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 £50,000 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.

**

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.

**

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!

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

 

 

Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you to my wonderful friend Rachel for providing me with Eleanor for this week’s focus. It is always great to hear who inspires my friends and family and I encourage you to reach out if you have a beautiful human that I could feature!

**

Eleanor Roosevelt is niece to the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. He taught her the power of political influence and she married her fifth cousin (once removed). Before looking into her story, I didn’t think much past the overwhelming notion of privilege that comes with these facts and knew very little about her. Here is a quick download of things that might surprise you:

  • Eleanor’s father was an alcoholic and drug user. He was committed to mental asylums in both France and the United States.
  • It is understood that he had an illegitimate child to a servant.
  • Her mother died at 29 years old from diphtheria. Eleanor was 8 years old.
  • Her and her brother were placed in their grandmother’s care. She was described as “formidable”.

Her life was once of both extreme luxury and intense challengers.

  • Eleanor received private tutoring and could write fluently in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
  • When she married her husband, Franklin D Roosevelt, she was dominated by her mother-in-law, living in discomfort until she re-emerged on the social scene following the birth of her 5 children.
  • Eleanor “played the role” particularly well as a spouse to an elected figure. At each stage of Franklin’s career she volunteered, engaged other spouses and participated in fundraising and social gatherings as needed.
  • She worked as a French translator during WWI.
  • She gave primary nursing care to her husband first became unwell and independently cared for her children during this time.

Some of the many bad-ass commitments she held before becoming First Lady include:

  • The Women’s City Club of New York, board of directors, vice president, City Planning Department chair, Finance Committee Chair
  • The Women’s Trade Union League, member
  • Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Committee, member, Vice President, Finance Chair, and Women’s Democratic News newsletter editor and columnist
  • The League of Women Voters, New York State branch and national organization, Board member, Legislative Committee Chair (state league), Constitutional Revision Chair (state league), County Delegate, State Delegate, Vice-Chair of the New York State League
  • World Peace Movement and Bok Peace Prize Committee
  • and ooon and on it goes 🙂 (source)

During her husband’s campaign for President she actively campaigned for another candidate and refused to make speeches for her husband, yet she did vote for him and supported him absolutely in the role.

This really sums up her role as First Lady:

“No presidential wife served as First Lady for a period longer than did Eleanor Roosevelt – twelve years, one month, one week and one day. No First Lady served through two nationally traumatic events such as did Eleanor Roosevelt, presiding at the White House during the Great Depression and World War II. Unique to her tenure was the fact that the President was physically limited by his then-hidden condition of polio. Thus apart from finding a way to integrate her own professional interests and experiences into the public role of First Lady and assume the traditional management of the mansion’s functioning as a political-social arena, Eleanor Roosevelt worked closely with the President and his staff as an unofficial Administration representative and on policy-related issues.” (Source)

Her influence was far reaching and powerful:

  • Eleanor hosted women-only press conferences at the White House, resulting in the hiring of more and more women reporters so news companies could have their staff in attendance.
  • She wrote 6 weekly articles called “My Day”. She is reported to only have missed one entry, following the death of her husband. This humble blog writer is put to shame!!
  • She defied segregation rules and openly sat beside an African American Associate, risking imprisonment.
  • She helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • She often traveled on behalf of her ailing husband, allowing him to retain control over his presidency.

I really like hearing stories about women as detailed, curious and incredible as Eleanor. She is clearly an outlier, having achieved more in a lifetime that many of us could dream to. This was in part afforded to her by circumstance, social standing and opportunity. It was also driven by a spirit that couldn’t be tethered and full intention to just “get on with it”.

I think we all have tenacity in ourselves that we are unaware of. It comes out when we most need it. When, like Eleanor, you have multiple children and a sick husband and you just get on with caring for him. Or when you pursue your own political and social aspirations whilst helping to run a goddamn country.

For you or I it comes down to this:

If you think you’re tired, now’s the time to start working. If you think you’re defeated, now’s the time to start fighting. And if you think you aren’t capable of it, afford yourself a moment of worry before putting that aside and getting on with business.

