The Power Of Woman – Jennifer Kieves

Growing up my oldest sister Jennifer and I were never really close. We have a 13 year age gap so there was never a time we could relate to one another. She’d be an angst teen obsessing over boys while I was learning how to walk. When I became an angst teen obsessing over boys – she was picking a wedding dress and having babies. It’s only now that I am in my late twenties with a family of my own that I feel like we are finally at the same age of life, that we can finally relate to one another and talk for hours on end.

Growing up there were three things that I was protective of. One was my wardrobe, touched my organised wardrobe and you were about to become a victim to a teenage temper tantrum. Two, my collection of Korean soap operas – never ever make me press pause during an episode. Three, my family. I, the annoying youngest sister was the only one who was allowed to tease them.

I remember I was 19 years old and I was upstairs in my room crying to Tony (this was before we got married – young love). By crying I mean screaming and yelling with tears running down my face. We had just come back from a Sunday church service and I was furious.

While we were at church that day Tony’s best friend had shown me a few FB status’ and comments that had happened the night before. FB status’ and comments that were ridiculing and bullying my oldest sister, Ate* Jennifer. I was furious. So furious that I was in tears. At the time I wasn’t as present as I am now on social media, so I had absolutely no idea all of this was happening.

“Calm down hun, it’ll be okay.” Tony would try and comfort me. Bad idea. Just made it worse. Men should know never to tell a woman to calm down when she is on a rant.

“How dare they! How dare these people make fun of my sister! How dare they judge my sister! They have no idea the bullshit she’s had to go through!” I was fuming.

It had been less than a year since Ate Jennifer and her three children had left her husband and moved back into my parents house, but it was for years before that that she was in an abusive relationship with a man who was addicted to all types of substances. Ice, gambling and physical abuse was his substances of choice.

My father and Ate Jennifer heard the commotion. They both came to the room to see if everything was okay. That’s when Tony explained the story to them both. Here my family thought Tony and I were on the brink of breaking up, when we weren’t. I was crying because people at church were gossiping, labelling and judging my sister publicly on social media.

“It’s okay Vanessa, don’t cry…” She softly said to me as she patted my back. “I’ve been through too many thing’s in my life to care what people think about me.”

Yes, my sister who was the subject of ridicule was comforting ME – 19 year old me who couldn’t control her emotions.

Now, if you know my Ate Jennifer you would know she’s a very kind and soft person. Too kind to be honest. She has a lot of my dad’s personality in her. People would often confuse that kindness for stupidity. That softness for ignorance. I use to think the same. That was until I grew up and she opened her soul to me for this article.

I thought I had known everything my sister had gone through – I didn’t. And now that I am older, more mature, more wise. Now that I am a mother, a wife, a woman, I see it. I see her for who she really is. A loving, kind and strong woman who has had a past, but not a past to be labelled as an excuse of judgements and bullying. A past that gave her the battle scars and the lessons that has made her into the devoted mother she is today.

“He seemed like a really good man – I fell in love…”

“It was 1996 when my ex husband was first introduced to me. I remember thinking ’No!’ when I first heard about him. But then people told me to give him a shot, go on a date with him, if I don’t like him I can walk away. So, I gave him a try.”

Like normally, in the beginning of every relationship, they couldn’t get enough of one another. “Everything about him seemed so normal at first. We went on dates, we watched movies, we ate. We got to know each other, he cared about me, he seemed like a really good man – I fell in love…

When he asked for her hand in marriage she accepted happily. They both had two sons and a daughter- my nephew Joshua. He was a cheeky little bugger, with the biggest head I’ve ever seen. Jenelle my gorgeous and funny niece, who was born under emergency caesarean at 25 weeks premature. And my nephew Monico – an older version of my son James.

When she noticed the substance abuse

“He would never spend time with the kids. We would hardly see him. He spent all night out with friends or in his garage where he made a man cave for himself. And he would sleep all day. He would get a job, work for a couple of weeks and then stop again. He wouldn’t work.” Ate Jennifer began explaining the moments when things started getting fishy.

“I noticed people who I never knew started coming over to our house and spending hours in the garage. The kids would see these strangers who came over and would ask me ‘Who are they mum? Why are they going in the garage with dad?’ I got curious. One day when he wasn’t home I looked into the garage, that’s when I saw all these drugs and equipment he had been using.” She realised what he had been spending all his nights doing.

He was a drug user and a dealer. He would deal out of our family home.”

