My Personal Review 2017

New Year’s Eve/Day means time for my annual update for all my friends and followers far and wide who are not on Facebook.

It’s been a year of many different adventures and challenges. But I’ve coped and am extremely fortunate to be enjoying good health and wonderfully supportive friends and family.  I am truly blessed and very grateful.

The biggest news this year is that my brother has FINALLY got his Australian residency. What a nightmare that has been, but we got there in the end.  Phew! The icing on the cake is that Moorish Cafe where he is Head Chef won two Gold Plates Awards at AHA awards. How good is that?

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2017 saw lots of commuting. I stopped counting once I got to 30 trips between Darwin and Brisbane. They were pretty much all night flights.

Once upon a time (10 years ago!), I was easily able to make that night flight then go straight into a full day of work, but it’s getting harder each year not to need a nap when I get to the other end.

I’ve been spending more time in Qld as my parents are needing more support that it’s just not possible – nor is it fair – for my sister to handle alone.  On the whole, they are both pretty well but Mum has slowed down a lot since her heart operation and Dad’s Alzheimers seems to be steady.  But we just never know what each day is going to bring, so it’s important for us to be around for them as needed.

I’ve also been able to spend more time with my niece, Ellie, and we have a lovely little relationship going which is nice. Really nice. I’ve introduced her to outrigging which she’s very much enjoying – although she won’t get out of bed and come to the 5.30 am sessions with me – so we do afternoons when her school schedule permits. 2018 sees her entering Year 12, her final year at school.

Even though this has been a very hectic year, it has also been a year that has seen me spending more time with both the immediate and the extended Van Buerle family.  Including two trips to Melbourne to see my cousin Derek who sadly passed away on the 9th May.

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Derek Van Buerle with his gorgeous wife & girls plus cousins Michael & Cheryl & me!

Sasha has her first e-book published.  The Short Story Press Collection showcases the wide variety of genres that she tackles.

It’s been a long road and I know I’m biased, but I think she’s pretty talented.  If you choose to check it out, she would be thrilled if you leave her a review on Amazon.
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Her first novel is still doing the rounds of publishers and novel number 2 was completed in November  2017 as part of Nanowrimo. It’s about to go into the editing stage which is always the hardest part.

She edits for others on a professional basis, but to edit her own work is impossible.

Wayne continues to be troubled with his back and frustrated that he cannot be as active as he once was. This does not help with his mental health, but he is making good progress thanks to a great psychologist. Being close to his grandparents is also helping enormously in his recovery.

He occupies his time experimenting in the kitchen and has become a really good cook. In typical Wayne fashion, he is very exacting and hard on himself, but we love eating what he produces. No complaints from us. There are very few disasters, and I am most impressed by the array of dishes that he can turn his hand to!

Wayne & Sasha have settled nicely on Bribie. I have been here since mid-November without having needed to take any trips – it’s been good to stay put for a bit! I still have not unpacked all my books, and at times struggle to find where I have put things in the cupboards.

Bali was another highlight in 2017 – two trips for the Refresh, Reframe & Relax Sojourns that I co-lead with Andrea Wicking. Although it is technically “work”, it is also most enjoyable for me.

Christmas this year was a very first time experience for me. We celebrated on Bribie Island and even though Mum and Dad have lived here for 16 years, whenever I have been in Australia it’s always been celebrated in Darwin with my cousin Cheryl, husband Darryl and son Jonathon plus Mum, Dad, Yvonne and Ellie made the trip to Darwin a few times over the years.  In 2017everyone made the trek to Bribie – so it was same same but different – so nice!

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Cheryl, myself & Darryl celebrating on Bribie
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 Robert Van Buerle  (senior) with grandaughters Ellie & Sasha & grand nephew Jonathon. Christmas Day 2017

My brother, Robert, also flew in on Christmas day, so it was a real family gathering.

New traditions have been started in 2017, and I think going down to the Pumicestone Passage for a midnight swim whilst watching the fireworks is going to be one of them.

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Jonathon, Ellie, Robert & myself enjoying midnight fireworks and a swim 

2018 is shaping up to be a big year already and one of my key resolutions this year is to be doing a lot more personal writing – as it has always been one of my great loves.

May 2018 see you blessed with great health and much happiness.

