Weekend Read: To all the mothers out there

I have tried to articulate some of my deepest gratitude to the mother figures in our world – every one of you deserves love and respect returned to you in a demonstration of thanks for all that you have given to your people.

There are so many versions of a ‘mother’. There is the mother-to-be. The new mother. The adoptive mother. The mother of two, three, four or more. Then there is the mother that never got to be. The mother that couldn’t stay. The foster mother. The mother who lost their little ones, before or after hearing their first cry. The mother that could never be named, but was present how she could be. The mother that was not allowed to be a mother. The mother who hasn’t had her time yet, but will take that test tomorrow, hope in her heart and tears in her eyes… This is for all of you.

‘Mother’ is this giant concept that is more an emotive response than a title.

Motherhood is entirely selfless. You hear that all of the time, but when you see it, and I mean really see it, it is flooring. More than giving the last piece of chocolate every time, more than getting up at 5:00am to drive to sport, more than delicately placing the money under the pillow, the presents in the stocking, the eggs by the foot of the bed.

It is soothing back their little one’s hair at 3:00am, before running their morning briefing in the office at 8:00am sharp. It is laughing joyously with a friend on the phone whilst supervising homework hour and sorting out lunches for the next day. It is a look, it is the feeling conveyed in a hug… It is so many actions, often being done without fuss and with nil expectation, but it is a tireless fight to improve and promote wellbeing of those around.

When I was 18 years old I went overseas by myself to work and gain life experience before I went to university. Doing that was not easy for me, but it has only been in recent years that I realised that while it was scary and big and challenging for me, that was nothing as compared to what it was for my mother, sending me off on that plane to an unknown reality after working tirelessly until that moment in time to provide for me a home full of warmth, comfort and love. To control as far as she was able what negative things came at me. But she supported me to go, helping me to get on with it when I called her in floods of tears, telling me it would all work out and helping me steel myself for the next challenge, and work through the ones that had passed by. She made me laugh on the phone, sat and talked sheer nonsense with me and wrote me letters. To this day (and even in this moment typing) I cannot avoid tearing up when I think about what it felt like the day she stepped off the airplane to meet me in that country one year after saying goodbye. We stood in each other’s arms crying and laughing and hugging because we had made it through that year together, even though we had been physically apart.

That’s what motherhood is for me. Whatever that feeling is, as hard as it is to express in words. It is knowing that my values, my morals, my inner grit and my personal contentment are grounded in her foundations, learnt over years sitting at the kitchen table, lounging next to her on the couch, walking with her around the block with the dogs, sitting next to her in the car going to the next sports game, the next concert, the next shift at work.

There is another post to be written for the fathers, that’s for another time. But for right now, right here, I want all of the mums to know that you are seen by me, you are utterly respected by me and I am in awe of all that you do. It mightn’t mean much, but in the hope that it lifts even one mum’s mood out there reading this, I will be brave and hit publish 🙂

Book Review: The People in the Tress by Hanya Yanagihara

I was nervous about this book. If you have read A Little Life by this author you know that she is both a spectacular writer and a heart breaking story teller. Trust me when I say though, this was worth the read.

I love when you start reading a book and you look up and the afternoon has turned to dusk without your realising. These time jumps happened to me whenever I picked this book up. Hanya has this incredible writing style that is both intensely descriptive at the same time as speeding you along the story line, you just hanging on, anxious to get to the next point.

This book has concepts, discussions and descriptions of child sexual abuse. Let us put that very clearly at the top. I knew that going in, and wasn’t sure I wanted it all in my brain. Also this part of the storyline is also disclosed right at the start of the novel so I am not ruining anything in the plot.

After having sat looking at the spine on my bookshelf for months, always wanting to pick it up just to have the pleasure of reading her work again, but never having the courage, I finally bit the bullet.

From the moment I started reading I knew Hanya had taken a very clever approach. Immediately we know our main character has been imprisoned for child sexual abuse charges. But the narrative is, in fact his biography. It takes you right back to his childhood and is told in his words, with his colleague and ultimate backer editing and footnoting his work.

This process allows Hanya to paint the most vivid and intricate reality, mimicking what I’m sure where explorative practices of the early to mid 1900s, and leaving you to forget that you are immersed in fiction.

As the plot progresses you see his character, unlikeable and distasteful to me entirely, try to justify and position himself as ultimately superior in the situation. But interestingly he also acknowledges how flat and devoid of character he truly is himself; he doesn’t really seem to like himself nor find his actions or appearances particularly fanciful or enviable.

I found I could not stop thinking about this book and as Hanya started to give tells and drip feed the reader the impression she was about to open the lid on the abuse, she skilfully just holds you anxious and waiting, engaged with the scenario and watching for the horror, rarely having it put before you.

It is true skill and artistry at work. You see the thorough destruction of tradition and community of a previously unknown people to white man, you see the ravaging of their earth and the distrust of humanity, truly a horror in its own right. The lack of ethics of the era, the lack of care, all bundles together and stacks against itself.

I didn’t necessarily put the book down sad or harassed though, contrary to all of this content. Quite the opposite, and that is her gift. My memories are most strongly of the forests and the creatures plants fruits and people within it, and those are what swim to the front of my mind when I consider this book.

Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

It felt like I never put this book down once I started it. Of course life disrupts us from life’s greatest pleasure, reading, but I rarely went long in my day without thinking about getting back to my book. I found myself up late often during this period due to an injury, and this book was a great companion to me through the quiet evenings.

The straight forward answer to ‘what is it about?’ is simply: a timeline of two families marching across time, weaving and swinging across, around and over each other.

That was always going to be enough to get me interested. What I didn’t expect was how connected I would become to each character in turn. As the timeline skipped and jumped, enough time was given to each voice to satisfy, but not so much as to forget the others.

I find it endlessly inspiring when people articulate clearly the internal dialogue around disorders, mental illness, professional trauma. It is hard and when it’s not done well it becomes incredibly hard work to read. Mary Beth Keane absolutely handles this with the care it deserves and helps humanise all of the voices involved with big, hard and often silent and domestic issues.

Inherited disorders, major injury, young love trumping logic, lust trumping fairness, people doing what they think is good or right before turning around, confused, and looking back on the years past with a perplexing uncertainty about whether it was right or not. It is all so human and not once in this work was I bored.

If you want to feel genuinely connected to a book, if you want to sit and readas quickly as you can and be given moments to gasp and sigh and feel genuine emotion, I recommend this book.

The story starts with Francis and Brian, new recruits in the police force who find their families growing and changing next door to each other. Francis is the ultimate picture of duty in both work and family and the two men’s lives split off in separate directions after Anne, Brian’s wife, ensures that both families will never be the same again in a moment of critical distress. Brian and Anne’s only child, Peter, and Francis and Lena’s girl, Kate, continue the connection of the two families and persist through complex internal family dynamics.

