Life is… project


The ‘Life is…’ Project

My inspiration (and I would argue every author’s inspiration) for writing is life itself. There are those twists and turns you are not expecting, the amazing people that wander into your life just as you need them, the opportunities that tend to knock on your door just as you’ve given up all hope of them appearing.

I want to honour this through my ‘Life is…’ project where I will write about one aspect of life that’s really stood out to me recently. These aspects may be angry or outspoken, happy or exciting, depressing or sad, funny or crazy, but these are the very emotions that we experience throughout life itself.
We all experience life in different, equally valid ways, so I want to hear what ‘Life is…’ for you right now too.

Can you relate to my view or do you have a much better story to tell?
Post your thoughts in the comments and we will get started together


Life is… big news (the political one)

You may have heard that the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is doing us proud. She has announced her first pregnancy, and that her partner will be the stay-at-home parent while she continues to run the country. It has been said that Jacinda will take 6 weeks off after the birth, expected to be sometime in June 2018.


This is big news both in New Zealand, and overseas, with even the BBC picking up the story. It’s not just big news because we have a female Prime Minister, under 40 years of age who is going to be a mum. It is big news because during her campaign journalists often felt they could discuss her reproduction plans as though her womb would affect her ability to lead the country. It is big news because people are asking how she will be able to cope with 2 jobs.

How many women juggle their children and their job/s? Is it because Jacinda is high profile and has one of the most important jobs in the country that we seem to think we can judge her ability to juggle both? Like many jobs, you work as a team. It is not 1 person making all the decisions alone. It is a team of people in parliament, working together to make decisions for the good of the country. Jacinda has said to media they have a plan in place to manage it. Consider our previous Prime Minister for a minute, Bill English. He has 6 children and was never asked how he coped with both jobs. Could this be because he is a man and his busy wife, a GP, was expected to support the children while he continued with his career?

It is big news because people want to weigh in on the fact that Jacinda plans to only have 6 weeks off after the birth. It is big news because she is a successful female that is good at her job and she is breaking down the stereotype that says women can’t work and be good mothers. It is big news because her partner is going to be a stay-at-home dad, putting his career on the back burner for a while to support his children. This happens more often than it used to, but has not received much publicity and is still not the norm in NZ culture.

Jacinda’s pregnancy news has seen the ‘star mums’ climb out of the woodwork to say that 6 weeks with a new-born is not enough. Research says that time with your parents at that age is important, but we all know these ‘star mums’ in some form. They are the ones that never do anything wrong by their child. They breastfeed the correct amount of time, prepare organic/sugar-free/everything free food, stay off work the right amount of time. They can never do anything wrong. The judgement from ‘star mums’ has highlighted the divide between women, not just in New Zealand but across the globe. We judge each other’s decisions instead of supporting each other. We think we are doing a better job without considering that parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all role. Instead of women sticking together and having each other’s back we are busy making our lives difficult by trying to one-up each other. And god forbid if your partner decides to stay at home with the children! I ask in all seriousness, why are some of our societal norms still stuck in the 1950s, when housewives would stay home with the children and men would bring home the bacon? A related fact is the Labour party of New Zealand are working on legislation that will extend paid parental leave for parents to benefit all families, mothers and fathers.

It is big news because Jacinda is a woman achieving her dreams of being a mother alongside her dreams of being Prime Minister. And why should she not? When was it decided that women could only have one or the other? A career or be a mother? When did it become okay that men could have both and women had to be the ones to make a sacrifice?

I’m not often political. In fact, I was brought up to never discuss politics with anyone. It leads to arguments, often nasty ones that are difficult to shut down once they are started. I believe that political values are personal and often based on your life experiences. When I began writing this blog, I thought long and hard about talking about politics, but realised I needed to make a stand. Jacinda is aware of the haters, the internet trolls, the disgruntled voters, the judgement, voters questioning her ability from their ancient viewpoints, but she’s doing it anyway. It is also more than that.

Jacinda’s pregnancy announcement is more than just her doing it anyway. It is about breaking down the long held ideas about women’s abilities and career prospects. She will do both jobs well and go against societal norms by allowing her partner to care for their infant. When Jacinda was questioned about her pregnancy plans during her campaign, she supported women by responding that women’s pregnancy plans shouldn’t be the topic at any job interview.

So why is it we, the NZ and world public, feel the need to weigh in on her pregnancy, analyse it and begin suggesting baby names?
I commend Jacinda and her partner Clarke.
I celebrate with them and wish them well.
At the end of the day, Prime Minister is a job like any other.
If other women can be successful mothers and career women, of course Jacinda can too.

Life is…preparing for the future

During this past week, New Zealand has been having a national conversation to plan for the future. The interactive, live TV series, What Next, has been polling New Zealander’s opinions about what they would like the country to look like in 2037.

