Hanging from the Chandeliers…another TSIB interview

A bit of a change of pace this week….I seem to have been in contact with a lot of women in the last few weeks who are contemplating what they do with their lives as their kids grow. Whether thats women emerging from the fog of small babies, women dealing with teenagers who don’t ‘need’ them as much as they used to or just people thinking how they can fit a new career into the mix.

As soon as you have kids you get a lot of chatter amongst groups about ways to fit in exercise when you have tiny babies. The mothers group I belong to (my second one…) has always been pretty proactive about finding ways to catch up without coffee and cake, a lot of us meet for walks, meet at parks or talk about the fun runs we enter (or fail at…oh hang on thats me).

Facebook is great for reconnecting with old buddies – last year I got a page suggestion from a school friend who was setting up her own business as a personal trainer and food coach – she makes me laugh with her hard line approach, the way she seems to balance her kids and her lack of tact in putting up with people’s excuses. Here she is chatting about her space in between…she married her Year 10 formal partner – I can still remember that night…chokers were in fashion and Boyz II men were the slow dance specialists…I chose a guy whose bow-tie matched his vest (little did I know I would remain inept at choosing good men until I was in my 30s…)


Lovely Maree…tell me a little about you?

Wow, this is harder than I thought ….. Usually I’m talking about my kids or my job and that’s quite easy. Have I lost me, is that weird that I can’t string a sentence or two together to tell you a little  about myself???  Do  I even exist anymore? Mmmmmm. Well I guess I do because that washing doesn’t get done on its own, neither does the cooking or the cleaning, so there you have it,  I am a person.

Me , Maree,  a 34 year old woman with 3 beautiful, hyperactive kids (and yes 2 out 3 have diagnosed ADHD so they are hyperactive,  the little one is too young to be diagnosed, however he is definitely showing signs of it) Georgia is 11, Kaylan is 9 and Kye is 4, he was my little surprise. I am married to Bennett, my best friend, my soul mate and someone I can be my silliest, craziest self around. We have been together since age 15, a long time I know, but when you’re friends before you’re lovers it seems effortless.

I worked in retail for many years and loved the challenge of getting the sale. The Body Shop was my last retail job and there I was trained as a makeup artist which led to my secret passion for makeup.

Tell me about being a young mum?

I started a family young (23) and was not really worried about anything but being with my babies. This led me to isolate myself a little, as my friends were all off travelling the world and having adventures, studying at uni or just out partying, I was at home content with my little girls. But after a while you need a little something for you! So I joined my local gym. I have always loved being active and playing sport and I thought this was a great way to do something I loved as well as something that was good for my body and mind. After 2 weeks of visiting the gym, I got a job there on the front desk, it was great, and I got to be me, Maree! I enjoyed being around other people who enjoyed being fit and healthy.

How did you choose to react when your girls were diagnosed with ADHD??

During that time I had another baby, a beautiful boy. Back to being mum it was for me. During this time was when both my girls were diagnosed with ADHD. It was a tough year. Going from doctor to doctor, all wanting to medicate them. I chose not to, but instead to change their diet, no colourings, preservatives and additives. I did loads of research and put it all in action, it worked! Not only were they on the food plan, the whole family was. Their behaviour improved and I lost weight. Was this how easy it was?  So I took on studying nutrition, fitness and personal training. I wanted to help other kids and families.

So what did you do with what you’d learnt?

I knew I was not able to work the hours I needed to still pick up and drop off my kids at school in a regular job, so I decided I would work for myself. I could choose my own hours and still be there for my kids.

So today a year and a half on, I am successfully running Health Me, a Food and Fitness Coaching business,  I have 3 crazy, loving kids that are no longer hanging from the chandeliers (well more like IKEA lightshades)

I have changed as a person because I no longer care about what other people think, maybe because my life is so chaotic (in a nice way) that I don’t have the time. I think as you grow older you do prioritise things a little differently. Dinner needs to be cooked before you can even think about when you last had a haircut? And I’m not saying that you should neglect these things however, you do master the art of making a pony tail look great, and your 5 minute make up job is not bad either.

Life is good, if only we took a moment each day to look at what we have achieved and celebrated it, even if it is a silent 3 cheers for me. Hipbip hooray x 3.

Thanks Maree…click here for more info about her

So what do you think…whats one of the ways you took a challange and turned it into an opportunity??



