Ten Ways We Can Start To Change the World For Our Kids. 

When I was 20, I pledged to never buy another women’s magazine.

Even then I was frustrated by the unrealistic body image they consistently communicated to women.  It wasn’t long before that extended to the “cool” publications like Cleo and Cosmo, which I had convinced myself were different because they provided helpful articles on makeup, health and other issues relevant to younger women.
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Okay, so I was deluded about that, but it didn’t last long once I observed that these magazines also projected false and unrealistic body images that neither I, nor most of the young women I knew, could ever hope to meet.
 For longer than anyone can remember, our western society has had  an unhealthy fixation on looks. We’ve been getting it wrong since long before Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves based entirely on her portrait and promptly divorced her the minute he met her in person, citing as his reason the fact that she looked like a horse.
And it’s only getting worse. Chlidren as young as five or six are no strangers to the words “cute”, “handsome” and even “sexy”. Pre-teen kids have body image issues and the eating disorders that go with them. Peer pressure and bullying are daily realities in every school and friendship group that our kids belong to. Marketing is aimed at wearing the right clothes, having the right look, and doing what everyone else does. Social media can take those problems right into kids’ own homes. And it happens to boys every bit as much as it happens to girls.
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When does a kid ever get a chance to be themselves?
 
All of this leads to one challenging question: How do we swim against the stream when the current is so strong?
My answer is that we need to invest differently in people.  We need to model much more healthy and constructive behaviour, and encourage others to do the same.
Let me say straight up that I don’t have kids of my own. I have, however, been very active in helping a lot of friends and family raise theirs. Our house has, quite literally, been a second home for more than a handful of teenagers over the years. I’ve also been a teacher, youth leader and mentor for almost thirty years. It’s this accumulated experience upon which I base these comments.

I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does.
But I do have a few ideas about how we can start.

This is my starter list:

10 Ways We Can Change The World For Our Kids

  1. Don’t put kids or other people down. Ever. I can’t stress this enough. Never tell kids, or anyone else, they are stupid, useless or worthless. Criticise a behaviour if you need to, but do not make it about the whole person.
  2. Stop buying into what the media tell us is ideal. Choosing not to surround yourself and your kids with unattainable ideals helps to take your focus off how far short we fall. This decision had a significant effect in my own life, so I am speaking from experience here.
  3. Stop commenting on how people look. Whether someone looks beautiful, tired, or exhausted, don’t say so. Don’t comment on whether someone has lost or gained weight – in this case especially, you can safely assume that they already know. Just don’t comment on anything external. Chances are, the less you comment on it, the less you will think about it. And the more you think and talk about those things, so will your kids.
  4. Instead, comment on things that have intrinsic value. Statements such as “I love it when you smile like that!” or “You did such a good job of that! Well done” can make such a difference to someone because they emphasise one’s value rather than looks. Saying “I really appreciate your kindness” (or any other value) reinforces that behaviour as well as encouraging the person who hears it.
  5. Discuss celebrities differently. Instead of saying “I wish I looked like that!”, discuss the positive qualities of a person or the character they portray. There will doubtless also be opportunities to discuss negative behaviours and messages. Be honest about the consequences those behaviours carry for real people, even if they’re made to look funny’ popular or “cool”.
  6. Don’t comment on your kids’ or your own health, weight or fitness. Make an effort to do something about it instead of commenting on it. Model behaviours for your kids that help to establish habits that will help you as well as them – provide better food, go for a walk, go to the gym together or take up a hobby together. It doesn’t have to cost more to be better for you.
  7. Discuss feelings and values in a positive and purposeful way. Not every feeling or experience shared will be positive, but honest discussion lets kids and young adults know it’s okay to not always feel great about things and teaches them ways to handle different emotions and experiences. This encourages self-awareness, but more importantly, it builds honest communication and relationship that both they and you will value enormously.
  8. Make an investment of time, more than money, in people, especially in your kids. It won’t matter to kids what they have if they feel unloved or undervalued. Take an active interest in each one and find out what matters to them.  Building a strong, loving relationship with your child is the best gift you can ever give them. It will bear fruit in every other relationship they have.
  9. Celebrate worthwhile achievements. “You did it!” should be more valuable than “You’re so pretty!”
  10. Be realistic and constructive about disappointments and failure. Make sure they know you care about their disappointment and hurt. Don’t tell them it doesn’t matter, because it does matter to them – at least for now. In time, they will be ready for you to help them see the bigger picture and refocus their efforts and priorities.
We can’t expect to change the whole world. However, we can influence the way they see themselves, and we can influence the way our own kids see, experience and respond to the world they live in.  
And there’s no better time to start than today.