We have got this.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: Bringing the Beach Home

In a week where Australia was nearly overtaken by a potato I thought we needed a lighter post this weekend. Enjoy!

**

I’ve just happily committed to an upcoming weekend trip to the beach with friends and it has got me thinking.

Already, I am excited. I am longing for the salty sea air, the sand in between my toes, and the feeling of freedom that I associate to completely with the coast.

I’m thinking about what audiobook I should download for the trip, or if I should find a new Podcast series that will last the trip (any suggestions, comment below!). I’m wondering if we will play board games, or watch movies at night, and if we will go exploring over rocks or if it will be more of a lounge on the sand type of trip.

So… what’s my point?

Well… quite simply, if I can get this excited at the idea of an experience, doesn’t this mean I can create this excitement by playing with my environment at home, for those times when I need to unwind, relax and let go of stress but can’t quite fit in a round trip to the coast?

Here are the things that I associate with beach trips:

  • Long idle conversations that carry on lazily over a few days
  • Chilled out music playing in an otherwise quiet, sleepy home
  • That oh-so-comfy feeling of snuggling into a blanket after you’ve been outside all morning
  • Reading quietly alongside others doing their own thing, whether it be reading, playing games, chatting, and not feeling harried or imposed upon
  • Eating delicious food in groups and having meals that stretch out
  • Not feeling time pressure. At all. Like, none.

The list goes on and on.

But whilst all of those experiences are heightened by the location, they are not isolated to it.

  • I can chat to my husband and friends at home
  • I can play music and burn candles and create a warm environment at home
  • I can snuggle at home! I think you get the point.

So given my excitement that has emerged from setting a date for relaxation (in essence) I am challenging myself to setting another date for relaxation in my home environment.

I am bringing the beach home, minus the sand.

 

 

Stephanie Kwolek

Ever wondered who invented Kevlar? It’s a pretty niche thing to ponder on at any given time but luckily I have the answer for you!

Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar.

  • Stephanie was born in 1924.
  • She was a Chemist.
  • She discovered the correct fibers that led to the creation of Kevlar when she was in her 40’s.
  • She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • Stephanie passed away in 2014, at the age of 90.

I’m not going to go in depth into the science but here is an easy to digest summary:

“Unexpectedly, she discovered that under certain conditions, large numbers of polyamide molecules line up in parallel to form cloudy liquid crystalline solutions. Most researchers would have rejected the solution because it was fluid and cloudy rather than viscous and clear. But Kwolek took a chance and spun the solution into fibers more strong and stiff than had ever been created. This breakthrough opened up the possibilities for a host of new products resistant to tears, bullets, extreme temperatures, and other conditions.” (source)

In one of her interviews straight out of College Stephanie was tenacious enough to ask for the outcome of her interview on the spot. She attributes this boldness to the boss of the company bringing his secretary in and dictating a letter of offer on the spot to her (source). You don’t get if you don’t ask!!

The thing I love the most about this story is that Stephanie tested a product that most other scientists would have discarded because of the texture and style of it. Today the world of the academic and researcher (including scientists) is fraught with risk. You can’t take yourself too far outside of the norm because then you will be contradicting or challenging those who are responsible for your funding, or your position at a university.

Unfortunately this leads to our research walking around in circles at times, and an inability for the great “leaps” in progress that science, philosophy and intellectual thought was once famous for.

So this idea of just “giving something a go” to test how it would react, and the subsequent incredible outcome makes me so happy!

I am sure you have heard of Kevlar. But just in case you weren’t aware of some of these uses here is a quick list:

  • Body armour
  • Coating on optical-fiber cables that run between countries under the sea
  • Ropes (the strength of the fiber can hold a bridge)
  • Clothing for athletes
  • Kitchenware (fry pans etc)
  • And on and on (source).

The hard work Stephanie dedicated her life to has improved our lives in ways we now take for granted.