Being while being without


I was given the chance to write about the ways people living with an unresolved loss might be able to ‘reconnect’ with the people they had lost…the big challenge there was the ambiguous part of it all. I think a few people thought I was a bit odd writing about reconnecting with missing people, people who had vanished or people that had been murdered but we didnt know where the body was…in the writing and thinking process (well the copious coffee drinking process) I sat and spoke to a few people about their own experiences. One of the women told me that in order to reconnect with her brother (who had been missing for a long time) she wasnt going to go and sit on a park bench or stare out to the ocean like she thought she was supposed to. She was just going to take some time to remember the things he loved, that she’d find him in his CD’s, in thoughts of growing up, in the books he loved and that she find ways to be with him despite being without him.

A picnic is being held in Sydney today for people to reconnect with loved ones who have died…I was drawn to the beautiful picture in the paper of a silk installation blowing in the wind. The article shared the power of coming together in a community to reconnect but it also talked about those within certain cultures or faiths having access to rituals to help them acknowledge what was lost. It touched on the fact that for some without faith or socially constructed ways of grieving people might be  ‘on their own’…it reminded me of the families of missing people I’ve worked with who might find themselves, in some circumstances, without culture or faith as well as without the access to rituals even if they wanted them – no funerals, no death notices, no public proclaimations that they had lost someone. Sometimes the only reminder of what was lost was an image on a ‘missing’ poster.

The idea of a picnic to introduce the dead back into the community is a way to provide ritual where ritual might be lost…but also a reminder that for those whose losses arent so clear cut – missing, miscarriage, illness, divorce – that we give everyone the space to say hello again* to a person, or connection, that is so sorely missed.

How do you say hello…again?

*Michael White, 2005

Controlling the uncontrollable

Yes I know thats an oxymoron…

I read a lot of blogs and articles about weight loss and being the best you can be (in a non Oprah sense)…its just a topic thats interests me – places like Sarah Wilson, Diminishing Lucy and even the WW FB page let me dip my toe into the world of food where the world of food makes you feel and look better.

When working with people experiencing sudden and traumatic life changes, or even trauma’s thats creep up over a period of time, its fair to say that whatever brochures or pamphlets may to be thrust into hands in those moments will have a looking after yourself  list attached. A few centuries ago when I was working as a social worker I scoffed at the inclusion of eating healthily on these lists. I kept thinking that people had enough on their plate without some bleeding heart telling them what to eat and what to do with their ‘me’ time. I just thought it was about surviving anyway you knew how (and if that meant scoffing chocolate secretly in the pantry then so be it).

But then a few years back I joined WW – it was scary and confronting and exhilarating all at the same time. I found that in the midst of my uncontrollable life controlling what I put in my mouth made me feel strong and powerful and in return I had the added bonus of feeling better – I slept better, I felt more comfortable in my own skin and I actually stopped and looked at myself rather than slinking away from the puffy reflection that had greeted me for a fair few years before that.

Part of getting older, being exposed to people’s intimate life experiences and actually feeling good about me made me rethink those scoffing moments when I read or write self help literature for people suffering a loss. Thinking about what you eat is just an extension of looking after yourself and in the midst of chaos and trauma maybe thats the one thing that can be controlled.

Can food one of the controllable parts of our life…what are some of the others?

Older than my older sister…a TSIB interview

This blog is working just as I had imagined in the dark recesses of my brain (and thats a pretty odd place for most of each week) its creating opportunities for people to come forward and share their own space in between. This year has been a time of reflection for me, Ive been able to sit with friends facing so much sadness and then spend my spare time studying the exact same things. I feel like Im a vessel for the stories that fill my time and I want to share them.

So sit back, grab a cuppa and read about Alicia..she bravely puts words to the space between hope and despair and she takes great pics of lovely things. If you don’t believe me click here

Alicia tell me a little about you…

I am 31 years old, I live in Cairns, Far North Queensland the town that has been called “home” for my entire life. My husband Jamie and I are proud parents of 2 beautiful, energetic children, Kiara who is 5 and Noah who is 2. The words often heard around out house is “life is Never Dull”, and it sure isn’t. We are constantly kept on our toes, stressed out, entertained, delighted, or rushed by some event happening, though more often then not it may be some self inflicted accident Jamie has had around the house!

Jamie and I met when I was still a teenager, our relationship, like many others has been filled with many ups and downs, laughter, joy, tears, but it has all been worth it. We married in a simple ceremony at a local beach 7 years ago, there was many people who didnt want us to get married, or thought that we wouldnt last, and we have proven them wrong so far.

