Soda Pop

It was a bit exciting in our home when Gecko Press sent us “Soda Pop”, a ‘chapter book’ to review! We love reviewing picture books, but my eldest two sons have moved on to independently reading chapter books now. They still like picture books, age doesn’t discriminate when it comes to children’s literature, especially when it’s read aloud. I’ve read a picture book to 50 adults before and had them captivated. As much as the big boys will still listen to many of the picture books and enjoy them, but the longer stories are exciting them more at the moment and Soda Pop certainly did not disappoint.

Soda Pop is a classic Swedish children’s novel and an absurd tale in a world where anything can happen. I immediately liked the thought of my children getting to know a classic tale from a different country, not because they would learn anything about Sweden,especially when this story as the setting is very much imaginary, after all, I am sure that most father’s in Sweden do not wear bright orange clothes and tea cosies on their head unlike Soda Pop. A classic from another country simply gives access to another time honoured favourite that might be slightly different in flavour and delivery.

Jonty read the book enthusiastically. It was one of those books when your child begs you to stay up late to keep reading. I for one am a complete sucker and happily gave a bedtime extensions in the interest of promoting literacy, especially when the novel has your child giggling with glee as he flicks the pages. Watching him get such enjoyment from a book warmed the cockles of my heart. It also made him late for school the next morning, which I perhaps was not so happy about. I must note though, when my children are disobedient because they are reading it’s easier for me to extend them grace compared to other misdemeanours. Advantages of having a mother who is a book worm I guess!

I think one of the reasons this story was so appealing was thanks to the pure absurdity of the storyline and characters. The main characters are Soda Pop, a preposterous father raising his son Mazarin on sweet buns and love. There is also the eccentric Greandfayher Dartanyong who emerged every morning from his woodshed with a new identity. So in such a bizarre context, why wouldn’t a Great-grandfather move into a tree, eat birdseed and think he is a cuckoo? And why would such a motley crew not trap a group of tigers in a barn but not be surprised when the tigers escape and hang out at the bottom of a pool in a car? And when all these antics are accompanied by fanciful illustrations, a child’s imagination is truly ignited.

Soda Pop Illustrations

I asked him what I should say about this book in a review. He replied, “You can tell everyone that this book is CRAZY!” He hastily added, “The good type of crazy, that is!”

I must say Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking, agreed with Jonty’s claim that the story was crazy. Her review says, “There’s a sublime sort of craziness to it that catches me unaware every time. Neither Soda Pop nor Mazarin nor Dartanying speaks a single word of sense, but they will be my friends for life.”

I would highly recommend this book if your child delights in off beat humour and nonsense where usual rules and prejudices don’t exist. This story has withstood the test of time and is so loved in Sweden that it has be turned into a stop-motion animation series, a cartoon, a play, an opera and a comic book. I think a whole new group of children are going to fall in love with the characters in this first English edition.

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Relishing My Father’s Day Pickle

“I feel sorry for husbands whose wives don’t make them homemade jams and pickles,” my Gran remarked to my cousin and I. “There’s nothing like having a cupboard full of jars that have been made with love that you can eat together. It’s just not the same as the store bought jams and pickles.”

As she walked out of the room my cousin looked at me. I looked at my cousin. As Gran’s footsteps padded down the hallway I whispered, “I’ve never made a pickle or jam before in my life.” My cousin whispered back, “I’m far too busy to make my own pickles and jams.” And then we laughed. Oh how we laughed. But without hesitation, the next day we happily took home multitudes of jars of pickles and jams and our respective husbands ate those little jars of love with us, and God bless them, they never did complain when the lovingly made jars ran out and we returned to eating store bought jams and pickles. (We must have bought them with love.)

Visiting Grandparents
A younger me visiting my grandparents.

This Friday I realised with a panic that I had not bought a Father’s Day present for my Dad. The panic was not because I had no present, I still had time to do that. The panic was because my father is horrendously hard to buy presents for. All of a sudden I had a brain wave! I would make him a chilli chutney! Something with a little kick to put on his sandwiches. I congratulated myself on having a plan, and as I thought about how to execute it, I started thinking about Gran and the conversation we had so many years ago. I then had another brainwave, I should make Dad some of his mother’s pickles! Dad particularly liked getting jars of pickles off Gran every visit. It would have to be a sentimental favourite for a gift. #Winning

on the farm
My Dad with my sister and I last year by the Billabong at his farm.

I went searching through a recipe book I had of Gran’s. No pickle recipe. But there was a tomato relish recipe. That would do. But just in case, I sent a quick note to my Aunty asking if she had Gran’s pickles recipe. I went ahead with the relish plan when I hadn’t heard back from her and I went shopping, with five kids no less. I would declare myself supermum, but it would be untrue. I was a frazzled worn out wreck. Particularly after one child swung from the fruit and veggie scales like a swing, and before I could get there to stop the antics, his identical brother, oh yes, I am not protecting their identities, had started to use it like a bungee cord. I took their hands firmly, brought them back to the trolley and was giving them a good scolding when someone I don’t know very well recognised me. Gulp. Turn on friendly face! I also ran into another friend who I know much better, but the conversation was brief. I just wanted to get home!

I immediately started skinning tomatoes and roasting capsicum and chillis when I got home. I knew I had limited time before we had to go out to a soccer break up. While I’m busying in the kitchen, I received a photo from my Aunty of Gran’s Sweet Mustard Pickles recipe! It was around this time that I also realised that I had miscalculated how many tomatoes were in a pound, (I’m a metric girl, imperial confuses me) so I decided I should use my excess tomatoes to make the pickles as well as the relish and the chutney.

It was at about midnight that I questioned why I was being such an overachiever. I maybe should have paid more attention to the remark on my other grandmother’s recipe book. She gave me a recipe for Plum Jam but then wrote next to it, “It’s easier to buy a jar.”

On into the early hours of the morning I realised why it was sacrilege at Gran’s house to throw out an empty jar as I searched in vain through the recycle bin for an empty jar. When it was time to move Grandad out of their house, we had to smuggle the hoards of empty glass jars into the trailer to go to the tip. He just couldn’t cope with seeing any glass jars thrown out, even though Gran had passed away quite some years prior. When my wheelie bin search proved futile I started examining my fridge and happily found an almost empty bottle of olives that were able to be relocated into a Tupperware container. I also emptied a jar of chocolate coated peanuts, which didn’t really help as the jar was plastic, but at least I have more room to put pickles in the fridge, right?

