24 December 2013

If you believe....

I have a young nephew who embraces small obsessions at various points of his life with all the fervour of the newly converted and soon to die.  And his mind works in peculiar ways - he's a big thinker, spends a lot of time on the details but on occasion thinks so far out of the box that there is a simple brilliance to his logic.

We repeat things he says so often that it is entirely possible future generations will assume he was the same kind of philosophical thinker as Confucious.

And one of my favourite is a Christmas story.  And guess what -it's Christmas time! 

Just generally, my parents love the opportunity to take my nephew and his sister to church with them on some Sunday mornings.  They get to show off two of their grandchildren and the neblings enjoy it as they enjoy most outings with their grandparents.  And the nephew has always loved it because there is singing, and he's always loved singing.  As only he can, he become passionate about 'Jesus Music' - or as you might more commonly know them 'hymns'.  Amusingly to me he lumped other Gran favourites such as The Seekers and Andre Rieu into this and if he heard them playing in her car he'd gleefully exclaim 'Jesus Music' and warble away his own versions of her favourites. 

A few Christmas' ago, my parents and various of their offspring, partners and grandchildren went along with them to church on Christmas morning.  I feel that Mum and Dad probably spent most of the service scolding us to sit up straight and pay attention but this *may* be a memory from our childhood.  Either way, I was lucky enough to sit next to the nephew.  We sat, we stood and we sang.  During one of the hymns he was looking around with an expression of fierce concentration, I leant over and whispered "What's up dude?" and he whispered back -

"I'm looking for God"
"Oh. You are are you?"
(Mum/Gran glares at us from end of pew - we pretend not to notice)
"Any luck?"

The service continues.  He spends a lot of time looking in one direction and then during the final hymn he leans over and whispers loudly "I found him!"

"You did?"
"Yep - it's that man" and points.
"How do you know?"
"He has a beard, he's old and he knows ALL THE WORDS TO ALL THE SONGS"

On the road again... 
Genius.  Most people can spend their whole lives looking for god, looking for big gestures, moments of transcendence, eyes that cry blood.  But there he is, hiding from the adults, in full view of small people who believe.

And that is the beauty of Christmas.  Whether atheist, capitalist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist.  Everybody knows an old guy, with facial hair that knows the words to all the songs.  

It really is a season for everybody.

Whatever your approach - be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season's Greetings - I wish you that but most of all, Peace.

23 December 2013

A priceless present. A positive post by a positive person.

Today's post is a guest blog by Natalie Wills, a UK based friend who is passionate about life to the point where sometimes I think she is in danger of being permanently positive.  Big on love and empowerment she can be professional introduced as a Publishing Consultant and Writer with almost 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. She forged a successful career in international sales & marketing, including product development before she started her own business in 2011.

NSW Consulting is her business consultancy which specialises in flexible, focused and affordable project management support to book publishers.

And then she started another one. She's one of those.

Unbeknownst to me she was also into healthy living (I know), her 'other' business is a health and wellness business called Nataloe. She is building a team who are passionate about the health benefits of aloe vera. It's not a cult but people are really into it.

However, back to the blog, it's Christmas - and she's reflecting on what the best gift she ever got from her parents was and why she still values it today.

I spend a great deal of time telling my children how amazing AND beautiful AND handsome AND talented they are. It’s not because I think my children are brilliant at everything – it’s down to my absolute determination that they’ll go through life with good self-esteem. It’s a gift I can give them that costs nothing and can never be taken away.

I am shocked by just how many people confess to suffering with low self-esteem, especially other Mums I meet. Test my theory out by paying a simple compliment to a few of your girlfriends today. You may simply say, ‘that colour really suits you’ or ‘your hair looks nice’. How many of them will simply smile and respond with an unchallenging ‘thank you’? All too often a compliment garners a response more like ‘ah, thanks, I really wasn’t sure if this colour suited me’ or ‘really, but I haven’t had my hair done in ages’. Go one step further and compliment one of them on a nice outfit and you’ll probably be told how cheap it was to buy! Come on girls, take a compliment please!

