arm rests, chest, heart and face open, smiling and confident.

The planning of Caboolture Montessori 20 years ago, was the result of two women making a decision to commit their passion, time, and money into a venture that they wanted to succeed.

“Then three years later I left and went to a bigger school, then nine, nearly ten years ago I heard that they were looking for a principal here.

I decided to come back home.”

Yvonne, like Dr Montessori has training in the medical field. Medical technology and haematology were the fields that Yvonne first trained in, she held a position working with children in Zulu land looking at protein calorie malnutrition. Working closely with little ones she discovered that children were a lot more than physical entities, that they have an amazing capacity. Ever the student, Yvonne needed to know how to understand children on a deeper level than she had been trained for. About to become a mother herself, she sought a type of schooling that would nourish the whole child, the answer was given to her through word of mouth.

“That was 39 years ago, after that I looked at education, I managed to get myself two degrees. Firstly traditional education, and when I was doing my masters, I decided that again Montessori seemed the best thing because it was appealing to all areas of learning. So Montessori is it”

Yvonne’s education on a cellular and intellectual level of children’s development and growth is what sustains her. Her wise assessment and constant wonder of watching a child be able to do things for themselves, their own development and education and not being held to the “monkey see, monkey do” phrase, influences her. She takes her job seriously in influencing others to see the wonder that she sees.

“To get the best out of who they are as adults is looking for the best in children. It’s really not words and I really believe that so strongly. That every child is magic, and it’s up to us to remove those barriers to allow the magic to happen, and then provide scaffolding for them. I have millions of these moments for me. I mean for me it’s a daily occurrence. When I see one of the students and their eyes brighten up and they say over and over again, “I have done it” and you know they have done it. That to me is a glorious moment”.

When selecting people that she can nurture, learn from, teach, be playful with as well have the strength to lead, Yvonne seeks people that: lead with their heart, must be open to learning, know how to be professional, but, most importantly knowing that their own learning is vital for the children. That it is essential for the children to see their role modelling.

“Three or four times a week, I refer to Dr Montessori’s readings and books. And read them again. When you read things again you see if from a different perspective every time. I tell the kids that. I tell the staff that. Learning doesn’t happen in one go it takes repetition, but, repetition when you are ready and you’re ready at different stages, in different areas of your life.

It is always good to go back to good things. Good books, good memories, good people. You will gather more information”.

“They really are my children. Yes my staff are my kids – in a way. It is one on one when you want to reach a person it’s not just about relationships it’s about inter-relationships and intra-relationships. If you know who you are then you will give the best to the other person. So it has to be one on one first, when you are talking to a group absolutely you will start getting a conversation going. But if you are a leader when you are in a group, you try and get everyone else to talk. When it’s two of you, you can really focus on each other. Individuality in the class room is the same you still have to have your focus on everybody, but when you are talking to a student it’s just the two of you in that space. It encourages active listening and most of all trust. If you trust somebody you will give them the best and you will want to do your best. If you don’t trust them it is superficial, you don’t go down inside. Growth is from everyone. When people say look around look what you have done. I am not being patronising when I say that, it’s not what I have done, it’s what we have done as a group. There is no way. No way, that one person alone could’ve every achieved what we’ve got here. It’s just not possible. I have staff that are so committed, so passionate and when I know that they have got that, I can aspire and push for bigger things. Yes, what we have done is phenomenal and it is not ending, now it is what is coming next? What is the next challenge?”

 

IMG_6981.JPG

A well respected and wise matriarch with an ability to communicate, know when to take charge and know when to listen, when to connect with other leaders and draw from their wisdom in making decisions. Yvonne, shares with me her perspective on her first five years as the head of her tribe.

“My first five years of being a principal were absolutely terrifying. Terrifying. You feel that there is so much weight on your shoulders and you really don’t have that person next to you to say, “Well let’s do this or let’s do that”. So your decision making, your perception and how you see things is totally reliant on you. The responsibility was phenomenal and at the time, I didn’t have all the knowledge and I didn’t have the experience, I mean experience is something that nobody can buy or teach you. You learn through the process. So there hadn’t been enough process, I had been a teacher, I had been a curriculum director with others helping me make decisions. Those first five years was, “you breathe, you get in do the best”. Every time. Every time I was in a difficult situation, I would go to the bathroom, if I needed privacy,

“I would say think with your heart and do the best that you can with your heart not just your head. If it’s wrong then it will be wrong, but, you have done it with the best you can give at that very moment”

Now days when I look back I think, I was ok. I don’t know if I am proud yet, but I feel that I can relax more, I still have the moments when a big decision comes my way, now I don’t feel like I will crumble, I feel like I look around and grab people to support me. I have learnt that lesson, that, there are people that will help you and I also have an amazing board. When you have people above you and you know that they are there for you it helps a lot”.

Yvonne also draws on the life of other phenomenal humans.

“Mother Theresa I feel that, that, woman spent so much time in so much angst with no support that she was phenomenal. I mean Jo of Arc is another woman that is phenomenal. I need to bring in a man. Leonardo Da Vinci, I mean that man, the brain that really says it all for Montessori. The creative side of the brain, the logical side of the brain. I mean he had art, technical skills and information. I mean if I could have them all here, I would crawl under the table and let them go for it, they could do it all. But I can’t so I suck out the elements of each. If I could have anyone working beside me in the school? I mean the obvious choice would be Dr Montessori. But I think really I would like Madame Curie, she was an explorer, she was one that never felt she had enough and even what she found and discovered she was not happy with that, she kept going.

Seeking more of her openness and female intelligence I ask what the word “woman” means to her;

“Apart from Mother I think woman to me is arms outstretched and positive and powerful”

Of course finishing of for the quote of the day is none other than the Montessori quote.

“Let me do it by myself”.

I am grateful for Yvonne for sharing her story, her journey of wisdom, strength, intelligence, social intelligence, openness, decisiveness, patience, confidence, compassion, and for being the matriarch that has guided my family through our Montessori journey for eight years. She has shown every single one of these traits to the most important boys in my world.

 

IMG_6984.JPG

 

If you love reading this and would like to read more interviews. Why not back me financially? I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Please head to the bottom footer and leave your email, so that you will be notified every time I publish a LUV interview.

Also click the follow button on my Facebook and Instagram.

 

Grandma

GRANDMA

family-history
Noun
(plural family histories)

1. an extension to genealogy in which the life and times of the people concerned are investigated
Family history puts flesh on the bones of genealogy.

Mum phoned Grandma and papa, and told them we would pop down for a cuppa and morning tea. I selfishly want my grandma’s story, I want to know about the life and experience that lead her to sixty plus years of marriage. I want to know her stories so I can have a deeper understanding of the blood that runs in my veins, I want to know our similarities. I want to know her traditions and the memories she holds dear. We took our morning tea party to the front of the house and enjoyed the sun. I sat on the brick stairs, with a cup of coffee in my lap, papa supplied the tim-tam biscuits on the table. Grandma had Papa sitting on her left hand side, Grandma’s hands were fidgeting in her lap, her body leaned towards papa, and her eyes continually peeked at him, her voice held the same wobble I get when I am nervous, she was afraid to move in case my phone didn’t pick up her voice. My whole being vibrated with love for my grandma, my eyes misted over at the details she remembered and what she didn’t recall she would lean to her left and ask Papa for the answer. My papa a proud and determined man, softened as he listened to the woman that he has been married to for 62 years was reminiscing about their early years together. The longer she chatted about Papa, her immediate family and extended family the wobble left her voice and the memories kept surfacing, the conversation had her glowing.
“I was 12 when my brother went away. Jackie, my brother turned 18 and went to Kingaroy for training, then went to Canada and then England. He was flying plains for the air force, he flew planes over Germany, the war finished in 45, and he got home in 46, I think. I mean there was so many troops to try and get home, it took them along time. Bobbie trained as well and was set to go to New Guinea, but the war ended. My dad worked at the post office in parcels post in Queen Street, he would get all the telegrams. If you ever saw the telegram boy in your street, you just felt so sick. That happened one night when I was at Aunty Dot’s. In the middle of the night there was a knock on the door, there was a young man standing there in uniform. Oh, we felt ill. When Aunty Dot answered the door it was nothing. Just a silly young drunk boy, looking for the people across the road”.
A favourite thing, we loved when growing up was Guy Fawkes Night, cracker night. It was great. We would go and buy our crackers and light them up.
“Remember, Remember the 5th of November.”

We would make a big bonfire and let off all the crackers. One night we were all trying to light the bonfire, it wouldn’t light. Later, we found out the miserable old sod at the back had hosed our bonfire. There was also always the bad kids going round and lighting up all the letter boxes”.

“I was 14 when I finished school. The teacher sent us into Brisbane to go to the chemist to buy the toiletries she needed for the week. We went in to the chemist, Della Huntys. We got the tram to go back to school. I forgot it was a one way street. I got off the tram and walked around the front and was hit by a truck. I was in hospital for about a month, then was sent home to recuperate from a fractured skull. Once I was better I got a job with my sister Valda at Leutneggers. I just went in and asked for a job, they gave it to me. I had a job sewing hats, some buy machine, mostly by hand though, they were sold in shops all over Brisbane. So there was half a dozen girls on every table, we all sat in a row and sew. I was there from when I was 15 and left when I was 18, when mum and dad moved to Redcliffe to live. All the girls back then were either milliners or dressmakers. I was never wrapped up in it. I mean it was just a job, I didn’t love it. Once I left I never thought of making another hat again. While I was still working in Brisbane I stayed with my Aunty Dot. I worked at Woolworths in the city, when I finished at the milliners, then when they opened a shop in Redcliffe I moved down there.”

grandma
I am fascinated about how young girls and women led there life in the 1940’s and 50’s, but I want to hear the love story of my grandparents. Papa gives a little deep chuckle, Grandma shakes her head and pats papa’s hand.
“Oh, it was terrible. I met papa at Rosalie while I was living with Aunty Dot. He was walking up the road with a couple of friends. I was standing outside talking to a boy, he was just a friend”. She says as she pats papa’s hand and send him a sneaky smile.
“Papa had a nice blue jumper on and he looked over and saw me looking and he said “would you like me to take it off for you”? “Oh”, I said to my friend “I hope I never have papato talk to him again”. Papa lets out a belly laugh while grandma shakes her head.
“Well, Papa’s mother heard what he said as he walked past me, and told him to “get over there and apologise.”

“Aunty Dot didn’t have a phone at the house, so we had to use the one in the local shop. The shop lady would call out to all the neighbours when they were wanted on the phone. The next day she called out “Fay, your wanted on the phone”. It was papa. Papa was on the ship working and called me asking if I wanted to go to the movies. I wasn’t very impressed but I said “oh! Yes ok”. He bought me a box of chocolates. We were sitting there and he told me a friend of his bought a girl a box of chocolates and she ate them all herself. So all through the movie I kept asking him: “would you like a chocolate” every single time he would say “no thanks”! I couldn’t even enjoy the movie, I was too worried about the chocolates”. We were about 16. Then he went off to sea, he could be gone for up to six weeks, he went to England at one time. I would check the newspaper every week to see when his ship was coming back to Brisbane. When I moved to Redcliffe, I would catch the red bus up to Brisbane to see papa. Papa would be waiting at the bus stop for me, I would leave Redcliffe about 5pm and get to Brisbane about 8.00pm. We would go to Bon’s café, we loved the pork sausages. We were married in 1955 at Sacred Heart church, Rosalie in Brisbane. I went and bought my dress from a shop in the Brisbane arcade. After my wedding, it was handed down to my sister-in-law and then I sold it for 10 pounds. We had the reception next to the Broncos leagues club, there was a big reception hall there, oh there was about 100 at the wedding. A wedding back then you just invited everybody. The football was on that night, the reception was everyone listening to the football. We had booked to go away for our honeymoon, but, oh we couldn’t afford it so we cancelled. We had a rented flat and we moved in the night we got married. I hated the colour of the walls, so papa painted them for me”.

grandma papa weddding
“Papa was working on the wharf at the time. We had 3 cents to our name after the wedding. It was hard living in those days. Papa was only paid when there was work. If there was no ships in we didn’t get paid. We listened to the radio every day, to hear his number, 2565 when it was called. Everybody that worked the wharves had a number, the numbers were called at random at 6.00am every day, if your number was called you had work for that day, no number no work. We lived in Stafford St at Paddington, we didn’t have a phone at the house, and papa would have to run up the hill to get to a phone box to call the wharf to say he would work. I would watch him out the window and if he was running down the hill he would have work. Sometimes we could go a week with him walking home which meant he had missed out on the job and was without work. Once we had the kids I would be yelling out to be quiet, so we could hear if their father had work for the day. There were ships in everyday, but, I mean there was so many water side workers”.
“Your mother was born at the Royal Brisbane hospital. There were no men allowed to be around when the baby was being born. Nobody was allowed to go in with you when you were delivering the baby, you went in all by yourself”. Grandma tells me this with a shrug. My mind and heart are spinning at the thought of having to deliver your baby with only a room full of strangers supporting you.
“I went in to the hospital, the week before all my babies were born. My water always broke the week before they were born. I would have a dry birth. I had Doctors and Professors studying me because it was so unusual that it happened with them all. The husbands were only allowed to view the babies through the glass in the nursery. Papa was only permitted to visit between 7pm and 8pm every night and at 8pm the nurse would be like; “righto, out!”
“One day I bought your grandma some strawberries and cream in a bowl. There were too many visitors at the time, a nursing sister came, got the strawberries and cream and closed the door in my face. I was left outside waiting to go and see grandma. I couldn’t get in until some of the visitors were leaving”.
“Oh, the nursing sisters! It was just like they were trained in the army, I think may have been. No one was allowed to sit on the bed, they would march up and down the ward, glaring at everybody. We had to stay in the hospital for nine days after delivering the babies, we weren’t allowed out of bed, not even for the toilet. They would bring all the babies around in a long trolley at feeding time. We would also have to express milk for the babies whose mothers couldn’t feed them, you had to express every day, and the nursing staff would get cranky at you if you didn’t give enough”.
With grandma’s recall of events I have thoughts flying through my head like: what if they mix up the babies? Nine days in bed actually sounds pretty good to just rest. Express for other babies! Is that healthy?
“Once discharged, I got a taxi home. We lived in Red Hill, I got the taxi driver to take me home so I could pack a bag and go to papa’s mother’s house. I left your mother on the seat of the taxi, went inside, opened up the flat and packed a bag, now days they would call child services if you did that”. She says with a chuckle.
“Oh, yes when we moved to Redcliffe. I mean your mother went to kindy on the bus on her own when she was 3. The bus driver would help her on the bus. Your mum would wait at the butcher shop, get on the bus. Then the same in the afternoon, they would get her on the bus and she would get out at the butcher shop and walk home, sometimes my mum would meet her there and walk with her. I was still working full time then at Woollies and your mother had kindy. So! When your mother went to school, my dad would make hot chips and take them to the school and have lunch with her. At night we would have to rush through dinner and baths so that we could watch television. We were the only house in the street that had tv. All the neighbours would come every night and watch our tv. Quiet often we couldn’t get a seat in our lounge room because all the neighbours would be there. Either that or everyone would go to the shop windows and watch the tv. When we first went to Redcliffe no one had phones, so we would go to the telephone boxes you would call the exchange and they would tell you to wait your turn. Once they connected you, after 3 minutes the operator would say “are you extending?” We would have to say yes or no and put more money in. You would talk really quickly so we didn’t have to put more money in”.
I look to my right and see my two boys 15 and 12 playing on their smart phones as grandma tells me about waiting your turn to call someone.
When we moved to where we are now in Redcliffe, this was just a big pineapple farm and dirt roads. Pineapples were still growing when we bought the land, we didn’t get neighbours for two years after we moved in. If there was a car coming up the road we would know we were having visitors. We were the only ones in the street, I would have time to yell out to the kids “hurry up and tidy up”.
So Grandma what’s the secret to having a marriage for 62 years?
“Do what your bloody told!”. My papa says laughing while wrapping his arm around Grandma, while she pats him on the leg and says.
“Oh, but it has been a lovely life here with papa.”

