Being Useful

For the past week I have been helping my brother in law renovate their family's kitchen. 

For 15 years they have lived with the one that came with the 40 year old house - chipboard flaking, stiff drawers, single sink, rusty  oven with only one functional  hot plate. Somehow, with 3 children, life just got too busy to even contemplate doing something as major as the kitchen and they assumed it would be far too expensive and just too difficult.
I encouraged them and convinced them that we could do it -  we could put together the benches ourselves, call in an electrician and plumber for their parts and it could all be done in a matter of days. Now we are halfway there and the kids have been witnessing how to take on a project, as well as helping out - and experiencing that empowerment of 'doing it yourself'.

I was reminded about all the building projects in my life - in Ecuador, in Woombah and even in Mum's house, finding recycled materials and finding a way to make them all fit. There's something about resourcefulness, curiosity, practicality and determination - qualities so important and useful to our kids. And the capacity to embrace change.

But what I love the most right now is being useful to others. Perhaps it seems a little trivial compared to running campaigns to 'save the earth' - but there is a deep sense of fulfilment in being available to help the people around me  - my kids, my Mum, my sister and her family...those simple things...


Mothers Day visit to Iluka

This paradise was our home. 
The wild, pristine, national park coastline was the first time and place that Pacha and Yani stood on boards catching waves – with only the wild dolphins, eagles, seagulls and pelicans (and me) looking on.
Thanks to a small club of surfers, called Iluka Boardriders, we were helped and encouraged along – borrowing boards, getting advice about staying safe in the water, connecting with others sharing a love for the ocean.
This weekend we went back, after almost 3 years, loaded with some collected boards we could now give back to the club that had helped start us off on this surfing adventure!
It was inspiring to feel the fun atmosphere, with so many kids involved (especially girls) playing games on the sand between the heats – well fed by barbeques and home-baked, healthy cookies, ‘bliss’ balls and scones.  The waves were big, clean and almost empty, the fresh autumn day stunningly beautiful, with not a cloud in the sky  – a perfect (Mothers) day!
To me, the day was also full of poignant reflection.
Reflecting about how hard I tried to do something positive in the community and how, sometimes, my intention was misunderstood.
Reflecting on the simplicity of our daily lives back then, the peace and the quiet surrounding us and the time and space that seemed to move more slowly.
Reflecting about how Pacha and Yani had improved in their surfing so dramatically over such a relatively short time while living on the Gold Coast…Despite the stress and crowded waves, their motivation to get out there and surf everyday has never waned. With some of the most skilled surfers on the planet in front of their eyes, they have been constantly inspired and challenged. Being welcomed by Snapperrocks boardriders club, making new like-minded friends, getting extra coaching and strategy to do well in competitions helps us stay ‘in the loop’ with the surfing networks.   Getting support and advice from knowledgeable people and businesses that abound in our local area, has helped Pacha and Yani surge ahead – and they still love surfing and the challenge it brings…
We are so grateful to be able to return to Iluka from time to time, to reconnect and remember. 


Pacha as a ‘Social Influencer’

Over the past month our lives seem to have been speeding up - maybe it’s the same for everyone, everywhere! For us, mostly it’s because Pacha has so many things going on at once and I guess we’re having to start to get a little more ‘serious’ about her choices for her future.

About a month ago, just after her 14th birthday, a representative from Coca Cola’s marketing company contacted Pacha through her instagram page (it now has over 10K 'followers' - take a look at @pachalight)  and asked her to consider ‘collaborating’ on a marketing campaign. Pacha has been identified as a ‘social influencer’. I had to look up the definition because I didn't even know what that meant!

We were both in a bit of shock. This was big. Of all the companies to approach her, this one - one of the most ubiquitous global brands who have made billions of dollars from selling sugary drinks - came knocking on her door. 

(I had a cacophony of images bouncing around my head; the empty coke can I found in the deepest part of the Borneo jungle – two days walk from anywhere, the fully loaded coca cola truck meandering through the dirt trails into the Amazon jungle just as that black liquid oil was pumped out of the Earth from the most precious forests, the knowledge I had of the company's privatization campaigns – basically forcing  local communities ‘buy’ their own water in plastic bottles, he human and workers rights abuses,  but oh the delicious taste of a cold bottle of that soft drink after walking for two hours up hill in the hot, sticky tropical forest, the gigantic flashing lights of billboards in mega cities, the small billboards and posters plastered in the last outposts of human civilization all around the world...yep, it brought up a lot for me!)

