Volunteering Makes Me Happy

It’s National Volunteer Week and this year is the first time in over 18 years that I have not been involved with volunteering or organising something for volunteers. Last year doesn’t count because I was in Spain.

You know me, I can427740_550783328282897_1194873830_n‘t just sit on my hands, so when I saw the appeal go out for help, I stuck up my hand – or more accurately I filled in the online box.

We are in the age of technology after all and it was all just  a matter of type. Click. Upload my Working with Children card. Press submit – so easy!

So where am I volunteering? This is something different for me – it’s the Starlight Foundation Ball tomorrow night at the Convention Centre. Instead of being a guest, I’ll be helping out by donating my time as a helper for a very worthy cause to raise much needed funds to benefit Territory kids.

I’m lucky I never had to go through the anxiety of a sick child in hospital, but for those who do, it’s nice to know the Starlight Foundation is there to help make things a little easier.

It’s always a personal pleasure to give my time to worthy causes – I enjoy volunteering and meeting new people. It’s usually hard work, but also lots of fun and best of all, I almost always learn something! I’m sure tomorrow will be no different.

As I sign off, I just want to say how grateful I am to have worked with so many fabulous volunteers over the years. Many of my great friendships have been made as a result of volunteering.  Volunteers are the life blood of this country. 

Love to hear how other people choose to volunteer – there are so many worthy causes in the world.

Michelle

A Unique Friendship

Maria Angeles is my oldest female friend. My father, a Dutch Eurasian and her father, a Spaniard, worked for the United Nations and were both posted to Jerusalem. No, they were not military observers or troops, they were permanent staff of the United Nations.

Schmidt Girls College, Jerusalem
Schmidt Girls College, Jerusalem

We met at Schmidt Girls College, a strict convent school run by German nuns. Both of us were about ten years old, although neither of us is positive exactly what age we were.

What we do both remember very vividly is our German lessons, and our Albino music teacher who terrorised us.

We also recalled the very strict discipline of the nuns that would be completely unacceptable in today’s educational environment. In fact, it would be classified as child abuse and bullying.

A couple of years later, due to the political climate, I was sent off to boarding school in Beirut. Maria Angeles’s family was posted to Cyprus, then onto Geneva. My Dad was posted to Nairobi, so I finished my education in the UK and began working in London, Maria Angeles finished hers in Geneva before returning to her native Spain to start working.

Throughout those years, we remained in close touch, exchanging long letters and always planned to meet up again. Maria Angeles was the first to get married, and even though I was only in the UK at that stage, it just wasn’t possible for me to go to Spain. She sent wedding photos, and when I got married a few years later, I sent mine. As the kids came along we exchanged baby photos, and so our friendship continued even though we were living continents apart as by then I had moved to Australia. We shared trials and tribulations, stories of separations, family weddings, proud moments and everything in between.

When I moved to Spain in September 2014, I had hoped we’d be able to meet face to face. Unfortunately, that was not to be as by then my dear friend had been in a horrendous car accident. She’s left with limited mobility, unable to drive, and can only walk short distances with the aid of crutches.

The need to rely on other people to help her get out of the house has severely curtailed her movements. So although I was in the same country, my work schedule, and her mobility issues kept us from meeting. We talked on the phone and kept in touch by email – yes, we have finally graduated from hand written letters!

with Maria Angeles
Taken at the end of my 40 hour journey from Darwin – as I stepped off the train in Alicante – reunited at last!

On my return trip to Spain last week, I made it a priority to see my dear friend.

The days were blocked out in my schedule to travel to Elche, a 6-hour train journey from Barcelona. Despite it being the shoe city of Spain I didn’t venture into a single shop; instead the time was devoted to being with my childhood friend.

We talked as though we were still those two young girls. There was no awkwardness despite the fact that so many years have passed. It seems like it was only yesterday we were kids yet 45 years seem to have flown past.

Maria Angeles and I agreed, during our reminiscing that we’d both had a great life.