Every morning I tell my daughter she is more beautiful than she was yesterday. She encapsulated my thoughts on self-esteem perfectly this morning. She told me I was more beautiful this morning too. Like a fool I replied, ‘but I haven’t got any make-up on’. She didn’t understand the connection and simply said,’ you’re more beautiful without make-up Mummy’. My son backed her up by adding, ‘because it’s your normal you’.  I was really touched by this magic moment and simply said ‘thank you’.

I was struck by their love and innocence at 4 and 7 years old. I was happy with the beautiful compliment they had given me and it didn’t matter whether I believed what they said.  I applied make-up anyhow – they don’t need to know about how make-up can help a woman’s confidence and they don’t need to know I’ve called it ‘war-paint’ for years. My Mum always used to prompt me to re-apply my lipstick just before my husband was due to arrive home from work. She told me, if nothing else, it would just make me feel better about myself. I was having a tough time at work some years ago and my dear friend and colleague used to nudge me before meetings and say, ‘it’s time to put your war-paint on’. Kind words and good lipstick really can help a woman!

On the school run I always admired how cool, calm and collected (and body confident) one of the Mums appeared to be. Carrying off hot pants and low cut tops on the Summer school run can’t be done by many. She made it look graceful and effortless and, from where I was standing, she oozed confidence.

We’re now good friends and she recently told me she didn’t feel confident enough to wear the dress she’d chosen for an evening out. It’s such a shame beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I can tell her she’d look stunning in any dress she chooses but, lacking in self-esteem, she’s not going to believe me is she? I view self-esteem different to confidence, even confident people can suffer with low self-esteem – it’s hidden just that bit deeper than confident behaviour. 

I run two entirely separate businesses, one in publishing and one in the health and wellness arena, and I’m spotting a common thread with many of the women I speak to. There is a big problem out there with low self-esteem and it is inhibiting people with great potential from believing in their talent. 

If I give just one gift to my kids it will be good self-esteem. They will encounter both failure and doubters in life but with good self-esteem I firmly believe they will not be inhibited. I know they’ll pick themselves up again, push a little harder and reach their goals. My parents relentlessly fostered good self-esteem into me. I am eternally grateful because I know I’d be nowhere without it.

If you want to talk to Natalie, feel free to comment below or contact her via 

Natalie Wills
Tel: +44 (0) 7957 198967
Email: natalie@nswconsulting.co.uk or nat@nataloe.com
Website: www.nswconsulting.co.uk or www.nataloe.com
Twitter: @nswconsulting and @nat_aloe

17 December 2013

An open letter to Scott Morrison

Dear Mr Morrison

I'd like to congratulate you on the absolutely cracking code of conduct that you have introduced for asylum seekers this month.  But I don't think you've gone far enough.  I think that code of conduct should be introduced more widely across Australian society because I, like you, don't think the law is enough.

You and I both know that according to statistics asylum seekers are 45 times LESS likely to commit a crime than a member of the general public.  In fact, the last available statistics showed us that only 5 asylum seekers were charged with any kind of crime in a one year period.  So I see why we are so concerned.  It's outrageous.

But I think we need to expand it to other groups of people too.  I, like you, are very concerned with the safety of the general public which is why this code has been introduced obviously and have helped you out by highlighting a few groups you should get your government to monitor more vigorously.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not harass, intimidate or bully any other person or group of people or engage in any antisocial or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community;

You obviously wont have had a lot of time to go out at the moment I appreciate since you are so busy writing fabulous documents like these, but its the silly season - this clause is encompassing 90% of office Christmas parties this month.  We're going to have to really get moving to make a difference to the safety of the public. Though to be fair we can probably skip the 33,000 asylum seekers currently living in the community - you wont let them work so they wont be at the Christmas parties. Good thinking on your part. Saves us time.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not make sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent, regardless of their age; you must never make sexual contact with someone under the age of consent;

This is going to get awkward but just flipping through the pages of this year's newspapers - we need to extend the code to a number of different groups such as our defence force, the NRL, the AFL, the teaching profession, the clergy, the public service, our government, anybody attending schoolies and the banking industry.  It's not a definitive list by any means but it'll get you started.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not refuse to comply with any health undertaking provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or direction issued by the Chief Medical Officer (Immigration) to undertake treatment for a health condition for public health purposes;

We can start with the Eastern suburbs, then move to Byron Bay and the like.  The directive might not have come from immigration but there are a lot of people out there not vaccinating their children and I hear that's where the hippies congregrate.  We're seeing a rise in diseases that were eliminated in Australia and I fully understand your concern about public health.  I think we should also target the filthy buggers on the train that don't cover their mouth with their hands when they cough or sneeze.  It's an outrage.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not disobey any Australian laws including Australian road laws; you must cooperate with all lawful instructions given to you by police and other government officials;

We can jolly well start with the North Shore mums.  Have you seen those women at school pick up time?  They are parking in no parking zones, stopping in no stopping zones and sometimes in the park and kiss zones they don't kiss their kids they just WAVE them goodbye.  If I'm a representative example, I can tell you I should be signing this code of conduct - I got two speeding fines in the same zone in the same month earlier this year. I am truly a menace to society and so are many of my friends. Look, I'll help you out here - I'll just email them the code of conduct and get them to sign it and send it back to you.  That work okay?

As you can see, I'm all for a much more comprehensive approach to the issue of public safety and I am so glad that you are addressing it with such fervour.  I am also very keen that we introduce some kind of uniform for people that identify with the utopia you are working towards, maybe a patch can be sewn on the clothes of people that don't agree with us or maybe didn't have the good luck to be born in a country like ours?  It would just help a little I think in working out who is properly Australian and who isn't.

Looking forward to the next bit of brilliance from you or one equally noble and inspirational colleagues.

My very best regards

Alison Hallworth


16 December 2013

Open your heart dear ordinary ones

On Universal Children's Day I attended a fascinating forum on the changing face of fostering in Australia.  It is a subject that interests me generally, I know people in the past who have fostered and I know people now who are considering doing it.  I have always thought that this might be something that happens in our family at some stage.

I came away with a billion different thoughts churning through my brain which I have tried and failed over the past couple of weeks to put into a coherent piece that I felt comfortable publishing.  Basically because I worried about coming across as a patronising fertile heterosexual git pontificating on the changing notion of family and how fostering is part of that.

That, for me, was the bit that really resonated in the presentations by both the 'official dudes' and the people who are foster carers.  Family. Fostering for them is about creating or extending families to provide support and love to children who need it.  They don't see themselves as foster families - they see themselves as family.  They don't see themselves as 'getting a foster child', they see themselves welcoming another child into their lives.  A child (or children) who needs a home for whatever length of time that may be. 

How many children are in this situation? That number is an overwhelming 18,000 plus children in NSW alone. An increase of almost 25% in just four years.  That's a lot of kids that need love and support for either 'time-out' or, you know, their entire childhood. 

And the reason I worried about how my words looked all put together is I have too many friends at the moment and in recent years traversing the road of infertility, non-traditional conceptions, surrogacy and long term fostering vs adoption to get all rah rah about something a lot of people consider an end of road option. That of caring for children that don't 'belong' to you.

Belonging is not about ownership or 'making your own'.  You don't love your dog or your partner any less just because you didn't 'make them'.  And children are generally pretty easy to love.  They are just human beings who generally like to be fed, hugged and allowed to watch TV sometimes.  They are robust, intelligent and mostly amusing.  They don't tend to lick their own butt and then your face.  Which makes them miles more attractive than dogs in my view.

Belonging when it comes to relationships is about inclusion. Being a part of, being welcome in, being accepted.  So children that come into your life, children that you want, they are always going to be children that belong to you.

Sophie Ellis Baxter's mother once said to her "It might be the wrong man, it might be the wrong time but it is never the wrong child."  A very simple and powerful statement that has so many levels of true as to be up there with "other very true things people have said that remain true forever because they are very very true"

All sorts of people want children in their lives.  Single people, old people, young people, working people, cool people, dorky people, bearded people, gay people, uber-godly-SAHM people, "traditional" family people, country people, city people, multi-lingual people, people that wrote Jedi on the census form and adult people that wear jelly sandals non-ironically.

And adult people that wear jelly sandals non-ironically aren't necessarily going to be able to have a baby the old fashioned ways.  Nothing says passion killer like grown-ups wearing jelly sandals non-ironically.

This is where fostering is really changing. Fostering reflects real life. The facts show that more single people foster now than couples.  And while there are no stats on the number of those single as a result of fashion foibles, they are  mostly working.  And just like a single biological parent, they still have the capacity to love and care for a child or children while holding down a job, a social life and all those other things that make up a life.

The system has basically worked out that to help look after all these children, the system had to change - move with the times as it were. It's not being managed by the government anymore but by almost 50 NGOs coordinated by the pithly named ACWA (Association of Children's Welfare Agencies - see what they did there?) who are on a massive drive to let people know that fostering is not what it used to be.  

Enter - me and a few other bloggers.  Unless you count my own copy of the Trend Paper "ifoster2: The changing face of fostering in Australia" as payment, you're just getting my views on a topic I found interesting from a personal view point and now find fascinating knowing the scope of the problem and the challenges faced by the NGOs looking for people to be foster carers.

The picture on the trend paper
Speak to any of the foster carers on the day and you were speaking to people who are big on family and creating environments for children that are loving, supporting and consistent.  People who mostly get it right, sometimes get it wrong but are trying really hard to be good at the whole parenting lark.

Just like me with my own 'home grown' children.

These are people who know that having children enter permanent foster care with them means keeping birth parents as part of the circle.  These are people who know that the children coming to them are coming from shitty situations and have no reason to trust anyone.  These are people that know that the children that are coming to them for respite are possibly going back into an environment that won't include them and so they have to pack all the support they can into the time that they have.  They are people who proactively choosing to learn about being a better parent by undertaking training, networking and reading lots and lots of things on the interwebs. 

People just like us.

And that's what was so fascinating about fostering.

It is not about extraordinary people.

It is about ordinary people.

You. Me. Yep, and ol' jelly sandals over there too.

For more information on fostering including all those burning practical questions now that you have identified that you are totally eligible to be part of the future of fostering go HERE or call them up and ask questions by dialling 18002 FOSTER or follow them on Facebook or on Twitter at @FosteringNSW.

6 December 2013

Crafting excellence for small people. Quickly.

It has to be said, somewhat immodestly, that Playschool has never been the same since it forgot to employ me.

Not that I have ever applied.  And I can't sing. But when it comes to CRAFT. I'm the bomb.

Only when I feel like it though. I don't normally have the patience for detailed piece work. And by this I mean anything from sticking stickers in books to knitting.  My impatience for detail is completely egalitarian.

Today, I had three small people with a gap in their calendar.  So we made what I called 'wreaths' and one toddler called 'the sparkly bon bons'.

Call them what you want.  They are 3.5 minutes of creative genius.

Take a paper plate. Cut a hole in the middle.

I didn't take pictures as I went so I have googled one for you. I bet you couldn't have worked this out for yourself.  WHICH IS WHY I AM HELPING.

Then you staple a piece of tinsel to the top and wrap the tinsel around and around until the paper plate is covered. Then you staple the end in place.

This is tinsel.
When I say 'you' I obviously mean the two three year olds and the one year old.  But they are pretty crap at following instructions, so sometimes it is easier just to do it for them after they try and fail.  But make sure you are very encouraging about their efforts.  This is a key element of good parenting and important to use when in front of other parents.

Then give the three toddlers a box of Christmas themed stickers and tell them to cover the wreath as they will.  Then staple a hanging decoration in the middle of the wreath to make it look GENIUS.  Take a photo of the cute toddlers with their mound of tinsel and stickers...

All perfectly legit
And then, take 'em home and hang 'em on the door....

Best to use the same hanging decorations to avoid toddler warfare
Share genius with world on the slim chance that other parents out there are looking for ways to bond with their children in meaningful Christmas activities that last for less time than it takes to read this post.

You're welcome.

Please note: no children or their egos were harmed in the making of this blog.  All methodology is copyrighted.  

1 December 2013

The best wee you ever did see

Today, on the first day of summer, I have the enormous privilege of guesting posting for the divine Ms M over at Five Frogs Blog

I am talking about the best wee you ever did see. 

I know. How can you possibly wait any longer. Go visit!!!