You are pulled along inch by inch, fearing the choices they make, rooting for them to come out the other side, and in my opinion the conclusion of the story felt right. It was concluded well and I felt ready for it to end, although I must admit to missing the characters now there is no more time to be had with them.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Young people in politics is always very exciting to me. It is one thing to have a young voice, it is another entirely to have that voice represent the “lay person”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) gives us a lot to be interested by, as the youngest elected Congresswoman and as someone representing the voices of the young, the financially disadvantaged and general issues of community such as minimum wage increases, paid internships and greater accessibility to free health care.

I have to admit that the last few years saw me quite disengaged from international politics, and international news far more than ever before in my life. There are so many reasons why we swing in and out of our interests, previously I have not had the energy to pick up a book for pleasure simply because of the volume of university reading I was doing, whereas now I am churning through pages as I find that same comfort and energy build that I experienced as a young child reading and exploring universes and lives external to my own.

But it’s hard to miss AOC. Taking this time to research and learn about a truly positive influence on the American political circuit was refreshing for me, and is giving me energy in re-engaging with the rest of the world news more generally.

First, a quick summary of AOC’s life so far:

  • She grew up between the Bronx and Yorktown, giving exposure to different versions of “normal” as she visited family members and spent time in areas far from affluent.
  • AOC is university educated and has done her time both in the political sphere (working at Senator Ted Kennedy’s office) and working generally within her community (waiting tables and woking bars after the death of her father to support her family).
  • Her campaign for congress was community-funded and grass roots.
  • She is from the Democratic party.
  • She is actively demonstrating how interacting with members of the public can humanise politics and be more engaging for people – see her little Youtube video about her day she did for Vanity Fair, which currently has nearly 3.5 million views.

She came onto my radar as she responded to racist tweets put out by Donald Trump, directed at her and other congresswomen of colour. The best thing about it was that she turned his tools against him, responding through twitter. Actually, just take a look at this summary article of her best Twitter “clapbacks”… Entertaining reading. In every photo, every media clip, AOC is engaging, vibrant, alive – this is good political engagement to me.

I have to say this. In amongst discussions around AOC I saw comparisons to her election to Congress with the election of Donald Trump, proof that it truly can be “anyone” that makes it into the ranks of American politics. I’m irritated by these statements. AOC built her political backbone through networking and hard work, demonstrated education in her field and built her community support through authentic engagement. She was not money hungry, she did not rely upon fear and anxiety to build a base founded in misinformation and she was unable to utilise extreme professional and personal linkage to members of the American and international media to manipulate her way in to her position. I cannot understand that comparison, even if it is said with the best of intention.

Australia’s political landscape is currently in absolute turmoil with allegations of rape spanning decades finally coming to light. While our Prime Minister and other party officials fumble and drop the balls repeatedly around this, America is facing similar scrutiny with allegations made against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. AOC has been very verbal on twitter about this matter too and I hope that this continuous, seemingly unending shock that the media and white, privileged and male political figure heads seem to be experiencing can be replaced with substantive and actionable responses.

I really enjoyed looking into AOC and seeing the positive shifts and changes she is working towards. Minimum wage increases, more accessible health care, greater equality and representation in politics, all of these things I support. Plus this combo of a new “version” of a politician, combining with someone who has built a very successful team around her to promote herself very well using modern tools, social media and the press, is really inspiring and I wish her all the best in getting her work through.

Book Review: A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu

I had heard a lot of recommendations for this book, and was keen for it to live up to expectations. The fact that I still recall moments of the book and during the read could see in my mind’s eye image of both person and place tells me that it did.

I think the first time I heard about this book it was described as ‘daring’. Now that doesn’t often hook me in, so I let the recommendation pass by me. It wasn’t until the fourth recommendation I heard, this time on Mamamia Out Loud, that I finally felt I at least needed to have my own opinion seeing as everyone else seemed to!

So when I started, in all honestly, I wasn’t convinced. I found the main character arrogant and unlikeable, but then it quickly became apparent that … that was sort of the point.

She hasn’t grown up a normal kid. She was arrogant because she’d never realised that can be negatively received. Then a friendship issue pops up and her internal thoughts and the description of their attempts to reconnect and to communicate again struck me as very real.

Just so no one gets a shock: there’s a lot of in depth sexy times. There is! So either read it because of that or read it knowing that it doesn’t matter, but Tu does a very good job at just telling the story of a young, sexual human who is a bit messed up but then is also completely normal in her coping, her experimentation.

Her lack of self love is clear sometimes during the sexy times, sometimes through her inner dialogue, and that is frustrating to read sometimes, but maybe, again, that’s the whole point. If you feel the book rub you the wrong way, keep going. The lack of detail about some characters at first felt borderline lazy and then as the story line continued it became clearer that it was actually a genuine reflection of our main characters view on the world.

I ended up reading this quickly to know what happened. As I say, I could visualise space time and people and I felt connected to the characters. This world of a young person going from thing to thing because they feel they have to is so common in our fast world, and to see the impact (albeit in fiction) was a good point of reflection.

Just because someone is good enough to be on the world stage, does that mean they should be? Who knows. But this next phase analysis and insight is well done. Ultimately I recommend this book. It felt unique in its voice. It felt fresh. And it felt identifiable yet held me at arms length, and I find that quite fascinating in hindsight.

Weekend Read: Not the Person I Used to Be

I write this post with a lens of love and with care. The person I am today is not the person I will be tomorrow, is not the person I was yesterday. Life expands and contracts, throwing people in and out of your orbit, and it is how gracefully we handle the emotions of this that gives inner comfort and demonstrates self kindness.

Each year passing feels faster, as we have more behind us to compare to. When summer holidays felt like they went forever, a weekend could be jam packed full of adventure, personal space and down time. I would have time to pause and realise I had not seen a friend in some time (which might equate to a few weeks), or decide I wanted to take up a new hobby.

In more recent years, and particularly with the completely life altering and jarring introduction of COVID-19 movement and lifestyle restrictions, I am experiencing life on what feels like x1.5. It’s not smashing past me, but there are times when I stand and give an audible ‘huh’ when I realise it has been literally months since I reached out to someone or saw them last.

There is risk in the gaps. The person you hung out with 7 months ago has potentially lived through a lot in the between time. As have you. And in recent years my life has been thrown some curve balls that actively altered massive parts of me. This means when I re-engage with people, the terms that I come to the table with have changed. And given we are all wrapped up in different layerings of social contracts, this can cause a lack of unity if the other person has also had their norm challenged by what you now bring forward, or have confirmed an alternative preference for communication and friendship for themselves.

