Portrait of a Princess- Our Diana- The People’s Princess.

Series Handmaidens of the Lord. 2. The People’s Princess. Princess Diana.

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She had innocence and beauty and to an entire generation of women who were teens in the 1980’s, she was our princess the People’s princess. We talked about her in our backyards, we searched for the latest photos in our newspapers and she was in our living rooms on our TV screens almost every day. We even had the Princess Diana haircut. Everyone got a day off to watch her fairy tale marriage on 29 July 1991. She was an ordinary girl come good, it was a Cinderella story. I think we all idolised her, even in those later years when it had all turned to custard and the cracks appeared in the marriage and she had that last summer of love in Greece in 1997. We didn’t mind that she wasn’t perfect, we didn’t mind that she was like the skin horse and some of her hair had been loved off, she was real. She had fragility but she didn’t break and she always had time for those who needed her most.

We all cried the day she died. We cried for days and more, we watched and cried at her funeral and the date of her death is forever marked in my memory as my mother died on the same day 11 years later.

She touched the people that no-one else would touch.

In those days we had something called section 28 in the British Law. It forbade teachers to promote or teach about homosexuality, it was an era where the GLBT agenda was just becoming less marginalised and it was still taboo especially with the ravages of HIV and AIDS. I taught in a rural idyll where farmers and wellington boots were the norm and had to turn down a proposed visit by the local GLBT health promotion specialist for fear that someone might slash his tyres.

In order to best serve my community, we had “that article 28 lesson” where I wasn’t allowed to teach or promote anything to do with the GLBT agenda but could attempt to answer questions with a degree of restraint. Those were the days of non-exam RS, and contemporary moral issues where we explored the burgeoning issues of HIV awareness and protocols associated with it and this is where Princess Diana really stole my heart.

She showed compassion and kindness to people that no-one else would touch. She didn’t just talk to them, she held their hands when no-one else dared and demonstrated openly that HIV couldn’t wouldn’t be passed by normal social discourse and normal social action. She gave forbearance to the weak and marginalised. She had kindness. She touched their hands “without gloves” and she touched our hearts and our souls with her insistence on doing what she believed was the right thing to do. She became the patron of the National AIDS trust and worked tirelessly with the Terence Higgins Trust. She was a fine mother to her two lovely sons and they too have continued to work with the causes their mother supported so dearly.

Speech by Princess Diana in 1991

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vijH40aUuAo

Princess Diana opened the AIDS ward at the Middlesex Hospital in 1987. There was much speculation about if she would be wearing gloves. She didn’t God bless her.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rTDm5lTwHs

Section 28 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Portrait of a Photographer-Stephanie Sinclair.

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Series-Handmaidens of the Lord – 1. Portrait of a Photographer- Stephanie Sinclair.

(The photo is of Auntie Shirley’s wedding BTW.)

This is a first for me, but as next week is our “Say no to violence” week I wanted to celebrate some of the women whom I have been inspired by over the years and reflect on their compassion, resilience and advocacy for women across the globe and to give acknowledgement to the amazing lengths they have gone to, to empower, strengthen and rebuild the lives of others – hence the title- Handmaidens of the Lord.

My first is Stephanie Sinclair. She is an amazing and award-winning photo-journalist who has captured the stories closest to many women’s hearts across the world. In 2012 I first came across her work on “Too Young to wed” It was based on a series of photographs she had captured over a long period of time for the National Geographic telling the stories of marriages and marriage celebrations across the globe. I came across it trying to find something different and of substance to inspire my teenage students who were looking at sexuality marriage and rites of passage.

2012 had been a humbling year for me, and whilst teaching High School students can be complex I have always regarded it as a privilege especially when I have senior classes full of bright and empowered young women. I wanted to share with our young women the stories of women around the world. I wanted them to be empowered and recognise their place, privileges and opportunities in a world where more than 700 million women were married before the age of 18. I wanted them to embrace their lives and value the education and opportunities offered to them by living in a culture and society that generally supports and recognises the value of women, where my students are unlikely to die before the age of 15 in childbirth unlike their peers in countries like Afghanistan.

I found Stephanie, and I found Nujood Ali and I found a beautiful colourful but corrupt world. It was the beauty of the imagery and the short succinct nature of the film that made it perfect to use in class and my students accepted it in stunned silence. Some even went to the library and borrowed the book by Nujood Ali. It was the first year I took my students globe-trotting in an attempt to get them to value their own roots and I will never regret it.

Stephanie Sinclair demonstrated compassion integrity and tenacity in her endeavours to get the issue noticed in the Western world. Her advocacy and its continued impact for women has continued to send ripples through society. We faced further horror as the years went by when we recognised the other darker sides of the treatment of women and recognised that for many our experiences here in New Zealand would seem beyond the stuff of dreams.

Stephanie set up a global initiative based on “Too young to wed” aimed at creating positive experiences and rehabilitation for women who have suffered from the abuse of child marriage. The links to the video clips and the websites are at the end of the blog. Stephanie Sinclair continues to work to support and advocate and help women to heal in other projects she is involved in. One of the latest projects is called “Story half told” and it documents in portraits the struggles and journeys of women and their families living with, dying with and surviving Breast Cancer. Again the link is at the end of the blog.