Love

Michelle xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vale Derek Van Buerle

Derek was my cousin. To be precise, he was the eldest of the Van Buerle cousins. Both of us were born in Malaysia, and I guess Derek has been around my life forever.

We were not the type of cousins that saw each other often. My Dad worked for the United Nations so we lived wherever the UN sent us.

A a child I would see Derek when we went on home leave to Singapore. The visits were every two years. In between those times we’d correspond occassionally. Derek’s Dad, my Uncle Harry, also used to write and send me first day covers of stamps issued in Singapore.

At about 16 Derek was sent to Australia to finish school. I was at boarding school in Beirut at that time. We continued to stay in touch, but not as often, as by this time Uncle Harry and the rest of the family had settled in Perth.

Eventually, in 1981 I came to Australia and made Darwin my home. Derek, footloose and fancy free, came to visit, driving up from Perth. In Katherine he became very ill, I think it was pleurisy – but my memory is not the best – whatever it was, driving was very painful for him. We ended up driving down to bring him up to Darwin.

Derek liked Darwin, got a job and remained in the Territory for a while; we became closer once again. It was nice getting to know each other better as adults. We used to take turns cooking and I have fond memories of Derek pouring through my stack of recipe books deciding what to cook. He was always up for trying something new.

Derek learned to scuba dive while in Darwin, then headed off to the Barrier Reef for a diving holiday. Sorting through a box of stuff the other day, Cheryl and I came across this postcard dated 1987 that Derek had sent to us all.20170429_092025-1

One holiday let to another and he ended up back in Penang, where he met the woman who would become the love of his life – Maree – and mother to his three beautiful daughters.

Over the years, we didn’t see each other very much. I guess our lives got busy with kids and work. I caught up with Derek and Maree in Canberra and in Sydney, and there was the odd phone call and letter.

As cousins, we were all reunited three years ago, when my Uncle Harry, Derek’s Dad passed way in Perth. It was at the funeral. Derek had a bad cold, but was looking forward to going on a cruise with Maree in a few weeks.

The cruise was not to be. Maree called – Derek had been to the doctor. Leukemia. Derek underwent treatment and many of the Van Buerle family members were tested for suitability as a donor for a bone marrow transplant.

During this time, we stayed in close touch. I guess we were all reminded of the fragility of life, the preciousness of family and how fast time flies past. It brings into focus what is really important.

A couple of month ago – just after I had bought the house here on Bribie Island, I got a call from Derek. I remember the moment very clearly. I was sitting outside, on a fold up chair as he said “it looks like I’m going home sooner than expected.”

By this, Derek meant that he was going to be reunited with his Father in Heaven, and would be leaving this earthly life. Treatment options were exhausted. Time was running out. But Derek, in his own way, had made his peace with this world. He had his Christian faith and was unafraid of death.

As we finished our chat,  I promised to visit. Soon. Together with my cousin Cheryl, I flew to Melbourne a couple of weeks later – 2nd of April.  Cousin Michael, who lives in Melbourne also joined us.

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L _ R Juliet, Rebecca, Maree, Michael, Michelle, Derek, Cheryl, and Kathryn – 3 April 2017

Derek was frail and skinny. But still the same old Derek and so thrilled to see us all.Me_Derek

We laughted, we talked about death, we talked of childhood memories, we drank champagne and looked at old photo albums.

We spent a very happy couple of days with Derek, Maree and their three lovely daughters.

Derek kept thanking me for coming. My response “well, I rather come and chat to you when you’re alive than come after you have gone for your funeral.” He laughed saying “blunt, but true.”

As we said goodbye, I knew I was unlikely to see my cousin again in this life. But he was content and at peace with the journey ahead of him.

The end came faster than expected. Derek passed away last night at 7.15 pm.

Vale Derek – you’ll always be my eldest cousin that has a special place in my memories.

Rest in Peace

Lots of Love

Michelle xxx

 

 

 

Christmas – a global marketing feast!

If there is one holiday in the world that has a sweeping impact on everybody, it has to be Christmas. What unifying theme inherent to Christmas makes it one of, if not THE most awaited time of the year? This seems to be true regardless of race, social background, creed, or religion.

Is it the extravagent meals, the parties, or the family gatherings that make this holiday so special? Dare I say it just might be the outrageously priced presents and the spirit of giving and receiving that has created such a global buzz – in other words commercialism! Very, very clever marketing tactics. In fact, quite brilliant – just about everyone buys into it!