And here I sit, waiting for my olive jar to sterilise.


I can tell you this. Those pickles, chutneys and relish sitting on my counter top right now are made with love. So much love. Somehow I am sure they will taste better than store bought. Every stir of the pot I have been thinking about my Dad’s face when he sees those pickles. I am wondering whether the chutney is going to have enough kick in it to delight Dad and my husband. I have relished making the relish and when I got sick of peeling tomatoes I kept on peeling thinking of how much better it was going to taste because of the effort. But the most delightful part of this whole process has been the memories of Gran while I have cooked. All afternoon, and into the evening, Gran’s voice has been echoing in my head. Long lost conversations have been remembered. As I stand at the saucepan and stir I can picture Gran doing the same in her cluttered kitchen. When my husband walked into my kitchen and remarked that it smells like Gran and Grandad’s house, I only felt pride.

Another thing Gran loved doing was baking and cake decorating. She always marked special occassions with a homemade cake.

Happy Fathers Day Dad! On this Father’s Day I’m particularly grateful that your mother fed and raised you to be such an outstanding man and that has made you a beyond excellent father.

(Post script: I’ve had a few difficulties posting this blog, so Father’s Day has been and gone. Alas, Dad came down with the dreaded man flu, so I’m still waiting to give him my gift!)

What gifts did you give on Father’s Day? Have you ever made pickles, relish or chutney? (Or Jam?)




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How I am …. Really.

I have been so grateful of all the support that I have received since I published a post sharing how I had discovered cancer. I know many of you have been praying, sending good vibrations and encouragement to me. I am very grateful and am definitely feeling the love. It’s high time that I post an update on what has been happening. People keep asking how I am and when I answer, they look concerned and ask, “But how are you doing, really?” It’s nice that people are concerned for me, but this is awkward because normally I have shared exactly what is happening and don’t need to elaborate further. So this is how I am … really.


I have had moments where I have felt sick and tired, but especially now that I have finished the first round and have had a break for four weeks, that certainly helps me to feel great, really!  Plus, this week has been very encouraging because I had a CT scan on Monday and my oncologist told me on Tuesday that everything was clear, there has been no spread of cancer. My doctors had not expected there would be, but even though they were just being cautious, it’s always good to hear that things are progressing as we want them to. My back is still healing, and not always comfortable, but the pain meds for this are decreasing and I can certainly feel improvements in that area.

In the last couple of months I have completed six weekly treatments of low dose chemotherapy. Over that same time I received 25 daily (weekday) treatments of radiation. Everything went so much better than I expected. I turned up on day one very prepared. I’d spoken to lots of medical professionals, I had read blogs and I had read some books. I was prepared. Which I’m very happy about because both the chemo and radiation nurses need to go through all the side effects, including worst case scenarios on that first day. I think if I hadn’t have heard it all before I might have been very overwhelmed and maybe slightly panicked and anxious. I decided early on that I was consciously avoiding worrying about what might happen. I thought it was common sense to listen and be aware of what might happen, but I had decided that when that happened I would deal with it. Which has saved me a lot time as I would have worried about nothing, as I had an unbelievably good experience. For starters, despite being told it would, my hair didn’t fall out! That was a delightful surprise! I’m still told it might, but I’m still grateful I didn’t have to shiver through the majority of winter with a bald scalp! I’m not as worried about losing my hair as I am of how it will grow back, whether I’ll lose my curls (which I love) and I’m desperately hoping it doesn’t come back grey because I’ve been proud of the fact that I’m over 40 with only a few silver threads that you have to look hard to find. Plus the whole growing back thing, it’s got to be more frustrating than growing out a bad haircut. But anyway, considering possible alternatives, the hair thing isn’t so bad, so I know that all will be well with my soul whatever the scenario.

St Andrews Cancer Care Toowoomba

Chemotherapy, for me, thus far, hasn’t been gruelling. Occasionally I have felt nauseous, but medication helps that very effectively. I haven’t always had the best nights sleep, mainly waking up in the early hours. Also had some mild medication helping there. In actual fact, because I had little side effects, chemo day was quite relaxing. It’s not often a Mum gets four hours to sit down uninterrupted in the middle of the day. Radiation also wasn’t so bad. It’s daily but most of the time it’s fairly quick. I would arrive, don a very unattractive blue hospital gown, go into the machine, let it do its job, (it doesn’t hurt at all), and then back home with a weekly appointments with the doctor and another one with a nurse. It’s all pretty streamlined.

I had a quick surgery the week before I began treatment to have a port-a-cath inserted so they didn’t need to use my rather useless veins. That has been probably been the most hassle in the end, in terms of pain. For some reason it really hurt, we got it checked out, and nothing was wrong, it was just sore and tender. ( I don’t regret it even still, I hate watching my tiny veins shrink after all the poking and prodding. I don’t think the years of IVF previously helped either.)  Fortunately that has settled down since I’ve had a four week break in between treatments. I also was very tired by the end of the radiation treatment. This was to be expected, radiation has a cumulative effect.

The corridor to radiation

I wanted to spend the week after it on the couch, but luckily I was well enough to force myself to choose my days as it was Jonty’s 11th birthday. We kept things low key, but I was very happy that I was able to help him celebrate his birthday with having a fewmates (and his female ‘cousin twin’, they were named this in Kindy as they’ve always been inseparable) around to play handball together and have a bonfire at night.

Jonty is our budding farmer, and requested a farm cake (This is the 4th year I’ve made him a ‘farm cake’) Luckily I came up with a simple idea of combine harvesters at harvest time that looked really effective.

Combine Harvester Cake

That was a Friday, and I can assure you that I took it pretty easy the next day. I mean, I did have 3 extra children in the afternoon, but the beauty of large families is that extra kids are absorbed into the crowd and create a diversion from the norm, which means the kids normally play even better than usual.

My children are still dealing with this well. For the most part, there is one child who has had to work through some emotions, and there has been such good support for all of us to help us work through this. But mostly, they are taking it in their stride and getting on with enjoying life. Probably the best illustration of this was on Tuesday when I shared with the kids that we had received good results after the CT scan. Trent came up a few hours later and said, “Mum, I’m really happy that you have got good news from your test results. But what I think I am even more excited about is that we are having meatballs for dinner.”