20171013_124411.jpg
My absolute favourite photo with my Grandparents.

If you love reading this and would like to read more interviews. Why not back me financially? I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Please head to the bottom footer and leave your email, so that you will be notified every time I publish a LUV interview.

Also click the follow button on my Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

Sandra Conte

Sandra Conte.

Sandi and I meet at a local coffee shop, we get settled at our table with chai latte each and I ask the first question and am taken away, this is why I love doing this, I get lost in the conversation, her story flows. Sandi is incredibly open, honest, and generous, at some moments in the conversation the expressions on her face are of remembrance, fond and forgotten moments and achievement’s getting a voice. She is candid in sharing so much of her life experience, I get goose bumps.

Sandi from the age of 4 has had a love and passion for art, one of her first essays at school Sandi wrote that she dreamed of being either an artist or a pilot. She recounts to me an experience from her favourite class of the week at school. Art class.

“We were tasked with painting fire cracker night. I got my brushes and splayed them out to get the rippling effect and it was coming together and looking like I had found fire cracker night at the Nambour showgrounds. I was made an example of, I was told to put my brushes down, and stand in the corner of the class room for all art classes for the rest of the year, because, “look what this girl has done. That is not how you paint.”

Those teachers that terrified that little girl during Friday art class, didn’t squash her desire to make art, she refused to let their harsh voice define her passion for art.

“It doesn’t just block creativity when you have a person treat you like that. It blocks you in so many other ways, always second guessing”.

Sandi never did second guess her decision to chase her dream of being involved in the art world. Sandi’s parents worried that their daughter wouldn’t be able to make living from her creativity, and encouraged her to become a teacher. Studying initially in fine arts, leading Sandi to post-graduate studies in dress history and combining that with Queensland history.

“That allowed me with my post graduate studies to curate a dress historical exhibition. That was called “Dressed to kill, the impact of World War 2 on Queensland women’s dress 1935-1950”.

Sandi’s experience has allowed her to be offered multiple roles. Her work has taken her to approximately 5 different universities in an art capacity as a curator, director or freelancer. She has also worked with various local government authorities in the same capacity.

“I really just want to be around the arts. I think being a curator, it is a vicarious way of being involved. It’s voyeuristic. It’s like, ok I can work with artists, and I can still make a living. So I went into that field”.

Photo by Wild Honey Photography

She has travelled far and wide and held respected positions. Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide, is all indigenous owned and operated, and Sandi found this an interesting and privileged position to hold. She was in public relations at Central Queensland University answering directly to the vice chancellor, this position serviced a number of different campuses. Growth in her professional life, forced her to develop and move outside of some personal fears. Sandi, at the time didn’t hold a drivers licence as she feared she wouldn’t be a good driver. Within the first month in Rockhampton, Sandi as a passenger was involved in a car accident that nearly killed her. She decided during her recovery, she was no longer comfortable with someone else taking control of her transport. She was getting her license.

 

Intercultural activity has been critical, and central to Sandi’s professional career. While working as the PR person in Rockhampton, Sandi discovered the university held an art collection that was not being cared for or utilised in any way. Taking advantage of this art work Sandi set up in conjunction with the indigenous unit at the university at satellite gallery and launched this as part of NAIDOC week, this was the first indigenous exhibition and drew record crowds. It was called Colour my world.

“It was absolutely amazing, we had Archie Roach come up, where he performed a free concert. We bought people in from Woorabinda, and we went out and filmed some of Archie’s music”.

Sandi had the opportunity to work with Fred Hollows in Central Queensland.

“I mean he worked in Eritrea, but he also worked in our indigenous communities. He always spoke of “going away, to come back”.

Sandi’s whole being lights up, she sits straighter in her chair and her laugh is infectious with excitement when she speaks of some of the people that she has worked and flourished with, or has been influenced by.

“I remember my boss at Tandanya was Francesca Cubillo, she is now Senior Curator of: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the National Gallery of Australia. She is a Larrakia woman from up Darwin way. I remember her talking about particular works in the gallery space at Tandanya and how rich that desert area is, how rich with Indigenous heritage and culture Australia is. I mean she could look at an art work and tell you down to a fine hair exactly what it was, she would explain how rich the area was under all that red dirt. How it can sustain us, but, we don’t look beyond and we don’t have that cultural knowledge”.

“I am fascinated with the gender specific approach to making art, and find time and time again if you find a pairing of artists male and female, the male career takes off and the female is the supporter. Irrespective of if there is a parity or not with their particular talent. This is what was great about spending my week with Wendy Whiteley. Her visit was such a privilege. She is a strong beautiful woman. She is so articulate and has such wisdom in terms of the global art scene. She a wonderful thinker. I am fascinated by the role of the muse within the public and private life, but also like the power in front of the throne. I mean she is carrying that legacy so beautifully. I mean, Whiteley himself used to talk about the fact that she was possibly a better drawer than him. She was going to art school when she met him. I am a lover art that represents social change. Not all art is that. But, I think the power of art, and the momentous occasions when you step back and or when you’re standing in front of a canvas and you just get that feeling of; oh wow that has changed my way of thinking. I remember standing in the art gallery of New South Wales in front of a painting by Lloyd Rees, called Road to Berry and it had a line. It is referred to as an angelic line of sorts. I think that particular work/line changed Whiteley’s or impacted his thinking, I mean he made comment about it impacting him. You can look at his work, and think what would he have been without the drugs? But, he had the capacity to be receptive to other artists work. So I think it is the collaboration, the sharing of ideas in a healthy fashion that starts the world talking, thinking, changing”.

“Gauguin is my absolute favourite. Te Rerioa (The Dream), 1897. That painting sang to me. I am a deep, deep fan of Rosalie Gascoigne she came to art quiet late in life via Ikebana. I am fascinated by her story. She to me is like a bower bird, working with found objects and making meaning of them. My favourite author is Drusilla Modjeska, I got to meet her years ago and why she is so important to me is that I found my first love of reading through her when I was in my thirties. I remember discovering this book called Stravinsky’s Lunch. It is quite a weighty tome, and I remember getting up of a night and I would read for hours in the middle of the night, it was the only time I had to read. I couldn’t get enough of that book. That book was actually analyzing two female non-fictional artists who had lead very different lives. One who stayed in Australia and the other one who went overseas to find her calling”.

“I completely identify with Georgia O’Keefe, with being scared of everything in your life, I mean maybe it stems from that early start of always being anxious about everything and thinking you’re not good enough.

I also identify with her and just going ahead, and making a decision to just do it and the nay-sayers can say what they like, but this is really important to me, I am driven to do this. So make art – not war”.

Sandi held her own solo art exhibition at the age of 40. After spending time in Darwin and central Queensland visiting crocodile farms and being impacted by them, she became fascinated with the areas of environment and animals. It was called Sweet, skin, Suite and it was looking at crocodiles and body marking.

Sandi’s latest exhibition at the Logan regional gallery is, Bee-mindful. Focusing on bees, being human, empathy, how we all work together.

“I am always interested how art educates and the bees have been awareness raising. Yes it’s an environmental thing, certainly in terms of no bees, no me. The stingless native bees are so fascinating to me in terms of the intercultural aspects of that as well. Learn more wisdom, empathy. Yes, I am incredibly interested in what it means to be human, and where young people see where they fit into the world in regards to that.”

Sandi campaigns her eARTh e-mag, and how it was born from her realization that there was no platform for creatives to be recognized for their creative work, either working with, or for the environment.

“Social change can be made through art definitely. It can be person to person or it can be greater”.

“I suppose that is why the eARTh e-mag came into being. I was conscious that there were artists all over the world, who were working with, or for the environment and I want to give them air time and that is my way of contributing to the environment. I mean it is pretty hard for creatives, well not all, to get exposure, in the day and age of social media it’s a bit easier. But usually you are not the best advocate of your own work, so, that is where as a global platform we provide somewhere to talk about these artists who are changing the world and are inspiring others to do so. Its awareness and exposure. I see myself as a match maker in the art world. I love matching artists up to other creatives. I was talking to an artist recently and I automatically thought; oh, you need to meet this other person that I mentored years ago.  Oh, I love making those things happen. It’s seeing the opportunities and facilitating it. I love that, for me there is such joy in that. Community focussed projects are so important to me”.

At the close of our time together I asked Sandi what she was most proud of and what the word woman means to her.

“I have never been self-congratulatory. I always have this thought that I need to do better. So when there may have been markers in my life, say the dressed to kill exhibition or the solo exhibition. I never thought “oh I did it” it was always ok, on to the next thing. I haven’t had one of those moments. I just have so many more things to do”.

“Woman means invincible, we are here to stay”.

This interview was timed out at 55 minutes, there were no customers left sitting in what was an overflowing court yard, our coffee cups had been collected, and at the time it felt as though we only chatted for 10 minutes. Sandi is colourful and vibrant in her passion for creativity and the art world. This lady is a database of knowledge, depth and understanding. Indigenous art, the environment and animals will forever have a platform to be displayed creatively if Sandra Conte is involved, and it was such a pleasure to be an audience to her story.

If you love reading this and would like to read more interviews. Why not back me financially? I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Please head to the bottom footer and leave your email, so that you will be notified every time I publish a LUV interview.

Also click the follow button on my Facebook and Instagram.

Today 5th October

 

20171005_171654113604150.jpg I sat in an art studio today and heard life experiences from a lady who kindly wanted to share for LUV.
I had never met this woman before, she emailed me a couple of weeks ago after I put a call out for women to share their story for LUV. When I arrived at her home / art studio this morning she greeted me like a long lost friend and made me breakfast of green tea and fruit toast. I stood in her kitchen and we had a quick chat before we went to her art studio. I was so nervous all morning getting ready and on the 50 minute drive north. I am so glad that she confirmed the interview with me as I was in my head too much with anxiety, I told her how nervous I was but equally excited, she replied with a lovely text message.
I came home this afternoon not remembering the drive home, I have so many things that needed doing this afternoon and I just haven’t been able to do them. I am one raw and open nerve ending at the moment. I have a pounding headache and I can feel my whole being vibrating with energy, change, growth, movement. But I feel as though I need to curl up in a ball and settle, get grounded.
I have never been so effected by a conversation with a person that I have just met. It was such a sacred space with just the two of us, her voicing experiences and events that have broken her and me listening to how she has put herself back together, healed and learnt from many life lessons that could easily have her playing the victim. In the face of everything she has experienced she told me that she is grateful for all of it, grateful for the lessons she learned and the deep healing she has worked on.
I am so overwhelmed with the trust that this lady has shown me today in sharing her life experiences. I don’t even have enough words for the gratitude, love and overwhelming feeling of thanks I have for this woman for blessing me with this experience.
This is why I wanted to do this project of LUV. I wanted to spread the voices of women and their powerful chronicles of life. I was naively hoping that by spreading the stories of other women through my writing and publishing them on my website I would offering a beautiful service to my audience, I didn’t recognise the effects it would have on me.
I feel like I shouldn’t have written about this as yet, I feel so raw, but I need to get out some of the energy from today. I wanted to share a tiny part of what I experienced during our time.

 

Bella

IMG_5559.JPG

boarding

(bɔːʳdɪŋ )

  1. uncountable noun

Boarding is an arrangement by which children live at school during the school term.

I left my boys with my sister and drove down the dirt road for my interview with Bella, these interviews that I organise have me anxious and out of my comfort zone every single time. I arrived at Bella’s home and after initial greetings, and quick catch ups with her parents over a flute of champagne, Bella and I got comfy in the lounge room for a chat.

The first question that I asked Bella was, “tell me what boarding school has been like for you?” This eloquently spoken 16 year old young lady started her story.

“I left home in 2013, as a year 8 student at St Hilda’s on the Gold Coast. It was my first time leaving home for longer than a week or two.”

“It was terrifying, boarding is terrifying, but, it has been amazing.”

I promised myself on the drive over that I wouldn’t get emotional. Well, that first sentence killed that promise. My nose started to run and my eyes misted over.

Sport, socialising and being active in the community is big part of the culture of living in the bush. Bella has built close friendships from being a team player as a young girl. As luck would have it she was introduced to her closest friend at a sporting carnival playing netball, and the girls went on to board together at St Hilda’s. There are not only rural and remote girls at the boarding school but a number from Papua New Guinea, Asia, and some prefer boarding over home.

She tells me about the process of being dropped off at her second home.

“For first time parents they are advised to leave a bit earlier so it doesn’t get too emotional. Our parents settle us in and then we head to the boarding house.”

The head of boarding and the boarding mums are at the school for the arrival of the girls to support them in getting settled. Helping the girls set up their new bedrooms, getting comfortable in their new surroundings. Bella is following in her mother’s footsteps at St Hilda’s. She was blessed to be allocated to the boarding mum that guided her mum, through the boarding years. The boarding mum also holds strong ties to the family. Bella’s granny nurtured Bella’s new boarding mum when she was a student at St Hilda’s.

“A boarding mum is a lady that comes to work and looks after boarding girls, they are so kind. I had her in year 8, I was her granddaughter and she loved me the whole way through. So when I finished year 8, I moved boarding house and she moved with me – she was with me for the next two years. I then moved again and now she is looking after my sister. When I started, I mean we were the babies, we are their babies, the babies of the school. These ladies are our mums while we are school. They are a big part of us, I mean we spend more time boarding than we do at home. So they become very special to us.”

“They looked after us through it all. We were naughty, but god they love us.”

Tears are now flowing freely down my face. For Bella, knowing that this young woman is so loved by so many strong women. For her mother for being so courageous and dedicated to her daughter, her education, and growth and sharing her child with another woman that Bella loves so much. And the boarding mum, what a special lady to devote her life to opening up her heart to loving and helping raise teenager girls so far from home.

“As a year 12 girl I get an individual room. They are very nice. The mums come around at 7am and wake us all up. Breakfast is 7.15am so we get dressed and ready to go to breakfast or we can make brekky in the boarding house. We usually just sit and have time with the mums in the morning, watch the news, get ready and then off to school. After school is where we go and do co-curricular activities or tutoring if we have to, otherwise we just go back to our room and do whatever we want until 5.00pm. Prep is at 5.00pm, so we study time until 6.10pm and then go for our dinner sitting, 6.40pm we have prep until 8.30pm. We can study in our rooms or they provide tutors in the boarding house. Most of them are old St Hilda’s girls as well, they come up we chat and study. From 8.30pm is for showering, studying or visiting friends in their rooms. It’s just like home you go around and chat to the mums, chat to your sisters.”

Bella acknowledges the social skills she has developed from being a boarder, she tells me about the situations faced by boarders that sometimes are out of their comfort zone, and what she has learnt from that.

“Every term we change rooms, you find when you’re living beside different people you become better friends with them. A few years ago I was put beside this girl and I was like, “oh no, I do not want to be beside her”, but by the end of the term we were really good friends.”

I have to laugh at little when she is telling me about the deep friendships that are forged in the boarding house. She makes it sound like a five year slumber party with your besties.

“It’s so much easier in boarding to make friends. I mean everyone is your sister we are so open and comfortable with everyone, maybe a little too comfortable. We are always talking to people, always with people, you just get so much confidence. Best part of boarding is just always being with your friends. In the end you are boarding more than you are at home and they are your second family, they just mean so much to you. I mean we can go out on leave on the weekends, but sometimes you just want to say home and hang with your girls. I have boarded for five years and yeah this is my last year. So daunting. I mean I am not going to see all of those girls every day and it is going so fast. I mean crazy fast, and scary knowing it’s nearly over. The whole time you think:

“Oh gosh I want to get out of here”. But now, its like, “oh no! I am getting out of here soon”.

And with friendships established with the girls you live with, you also build relationships with their family. The girls are “allowed out on leave” every weekend. There are a couple of weekends a term that are dedicated to the families and them spending time together.

“I mean, for all the times that mum and dad have come down I don’t remember a time that we just had us as a family. We always take out my sister’s friends or my friends, if they are stuck in. My really good friend, her mum lives in Western Australia so every time mum and dad come down we take her out.”