Whatever it is, no one can deny that Christmas is the most expensive holiday there is, and many are saying (quite rightly in my opinion) the true spirit of the season has been missing since retailers started to realize the money making opportunities Christmas can offer.

Food for thought – many have been complaining about how Christmas mutated into a crass, and wantonly commercialized yearly event way back in the late 1800’s. While it is untrue that the Victorians came up with this holiday, they are credited for having “invigorated” it. From what used to be a solemn family occasion, manufacturers, shop owners, and industrialists cottoned on to the fact that Christmas had the potential to be turned into a profit maker.

In the quest to drive profits higher, entrepreneurs found innovative ways to get the cash registers ringing well into the 21st century. Today we see Christmas decorations and hear holiday carols playing in the background since November, or in some cases even earlier – drives me nuts!

Let’s dive a little deeper into how it all started. Perhaps by doing so, we can understand how it’s got to this ridiculous point. At the turn of the 19th century, when shop windows start displaying hand-painted Christmas cards, it signaled the start of the holiday season. A great way to remind people to buy the Christmas cards for friends and family!

Christmas comes early in Selfridges’ Oxford Street store. Photograph Anthony DevlinPA
Christmas display at Selfridges, London. Photograph Anthony DevlinPA

Then there were the department stores who created a whole new Christmas tradition – obsessive and excessive shopping. Case in point, JP Robert of Stratford was the first to incorporate a Santa for the children to visit. It was the perfect marketing ploy! A mother would bring her child to the shop knowing it would be fun and exciting to the child. Similarly, Gordon Selfridge coined the phrase “only X shopping days left to Christmas,” and made sure his department store – Selfridge’s – was at its most glamorous to tempt shoppers to come to spend their money.

Even during the outbreak of World War II, although austerity measures dampened Christmas buying, it never came to a grinding halt. By the time rationing ended the British actually encouraged everyone to go on spending sprees.

It doesn’t take a historian or an economist to figure out that Christmas has been well and truly commercialized for a very long while. It is far worse today, with easy access to credit cards, online shopping, Boxing Day sales and so much more, all designed to part us from our money.

In my book, the true gifts at Christmas are the presence of loved ones, not the presents. Sure, gifts are nice, but they are not the be all and end all – unless you’re a small child and even then, they do not need to be madly expensive!Christmas 1

My most favourite memories are of the build up to Christmas Day. The tree used to be a live one that went up in time for my birthday (Dec 23rd), Mum would always make me a chocolate cake and that was the start of Christmas for us.

This year, for the first time in a very long time, I’ll have all my family here with me for Christmas, all us siblings, Mum, Dad, nieces and nephew.  There won’t be massively expensive presents, but there will be a whole lot of love and that’s what the true spirit of Christmas is to me.

Michelle

PS – I might just get a chocolate cake again as Mum will be here for my birthday 🙂

 

Being True to Yourself – Part 2 – Responsibility

Responsibility. The word is loaded with connotations. There are so many ways that we can view them, and there are so many different types of responsibility. Sometimes people look at responsibilities as a burden. I choose to take a different perspective. I look at them as a gift.

You might well be saying to yourself, she’s an idiot! Perhaps I am.
I’m an optimist by nature and believe that, whatever we are given, we have the ability to handle. Maybe not all by ourselves, sometimes we need a little help from others. Whom we turn to for help usually depends on the nature of the help required. Seeking help is a sign of strength.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there seems to be a proliferation of individuals and companies professing to offer solutions to any problems that we face in our lives. There is also a myriad of life coaches, professional development experts and solution sellers, going under a gazillion different titles. Some use a fancy spin, some use a high-pressure sales techniques, while others take a more strategic approach using a formula.

I’ve been involved with coaching and mentoring, in one form or another, for many years now. Why? I like helping people. I always have. It’s my strength and also my weakness, but I genuinely enjoy what I do, even if there are sometimes challenges that throw me a curve ball.

There is no doubt that the personal development market and life coach business is a booming industry. I want to be very clear and say that there are some truly excellent people out there doing wonderful work, and I’m fortunate to count many of them amongst my associates. However, what I do find very worrying is that there is also a slew of offerings, from some very slick marketing operators, but they do not have the life experience to back up their claims. They fail to understand the responsibility that comes with working with individuals.