I am just so fortunate. I am very grateful for the blessed souls who have cooked meals or baked for our family, helped with cleaning, taken children on play dates and for all those who have prayed, sent messages, scriptures and been so positive. When God says that his Grace is enough, he so often does this by providing people at the right time and place. (IRL and online, in my experience!) I was listening to a podcast by the God Centred Mom (seriously, if you haven’t listened to her podcasts and you are a Mum, even if you aren’t, but definitely if you’re a Mum, do yourself a favour and listen to one. So much wisdom.) Heather was interviewing an 87 year old lady, (Vickie Kraft if you want to look it up) and there was one sweet stand out moment when this faithful elderly lady said, “There is no grace for your imagination”. His grace is enough when we NEED him, not when we are imagining something awful is going to happen. I have found this so true during this season. There is so much I could worry about, but I choose not to, because when I am in the middle of a situation, I have felt such a supernatural peace surrounding me that I know His grace is sufficient for me.
Post script: I hadn’t quite posted this, so I will give you an update on my first day back to chemotherapy yesterday. I have been waiting to see how I would react to the stronger dose. So far, so good! Even though the dose I’m now receiving is almost four times the previous dosage. I even went out last night to Toastmasters (A hobby of mine!) and competed in a speech contest. (I didn’t win, but it was good experience.) I have been feeling a little tired, but coping quite well. Yesterday during chemo I started cutting up a crocodile costume for my daughter (she was very insistent she came as a croc to our school’s Book Week equivalent, Festival of Nations) so I plan to hand stitch today, so that will be a nice easy activity.

Sewing during chemo

I’m told that the effects might increase with the extra treatments, but for now I will celebrate that I have more energy than I thought I would have.

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Discovering Cancer

Cancer. It’s not a word that you want in your life. You hope “cancer” will stay as a peripheral experience: others get cancer, but never you or your closest loved ones.

And then one day there is a doctor sitting in front of you saying that dreaded word.

Recently it happened to me. I now have a cancer story. It’s only beginning. I’m praying for a happy ending.

The last time I blogged was on the dawn of my scoliosis surgery. We knew that this year was going to be a big year for me healthwise. We had no idea how big. There’s been a few curveballs.

So here is the story. I had the back surgery. It hurt. A lot.

I spent four days in intensive care before moving onto the ward. I spent another week in the ward. When I was in ICU they took an x-ray of my chest to check for pneumonia. It’s a routine thing. I didn’t feel like I had anything wrong, so I wasn’t worried. I was just excited to see what my new back looked like! It was impressive. The nurse glanced over at the X-ray, froze, then let out an awed, “Woah. That is awesome!” It always amuses me what turns on medical people. He then send with great reverence, “You are totally Optimus Spine now.” Thanks nurse! I am! I totally own that. I’m proud of my straight spine, it hasn’t been easy to get and the large scar down my back now is a badge of honour.

Scoliosis X ray showing a thymoma present
Post scoliosis x ray that showed existence of a thymoma.

While I was celebrating my straight back that could be seen in the x-ray, I didn’t notice a cloud looming. The cloud was in the X-ray. A cloudy white mass on my lungs. Once I was on the ward, I learned about it from a lung specialist. He came to visit me and told me what they had seen on the X-ray that my untrained eye had not noticed. They thought it was a collapsed lung, which sounded scary but with his explanation I was quickly comforted. It didn’t sound like it would make a big difference in my life, unless I wanted to run a marathon. Which I certainly did not. No drama.

On his way out the door, he paused and said that he and my surgeon are both confident it’s nothing too serious and it wouldn’t be cancer or anything like that. He walked out the door as I froze. Cancer? Huh, what? I hadn’t once thought of that, he’d immediately said collapsed lung and that is what I instantly presumed, not another scenario entering my mind. I quickly became annoyed that he would even mention the word cancer if he didn’t think it was cancer and shrugged it off.

Later that day I was wheeled in my bed down to X-ray and had a CT scan of my chest and also had a full spinal X-ray to confirm my Optimus Spine status.

The next morning I was visited by a cardiothoracic surgeon. He asked me if my ears were burning? Apparently he had just come from a meeting of surgeons and oncologists where I had been discussed at length. I had become, or rather the cloudy mass behind my sternum, had become an enigma. The CT scan showed it wasn’t a collapsed lung but the question was how to diagnose the enigma. This new surgeon informed me that they decided on a biopsy and a PET scan. He told me it was going to be a big day, but the good news is that tomorrow we would have answers.

Later in the day my bed was wheeled down again to the X ray department. I knew how much it had hurt the day before getting onto the table for the CT scan. (Remember I still was recovering from major spinal surgery and had about 200 staples down my spine. No exaggeration.) I asked for something to help me through. A nurse was very obliging and injected me with morphine before I left. Which turned out to be very handy because there was a delay and my bed was in a parking bay, (for real, hospitals have parking bays for beds), for three hours so the morphine gave me a great sleep while I waited. (Morphine completely knocks me out.) After the biopsy, which was quite quick and not as painful as I expected (once again grateful for morphine) I was in the parking bay for another two hours waiting to go to the PET scan. This time I was given a gourmet food magazine, which was good because I like food mags and I was coming a little bit more lucid, although not enough to stay awake for long,   It turned out that the food magazine may not have been the best selection. I hadn’t eaten much lunch and I was starting to get hungry. My taste buds were salivating as I read an article about fancy doughnuts. It took me over an hour to read the article because I kept falling asleep and then waking up and examine the picture once again and then fall asleep dreaming of fancy doughnuts.

When I was finally wheeled in for the PET scan it was evening and as the shadows started to fall in the hallways of the hospital they also started to form in my mind as I was pushed through giant doors marked with radiation symbols. As I said, cancer has only been a peripheral experience of mine. No one I have been really close to has ever had cancer. I hadn’t realised the PET scan was solely checking for cancer, which I should have because the possibility of lymphoma had been mentioned to me. My heart rate began to increase, my hands started shaking. I was put in a dark room alone I closed my eyes and decided that I was not going to focus on the what ifs. So I shut my eyes and thought about my kids. Which made me start crying. So instead I shut my eyes and thought about fancy doughnuts and all the exotic locations I could eat gourmet doughnuts in.

