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A Thank You Letter to my daughter’s Kindergarten Teacher.

A Letter to my Child's Kindergarten Teacher

To my daughter’s Kindy teacher,
 
How do I begin to thank you for what you’ve done for Baby G this year? 
 
You welcomed my little girl into your classroom in the beginning of the year with your arms wide open. No booboo wasn’t worth a cuddle and a band-aid and, likewise, no achievement wasn’t worth a mighty celebration. It didn’t matter that the achievement was ‘not crying’ when it was goodbye Mummy time – you recognised the gravity of each and every moment in her year and respected her right to be little for as long as she needed to be. As a result, Baby G dances into your classroom, runs to you for cuddles and declares you to be the prettiest of all fairy princesses. How do I thank you for that?
 
You start every morning with a song and dance Read the rest of this entry

Damn you, Barbie!

They Call Me Mummy teaches her daughter to see her own beauty

Bonbon Break
This morning, as I battled to tame her deliciously curly brown hair for school, Baby G very sadly uttered,

“Mama, I wish I had long, straight yellow hair and blue eyes.” 

That one sentence halted my world, Matrix like. In the microseconds that followed, I was forced to swallow the bitter pill that was her first yearning to be something other than herself. That one sentence had the potential to become the first brick in the foundation of the hateful self-doubt jail that so many of us women have built and locked ourselves in. That one sentence needed to be faced, head on.

I responded, faking nonchalance, “Tell me, why do you want long, straight, yellow hair and blue eyes?”

She replied (somewhat condescendingly), “Because EVERYONE knows that yellow hair and blue eyes are the prettiest kind.”

As I mentally beat Barbie to smithereens with a meat mallet and cursed Disney for Cinderella and Rapunzel, I dug deep for the right words to say to her.

Read the rest of this entry

Myth of the perfect mother.

This morning, the most beautiful picture found its way on to my Facebook newsfeed. It made me smile. It grounded me. It made me proud to be privileged enough to be called “Mum”. Here it is:
From the 4th Trimester Project - "Tara Maki is my hero of the day. She is ex-military and has overcome a serious eating disorder to grow and nourish and set such a glowing example of beauty for her girls Joselyn (3) and Addie (9 months) — at Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia."

Picture courtesy of The 4th Trimester Bodies Project (http://4thtrimesterbodies.com) – “Tara Maki is my hero of the day. She is ex-military and has overcome a serious eating disorder to grow and nourish and set such a glowing example of beauty for her girls Joselyn (3) and Addie (9 months) — at Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia.”

I was all loved up and happy until I read the horrific caption that went with it: “This picture and a whole swath of others like it have been removed by Facebook and other social media sites for being vulgar.”

VULGAR.

My blood is boiling over this. It is so very wrong on multiple levels.

This picture is not pornography.

Know what is pornographic? The countless images that Facebook thrusts on to my newsfeed as ‘suggested’ stories – images of emaciated teenage bodies accompanied by information about the diet pills I should be taking/milkshakes I should be drinking to look like them. These images are vulgar in their message that, somehow, I – a 38 year old mother of three – should aim to look like them. Know what else is vulgar? Read the rest of this entry

Enough Mylie!

Visit Bonbon Break today for my thoughts on this Mylie Cyrus debacle.

Visit Bonbon Break today for my thoughts on this Mylie Cyrus debacle.

If you were an alien visiting the Earth and found yourself in a Western country this past week, you’d have learnt the following things about the People Of Earth:

ONE: Miley Cyrus is Very Important and has magic powers. With a few shakes of her rear (accompanied by an unnaturally long extension of her tongue), this young earthling can make poverty, murder and impending war  d i s a p p e a r. Yep – anyone who witnessed Twerkgate was privy to the instantaneous vanishing of the murdered Syrian children, threats of WWIII and… well… anything of actual importance from world news. Poof!

TWO: Twerking is horrible and slutty. HOWEVER, women should be allowed to twerk to their hearts’ content because we own our bodies, so quit judging and back-off. ALTHOUGH, even though we shouldn’t Judge Miley (poor, poor, poor Miley, naive and expressing her rights) she really did behave like the sluttiest slutty slut from Sluttsville and Read the rest of this entry

Imaginary friends, kangaroo scrotums and personal growth.

lanyard copy

I have a confession: I have a slew of imaginary friends.