Fundamentally I believe I am a good person. But I acknowledge that, just as with everyone, there are times when I could have been a better friend. The people who hold space for me despite those times I have fallen down for them are making active choices to do so, and there is no expectation that I will be afforded that grace tomorrow. They have chosen to see those times as the complicated reality that they were: mixed in with personal challenge and resulting growth, mixed in with changes in circumstance and complex life happenings that disrupted my “normal”.

I adore the version of myself that I am today. My mental health is strong, my outlook positive and my projection going in a direction that brings excitement, anticipation and pure joy. But I am a human, and am therefore flawed. I am a human, and therefore prone to set backs. I have far more boundaries and barriers about me than I had yesterday, some of which may come down with time, but some that I see as protective and important additions to me and how I care for myself.

I write this wondering how many people it may resonate with. For me, undergoing personal growth requires solitude and space. It requires reflection, demonstration of self-promotion and some real inner grit through times of conflict or difficulty. This has thrown me temporarily, and in some circumstances, permanently, out of orbit with some people in my life. It has felt painful at times, but I maintain that I am here, sitting at the table with a cup of tea and a jam donut, with a base emotion of gratitude and an undertone of care and understanding.

Please share below any reflections you have about this article in the comments section below.

Book review: The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean 

If you grew up in any version of a small Australian country town, this story will resonate with you. What it says, and doesn’t say, sits at the back of your mind and repeats on you after reading.

It is no surprise that this story revolves around the disappearance of three sisters, we know this immediately. But the build up to that moment paints a truly normal example of hot, dry, Australian living that pulls you in and leaves you hunting through the pages for the next dripping of information.

There are so many elements of unknown to this story, but whereas I am sometimes frustrated by this technique, McLean justifies it to the reader. It is so genuinely rural, the nosey neighbour selling Tupperware or the blow in teacher being labelled at once as strange just for committing the crime of being unknown picking you up and placing you in the town in your mind’s eye.

It is hard work to pull off the narrative voice of an 11 year old girl, but Felicity McLean does so incredibly well. You feel genuinely connected to Tikka, our main story teller. Her frustrations and simplistic logic leave you with a crook of a smile as you follow her story.

Particularly well done is the hint of drama, violence or negative going-ons that find their way into Tikka’s life, and how she reconciles them or moves past them with a stoic shrug or a raised eyebrow. While she is from a seemingly comfortable family life, she is decidedly free range as is the norm for children from small country towns. Roaming around areas with her sister and close by neighbours and friends, the Van Apfel Girls, Tikka is exposed to culturally accepted (even expected) violence, socially normalised actions of adults and then the hovering disgruntlement of things just not quite being right, and then required to watch the adults around her dismiss those red alarms while this child watches on perplexed in silence.

Her gaffes and moments of mispeaking are wholesome and relatable and when she justifies her actions and responses it really brought me back to my own rational thought at 11. Her engagements with adults show a girl clever beyond her years but innocent to her core. The disappearance of her friends alter her life course entirely and the discomfort in the untold lingers long in her psyche.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is a true demonstration of human experience. It’s not overly complicated, it doesn’t give you everything you ask of the plot, and yet those decisions by McLean feel entirely purposeful. I finished this book ready to move on from the fatigue of the emotion explored in Tikka’s experience, which is exactly how she as the story teller ended things, ready to move on and let go. Yet it wasn’t heavy reading, as her voice is wholesome and layered with a clarity of youth that helps you to keep moving along.

Margaret Tucker

Now Margaret Tucker lived until she was 92 years old, so this blog entry can’t possibly cover everything there is to be said about her, her life or her experience. As always, I am just highlighting a wonderful person in our history who may not be well known by you. Enjoy!

I have an inbuilt curiosity to learn about the experiences of people, I love every moment of finding out about people that are different to me and storing the information away to ponder on and consider later. When I read about the lived experience of our nation’s first people growing up in the early 1900s, there is a striking pause point where I simply have to stop and consider how truly disconnected I am from that experience, how I am lacking so many little pieces of information to give me a full picture, how I will never truly understand. How infuriating it is that so often I can’t see the details because my readily accessible history has been curated by people who time and again have chosen other voices, whiter voices, to be at the forefront of the pages.

Every person’s voice is critically important in history, this is part of why I write this blog. Every person’s achievements deserve telling. I connect to Margaret Tucker as a woman, but I am never going to know the true feeling of what it was to be her. The time I have lived in, the colour of my skin, so many things separate me fundamentally from Tucker in a way that I cannot mend, but that I can acknowledge, sit with and reflect on.

At the age of 12, Tucker’s life took a turn that happened far too often, and is never to be understated. Forcibly removed from her family to be placed in the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls, her life commenced a new chapter without any say from her, landing her in servitude to white families and dragging her away from her connection to family, community and culture.

Tucker, by all accounts, was a tireless fighter. She worked, she had a child with her husband, she began volunteering her time to activist movements for aboriginal rights. Whether it was as one of the founding members and treasurer of the Australian Aborigines League, or the creation of the National Day of Mourning to replace Australia Day on 26 January 1938, she seemed incapable of stopping in her efforts to give voices to those who didn’t have them, often having to build the platforms from the ground up to give that opportunity.

“Over the years Margaret Tucker won the respect of people because of her refusal to be embittered by the injustices and wrongs done to her people. Her philosophy was to go on fighting to put the wrongs right. This she did quietly but resolutely, even though, as a victim of the pre-World War II NSW Aboriginal system, she had every right to be bitter.”

https://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-margaret-elizabeth-auntie-marge-1556

Margaret Tucker truly seems like the kind of woman that you would be grabbed by, swept up by, brought along by.

I love thinking about how engaging she must have been. She was awarded the MBE (Order of British Merit) due to the hard work she did for the welfare of aboriginal Australians. She worked in a munitions factory during World War II. The tenacity and wonder of her is fabulous and each bit I learn about her makes me a little bit happier.

I look forward to reading her book, If Everyone Cared. I will be sure to come back with a book review when I get through it. Without hearing from her more directly just yet, I can’t make an assessment around whether she persisted and flourished despite of, or because of, her early life experienced. Either way, she did it well and with passion, and her selfless actions were rewarded again and again. More than the accolades I read about, it is the respect with which she written about and the care with which her history is retold.

Just before I go: While I am, quite honestly, not fully informed enough to comment in detail on this, I do also acknowledge that today we still see the removal of far too many aboriginal children from their family units and placed into care systems such as foster care. Put under the banner or guise of “intervention” or “concern”, there are systemic cultural and social practices that reflect continued bias and racism that needs to be addressed.