But Kevlar of course has also led to the protection of our service men and women in both military and police roles. I am sure many pacifist arguments would be against this and would not consider it a step forward. I get that, and whilst it is a complicated story bigger than this blog can afford, I for one have quite a positive view of police in my country (being very lucky to have had nothing but positive experiences with them as afforded by my race, social status and circumstance) and am grateful that they are given more protection so they can continue to keep me safe.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: You Knew What You Were Getting Into

Please share this post if it resonates with you. I would love to hear from you, privately on in the comment field below if you have gone through similar experiences. As always, if you have a topic you are sitting on I welcome you to get in touch so we can chat.

I’d also like to note that this isn’t in any way directed at any one person or event. This blog isn’t a shield for me to vent about something someone in particular did. I am using this as a platform to talk about thoughts, feelings, ideas or worries that have occurred to me or that have been brought up to me by those around me. Cheers xo

**

I am an open and honest person and friend.

I try to share myself with and hope to receive the same back from others.

I am that person who can strike up a conversation with someone and within five minutes know their life story.

But this quality has been eroding over time.

I have learnt that my news, my work, my fears, my worries, my world, none of this belongs to those around me and I am not obliged to give them over to someone to do what they will with them.

Me oh my am I feeling dramatic today…!

Over the last few years I have often spoken openly to people about fears, stresses or worries I have about risks or choices I have taken or am about to take.

What has taken me off guard is how common comments can be thrown out about how it can be “expected” that something would be hard. That I “should have known” that it would be challenging. I could have “seen it coming”.

These comments are really stinging to me and it has come from good therapy and a lot of self reflection to realise why this is.

  • I feel underestimated.
  • I feel like I have been misunderstood.
  • I feel like I have been viewed as “hasty” or “rash”.
  • I feel like I have “missed something” or haven’t done my full research.
  • I have not been able to convey the emotion or point I had wanted to communicate.
  • I feel vulnerable.
  • I feel isolated.
  • I feel exposed.

The exposure and vulnerability is the key here. It shows me that I did not have a good enough relationship with that person to enter into that depth of conversation with them. Or it wasn’t the time/place to get into an involved topic.

Unfortunately this has lead to me, at times, “closing off” to people who genuinely give me so much happiness, warmth and love.

Sometimes I think people describe what I have just spoken about as getting “burnt” or “stung” by people who don’t understand them.

I completely understand that emotion. I have seen in myself, however, that it sometimes boils down to little more than disappointment in myself for trusting too early, for speaking too rashly, or for underestimating an environment/person/situation.

And that’s on me.

Why is that on me? Because I can’t control what you do. I can’t control how you will respond to me, so I have to protect some of that good stuff for me and for myself.

This 100%, hands down, does not come easy to me.

I have found myself physically sweating as I try to stop myself from sharing something with someone.

I have found myself anxious that I am disappointing someone for not sharing something with them that they 1) have not asked for and 2) have no idea I am sitting on.

There’s another reason why I am so actively employing this tactic.

It’s because my tolerance for that style of response has really shrunk.

A few years back, if someone had said “well, what did you expect?” to me, I probably would have looked hurt, closed down, perhaps even welled up and cried at you. In between all of that I would have been furiously justifying myself. I would have been making damn sure that I had my say and told you why it was not surprising but it was disappointing, that I was not taken off guard but that I was still hurting, what ever it might be.

That’s OK, because I traditionally have worn my heart on my sleeve and I’ve already been through the wave of emotions that have just been brought up by that simple sentence.

It’s also OK that I don’t want to deal with that anymore. There are so many reasons why someone might respond like that, and quite frankly I don’t have the energy to relate to you on that level of understanding when I am frantically working through my own emotive response.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I still can’t change someone else in the way they respond to me. But I do get to choose what I say in the first place.

So I will continue to be an open and honest person. Realistically, I will continue to get “burnt” by people when I step outside my newly defined comfort level in a moment of excitement of feeling of connection that isn’t quite there.

I am actually OK with this. I’m human, and that makes me vulnerable to getting hurt. It also leaves me resilient as anything so I know that I’m going to be fine!

I will also continue to take risks and make changes in my life that might seem silly to people. That’s because I am who I am, and my husband is who he is. We like to adventure and sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn’t. It means we have stories to tell and shared experiences and crazy memories. And that’s OK too.