I have had many different jobs over the years. On leaving school, I went straight into working in the childcare industry, which is the one job I have the most experience in over the years (although many years of child care couldnt even prepare me for what motherhood is all about!). I have held a variety of other jobs. I am currently working part time in my husbands family business, Jamie is the manager. I am actually having a lot of fun working with my husband, more then I expected. At this  point in our life, this position fits our family well.

I feel blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, I love the beaches, rainforest, cane fields etc that make North Queensland so beautiful, we are lucky to be living in a place that so many people love to visit. I love raising my children here, and feel there is a sense of freedom of running around barefoot, at one with nature. Though I have to be honest in saying that the summers still get to me at times, the heat makes me tired and cranky!

Photography is a real passion of mine, I still have a lot to learn, but I do enjoy taking photographs, and the creativity it releases, and the memories it captures.  I have afacebook page, in which I take a photograph of something I am grateful for each day for a year.

When thinking about your space in between what stood out for you?

I think that there are so many spaces in between in each of our lives. I tried to list all mine down, and the list was huge, so I will just focus on one.

The space between hope and despair..my sister was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 12, our family relocated briefly to Adelaide for Tamina to be operated on and treated, it was scary watching her in so much pain, witnessing her hair fall out, and
being only 8 at the time, I briefly thought that her cancer was contagious.

It was a long tough fight, but before we knew it, we were hosting an end of treatment party for her, and celebrating the hurdles she had overcome.  Fast forward 10 years, and as a young Mum to a toddler, Tamina sadly relapsed. The cancer this time was throughout her body. After months of treatment, the Doctors said there was nothing more they could do but send her home to be comfortable.

While I knew that she was sick, I still held onto hope that she would overcome this battle as well, and was wondering how we would celebrate this time. Sadly this wasnt to be, and in April 1999, at the age of 22, my beautiful big sister passed away.

I can’t even think of words to describe the feelings, thoughts and emotions that I felt in that time. I was very close to my sister, we often joked that we would be found on the verandah of a nursing home in years to come, rocking chairs side by side, as we
chatted about life.

Some people, would comment “at least her death wasnt a shock, unlike those who lose their loved ones in accidents“, but I had to disagree. In looking back on photographs now, I am shocked by the frail, 30kg body, but at the time, all I could see was the spark that she always had in her eyes. In hindsight, I realise that she was terribly ill, but at the time, I held onto every inch of hope I could find, that she would be ok.

There was so much guilt in Taminas death, guilt that we were created by the same parents, raised in the same house, on the same food, yet she was the one who got cancer. I especially felt guilty as I attempted to clear her airways  on the night of her death, as instructed by the paramedics as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I
held so much guilt over the years that I had not tried hard enough, or that there was something I could have done differently to save her life. The Ambulance took Mum with them as they took Tamina away to the hospital, with their words faint heart beat in my head. I followed behind, my heart filled to the brim with hope that she would be ok. I arrived at the hospital, told them I was there to see my sister Tamina, expecting to be directed to a hospital bed, instead I was directed to the social workers room, where my Mum was waiting, tears streaming down her face, and the 2 words that took away any hope I had….she’s dead.

I felt guilty that she would never get to see her beautiful daughter, Jazmine grow up, or that Jazmine would never get to know her Mum, yet here I was, with no children at the time relying on me.

For a long time after that, life was a dim, dark, place. Losing a loved one is not something you ever get over, it is just that you eventually find a day that you can utter their name without bursting into tears. The tears still come, sometimes unexpected, sometimes without warning, but thankfully less frequently. The ache for the person you have lost, the wish that they were still there to walk life’s pathway with you is still there.

Many moments in my life bring up the pain of my sisters passing. The day I turned 23 was the worst birthday in my life, suddenly I was older than my older sister, something I found very hard to deal with, and a issue that is still rather huge in my life to this day.

I hate that my sister never got to meet my husband, that I have photographs around the house of a woman that was so significant in my life, yet no one in my house apart from me has met. I talk about Aunty Tamina to my kids often, and want them to know what a wonderful, inspiring person she was, but that is just not the same as getting to
meet her.