Because the surgeon had said we would have answers the next day, Alex drove down and hung out with me in my room. You never know when doctors are going to appear when you are in hospital. It’s a bit of a lottery. By 6pm we realised that it seemed our number was not going to be called. A nurse rang and talked to the surgeon who appeared to have no recollection telling me that I would receive results today. Alex went home to Toowoomba and I had another doughnut dream.

Alex went and got pizza for dinner which was a welcome break from hospital food. Even if it wasn’t a doughnut!

Thankfully at 6am the next morning the surgeon arrived in my room with the results. It was a thymoma and the biopsy showed it was benign. Phew. But it was still dangerous. It meant another major surgery as soon as I had healed sufficiently from the surgery I was currently recovering from. A thymoma is a rare tumour (that explained why it was such an enigma) that was located just behind my sternum. My thymoma was a particularly large one and had potential to continue growing, with potential for rapid erratic growth and was dangerously close to my heart and major arteries. I would need a sternoctomy (sliced down the breastbone and ribs pulled apart) to remove it. I couldn’t help but feel a little fear as he had previously told me that lymphoma would be easier to treat than operating on a lump in this area. However now that the task was at hand the doctor was sounding positive so I decided to be positive too and breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t cancer.

Fast forward to the days after the chest surgery. The thymoma was removed. I had survived the most pain I’d ever felt in my life when I woke up from that surgery, and after that was under control, was relieved that the ICU experience wasn’t as bad this time as when I had the back surgery. The 2nd morning I was in ICU my surgeon came and sat by my bed. Not a good sign. He started with, “This thing is not at all what any of us has expected.” Also not a good sign.

When the tumour was sent for analysis at a lab, it was discovered that in fact there was only a small portion of the tumour that was benign. The biopsy was just a fluke that saved me from a little less worry for 6 weeks.  Which I am semi-grateful for because my worrying about the chest surgery was quite sufficient. The majority of the tumour was B2 cells that are pre-cancerous. 10% of the tumour were B3 cells, a rare aggressive cancer called thymic carcinoma.

When the tumour had been removed it was a about 10cm in length and diameter and rock hard. It had pressed against and become entangled with a whole heap of arteries and was difficult to remove. Some of the tumour was stuck on the sides of one of my major arteries into the heart. The surgeon made the decision to leave small spots of the tumour there rather than risking a major bleed. The tumour had also started growing into my lungs. He had sliced the tumour away from this and took a bit of my lungs with it, but he had assured me that I would not really notice this. We hope the cancer was only there and is now removed, but now there was a possibility of microscopic cancer cells within my lungs.

Chemotherapy and radiation are needed. Once again I’ve been playing the waiting game before starting another round. My body needed to heal sufficiently before we start the next round because the radiation will slow down or halt the healing process. I’ve now got the all clear and am waiting for my first round of treatment next week.

For the first week I was fine if we talked about the medical side of things. If I thought about my children or Alex, I would be a puddle of tears. It’s not nice to speculate about your children growing up without you.

As I said, I’m praying for a happy ending and we have every reason to believe there will be one. We are so fortunate that it has been caught early. In fact it may be that there is no cancer there at all, that the spots left are benign and the cancer cells haven’t spread. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take. The thymoma was slow growing, we can see it on x-rays dating back to 2014, and I can recall side effects that would suggest it was around as far back as 2012.

I have prayed that I will see my children get married, my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. And also a gourmet doughnut. I still haven’t encountered one.

Whatever the outcome, I have full trust in God that he cares for me and His will is going to be accomplished in my life.


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Adult Scoliosis – Prior to Surgery

I can’t remember how or when we found out I had scoliosis. It was sometime when I was 16. A long time ago after living with adult scoliosis for many years now. I can remember the horrifying first x-ray that confirmed my young body housed a spine that was bent and twisted like an ancient olive tree. I have what is referred to as a “S shaped curve.” (Some scoliosis patients alternatively have spines shaped like a “C”.) That teenage X-ray became a defining moment in my life. The beginning of visits to doctor’s and surgeons, chiropractors and physios. In the initial days, there were merely hints of the pain I would become all to familiar with in the future and recognition that there were certain physical limitations creating boundaries for the life I lived.

Scoliosis curve
A more X ray of my spine. You can see the top curve is 46 degrees and the bottom curve is 64 degrees.

Boundaries can create barriers but they need not limit achievement. It has been over 25 years since my scoliosis was diagnosed, and I have lived a productive life despite the limitations my bent spine has created. But the time has come to take action. As an adult in my early 40’s this is the eve before I have surgery to correct the curve in my spine. It was a surgery that was recommended during those teenage years, and the decision not to proceed with receiving Harrington rods was made with a great deal of thought and consideration by my parents. In the end, they were not prepared to accept the risks associated with surgery.

At the time I was relieved I would not miss large chunks of school and risk not graduating with my class. I was also a little fearful of living with scoliosis, I had been listening to the doctor’s descriptions of life with uncorrected scoliosis certainly did not sound entirely appetising for youth’s insatiable appetite for unbridled freedom. I accepted my parent’s decision, knowing they had made it in love and then got on with living.

Pain was a given, but didn’t hinder me at first. As the years marched onwards the pain weaned me to its ever increasing presence. Like all things gradual there was mute acceptance of the ever present presence of pain, just as there was acceptance of my increasing limitations due to the recurrent existence of pain, my travel companion in life. As a Christian I prayed and was prayed for that my back would receive a miraculous healing. I believe 100% that it is entirely possible that God has the power to straighten my spine and there have been countless mornings when I have woken feeling my spine to check if it perhaps had straightened overnight. I do believe that God cannot answer every prayer, if he did there would be no such thing as free will to believe Him. If you knew that God would automatically heal if you believed, what choice would you have? I also believe in God’s intricate plan for all that believe and that there are reasons that we may not understand here on earth for the answers of our prayers sometimes being “No”. I have seen plenty of my prayers answered over the years. A straight spine has not been one of them and I still think my God is a good God.

Woman early 40's scoliosis
What my back looks like from behind. Normally I choose clothes that don’t bring attention to my uneven hips.

A bit over two years ago, my back had a complete meltdown. Moving was agony. I couldn’t drive, I could hardly walk. At one stage I crawled across the room like a tortoise trying to move as little as possible in order to reach the bathroom. My chiropractor helped me recover over a couple of weeks, but it scared me thinking of how I would cope living with crippling chronic pain. It was around this time, that I realised that in one year I had lost 5 cm in height. An X-ray confirmed spine was collapsing. The degree of curvature always increased over the years, but suddenly the bends were not so gradual. It was then the realisation came that I should not accept this continual increase of pain as if it were non-negotiable.