I don’t really know how to end this one guys… I’m just sitting here wondering how many of you are sitting there thinking “I can’t believe she put this out onto the internet – the backlash she is surely going to get – what the hell did she expect???!!!”

 

Michelle Obama

Let me try to do justice to the incredible woman and inspirational human, Michelle Obama.

Quick snapshot:

  • We share birthdays (17 Jan) but she was born in 1964. I feel close to her already.
  • Michelle is a Harvard graduate and a successful lawyer. I am studying to become a lawyer. Omg guys is this real life?
  • If I recall correctly from a autobiography by Barack Obama I once read, Michelle was Barack’s supervisor at the law firm where they met. This is where our shared pathways are diverging rapidly…
  • Michelle has worked both as a corporate lawyer and as a public servant.
  • Her husband is former United States President, Barack Obama. I have long since stopped being anywhere near in her league but I will keep the illusion going in my mind…
  • In her time as First Lady she focused on a variety of social issues, including child-focused and health-based causes. She had a very public profile and activity encouraged people to engage on issues around obesity, healthy eating, positive engagement with public schooling and so on.
  • We can all look forward to the release of her book, “Becoming”, scheduled for release in November 2018.

Now listen. I am an easy crier. I cry at motivational speeches. I cry at sad movies. I cry at joyful videos of puppies reuniting with their mum or dad after they’ve returned from their military service (yup, that one’s getting niche now).

But there are some people that make me tear up just with their energy, and Michelle is absolutely one of them. She speaks with purpose. She is energetic and passionate. She is clever and she is strong. I nearly always cry when I listen to an address by Michelle because she believes in what she says. It’s not an easy thing to convey that and she is such a role model to so many of us for different reasons.

There are so many examples to give, but the best is, of course, “When they go low, we go high“. Such simple advice to her children that has been applied again and again and again to adults navigating the world since the election of Donald Trump as US President and the sheer cluster of bullying, harassment and worry that has been stirred, boiled and stewed.

It is a fabulous way to look at life. Keep your head up, push on with the priorities that you hold in this life and do not stoop to the level of those trying to stop you. Continue with purpose and motivate those around you with good will and great energy.

Obviously both Michelle and Barrack have received criticism for their wealth, their “easy lives” and there have even been negative comments directed towards Michelle’s hair because it was not “natural” enough… I mean in the wider picture of the current administration it’s hard to really get too flustered about any that but that’s maybe just me.

I think that Michelle did a stand up job as First Lady, and her career is truly inspirational. She holds herself with poise and dignity and has kept a very “down to earth” approach to what must surely be a whirlwind of crazy.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: Please Don’t Say You’re Proud of Me

Language is complicated. We can’t police every word and thought in our head – we would never speak or have the confidence to generate our own thoughts.

What we can do, however, is slowly, gently, over time, shape and adjust the way we express our thoughts and feelings with language. It should take a lifetime. That’s what keeps it interesting.

**

Do you have a friend that delivers the most spectacular truth bombs at a time when you need it the most?

I am fortunate enough to say that I do. I actually am fortunate enough to say I have a few.

I have had one stunning human who has chosen to stay connected with me, chosen to remain in touch and share their life and their fears and their sadness and their joy with me for the better part of our lives.

I have been “schooled” by this friend many times over. I would like to share one learning I got from this friend that has stuck with me for about 5 years now.

It is not my place to be “proud” of you.

Think of how many times you’ve said this (me too!)

  • “I am so proud of the way she handled herself in that debate”
  • “I am so proud of you. You danced beautifully”
  • “We are so proud of the award you received”

It is innocent. It comes from a lovely place and it is not a malicious or loaded compliment.

On this occassion I said I was proud of something a mutual friend had done.

My friend turned to me and told me that our friend is the only one who can be proud of what she has done.

It has stuck me for years and I have a feeling it is because I grew up seeking the pride of others. The respect of others. The validation of others. But in that one sentence, my friend cut all of that out of the picture to say to me “the only person you need to feel pride from is yourself.”

Hell. Yes.