Book Review: How It Was by Janet Ellis

This storyline revolves around one family, it’s growth, decay and ultimate demise. Unlikeable characters, time jumps and a rather uniquely honest retell of the complex relationship between a mother and daughter takes the reader to a place otherwise left unexposed.

I was immediately curious when I read the premise of this book. Not because of a thrilling plot line, or because of the promise of hooks twists and turns. This book doesn’t really do that. How It Was shows the reader the layered complications of being a woman ‘of a certain era’ and how that can lead to barriers in relationships. With husbands. With friends. With children.

The housewife is an ultimately wholesome figure in our Western history. But she is also often silenced. The gig is lonely, often thankless, and the quiet resentment and agitation that builds slowly over years of routine and simplicity is accutely felt in this story.

Marion, the Matriarch and main character, is unlikeable. She is. Her impulse control is frayed, her insight into herself is void of any reflective practice and she demonstrates her love through a series of spiteful tests and walls constructed to prove a pre determined point already decided upon.

As the plot unravels we see the way Marion removes her hands from the wheel, allowing a precarious situation to unravel. Unenthusiastic even in her defiance and appearing to only destroy her routine and comfort out of opportunity and carelessness, Marion demonstrates what damage can be achieved by those who act in spite.

The conflict of a mother watching her daughter grow into a woman is something I have heard before, but the raw and primal responses described in this book were new to me. I am quite certain they are not experienced by every mother, to be clear. However, Janet Ellis describes a sharp dislike by Marion towards her daughter in a way that jars with normal expectations of maternal love. It feels authentic and as if the only wrong her daughter Sarah has done to Marion is to flourish into adolescence while Marion feels the stagnation of her post. The lack of communication, the lack of trust, is stark and of its era, but it is deeply sad and incredibly well articulated.

The same can be said for the relationship between Marion and her husband. The silence that exists in the relationship, the fatigue that settles between them, makes you want to cry out in frustration. The intentional barrier crossing and tension feeling remarks and actions are just so normalised in the dialogue but it still sits so poorly and made me feel angry at how dissatisfying being either party would be in this relationship. Which, ultimately, is excellent work by Ellis.

How It Was ends in a way that made me sit back, put the book in my lap and go ‘hah. Of course.’ It is satisfying and an enjoyable read. I did become a little frustrated reading Sarah’s journal entries as I dont think Ellis quite got the voice right every time. But she did throw in an incredibly powerful tool, setting the reader up to hear something said to Sarah which, when you hear her tell her mother the words spoken genuinely made me gasp and sigh in disappointment at the whole situation.

I would strongly recommend this book and enjoyed becoming enveloped in their life. It made me grateful for my relationship with my own mother and grateful for my life stage and perspective on things.

Huda Shaawari

I’ve always had a fascination with Egypt. I still remember trying to teach myself hieroglyphics from a book at around the age of 7 or 8, feeling I was set to be an archaeologist for certain. There is a richness of culture, an intelligence of society and a capacity of the citizens through history that is intriguing and holds me captive. As a public servant in Australia it is now clear to me that I was not destined for site digs and the hot sandy winds whipping on my face, a fact that I have come to peace with over the years. Still, the history and the people fascinate me so I thought I would share one amazing human’s influence on her world with you here.

Huda Shaarawi was an Egyptian woman who lived from 1879 to 1947 and played a fundamental role in embedding feminism into Egyptian society and a political critical time.

Ms Shaarawi was 13 years old when she was married to a man in his 40s. He had a child to another woman and Ms Shaarawi lived for 7 years separately to him. She was pressured by family to return to him after time, which she subsequently did. Her husband was a nationalist and supporter of establishing the independence of Egypt from Great Britain.

The Egyptian nationalist movement offered many opportunities for women to become politically engaged and marked a shift in female participation in social movement during this time.

In 1908 Ms Shaarawi established the first philanthropic society, supporting women and children. Her husband’s inclusion of her in political meetings, in conjunction with her education and inherent wealth, allowed Ms Shaarawi to participate in the political climate in a way that allowed her to truly influence her society and community. Ms Shaarawi encouraged women to leave their homes and engage with public spaces.

Following her husband’s death in 1923 Ms Shaarawi continued to be political and socially influential. She famously removed her veil in public to the shock and awe of onlookers. She participated in international forums advocating for Egypt and its political needs. She was actively engaged in social change from a young age through her entire life, relentless and bold, engaged and influential.

Yet it strikes me with Ms Shaarawi that to be separated from your husband, after being married at 13 and following the birth of his child to another woman, would have been heart breaking. When I read summaries of these incredibly brave women acting in ways divergent to the social norms it always strikes me what isn’t said. When all we have are public works or interviews to draw on, we do not get to hear about the hours spent in self-doubt, or the moments of fear over repercussion or backlash. Many of the people who have been featured in this blog have operated in male-dominant workplaces or communities and would undoubtedly have faced considerable hardship in establishing respect and “buy-in”.

The human element of these stories can be missing sometimes, and therefore the replicability can be hindered – it’s easy to sit and think “but she was incredible, I could never be that strong/determined/bold/daring”. But you can be. I’m sure due to the fact that Mr Shaarawi was a human being in this world, that she suffered times of stress, hardship, anguish, fear, turmoil. It was conceivably her ability to push through those times and emotions and experiences to reach her goals regardless that sets her apart and offers us her incredible legacy to learn about. This shouldn’t cause us to draw back from our own ambitions, I argue that it should inject the fire into your belly that you need to get on with the job.

Lastly, a quick note on feminism in non-Western cultures. I won’t get into it too much but I would just leave this here, as I think it sums it all up quite nicely:

“A common misconception about the prevalence of sexual discrimination in the Middle East is the notion of ‘Islamic misogyny’. This is given as the reason for women’s second-class citizenship. However, it undermines the feminist movement in Egypt at large and provides a superficial explanation for women’s fight as human beings for their basic rights.

It situates women in a binary where their freedom can only be attained in non-Islamic nations as they are passive and oppressed victims of their backwards societies, which is an Orientalist stereotype drawing on the colonial view of Arab and Muslim women.”

(Source)

Thank you to the following sites:

Enid Blyton

It will come as no surprise that someone writing a blog as an adult was a big reader growing up. My mother was a librarian so I had the pleasure of binge-reading literal piles of books, often hiding up a tree or tucking myself away from the rush of the household. Still to this day if you give me a soft couch and a book I will curl myself up and fall into the storyline for hours.

Enid Blyton offered me the magic of her stories from a young age. There is a delightful English tinge to her prose that enchanted me just as much as the storyline. For me, it is truly remarkable when an adult can retain the curiosity, charm and sense of adventure from their childhood and communicate it in such a way.