Shall we farm and consume insects, or shall we continue farming and consuming sheep, cows and lambs?

Shall we make changes to reverse the effects of climate change or shall we continue on the path we are on?

Shall we leave our education system as it is or shall we try something new?

Shall we try a universal basic income, like those currently being trialled in other countries?

Do we want to live to be 130 years old and reinvent what it means to be ‘retired’?

One of the topics discussed was our future employment. In the future your job or aspects of your job may be automated, replacing humans with robots. This got me thinking…which jobs are we likely to see in 20 years’ time?

Tradespeople (Builders, Plumbers, Painters)

I think these roles will still exist. We will still need more housing with our increasing population. Maybe the pipes will be made of different materials to last longer, maybe robots will assemble sections of houses, but people will still be needed to assemble these on site.

Corporate Sphere (Lawyers, Accountants, Business Managers)

The menial paperwork and typing is likely to be completed by coded computer software. Decisions in court are based on facts as well as emotions and personal testimonies so I think lawyers, judges and juries will still be needed for this. Maybe this is an opportunity for our older citizens to be in paid role that is meaningful and contributes to society. What Next NZ believed that most of New Zealand’s accountants will be in different jobs by 2037. I know many business owners won’t stand for a computer or robot doing their taxes. Where is the conversation and explanation when the numbers are not what you are expecting? People are where it’s at, so I think more of you are safe than the series predicted.

I.T. Sphere

You are going to be vital to our innovation and change. Robots may do some of the jobs and programming, but we are going to need your ideas and coding to drive change. You will be inventing, learning and helping develop New Zealand’s future. I think you are safe I.T. gurus.


As mentioned earlier, you may be required to farm insects instead of beef, or grow food products that can be used in the creation of lab food (Chicken-free chicken anyone?). You will still be required to work the land. It may just be different to the job you are doing now. Personally I can’t get my head around the idea of eating crunchy insects, so I’ll still be buying my chicken and beef from you, or I’ll be stick thin and hungry….I guess that’s a choice too…

Relationship-based Professionals (Retail, Customer Service Representatives, Teachers, Nurses, Elderly Care)

Robots cannot create relationships. They can’t truly answer the question ‘does my bum look big in this?’ either. They may be filling the shelves at the supermarket and replacing people on the checkouts, but humans will still be needed to ensure that shoplifters cannot get away with all the goods. Our elderly will still need people to talk to and to provide their care. I predict that we will all still want nurses to comfort us when we are sick and recuperating in hospital. Research around quality care and education for children tells us that childhood relationships and attachments are very important to a persons wellbeing in their later life. Everyone who has a relationship-based job may have aspects of their job automated, but only people can create these meaningful relationships.

Domestic Sphere (Parenting, Caregiving, Cleaning)

As with the relationship-based professionals, you have important work contributing to your family every day. Whether you are caring for your own children, your grandchildren, or your neighbour’s children, you are heroes and the important job of being a parent will remain. You may have more time to spend together as technology advances and you are spending less time washing and folding the clothes, unpacking the dishwasher, vacuuming, and completing other household chores. Caregivers will still have an important role to play within society, but I hope that the technological advances will help relieve some of the pressure and support you too.

As you can see, I am of the belief that the majority of our current jobs will still exist. They may look a little different than they do now, but I think the sections of work that really matter, will still be completed by humans. The biggest outcome of this series was that we need to work on removing poverty in New Zealand as the first step to creating a brighter future for us all. Many have said this in the past, but I feel this was the first time I’ve seen New Zealanders contributing and recognising this idea in such a large way. It saddens me that poverty is still felt here, children without food and adequate clothing, homelessness, working poor. Financial education and supporting those in our own communities will make this a brighter world for everyone.

I’d love to read your contribution to this discussion.

Will your job exist in the year 2037?






Life is…being your own Wonder Woman


Have you ever had those moments where it feels as though bad things always seem to happen to you? And then, thinking that things possibly couldn’t get worse, they do?
I’ve been having a hard time of things lately. It happens to all of us at some stage. A dirty smear across the smooth glass of life. The crack that appears when we are not expecting it. Sometimes it’s something big like a death, an illness, or a redundancy. Sometimes it’s something smaller. The unexpected nature of these things and the changes they produce derail us from the life we are attempting to create.

Earlier in the year I had what I thought was a minor accident. It turns out it was a major, surgery is the only fix, and I’ve been having to get used to the idea that I may not be able to go back to my dream job, using the qualifications that I slaved many years to earn. It’s been an emotionally churning, unsettling and guilt-ridden time to say the least. Usually I’d put it down to my incredible bad luck, that just when things are working out how I’d planned, the course changes on me.