We may never have met in the flesh (you see, they live in my iPad) but if there’s anything I’ve learned this past year, it’s this:
kindness and compassion don’t need flesh and bone to be felt.
Funny bones can be tickled via keystrokes. 
Friendships can be built out of pixels.
In July, I made the epic (nearly 30 hour) journey to Chicago from Australia for the annual BlogHer ’13 Conference, the biggest blogging conference in the world with close to six thousand attendees from around the globe. I had never met, in the traditional sense of the word, anyone who was going. Friends and family commented that I was so brave, so bold, to be going there alone and wondered how I’d pluck up the courage to walk in and face thousands of strangers. I tried (in vain) to explain that I wasn’t going alone, that I wasn’t going to be facing strangers at all. Quite the contrary Read the rest of this entry

Is that your baggage?

I couldn’t believe I was finally here. After a whirlwind six weeks of pre-cooking meals, re-organising of karate/dancing/footy schedules and some serious yanking up of my big girl knickers, I was finally standing at the Qantas check-in counter at the airport. Brand-new red conference handbag slung (so fashionably, people were fainting left and right) over my shoulder and my I’m-still-young-and-hip-dude pink camo backpack at my feet, I lugged my Daddy Bear sized suitcase on to the scale.
“Is this luggage yours?”
I looked up and beamed. “All mine.” I declared. The Qantas lady raised an eyebrow quizzically, “Did you pack it all yourself?” The beam grew, “Yep, every square inch of it!” She looked at me funny (What? Never seen a Mum experiencing the unparalleled joy of a whole suitcase all to herself before?) “Ohhh-kay…” 20130729-233006.jpg She handed me my passport and boarding pass and I gleefully skipped off, arm in arm with my lovely friend who stayed up late and braved the cold to take me to the airport. This was as close to a girl’s night out as I’d come in the past year. Woot! We sat down for a quick coffee and revelled in uninterrupted conversation (okay, we interrupted each other, but that doesn’t count) and suddenly it was time to say goodbye and board that long-awaited plane. As I clipped my seatbelt clasp closed, a thought struck me. I flashed back to the check-in lady’s question, “Is this baggage yours?” This question is of paramount importance at a check-in counter – physics and all that jazz – but we really shouldn’t stop there. We should be asking ourselves this question every time we interact with anyone. I often find myself weighed down by something that someone has said to me. The angst! The endless conversations with Darren about why/how/who/what – the self-doubt, the frustration and the heartache steal too much time. Enough! Ineed to teach my kids, by example, that when someone hands them an ugly, heavy, smelly piece of luggage, they don’t have to – unquestioningly, pick it up and carry it. Like Mum always has. Like Mum does. Like a donkey. I’ve always been that girl – the one who accepts, wholesale, the words and actions of others. The problem is that the next day, I routinely wake up, see all that extra luggage (ugly luggage that makes everything around it look sad) and guess what I’ve always done. Yep. Hee-Haw. No more! I need to stop doing this. All it takes is a closer look at the baggage people hand over to me and decide who it belongs to. Mine? Sure – own it, pick it up, carry it, unpack it. Get rid of the stinky stuff and repack. Not mine? Hand it back! Are you a donkey? C’mon, look closely and be honest with yourself. If you find yourself carting around other people’s crap, repeat after me:
I am not a donkey. I do not have to carry anyone’s luggage but my own. I do not have to unpack anybody’s luggage but my own. Other people’s luggage is none of my business. I can choose what luggage I pack and carry.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to be more discriminating about what I’m carrying. Not easy for a serial yes-girl, but who said it was going to be easy? This weekend, at the BlogHer 2013 Conference (which you’ll hear all about in a couple of days because – wow – did Mama grow!) I had the chance to meet a lot of the faces I’ve only ever seen on this screen. I’d like to say I wasn’t starstruck, but some of these bloggers have been my unknowing heroines for a long time. What blew me away was the way in which these accomplished, talented women (approximately 6000 of them) embraced me into the fold. There was one exception. A blogger, who has consistently given me the proverbial cold shoulder online continued to do so at the BlogHer Conference. I’d love to say it didn’t upset me but that would be a lie. It hurt! I started with the internal “what did I do? Why is she like this?” dialogue but was interrupted by a hand grabbing my arm and spinning me around. It was one of my new friends, who had given me nothing but love and acceptance from the word “go”. She grinned and said to another blogger, “You HAVE to meet Michelle Lewsen! She is goofy and funny and we LOVE her!” I looked around me at this sea of new friends and colleagues who had welcomed me and showed me more love than I ever could have imagined and it struck me: focusing on one bad apple and wasting a minute anguishing over why/how she was behaving that way is utterly stupid. I looked inwardly at the ugly bag of snot she’d handed me, laughed at myself for picking it up in the first place and threw it away. It’s not my baggage. I have my own baggage. It’s colourful, messy and filled with my favourite things. My hands are full. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you liked this post, please share it with your friends using the icons below, and I’ll love you intensely if you click the thumbs-up button at the bottom of this post. I’d really love to hear your comments, so please don’t be shy (comments make me do a happy dance). You can also join the fun on FacebookPinterest and Twitter [blog_subscription_form]

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I’m leaving on a jet plane… (or seven.)