I booked a doctor’s appointment and got a surgeon’s referral. The surgeon once again recommended inserting rods in my back. He said that it was essentially the same surgery that was offered when I was 16, but surgical procedure is always improving and instead of the one Harrington rod from the 90’s I would receive two rods that would be fused into my spine. The doctor made it clear that even though surgical methods have improved in the past 20+ years, there were increased risks operating on an adult. Even though I’m not exactly over the hill, my bones have seen degeneration and damage over the years, aren’t as strong but are more brittle and my body will take longer to heal compared to a teenager.

The surgeon is a congenial fellow. I trusted his expertise and booked myself in. He said that I should pick a time that would best suit our family, even leaving one to two years. It’s a huge operation and it will effect all of our lives for a time. I opted with getting the surgery within the maximum time frame because this co-incided with the triplets beginning school. There is no easy time to do this for our family, but I felt that once the children were not needing care from me all day it would be easier to recover.

It’s been a long wait to get to this point, but here I sit thinking of a million things before I need to leave home today knowing that this event is happening tomorrow. In simple terms, the surgeon will be making two long incisions down my back and in my side (a rib will need to be broken to gain access) to correct my crooked spine. Over 6-8 hours he will remove two vertebrae and then untwist what remains before using screws to fuse my spine to two rods. When I wake up I will be in ICU overnight in the commencement of a long recovery. It will take 12 months to fully recover. The first 3 months will be intense, and I am dreading those first few days and weeks, especially as I begin to walk again.

The surgeon said this operation is no guarantee that I will live without pain in my spine. I am hopeful that it will be lessened. The surgeon said that as he lifts the vertebrae apart, they shouldn’t be rubbing against one another anymore which should mean I won’t feel the extensive arthritis my spine is riddled with. Well that’s got to be a good start for decreasing pain! If you see me at the end of a long day, I will be leaning over to one side, throughout the day, without even realising I am constantly forcing myself to straighten up. The surgeon said that I will be surprised how much energy this takes and the new stability that the rods will bring will mean that’s one less chore for the day. Mostly I am going into this operation believing that this will help brighten my future by halting the degressive progression of my curvature.

Side view scoliosis.
Side view of my spine. Those vertebrae that rub into one another really hurt!

It’s no small thing for a mother to walk away from her husband and children knowing that I will be unable to help them for an extended period of time and will be fully reliant on others to run my household. I am blessed that I have a wonderful support network of family and friends and a supportive school who are all committed to helping us all through this time. I am ever so grateful for this as I contemplate what lies before us this morning.

If you believe in the power of prayer, I would appreciate your prayers for myself and my family over the coming days. I am awake super early today, a bundle of nerves and slightly panicked knowing the list of things I would like to get done before tomorrow morning will not be accomplished. I also know that my terrific husband is more than capable to step up to the plate and nurture the children and I and fill in the gaps, even if it’s relying on the support of others. This knowledge helps the nerves dissipate quite a bit.

So for now, I can start my day tomorrow confident that I can straighten up and fly right. This will be a difficult year, but after this year there is a brighter future to soar into.

Scoliosis front view
Front view of my scoliosis. This picture proves how careful I need to be with what I wear otherwise one hip always juts out and my clothes just don’t sit right.
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2016 Christmas Books

Sleigh Ride Scholastic

I love the Christmas season, and reading Christmas books is always a feature during our December celebrations. During the past two years I have wrapped books and labelled a child’s name to open each day during the advent. (See reports from 2014 and 2015 about how we did this.) I had every intention of doing this again this year. But do you know what, some years, (particularly this year!) you just can’t do everything. I think I wrapped up five days worth of books on about day 3 for a late start, and then we stalled again until this morning when Elvey, our Elf on the Shelf, brought another five wrapped books, and that will be all this Christmas. Most of this mornings books were new which also made it special since we haven’t been doing it everyday. Scholastic has gifted us with some delightful Christmas books for review, and I also couldn’t resist making a few bookclub purchases to add to our collection. For instance, every Christmas collection should include The Grinch!

Pig the Elf

Can I tell you how excited I was when I saw that Pig the Pug had joined in the Christmas festivities? VERY! I think the Pig the Pug books are just great. They had me from “Well, pigs just don’t fly” on the first book, and I haven’t been disappointed during subsequent stories. It turns out Pig is a huuuuuge fan of Christmas. I don’t know why that came as a surprise for me, after all he’s a greddy Pig, and Christmas can be associated with greed, you know all those chances to write lists and get presents as such. Anyway, as usual, Pig’s greed got him into a hilarious predicament which I’m sure would make any child laugh. The kids at my local playgroup certainly thought it was a winner when I read it to them. (At my final playgroup after 8 years of playgrouping before the kids start school next year. Yikes!) It’s a perfect book for a springboard for talking to your child about Christmas spirit, and manners! A lovely fun way to encourage thankfulness and the true spirit behind gift giving.

Pig the Elf


Sleigh Ride

A classic Christmas song sung by Human Nature plus featuring Jessica Mauboy, you can’t beat a kids book with a song that’s easy listening for Mummy’s ears too! This book has wonderful Australian illustrations to accompany the song. Of course being Aussie the scene is at the beach and the sleigh is a trailer. Perfect! Not to mention the tune itself is one of the most played Christmas carols of all time, an age old favourite. I loved it that when we first listened to the CD Imogen was waltzing around the room with the cat. It’s the kind of music you simply want to dance or sing along with.

Sleigh Ride

I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

I’m told this is a well known song. I have never heard of it! Should I admit that? Considering the song was released in 1953 (the year my Dad was born) I don’t know how I’ve missed it!
I want a Hippopotamus for ChristmasIn any case Miranda Tapsell (I do love her in the TV series, “Love Child”) has recorded a lovely rendition of the tune. Not that I’ve heard other renditions, but I’m confident it would have to be right up there! We’ve recently had a little kitten join our family. Our kids are totally smitten with the kitten, so the fact that this story features a kitten writing a letter to Santa is going to be a winner. The kids are pretty focussed on all things kitten right now thanks a new little kitty in our household.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

When I saw this title in the Scholastic bookclub catalogue I couldn’t resist buying what has become a Christmas children’s classic. Plus, once again there is a lovely lesson encouraging generosity and taking the focus off the things we get at Christmas and focussing on what the true spirit of Christmas is.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Rosie the Ruby Fairy.