Bella compares going out on leave to see her parents with the feeling little kids get on Christmas Eve. “Oh yeah, it’s like I can’t wait to see them, I mean we only see them a few times during the term”.

Then for the families the routine of drop off and settling in to school is repeated. Drop off at school, mums and sisters are allowed up to the rooms for settling in, but being a girl’s boarding house, dads can’t go in. Bella tells me, most of the parents sign their girls in at reception, the girls catch up with friends before starting their school routine again. Obviously this is easier on some than others.

“Lucky for me I get to see mine every few weeks, which is very nice. I can also go over and see my sisters in their boarding houses whenever I want, and they can always come and see me.”

Bella participates in a new initiative for the school. She has taken on additional “sisters”. The program starts before the little girls arrive at the school some starting in year 6. Year 12 students connect with them by sending Christmas cards and wishing them a happy new year. On arrival at the school the big sisters look after the little ones, help them with the settling in, they help with homework, and offer support when boarding is overwhelming. Bella is positive that this new programme has helped the little girls greatly.

“I know my first year we all thought we were pretty tough and would hold back the crying. You always end up crying. All you want to do is go home see your family, god, even see the dog. We never had any older girls to help us get through it. Oh, those older girls for me where so scary, they were so big and we were so little. By doing this we are breaking that, we are good friends with them, and both of my buddies are good friends with my sister.”

She is home now for the school holidays, I ask her what it was like this time coming home.

“It’s is so good, so amazing to come home. I mean everything changes. Last time when I was home everything was green, but on the turn to brown. But I got here the other day and there is knee high green grass and we have puppies”.

“I mean and coming home to mum and dad and my youngest sister, oh, it’s everything”.

She goes on to tell me that she hasn’t always been positive and accepting of her life of having to live away from her family to receive an education.

“I am ok now with going away, but in year 9 I threw the biggest tantrum. I was not going back to school. I was not going back to boarding. There was nothing worse. So I just refused. I was just like “nope, I am not going back”. But yeah, year 9 was my worst year. Year 8 is so surreal, so new and exciting. Year 9, I knew what to expect, I knew what was going to happen and I was just like nope, I won’t be leaving mum and dad and my sisters. It was terrible. Eventually, I got in the car and I was taken back. Year 10 was so much fun.”

Year 10 for Bella was not only receiving an education from the school but from travelling the world. Bella an active student at St Hilda’s participates in sport, the adoption of little sisters, and she also represented the school in an exchange program to Holland for six weeks.

“It was the absolute best experience. I had never travelled overseas before, and then I ended up going to Holland living there for six weeks, oh amazing. I was really keen to travel everywhere when I got home from Holland. But now I just love being home. Australia is the best.”

In her last year at school, having made the most of her experiences as a boarder and in her education Bella has completed a hospitality and barista certificate and responsible service of alcohol certificate. She is currently working on her certificate three in childcare and works at the St Hilda’s day care centre with the pre-preps. So what is happening next year?

“Next year I will hopefully go north, maybe the Kimberley’s and either go jillarooing or governessing for a couple of years. I want to eventually go to the Marcus Oldham College”.

This portrait was a difficult piece to create as openly as I normally write. When I was crafting this piece I didn’t simply have Belle to think of. But her parents were taping away at my heart as well, that was the prickly part. I wanted the story from the mouth of the daughter that lives this experience. I wanted this interview and this story because I bow down to the parents that share their pre-teens and teens with a second family so generously. A big thank you to Bella and her Mumma, love you both for sharing your unique story.

If you love reading this and would like to read more interviews. Why not back me financially? I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Mothering teenage boys is a puzzle.

I want to write today about being a mum to a teenage boy.

My first born was 15 a few weeks ago, and, I feel the same way I did on his first birthday. On his first birthday I cried, and held him all day. It was a multi layered cry, on one level I was relieved that we had barely survived the first year, he was growing out of the baby stage. I wept harder though, when I thought about how he wasn’t the baby anymore, that my arms would get lighter from here on out. I cried in celebration because it was our day, his birthday, and my birthing day.

This year on his 15th birthday I cried. I cried because our relationship is evolving and my arms and heart are aching for my little boy that always wanted my attention, that little boy love for his mumma. I would stand for hours watching him bowl a ball. Now he goes out into the yard on his own to practice cricket. For the little boy that would always yell out to me, just so he knew where I was at all times. For the little boy that would cuddle me just because he wanted to, now I have to place his arms around my neck. He is moving out into the world and doing things that he doesn’t need me for. He organised work experience with Queensland Cricket at Albion, which meant he had to catch two trains to get there and then walk to the fields. He was completely confident and excited to be doing this on his own. My husband and I took him the first two days and he was mortified. The third day, I sat drinking endless coffee, in my back yard staring at my phone waiting for him to call me; when he changed trains, when he arrived at Albion station, when he clocked on at work. I was more worried on that day than the day I sent him off to school. At school, the staff have to care about the students, keep them safe. Putting him on a public train, and off to work in the big wide world, where no one really cares, was scary. He was totally fine and completely nailed his work experience – the whole experience, not just the work part. But getting ready, arriving on time, being responsible.

20170722_071959
Date day. (I look impressed don’t I)

 

He also has a girlfriend who he wants to spend more and more time with. This is honest to god killing me. I want my little family with me at all times when I have the weekend off (which is not often). He is now wanting to go and watch her play sport and spend weekends with her. Last weekend they had a “date day”. He watched her play sport and then her family dropped them at a local beach town. My boy took his girl for lunch at a burger restaurant, splurged on ice cream, and they hung out on the beach. I actually had tears in my eyes talking to my husband about this situation. The conversations in our house are now revolving around not blowing allllllll of your money that you work for, on a girl. This conversation does not go down well. This also hurts my heart because I want to be supportive, but, am finding this teenage, first love situation stressful, and hard to navigate so that I don’t look like the bitchy mum.

The no secret rule in our house is one we have preached since we tied the knot. We always try to be open and honest in an age appropriate way with the boys. At the moment that includes lots of talk about how to treat a girl, how to be respectful. We have had the; having babies at your age will completely ruin your life conversation. We have been focussing a lot on talking to him about choices and the wrong ones will send you in a down ward spiral, how at this point in your life the world is your oyster. This was cemented last week when my boy and I had to meet at the school to decide his “pathway” through the next two years at school. My husband has been spending a lot of time with him, and his brother fishing in their little boat, surfing, riding skate boards, and mountain bikes, and four wheel driving, re-enforcing in his soul that we are always here for him, and that there is always opportunity for conversation when hanging out with dad. I feel a bit left out at the moment with all of the boy activity going on. There is a definite shifting, I feel like we are puzzle pieces that haven’t clicked into place yet, that we know we belong together, but just have to find our place. I do feel like I am grieving for the little boy days, when my husband and I were the only important people in his orbit. When the most important thing I was teaching him was how to brush his teeth or that a banana is a better choice than a chocolate.

As I sit here writing this my boy is on school survival camp. We are old pro’s at school camp, Montessori kids start going to camp in prep (prep camp is a one night sleep over at the school). This year is different again as I feel like this is a big test for him, with choices that he makes and how he behaves on camp. I am missing him a lot more than usual. And my advice to him when he got out of the car was

“Love you, have fun, learn lots, try and stay warm, don’t get any one pregnant.”

Him “OH MY GOD…MUM!!!”

Continue reading “Mothering teenage boys is a puzzle.”

Today, I write.

I have been in hibernation this winter, hence the radio silence on the blog. I am allergic to the cold and struggle to be motivated when the air is cold, the wind is blowing, and I have to be rugged up in multiple layers. No, really I am allergic to the cold season, my skin goes into meltdown the minute the weather changes. My skin starts out really dry, and then changes into an eczema type skin condition on my neck, boobs, and stomach. It is crazy itchy, and it doesn’t matter what oil I put on it or how much a fill my gut with good bacteria like kombucha, yoghurt, green vegetables, bone broth, turmeric. The only thing that makes it disappear is spring.

Sunday morning we were at the beach, my husband truly believes in his soul that the ocean fixes everything, he was convinced that the salt water would fix my skin, and made me go for a dip in the ocean, in winter. The water didn’t fix my skin, but it livened me up. It was cold and gave me goose bumps, had my teeth chattering, and my extremities purple, heart racing, but so refreshing and cleansing. My husband and two boys frolicked in the ocean with me after their morning of surfing in wetsuits, laughing at me in my summer bikini.20170723_111225

I will back track a bit and explain how my husband made me go for a swim in the ocean, in winter and made me write today.

I have a little project that I am in the planning stages of. Anyone that reads my blog, knows that I have a categorgy called #sistertribe, where I interview women and post the interviews and photos on the blog. Well I want to expand that. I want to Interview more women and be paid for it. I have found a platform called Patreon that will facilitate this project. I have been planning and making notes and making lists of women that I want to chat to, I have been setting goals and researching and researching. To sum up, I am procrastinating.

Sitting at the football on Saturday, I put my foot down – I actually stamped my foot like a two year old, and told my husband that I would be doing more writing, that I am going to make this project work and I want his support. He looked at me like I had three heads. See he doesn’t at all, nor has ever, understood why I write, or post to a blog or want to interview women and post their stories.

“Honestly babe, I just don’t get it, it makes no sense to me. Why do people give a shit, why on earth would someone pay money to read about someone else? Why do they want to read about other people’s business? You tell me you want to do this, just do it. You want to write and talk to women, just do it! Not once have I ever told you can’t have or do something. It doesn’t make sense to me, but so what. Just because we are married, doesn’t mean I am going to agree with you 100% of the time. If you enjoy something, do it. Do not, however, hide yourself away in your office when we are all home, we need you and want you with us. Prove to people like me, that don’t understand what you do, that you can make it successful. That you can prove people wrong.”

At this point I didn’t know if I want to punch him in the face or kiss it. He kissed me, patted my leg and went back to watching our boy play football.

On our way to the beach on Sunday morning, my husband asked me, who are the women that I have on my wish list to interview. I told him about a woman from Northern Wales that is on my wish list, Natasha Brooks (please, please click on her name, it will direct you to her film), she swims in the mountain lakes there. Yes in northern Wales, where there is snow and temperatures below freezing, she swims naked. I want to interview her and ask her why, and find out her story. I told all of this to my husband. So by the time he had finished surfing and I had been sun baking/ sleeping in the winter sun, he leaned over me, dripping freezing water on me and said come for a swim.

“No, I am not swimming in that ocean today!”

“Northern wales this is not babe, it’ll fix your skin.”

20170723_111307

“Fine”.

 

Sitting at dinner that night we were going over our day like we usually do.

“So how much writing did you get done, while the boys and I went four wheel driving.”

My dear husband took our boys out to a local four wheel drive track for 4 hours after we came home from the beach, he text me at one point and said “we will be a while – write, do your thing while we are gone”.

“I washed and ironed clothes, washed the floor, carted wood upstairs for the fire, started dinner, baked muffins.”

“Not helping your cause babe”.

So today I write.

 

Gin Rummy Vintage

Yesterday scrolling through Instagram I found a local treasure and I went to visit Mel at Gin Rummy vintage today.  I remember when I was little it was a treat to get into mum’s cupboard with all her clothes and jewellery and the shoes (there is photo evidence of me somewhere actually in mum’s clothes). Well Gin Rummy is like a massive walk-in wardrobe that I didn’t want to leave – like literally. I met Mel this morning and told her I would come back soon and not just to add to the four treasures I found, but with a coffee. Anyone that knows me, knows that is not how I roll. But hanging out in what Mel said to me was like an extension of her home and chatting to her, trying on some of her gorgeous pieces, was such fun. So here is what the local Mumma of two told me about her business.

It is a lifelong obsession basically with dressing up, fabrics, old things and mending and making do. It is a collision of all of the things I love coming together.

I had seen the studios were available for years and always thought what a lovely thing to do. But what would I do. I started with selling jewellery and handmade accessories on line, it is a challenge and then I realised that I had this collection of clothes that were essentially things that I couldn’t leave behind. I am not a hoarder, I am a collector. I saw the hub was calling for expressions of interest and I thought, oh what the hell.  The last day before the offer closed, I stayed up until midnight writing a business plan. Then they loved my interview. I came along with my suitcase full of random things and started pulling them out and the panel were just like  – go for it.

IMG_6439

My prices range from $3.00 to $200.00 depending on the rarity, I have things from all over the world and brands and collections. It depends on the day which piece I love the most, they are like my children, the fabrics talk to me, and the colours fill up your eyes and gives me such joy. There are so many stories to vintage clothes, have they been cut up? Have they been mended? Did someone love them intensely? Did they die? Where have they been worn? I look at them and try and tease out the story. If I get the story, behind you know – say the vintage dress that someone gives to me and tells me the story of it that is just like oooohhhhh gold.

Word of mouth has been pretty powerful, I have a nook upstairs in the foyer, which has been great for directing people and social media is gold (ginrummyvintage). I am here daily 10.00am-3.00pm and Saturday by appointment only. I will be here till November. I am getting new pieces all the time, I am always on the hunt.

IMG_6441

I was taking photos of the shop and watched this beauty in action. A lady had been at the gallery on the top floor, and was told about Gin Rummy and come for a look. See, she is going to the theatre to see 1984 by George Orwell at QPAC and she was on the hunt for something to wear. She found a magnificent black cape. As Mel was listening to the story of where this piece is going to be worn, she started to cry with joy. She was so thrilled that the lady had the perfect place for it to be worn and how stunning it looked.

IMG_6438

You can find Gin Rummy Vintage at the Caboolture Hub – Studio 3 / 4 Hasking Street Caboolture.

Golden milk

11.05.17

 

If you have read my blog you know that there is a coffee shop I go to on a Wednesday morning with the school mums. Well it has changed hands, had a facelift and a new menu. I haven’t been there for a while, but yesterday there was a post on Instagram saying golden milk was on the specials board.

I never just go for coffee on my own, I just don’t. If I am out somewhere and want a coffee I will grab a takeaway, but today I headed to Gather and Feast after school drop off for a golden milk, because I have never seen a golden milk in our local area and was not missing out. The reno on the old shop looked fresh and bright with plenty of seating. My fav 70’s arm chairs were still in the corner next to the front window. I headed straight to that little corner as soon as I ordered my golden milk from the lovely lady at the counter. The enthusiastic coffee and brekky crowd was fabulous to see in our local area that is not known as a foodie heaven. However, the aromas coming from the little kitchen, the pretty food on the tables and the delicacies in the cabinet next to the cash register were a treat that I will definitely be coming back for (some of the food has flowers on it – how divine).

20170511_090403
Golden milk

 

I know that I am going on and on about the no phone experiment that seems to have changed me forever. You can read about it here, here, here and here. While enjoying my golden milk, I tried not to pull out my phone and pretend to be engrossed in it. But I did in the end because, I looked like a crazy, stalker sitting on my own, in the corner, with a yellow drink just looking at people looking at their phone’s. It still amazes me that when people are together at a table, sharing a meal or a drink that they pull out their phone. Even before the no phone experiment I have never done that. It’s rude and isn’t it more important to spend time with the person that you are actually sitting with, than someone on line.

Anyway phone rant over. Will be going back to Gather and Feast. Everyone needs to try golden milk.

Got my phone

8.05.17

 

Monday and the no phone experiment was meant to finish yesterday, I have sent the odd text but I didn’t use my phone today either.

I have an essay due in a couple of weeks for the art history and design unit I am studying. I have a few days off work, kids are at school, Scott is at work, so I got stuck in today and learnt all about 19th century Paris. Not just the art but the urban planning, feminism, the culture, the fashion, the alcohol, drugs and prostitutes. I didn’t want to research the well-known artists, I wanted to find some interesting creatives. My research didn’t really go as planned but I ended up with Marie Bracquemond, Jean Béraud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and I love them all for different reasons, they are what I was looking for. I got sucked into the rabbit hole that is the internet. I started on the university library website and found a few articles that lead to a few more, and then I was reading websites and blog posts and then went back to the library articles.