BlogHer Voices of the Year committees have selected "You Suck!" to be honored at the 5th annual Voices of the Year Community Keynote.    Out of over 2,000 submissions, the committee has chosen "You Suck!" to be among the 25 Honorees in the Inspiration category.

BlogHer Voices of the Year committees have selected “You Suck!” to be honored at the 5th annual Voices of the Year Community Keynote.
Out of over 2,000 submissions, the committee has chosen “You Suck!” to be among the 25 Honorees in the Inspiration category.

“Congratulations!  Our Voices of the Year committees have selected “You Suck!” to be honored at the 5th annual Voices of the Year Community Keynote!”

This was the opening line in the email that had me shaking like a leaf for an entire day. This letter wasn’t from just any committee – this email was from BlogHer. For some perspective as to why I shook, trembled and – yes – cried, here’s a little introduction to the media giant that is BlogHer (taken from blogher.com):
Today, BlogHer is the largest community of women who blog: 92 million unique visitors per month (March 2013, Nielsen Site Census). Engaged, influential and info-savvy, these women come to BlogHer to seek and share advice, opinions and recommendations. BlogHer’s team works hard to bring you the best and brightest conversations, writers and speakers – online and in person. That’s what we do best. We host:
  • BlogHer Conferences, the world’s largest conference for women in social media
  • BlogHer Publishing Network, with 3,000 blogs one of the largest and highest quality publishing networks of blogs authored by women
  • BlogHer.com, the Web’s leading guide to the hottest news and trends among women in social media, renowned as a community where women speak their minds on every topic from politics to parenting in an atmosphere of integrity and respect
BlogHer is run by its three co-founders and a team of 50+ employees via offices in New York and Silicon Valley. We are proud to have venture backing from Venrock, Comcast Interactive Capital, and Azure Capital Partners.
Now, do you see why I was reaching for a paper bag? Hyperventilating was a natural reaction, no? When I phoned Darren to tell him this gargantuan news, his reaction was instantaneous: “You are going.” Just like that. Not for a second did he hesitate. Never mind the fact that we have three kids who I have never left for longer than a couple of days, who will miss me and who he will have to take care of single-handedly. Never mind the fact that this is – by far – the busiest time of year at work for him. Never mind the insane costs involved (seven flights, BlogHer ’13 conference fees, hotels…). Of course, his generosity of spirit made me cry even more and I’ve been a jittery, excited, overwhelmed, hysterically happy, crazy-busy raving lunatic ever since. The feeling of validation for my work is massive, the confirmation that I really should be doing what I’m doing has been solidified and I am so ridiculously grateful to be in a position to follow this thrilling path. This adventure is going to be epic and I can’t wait. I’m flying to Chicago to attend my first-ever BlogHer conference  in three weeks. I will be meeting with some of the most dynamic women in the world and connecting in person with a multitude of women I’ve come to know as close friends via Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Skype and through their blogs. I’m rooming with a really close friend…whom I haven’t ever met in person. Will these friendships we as dynamic in person as they are via keyboards? Will it all be weird and awkward? No idea, but BOY and I excited to find out.

Any advice for this little fish, off to swim in the big pond? I’m a firm believer in ‘fake it  until you make it’, so I’ll be smiling, networking and learning at an exponential rate, all the while tottering precariously in my first pair of big blogger shoes.

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Look at that FAT lady!

This week, I was in a supermarket with Baby G and she  innocently pointed (index finger and all) and loudly exclaimed, “Look at that fat lady!” Read the rest of this entry

The Crips vs The Bloods (Sibling Warfare Ain’t Pretty)

There is this feature that comes fitted in every family car. It’s on the back seat and only children can see it. It divides the back seat and comes with strict rules that must be adhered to at all times. It is known as The Invisible Line. If a child, accidentally even, crosses the The Invisible Line, it’s on, baby. We’re talking full-scale, all-out war. If you have children – in fact if you ever were a child – this line, invisible as it may be, is real. It is not to be messed with. Ever. Read the rest of this entry

I’m being bullied.