All we can control is what we do with what happens.png

It has taken time, but I’m coming to see this as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to change my way of living and my way of thinking. As long as I can remember I’ve placed pressure on myself to do well, achieve more, study hard, pass the exams, be a good mother, be a good daughter, make more friends, be the perfect partner, work harder. You name it and I bet I’ve bullied myself into trying to be the best that I can be. It has become clear to me now that my identity and happiness isn’t tied up in any one of those things. It may make a small part of me happy to study and work hard but it’s not the be-all and end-all of my life and it shouldn’t be either. Constant pressure for the sake of it does not make for a healthy life.

On my 21st birthday, my grandmother told me that if she was 21 again, she’d let off all her fireworks at once. I’ve often thought about this advice but it is only recently that I’ve really begun to realise the power behind her words.
Life is what YOU make it. It’s not up to anyone else to make you happy.
You must find that happiness for yourself.
You must create your own path and find your own calling.
You must be your own Wonder Woman, cheering for your own cause, believing in your own strength and standing by your choices.

Happiness is not readymade. It comes from your own actions -Dalai Lama


Life is…taking a phone call

My cell phone rang loudly on Saturday morning piercing the quiet of the house. The ringing on a Saturday morning wasn’t unusual, but the caller was. It wasn’t my parents or siblings ringing to catch up. It was an unknown number. I debated for a few seconds about answering before my finger punched the touch screen.

It was my daughter, I’s, ballet teacher calling. She was following up on an email she’d sent earlier in the day, but I hadn’t read yet. Her father is ill and so she is taking some time off the lessons to be with him. I expressed my understanding and sadness at the circumstances. The children love her kind nature and the genuine fun that she creates every Saturday morning at the church hall on the hill.

“I’m an only child, so I feel it’s my duty and a privilege to support my parents. Hopefully the other parents will understand and not be too upset,” she said.

So much of a teacher’s role is managing the expectations of parents. Although I had learnt about the importance of this in the course of my teachers training, the share volume of this task day in and day out was not apparent until I was in a fulltime teaching position. The pressure placed on children by their parents is colossal; in an infant’s room to crawl and walk, and then to learn the skills ‘required’ for entrance to formal schooling.

Who knows what skills will be needed in the workforce years from now?

Are you really a failure at life if you are not able to write the full alphabet, uppercase and lowercase, when arriving on your first school day?

To my surprise, this wasn’t the main point of the phone call though.

Today, through the phone she shared part of herself, an idea. An idea for a set of dance classes for disadvantaged children provided at low to no cost, just to give back to the community. As she explained her vision I exclaimed and encouraged. Then it was revealed.

“We could work on this together in exchange for dance tuition… I don’t want to put you on the spot but I’ve been looking for someone, a teacher, a mother, to grow my classes with. Not necessarily someone with dance knowledge but classroom control knowledge, parenting knowledge, a care and interest in others. You don’t have to give me an answer now. Have a think about it and I’ll be in touch once I’ve spent some time with my dad.”

I was amazed by her courage.
We’d talked but a handful of times, stealing moments between classes. From the few minutes of conversation that we’d stolen I knew that this beautiful human was just that, a beautiful human who cared about others. She’d shared fragments of her life with me, single mother, strong mother, battler for her child’s wellbeing and her own, an injured dancer, teacher, a true lover of children. In return I realised that in these conversations I’d been sharing part of myself too. I wore my dreams on my sleeve and this beautiful human had read them, taken notice of them.

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them” -Walt Disney

You see, I’ve always wanted to give back, to contribute to something bigger than myself. It was one of the main driver that led me to choose teaching as my career. I’ve always attributed this to my upbringing in a low socio-economic area, surrounded by poverty and distress. My mother was a teacher aide for most of my youth, working with differently-abled children who became some of our closest friends. I volunteered in the same field during high school, then mentored ‘troubled’ youth, and at one stage considered specialising in early intervention teaching rather than mainstream. I’ve always wanted to make a difference to disadvantaged or what our Ministry of Education would call ‘priority learners.’

And here was a stranger, a beautiful human no less, sharing her idea with me and what’s more asking for a partnership that spoke to my heart, to make her idea a reality. Wow. It must have taken courage for her to make that call, to share that idea, that piece of her heart, and to think of it in spite of the challenges she is facing with her father’s illness. She fought the fear and phoned anyway. I’m so glad that I answered her call.

I’ll let you know how this new opportunity pans out.

Life is…wearing an orange dress

in and out last imageBirth and death teaches us that every part of life is changeable.
Everyone comes into your life for a reason and leaves once they have taught you the lesson that you need.