Wonderful opportunities, and education even though we spent considerable time in political hot spots and third world conditions (Congo, India, Pakistan as well as the Middle East).

We also reflected, with the benefit of hindsight, that it was our diverse childhood experiences that have really bound us together. Unlike those who grow up in the same place, we never had the opportunity of neighbourhood friends since our neighbourhoods  frequently changed. Our home was always where our parents were posted.

Just as I struggled to adjust to a life in the UK and then in Australia, Maria Angeles struggled to return to life in Spain.

We are both United Nations children, the people we are today is thanks to our upbringing, the challenges we faced along the way, the amazing experiences and people we met along the way, but to us it was all normal. It was our life and we just accepted it. It is only as we have grown older that we know just how different that life was.

I’m thrilled that I was able to see Maria Angeles in person once again, to have a glimpse into her life today.

It was nice and at the same time a little weird meeting her adult children as it still felt like we were those two young girls. How could she have such a grown-up family?

Equally, I think her children were as fascinated to meet such an old friend of their mothwpid-img-20150806-wa0001.jpger’s; one who came from so very far away, as they have lived their whole lives in the same place. While I was there, they had a snapshot into their mothers childhood years, and I suspect saw her in a slightly different light.

We don’t think of ourselves as being old, but Maria Angeles is now a grandmother to three gorgeous little boys, the eldest of which is three years old.  Some of my other friends are grandmothers, but to see my old school friend as a Grandmother was something else – makes me realise I must indeed be getting old even if I do still feel like a spring chicken.

We’ve promised it won’t be another 45 years till we see each other – we’ll both be celebrating our 100th birthdays if we leave it that long!  Seize the day, live life to the full because we never know what’s around the corner.

Life is fragile and I’m thrilled I got to spend those two magical days with my lifelong friend and her delightful family. Friendship is a wonderful gift and I am blessed to have some very special friends.

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

Setting a course for happiness

540447_296256847127709_197996310287097_675934_299281390_nI’ve been a bit busy since my return from Granada and not had much time for personal blogging. However, I have been busy writing for my clients and just written this article on Happiness, as part of a self-care series, which appeared on the Simple Meetings website. You may like to check it out. The actual site has some great tools for managing agenda’s in real-time that allows team members to collaborate and thus opens up more time to concentrate on other business.

If you find the tips useful, I’d love to receive your feedback either here or directly in Simple Meetings as a comment.

On a personal note, I’m very happy to report I had a fantastic trip to Granada and I’m also delighted to have my son visiting me here in Spain at the moment.

Michelle

Granada – here I come!

I’ve dreamt of visiting Granada since I was a young girl reading novels set in the days of Muslim rulers, and then in the period of Isabella of Spain. My dream is finally coming true!

Getting organised to make this trip has been no mean feat!  Student timetables had to be rejiggled so I could have today off to add to the public holiday which is tomorrow. I’ve put in very long hours, cramming  in the extra lessons  as well as maintaining all my freelance deadlines.

I’m very luck to work with great people who’ve helped make this possible through their understanding and flexibility.

We’re travelling through hill country dotted with olive groves and the road climbs higher and higher past fields sprinkled with wild poppies whose vibrant red adds a bold splash of colour to the greenery. Far in the distance the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada loom and I can’t wait to reach our destination.

Michelle

Yes…I’m still here!

It’s been almost 10 days since my last blog and some of you are probably wondering where I have vanished to! Well, I’m still here, very happily working on lots of exciting t427740_550783328282897_1194873830_nhings so have not had time to do an update on all the latest adventures which have included having dear friends to stay, a trip to Seville and a swag of new clients as well as several new students who I’m having fun getting to know.

Michelle

Pleasures in simple moments

The sun has gone on holiday. I’ve had to drag out the heater again, pile on jumpers and walk home in the rain – luckily I have a trusty brolly in my bag.

Despite the gloomy weather this as been a brilliant day which stared with a lovely email from ve540447_296256847127709_197996310287097_675934_299281390_nry dear friend (Susan) sharing all her news,  lots of nice comments, including one from a very old friend (Geoff) on my blog from yesterday.