We have so many male oriented book on our shelves, that I thought it would be nice to have one that is slightly more girly for Immy, so picked this up from the Scholastic catalogue. Plus, thanks to a delightful fairy garden at Kindy Imogen is completely in love with fairies this year. Rosie the Ruby Fairy is a delightful little story. She’s a manager of the post office at Sparkle town and uses her special ruby want to prepare all the town’s post, including the very important letters to Santa Claus. Except this year she accidentally sends the letters to the wrong place so has to hand deliver the letters to the North Pole itself. I know that even though my girl is going to be charmed by the fairies efforts, the boys will also enjoy the story also. I love that there is also a theme about being patient and persistant to do the right thing and it shows that even if we make mistakes we can fix them and move on.

Rosie the Ruby Fairy

I highly recommend any of these books, particularly if you would like to pick up a special book to read on Christmas Eve or even tuck in a Santa sack for Christmas morning. We have also read copious amounts of Christmas library books though, so there’s always a cheap option with your pre-Christmas reading. Christmas is such a joyous way of encouraging literacy.

Merry Christmas!

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I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. This year has not been anything like I expected. It has not been a bad year. There’s been low points, but there has been many high points also. Busyness has simply been the main culprit for this year’s departure from my expectations. I have read online articles attacking our seeming addiction to being busy and that make me feel guilty. Truthfully, I’d love to be less busy, but do you know what? I think it’s impossible for me to do anything less right now. Honestly, I’ve searched for things to remove from my plate. Blogging, you may have noticed, to be one thing that has (hopefully temporarily) disappeared from the real life dining experience.

For the most part, there’s not much I can take away. Having young children, and a lot of them at that, just has certain responsibilities that need to be met. Those little mouths keep begging for food no matter how hard I try to avoid making dinner.  Although the little bodies certainly don’t demand to be dressed, (due to the childish delight in a good nudie run), eventually the little bodies need to be clothed, and therefore clothing that is required to be washed (and possibly ironed).

Apart from housework, I do have other reasons excuses that are keeping me busy. I’m going to list them for the record, since there is not too much here detailing the happenings of 2016.

  • Work. It finally occurred to me the other day that I really am a working mother. I hadn’t been giving myself credit for this because the majority of  my work is from home. I asked for an increased amount of work this year, and they certainly supplied me with it. It’s chewed up all the time I had planned to do more exciting stuff. But in return I got money. Money is good.
  • Toastmasters. Have you heard of Toastmasters? It’s an international group that develops communication and leadership skills. Primarily through developing public speaking skills. I joined two years ago, and have been loving it. (If anyone has a speaking gig, I’m your gal!) This year I’ve become the President of our club, which has taken a little bit more time, although thankfully we have a really experienced and committed executive which makes my job easier. It also takes a bit of time to write speeches and present them. But it’s paying dividends. Recently I won first place in our local area conference for a humorous speech. Yay!
  • Husband. The Accountant has set up his own firm. Free plug here. Here’s really busy working looooong hours. We are so proud of him and the clients keep trickling in, and he bends over backwards to give the best possible service. It does change the dynamics on the home front sometimes though.
  • Grandfather. My grandfather passed away in August. He had been suffering with dementia for years, but the finality of death is another issue to walk through. It also takes a bit of time helping prepare for a funeral, but it’s also an honour to remember and commemorate a man who was important to me as well.
  • Bushwalking. I’m proud to report from my New Year’s Resolutions the one that I’ve kept is monthly walks with our family. Alex and I are loving it. The kids not quite as much because they don’t deem it as playtime and they are jealous about Saturday playtime. Never mind, we drag them along nonetheless and once they are out in the great outdoors, they mostly forget to complain. (Until the final few hundred metres anyway.)
Our September bushwalk was climbing Mt. Coolum. So proud of the kids efforts. Little champions!
  • Health. I’ve been terribly sick throughout the year. (And years prior to this as it turns out.) I started having regular (monthly that became almost weekly) labour-like abdominal pain and violent vomiting episodes we and finally discovered that I had been making a rock garden in my gall bladder. Within two days of seeing a surgeon these rocks were removed and became the talk of the hospital ward for their dazzling size. I was blessed that we got them just prior to bursting. In addition to that I have ongoing issues with scoliosis. The deterioration of my spine is becoming significant as I get older and is causing me quite a bit of pain. We’ve planned surgery early next year to prevent the curve from continuing to worsen in the future. That will be major. Gulp.
  • Reading. This one is purely recreational and enjoyable. But since I’ve got out of the routine of blogging, (and when I just can’t move because of my back) I’ve been picking up my beloved books a lot more. Not that I’ve ever stopped reading because of blogging, I just have read more this year. I think my favourite so far has been “The Golden Prince” by Rebecca Dean just for being a good enjoyable light read in a genre that I enjoy. (Historical Fiction) I also really enjoyed “The Dressmaker” by Rosalie Ham.
  • Dog. Our beloved labrador got sick in April. It was so emotionally draining watching him struggle and we thought we would have to put him down. In the end, he was able to have a simple surgical procedure that he responded to. But he may have had an underlying issue such as cancer. He wasn’t in huge amounts of pain, but he wasn’t completely OK. He died peacefully in his sleep about two weeks ago. The kids showed their remarkable resilience as we worked through the issues dealing with death and grief.
  • School and Kindy. I’ve helped out at school and kindy a little bit. Not as much as I might have expected. (See all of the above.) But a bit of reading here, literacy there and an excursion thrown in here and there and your days tend to disappear!

Well that’s my excuses. Of course I could fill you in with school holiday activities, mini getaways and all the other types of things that fills our days, like making a birthday and a wedding cake last week, but I think this has been a good little catch up. What have you been doing in 2016?

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A hacker stole my blog and my mojo

This year is not turning out anything like expected.

I had goals, I had high ambitions! I had fantasised about this year and looked forward to this year! Oh the things I could do with the extra time I gained while the triplets were at Kindy!!! And one of the things I most looked forward to was blogging more. Those posts, constantly being written in my head would finally be there on the screen. Words dancing and being read by thousands! (I did tell you I fantasised about this year.)