Ms Blyton was born in 1897. She was a writer throughout her entire career, and was part of the generation that transitioned from handwriting to the typewriter. Her works have been translated into over 40 languages and it warms me to think that children of all different parts of the world can escape into the worlds built by Ms Blyton so long ago.

We can’t shy away from the fact that Ms Blyton’s works, when read today, possess the unmistakeable whiff of “sexism, racism, snobbery and xenophobia” (source). Ms Blyton was an author of her time and therefore held the views and prejudice of her time. I’m in two minds as to whether I would provide these texts to a child.

The first thought is that children are prone to influence and it may be detrimental to their social/cultural/community development to provide them with messages/imagery/communications contrary to that which are acceptable by today’s standard.

The second thought is that children are highly intelligent and if you are engaging with the child about what they are reading and why it mightn’t fly in today’s world then you are doing them a favour. You are exposing them to brilliant writing and starting a conversation that will be had throughout their entire life: bigotry and racism are unacceptable. Stereotypes are detrimental to our social development and cultural advancement. Communities are built strongest when they are built on acceptance and tolerance.

For me, Enid Blyton allowed me to escape into my own world and my own mind for hours on end. For me, Enid Blyton is a name that will always bring joy to me because well written children’s fantasy is a gift to an active imagination that cannot be taken away.

Ms Blyton passed away in 1968, just three months after the passing of her second husband. I am grateful to say I have been positively influenced and inspired by the works and curiosity of Enyd Blyton. She is yet another inspiring human that I am glad was on this planet, and who will stand the test of time in her influence and impact on the children of the world.

“In the UK she still sells more than one book a minute and many of her books have been adapted into films and TV series.”

Source

Thank you to the following sites:

Jane Addams

Community and social workers are an essential part of our society. It is work that many shy away from because it is notoriously fraught both financially and emotionally for the worker. You work non-stop towards a goal that is unachievable (whether that be the eradication of poverty, the elimination of untreated mental health disorders in the community or something equally as fraught) and you are constantly thrown hurdles along the way to leap with vigour and passion. Those people who are willing to get in there and become engage with the most disadvantaged members of our community possess an inner grit that is unique and awe-inspiring.

Jane Addams chose to work with immigrants seeking education in the 1880s in America. She moved away from the life of physician to a life of philanthropic, community-driven aid that makes her quite an inspiring person.

A few short points about the woman who opened the first “settlement home” in America in 1889:

  • Ms Addams was born with a spinal defect that was operated on and corrected as a child. However, she suffered ongoing ill-health through her life which impacted her decisions around her career and life.
  • Ms Addams came from wealth. This means she possessed the rare ability for the time of travelling to be influenced and inspired by a settlement house (Toynbee House) she visited in London.
  • Ms Addams adapted the concept of Hull House following feedback from those accessing her services. The model moved from working-class targeted education opportunities to more community-driven child care and language skills classes.
  • Ms Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work.
  • Ms Addams was the first female president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections.

But what is a settlement home? Hull House was created “to provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.”… Hull House offered a broad range of services and programs for the neighborhood residents. Services and programs were developed in response to the emerging needs identified by residents. (source)

The target clientele were immigrants seeking access to the arts and education. Generous with her own wealth and ahead of her time in encouraging acceptance and seeing the value in education, Ms Addams contributed to the integration of scores of immigrants into her community.

Ms Addams was essentially stopping groups within the community from falling off the social cliff into poverty. There is so much research behind the importance of education these days but in the 1880s for Ms Addams and her team to pursue this goal is entirely exciting and inspiring to read about.

A passion to create parity in the lived experience of all people takes its toll. Ms Addams didn’t stop there though. She was influential in legislation, reform and social change across her lifetime. Ms Addams held political influence and suffered at the hands of vitriolic press during the war, when it was easier to vilify a woman than to reflect on the States actions.

I strongly recommend you have a play on this Guardian page… It is important to see the way that a person’s actions from a long time before our own can still hold relevance. There are currently over 900 settlement houses in the United States. Jane Addams has made a lasting impact on her community and her country that will stand the test of time, because there will always be men and women out there who wish to see the betterment of every member of society, and who are willing to fight for that outcome.

“Jane Addams was an ardent feminist by philosophy. In those days before women’s suffrage she believed that women should make their voices heard in legislation and therefore should have the right to vote, but more comprehensively, she thought that women should generate aspirations and search out opportunities to realize them.”

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1931/addams/biographical/

Thank you to the following sites:

Tituba

Sometimes life just gets in the way – I had started preparing this post for Halloween but then I got some mad “growth opportunities” that have taken this website off my priority list. Still, I was well into this crazy tale that I hadn’t heard before so I have decided to complete and publish this anyway. I hope you enjoy.

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A friend suggested I look up a “scary” person to feature for Halloween but when I started searching around I didn’t really feel like the serial killers and tyrants that were popping up when I got on the Google machine quite fit with this blog.

She then suggested witches and that took me down the rabbit hole of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. As someone who in my youth had briefly decided I wanted to be a “white” witch (using my powers for good, not evil) I was surprised to realise that I’d never really read much about the Salem Witch Trials.

It didn’t take me long to find someone I wanted to focus on: Tituba, the possibly Caribbean slave of a Reverend in Salem.

Quick context:

  • Salem is a city in Massachusetts.
  • Salem was a location thoroughly wrapped up in the witch craze from the 1300s. 
  • Already steeped in sordid and bloody history, the Salem Witch Trials were what earned the city its infamy.
  • Reverend Samuel Parris became Salem’s first ordained minister in 1689.
  • Tituba was a slave, well liked by the family and very close to the daughter of the Reverend.
  • When both the daughter and niece of the Reverend started fitting, thrashing, spitting and grunting (which historians believe to be the result of a poisonous fungus they were consuming) they pointed to Tituba and two homeless women for “bewitching” them.
  • Tituba, being accused of this, confessed to being a witch and pointed fingers to others in the community. She was so convincing in her tale that her accusers believed she had met with the devil. 
  • In an interesting twist her telling such detailed accounts of her dealings with the devil made her valuable to the townspeople. Her apparent murkiness around her co-accused resulting, as she claimed, from the devil not trusting her, lead to the townspeople keeping her alive to seek her ongoing council.
  • Whilst nearly 200 accused men and women were tortured and killed for their implications with the devil, Tituba was imprisoned only. She was released and subsequently fled with her husband, another employee of the Reverend’s household.
  • It is said that Tituba then disappeared into the folds of history.

There is so much to unpack in this moment in history. Learning about humans like Tituba just make me reflect that there are millions upon millions of beautiful human beings who have shuffled through the folds of time and history, forgotten because they did not belong to a group of people who were deemed worthy of recording or remembering. Had Tituba not been accused of witchcraft she would have lived her life without causing a ripple in the water and disappeared with time.