It relieved pressure that I had carried for years, that I didn’t realise I had. It removed a whole layer of conversation with my parents that I didn’t realise I was inserting. It communicated to me that so long as I felt “enough”, so long as I felt like I had put my whole into the thing at hand, that it didn’t particularly matter what anybody else felt about that.

That isn’t to say that when  my family or friends tell me they are proud of me that I don’t feel good – of course I do! It tells me they see the hard work I put in. I’m not going to turn around and say to you “you don’t get to be proud of me. Only I get to be proud of me!!”

But ever since my friend said those words to me, it has adjusted the way I think about myself and my actions, it has reshaped how I approached things.

In one sentence my friend gave me permission to let go and just do the things that make me happy. It was permission I didn’t realise I was seeking and it came from such an unexpected place that it has nestled in and stuck with me for years.

It has taken me a number of years to actually start pursuing this without fear, guilt or worry. I am still working on it today. But I feel pretty damn good with how my inner dialogue is when I think about taking on a new challenge and why I am doing that.

JK Rowling

After starting to write this piece I have started re-reading the series. Hopefully this also prompts you to dip back into the world of broomsticks and magic.

**

JK Rowling gives aspiring authors and young children hope.

I grew up with the Harry Potter series, ordering my copies in advance of the later books  as they were released. Harry Potter made reading fashionable – they got people talking about books! After people were finished reading them, they often then got a lot of young people into fantasy and other young fiction.

Her books are beautifully complex yet entirely understandable. They have this flow and pace that lets you binge on a book in complete bliss and look up a few hours later feeling warm and like you were temporarily a part of another world.

Many of you would already know that initially JK Rowling struggled to get her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, picked up by a publisher. That seems entirely laughable in hindsight, but this is so often the way! Whilst it could have happened to anyone, it has long been a known fact that female authors struggle harder than men to get their books published. JK Rowling is a gender neutral name and this is entirely intentional.

This aside, the ability of this woman is phenomenal. Apparently she was struck by the idea for the book on a train from Manchester to London in 1990 (source). The idea that this could grow into an incredible seven book series that has lived on and on and on, been transformed into movies and theme parks(!) and will continue into the future.

JK Rowling would be a billionaire but has donated millions of her dollars to charity, reportedly 16% of her net worth (source). She has her own trust – Volant Charitable Trust. The tag on their website is:

“Helping to alleviate social deprivation across Scotland, particularly supporting women, children and young people at risk”.

Volant provides grants to charities and projects that are working towards reducing the above risk in Scotland. It is such a straight forward, targeted commitment to help those who were in situations similar to her own prior to the success of Harry Potter and it makes my heart sing!

I absolutely adore everything about JK Rowling and the entire world of Harry Potter. I am so grateful I grew up in the time of this series and this escape from every day life. I have so much joy in seeing how the success of a person hasn’t led to a complete shift of  their values and has continued to give kids engage with reading and fantasy.

When you’re a kid, it is hard to articulate how you feel. It is hard to get across how serious the problems you’re facing really feel to you and it is easy to feel like your problems are trivialised. Realistically, many of the problems you have are indeed small-scale. But you have that pointed out to you by a parent or teacher it stings!

However, if you read Harry Potter you are suddenly gently reminded that there is this (fictional) kid out there. His parents died tragically. His responsibilities include saving the world. His challenges include learning to use magic, to learn a whole world that he is completely unfamiliar with.

It is very very easy to forget about your own worries and be transported into this world. To engage with characters like Hermione, who made me feel so joyful that she could use her smarts to get herself and her friends out of their problems. To see that despite bullying she could still be happy. And, what’s more, to feel happy that there was this character who was awe-inspiring in how she shoves her head into books and absorbs every word. My spirit-animal, albeit one I’m aspiring to.

JK Rowling is an inspiration and someone to inspire us to keep writing, to keep creating and to keep thinking outside of our own worlds. She has bound together millions of children in a shared love for one story line, connecting them to their parents in going to see the movies together, allowing their imaginations to grow and be challenged. I am grateful to JK Rowling and I would love to hear your thoughts and positive memories of the series.

I’m also keen to hear which of her other books (written under male pen name Robert Galbraith) should be given a go.

Thank you to the following sites: