Sunday, 28 November 2010

Let your heart be light

For the last few years Christmas has been bitter-sweet. Let me explain...we have been living overseas and we have enjoyed it - all of it except Christmas time.  Christmas is a time to be with family and being away from your loved ones during Christmas is almost unbearable. 

I love Christmas time.  I relish putting up the tree, decorating the house, making Christmas goodies in the kitchen and mulling over what to serve on Christmas day.  Other than my sister, the only other person who takes on Christmas with full speed was my mother in law, Pam.  Living back in Sydney we would start at the end of October talking about what needed to be done in preparation, stocking up on Christmas staples and making our lists.

I have so many fond memories of organising Christmas with Pam.  My favourite memories would probably be Pudding Duty - as we called it...taking turns watching the puddings cook on the stove ensuring they didn't dry out during the six hours it took to cook them.   We had fun staying awake, playing cards, eating fruit mince pies and having a good yarn.

Christmas shopping was a marathon that needed to be paced to ensure longevity. It was not unusual to spend a good half day in one shop.  Then there was the time we went shopping after her radiology appointment and got thrown out the shop after I dropped something.  Needless to say you had to be there, but it provided both of us with a much needed laugh and giggle. 

Pam knew how Christmas was supposed to be and so did I.  She knew it was a time of giving and sharing your home up to people who didn't have family. 

Over the last few years we would chat a lot on the phone at Christmas.  She was sad that we weren't there with them, and we were sad too.  I told her when I played 'Have yourself a merry little Chirstmas' that I was reminded that 'some day soon we all will be together'.

Unfortunately the fates didn't allow, and even though we returned this year to Australia to be with her, she is no longer with us.  I miss her terribly, and so much more at Christmas time.

I don't expect I've conveyed in these short paragraphs exactly what Christmas with Pam was like for me, but I would like to say if you have loved ones close to you this Christmas LOVE them.  Cherish each moment, silly or serious....and have yourself a merry little Christmas. xxx.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Survivor of the week - LADY MARGARET BEAUFORT

My survivor #2, Margaret Beaufort, began life as the product of a marriage between 2 medieval power broker families. Her father died at the age of 2, and she was raised by her mother until her powerful uncle (the Duke of Suffolk) removed her and made her his ward, betrothing her to his own son and heir. For reasons I'm not exactly sure about, the Duke was executed later that year. From there, her other uncle, King Henry VI decided to betroth her to his half brother, Edmund Tudor who was more than twice her age (Edmond's mother was daughter of Charles VI of France). All this by the age of 9. At age 12 she was finally married to Edmund. Almost a year later Edmund died leaving Margaret as a 7-month pregnant, 13 year old widow. ARE YOU STILL WITH ME?

As a side note, Margaret's life falls between the history pages of 'The War of the Roses' which was an ongoing saga between two rival families - the house of Lancaster and the house of York for the throne of England.

After the death of her husband, Edmund, Margaret moved to Pembroke Castle where she gave birth to a son, Henry VII. After her uncle, King Henry VI was deposed from the throne, and replaced with the Yorkist, Edward IV, Margaret sent her son into exile for safe keeping.

To cut an incredibly long story short, over the next 14 years Margaret Beaufort did just about anything to stay alive. Ultimately, it was a plan she covertly hatched with the Dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville (widow of Edward IV and mother to the historically famous 'The princes in the Tower') to overthrow Woodvilles brother-in-law Richard III and replace him with a King and Queen who would finally join the House of Lancaster with York and restore peace and stability to England. That is, a marriage between Margaret's son, Henry VII and Elizabeth's eldest daughter, Elizabeth (yes, confusing I know!). By the way, did you know this is how the Tudor Rose came into being? was a union of the red Lancaster Rose with the white York Rose.

What amazes me about this women is, she was in fact the person with the greater claim to England's throne - not by marriage, but in her own right. Yet, she made it her life's ambition to secure the throne for her son. The words from the Air Force trainer describing mothers as survivors ring loud and true here:
They understand sacrifice. They’re driven by a purpose greater than themselves. They’re problem solvers and multitaskers. They’re accustomed to delaying gratification. In short, they’re very effective survivors.
Margaret outlived her son, just shy of 2 months. Was this her enduring legacy? A mother who never relinqueshed the responsibility of care and protection for her son, to the extent of outliving him? Margaret was 66 years old when she died, and her son was aged 52 at the time of his death. History records her as the mother in law from hell so perhaps this is indeed our answer. Whatever the case, she still remains in my heart as a survivor to rival any other.

I hope you've enjoyed this post. There is so much information I could have included, but where do you stop?! If you have any questions, let me know. xxx

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Survivor of the week - JOCHABED

'Moses in his mothers arms' by Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)

In all honesty I do not know much about Jochabed. The very little I do know speaks straight to the heart of an incredibly brave and courageous woman who pushed all boundaries to save her son.

Jochabed was a Hebrew slave in Egypt. Later named Moses, Jochabed's son was born at a time of Hebrew male-baby genocide. As most know the story well, (or have at least watched 'The Prince of Egypt') Jochabed decides to keep Moses from being slaughtered and hides him for 3 months. Keeping an infant fed and well looked after while shielding him from Pharaoh's men would have been no easy feat. As a slave, she would have been required to work. Maybe she was able to stay home and look after her son by proclaiming he was indeed a girl? Perhaps she employed the help of another Hebrew woman or maybe her daughter Miriam was given the task to care for the child while she worked? Whatever the reason, it is infinitely clear Jochabed risked much for her son. 

After she could no longer conceal him, she placed her tiny baby son into a papyrus basket (coated in tar and pitch) and placed the basket on the Nile.  There is no way she could have predicted the outcome, but in faith and a belief that her son was destined for good things she placed her baby in that sealed basket, as opposed to throwing him into the Nile to drown (which is what she was actually required to do by law).

What did she achieve? Well, by mothering standards a lot. As a result of her boldness, her son Moses was saved and drawn from the Nile by Pharaoh's own daughter.  To read more about Jochabed's story go to Exodus chapter 2 in the Bible. Jochabed was able to nurse and care for her son without fear - in fact, by direct order of Pharaoh's own daughter. You could almost say Jochabed had the last laugh - as Pharaoh worked hard to eradicate the male newborn population of Israel, his daughter was paying a Hebrew woman to bring up her own son!

When Moses grew older, Jochabed had to return him to the palace. I can't imagine the heartbreak she experienced handing her son over to a woman who didn't share her ideals or way of life. This for me, is what makes Jochabed an amazing woman - she was driven by a purpose greater than herself.

There are a few things I've often wondered about Jochabed; after handing Moses back to Pharaoh's daughter, did she ever get to hold him again? Did she live long enough to see Moses become the leader of Israel? And, was she ever able to grasp the importance of her role in the destiny of Israel?

Without a doubt, Jochabed is a survivor and one brave mama! 

I'm a survivor

Something I've long believed was confirmed in an article I recently read: Women are better survivors that men.

The following excerpt is from the article by Ben Sherwood, author of 'The Survivors Club'

Indeed, women are much better survivors than men. I discovered this surprising fact in the woods of Washington State, where the United States Air Force trains its people in the art of survival, evasion, resistance and escape (shorthand: SERE). When I asked a hard-nosed instructor if he can tell immediately who’s got the survival instinct and who doesn't.

After putting countless men and women through very uncomfortable survival training – translation: wet, cold, exhausting and hungry – it turns out that women rule, especially moms. In this instructor’s experience, women who have gone through childbirth frequently fare better than the most strapping aviators. Under extreme pressure and deprivation, he says, the brawniest men can crumble like blue cheese while moms hang tough.

Obviously, your chances of survival depend on specific circumstances (and men definitely possess certain physical advantages), but the Air Force instructor wanted to make a point: Moms are impressively unflinching in the face of adversity. After all, he explains, moms have handled real pain. They understand sacrifice. They’re driven by a purpose greater than themselves. They’re problem solvers and multitaskers. They’re accustomed to delaying gratification. In short, they’re very effective survivors.

I love being a woman and would never want to trade places with a man.

Over the next few weeks I've decided to dedicate some posts to my favourite survivors.

Drum roll is the list:

1. Jochabed - mother of moses from the bible who risked everything to save the life of her son.

2. Lady Margaret Beaufort - matriarch of the Tudor Dynasty. An amazing survivor who risked everything for the safety and future throne of her son.

3. Catherine of Aragon - Henry VIII's first wife who would not give up her position as Henry's one and true wife.

4. Elizabeth I - born a princess, declared illegitimate at 3 years old at the time of her mothers execution. After dodging many bullets finally made it to the throne and reigned for 45 years, 4 years shy of her father, brother and sister combined.

5. Susanna Wesley - mother of John & Charles Wesley & 17 other children. She is often referred to as the mother of Methodism. There is so much about this woman I love.

6. Nigella Lawson - goddess of the kitchen, so much to say about her life!

7. Britney Spears - albeit not a popular choice. But a survivor, nevertheless!

Interestingly, all of the above are women and all (with the exception of Elizabeth I) are mothers.

I hope you tune in!

Amy xxx

Saturday, 1 May 2010

One Amazing Woman - Anuradha Koirala

I love women, and I am proud to be one. We are movers and shakers. And, Anuradha Koirala is no exception. Who is Anuradha Koirala I hear you may ask.

Well, this very amazing woman is the founder of Maiti Nepal a sanctuary/rehabilitation for survivors of the sex trade.  The function of Maiti Nepal is also to rescue girls who have been sold, and to bring to justice the traders.  As you can imagine this is risky business, but this tiny powerhouse of a woman has been crusading now for 17 years, rescuing girls crossing the Nepalese border into India.  Twice the main office of Maiti Nepal has been destroyed, and workers need to be escorted by security guards when in India on rescue missions.

You can read more on Maiti Nepal here.  For now, I have posted a quick clip on Anuradha Koirala, who has been nominated as a CNN Hero. 

I am thankful for women like Anuradha Koirala, who are making a massive difference in the lives of broken women.  She certainly gets my vote.

Monday, 26 April 2010

To the heart of food...

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a discussion on Real Life Radio about childhood obesity.  DO NOT SWITCH OFF...I realise most are tired of constantly reading and hearing those two words together.  But, the conversation took a turn and we got talking about food choices, food and family, food and the environment.  This is the stuff I am absolutely passionate about. Which ever way you look at it, food frames the world we live in.  Food reveals so much about culture and climate.  If you want to feel the pulse of a nation, pop down to the local supermarket and there you'll find the answer.  A quick look up and down the aisles and you'll discover how the country is doing in terms of body health and economy health.

I come from Australia, and unless anything has changed, as far as I know all our fresh meat and poultry is sourced within Australia, all vegies too (with few very irritating exceptions such as fresh garlic from China).

It is an anomaly to come across a fresh food item that is not made in Australia.  So, when we arrived in the UK and I ventured into my first Tesco I was shocked to find my trolley full of fresh produce from Kenya, Israel, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, The Caribbean, Chile, Germany, Denmark and New Zealand (to name only a few!), which is why it will come as no surprise to you where possible I shop for my fresh food at the local green grocer and butcher.  My grocer and butcher only source produce from within a 100 mile radius of where we live, which is great news because I want to support my local farmers and the country's economy.  British farmers are a dying breed thanks to the demand for cheap food.

Foreign countries are able to produce an inferior product at much lower prices by taking shortcuts on labor and animal welfare.  For some reason we don't care....we just want the cheapest and quickest despite the fact that the corn we eat is picked by a 7 year old earning pennies for her hard labor, or the fact the meat that lands on our tables comes from farms that have no care or respect for animal welfare.  Food is expensive and whether you agree or not, good food should be a priority in your budget.  Local produce is good for you, better for the environment and fabulous for the local economy - that's your kids future I'm talking about. 

What do you know about the food you eat?  Where was it grown?  What do you know about the animal welfare standards of the meat and poultry you eat?  Has the food you eat racked up more frequent flyer miles than you?  Let's hope not!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Mother Nature

Sunshine, pink peonies, soft white bunnies and baby chicks. A true Hallmark mother and daughter moment. What? You don’t skip hand in hand along the grassy knoll with your mother? That’s odd, you must be different. Ok, so neither do I, but I am grateful to have a solid relationship with my mum which I am told makes me a very lucky person.

I am surrounded by a number of friends whose relationship with their mums is fraught with dissension, anger, bitterness and disappointment. These women may have been betrayed by others, but the dysfunction they experience in their mother-daughter relationship carries the most damage of all, and, as a result the price for this rage is paid for by other un-suspecting relationships in their life.

This is nothing new. And, what is confronting for most women is the fact we are all daughters. Our mothers were once on the other end of the stick and if she isn’t living up to our expectations, you can’t help but wonder what did our mothers envisage their relationship to be like with their own daughters?

It is unlikely a mother holding a newborn daughter thinks “gee, I can’t wait to screw you up and have the most volatile relationship with you in the future.” No, likely a mother holding a newborn ponders how much she loves and wants to protect this new little vulnerable life, and if you’re anything like me, think upon future tea parties, tiny pink dresses and patent leather shoes.

So where does it go wrong? That’s a question no one can definitively answer, but chances are if your mother sustained dysfunction in the relationship with her own mother, un-dealt with, those insecurities and hurts often get carried through to the next generation. It is also probable that a daughter of a good mother-daughter relationship can take for granted the work that goes into building an enduring friendship with her own daughter.

If you are sailing the boat of mother dissatisfaction, you might want to know a few facts. Paula Caplan, author of Mother Blaming writes:

If you’re busy blaming your mother or wishing you could “divorce” her, you are caught in a psychological prison. You can’t get free, and you can’t really grow up. Mother-blame limits your freedom: you can’t be an adult who freely considers all of life’s possibilities. You restrict yourself to certain activities, interests, and friends to prove how different from Mother you are.

You can’t look honestly at who you are, because you might discover ways that you are like her! Frantic to avoid what you consider her failures, you overreact, throwing out the good with the bad: you grow tough because you think she’s sentimental, or you become a doormat because she wasn’t warm enough. All that reaction against her, that desperate drive to prove your difference, restricts and damages your relationships with the other people you love—your mate, your children, your other relatives, and your friends. You offer them only a part of your true self, a caricature.
Nothing stellar comes without solid planning and hard work. The good news is you have the power to ensure YOUR relationship with YOUR daughter is nothing less than the best. So....may I ask what does your relationship look like with your daughter presently and in the future? What are you plans and strategies to work towards this and to keep on track? If you’re harbouring resentment towards your own mother, what are doing to unload that? Friends, we have the opportunity for a wonderful life, live it to the fullest.

The Toddler & Me

So here we are in a foreign country, toddler and me shopping in a department store.  They say timing is everything, and so after 5 minutes of harmonious bliss, toddler decides to tests the boundaries and let’s go of my hand in an effort to navigate her own way around the store.  Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Law & Order, but no toddler is letting go of me, especially in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language.  So what ensues is a battle of wills.  A 2 year old desperately trying to let go while screaming ‘help’ to concerned on lookers versus a determined mother half dragging an unwilling toddler across the department store floor.  I don’t have to tell you who won….I hope you know.  

Parenting a toddler may be physical and mentally intensive, but the advantage is I control the environment.  I determine the boundaries. I am the deciding influence on my toddler’s life.  As my child grows and transitions into preschool, the boundaries of my influence slightly decrease.  Once my child enters school my influence starts to compete with other sources…teachers, friends and the playground all start to vie for influence over my child. 

I haven’t yet hit the teenage years with my kids, but I’m hoping if I stay consistent in my parenting and keep setting the boundaries, the hard yards I have put into these early years will begin to yield their benefits and just as my toddler knows I am a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her well being, she will also understand as a teenager when I say no to the car keys….don’t worry I’m not naive to believe there still won’t be kicking and screaming!