Before I knew it the clock said 2.15pm, I forgot lunch and my coffee was cold after sitting on my desk from 8.30am when I walked in to the kitchen to brew it post school drop off. My phone was still in my handbag, on the back seat of my car parked in my garage, so another day went by without my smart phone. No phone could prove a little dangerous socially and mentally for me. I love the no contact too much, and would become a recluse. I know this about myself already, I am very well known for not answering the phone and can be a shocker for not replying to text messages. I am not being rude, I just forget, or at that moment too hard to talk. I didn’t think that I would find it so easy to cut myself off, however, my life seems to be on the phone. It has all the phone numbers of the people that I love and need in my life – before mobile phones I knew everyone’s home phone number by heart – not anymore. The phone holds my roster for work – I used to carry a diary. The phone holds my banking app – I used to do banking from desktop at home. My phone holds all my photos – I have cupboards and boxes full of printed photos from before mobile phones. I can catch up on study on my phone, the high school app is on my phone, I have kindle on my phone and can read a book, I can even write a blog post on the WordPress app, Google maps is my absolute best friend, I love how she can tell me how long to get it will take me to get where I need to go – no more upside down refedex or listening to an inaccurate traffic report.  Overall the experiment was good for me to shut off for a few days focus on my family and friends, and not be looking at the endless list of apps, social media and other features on my phone. It does seem though, it is an evil necessity.

 

Moody Sunday.

07.05.17

After my blog writing last night, there was a phone call on Scott’s phone – because I still didn’t have a phone. That J was throwing up at Mum’s place. He has been incredibly stressed and cranky lately and this is how he handles stress. By throwing up. He has been like this since he was a little boy and the thought of Santa, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy would stress him out. He would throw up the week before any of these events (not the tooth fairy obviously). It was disgusting and traumatising for all of us. The year we told them that all of the gift givers are fake he didn’t throw up. Hence making me feel like a shit mother for putting him through so much stress and vomit for so long. He also didn’t talk to me for a couple of days for lying to him about Santa etc. Anyway he is stressed at the moment, was throwing up at mum’s, I had no phone and felt awful that I wasn’t there holding his hair back (so to speak). I spoke to mum, T and J on Scott’s phone Mum was fine and had it under control and knew it was stress, T was screaming in the background about how disgusting it was and J was moaning. I didn’t sleep all night after telling Mum I would come and get them and she replied – don’t be silly, he is fine.

I had to get up at 4.45am to get ready to go to work, Scott had already gone to work and I woke up in a mood. No sleep, wanted to see my kid and really no desire to go to work. Once there I snuck in the backdoor, after texting mum to find out about J- he was sleeping. As I already knew my allocation for the day I was relieved where I was in the department– at the back where I didn’t have to have direct contact with most people and could work on my own. My mood wasn’t great to be dealing with hundreds of people that day. Typical that I couldn’t face people that day, because I was rostered on with some of my favourite work friends and I just couldn’t do the rounds and chat. I sat at my desk and got through the day without offending anyone. I even lied to Scott about what time I had lunch, I didn’t want to have lunch with him and his mates, so I sat in the sun and ate my pork sandwich, with hospital coffee, no phone and read the Sunday paper. I had arranged to meet my bestie at her place after work and I was tired and cranky and was worried about the hour drive home afterwards.

I drove to West End in my mood. My bestie and I had went to the Montague Hotel at the end of her street, she shouted me a champagne and we chatted at a table for an hour and a half, the time flew and it felt like we had only talked for five minutes. I drove home feeling so much better for seeing my friend.

 

 

 

No photo for this one, I wasn’t using my phone and wasn’t in the mood.

Still no phone.

06.05.17

Saturday morning and still no phone. AND I am loving it. I had to be a little more organised this morning than I usually am, but that’s not a bad thing. T had football at 12.20pm but Scott left the house with the boys at 9.30am, they wanted to go to Bunnings and then watch a couple of football games before T had has game. I was not leaving home at 9.30am, so had to make sure that T had text all the grandmothers to make sure they knew what time and where to meet us at the football and make sure he had all of his gear and had to make sure I knew where to meet them at the grounds where there are 4 football fields.  This no phone experiment is also saving us money, I went to text Scott when he was at Bunnings to grab a couple of things – but no phone. I thought about it and I really didn’t need the things that I was going to ask him to buy. And he apparently forgot I had no phone and sent me a text while grocery shopping asking for 8 pork chops. What the hell do we need 8 pork chops for!!! Glad I didn’t get that time wasting text message.

When we had all met up at the football to watch T, I was fascinated and a bit disturbed as I sat in the sun and people watched. EVERYONE was on their phones, I was also embarrassed to realise that I am also one of those mums. While waiting for a game I usually do pull out my phone and check social media or call or text someone. I was watching the kids as they were warming up and observed the amount of times they look at their parents – and the parents are watching their smart phone. No photos of T at the game, no phone and I forgot my camera. His team lost but he had good fun, got a fat lip, strapped fingers and tag marks all the way from the top of his thigh to his knee.

IMG_6150
This is why I didn’t want him to play football.

 

 

The boys had to stay at mums over night as Scott and I both work tomorrow morning. We dropped them off after dinner and about 30004238053023 kisses from me and goodnight and have a good day tomorrow. See I always text them goodnight and good morning, but no phone. Off to bed.

No phone

5th May 2017

 

I turned off my phone last night. I had a mixed response from the 8 people that I told. I text Mum, Dad, my sister and my best friend. I told Scott and the boys.

Scott said I won’t last until Sunday

Dad text me back “ok, love”.

My best friend sent a text within 2.5 seconds of me telling her I would not have a phone until Sunday. Why? Ok?

My sister: Why? Is everything ok? Enjoy the peace and quiet.

Scott and T went fishing this morning at 4.00am. One undersized dart was caught in the 3.5 hours, but they had a great time together.

J asked for the day off school as it was cross country, he was complaining about it and that he hates to run. When I told him that he could have the day off, only if he went fishing at 4.00am and then went to the art gallery with me at 10.00am, he had his school uniform on in record time. His brother, however, jumped at the chance to have the day off. My first thought was shit – I have to find the email address to let the school know. Our school seems to have gone digital – if that’s a thing. We now need to email when our kid has a day off, it’s annoying. Why can I just ring the office! (Which I suppose worked in my favour today as I don’t have a phone)

T and I went to the art gallery after dropping J at school. We sat for an hour and listened to the artist speak about his contribution to the installation at The Hub at Caboolture Regional Art Gallery. He spoke of the breast plate that he created and the story of his nanna that inspired it. The breast plate was made from lead, it is heavy, toxic to the nervous system and it’s cold. The other element to the piece was old fencing wire to represent his nanna’s living conditions as a young child. (read the post here)

I took my camera with me and asked permission to take some photos, it was awkward walking around with a digital camera instead of my phone. We had errands to run after the gallery and headed to the local shopping centre. I wanted to print some photos for my sister and frame them for her birthday, we were having an afternoon tea for her special day – I hadn’t wished her happy birthday yet, no phone. We got to the shop and I couldn’t print the photo of her gorgeous girls because – no phone, the photo that I wanted was tucked away on my phone in my cupboard. So we had to think so something else for her birthday, while at the shopping centre I had to get my watch battery replaced as I usually use my phone to tell the time, I tried to call my husband to find out what he wanted for dinner and I also tried to check my account balance, again no phone.

We had afternoon tea with my family celebrating my sister’s birthday and I am usually the one snapping pictures but – no phone. My family couldn’t get over how weird it was that I was not using my phone, apparently there was a back and forth texting session the night before when I had told everyone I was going phone free for a couple of days, between my mum and sisters who were concerned about me and why I would want to have no phone. I think they all think I am mad.

 

( you will notice that this has taken me a couple of days to publish – keep reading my future posts to find out why)

Dale Harding

They were in a concentration camp, they were enclosed within the perimeter of a wire fence, they lived in dormitories and their clothes were not suitable for the climate. Their language was taken away from them and if they spoke it they would be punished severely, their culture, their traditions were prohibited from being practiced or spoken of. They were afforded no dignity. They were malnourished not only physically as the food was not sufficient to sustain them, but mentally and emotionally. They were forbidden to use their names and they were assigned an alpha numeric identity. Nanna was W38.

W38 was stamped into a lead breast plate worn around the neck. Elements that created the breast plate were lead, and old fencing wire. Lead is heavy, it is toxic to the nervous system, and cold. Lead in the breast plate represented the deadly way of life forced on these people. Fencing wire represented the boundaries for living as a young child.

So who wore this form of identification?

Indigenous Australians.

T and I went to the art gallery after dropping J at school. We sat for an hour and listened to the artist Dale Harding explain his art work and contribution to the installation at The Hub – Caboolture Regional Art Gallery

We took a seat in the arranged seating and with five other women of varying ages, leaving half of the chairs empty. Emotive art works from Michael Cook lined the walls and Wilma Walker’s baskets were displayed on pedestals, down lighting lit the space and the polished wooden floors added another earth element.  Listening to this world renowned artist verbalize the atrocities of his family and country, I had tears tracking down my cheeks. I was ashamed, and embarrassed that within the hour spent with this generous, honest man, I learnt more about Indigenous Australian history than when I was at school or at any time since. I was uncomfortable as a white woman in this setting, that, I had to be educated to the outrageous history of the state that we live in. History that is so new. As Dale said, while World War I and II were raging in Europe and atrocities were changing their culture and history. There were atrocities happening in our own country. In our state of Queensland. He opened up and told us that this history lesson had also skipped a generation in his family. That his mother never knew the extent of her mother’s and his nanna’s tragedy. It wasn’t until Dale started to ask about the story of his nanna that it came to light. Dale worried about asking appropriate questions to his ancestor, he was mindful in seeking her permission to share her story, he is very cultured and educated on the strict protocols for sharing women’s and men’s stories.

As T and I left the gallery after taking a few photos. I was grateful that T had the opportunity to have that experience and to learn some history from such an authentic source and to view the Exhibition: My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Queensland.

IMG_6146
Wilma Walker – Wilma made these baskets from memory as an infant. Her mother hid her in a similar basket to prevent government officials from removing her from her family.

Help a mother out.

I know the word “tribe” is a popular term at the moment and being bashed to death. I’m 14.10 years into the raising of our boys and have always drawn on advice from my mum, my sisters, my hubby’s family, friends, teachers and principals, other mothers. It’s become very apparent over the last few days or even weeks really with the rising of the boys that I need this tribe.

Families need a clan in their lives. It’s not just when they’re babies and you know you’re tired and you need someone to hold the baby while you shower or pee, no mothers with teenagers need someone too. There’s my mum who has a subtle way of chatting or giving advice, you know she rubs their hand or I’ll see her occasionally give a cuddle and she’ll whisper something in their ear and it might not be a full on lecture or a rant but might be just a few words that really stick. The boys are comfortable in opening up to her a lot. They will tell her things that don’t tell me.  My Dad, he’s a quiet man, he doesn’t say much but has strong opinions, in saying that the boys respect him immensely and a happy to have a chat to him about anything.

IMG_2059
My boys loving my dad.

 

My sister posted my first born son a letter that was about life and how at 14 you don’t need to know everything, you are not expected to know exactly what you want to do in your life. Just like your Mum at 37 doesn’t know what she wants to do, but attitude is everything and to try, take every opportunity and make the most of it. For me at the moment, the letter from my sister meant everything. I balled my eyes out when I read it a few days after my son received it and asked me to read it when he was at school. We went to holiday with her, on her family property on the school holidays, and my eldest was lumped with the dishes of 11 people one night (he had other help but he kept being ridiculous, so he was left with about a quarter). He refused to stop being silly and do the job, I went and stood in the kitchen and he got worse. My brother in law walked in, stood at the bench and flicked through his phone, sending me outside to have a wine and watch the sun set with my mum, sister and cousin. The dishes were done perfectly in record time and not a single complaint. My eldest worships at my brother in law’s feet and would never want to disappoint him. My youngest sister and her family have the same comfortable relationship with my boys they will talk to them about everything. We have always lived by a “no secrets in this family” policy, the boys are comfortable sharing everything with my sisters and parents.

IMG_20170411_090431_315
My brother in law teaching the city kids about the bush.

 

I was driving to school a few weeks ago and my eldest boy had a history exam, I was on the phone to my best friend and she was offering him words of wisdom for his exam. Remember dates, places, and names. It was a small conversation but for me at the moment those small moments have a huge effect.

Recently my cousin has come back into my life and even though the boys haven’t seen her in years they are comfortable with her and feel comfortable chatting to her and asking advice.

It’s not even just in raising kids you need a tribe to bounce ideas off. Some of my most joyous moments are sitting having a coffee with a friend or my mum and my sister and talking about what’s going on, what they have to say and how that can change my mind set or how I look at a situation.

20170407_175235
Making memories as a family.

 

I refuse to let my family get bogged down in screens and social media – that actually does nothing for you socially. We need a lot of people in our lives that have deep connections with. That are respected and we are accountable to and have a deep love for. You can have lots of people in your life, but they might not mean anything, but I think that it’s important for kids to know that they don’t have to just only tell their parents everything. I want them to know if they need to have a chat to someone else, they have family (some who are not blood) to share with.

I read an article and it was 15 ways to help a new mother and I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post for 15 ways of helping mothers with teenagers because it’s not just mother’s with newborn babies that need help. However, I hate lists and glaze over at reading them if it’s too long. So here is my top 5 ways to help a mother of teenagers out.

 

  1. Suggest meeting for coffee. (Depending on the day this could progress to wine and escalate to tequila.)
  2. Don’t talk about the kids, there are billions of subjects to talk about. When a mum with teenage kids is having to deal with teenager hormones, attitude and opinions at home. Find something else to talk about when you see her or chat on the phone. Don’t mention the kids, give her a break.

 

  1. If she needs to talk about it, let her vent, let her get it all out, rant, rave. If you have useful advice share it otherwise, sit and listen. (Perhaps pass her another glass of wine.)

 

  1. Take her out. If she has teenagers she is running around after them, with sport, or work, 1 million other commitments. Take her out and do something that makes her heart happy. She will then come home refreshed and energised to love her kids.

 

  1. Don’t talk to mum at all, build up a relationship with the kid. If you are close enough to the family reach out to the kid. Send them a text saying Hi. If you are visiting sit and have a conversation with the kid.

Just mow the lawn.

I read an article this morning while on my third cup of coffee. I worked yesterday afternoon, got home at midnight and couldn’t sleep. So feel as though I was on the wines last night. My reaction to this article could be merely because I am tired and cranky.

As I started reading it, my initial thought was “good on you!”, the longer the article went the more I thought of for fuck sake woman. The article was about a woman that mow’s her own lawn.

I hope you understand that I am not mowing the lawn because someone told me to. I am not mowing because it’s my job. I mow because I am quietly making a statement.”

If you own a house, with a lawn, then it is your responsibility to keep your little piece of earth tidy and well maintained. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female.

“Mowing the lawn is, in a way, my silent protest against patriarchy—which is still alive and well no matter how many people tell you that women and men have equal rights. We are still fighting an uphill battle.”

Can everyday tasks not just be that and not a protest? I have chopped wood, I have changed a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a dirt road in 40 degree heat with my 30 week pregnant sister, I have fixed a broken pipe in the laundry, and I have mowed the lawn, and pitched a tent. I watched my mother, a single mother, do lots of “men’s work”. Mow the lawn, move furniture. I have talked to my sister on the phone while she was driving a bull dozer, she musters cattle, fights bush fires or builds farm fences.

“I hope the other younger girls in our neighborhood see me mowing the lawn and remember the image of a strong woman, a strong working mother, who has the power to decide which way the stripes go. I hope they see a strong woman sweating, not wearing any make-up, enjoying the satisfaction of hard work. I hope they all see me—a woman doing “men’s work” without asking for permission.”

20160409_165828
My hubby loves to cook dinner while I sit on the bench with a wine.