At the time Tamina passed away, I was working at a Child Care Centre only minutes away from the cemetary she was burried in. I would often go to her gravesite and sit beside it, while I ate my lunch, and had a silent chat to her, tears streaming down my face as the many cars drove by. I look back on those times and feel a bit crazy, but at the time, I needed to feel like I still had some sort of contact with her.

The best way to describe that moment between hope and despair is that it only took a second for the hope evaporate, and the despair of not only losing my sister, but the woman I considered my best friend to take over, and in a way, that despair still lives with me. Thankfully not as suffocating or overbearing as it was to begin with, but its there, in the depths of my soul, and I will continue to miss her every day.

Losing my sister forced me to also change my way of thinking, my views on life and death, and to realise that life is just too precious, and too short. While the despair lingered on for a long time, I found things to give me hope as well, things to look forward to, the biggest being a backpacking trip around Europe, which I did just before I turned 22, the age Tamina was when she died. I decided life was just too short to keep saying “one day”, and I had always wanted to travel, so I jumped in head first, and went on an adventure, I made sure that the inspiration of Tamina and what she brought to my life lived on.

I have also been fortunate enough to witness Taminas daughter, Jazmine grow from the toddler she was when her Mum passed away, into a beautiful young lady of 14 that she is today. There is hope when I get to look at her and see a piece of Tamina continues to live on in her.

What prompted you to start your gratitude project?

I was in a pretty negative mind set, there was no huge reason to be in that position, but the aspects of every day life all mounted up, the worry of finances, working a night job at the time and constantly being exhausted, as well as health problems, I was becoming a bit of a poor me person, and I really didn’t like the way I was heading. I would listen to myself on a daily basis bitching and moaning about so many things, and would silently tell myself to just shut up, I was aware that many people had it worse off then me, but I just didn’t seem to change the vicious cycle.

I accidentally came across the idea of a 365 gratitude project one night when searching the internet for something completly different. Something inside me just clicked, and I knew that this was a project that I just needed to do, it ticked all the boxes, a tool to assist me to become more positive as well as an excuse to take more photographs!

The project was set up on its own facebook page as I didn’t want to annoy my personal friends by posting picture every day on my page. I thought by giving them the choice to view my gratitude project or not would be a good idea. I never expected strangers to show any interest, or the love and support I have recieved from doing it.

Do you think that being mindful is a way that we can a manage life with its up’s and down’s?

Most definately! As a friend said to me today “negativity breeds negativity” and that works the other way too “positivity breeds positivity”, you change your way of thinking and you change your way of living. It is so easy to let your thoughts dig you into a big huge pit of despair, but with little steps, you can dig yourself back out again.

On saying that, of course it’s ok to have a bad day and tough moments, and acknowledge them, without having those challenges in life, we won’t always be thankful for the great moments. The most important thing is knowing when to let go of the negative moments. It is important to be mindful of your feelings and emotions, not to stuff them inside until
they explode out.

It is however also important to not let yourself be suffocated by all the negative thoughts and feelings that you may have, it will only spiral into a huge mass of negativity, and before you know it, you will be looking at everything with a negative point of view, and only seeing the bad in life, when in fact there is so much good.

Sometimes you just need to trust yourself, tune into your own needs, perhaps that means you need time out to yourself, or a friend to just listen to you talk about what is going on in your life, or the simple words from someone “I am here if you need me”.

What have you learnt in sharing your gratitude? What have others taught you?

I have completly changed my way of thinking, I look back on my project so far and am so thankful for all the wonderful people, gifts and moments in my life.  I have also realised that regardless of how bad a day may seem, there is always at least something to be grateful for. On an absolute shitty day, having a roof over my head, food in my belly and air in my lungs is more then enough to be grateful for. Life really has many wonderful joys laying out for each and every one of us.

Through my page, I have met some wonderful people, have been inspired by so many beautiful stories as well. I have also been forced to look at the people in my life with fresh new eyes, I knew I was blessed to be surrounded by a great gang of people, but I never really stopped to think what a wonderful support team I have, and what great moments they all bring into my life. I am blessed to have friends who are more like family. Without sounding cliche, you can have a load of tough things going on in life, but if you have at least one friend to listen to you, or support you, then it is all going to be ok.


Thanks Alicia…so often we forget to give ourselves the chance to hear the story behind the story. Talking about your sister, honouring her memory and taking the time to reconnect with her is a brave way to acknowledge your loss. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

What resonates most with you about Alicia’s story? For me it makes me grateful for my bond with my sister, she makes up half of me and I’d be lost without her….