On Being A Writer.

Tonight, an author friend posed this question in a discussion group: Is being a writer just a pipe dream?

Tonight, an author friend posed this question in a discussion group: Is being a writer just a pipe dream?

She asked this in response to a controversial tweet by Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, last week:
‘English Major = Want Fries With That? Pick something that will give you enough money to write what you want.’ (Follow the link to the full article.)

It’s a thought-provoking question. Can I legitimately call myself a writer or a poet if that’s not my main source of income? Without a doubt, yes!

Authors throughout history have held other jobs to survive while they pursued their writing.  I’m just one in a very long list.

In this world, being “just” a writer is the domain of very few.

However, being a writer AND having another job doesn’t mean one is not a writer.
I don’t make enough out of writing to quit my job… far from it… but writing is both my passion and my therapy, so if I can cover my expenses… in my mind, that’s a good outcome.

If my writing helps someone feel that they’re less alone, or less weird, or can better understand someone else’s situation… that’s far more like what I want to achieve, particularly with my poetry.

I’d like to sell more books, sure. But not doing so isn’t going to stop me writing. And it won’t make me any less a writer.

You just wait til I’m dead. (Hopefully not any time soon.)
My poetry will go off the charts then.

Maybe you should buy a signed copy from me while you can.

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PSA: How to proceed if we disagree.

Please, be very, very careful about what you defend.
More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.

I don’t take sides in politics.
I take sides in life.
 
I side against prejudice, hatred, family violence, oppression and injustice.
 
Therefore, I will state quite openly that I do not endorse Trump as POTUS. At the same time, I do not endorse Madonna’s comments either. There are Australian politicians and various other public identities that I do not endorse, for exactly the same reasons.
 
If something I post offends you because you don’t agree politically, stop and think before you jump down my throat and give me grief about it.
Am I saying “I hate this person”? No.
I’ll be saying “I don’t like this action or these words”.
They’re very different things.
Chances are, if someone on the other “side” did or said that, you’d criticise them for it, too.
 
Consider that I will call *anyone* out on bullying, lying to the nation/world, or inciting mistrust, hatred and violence. I will not accept misogyny, sexism, sizeism, ageism or racism as “humour” or “lighthearted”. 
Today, it might be someone you like. Tomorrow, it might be the person you don’t like.
 
Please, be very, very careful about what you defend. More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.
 
I am not your enemy unless you make that choice.
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What my political posts on social media say about me.

I often post political content on social media. Any politician who appears to be breaking promises or doing things that are deceitful, immoral or harmful to Australia, her people and her international reputation are sure to get a mention. That’s because Australia, Australians and our international image are important to me. This is a fantastic country, even though we haven’t always done the right thing or managed things in quite the right way. Yes, the white settlers were generally hateful and cruel to the Aboriginal people, although there were some exceptions.  I rejoiced when the Mabo decision in the High Court gave back  some of the land to the Aboriginal peoples from whom it had been wrenched. I agreed with the report into the Stolen Generations, and I rejoiced when the severely overdue National Apology was made, even though I didn’t like the Prime Minister who made that apology very much at all.. I applauded last year’s apology to victims – both mothers and children – of forced adoptions in Australia during the 50s, 60s and 70s, who had waited and grieved for decades before their pain was officially acknowledged. I supported the review of educational funding carried out by the previous government, regardless of the fact that I didn’t like many of the things that PM did during her political career, either.