 

None of the above was done for recognition, or to show off to the neighborhood children and we certainly don’t ask for permission. All of the above jobs are just that. Everyday jobs that need to be done as part of life. When I am cold I chop wood, flat tyre change it, long grass mow it, broken pipe fix it. Our father didn’t let any of his girls apply for a drivers license before we knew how to; check the oil and water in the car, change tyres, replace wiper blades and get fuel. As young girls, we unloaded trucks full of hay, we were expected to help out in the yard, there was no “men’s work”. I say to my two all the time that if you live in this home you contribute, doesn’t matter the task just do it, and we all help. My boys wash the dishes every night, they help in the kitchen, and they know how to iron a shirt and make their bed properly. They also carry the grocery bags for me, pick flowers and arrange them in a vase. They know how to make a cup of tea as well as they know how to change the chain on a push bike.

IMG_20170203_172900_670
My two boys pick me flowers and arrange them in a vase.

Julie Rosson

 

Julie – owner of JPS Hair and Beauty, and I sat down in her pedicure lounge with a coffee and cheesecake and had a chat. This lady boss who is celebrating 19 years in her salon was modest in telling “her” story.

“I mean, it’s not just me this is my sister tribe. Lots of people make this salon.”

Start at the beginning, tell the story of your salon.

The salon started when I began my apprenticeship. The salon was the Cutting Crew, at Banyo. The owner had salons at Banyo and Wynnum. Within a few months I was winding perms and giving $5.00 haircuts. My boss recognized that I could work by myself and she would drive me out to her Wynnum salon. I was a few months off qualifying when she dropped the bomb, she was moving overseas for an extended period of time. I had mixed feelings about it, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. So I went home and I begged, I begged if I could buy the salon. I went from bank to bank to bank and I finally purchased the salon. I was nineteen.  She fast tracked the last few months of my apprenticeship so I could own the salon. It was my baby. My boyfriend at the time had a Harvey Norman franchise and he worked up to 7 days a week, so we worked and worked and worked. We were young, it was all we had so we just put everything in to the businesses.

Julie saw growth in the suburb of her home, grabbed it with both hands and started another successful salon that she built from scratch.

wp-1489728942259.png

I was driving between the two salons at this point, we were married, no kids.

The second salon was so successful that in less than 12 months, she employed a management team and an offer came through for Julie to sell.

I was solely at Wynnum when I had my first bubby- Roamie. We then purchased Morayfield – yeah Wynnum and Morayfield are a long way apart.  I was working 9am til 9pm, starving hungry, nowhere to stop and eat, and crying baby in the back of the car. When we took over at Morayfield, it had been established for a decade and came with a great reputation. I will never forget the day I took over, I parked out the back and the girls came running at me for big hugs, I had never met these girls before.

Within that first week, I was violently ill and pregnant, with Luca. So I was building two salons with a one year old and pregnant again.

We love the chaos and craziness.

When Luca came, we had the front room of the salon as a childcare room, rather than putting him in child care we employed a child care worker. There was swing, cot, change table, it was all glassed in and had air-conditioning, she would look after not only my baby but anyone else who bought babies into the salon. I was still breastfeeding. I always found it important to show my girls that you can work and have a family and I felt strongly about breastfeeding. I still wanted to be able to give that to the boys. There was always a breast pump out the back if the boys weren’t here or if they were I was always feeding and I wanted that to be part of everyday life. When Luca was two and a half I approached the man next door to the Wynnum salon and said this is all too much now I can’t keep driving from Burpengary to Wynnum. He had always said if I wanted to sell to approach him first because we watched for 10 years how I built up the business. And so within a few weeks he took over.

Julie’s savvy business skills were on full alert again when a couple of years later the madness and hunger to conquer the world took over again and she saw a prime opportunity to open a salon at Murrumba Downs.

There was only one salon in the suburb and they were building a new Coles complex. We went and bought off the plan. There was countless problems, plumbing problems, building problems, budget problems. But we built a stunning salon, a year later we built another salon in another complex at Woodford. So now we had three salons.

I do all of this buy putting on a few different hats, making lists, I suppose when you are used to a lifestyle it is just that. At times it can get really overwhelming definitely.

Julie distributed her time between each salon, she spent other days doing stock, payroll, and all of the behind the scenes responsibilities of running three salons and being a mum and wife. We were approached by a broker who wanted to purchase all of our salons. But you know, while the kids are in school it is so flexible with our lifestyle and being around for the kids. We decided to stay in business and so they purchased just Murrumba downs. Shortly after that, the Woodford shopping centre owners pursued us, wanting the Woodford salon. So for two years we have just the one salon. I am here for my kids and seeing my boys succeed is everything. In sport or just at home, seeing my kids at home scootering around the driveway, free as birds. That makes me feel very, very special. Also seeing them accomplish things, you know cooking for themselves, them cleaning up makes me very happy. It’s the little things. I think with kids you want them to experience things, you know not just one off, if they experience something over and over and over they will get really good at it, I mean that is with the bad things too. If they come into a situation where something bad could happen or they have had set backs in their training, they sometimes get hurt, you know this builds resilience. They have experienced this, they are prepared for it mentally and physically.

Julie’s passion for teaching and encouraging not only includes her children but “her girls” too.

We have 15 girls here in the salon. Beauty therapists and hairdressers. It is perfect. I love coming to work, I do school hours. I drop the boys off and then am there to do school pick up.  I am so content at the moment.

So my girls. Rachel has been here since the day we took over. So 11 years. Majority of the girls have been here for five years. Jasmine is our manager at the front desk, having her as host gives me the opportunity to look after my clients and mentor the other girls. Help them, support them, counsel them. Because you know, sometimes we are not having the best day and other times we are absolute rock stars. We often have binge food days but you know we all do it together. We have good days and bad days, that goes with being a woman, we have a lot of Panadol in the back room, we are here for each other, this is my sister tribe. Lots of people make this salon, it is not just me. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for every single person. All of this still happens even when I am not here, which is what I love.

wp-1490495971691.jpg

I am getting enjoyment out of seeing the girls grow up, one of our babies just became qualified. Apprentices make the salon run, they are the salon, they keep us young, they keep everyone in coffee and their hair washing skills and the scalp massages are amazing. We get so much out of having them as a part of the salon. I will always have apprentices. The girls love to mentor, they love having an assistant, someone to help them. Our latest newly qualified hairdresser, she started when she was 15, as a school based apprentice. We got her through high school together, she graduated, had her formal, became full-time and now she is a qualified hairdresser, she has moved out of home, has a lovely boyfriend, she is woman. I am so amazed, I love seeing the full circle.

My joy – oh seeing what those girls can create – when I see the girls photos of their work, if I haven’t been there for the day or I have been stuck in the office and I see the styles they have created, it is everything, amazing, my girls are so talented.

I feel like they stay because of appreciation, everyone wants to be appreciated, I give them flexibility in their roles, I provide the tools and they can be free to create. We have a great team, a great connection. I don’t stand over them, I just let them go for it – most people flourish with that, sometimes it doesn’t suit them. I am about encouragement and motivation, leading by example, by showing them what I love about the industry. You know I try and keep it fun, most of the time I’m the jokester. Hairdressers are creators so they just flourish with all that encouragement. You know after we consult a client it’s always like, “I am about to do this colour what do you think?” and we bounce off each other. I am passionate about hair, they see that. I am always doing crazy stuff with my hair and they see that confidence, just to try and pull of anything.  I want to show that to my customers also! That they can be confident in me. I always love to try what’s new. I mean we started using Olaplex 9 months before it was in Australia. We were importing it. The industry changes, trends change. We want to keep updated and offer that to our clients. We love to do a bit of advanced beauty.

wp-1490495971695.jpg

 

Julie encourages her team to be open and creative, she embraces new ideas and trends.

The feather brows – oh god they are just stunning, the girls are so talented with feather brows. Some of our team came to us and said “oh look at this!” – I was like “yeah this is awesome how can we be the best at this”. That was a couple of years ago and it has boomed. We also offer laser tattoo removal, we have a class 4 laser remover, which is a medical grade laser to remove tattoos. We love to push the envelope and get great results with hair and beauty. Another one of my passions is hair extensions. I have flown around the world by myself investigating and from that I have created my own hair extension range. Whenever I have used hair extensions there is always something wrong with them, be it a shedding problem, or hair matting, or the tape wasn’t sticky enough, or the hair wasn’t the best quality, or wasn’t long enough. In the end I made my own. I don’t have any of those problems. We use absolutely stunning Russian hair, beautiful quality hair extensions that I have designed from the very beginning and are exactly what I have always wanted. We were provided with samples and often the samples weren’t right either, so I would send them back, outlining exactly what I wanted fixed. Everything from the hair, the tape, the length, weight, everything – I was fussy with. I wanted these to be just right. I have done this for so many years – these needed to be perfect. I have designed everything the packaging the name – Lucia. This is what I wanted my daughter’s name to be if I had one. So this is my baby. The whole process has been two years.  Not being happy with the quality or the price lead me to investigating, trialling, having multiple salons and wanting the best. I love investigating and trying things and I want the quality.

wp-1490495971704.jpg

I feel everyone has a certain amount of energy and if you channel it into the right things then you are going to go so far.

And if it’s not channelled it can be really destructive and you can get quiet depressed because you have you have no channel, no direction. I channel that energy, keep focused. When it all feels too much and I am overwhelmed I will go up to the beach – the Sunshine Coast. It completely clears my mind, it files everything where it needs to go, it cleans out all the clutter and I get completely refocused and hungry for more. Every couple of weeks I have to go to the beach. It is my thing – it is my drug.  My husband also helps keep me focused, he is a business man, he is so smart, and I have always wanted to be like him ever since I met him. He has always been really focused, he then keeps me focused and holds really high standards. He helps me late at night, he is the handyman. He is here fixing washing machines and dryers and painting and renovating and making my visions come to fruition. When I have a vision of something I want to create, he’ll tell me it can’t work, but oh yes it does. wp-1490495971688.jpg

Like my green wall, I wanted a green wall – I got my green wall, or I am going to take my team to Vegas and we did.

Last year we created our own bi-annual education event called JPS retreat, rather than go to Vegas. We hired two beautiful mansions at Stradbroke Island, we flew in prominent educators and had three days in a nice relaxed environment and learnt new techniques and styles. We bought in Penny Antuar a make-up artist. The beauty therapists perfected all new techniques with make-up over two days. The hair side of things we had – Belinda Keeley from Melbourne, motivational speaking and colour placement with the girls was her specialty. My idol Lorna Evans – the up style queen, she showed us amazing braids and up styles, how to sew hair, sew an up style with cotton wool.

Julie wears so many hats, wife, mum, business owner, mentor, creator. What is next for this lady?

You never know with me, there is always so magic in the air.

 

LINKS

JPS WEBSITE

Instgram

 

Why back me financially, by having to pay to read the interviews? Because I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Happy Monday

Hi.

Do you know what I am doing today?? EVERYTHING. I have done the school run, grocery shopped – I deliberated between the $1.99 avos that were ripe and the bag for $4.99 that were hard as rocks as long as I possibly could. I shopped at the local crystal shop for a smudge stick, came home and cleansed my house – so now every room in the house smells as though I have had a session of smoking weed.  I cooked up a huge brekky for my husband and I that lead to me cleaning the whole kitchen, I have washed all the clothes I could find, towels, sheets and doona covers, I have vacuumed, weeded one of my gardens. I have sat with two cups of coffee and watched my husband absolutely lose his mind over a bolt on the ride on mower. I have had a nanna nap. AND I am writing again after a break, from baring my life and soul to all. Busy day hey!

All this spring cleaning is not because I am bored or because it is the first day of my annual leave. No, it’s because I have an online art history exam to do and I am petrified. I am being tested on Greek, Indian, Chinese / Japanese art and philosophy. Last time I did an exam if was for the subject “defining women” – I earnt a HD for that subject, however, when I sat down in front of the computer screen and clicked the begin button – I looked at those questions and thought I must have been given the wrong exam because not a single question seemed at all similar to what I had been learning. My brain completely shut down, my heart was pounding out of my chest and I was freaking out.

Hence my OCD cleaning binge this am, this post is the closest I have let myself get to the computer.

 

Two hours, an exam, a school run and afternoon tea later.

 

The exam took me less than an hour and I got 95/100.

I chose the Hippie School

 

 

I chose the “hippie school”

I knew nothing about Montessori when I had my first child, at the time my sister-in law was working as a nanny in London for some very wealthy families. She sent me an email saying that I needed to find a Montessori school or Children’s house to send my child too as it is an extraordinary learning philosophy and that “her children” all attended Montessori. When it was time to send my boy to kindy, I searched google and an address popped up for a local Montessori Children’s house.  When I did a drive by I was initially worried as it was in a suburban street and it looked like a normal house from the outside with some metal play equipment in the playground. It was about 15 minutes from our house and I was shocked that such an alternative learning opportunity would be so close.

On the day of our interview when I parked the car and was walking into the children’s house, I noticed straight away that there was no brightly coloured or plastic toys anywhere there was nothing fake about this environment. There was grass, there was metal play equipment, metal bikes, there was pot plants everywhere, a sandpit, and a large rectangle shaped water play area.  When my son and I meet with the director she was kind and gentle and had a beautiful vibe and manner about her she radiated peace and calmness, I was so thankful when she told me that if we accepted the offer to attend that Jack would be in her class. She guided us down to the class room where he would be and the moment that I stepped into the class room, my eyes were wet with tears and knew immediately that this is where I would feel comfortable leaving my first born child.

The class room had about 10 children in it, they were all working quietly with intense concentration, co-operation, respect for each other – unbelievable for 2.5 to 4 year olds who were only at the Children’s house from 9 – 12, two days a week. The setting was astonishing, the floors were covered in beautiful rugs, the table and chairs were child sized and all made out of wood, there was small glass and crystal vases on the tables, filled with flowers that I had seen growing in the pots in the playground. Around the room was wooden shelves that looked like open bookshelves all holding handcrafted in Italy, Montessori designed materials, there was cooper and china bowls holding items like shells and marbles, rocks, there was bookshelves in the book corner and child sized brooms and dust pains and brushes and dusters in the home corner. Easels and paint were set up. I enrolled my boy that day and he was to start in the New Year. His first day of kindy, I was completely terrified to send him, I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second son, I was emotional and questioning if I was doing the right thing by sending my precious boy to an independent, alternative learning environment and maybe should just send him to a conventional kindy. When my husband saw the children’s house he completely freaked out, he didn’t want our son to go there, he thought the centre looked second rate and slapped together and that children at 2.5 years shouldn’t be allowed to cut flowers with scissors, or help with cooking and that the playground looked boring without plastic toys. He along with a lot of others called it the “Hippie school”, and almost everyone I met questioned me on this style of learning. The end of the first day, I was at the children’s house half an hour before finish time and observed my son through the window and knew immediately that I had made the perfect choice in following my instincts. He was having a wonderful time and from that day until 2 years later when he would leave for prep he absolutely loved his time at the children’s house.

IMG_1356
Always flowers in a Montessori environment

 

 

Montessori school’s offer what is called a Journey and discovery. This is an experience for the parents only. It is an opportunity to spend a Saturday and Sunday being the student.  The program enables parents to have a better understanding of how the children are taught. At school I always felt that I was able to fly under the radar and was sort of forgotten about. I have always felt that I didn’t receive a good education. Maths was the absolute worst for me and I still get anxiety when I think about or have to do maths. At the journey and discovery the teacher unknowing how much I fear maths, gave me a Montessori material that would teach me how to do long division. After the material was explained to me and I was shown how to use it and work out simple sums, I had it mastered in about 30 minutes. I had to excuse myself and went to the toilet to have a sob, because for all those years I had feared maths and in that short amount of time it made sense to me. I immediately knew this is where my child would be going to school.

 

Unfortunately that didn’t happen and he ended up at the local catholic school where he attended classes there for prep, grade 1 and first term of grade 2. I pulled him out the day after he had his head flushed in the boy’s urinal. This was the final straw after bullying not just from students but the teachers and meetings with the principal. He was labelled a trouble maker and a disturbance to the class. I had several meetings with various teachers and principals because I was trying to let them know that he was not naughty he was bored and frustrated. I asked for extra work for him and was denied and told to tell him to behave in class.