Simultaneously, what extreme circumstances to pull someone into the history books. She must have been terrified. The cunning and cleverness it took to keep herself alive are admirable. I am sure she expected to be terminated at every turn, every hearing, after every question answered.

Tituba may have been painted to be the “scary” woman who started the Salem Witch Trials, but really it was the misunderstandings of a series of young girls’ physical health poorly stirred into a pot of mistrust of slaves, misunderstandings of alternative faiths and mistakes by little girls to push attention away from them onto an easy target.

As a side note of sorts, I chose the photo I have used for this post because it is striking and also the alternatives were intensely unforgiving depictions of Tituba as some kind of monster-like, leering woman. This actress, Ashley Madekwe, played Tituba in the TV series “Salem”. Choosing her as the modern day imagining of Tituba makes me wonder if this is an attempt to re-imagine those women in history dealt such a poor hand in a way that gives them the light they deserve, or is this a fetishisation of a really horrible time in history that wasn’t “sexy” or “naughty” or “quirky”. It was down right dirty and horrible and it makes me wonder whether the unforgiving depictions are more accurate, if only for the fact that the whole time was harsh, evil and harrowing.

Thank you to the following sites:

Anna Burns

I do love me a good read of the latest Manbooker Prize winner.

Author Anna Burns has taken out this year’s prize with her novel “Milkman“. I’m yet to get into the novel but I’m excited to!

Prior to receiving the ÂŁ50,000 prize money for her efforts, Anna was on welfare. She suffers chronic pain and has moved emotional mountains to get the book done. She has received criticism for not having a job, instead being “reliant” on the system. The ignorance of this is outstanding.

If anyone has experienced long and sustained pain due to injury or illness they will know how debilitating it is. More so, Anna is a woman in her 50’s. It is complicated enough navigating the world of employment when you are fit and able in that age bracket (or at all as it is). Couple it with “complications” or an “inconvenience” for the company and you can forget it.

Hospitality is out – how is she meant to stand for hours on a back injury? Office work is possible, but may require special arrangements that are not optional or “preferred” when looking at a candidate.

So she wrote a book. Where many others fall into deep depression or fall into the grips of medication dependency, Anna was about to make a literary piece that has taken the world by storm.

I’ve read a fantastic piece this week from The Guardian talking about the way we often assume creativity to belong to those with wealth – “cleverness is somehow the property only of those with good incomes.” I think this is so very valid, and it really comes out when you see a colleague return to work from a South East Asian country covered in handmade jewellery spouting how “surprised” they were at the “talent” “these people” have shown in being creative despite lack of resources. As if we haven’t expressed ourselves using art in a multitude of ways since we developed the ability to communicate with each other.

I’m a big fan of books. You all know I’m a big fat nerd by now, surely? So go out and buy Anna’s book. Support her and make it so she never needs to return to a pension / state benefit again. At the end of the day encouraging awareness and support to individual efforts can make a huge difference in combatting entrenched poverty or disadvantage. It’s the easiest form of advocacy you can participate in.

Rather than criticising people for being reliant on welfare, let’s help them get out of it by supporting them in their endeavours. Let’s be supportive of people who are playing to their strengths. If we can’t assist them to get out of a situation they wish to exit then let’s offer understanding to what is always a more complicated situation than we can see from the outside. Let’s approach people with kindness and a measured understanding that allows them to feel supported and try to keep fighting.

And also just remember, not everyone is creative like Anna is. So this article is not saying that everyone on welfare unable to work should write a book. If they want to / can – great! But it is not a person’s “responsibility” to exit the welfare system if they have been deemed suitable to receive assistance. They are entitled to that and we should remember that we may well need it ourselves in future years to come pending circumstance change or misfortune.

Thank you to the following sites:

 

And in the blue corner…

I have sat through so many training days and team building exercises since starting work full time that they all mesh into one blur of boredom-induced hunger, stifled yawns and uncomfortable silences while facilitators wait for contributions by people who are being paid to attend.

Many of these have been about understanding my work style. Or the work style of others. Or the communication preference of others. Or the most effective way to interact. At the end of the day, I am plotted on a map, a circle, a square or some other picture that tells me what my style-preferences are and how best to engage with me. It often comes with warnings about how to go about engaging other people.

Usually about halfway through the day I start feeling irked. We have had the different categories explained to us, we understand where we are headed for the day, and inevitably the next step is people start acting up those behavioural traits they want to shine through in their results.

Those self-assigning as dominant or in control start talking louder and with more authority, those who self-assign as introverted, detail-oriented and quiet withdraw and stop participating. It is the weirdest constructed environment. The best one is when those self-assigned as anti-establishment start saying how dumb the whole thing is and how little use this process is.

I don’t dislike these days.

Rather, I am fatigued by these days.

I am fatigued by the idea that we should be trying to manipulate each other in a way that leads to getting the result we want.

It can be argued that we are just optimising our interaction.

It can be argued that we are just trying to understand ourselves and get the best personal outcome that we can.

But when it comes to those days I don’t really buy that.

I have often joked that job interviews would be better if they were just a drone following people around for a week to see their communication skills, their ability to coordinate, their dedication to the role and their passion on the topic.

I do seriously think that people typically perform best when they are in a non-threatening, natural environment and allowed to find their own pace.

I think it’s good to be self-reflective, and also aware of how we engage with each other.

We just shouldn’t be taking these assessments to the point where we are engineering our conversations.

Setting our colleagues and friends up to get the outcome we want.

Engaging those stakeholders that we know will give us the result that we want.

If we do these things we miss the opportunity to have our ideas, feelings and beliefs challenged. By challenging those things we can validate and justify them, or else build on what we have learnt to pivot and shift our understanding.

If we spend every interaction of every day trying to get our most desired outcome, we may miss out on experiencing something that we would greatly enjoy, or having our mind changed for the better, or learning something we wouldn’t otherwise have learnt.

Being curious is a positive thing.

Learning ourselves is a positive thing.

I believe it’s possible to experience both things.

 

 

Tina Fey

A few years ago I did something with my aunties that many called crazy. In hindsight I would completely agree it was madness. Together we walked 50 kilometres across 12 hours around our home city.

My favourite part of this event, however, wasn’t the day itself. It was the training walks we did together, traipsing up mountains, winding around waking tracks, enjoying views and chatting about life.

On one occasion as the event was getting closer we were scheduled to walk 25km one weekend. I couldn’t join my aunties for whatever reason but committed to doing the walk solo.

My biggest worry wasn’t water. It wasn’t snacks and it wasn’t my sore feet. It was the fact that I was going to get bored doing this walk alone.