By responsibility, I mean things like the need to understand that we are dealing with human emotions. There may be deep-rooted issues, which are blocking personal success, that bubble to the surface. As a mentor or coach, it is vital to recognise this and deal with it appropriately. This includes being responsible enough to recognise when you need to admit that you are not actually the right person who can help. Often, you can facilitate an introduction to another professional you know and trust.

Not so long ago a newly trained coach, who had very little life experience, came to ask me to help with client referrals. I asked my usual due diligence questions and was appalled when she confidently told me that she had no backup supports in place, for any issues that might unpack beyond her experience. Her reasoning was she had all the skills necessary and was so confident she would never need support. Whoever had trained her had certainly done a great job to confidence build and I applaud that. However, this raised a big red flag for me as there was no sense of responsibility. Woah! It is just not possible, for anyone to know everything. Even highly qualified and vastly experienced coaches, mentors and psychologists that I have worked with over the last 20 years all have their professional support structures.

I position myself as a bespoke business strategist and sometimes this includes a level of coaching and mentoring, but I certainly do not have all the answers. Blowing my own trumpet, I know I satisfy my clients because they tell me so. They tell me I’m really in tune with their needs. I feel it is more accurate to say I’m actually in tune with myself. I take my responsibility very seriously, with my family, my students and my clients. This means knowing when I am struggling, asking for help and turning away or terminating client relationships when I know I am not the right person for them.

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Definitely out of my comfort zone with the snake, but a family photo was required.

Being responsible, also entails responsibility for self: consciously making time in your schedule, for a holistic balance in all life areas. Time to nurture relationships, time for family and time for friendships. Earlier this week, I took the day off to go with my adult family to the Wildlife Park, we had a great day connecting with each other and with nature. Moments like this are priceless as time is the one commodity that cannot be recaptured. If we cannot exercise self-responsibility, then how can we, as coaches and mentors, effectively guide others in life areas?

If you’re a coach, or looking into coaching in some capacity, and would like to know more about support structures, etc., I’m happy to answer any queries to my inbox – michelle@dragonsisters.com.au

Michelle

An Update from Australia

I’m writing this one especially for my Spanish friends to give everyone a quick catch up on what I’ve been up to since leaving Ecija on the 27th June. Big shout out of thanks to Arnaud for the lift to Cordoba railway station. I had to dash off on that particular date because I was bringing my 13 year old niece to Australia for the very first time. She is Spanish and lives in Seville and was already on school holidays so time was precious. I was thrilled, as I travelled, to receive emails and text messages from several students telling me how they had managed their speaking exam. Well done everyone!

Alexa chopsticksThe journey to Australia is not exactly short, but we broke our trip with a stopover in Singapore where I introduced Alexa to some aspects of her Asian heritage. Like most Spaniards, she’s not partial to spicy food and I think was a little overwhelmed by the Hawkers Centre, but she gamely tried using chopsticks and was successful!

Haw Par Villa, Singapore
Haw Par Villa, Singapore

She also enjoyed Haw Par Villa with the Chinese mythology scenes. It was fun for Wayne and I to see her reactions too.

We arrived in Darwin in the early hours of 2nd July, and had 12 hours here before flying on to Brisbane. Alexa really enjoyed meeting her cousins Sasha and Ellie for the first time and seeing her grandparents again.

Elie, Alexa and Sasha
Ellie, Alexa and Sasha

They spent a great week together but I came straight back to Darwin as I had a pile of work to sort out. I’d been gone almost 12 months, so as you can imagine there was a pile of paperwork and other business to attend to. Boring, but essential things like insurance documents, bank statements and so on the list goes.

I’ve had a hard time adjusting to how expensive everything is compared to Spain. No more lovely cheap fruit and vegetables, they are exorbitant here by comparison, but on the other hand the salaries here are much higher.

So what do I do with my days? I usually wake by 6 am most days. I sit out by the pool and have my coffee, the first cup of the day, as dawn begins to break. I like this time as I have a chance to sit quietly and think about the day ahead and my calendar before heading into the shower, followed by breakfast which is usually yogurt and fruit. No tostada con jamon and ham is definitely not the same as jamon in taste or texture.

I then get started on my work diary, checking emails, Facebook and touching base with US clients as they are 16 hours behind and it’s still the day before there. It’s then straight into my writing tasks, which includes blog posts, profile writing and editing for my clients. I do love the variety of genres I am able to tackle so the work is never dull.