The day I pulled him out of the catholic school, I immediately called the Montessori school that was 2 minutes from our home and booked an interview with the principal. She welcomed us and gave us a tour of the grounds, she spoke to my son at eye level, she asked him how he wanted to be taught and what he wanted to learn, she asked him about his behaviour and he answered honestly (he said he wasn’t patient and that he like to talk), she questioned him on his interests at school and at home, she enquired about his friends and family, she asked if he liked sport and reading. They had a wonderful chat. I was secondary to this interview and was ecstatic about that because he was the one that would be spending most of his time there. The principal and I did chat and I ended in tears because she made us feel so welcome and I knew from the way that she had answered all of his questions that he would learn a lot here not just reading and writing. That the holistic approach to education and that each child is encouraged to take responsibility for their learning would be perfect for my boy. The way the school is committed to providing students with the opportunity to become self-motivated, confident, self-disciplined, and responsible is exactly what I wanted for my boy. When the principal spoke about how they teach the children that, learning the right answers will get you through school – learning how to learn will get you through life! That Montessori teaches students to think, not simply to memorize, feedback and forget. I again had tears. These two beautiful humans went on to have a deep and loving friendship where they challenged each other and learnt a lot of valuable lessons.

IMG_1343
Grandparents day at Montessori.

 

The basis of the schools approach is the simple observation that children learn most effectively through direct experience and the process of investigation and discovery. No two students learn at the same pace nor do they necessarily learn best from the same methods. I love the school goal: to be flexible and creative in addressing each student as a unique individual. This has been cemented for me with the learning styles of both my boys. They learn completely differently one is a book reader and the other is much more comfortable learning through doing and moving.

We have now been at the school for seven years, my eldest boy is in high school and my youngest is still enjoying his time at Montessori. I am forever grateful for this learning style and my mother instinct to not follow traditional education style.

 

Victoria Patchell

 

When I go shopping or buy gifts, I am conscious of buying local products, supporting local business or sourcing handmade, sustainable, pieces. As we walked around the Byron Bay Design festival, I made a point of lovingly and stealthily telling my husband that he could buy my Christmas present from one of the creatives at the festival. I met Victoria from Mermaid Collective as I was admiring her unique shell jewellery, the vibe that this beauty radiates, made me want to grab a colourful, fruity cocktail and hang out on the beach with her. Her whole being pulses with happiness, her smile lights up her face and the enthusiastic way that Victoria expresses herself made me think that she would be the life of the party, but also a chick that would be able to have a deep and meaningful over a glass of red. She was excited and generous in wanting to tell me the story of her jewellery.

“Firstly I sit and day dream on a beach somewhere and I think about the pieces. The ocean is my medicine and inspiration. For me all the things that I loved as a kid, I still love even more now. I have always loved wearing sea shells, but as I got older I realised that they weren’t as elegant as I wanted them to be. So I created a few shell jewellery pieces, that unite the creation of a surfboard set with resin, and coloured resin and a seashell.

I was living in Indonesia and I ran my first trip there – I run a surfing and yoga retreat business. I custom made some of this jewellery for me and I thought no one in the world would want to wear it, I thought it was just my quirky taste. The girls that were on the trip adored it and I got them to hand make some pieces and then it snow balled for there.

I have trained a studio in Indonesia. It is incredible. They do all the shell art and it is then set in sterling silver.  When I sell a piece it supports those remote communities. I also take a portion of the proceeds to gift to a marine conservation projects that I support.

My shell artist is a beautiful man called Herman. This is what he lives for. I often go and visit him in his house and see his family. Yeah my long term goal if I get this, I mean when I get this really happening, I want to give Herman his own proper studio, and he can train more people.  Herman has all the contacts in finding all the shells. Number one for me is about loving the ocean, so I wanted to make sure that my shells were from an ethical source. This year I spent a few months in Indonesia and I researched and investigated the shells.  Culturally the men eat the nautilus shell fish to make them more fertile, if they are trying to conceive they go and eat nautilus shells and so from that there is an excess of these shells.

White_Nautilus_Ring_1024x1024

The process is quiet long once we have the shells because the whole process is hand done. At the moment they take about two days. What we do is; we get the shell and slice it – some won’t last that process only the strong ones will, then we clean it out, high pressure clean it and then we let it dry naturally in the sun. We hope for sunny days or it will end up being three days. We fill it with the resin, it took a month for me to get the recipe for the turquoise just right. It is my favourite colour so it was game on to get it right. When the resin is set, it comes back to the carving station is sliced back and front and shave it off for the white and turquoise and that is the shell process done and we hand it over to the silversmith.  I have beautiful team of people. I know that every time I sell something I know that I am helping them. I am helping beautiful Herman feed his babies. And I am so excited about the conservation.

The essence for me is take the sea wherever you may go, I feel like if someone wears one of these shells they are constantly reminded about how special and powerful Mother Nature is. You know by wearing one of these it shows you love the sea and might stop you buying plastic.

 

(Christmas morning I was gifted from “Santa” a stunning shell ring from the Mermaid collective. I love it and love knowing where it came from and how it was made.)

Website:

Mermaid collective

Instagram

Why back me financially, by having to pay to read the interviews? Because I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

 

Ursula Yraola

 

I floated around the Byron Bay festival of design drooling over all of the handmade, ethically made treasures like clothes, art, jewellery. My little family traipsed behind me ( I say traipsed because my little tribe is all boys – including a teenager and a pre-teen, this was not their idea of a good time, in a town with surf beaches). With my eldest boy glued to my side (only because he thought, he could annoy me into leaving if he followed me around, while his father and brother left me to exploring and sat on the hill under an umbrella and listened to live music). When my boy and I were making our way around, the creators, designers and artists, I had the opportunity to meet the lovely Ursula. The brunette with softly spoken voice, sitting amongst her unique handmade handbags questioned me if I really did want to do an interview. “Really it may be hard because of my language? My accent is thicker, as I have recently returned from home.”  Ursula is one half of the mother/daughter partnership of Warayana – textiles, handbags, and leather goods handmade using traditional techniques by women in small communities in the Andes, Peru, who are working at keeping this ancient tradition alive. My boy and I were fascinated by her story, her passion and her accent.

“Three year I have been in Australia for! Actually it was when I came to Australia, I started to appreciate my country, all the handmade things, the communities, the traditions, the woman.

So since I have been back, I have been showing the world these amazing textiles and helping the women at the same time. Our workshop is in Peru, me and my mum design the bags. So my mum she’s been working with leather for thirty years, so she knows how to work with-it you know. I had this idea to start working with the communities because I used to live in Cusco, I lived and worked in Cusco for 7 years. So I have been in contact with all of these communities in the communities and I am friends with all the artisans. So special watching these amazing textiles being made, they are made by the women in the traditional way. So each pattern can represent each season for the Inca’s, each pattern has a story behind it, it represents all the traditions in the Andes from Peru. It takes about 3 days to weave.

wp-1489027167525.jpg

So the people there, they are losing these traditions, of the weaving, the natural dyes. So me and my mum we are trying to encourage the communities and the women and trying to work with them to keep this tradition alive. This is a tradition that is handed down from mother to daughter, through the women. Only the women in the Incan communities do this, it is the women that are the weavers. And the males work in the, in the agriculture. The women they stay at the home weaving and dyeing as well. Llama and alpaca wool is used, depending on the bag and the dye is made from plants and seeds they are all natural dyes. We are trying to keep everything natural. Now they are having this problem where people are trying to bring in the synthetic dyes, we are avoiding that and keeping everything natural. They are losing this traditional method because now young people just want to go to the city, with all the technology and leave all the natural beautiful world behind. So we are trying to keep them working there and happy. That is why we pay a fair price for the textiles. So that they are happy staying there and being paid.

Mum, she ships the traditionally made bags to Australia. A few months ago we started to sell them in Sydney, Byron, Mullumbimby, Sunshine Coast, Hawaii.  

Contact details:

http://www.warayana.com.au

contact@warayana.com.au

Instagram :

 Why back me financially, by having to pay to read the interviews? Because I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

 

Ania Caffarena

Ania Caffarena

I walked into the space at the Festival of design where Ania and Kat had their art displayed. The blonde and brunette haired beauties, one from Germany and one from Italy, made use of pine wood pallets as supports for black and white pencil drawings of whales, fish and swim suits. Green leafy branches from palm trees added colour, a quick shade in the same colour as the foliage and its poles allowed Ania to hang her whales and white flowing material softened and gave the display a beachy feel.

wp-1482213395954.jpg

 

I had just finished having a speedy interview with Kat about her drawings and asked Ania if she would also be interested in a quick chat. I could’ve spoken and listened to these interesting and extremely talented ladies with their European accents for a lot longer, but it was a market type feel with people walking around and I didn’t want to take up too much of their time.

Ania told me that she started to make the three dimensional whales in February. “It was a strange thing. I had been doing this back in Italy just for an hobby. But then I came here to Australia and I met this girl she is an artist too” and she said “you should try and sell your stuff.”

She sent some pictures to a really famous interior stylist in Sydney. And this stylist wrote me back and said “I want to buy your whales!”

Laughing she tells me “And I was like oh my god, ok!” So since then I have been starting to sell them, to Sibella Court, Sibella Court Society Inc, and she is from Sydney. Since then I have been selling to shops and galleries, off my own website.

Ania tells me that when she came to Australia and landed in Darwin she had no idea what she was going to do here. She proudly and with a big smiles say “and now I am in artist in Australia.”

Ania spent time in Italy making flat metal sculptures and in Australia embarked on making three dimensional whales, she told me she finds these so much more fun to do, and they are so much more challenging.

“I just love whales there is something so magic and they are so poetic, I just love them, there is a special connection with the ocean and I wanted to do something to represent that”.

In November the whales are playing in the waters off Byron Bay Ania said “it was just crazy seeing them in the ocean in Byron bay, they were jumping and I was jumping.” Watching them in nature added to her research on the whales form and movement. This research is also backed up from Ania’s study of design in Italy, yacht design actually. “I left university and I came to Australia because yacht design back in Italy is not really mmm you know”, she says with a shrug of her shoulders and lifting of her hands. “I mean the technical yacht design and drawings for the yachts are very similar to the whales.”

“I usually go on YouTube and watch videos and study and sketch the movements and study the three dimensional part. I make lots of sketch and then I go free hand.”

After the sketches are completed she gets down to making the sculpture, she explained to me that first time was difficult creating the three dimensional pieces because of course she didn’t know what she was doing. So this could take like two, three days. “But now I am quicker. I love it, I love when I find a new position or something new to add or do.”

From Ania’s expression and body language she loves Australia as much as the whales. “I have been here for one year and I am here for sure until July, I just want to stay. I will be a student my whole life if I have to, so that I can stay here.” She recounts her travels and how her sculptures support her life here. “I love travelling here so much. I have a van, I landed with my sister in Darwin and we got a van and we crossed the desert and we saw Uluru and the Great Ocean Road, then up to Noosa and then back again, then down to Tasmania for two months. I am always driving. My van is nice, it is a super old van, it is a thirty one years old van, so everyone looks at my van and it is a good display for my whales. On the side of my van in the window I always put my whales, on the side with my website.”

Ania Caffarena can be contacted on

@aniacaffarena – Instagram

www.aniacaffarena.com

aniacaffarena@gmail.com

 

Kat Deschan

I asked Kat Deschan Illustrator, if she would have a quick chat with me, while I was admiring her stunning hand drawn art work, she was kind enough to say yes. Her art work was on display at the Byron Bay Festival of Design. The black and white pencil A1 drawing of a pair of one piece togs, covered in sunflowers and strawberries is the art work I was admiring. Kat told me that it took her about 25 hours of work.

I wish this was my sole income source, this is all I want to do. I just want to draw. I have a lot of support from my friends, but I have never really shown anyone my art work, this is the first time today. I really hope one day that this will be it for me. I loved her instantly, as this is exactly how I feel about my writing. She was honest and generous in how open she was, especially as I put her on the spot with the interview.

“So you have never sold your art work?”

“No. Nowhere, I mean I have never tried to.”

“Seriously? You have never tried to sell this beautiful art work!”

“No, I mean I have sold some things, I have done mostly drawings for friends. My friends are happy to pay for my art.”

I studied design and photography and film. When I was studying I got carried away and thought that I wanted to work in film, I finished my study, but soon realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I came to Australia from Germany and met my partner about two years ago. Only a couple of months ago, I remembered that I like to draw. I did draw when I was small. And now I am back doing it. But this is what I want to do now that I am in Byron Bay.

I have my Instagram account for now but will eventually get someone to set up a website for me. I would love to do workshops that would be so much fun. Where I work everyone is so interested and want me to show them how to do it. I mean it is so relaxing. At home I listen to audio books and music and draw. I would be happy to do that all day, twenty four seven.

 

Please check out Kats Instagram account of her art work. She can also be contacted on her email: katharina.deschan@gmx.com.

Byron Bay

We are grateful to be only 3 hours down the highway and to have the good fortune of holidaying in Byron Bay the nature loving, surf metropolis that thrums to its own vibe. I enjoy the melting pot of diversity of the people that are attracted to the famous coastal town. Bare footed surfers, backpackers, families, gen y’s speaking foreign languages, hippies and the patient locals. Another thing that I enjoy while in town is checking out the local markets, festivals, and food. Driving around this week I have seen signs advertising the Byron Bay Festival of Design. My husband wanted to go Christmas shopping in Ballina, because it really shits us to have to pay for parking in Byron. Seems petty when it is only a few dollars, but it’s just something else we have to pay for and that alone stops us from going in there as much as I would like. But I said no way we are going to support the locals and local creatives and I am so glad we made the effort. We are early rises so I think we were some of the first people at the festival. I had in mind that I wanted to do a few interviews of people that I had seen on the Instagram account for the festival but I was too nervous to ask and did a quick lap around the stalls and we took advantage of the free parking at the Youth Activity Centre and headed into Byron for a look at what was going on in town. My three ate gelato, they dreamed over new surf boards, we found alley ways with murals painted on the walls, stopped in the street and chatted to our elderly neighbour from the caravan park. The streets were quiet and bare, maybe a bit early for the all the tourists to be out exploring, not many surfers around due to the terrible conditions, we listened to a van full of long haired, bare chested blokes with beards playing guitars and a banjo, we walked past a homeless man who was packing up his belongings, we stood beside a black Porsche with a flawlessly made up lady sitting in it playing with her phone while we waited to cross the road. We walked the back streets back to the youth centre and by the time I got there I had worked up the courage to go back to the design festival and ask for some interviews. Have a read of the next four posts about some very interesting women.

 

Post 100

Post 100

I made it…………………………….100 posts. What a relief that is over. I am glad I did the 100 posts but feel as though an invisible weight has been lifted now the 100 posts are done. Thanks to everyone that has read and supported my writing, I love and appreciate you and the time that you spent reading. I wasn’t sure how I was going to end my 100 posts but I want to tell you about an experience I had yesterday.

My husband’s phone blared its annoying alarm through our camper trailer at 4.20am. I rolled over and buried myself in the blankets and said “not today”.

“Yep, come on you wanted to do this, up you get.”

It was dark and the usually busy streets of Byron Bay were deserted. Street lights were on and neon lights were lit above the motels throughout town. We made our way up the hill, commenting on the amount of people running at this early hour, up such a steep hill. We parked the car at the closest car park and walked up the hill. It was blowing a gale, I was carrying my camera and phone and was rugged up in jeans and jumper.