Having recently started listening to audiobooks I did a quick Google search on ‘entertaining audiobooks’ and Tina Fey’s Bossypants came running in to save the day.

I frolicked up and down hills and along tracks listening to Tina’s smooth and entertaining voice as she recounted stories of her career and life. There was a particularly intense part where she was describing the office behaviour of the men at one of her jobs where I was literally laughing out loud as I walked along.

It was at that particular moment that I realised a pair of hikers were overtaking me and were just behind me. They were probably trying to walk as fast as they could past me to get the hell away from the crazy lady laughing to herself and swinging her walking stick around in front of them.

Tina Fey is one of those powerhouse women that slogged her guts out to get where she is, and continues to put huge amounts of effort into her work, family and life in general. She does all this while making it look “fun” and “easy” on the outside. She is sharp, witty, honest and hilarious.

Born in 1970, Tina describes being called “bossypants” from a young age, because she was the child directing the other kids around when they were playing. More than that, all I can say is go and read or listen to her book. It is fabulous.

Her career has been insane, and in amongst it she has raised two daughters and held her life together. The lack of sleep, the requirement to create and be “on” at a moments notice… It isn’t something I could ever imagine myself doing. But I am so glad that she does it for us!

Just check out her filmography. Two of my favourites:

  • She made 138 episodes of 30 Rock where she worked as creator, writer, executive producer and actor.
  • 2004 saw Mean Girls, the movie that I and countless other girls/women of my time have watched again and again. Tina both starred in and wrote this one, too.

So, from the late 1990s to current day, Tina Fey has created, produced, acted, written, starred in, coordinated, managed, directed, [insert verb here] movies, TV programs, comedy skits, BOOKS… This woman is a creative genius and I am so pleased to be surrounded by her goodness.

Thank you to the following sites:

Tia-Clair Toomey

I have been doing my best not to just make this a blog on incredible Crossfit athletes. I made it this far! Before you sigh and switch off I recommend scrolling a little further, as Tia-Clair Toomey is one of the most amazingly talented athletes out there.

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There is a wonderful pride many Australians feel when their sportspeople excel on the international stage. Tia-Clair Toomey has offered this pride to her Australian fans in the Crossfit community two years running. You can buy her book here.

AFLW, women’s cricket, and soccer are some of the team sports that have boosted female profiles in sport in Australia. They’re fast increasing in popularity, and are navigating through pay gaps, advertising disparities and a comparative lack of representation in the media next to their male counterparts.

When Tia-Clair Toomey competed and won gold for Australia in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games the most common thing I heard from people who watched her was “did you see her ABS?! You could see them through her lifting suit!”

I mean ffs… Did you see that woman lift a TOTAL OF 201KG OVER HER FREAKING HEAD?!?!

The second most common thing was some kind of comment about how “manly” she looked.

I get that we are socially conditioned, we have unconscious bias and these things come out because perhaps we don’t know the technicality of what she’s doing or any other way to describe what was just witnessed.

But come on!

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I am not the only woman who grew up doing sport. I’ve played netball, soccer, basketball, tennis, I’ve competed in swimming and running and have a black belt in tae kwon do.

I have been thoroughly dedicated to flogging myself in the pursuit of being fit (read: being skinny). I starved myself of food, I did extra laps around the block. I often told myself enjoyed it, and to be fair I always have enjoyed the burn of a good workout, the feeling of euphoria after you push way harder than you thought you could.

But it was always for the wrong reasons.

It took until I started Crossfit in 2015 to start enjoying the sport that I did. I now chase heavier weights, faster times, more efficient movements. I no longer consider what doing “too much” of something is going to do for my figure, and yet I feel the best about my body than I have in a long time… perhaps ever.

This is not a recruitment post. I get that it’s not for everybody, but it is for me!

I found my sport, and I bloody well love it. More so, I find incredible inspiration in people like Tia. I don’t want to look like her, I want to lift like her!!

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Turning to her success at the Crossfit Games she becomes all the more amazing. Running, climbing, lifting, hand stand walking, throwing, pushing, pulling, heaving, swimming, rowing… This woman can do it all.

Always a natural athlete, Tia burst onto the Crossfit scene in 2013 and for the last two years has won the Games in an excellent demonstration of strength, agility, endurance and tenacity.

When I was first falling in love with Crossfit and sat down to watch the sponsored videos and interviews of the up and coming athletes the year Tia came third (2015), she wasn’t there. She popped up occasionally, walking across the background and smiling into the camera. There were a few interviews here and there but compared to the Icelandic queens she was nowhere.

Then she was on the podium. Aussies going bananas. People completely confused and excited. Then she did it again the next year, coming second, then boom. Two years in a row, she has been named “Fittest on Earth” in the Crossfit domain.

Tia-Clair Toomey is a fantastic role model for our girls. She is a hard worker, a natural athlete and someone who works to win.

In a world of influencers, social media over-consumption and all the rest of it, what a breath of fresh air to expose ourselves to someone who just wants to put in the hard work and get the best result possible.

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We may not all have the capacity she has, but we can still take on her energy and be inspired by her work. We can all excel through consistency and strong and steady performance.

You don’t have to win all the time to come out on top. You just have to hold on and endure.

Thank you to the following sites:

Jennifer Smith

I always feel such inspiration when I hear about a person who has managed to write their own book.

Then I hear about Jennifer Smith, who decided to write a book at 12 years old, publishing at 16 years old and I am flat out in awe.

Let’s just add in that she is dyslexia and my brain just exploded.

You can buy Jennifer’s book here. In 2009 Jennifer started Jenny’s Wish Foundation. A portion of proceeds from her book sales go towards the foundation, and as it has developed it has become a source of help and support for those living with disability.

I think the strongest message she puts out is that if you live with disability, you are not dumb. You just learn differently. Anyone who has worked with, taught or spent time with someone with disability you already know this. But it’s a message that we have to keep spreading widely and enthusiastically.

The foundation is fantastic, offering $300 scholarships to link kids in with tutoring, technology or other assistance they need to learn and, even better, learn well.

It’s amazing to me that for less than $500 we can completely redefine a person’s experience in the education system.

Jennifer has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has learnt to SCUBA dive. Now she is a published author and runs a foundation to aid people with disability.

What a bloody legend.

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As you would all know by now, I am ever so slowly creeping my way towards a law degree. One of the things about the legal system that I find fascinating is the way children are represented in matters impacting them, and how this has changed over time, and is likely to change moving forward.

In cases of family separation, it makes sense that a child will have a view on their desired outcome, who they wish to live with, who takes them to school each day, where they feel safest etc.

In cases of abuse, children should be treated with the utmost of understanding and kindness, but they still have every right to justice and deserve to have their voices heard in a way that protects them, their remaining innocence and their sense of identity.