There’s this girl I know. She hates me. She watches my life with avid fascination…every little thing I do. Mostly, I’m able to avoid her, but every now and again, she finds me. Yesterday, I was having one of ‘those’ days. You know the kind – when life seems too much and nothing goes according to plan? I was feeling like a failure because other people seem to manage the juggle so well and I was just.not.managing. Well, I bumped into The Girl. She looked at me and smirked. She looked at my disheveled appearance and her satisfaction was palpable. Without a care in the world, she said, “You’re pathetic. Your husband deserves better. Your kids deserve better. You are a failure, Michelle.” Just like that. Read the rest of this entry

FAIL is not a four letter word.

I had an interesting chat with my children this morning. It’s the school holidays and I decided to take them out for a cafe breakfast and catch up over hot chocolate. I asked them what the the best and worst parts of  school have been. Both told me that the worst part is when they get things wrong. Both feel anxious at the prospect of not ‘getting it right’ and it got me thinking. My generation of parents is so praise-driven – often to the point of absurdity. We are so afraid of the dreaded “low self-esteem” that we have become a generation of parents who praise mediocrity. They try to catch a ball, but miss and we shout “Great job!” The thing is, it wasn’t a great job. Sure, it was a good try, but great? Nope. Our kids get certificates for participation, they get medals for giving it a go. All lovely ideas, in theory, but in my mind, a sure-fire way to ensure our kids will never achieve their potential. If we tell them they are brilliant when they are average, will they ever aspire to true greatness? Will they even know they have it in them. Read the rest of this entry

You suck!

“You suck!”

Are you aware that you tell your kids this all the time? I did once. I would tell them, “You’re fat, unattractive, unloveable. You are not good enough. I wish you looked like that prettier person over there.”

Shocked? I’ll bet that you do the same. Every day. And you don’t even know it.

Let me explain.

That child of yours looks at you like you’re a superhero, right? To her, you’re the most beautiful, cleverest, strongest person in the whole wide world. EVER. She wants to be just like you because, to her, you are everything.  From the time she was little, she mimicked you. She wore bejeweled necklaces and tottered around in your high heels. She painted your lipstick all over her face and looked at herself in the mirror, admiring just how like you she was. She speaks like you, she walks like you. And, as she grows up, she’ll look to you for advice. YOU ARE HER EVERYTHING.

She watches you even when you think she isn’t – especially when you think she isn’t.

She sees you looking in the mirror, grimacing and muttering about your cellulite. She hears you discussing how fat you think you are and how disgusting you think you look in your jeans. She watches you as you eat a piece of chocolate and then admonish yourself for being naughty. She is hyper-aware of the ugly names you call yourself when you make a mistake.

Here’s the thing. She thinks you’re perfect and she aspires to be just like you. If you call yourself – her hero - fat, stupid, ugly and worthless, you’re telling her that even if she manages to reach the pinnacle of perfection that you, in her eyes, are, you will think these things about her. She will learn from you that she will never be good enough. Because you don’t think you are good enough.

I used to be that person – the one who would say horrendous things to myself that I would never say to my worst enemy. Things that I would never let someone say to anyone I love. But somehow, it was okay to say these things to myself. Until, one day, when I was standing in front of the mirror, looking hatefully at myself and my little girl happened to walk in. She saw me looking at myself and said “Mum, why do you look so cross?” She gazed at me like I was an angel. Her eyes were filled with absolute love and admiration. She looked at me like I was the most exquisite person she had ever seen. A light bulb switched on in my head. Why not at least try to start seeing myself the way she sees me? Why not look in the mirror and see myself through kinder eyes.

Things changed after that day. Of course I still see my (multitude of) flaws. Oh, boy, do I see them! But I try my best to eat well, exercise and dress well. I even make it out of the house most days not covered in Vegemite. The difference is that when I look in the mirror, I see someone who has had three kids, who is a devoted mum and wife, who works really hard, who has her own unique talents. I see kind eyes. I see a generous heart. And when my little girl walks in and catches me eyeing out my saggy spectacular bum, I look at her, smile and say “Don’t I look lovely today?” And, do you know what? She does a cheerful twirl in front of the mirror, smiles a gappy grin and says, “Yes! And I look beautiful, too!”

They don’t always listen to what we say, but they absolutely learn from what we do.

Do you want your child to love herself? Don’t tell her she’s worth it. Tell her you are. 

 
BlogHer Voices of the Year committees have selected "You Suck!" to be honored at the 5th annual Voices of the Year Community Keynote.    Out of over 2,000 submissions, the committee has chosen "You Suck!" to be among the 25 Honorees in the Inspiration category.

Out of over 2,000 submissions, the BlogHer Voices of the Year Committee has chosen “You Suck!” to be among the 25 Honorees in the Inspiration category. “You Suck!” will be honored at the 5th annual Voices of the Year Community Keynote at the BlogHer ’13 Conference in Chicago.

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