We were just about at the top and I wanted to take a photo of the lighthouse in the dark with my new camera. I turned it on and click not working. Shit. One main reason I wanted to come up here was to get a photo of that. I was so annoyed with myself, I kept walking but was ranting about how it could have a flat battery and disappointed that I would have to take photos with my phone. We reached the top, after watching one of the runners that I had commented on while we drove up the hill, pass us on her way back down the hill. We sat down in a little alcove of the lighthouse out of the wind and watched the sky. I started playing with my camera, because I was still baffled and annoyed at how it could have a flat battery. I looked up and the sky had changed colour. I handed my husband my camera and went to the fence surrounding the light house and took a photo with my phone. As I sat down the light from my phone lit up my camera. My husband pointed out to me that I had in the dark put the camera on the wrong setting that is why it wasn’t taking photos. I was relieved and got up and started clicking away at the first light of the day. I sat in the arms of my husband, my back to his chest and watched the sky change colour again and again. I felt so blessed to be the only ones on the most eastern point of Australia, leaning up against an icon of the Country that was built 115 years ago to guide ships and protect the shore. As the sun started to rise, the crowds at the lighthouse started to rise. At one point my husband said to me “you better go and grab a spot at the fence if you want to see it”. I stood against the white wood and metal fence, with my husband at my back, listening to people from all over the world chatting to each other, I watched them taking selfies and posting to social media. Now don’t get me wrong I posted my pictures last night to social media but at the time it didn’t feel right. I am not particularly religious, I do like to go to Christmas Eve mass, but that’s about it. But with my feet firmly planted on the ground, standing in silence and watching such a colourful and majestic sight as the rising of the sun, for me sent goose bumps over my skin, my heart felt so much love and I had tears on my cheeks. It felt like more than a new day, it felt like a new beginning, a fresh start.

Post 99

Post 99

In nearly 100 posts, lots has happened. Winter to summer, school to school holidays, I was at the peak of working hard on my marriage.  Now we are still working on it but not in such an acute I love you but really do hate you way. Now it’s more of an I love you and can say to your face that you shit me kinda way and know we can talk about it.  I have learnt that emotions are what they are, and just to feel it. I had some really shit days in the beginning and fought them, there was one particular day that was really shit and I just laid out on my bed and felt it, it was awful and painful and I wailed. There have been other days that I have loved so deeply that I have felt that experience imbed in my bones. I am much more grateful for the people in my life, and I love them so. Still things I am scared of – like sharing my writing.

I have discovered that I love photography. I always did like taking a snap shot, so when my husband spent his tax refund dollars on a beautiful camera for me, I swore that that beauty would be used every day. I have discovered that I like the small details in a subject. A face, hands, eyes. I was taking photos of the beach the other day and they were nice, but it was just another beach. Then I sat down, squatted down and  laid down on the beach and took photos of the dune grass, the ghost crabs, seagulls, rocks, shells, jelly fish, blue bottles. At the Byron Bay light house I was photographing the blocks that made the lighthouse, the windows, the doors, the glass, the letterbox. My husband’s hands were an extremely popular post on my Instagram and received more comments and likes than any other post from this holiday. In saying all of this though, I still am not comfortable taking a selfie with just me in the frame.

I have become observant of my experiences, surroundings and people. I have become observant of conversations and what has been said. Some days I feel a bit creepy and purposely leave out some experiences because I don’t want to overstep the line. However, the more scary and emotional and cleansing the post was for me the more open, real, honest and raw I was with my writing seemed to be popular with my loyal readers.

One more post and I have done my 100, it wasn’t in the time that I wanted to do it, so feel that is a bit of a fail. But big wins for me was that I was published in one of my fave magazines Womankind. And, I had the privilege of interviewing awesome women and want to continue to do so and be a collector of women’s stories.

Post 98

Post 98.

“Oh your boy’s are so independent, I was watching you set up your site yesterday and was envious of you and your hubby. The boy’s jumped out of your car and went and found their friends and you two laughed and worked together putting together your camp site.” This was said to me by the lady across the road from our site that I met last year. Her and her husband have been travelling the east coast of Australia with their three year old in a van and a caravan. No more to be said really, the poor love has a threenager, who is absolutely gorgeous but is an unholy terror,  living in a caravan. That is why she was feeling envious.

The boys did run and find their friends, but once they came back to ask for food they were advised that they should set up their tent before dark. One said no he wanted to hang out with mates, the other one started unpacking the tent because he wasn’t doing it in the dark.

They have been given a little more freedom this year, they have hang out on the beach with friends but must get us if they want to go in the water. They were allowed to walk to the tea tree creek. Boy one learnt a hard lesson, he was showing off and tried a trick that didn’t work and landed wrong and hurt his ribs and abdo muscles.

“I am making sandwiches and smoothies for lunch.” I had two responses of cool thanks and one of “No thanks I am going for a walk.” Dishes done, sitting reading a book I hear from down the street coming towards me.

“Mum I am starving can you make me lunch?”

“No, I made lunch, you didn’t want it, you can make or cook something”

“What!!! I don’t cook!”

So we had a cooking lesson, I sat and watched and directed and he cooked. He lit the gas burner, collected all the ingredients for macaroni cheese. And cooked his own lunch.

They were told they could bring $10 for the lolly shop and that was it, they had to look after the money and spend it wisely. First day one of them goes to the shop, thinking he knows best and loses $5.00 out the bottom of the pocket in his shorts because he didn’t want to use his wallet.

They have both been responsible with checking in and asking if they are able to leave the park for the beach or the headland. Last night they asked if they could stay out until 9.00pm, to hang with friends at another camp site. We said yes but had to definitely be home by 9.00pm. One of them came home at 8.58pm then other 9.31pm. The one that was late doesn’t get to go out tonight.

Lots and lots of lessons being learnt these holidays.

Post 97

Post 97

We are on holidays. We are at the beach camping. We are living in a camper trailer with an outside kitchen. The toilet and shower block is across the road and a hill from our site, the beach is four tent sites down our little street and across the roundabout, the bush walking track is the same way as the beach but swing a right up the hill once you go over the roundabout and there is a path that leads over the headland. The office/lolly and ice cream shop is next to the bush walking track. The park is at our back door and can see the picnic tables through the trees when we sit at our dining table. The park is small enough that the boys can wonder, but large enough that I don’t feel like I am sharing someone’s tent with them.

I love this time of year for us, we relax and this is our happy place. For a while now I have felt restless and wanted to travel abroad. I have wanted to see other places and cultures. I had a conversation with an 85 year old lady that was holidaying in a caravan next to us. She was telling me that she had been coming here for 50 years. This was where her and her husband honeymooned, how they drove down a dirt track and camped in a tent. That there was one shower for women and one for men, and she hated the line-up. She told me how her 3 daughters grew up here on school holidays and her 11 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild are doing the same. She told me how they book out 5 camp sites over Easter for 10 days and the whole family holiday together, everyone cooks, surfs, fishes, walks together. There are people coming and going all day, every day. She told me how her and her husband struggled to put their girls through school, they had hard times and good. There has been sickness, arguments, weddings, and births. But they always holiday together at Easter and Christmas school holidays the couple are here for three weeks on the same sight they have booked for 30 years. She told me that last weekend the majority of the family showed up. This wasn’t organised she said everyone wanted to check on the couple. She said she sat at the plastic fold out table with her daughters and a granddaughter eating fresh fish caught by her husband and she told me how grateful she was to have a beautiful family.

I cried, she rubbed my hand and said you will have the same darling.

Post 96

Post 96

For this post I flicked through the dictionary and the word that came up for me was “Uncomfortable” – adjective

  • Causing or feeling slight pain or physical discomfort.
  • Causing or feeling unease or awkwardness.

I was a bit miffed actually that this was the word that appeared to me. I was hoping for a word that I had never heard of. Something intelligent, or a word that sounded lovely or something with deep meaning. So I sat with the word rattling around in my head.

Then I got to thinking about the meaning and how I had experienced some unease and awkwardness over the last few days.

In post 94 I wrote about a road trip that I had done with my little family. We drove 566 kilometres to collect my first born. He had been holidaying with my dad for the first week of his school holidays. I was agitated and a little cranky the whole drive out. See it is the first time that I have slept in the same house as my Dad and his partner since he left our family when I was 14. We have had dinner and lunch a couple of times and I never find it a pleasant experience. When we finally arrived at my dad’s place he was ecstatic to see us. I was glad to see him but extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully there are hot springs in the town at the aquatic centre so after a quick hello and grabbing my kid we fled to the water. The look on dads face told me that he was a bit hurt that I was running away so quickly. We went to the local Christmas carols and I honestly just couldn’t be myself. I kept comparing everything that was happening to when I was a child. I don’t remember him once taking us to anything remotely like carols. I could feel the resentment like a boulder in my chest, and I knew at the time my face and mannerisms weren’t polite. I struggled to engage in conversation with anyone, aside from my rock of a husband who could see how much I was struggling. Dad introduced us to his friends, and I smiled and nodded as politely as I could and discreetly left the conversation. It sounds so immature to be like this as a 37 year old woman, I just couldn’t stop the chatter that was in my head about that family driven childhood that I had wished for and only now being on the receiving end of it with my father and me as a wife and mother. The next morning after a sleepless night, I crept around in the dark, getting showered and packing my families belongings. I saw the surprise on my dad’s face that we were preparing to leave before 6.00am. These encounters with my dad and his partner that he left our family for, makes me lose my voice. I can talk for hours on the phone with my dad, but put me at a breakfast table with them and I may as well me choking on the food for the amount of ability I have in forming sentences. By the time we climbed in the car I was feeling sad for my dad. I knew he wanted more from me on this trip – I just couldn’t connect and be the daughter that he wanted over those couple of days. I was in a foul mood the whole seven hours home with unanswered questions running rampant.

This experience was followed two days later by another experience that caused unease and awkwardness. It was a job interview, I was interviewing to keep the job that I currently work in. I am great at my job (way to toot my own horn), I have 15 years experience doing the job. Yes I left it for a while but was still in the same type of job in the same field. I went into the interview with a dry mouth and a pounding heart. After I met the three women on the panel that I had never seen before and the chair of the interview asked the first question. All knowledge of my job evaporated from my brain. My actual thought was have I even done this job before. I took a deep breath and started rambling, I was pulling out words and examples from everywhere. At one point I think that I completely was off track but just kept using key words like team, experience, ethics, confidentiality, infection control, work place health and safety. This awkwardness went on for the five questions that was the whole interview and about half an hour. At the end, one of the ladies on the panel said “ok, you can breathe now”. I walked out feeling uneasy and like such a failure, and so pissed off. Annoyed with myself for not going into that office and being completely confident in the interview for a job that I know backwards. And pissed off with the whole situation. It pisses me off that it will be decided by someone that has never done my job – if I am capable of it and they are happy to give me a permanent position, that they get to decide if I get to keep my job so that I can put my kids through school. I was frustrated with myself on the drive home that I hadn’t made better choices and made myself a bit more uncomfortable and got out of my comfort zone so that I wouldn’t be in this position.  That perhaps I could’ve spent my precious time on an endeavour of my own, where I get to decide what is right for me and my family.

As I thought more about the word uncomfortable, the more that I realised that the more unease and awkward I feel the more I grow and change. The more I want to grow and change so that the unease and awkwardness at that moment is replaced and I can move onto more unease and awkward situations. Sounds uncomfortable doesn’t it.

Post 95

Post 95.

I mentioned in my last post that I am an introvert, however I have done some research and I am actually an ambivert.

a person who has a balance of extrovert and introvert features in their personality.

A couple of weeks ago I went out for dinner with some mums from school. There was 8 of us and I chatted and laughed and would’ve stayed out longer, if I didn’t have to take kids to cricket at 7.00am the next morning. At 7.00am the next morning I sat on my fold out camp chair under a tree and watched my boy play cricket, this was after I had said a quick hello to the team parents and paid the weekly fee for the end of year party.

The difference is the mums that I went to dinner with I have got to know over a long period of time. I have slowly and at my own comfortable pace got to know them and love them. The lady that I talk about in my blog all the time as my bestie, literally had to force herself on me to actually get me to open up and chat to her. I am glad she persisted otherwise I wouldn’t have my lovely friend.

The mums in the cricket team I have only met this season and am not comfortable just inserting myself in their conversation.

See once I get to know people, I am very extroverted and happy to hold a conversation and hang out. My core group of family and friends, I absolutely love to death. I find stimulating, deep and meaning conversation one of life’s biggest joys. I do however like to spend time on my own, and find it draining and stressful if I have a particularly busy week with social engagements. I get nervous and anxious meeting new people or people that I haven’t seen for a while. If I am going to a party or event where I don’t know many people, I always want to cancel. I don’t though. Part of the reason that I started this blog was to try and open myself up a bit more. The #sistertribe posts that are on the blog, are another way of me being a bit more extroverted. I find them extremely stressful, the interview and the writing but also rewarding.

 

I found a few other characteristics of an ambivert below:

  1. When you’re out in the world, you’re probably not going to be starting conversations with strangers.
  2. When a topic of interest comes up in conversation, you’re more than happy to talk in great detail about it. But as soon as that’s done, you’ll happily sit listening to the conversation without saying another word.
  3. Spending too much time with other people can be exhausting.
  4. Your calm, controlled professional self feels like a very different person to the one your friends see.
  5. Small talk is something that annoys you, because while you can do it, there are instances when it feels a bit insincere.
  6. Some weekends, you just need to spend some time hanging out on your own. And some of the best weekends of your life have been when you didn’t go home for three days.
  7. You’re known to be quite intuitive and good at picking up signals that other people can miss.
  8. Often, you just find yourself observing what’s happening around you.

Post 94

Post 94

We have just walked in the door from a two day road trip to pick up boy 1. He went to stay with my dad in Western Queensland for his first week of school holidays. The trip was about 7 hours travelling. The roads are long, the weather is hot, hot 43 degrees hot, my legs got sunburnt in the car and I was still sweating even though we had the air-con blasting. We saw more road trains on the road, than cars and the land looked as though it would self-combust. We drank 2 litres of water each on the way out, we stopped for a picnic because I refused to buy take-away and then sit in the car and feel bloated and sick, we stopped for lamingtons that are supposed to be famous for the area. I found them two big and a bit dry. We stopped in one of the major towns along the way and visited my sister and niece while they waited for their car to have a service. We walked to the pub on the corner on a melting road, the newly renovated pub had the air-con set to the perfect temperature and an Elderberry gin spritzer went down easily.

We got to my dad’s and my son nearly bowled me over with enthusiasm that I hadn’t seen in him for a long time. He wanted to spend some time with just his father and I for a while. We went to the Great Artesian Spa, and had a soak in the thermal mineralised artesian waters. We were the only ones in the aquatic centre and after getting into the pool, we knew why. It was as hot in the water as out of the water. However we paid $24 for the 3 of us to get in, so we were getting our money’s worth. We switched between the hot pool and the cooler pool, the first few minutes that we floated around in the water was actually relaxing to float in after a hot 7 hour drive. Until road trains full of cattle heading into the store sales in the next town started flying down the street directly past the pool.

After this we headed back to my dad’s place, a fair bit later than we said we would be. He wanted to take the boys to Christmas in the park. Which was as we found out; a sausage sizzle, raffle, bar, and school kids singing Christmas carols. Nice for the town folk, who being country people are extremely friendly, welcoming and will happily chat to a city slicker. But not something that we would go to where we live. I sat and listened to the carols with my husband on a park bench, slowing sipping a beer and watched the locals mingle, after nearly every single person I met said “oh you must be …………………………. (insert my middle sisters name)” “ahh no” and then the awkward “oh, we haven’t heard about you, where are you from”?

Me being my introverted self, felt almost claustrophobic watching everyone. Everyone knew everyone, everyone chatted and caught up and then moved on to the next group of people. This would seriously give me anxiety if I lived here and knew every time I walked down the street I would see someone I know. I definitely like living where I have my core people and everyone else is a stranger.

Nanny Becca 

As a 16 year old I knew that I wanted to work with pre-schoolers, I was always interest in the early years. In year 12 a lady came to our school as part of a careers information session. She was from The Nanny School in Brisbane. She spoke about The Nanny School, being a nanny, what it involved and the possibility of working overseas, I knew then that is exactly what I wanted to do. So I worked part-time and saved to be able to go to The Nanny School, prior to this I had studied and completed a Certificate Three in early childhood. I went straight into a Nanning position after graduation, I was there for 15 months before moving to London with my boyfriend who was a professional rugby league player. We moved to Leeds and lived there for a year I was working in a Montessori nursery, still knowing that I wanted to go and Nanny in London. When we came back to England from Australia for another football contract in Leeds, I said to him I am going straight to London.