Linking these two thoughts together, I love the idea of a person living with dyslexia writing about that experience, and even better, while they are still in a development stage rather than looking back as an adult.

Understanding how we influence children and the way they experience our world is essential.

Thank you to the following sites:

Special Feature: Gaby Judd

A personal note to Gaby: thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to you about your efforts. Despite the draining and intensely sad nature of the information you are exposed to through your work with Grandmothers, you are a positive, forward-looking person invested in getting less children detained offshore. You are an inspiration and you gave me so much hope that people are out there connecting those children and families offshore to our world here in Australia.

As always I will note that I try very hard not to get political on this blog. This is a blog about inspiration, community, momentum and positive change. There are so many platforms and avenues for you to burrow deep down into if you’d like to get a more political view of this issue and I encourage you to do so!

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Children in detention. It is uncomfortable. It is horrifying. It is mortifying. It is so many things and then because it is out of sight it gets put out of mind.

We are told in the media that there are no refugee children on Nauru but this is not true. The Department of Home Affairs publishes a monthly update on the numbers of people in detention. At the time I spoke to Gaby 22 children are currently listed. This number only reflects those children in tents, in the camps. It does not include those children and families who have been granted refugee status and released into the Nauruan community.

The total number of refugee children on Nauru is around 140.  number is reported to more accurately be 140 children.

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Gaby Judd founded the New South Wales chapter of Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. Many of these women are Grandmothers, others are older women concerned about the appalling treatment and detention of refugee children. out the and they are against the detention of refugee children. There are metropolitan, regional and rural chapters across Australia and these humans are strong.

Gaby was incredibly kind in talking to me for this post. She told me about the monthly vigils the Grandmothers’ hold at Sydney’s Queen Victoria building, the aim being to talk to and inform the public about their campaign. The group holds monthly meetings at Pitt Street Uniting Church (Sydney) and educate and inform their members by having guest speakers attend meetings. In a world of increasing isolation (particularly in older members of our community) groups that are founded on kindness and shared humanity are essential.

“We want to make Australia kind.”

I saw the Grandmother’s whilst doing a brief stint at Parliament House a few years ago now. They held a demonstration on the lawns at the front of Parliament House before meeting with Members of Parliament and Senators. When attending Question Time, Senator Hanson-Young acknowledged and welcomed the women in attendance, in a beautiful sea of purple. They represented themselves as strong and powerful, informed and passionate, direct and kind. I was so inspired and I am sure anyone who sees these ladies in their efforts to raise community awareness is too.

They hold various public demonstrations and events to educate others and communicate their message that it is unacceptable to detain children in detention centers.

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Many of the grandmothers involved in this grassroots movement are involved with care arrangements of their own grandchildren. Membership age spans 50-90 years old. Whilst no one from Grandmothers have been able to physically reach a detention centre for their own inspection they are in contact with those who formerly have been or currently are in attendance.

Back when Gaby became interested and contacted the women in Victoria who had started this grass roots campaign she was told that while it was great that she wanted to join, but she couldn’t because a chapter in NSW didn’t exist. But she could make the NSW chapter if she wanted to!

And so she bloody well did.

This alone makes me feel so happy. How often have you become motivated, excited and ready to get engaged in a cause or a concern only to find out that the effort you need to put in is just a little too big. A little too much. Maybe a little too scary? I know that I have experienced this.

Instead, Gaby got on with it. Just like Grandmothers do.

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Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children is a grassroots, community driven initiative and this is very intentional.

Finding your purpose is key. Grandmothers raise community awareness, host vigils and ensure vulnerable people know that they are thought of, cared about and loved even if from afar.

  • They fight for equal rights.
  • They fight for community cohesion and kindness.
  • They fight for their voice to be heard.
  • They urge others to act with compassion.
  • They encourage empathy and understanding.

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My own grandmothers have been involved in their communities throughout their lives in various ways. It is necessary for those of us in younger generations to see that you are 1) never to old to protest and 2) that when you do, you can do so in a polite and respectful way.

So when Gaby told me she had experienced open hostility from people, including physical intimidation and being yelled at, even if only on an isolated occasion, I felt frustration, but also exhaustion on her behalf.

We all  deserve to have our voices heard, and this world of ours is big enough that you can take yourself to one park to protest your view while I take myself to a different one to protest my view. There does not need to be conflict.

Let’s make it on the news because we have successfully rallied public opinion and influenced our political representatives to make change.

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Gaby is just one of the many inspirational women in Sydney, in Australia, in the world who is speaking out on behalf of those more vulnerable than herself. Grandmothers are caring, but they are also strong and Gaby is the perfect blend.

 

 

Weekend Read: Shrink Your World

How many people belong to your “inner circle”?

Who are the most important people in your world?

Now, tell me:

  • When is the last time you contacted those people?
  • When is the last time you spent physical time with those people?
  • How do you feel when you catch up with them?
  • Why do you feel comfortable cancelling on them?
  • What can you do to engage more fully with those people?

You know when you are spending time with a person who sees you as essential to their life, and who you see as essential to yours. You feel complete, happy, energised, fulfilled, challenged, excited, engaged and wonderfully content.

The time flies by and you find yourself saying “no, seriously, I have to go!!” because you have been trying to leave for 2 hours but keep getting wrapped back into conversation.

But how often do you cancel on these people because they understand you? How often do you find yourself agreeing to catch ups with people external to this inner sanctum, leaving less and less time for those people who are going to fill you up with joy and laughter, comfort and understanding?

I am a people pleaser.

This means that I will often agree to tutor a friend’s friend, grab a coffee with a person considering working for my team, or engage in an activity that I’m only 60% interested in because the other person is really excited. I have done this my whole life, and often exhaust myself doing it.

I have honestly reflected recently that this style of living generates chaos. If you involve yourself in the worlds of many, you will be involved in the drama of many too.

It’s great to be helpful. It’s great to be welcoming, open, kind and generous.

But it has to be on your terms, and it can’t be to the detriment of your essential relationships.

I have spent far too long with good friends asking for help in coming to the aid of a random association who is not affiliated with that friend.

That friend will then graciously and calmly help me, and always ask for updates. But that’s not fair on them. I need to be more present for that friend! What if the 30 minutes we spent brainstorming a solution to someone else’s problem could have been spent working on a problem of their own?!

I am guessing that my friends typically enjoy the part of me that is a people pleaser. But it is also taxing on my relationship with them when it pulls me away from commitments I’ve made with them, or leaves me without energy to be in the moment.

I have been successful in setting up some strategies to help me and I have spoken about them before here, here and here.

But this takes constant reminding. So here is your reminder! Be kind to yourself, and build time for your crew.