A couple of hours later I received an extremely excited text message from a student with the news she’d passed her English exam (heaps of smiley faces told me she was pleased). The positivity continued with fun and laughter in subsequent classes and concluded with a really amiable conversation group this evening. Nothing earth shattering BUT I enjoyed every moment.

Happiness can be found in the simplest of things and by taking pleasure in the joys others experience. Make someone happy today by showing how much you value them as an individual. Pick up the phone, send a note, a text or whatever you fancy. Go on……reach out and bring a moment of happiness to both your lives.

Michelle

Living in the moment

When I was a child a year seemed like an awfully long time. It was an unbearable wait till Christmas rolled around each year. At boarding school the terms seemed to drag on interminably whilst I counted down the days until school holidays. I think that’s pretty normal for kids, approaching life with gusto, keen to move on to whatever comes next.

I remember wishing that I was 16, then I wanted to be 18 and before I knew it I was celebrating my 21st birthday. After that the years fled by at the speed of light. The older I get the faster they whizz past.

As I’ve grown older I’ve become much more aware of how important it is to cherish the precious moments in life. It’s not about the places. It’s about the moment we are in. We don’t have a rewind button so we absolutely have to enjoy experiences the first time round. I think many of us struggle with remembering to live in the moment, after all how often do you find yourself walking or driving along thinking about what you will cook for dinner tonight, or about a meeting you have to attend, a place you want to go next or something else in either the past or the future?

When we do these kinds of things (and hey, I’m as guilty as the next oappreciating_full_400f this), what we are actually doing is robbing ourselves of time to enjoy and appreciate what surrounds us at that very moment and place in time.

I know that when I am consciously in that exact moment, I notice so much more. My powers of observation are much sharper and this is a good thing. I am focussing on what is right there in front of me. It might be the beauty of some little detail on a building I pass, a wonder of nature, or a subtle unspoken key that a family member, friend or colleague is transmitting.

If we are too busy looking forward to a future point in time, we are cheating ourselves of experiencing life to the fullest. Some of the happiest people I know are not those who have everything but rather those who truly appreciate and take the time to live in the present moment.

It’s not so easy to do but I highly recommend trying to slow down, to appreciate the here and now rather than dwelling in the past thinking about what we could have or should have done. It’s past and can’t be undone. Don’t dwell too much on the future either because nothing is certain. Instead, enjoy today – as the old cliche says ‘that’s why it’s called the present’.

Michelle

PS I’ve often spoken about the importance of living in the moment but I’ve never put it down in a blog but I was inspired recently by Marie Griffith with More painful th..to write it all down.

Happiness

“People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”    Maya Angelou

Some people are naturally happy. I’m fortunate to be one of those individuals who is generally optimistic and happy. For others, it’s more difficult and that’s where small gestures can make a huge difference and, most importantly, we can all play a part in making our world a happier place. AAAhappy-2015-2

Friday 20th March is the International Day of Happiness and in the lead up I’m participating in a program to actively focus on creating happiness each and every day in some small way.

Happiness is a state of being and research shows that it is related to our connections with other people. It doesn’t mean having heaps of friends and being popular rather we are talking about authenticity. Check out the 10 keys to happier living.

Simple things that make me happy are hearing from my kids, chatting to my parents, exchanging news with my sister and brother and a gossip with old friends.  Out in the Blogosphere there are heaps of great posts that bring a smile to my face. Sharing posts, giving and receiving feedback and compliments all add to my happiness equation. Today I’ve enjoyed reading Weekend Edition by @suddenlyjamie – brought a smile to my face and a couple of EdwinasEpisodes which are always good for a giggle. I also love visiting Storyshucker by Stuart M Perkins.

Let’s all make a big effort, especially this week, to perform a simple gesture, give a smile or a utter a few words that will contribute to the happiness of those with whom we share our world.

Michelle