In that sense, I’m not particularly aligned with, partisan to or biased against any one party of politicians or another. I take pride in being a swinging voter who makes decisions about voting through conscientious debate and careful research into the policies, intentions and past behaviour of both the candidates and the parties who jostle for my vote. I don’t start from a position of having trust in any of them.  I don’t doubt that there are some who genuinely want to serve their country, at least when they enter politics, but the overwhelming impression I get from watching our politicians in action is one of a bunch of people who manipulate, connive and seek their own power and glory rather than working together for the best outcome for Australia and Australians.

Viewing Question Time from Parliament House on the ABC is enough to make anyone wonder what’s really going on in our government. Are these adults? Should they not be building Australia instead of mocking each other and acting like buffoons? Shouldn’t the debate and question/answer process be mature, dignified and centred on Australian concerns rather than party political interests? And our current Prime Minister wonders why the national broadcaster, the ABC, isn’t very sympathetic toward him? Give me a break.

Last night I posted about some of the “promises” our Prime Minister made on the eve of the Election last year.   I started by asking how long the Prime Minister and his government would continue to aggravate, disappoint and embarrass Australians with their behaviour.  I asked whether or not he realises the damage they are doing to their own reputation as well as that of this wonderful nation?  The post finished with “Please re-post to keep him to account”.

Someone commented that the post said more about me than it did about the Prime Minister. It’s only been four months, after all, since they got into government.
I replied by saying that if what this post says about me is that I believe in keeping politicians to their word and holding them accountable, that’s absolutely true.
If what it says about me is that a great deal of what Tony Abbot and his government are doing is offensive to me, that is also true.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I am cynical, outspoken and critical of anyone who brings disrepute to themselves and/or our country by being dishonest, inhumane, or publicly ignorant of the facts.
Call me judgmental, or critical, or anything you like. I don’t care. The future direction and the reputation of our nation is at stake. That’s bigger than me and what people think of me.

The Australian constitution says that our government is to be representative. The opinions, voice and concerns of the people matter. Tony Abbot believes he has a “mandate” but that isn’t why he was voted in. Nobody liked the way the previous government turned on itself and imploded. The Liberals didn’t have to do a thing to win except watch the Labour Party implode and melt down. Their behaviour toward each other over time was unconscionable, and that’s why the Coalition won the election.

I’m not prepared to be lied to, snowballed or smokescreened by any government that is behaving this way.
I’m not going to accept that their suppression of information about asylum seekers is crucial to their ability to stop them coming. I believe that it is designed to establish an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality among Australians in the hope that one day, we’ll stop thinking and asking about them, and being active in the hope of a better outcome for them all. I’m not going to accept this week’s suggestion by Tony Abbot that the ABC should be more sympathetic to the “home team”. The ABC is taxpayer funded… employed by the people of Australia, not the government of the day. When the “home team” plays poorly, and does dreadful things, reporting on that is exactly what I want the ABC to do.  Threats to the ABC’s funding in response is not going to win the government any support from me, either.

Anyone who knows me knows that I spoke out against some of the things that the previous government (s) did. I also spoke up in support of some of their actions. I’m not going to wait however long for this lot to do something good, and then say, “Well, in the light of this good action, I’m going to ignore all the other stuff.” That just doesn’t make sense.

I will be outspoken. I will say what I think. It’s my right and responsibility to do so. My aim is not to have everyone agree with me – that’s not what democracy is about. My aim is to challenge people to think, and not to follow blindly. I want people to engage in debate, to talk to their local MHR and senator, to discuss things in public forums, and to be active in the processes of democracy and representative government in this nation.

I know I’m not perfect and I get things wrong. On the other hand, I’m not leading the nation and causing the rest of the world to shake their head in disbelief at my behaviour.

What’s wrong with keeping the Prime Minister, and all the other Members of Parliament, accountable?

Wherever you live, whoever is in government, let me encourage you to participate in the process of democracy.Call, email, write to or visit your local representative, the leader of the government, and the press. Make your voice heard. Encourage others to think critically, to evaluate situations and promises and actions, and to be heard. Don’t just think about today, think about tomorrow and the future. What sort of nation are we leaving to the next generation?

If we don’t hold them accountable, they’ll just do whatever the hell they want. That’s not democracy. That’s an abuse of power, and it spells disaster for any nation that allows it to happen.