But this has not been. And I am sad about this.

The little tale of woe starts with a fiend. Let’s tell this tale the old fashioned theatrical way. Every time you read the word, hacker I want you to yell “Boo”. You may hiss also if you wish.

I had been struggling to get back into the groove. Finally, I thought I had a plan and I re-entered the blogosphere triumphantly declaring to myself that I was back and you would hear from me at least weekly. I wrote a second blog. Yeah baby, starting is always good.

Then it appeared I dropped off the side of planet blog. Into dark, dark, oblivion.

Appearances aren’t always what they seem. The scandal is, I did not drop off the planet. I was pushed. By a hacker. (BOO, HISS!)

Why? Seriously, why? It’s not like I had credit cards to steal on my site. It’s not like my site was a major intersection for internet traffic. No, it was just a tiny little cottage that I hung out with and a few people would come around and read and drink cups of tea with me on occasion. A pretty little place, but not terribly important. But the hacker (BOO, HISS) thought, “Oh, I am going to throw rocks at the window of the little cottage and see if they break.” They broke.
The hacker (BOO, HISS) thought, “I am going to spray paint the wall of this little cottage and pull up all the flowers.” And then the hacker changed the locks, barricaded the door, threw landmines inside the broken windows and all over what was once a pretty little garden and ran away.

Basically hacking is online vandalism. Pointless. A moments thrill for the hacker (BOO, HISS) and plenty of pain for the owner.

Tech is not my thing. Writing is my thing. The tech side of blogging. Not my favourite. I’m kind of clueless. So when I was shut out of my blog. I didn’t know how to get back in. When I got some help to open the door, we kept standing on landmines and the blog would shut down again. It happened so often that my web host disowned me. I got a phone call on Easter Saturday evening from my web host saying they didn’t like me and they weren’t going to host me anymore. Just like that. After two months of phone calls where they would “accidentally” hang up, I finally got a refund at least.

Luckily I had recognised my host was useless and was already in the process of moving hosts, so I had everything backed up and ready to go. I can’t believe I didn’t get to walk out in a huff.

Also, very luckily my little brother, who these days is in fact my big, very tall brother, had come to my rescue. He was my gallant knight in shinging armour (HOORAY!) coming to the rescue in this tale, and thanks to him and one of his skilled sidekicks, my little blog was restored and ready to proceed.

Except that darn hacker (BOO, HISS) had stolen my mojo. It is very difficult to locate stolen mojos.

We are now hitting the half way mark of the year. Can you believe it?

Here’s hoping my mojo is back and here to stay. (WILD APPLAUSE, CHEERS OF ENCOURAGEMENT.)


Postscript: As it turns out, by writing this post I’ve discovered another landmine. The hackers has taken away my ability to post photos on my blog. I’m emailing my brother immediately so he can gallop to my rescue. But in the meantime, I’m posting anyway, because it’s good for the mojo to post. Take that dastardly hacker.
Postscript of the Postscript: You can see one photo on the front page of my blog as it turns out. This one needed a caption – it’s the only one I could find before the kids wake up with my brother and I in the one frame. While I’ve been mojo-less we went to the zoo! That’s my immediate family. I’ve only got one brother, you can see why I’m the little sister now. 

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2016 Easter Books

Can you believe how quickly Easter is approaching? Granted, it is earlier than usual this year, which is shame, because that’s less time that can be devoted to consuming hot cross buns. Yes, yes, I’m a shameless hussy who eats hot cross buns in January. But back to the topic. It’s almost Easter!!! I realised with a shock this week that I should start doing some Easter-ish stuff with the kids. For starters, we always love reading Easter Books. This started today by reading two new Easter books that Scholastic* has released this year.  The triplets loved them, and we are now getting into the mood and perhaps will start some Easter craft this afternoon or tomorrow.

Both books have CD’s and the text from the book is sung by much loved Australian children entertainers.

Aussie Easter Hat Parade – Colin Buchanan and Simon Williams

An Aussie Easter Hat Parade Colin Buchanan and Simon Williams

True to Colin Buchanan style, this book was vey Aussie. All the Australian animals in the story strutted around in hats made from Australian flora and fauna. I can tell that after this we will be on the lookout more for Australian flowers. And why not, they are so unique and spectacular.

An Aussie Easter Hat Parade Colin Buchanan and Simon Williams

If you are having an Easter Hat Parade for children this year, this book is a really a must to read with them. It’s bright, colourful and fun. And add to that, it just makes you proud to be Aussie.

Egg Hunting We Will Go – Jay Laga’aia and Kim Fleming

Egg Hunting We Will Go Jay Laga'aia and Kim Flemming

This is a new Easter picture book based on the traditional rhyme, A Hunting We Will Go. I really loved the illustrations in this book. While the children were hunting for chocolate eggs they came across a range of other animals inside the eggs such as an owl, snake and crocodile. At a time when eggs are constantly on display, it was nice to discuss with the children the different animals who hatch from eggs. Just a little educational sidenote before we were distracted by chocolate eggs and the Easter bunny. And who said Easter fun wasn’t any less important then educational sidenotes anyway! (It’s only once a year after all!) I loved the marching rhythm of the music on this CD, and it’s going to be a fun way for the triplets to practice their cross motor skills as they listen to this book.

Egg Hunting We Will Go Jay Laga'aia and Kim Flemming

So – are you shocked at how quickly Easter is approaching? When do you start eating hot cross buns?

Linking with With Some Grace for Flog Yo Blog

*Scholastic gifted these books to me for review. All opinions are my own.

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International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s Day 2016. A day we celebrate the unique contributions that women make to our society and place value on the impact that women make in our world. 

This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and was an MC at an International Womens Day Breakfast. It was a breakfast designed to recognise and honour women in leadership in our city and encourage young ladies who have been making a difference with their work and voluntary commitments.

MC at International Women's Day

What a pleasure the whole experience has been! Two weeks ago my friend Tanya let me know that she was starting to organise something for International Women’s Day. Along with a collection of women Tanya also asked me if we might be able to help, in any way. Oh my goodness, a group of women united together working together for a cause is a powerful thing indeed.  There was a facebook group messaging one another tossing around ideas and then accomplishing jobs. My phone has gone crazy for the last fortnight. Ding, ding, ding, in come messages with more ideas! Ding, ding, ding women were at work and posting what they had done to make it happen. From a venue being found, to crocheting roses and making lollie jars to highly organised run sheets. There were no egos, no hidden agendas, just a willingness to help.  The role I played was relatively small, but just being in the group was inspiring enough to spur you onto continued action.