I met this extra amazing girl once (I’ve actually met plenty of extra amazing girls and woman in my life, and I’m lucky enough to work with plenty of them, but stick with me with this). She was in the hospital bed down the hall from mine and was marking time in the hospital system for a similar reason to me. As girls of a similar age we were content to spend that time together, reading, drawing, talking, dreaming of McDonalds (this was a time when McDonalds had their own restaurant within the hospital –bliss for those of us regularly spending time eating hospital food). Once we were discharged and sent on our merry ways, we kept in touch via snail mail. We sent presents for birthdays and Christmas, shared our news and ongoing recoveries with each other until one day it all stopped. ‘No forwarding address’ was scrawled across my letter in thick black vivid. It was a sudden end to a friendship, with an amazing girl, now woman, from afar.

Years later when I was going through a rough phase, her name popped into my head. It was sudden and unexpected, a colourful burst of hope penetrating my bubble of despair. With the invention of Facebook, I looked her up and sent her a message. I was anxious to read her response. Would she remember me? Had our friendship just been a drop in the pool, a fleeting moment in our lives when we’d both needed the company the most? Her reply was positive and what’s more, it turned out that she’d been living in my town for the last two years. What luck! As we messaged each other it turned out that she was leaving soon to train for her dream career overseas, so we arranged to catch up before she left. Perfect right?

We met and had a great time together. In fact she was keen to share her passion with me, fashion styling. Anyone who has ever seen me knows that fashion is not my jam, but I appreciated that it was hers and that I could learn something valuable from her. We went shopping. I spent more money than I had on myself ever (as a single mum spending money on myself was a new concept to me anyway). I tried on clothing that I never would have usually. I tried colours and fabrics that I wouldn’t have chosen, and you know what? I actually enjoyed the clothes shopping experience for the first time ever. On one of our shopping trips during the weeks before she left, this amazing human wore a bright orange dress. She turned heads in the mall. She turned heads in the food court. She even turned heads returning to her car in the underground carpark, as that was how vibrant and beautiful she looked in that orange dress. When I pointed this out to her she told me that she was feeling down that morning but had chosen to wear the dress anyway because it made her feel confident. That orange dress was her badge of confidence, her kick of inspiration that showed the world she was a woman who could do anything. I would be lying to say in that moment that I didn’t wish I had that much confidence and trust in my worth. I did. And I wished that an orange dress could do that for me, but I also knew that what worked for her wasn’t necessarily going to be what worked for me too. So over the next few weeks I tried to find it, that thing that would help me to have confidence and trust in myself above all else.

Unfortunately our friendship went south just as she was leaving the country. Our passions were different and although I was willing to learn about hers, she wasn’t willing to take the time with mine. The lessons that remained from our short reignited friendship were powerful.

1) Not only was I a single mum, but I was someone worth spending money on and time with. I was still interesting.

2) I still had a hunger to learn about everything. This is something I had side-lined on account of my responsibilities to my small person.

3) If wearing an orange dress was enough to boost your confidence, self-esteem and change your negative feelings, maybe I could make some small changes to my day to boost those things for me too. It didn’t mean I was going out of my comfort zone to wear an orange dress, but I added spontaneity to every day, ‘me’ time, reading, writing, candles –all of my personal loves (a list of small things that continues to grow weekly).

I still wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange dress, although I do have a snazzy green one that I especially like. Either way, she taught me that I needed to make time for myself and love the small things. She left and arrived and then left again when I needed her to, and for that I will always be grateful.

Life is…Birth and Death

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why’ -William Barclay

This is the place we all start, you, me, everyone else.

The sun begins to rise as a family gathers, nanas, poppas, aunties, uncles, siblings.
As they anxiously await the news they stalk the halls wearing the vinyl through. Artificial lighting bleeds into the consciousness of each person stopping welcome sleep from entering. Finally a person emerges, not just a son but now a father. A smile crosses his lips and the group know it is the news they have been waiting for. A baby has entered the world, their baby. She is pink and wriggly, eager to meet them and discover the secrets that this place holds. She cries out as midwives and their assistants examine her body, a sure sign of her strength and personality. It’s a personality they are eager to know, to shape, to support. Parents breathe a sigh of relief at the ending of one journey and the beginning of another, their new trial together as parents. The love for their child encourages them to always be the best parents they can be, through the good days and the bad. Resting on mother’s skin, both mother and child breathe together, inhale and exhale, relax.

Elsewhere in the building, another family begins to gather. Two at a time they visit, tissues aplenty. They sit solemnly in groups, talking in hushed tones. They offer words and physical comfort when needed. They know the time is near. The sun is setting upon their dreams. Holidays, board games, inside jokes, conversations, letters, words of advice, the brush of a hand, and the look upon a face are all elements that will be missed. Life as they know it is drawing to a close. Mother exits, a flood of tears and the children know that it is done. Sadness has paid a visit. It dampens their souls and their faces, and changes them. They feel weakened for a short time before they find comfort in memories, and joy of the life lived.

(Credit to for the image)
emily quotes