We were curious about what a 'collaboration' actually meant. We found out that basically Pacha would be given cash for posting a photo on her instagram that, in a subtle, ‘authentic’ way, endorsed a new flavour of their soft drink.

I am so grateful that Pacha and I still talk and share everything and we could use this as an opportunity to talk about identity and the message that Pacha was promoting through her choices and the images she posts on social media. It is a huge responsibility for someone so young – with the social pressures around her strongly promoting a more consumer oriented lifestyle, or one where young girls are only of value for their ‘prettiness’ or ‘sexiness’.

Even though we have very little money and scrape together whatever we have to make sure she has the opportunity to follow her dreams – promoting soft drinks is simply not part of the way we live. 

This is part of the reply she sent to the marketing company:

'Mum and have been talking a lot about this and we've decided that it is not the right time to do a collaboration with Coca Cola right now. 
I guess I'm just getting to know myself and what type of influence I might be having through Instagram. It's pretty important to be true to myself and what I really believe in and as we don't really drink soft drinks in my family - it doesn't seem right to promote them.’

It's both exciting and daunting to think of Pacha as a ‘Social Influencer’. Most importantly it is a journey that Pacha has to navigate herself (hopefully with me sitting beside her, supporting her all the way!). It’s time to step back and hold her up in the air ready to fly on her own wings…I’m slowly getting ready to let go…

Pacha's greatest joy right now - surfing.
Opening new doors...(photo by Bacon photo)
Tokyo 2013 - Pacha has a strong voice!


























Children weave their futures - guided by heart...

Last weekend Yani 'auditioned' for the music excellence program at the local highschool he will be going to next year.

Yani has never had a formal music lesson - but he loves music and has taught himself to play the keyboard by watching youtube videos.

I asked him to write a letter to the school explaining why he should be allowed to enter the program. Here are some of his words:

"Hi my name is Yani and I love to play the piano because music is always in my mind.

Rhythm is every where I go like a shadow it's always there even when you think your alone when I walk I always have a different beat in every step, when I surf there's always a beat stuck in my head and when I play the piano the beats just come out in the sounds of the music.

I play because every song has a meaning  - everything has a purpose. When I play the piano the sound I hear is the music of meaning and purpose.

I will always love music and try my best in every step I go in the music world. "

All parents want the best for their children. The hardest thing is to feel absolutely certain that the choices you make for them are the right ones.

Being able to support their authentic selves and their true passions is one of the most exciting things about being a parent and it has sometimes been hard not being able to pay for things like music lessons and other opportunities.

Yet, somehow, they find their own way - following their dreams, discovering themselves, understanding that they are the ones who can create their own path to the future.














Pacha’s ‘Unplugged’ Eco-Birthday Celebration

It’s good to pick up rubbish - we do it all the time…
But it’s even better to try not to produce any!

When Pacha recently turned 14 we did our best to create an Eco-birthday rubbish free celebration, and her friends didn’t seem to mind!

There were no lollies – just fruit (and a little bit of chocolate!) and nuts. There were no plastic balloons – just home made fabric flags (bunting).  There were no throw-away plastic cups or bowls – we had wooden bowls and re-used the cups we brought from home.

The handmade sushi was delicious and healthy and easy to eat. The home made pumpkin-based cake was served on squares of banana leaf and disappeared quickly as the hordes of ‘grom’ surfer boys and girls descended like a flock of seagulls after singing the traditional birthday song.
Lei's lovely Lei's (and photos)
The highlight of the day - I think Pacha would agree - was everyone making beautiful flower crowns (Leis) from locally foraged wildflower ‘weeds’. Leiona, my lovely Hawaiian friend, showed the girls how to choose and weave and thread and the most beautiful combinations of grasses and delicate flowers. It was amazing how it helped us to see the beauty all around us - even in insignificant flowers that most people just see as useless weeds.
The girls (and Yani with his best friend Cannon) sat peacefully, helping each other, sharing stories, comparing and complimenting each other on their efforts, taking photos of each other’s creations. They wore their Lei’s with pride as they went to watch the world tour surfing even happening just a few hundred metres away.  I have a feeling there will be more ‘Lei’ circles at parties to come!

This year Pacha seemed proud to be a little different, a little unconventional. She was so appreciative of what we could do – without lavish expense - in an ‘up-plugged’ birthday eco-celebration!  
Pacha's 'Unplugged' surfing life.