International Women's Day Team

The event this morning was such a success with 150 guests including the mayor, councillors and council candidates in the upcoming local council elections, a police representative and school representatives.  We had two inspiring guest speakers and gave awards out to very deserving ladies who are making a difference in our community.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 has been #PledgeForParity . The definition of parity is “the state or condition of being equal, especially as regards status or pay.”  Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the divide that there is between the genders. Especially if you are a woman in the western world, where thanks to the efforts of women such a Emmeline Pankhurst, much parity for women has been achieved.

Did you know that the World Economic Forum estimated that if  current trends continue, global gender parity will not be achieved until 2133?  That’s 117 years away! What is more alarming is that in 2014 the forecast was that it would take 81 years to achieve parity. It’s alarming, that despite the great advancements gender equality and the achievements of women in social, economic, cultural and political contributions throughout the world, in some places, gender parity is actually going backwards.

Sometimes statistics like this can make me feel in despair.  Especially when you consider that much of the inequality between men and women happens far away from me in countries I’ve never visited, and possibly never will. How can I make a difference in the life of those women? Not everyone is called to campaign internationally for global rights. However, we can make a difference in our sphere of influence. We can become agents of change by creating a culture that promotes parity, that promotes respect and inclusivity. Individually we can create a corporate culture in our cities and countries that becomes the model and the inspiration for others.

Here are three simple ways to implement a #PledgeForParity to make a difference for women worldwide. I know these suggestions are simple. Creating change can often be simple. The real challenge is gathering enough momentum so that there are many people doing simple things so a change can occur.

Follow Your Passions

A powerful woman, the type of woman who creates change, is a woman who is following her passions. Whether a passion is for her work, her hobbies or interests or for causes, a passionate woman loves what she does and she will go the extra mile to achieve her goals.

If you have something you are passionate about, but have been afraid, decide today to start following your dreams. Don’t let gender stereotyping get in your way. If you need to break the gender barrier in doing so, good for you! Go girl! In the same way, don’t feel like you shouldn’t do something you enjoy because it is stereotypically a ‘women’s task’. Do things because you enjoy it or it fulfils your personal objectives. Don’t be influenced by other’s opinions!

This morning we listened to a 19 year old who spoke about her passion for trekking and climbing mountains. Alyssa Azar was the youngest person to cross the Kokoda Track as an 8 year old. At 10 she trekked to into the Mount Everest Base Camp, by 12 she had climbed the 10 highest peaks in Australia and at 14 she conquered Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. As a 15 year old she set her sights on climbing Mount Everest. She has attempted twice, but has been prevented by small things like avalanches caused by the Nepal earthquake. In three weeks time Alyssa is beginning her 3rd attempt at climbing Everest.

Alyssa Azar Everest

I have zero ambition to climb mountains, but when I was listening to this young lady talking about her passion, it inspired me to keep striving despite the obstacles. A passionate person can inspire irregardless of whether they are doing the same things. When you are around passionate people, you just want to become your best self. If you haven’t fully discovered your passion yet, manoeuvre yourself to be around passionate people. I can guarantee you that they will inspire you to discover your passion.

Train Our Boys (And Men!) to Stand Up for Women’s Issues

I mentioned this morning that I have four boys. There have been times when I have wondered why I do so much for females when I have so many sons. In fact, women’s issues are just as important to my sons as they are to my daughter. I have come to recognise that by me setting example for my boys on issues that need to be addressed for girls and women, they will grow to become men who speak out for women and create parity between the genders.

Children and Feminism
Breeding the next generation of feminists. #heforshe #allforshe

Women’s issues are also men’s issues. They are issues that men can either directly change or they can support women to change. Domestic violence against women is a men’s issue. Men are often the offenders, so it is men that need to stand up and put a halt to domestic violence. The sexualisation of women is a mens issue. It the men’s desire to gratify their sexual desires that entice women into degrading scenarios where they are no longer valued as a person, but rather their value becomes the sum of their parts. And when women are no longer valued, we do not have a climate or mutual respect and then we cannot have a society where women are empowered to pursue their dreams or make contributions in the workplace that only a confident strong woman can make. It’s all a cycle that keeps going around.

To stop the cycle of abuse or disparity, we need to be training our little men on how to value a woman.

Encourage Other Women

 The 2nd speaker this morning was Dr. Maree Toombs who is known as a leader in Indigenous health works at the University of Qld in Indigenous Health. She has actively improved the way people culturally work with Indigenous Australians.

Dr Maree Toombs

Dr. Toombs was inspiring to listen to as she spoke about parity and women’s opportunities. What made her message more powerful, was hearing her stories. Stories always make messages more meaningful. She had grown up in a small community and her mob is the Kamilaroi/Kooma people. She had not finished year 12 at school and struggled with literacy so after school she had been working in low paid jobs. One day her grandmother and aunty, who both had received an education, used homemade scones to lure her into talk to her, but when she arrived the ambushed her and were insistent that she needed to go to university. She did and after graduating as a teacher, (I was actually in her graduating class!), she worked teaching for awhile before returning to university and working her way up the ranks at two different universities.

I just love that it was two older women that were insistent that she needed to receive an education. They had confidence in her and new that with prompting she could discover her full potential. Women need women that push them to extend their vision.

Too often it is the opposite. Women often feel perform in front of others. Too often the dialogue that us women can engage in can leave us feeling indequate or guilty. We need to be cheering one another or, encouraging each other on and being authentic with one another. I have lost count of the amount of women who have been grateful they hear about my failures! I don’t think we need to talk about our misgivings all the time, but dropping the perfect facade goes along way to empowering women. When we all realise that we are flawed individuals doing the best we can do, somehow we become more efficient and effective.

One more photo that I’d love to share with you on this special day. The women in my life that I love most. My two sisters and my mother. I’m one of their biggest cheerleaders, and obviously they are mine also. (After all they turned up to a breakfast at 6:30am when they all live an hour away just because they heard I was MC!) I’m proud to be related to these women that I admire greatly.

My Mum and sisters

What is your Pledge for Parity on this International Women’s Day? Do you think gender equality can be achieved in our lifetime?

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.


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