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

 

A very blustery day….

As I am sure Pooh bear would have commented it was a very blustery day. A day to blow away the cobwebs, with some salty sea air and a brisk walk along the waterfront in the City of Sails. A change is as good as a rest.

It was a great day for a road trip and although I had hoped for a little more festive decor at Sylvia Park, the carousel was pretty and the company pleasant. I even bumped into former students Jade and the beautiful Jessica Byrne and had a quick catch-up on their lives. Then we witnessed the vista of the waterfront with its showcase of Naval hardware ncluding something I am not accustomed to seeing-armed personnel.

I am no expert on shipping, and the wind made it exceptionally difficult to get a decent shot but the size, range and variety was fascinating. It would appear to be some kind of Naval convention and there were naval ships (they probably have real names like frigate….and such) from Japan, Sumatra, Singapore and beyond.

I think what fascinated us the most was the concept that 50 years ago many of these ships would have been extremely unwelcome and yet today here they all were working together and celebrating NZ’s maritime and naval heritage. I believe the ships are there as part of the Naval revue from November 12-21st,and if you can weather the sea-breeze it is well worth a stroll abroad and perhaps even aboard to see these magnificent beasts in our harbour.

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.

Whangarei Love my Life Northland.

These are some images from this last month, whilst I have been out and about walking, mostly in and around the Town Basin but also at the Whangarei Falls. Northland is a beautiful place to live. The scenery is stunning from the wild and windswept vistas of Ocean’s Beach to picturesque coves and inlets at Tiaharuru, all sheltering amongst the giant embrace of Mount Manaia and Mount Aubrey. Whenever you reach the summit of the Brynderwyn’s heading northwards you can see its beauty and you know it calls you.

The Town basin and the sanctuary it provides has always been one of  my preferred go to haunts. It is a little bustling community of bingly-bongly shops, higher end gift boutiques and wonderful eateries, with a smattering of art galleries, beautiful gardens, unusual architecture and the ever present bohemian appeal of boats from afar moored in the safe confines of the harbour.

It is a town that knows its place and isn’t afraid to try something new and reinvent itself. It is a town with pride and more than its fair share of artists and artisans all seeking to maintain its quirkiness and individuality.

It is simply stunning at this time of year, the sun shines and everything looks bright and vibrant the flowers are in bloom, the flax flowers entice the Tui, and the banks and bushes along the river and estuary are teeming, full of song and new life. A stroll along the new Hatea Loop reveals hidden treasures, a derelict pier, some fine sculpture. an adult playground with gym equipment, some excellent outdoor artwork and the occasional glimpses of Heron’s and Cormorants feeding close-by.

Whangarei, Love my Life Northland.

What Folly is this?

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What is a folly?

a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.

Well we used to have them in the UK, Dallam tower was a folly just behind the school I first taught at. It was my understanding that it was a Victorian concept, it wasn’t so much a fake or mock up but a tribute to something that was a much larger creation or edifice

Our folly is for the great Hundertwasser project. Whangarei is great fan of Hundertwasser and is set to create a beautiful piece of architecture based on designs made in the Hundertwasser style. It divided a community.Many thought the idea was ludicrous and the building would look ridiculous. I quite liked the idea, a bit of higgledy-piggledy add a splash of colour, who can possibly object to that?

So is it really a folly? It is ornamental and serves no other purpose than to be aesthetically pleasing…but it that the case? It should be a tourist draw-card and make us all feel a little bit better about our town and our lives. Hayley has been working in the Fudge Farm, a delightful little shop at the Town Basin, it serves simply the best ice-cream in town and as we made our first homage to the Folly, we stopped for a lemoncurd small cone and she said it had been “busy as” all weekend. The car park and occupied tables back this theory up to. So perhaps it isn’t a folly after all. Perhaps it is a Wislly instead, something ornamental that has a wise purpose. Love to all. XXXX

A Leap of faith. Namaste.

ali 090This serves as a reminder as I take a leap of faith.

Some decisions require lots of thought others very little indeed. When I first got sick, some 6 years ago all I wanted to do was get better and have the doctors make whatever it was go away. Chronic illness cares little for selfish desires of either the patient or the doctor.

Chronic illness can be insidious but whereas there can be some removal or cutting out of some disease and illness this is not usually the case with auto-immune diseases, you could cut away and chop and it would often make very little difference and they are still poorly understood in some respects despite huge advances in treatment and therapy. I hope that one day breakthrough treatments with stem cell therapy might offer hope to the millions of sufferers worldwide of diseases like RA, Diabetes, Lupus, Sjogrens, Crohns, Ulcerative colitis, Psoriasis…etc etc.

We tried most drugs and it took many many years, there is no panacea, there is no quick fix, try this one for 6 months, mix it with that one for another six months.. and then you start running our of options, or the options become less and less attractive. there are folk out there who rattle on a daily basis, 8 of this, a short of that, this to counter this effect etc. Many of the drugs used in auto-immune disease therapy are cytotoxic which is effectively chemotherapy and people are taking these drugs for years and years. The side effects can be awful, the usual rashes and allergies, hair loss, nausea, diarrhoea, sun sensitivity, higher risk and probability of cancer X cancer Y and cancer Z. memory loss, palpitations, neural damage, multiple sclerosis, and fatal infections of relatively harmless bacterial and fungal infections. This is how it is written there is no sugar coating.

The chances or statistics for these rare events mean that most of us press on and try to give ourselves a health break, a chance to dampen the disease down a hope that it will completely disappear, but sometimes we do become the statistic. The infections I have had in my sphenoid sinus and other sinuses has likely proliferated as a result of my very weakened immune system from the biologic therapies that  have used even though I stopped all medications last July when I realised there was a real issue.

Three weeks on from high-risk surgery and infection is back and not paying any attention to the limited antibiotics I can use (drug allergies). Funny though it has simplified what was going to be a difficult decision. Today I met with the rheumatologist with initially hoping to use another biologic. The latest infection mean that this is not an option and have made it easy for both the rheumatologist and I to see that the only way forward at the moment is a relatively drug-free way, whatever the costs and consequences of that decision may be. I am fortunate that I am at a point in my life where I can face this option with courage instead of fear, and it might change again in the future. But for now, infection is not my friend and the risks associated with drug treatment outweigh any possible benefit to my rheumatoid arthritis. So we are bare-back riding into the night. it is a leap of faith. i have put the photo at the top to remind me of the consequences of infection.