By 10 am I’m usually onto all the local Australian tasks for the day, which I try to have cleared away by 12 noon. My afternoon work session starts at 4 pretty much like it did in Spain, but here it’s because I need to be available for European/Middle Eastern clients as they’re just beginning their work day. I’m also pleased that I am still able to work with a few students via Skype for the extra practice they need.

I do miss being in Ecija, sitting in the Salon having tapas, but I don’t miss the terribly hot weather there at the moment. My lifestyle in Spain was definitely more relaxed than it is in Australia. However, I do understand that I was in a very fortunate position to have a job when so much of the country is out of work. I was also able to maintain my freelance work so my life was very comfortable there. Even though I am back in Australia, I will maintain my Spanish rate for any clients from Spain as I know the burdens that everyone faces with the crisis and making ends meet.

My work day usually ends somewhere between 8 and 10 pm, a bit like in Ecija. It’s then time to relax and kick back with the family and enjoy a glass of vino blanco. I usually choose a New Zealand white wine which is very different to the wines of Spain.

Darwin is delightful in the Dry Season and of course it is lovely to see the dogs and be in my own house. Our entertaining in Australia is very different from Spain. We do a lot more at home, having friends over for meals.  It’s fun to cook in my own kitchen where I have everything I need instead of being in my little piso without an oven! We’ve had lots of baked goodies since I’ve been back. Alexa has also been cooking Spanish omelette’s so we’ve had touches of Andalusia here with us in the house.

Sasha and I really enjoyed watching the latest season of Game of Thrones the last few evenings before we went to bed. Last night we watched the final. It was  great to see the scenes filmed in the Alcazar in Seville, and the Osuna scenes. Now we are all in suspense for what comes next season.

Hasta luego,

Michelle

 

 

 

My Princess – 21 Today

On 26th May 1994, in the beautiful city of Darwin, amongst cool tropical breezes and gorgeous pink bougainvillea plants and frangipani scented air, a little precious bundle was born. At 3.20 in the afternoon a little girl came into the world. She was a very special girl, a DocImage177princess! My Princess – a wonderful gift from Heaven.

Our Princess was called Sasha, and  she was welcomed joyously into the world by her brother Wayne, her father and

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myself, who were so delighted to have this special liDocImage174ttle girl in our lives. I loved my beautiful little girl so very much from the moment I set my eyes on her, and refused to allow the nurses to take her from my room, despite the need to sleep. Her brother Wayne, who is 9 years older, also fell in love and became her bodyguard, a role he has not relinquished to this day.Wayne & Sasha

Princess Sasha attended Parap Primary School, Darwin High School and finally Bond University from which she graduated with a degree in journalism.

Life may not be the perfect fairy tale, but today, the world is her oyster, and as her mother I could not be more proud of the wonderful young woman she has become. Compassionate, caring and authentic, with a magic flair for the written word and a love of reading.

My little Princess have given me so much joy, so much pride and so much love. I could not imagine life without her and everyday give thanks that I was blessed with her beautiful presence in my life.

My 21st birthday wish is for my Princess Sasha to enjoy a lifetime of happiness following whatever rainbow she chooses to ride.

Love always,

Mum xxx

 

A PERSPECTIVE ON MOTHERHOOD – first published in Darwin Life Magazine May 2012

Mother, Mummy, Mum – simple words to describe what is surely the most precious, challenging and important role for women who choose to have children.

Mothers come in so many different guises, but no matter which one you take – step mothers, birth mothers, adoptive mother – all are custodians of miracles, marvellous little individuals that we nurture through childhood and watch blossom into adulthood.

There is no manual for being a mother and often the motherhood journey can be frustrating, tiring and demanding but always rewarding!

Myself with Wayne and Sasha - my two beautiful adult children
Myself with Wayne and Sasha – my two beautiful adult children

I am one of those people who are very fortune to have a mother that is also my friend. Mum has been there for me through all the ups and downs of life, lending a hand, supportive words and never judgmental.

However, it is only recently, as my own children have left home that I have come to a new understanding of the other side of what it means to be a mother.

It means letting your children have wings and allowing them to fly, rejoicing in their freedom to be an adult and knowing that you will always be their Mum no matter where they may end up in this world.

Michelle