So my first portrait in my series of acknowledgments to women who have made a difference to the lives of other women is of Stephanie Sinclair. Thank you for all that you are, all that you have done and all that you continue to do. I believe my life has been richer from appreciating your work and I believe that I, in turn, have passed some of that beauty and richness on. Much love. XXX

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c_zppPutQw

http://tooyoungtowed.org/

http://www.storyhalftold.com/meet-stephanie-sinclair

 

Musings on moons and life at 50.

So in one of the photos I am definately younger than now…confession over.

It has been one of the lowest weeks I have had in the last few years and I have no ryhme or reason why, except the moon was out of joint. I celebrated my 50th birthday in style and having surgery-staying in Ward 3 at Whangarei base Hospital, but the time to heal was interrupted by the kind of stuff that saps energy and confidence and replaces goodness with self-doubt and hurt. It is a long story and it will be told but in a different time and place. You meet all manner of people who’s journeys are equally painful in life and I am eternally thankful for the kindness of those souls who give compassion and love even when their own cup overfloweth with tragedy and despair.

The moon was to have its pull in many ways and there but for the grace of God. To all who suffered from the Earthquake in the south island and will continue to suffer from the harm of aftershocks, destruction, devastation, uncertainty and all the things that will follow in the coming months and years that will drain crush and need to be conquered. Our lives are complex and often the calamaties and crisis we face are not of our choosing.

We all have battles we did not chose to fight. We all have to continue to walk on with some semblence of dignity and pray that the kindness and spirit of those around us will continue to help us walk humbly onwards on our journeys into whatever uncertain futures we are heading towards.

I have been glad to move into a new week, and know that the newest phase of my life will bring joy and heartache. A single moment can alter the course of our lives so quickly and yet a similar small seemingly insignificant moment can enrich beyond all expectations. On this positive note- I got an A for my final assignment- a wonderful 87%…and I learned something new about my Dad and those moments are the best. So Sunshine on Leith it has been indeed this week.

Climbing out of the hole.

Being positive is it actually a strategy-  or a skill or is it just one of those platitudes….fake it till you make it. It does actually work, so don’t knock it-the more you practice the easier it becomes  and the more skilled you become at changing what you feel experience and see. Reframing-  the more you actually do just that, change your perspective, see it differently..the more you are able to see the positives..does that make it a life-hack then?

Does that mean you have to be forever shackled to smiling your way through with an irreverent “fine” and a disingenuous smile.

There are odd days though,  and just occasional moments when there is no ability to fake it until you make it. Days where for some reason it was just all too much and you found yourself falling into the biggest blackest hole and knowing that the best course of action was not to try to see it as a bright and airy space with hidden silver linings but to accept the dank and dismal despair and let it wash over you like an incoming tide and just own it. Allow its waves to lap quietly at the edge of your soul and know that the darkness comes before the light and whatever pain washes over you is there to be experienced and cherished as much as all the other things.johan_tobias_sergel_-_plunging_into_despair_-_wga21160

Johan Tobias Sergel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Plunging into Despair.

Preparing for what?

 

I think that at the moment my reflections are in a sense and evaluation of how I got to where I am now and in a sense planning. Planning for what? The bus is to represent the journey and I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I turn 50 this year. So planning for what? Well planning to finally be a grown up…surely you  must be grown up by the time you are 50? I just don’t know how I got to be here so fast.

It is as if I am only just coming of age, only just becoming a legitimate adult only just passing for good enough or accepting that I am worthy of the title of fully qualified adult human being, almost like somehow up until now I have been some kind of imposter, faking it until you make it and yet somewhere between 40 and 50 it happened without me knowing it or planning it or preparing for it.

I can now say that I don’t need your acceptance to justify my life, my actions my beliefs my intentions. Your judgement is exactly what it is – your judgement. I am worthy -I am who I am. It doesn’t matter what you make of me.

I used to look at other people and wonder how they did it so well, they were already grown up, already experts at being themselves, they already had that air that indicated they knew what they were doing and they were doing a darned good job of it, whereas I was always a little bit scruffy and unkempt, giving off the air that maybe I didn’t really have the foggiest. I just wasn’t polished enough. I was somehow always the reserve waiting on the sidelines to be good enough to play. Always striving to achieve success at something to validate my worth and existence in the eyes of others having to prove my capabilities. Perhaps it is because I got asked to mime in choir at primary school, perhaps it’s because I got asked to cut up oranges for the netball team instead of play, perhaps it’s because my job was filling up the tampax shelves on a Saturday and only getting to be on the beauty counter when someone was off sick, but even then being assured that I really wasn’t the ideal face of Lancome.

Somewhere though it happened, perhaps not in the way that I had envisaged and often through circumstances that weren’t part of any grand plan and just a little bit accidentally. I grew up and now I am planning to enjoy what I have become. I think I am planning to make 2016 the year of being 50 and the year of being me, the real me, the person that I am.

In the beginning

I haven’t done this before…so this is in the beginning… I have called it  spoonful of sugar because I think I am an optimist and although there are quite a few ups and downs in my life…I try to take it as it is and keep going. I think Spoonful of sugar is a positive thing and I try to find positive things to help me keep up and running. I might make a few typos some days are worse than others but that is how it rolls.

Spring Rainbow on Mount Tiger
Spring Rainbow on Mount Tiger

I think I use my surroundings and the beauty in the environment to keep things in balance. Homeostasis as one of my students would say. I want to do this every day in November. I did Nanowrimo for a few years on the trot and did finish each time… a whopping 50,000 words in one month…but this is a different part of my life and a different story… so I am trying something different.