I have always gone through a nanny agency, they do all the screening and they know how to match you. They ask very specific questions eg. Do you drive, will you travel with families, age preferences. From this I was in a job for just under a year, the mother only need someone while her husband was away from home – he was an actor. This family referred me to a friend that needed a nanny for 2-4 weeks, while their permanent nanny went home to Australia. This was perfect for me as I was about to go travelling with my boyfriend who was playing in the Rugby world cup. I knew the children that I would be looking after as their nanny and I were friends and would have play dates with our children. One week and the mother said to me “we have spoken more in this week, than I have spoken to the other nanny in a year. Having you here has made me realise what a nanny is meant to be doing.” She went on to say that she wanted me to come back to her and nanny and live in the converted flat upstairs, after I had travelled with my boyfriend.  She told the permanent nanny not to come back. So I ended up staying with them for 3 years. This was until the father wanted to be a stay at home dad, and also because I was getting too expensive as they now had three children. The third child I looked after from birth until she was two. Still to this day I call her my baby. They have four children now and I have been appointed guardian if anything was ever to happen to the parents.

The next family I went onto I was with for a year, they had two children and I did not bond with the boy child or the mother at all. From this I ended up working in Turkey as a summer nanny, even though I never wanted to nanny outside of London. But the money was so good and a friend who was also a nanny was going on holidays and her children needed someone. I knew the children, because when they would come to London we would meet for playdates with my children. I was there for the summer with three housekeepers and a driver only one of them spoke English so the eight year old would translate for me.

While I was in Turkey there were agencies in London deciding which jobs they would allow me to look at. This is how agencies work, based on experience and qualifications they usually gave you about three to look at. I was told that I was highly sort after in London based on my experience and qualifications, and serving time as a nannies helper and moving quickly onto sole charge. I was sitting on the top pay scale, which at the time was about 390 – 400 pound a week about $1000 Australian. I only worked for families where the parents were at work all day. I refused to work for someone that wasn’t working herself, as I felt if you are not working you need to be looking after your children.

I worked 12 hour days with the children, I usually had one on my hip, one at nursery, or school. We would have a strict routine. We would drop children at school or nursery and the baby and I would do our morning activities, maybe meet up with other nannies. Come home feed them lunch, put them down for a nap and then go and do pick up in the afternoon. Nannies really do have the best social calendar, you do not want to be stuck at home all day. I would have sole charge of the children, I would not clean or do general housekeeping, I would only do child nursery duties; cleaning their rooms, cooking their food and their laundry. Occasionally even on my days off or after I had signed off for the day I would still be with them, I loved them and loved just being with them.

As a mother everything that you have just said makes me want to cry. Everything you have said is what I did as a mother with my boys. These mothers must absolutely love and trust you immensely to be with their child like this.

You are right and I totally understand how you feel, at one time I had an au pair helping me with three children and when I would see her with my children, playing with them or showing the affection and I would become so jealous.

I said to the best friend of the lady I was working for “I admire and respect you and the women that work and have nannies – purely for the fact that you are willing to share your child’s love with someone else. I understand that is a choice, I mean the women that I worked for were high profile, extremely successful women, family orientated women. They had worked very hard for years to get to where they were. They loved their careers but also wanted a child. It meant that they need to work out the best balance for them emotionally and of course they still had mother guilt and had to learn how to deal with the social pressure from other women.

The top nanny agency in London, put me forward for a job in Kensington, I went for the interview, the agency negotiated the job for me. They called me in Turkey to say that I had just topped the pay scale for them; I would be getting 390 pounds a week, a flat in Kensington and a car – a BMW X5 and my only bill being a mobile phone. Being at this level, I knew my boundaries as a professional Nanny and always demanded respect from the families, I would only work for families where our values aligned and knew we would be a good fit. I would never travel with the families, dynamics change, and routines change. I was a professional nanny, so when the parents went to work I started work, when they went home I finished work as a live in Nanny. If you travel with them you are at their beck and call. So there are girls that are specifically holiday nannies. They only do travel with families and some only do high profile families and couldn’t think of anything worse than my position where I was stationary in London, doing the same routines everyday was their job from hell.

At the end of the day I just love being around the children under five, I love being with them and having play dates, developing a bond with them, I get so much satisfaction out of watching them grow. I loved for example the chaos and busyness of eating dinner with a table full of under-fives. It was crazy and loud and I loved it. When I moved back to Australia and would be sitting at the dinner table with my husband and it was quiet and civilised I found it boring and I suffered from what I think is empty nest syndrome. For 12 years I had a child on my hip or under my feet from when I was eighteen and I stopped when I was 30. At the end of my time as a nanny, I was just so tired of leaving families, I would just get so attached and I would end up being an absolute mess.

One of the challenges of Nanning is living in a house and living with the dynamics of a husband and wife. Working and living with a family you are dealing with them on a professional level and also an emotional level. Living within a family there is such a personal level of the job as well. The family that I worked with the longest I called her my mum away from home, and to this day we are still in contact with and I have just been invited to go and visit them in Sydney.

My biggest thing especially with under-fives is always to sit and eat with your children and eat the same food. This is so important because: children do not innately know how to eat dinner at a table and food does not motivate children under five. The only thing that motivates a child under five is fun. If they are at a table just being told to eat they are not learning, they learning by copying you. The very first thing I did as a nanny would be always to sit down and eat with the children. The family I was with the longest named me “two dinner Edwards”, because I always ate with the children at 5pm then would go out and eat with friends later. The last job I was in the little boy refused to eat vegetables, but within two weeks of me being with him, he was eating vegetables. The mother said to me I don’t know what you’re doing but keep it up, because her son had a new favourite food of broccoli. The food behaviour in the home changed because I made fun out of it and boys are motivated by challenge, so I would challenge him. “I would say to him you can’t eat a tree”. And of course he ate the tree. Eat with them, eat the same food as them – because they want to be the same as you, they role model you. So do what you want them to copy and feeding children under five needs to be fun. Do not ever clean a child up at the dinner table, let them get food everywhere, on their hands, on their face. Let them feel the food, clean them up away from the table. Let them explore it. Another tip when you do go to wash their face, don’t smother their face with the face washer. They will pull away and bat their hands. Be gentle, lean into them with a soft and soothing voice and clean off one part of their face at a time, explain what you are doing, they will relax and lean into you and let you do it. Be soft and delicate.

Routine. I had a really strict routine. It got to the point that the children could predict what was happening next. This created a sense of calm in them. If children don’t have strict boundaries they don’t feel safe and secure and they can act out because they are feeling disconnected from you. If you are consistent they always know what to expect from you and again they feel secure. Routines and consistence is the key.

Communications with under-fives is so important. Especially over the age of 3, they become much more reasonable. Appreciate that they know more than you think they do. They understand more than they can verbalise. Explain things to them, it’s not fair to dictate to children, explain why you are doing something, this brings understanding and they will be so much more reasonable.

If you want to distract, motivate or engage a child, music wins every time. Make it fun and sing, it captivates them. I spoke to a music teacher about this and she agreed with me that music changes the dynamic and a great way to distract, motivate or engage a child.

Get down on the ground with the children, go to eye level especially with boys. It’s not an innate awareness for parents to get down to eye level. Some parents have an instructional, dictator relationships with children. If they see them at eye level they have a serve and return interaction with their child. For example sit and eat with them at the dinner table, sit with them a do an activity with them.

Start with the end mind, think about how you want them to act not as babies, but as older children. Speak to them with proper words, use appropriate language. That is one of my biggest tips for parents.

Post 92

Good Morning

4.20am 3rd December 2016. I am writing this on my break at work, yes on nights again. I am up to post 92 and trying to finish this 100 days of writing as fast as I can.

Tonight has gone surprisingly quickly, I started at 11.00am and there has been a steady stream of work, coffee, toilet stops, chatting about well anything and everything. I have music going which isn’t really helping my pounding headache, but is keeping me awake. A bit like the flashing Santa lights directly in front of me. The children’s play room has been cordoned off and completely cleaned out and has been filled with a Christmas scene – there is a fire place with Santa on top, Christmas stockings hanging off the fire place, there is spray on paint around the windows and a red and silver decorated tree. It looks very festive. I will go home this morning and put up our tree with boy 2 and deck the house out with Christmas paraphernalia before I go to bed.

Looking out passed the Christmas decorations to the car park, the sun isn’t here yet, the day is just beginning darkness is gone and there is light. That would have to be one of the only good things about working through the night, seeing the sun rise and the beginning of a new day. Having said that, on my drive home from working in the dark, I do feel as though I have an axe in my forehead and my eyes feel like they are burning exactly like the time that I accidentally bleached them.

I have just made a terrible coffee that looks like dirty water and tastes bitter. I have a piece of lemon slice that I was offered from another staff member. That’s another thing about night duty – the food. Bench tops and desks are usually covered in Tupperware filled with baking, lollies, chips and dip.

Heat packs, the hot little reds bags are one of my favourite things on night duty. I usually have one down the front and back of my shirt. If I wear the right bra, I can even walk around and work with them attached to me.

Oh don’t get me started on when the day shift walk in. I love them, like really love them and honestly tell them that, as soon as I see there fresh, wide awake faces ready to take over from me so I can go home to bed. Nearly time for me to go home to bed know. – Good night. x

Post 91

For the last 3 years we have hooked up our camper trailer and driven south down the highway to Northern New South Wales to a little place south of Byron Bay. The caravan park where we stay is tucked in between a headland and the beach. The camp ground doesn’t have many facilities in itself but the location is perfect. To get our favourite camp site we need to a year in advance. The dates that we have stayed have meant that the same people have been there each year. One lady that comes to mind when I think of Broken Head has stayed at the park at the same time of year for over 60 years, all of her children and grandchildren have spent summers at the park and her husband actually passed away there, on their annual holiday. She is an expert on the weather, she out fishes the men and can be seen walking the beach everyday.

We spend our time on holiday walking over the headland in the morning, going for a swim or a surf on the way back to camp, we usually have a nanna nap, go back to the beach for more swimming after lunch, then it is “happy hour” with cheese and wine before heading back to the beach for a late afternoon fishing and a pipi hunting session. Then back to camp and cooking on gas oven, with ingredients and produce from the fridge that we take with us, we have a comfortable set up with lots of shade, the boys sleep in their own tents, and we cover our camp site with 100’s of fairy lights making it shine brilliantly.

With mostly the same people camping in the park at the same time each holidays, my boys look forward each year to catching up with their mates from all over Australia. They spend their days, at the beach, in the park, going from camp site to camp site catching up and getting to know families. The group of mostly boys in the mornings head up to the camp kitchen and cook and feast on pancakes. Most days I have to actually remind them to eat and I always insist that they are back at our camp site for dinner; otherwise I would never for the whole holiday see my children.

One of my absolute favourite things is getting comfy in my queen size bed in the camper trailer and listening to the ocean as I fall asleep, going for long walks with my little family and practising yoga on the beach is pretty high on the list as well. The 16 days that we are away each year, living a healthy lifestyle of eating beautiful food, being active everyday, spending time together is my favourite time of the year.

Post 90

Post 90

 

Date days became part of our relationship when hubby was working away. We would devote one of his 5 days off for the month to us. Sometimes it was to go out for lunch or a movie, days we spent at home eating nice food and wine, one day we took a train to the city and ate really bad yum char. Another day we hiked a mountain with me cursing him the whole way because I hate that mountain.  Most of the time it was to the beach. There were some days when I was incredibly excited to go on a date with him and other days when it was not something that I wanted to do.

We went on a date this week to the beach. We haven’t seen each other for a while, he works in the morning starting at 6.00am and I start in the afternoon at 3.00pm, so there are a lot of text messages and I hear is voice more than I see his face. And this week when we went to the beach it was only for a couple of hours after we dropped boy 2 at school as I had to again start work at 3.00pm.

He surfed and I fried myself on the beach, we swam and I lost my bikini top in the dumping waves. We ran along the beach with our feet burning on the hot sand all the way to the car. We hiked up a hill and admired the ocean as we stood beside the lighthouse. On our way back to the car we passed a park with on the side of a hill with bench seats scattered throughout for people to be able to sit and stare at the ocean. It seemed it was date day for a lot of couples. We had a bit of a giggle and it made me feel as though we are on the right track with these date days as we saw the bench seats filled with oldies holding hands admiring each other and the ocean.

Post 89

Post 89

I asked a Instagram group that I am apart of to give me some topics to write about one of them was

Mom life tips (I know Aussies spell it Mum)

Where to begin!!!!

Always follow your own instincts. You are the vessel in which your babe has come from. You are the one that knows what is best for your child. From conception you have mother instincts, follow them.

The moment you find out you’re pregnant mother guilt sets in. On some days that bitch will kick your ass. On other days you will be on top. It is a part of your mothering gift. Don’t worry about it. It means you care.

Everyone and their mother will have an opinion on what you should be doing, when and how. Only pick out the advice that you need, don’t try and do every. single. thing.

When I had my first boy everyone would say “sleep when the baby sleeps” this drove me effing crazy, because my kid never slept. And when he was asleep I would have a shower or throw a load of clothes in the washing machine, while the whole time thinking “I should be sleeping while he is sleeping”. But it equally stressed me out when I would quickly jump into bed and try and sleep when he slept. In the end I did what was right for me on that day.

Talk to other mums. Your mum, grandma, aunts, girlfriends, anyone. Have adult conversations, don’t always talk about the baby.

In our house we have always lived by the rule – there are no secrets in the house. This means answering all questions honestly and openly and being prepared for more hard questions. My boy’s are 14 and 11. So far it seems to be working. And sometimes I wonder if I am being too open and blunt with them.

If you have boys let them be boys. Let them move and climb and throw balls and ride skate boards and go fishing, light fires ( within reason), mow the grass, chop wood. Their basic instincts are to be Neanderthals, to use and develop gross motor skills.

From a young age teach boys to be gentlemen – I do not let mine swear in the house, from the time they learnt to talk they have been taught to use manners, they are to be respectful to women, they must always kiss and cuddle any women in their family hello and goodbye. They are my muscle if I need to move things or carry things.

Read to them and read widely. Lots of genres, books, magazines, newspapers.

Let them see emotion. My boys have seen me laugh, cry, grieve, be angry, they have seen their father and I argue and they have seen us apologise to each other.

Always know what is going on with them, ask specific questions like “who sat next to you at lunch time?” “give me an example of one thing you learnt at school today”

Love them every day. Every morning my boys have had a good morning kiss and cuddle. I read somewhere once that a mother should never be the first one to pull away from the embrace with their child. Let the child break it. I have lived by this because sometimes they just need to hold on for that little bit longer.

 

 

Post 88

Post 88

The feature photo is a dragon fruit cactus. Boy 2 has a diverse palate and will try absolutely anything that is put in front of him. He has a soft spot though for fruit. A friend of his bought a pink oval shaped fruit to school to show my boy. If you think of a pear it is a similar shape. The flesh of the fruit that boy 2 had a taste of was white with black seeds and has the consistency of a kiwi fruit. Apparently the dragon fruit that has its origins in Mexico, is full of numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fiber and is high in antioxidants. From the first spoonful my youngest boy loved dragon fruit. So much so that he wanted to start growing them. We live in a sub-tropical area and the medium to large cactus seems to grow well here.

We were travelling home from western Queensland and boy 2 was yelling at us to stop the car. Now my boy gets car sick so of course we pull over at a ridiculous speed, because we have been there and done that with vomit all through the car. He wasn’t car sick at all, there was a fruit shop on the side of the road with dragon fruit plants for sale out the front. So after the initial “are you kidding me” had worn off. My husband went and purchased my son two dragon fruit plants.

He has nurtured his plants, he has fertilized them, and watered them and at one point even built a bamboo fence around them to protect them from our dog. He has sculptured them so they now look like works of art.

In saying all of this and how delicious the fruit is and how artistic the plant looks, we found out recently that it can take up to six years for the plant to bear fruit. My boy has a long wait for his treasured fruit, but I am sure he will enjoy the first bight after all of his hard work.