When the abuse started

It was before Jennifer was pregnant with Monico when things started to get abusive. “He was mentally abusive. He would call me horrible names and say horrible things to me. He wouldn’t help me with the housework or with the kids. He would always say it’s a woman’s job. Its a woman’s job to clean the house. It was hard when I was heavily pregnant with the kids. I would do everything.”

Then one night, which started out like every other night. Joshua and Jenelle were sound asleep in their beds and Ate Jennifer had ended her day. It was in the middle of that night when she was suddenly woken up by her husband. “I woke up to him turning the light on in the room and yelling. ‘Are you cheating? Are you seeing someone?’ He was so angry and I had no idea why. That’s when he suddenly hit me and gave me a black eye.” Ate Jennifer was mortified and had no idea what was going on.

The next day when he was sober, he didn’t realise he had hurt me. He saw my black eye and asked me what happened. He didn’t remember it was him who did it. I told his family. I told them I wanted to leave him. I told them I was scared.” But instead they told her he would change. To give him a chance to change.

I loved him. He’s the father to my kids. I thought that he would change for me and the kids. I thought he loved us enough to make a change. I look back at it now and I realise he was a smooth talker. He was manipulative and I believed him. ” So she gave him a chance – many chances actually.

Things only got worse…

“It was my birthday. Everyone, family and friends celebrated. All our uncles and aunts were there. We were at a karaoke restaurant.  I was looking at people coming people in and out of the restaurant. Then he started yelling at me in front of everyone ‘Are you looking at somebody? Who are you looking at?’ He was causing such a scene. He suddenly got up and tried to hit me in front of everyone. In front of mum. In front of dad.” It was then that our father and uncle got up and started yelling at him to stop.

“It was an emotional night. That was how I spent my birthday. I stayed at mum and dads house that night. When I took my makeup off that’s when mum saw my black eye. That was the first time that mum and dad knew about the physical abuse. They were so angry. Dad hated him since the day they met. Dad doesn’t hate people. Dad knew something wasn’t good about him. They wanted me to leave him.” But she couldn’t. She had so much faith in their marriage.

“He was so angry and aggressive. He turned into this monster. He would threaten me with a knife. He would steal money from my wallet to gamble. There was a time when the kids and I had nothing to eat and no money for food. Mum had come to the rescue with groceries and food. He wouldn’t work so we had no money for rent. We got evicted from homes. It was horrible. He would always promise me things will change and I believed him. I would pack my bags, only to unpack them again.”

The story of Jezebel and Jasmine

“I was under so much stress, high blood pressure and anxiety. It caused me to lose two beautiful daughters.” There was Jezebel who was a still born at 23 weeks. Then there was Jasmine who was born at 30 weeks.

“They both were born without kidneys. Jasmine was born alive. She was so beautiful. She was so adorable. She looked like a healthy baby. She was so plump and looked just like a doll. The doctors told me she’d only live for one day. I remember wanting to never let her go, she died in my arms the next day…  If they both lived they would be teenagers today…

This was one story that I found hard to fathom. Admittedly the thought of even having to put your own child to rest brings tears to my eyes. To have life ripped from you, it’s just something that no parent should have to go through.

The moment she walked away.

“He would always be too lazy to take the kids to school. He would always just tell me to let them have the day off.” It was when Monico had just turned 2 months old when Ate Jennifer snapped.

“Joshua and Jenelle had missed so many days of school already. I had gotten them both changed into their uniform, packed their school bag and ready to go. But he didn’t want to take them. He was sleeping on the couch because he was out all night. I was over it already. I yelled at him ‘You’re so lazy! You always give them days off! Will you just get up and take them to school!’ I was so fed up…” Ate Jennifer recalls her memory of that day.

“He got angry and he suddenly got up. He picked up a chair and threw it at me. I was holding Monico in my arms during that time. The chair hit me but only missed Monico by a few centimetres. The kids saw it. Joshua saw it. It happened right in front of my kids. I just kept thinking what would be going through my kids minds.”

That’s when Jennifer gave up on trying to make her husband change and decided on making hers and her kids future change. “That night I packed all mine and the kids belongings into bin bags. I didn’t care about what I packed. I just threw everything inside. I just wanted to get away from him. I wanted to get the kids away from him. I had enough. He tried to stop me. He told me he would change. But I knew he wouldn’t. I didn’t want the kids seeing this. I didn’t want the kids being raised thinking that this was normal.” That night my sister and her children moved into my parents house. That night was the beginning of their new future.

Her life now

“When I left I felt all the stress disappear. I’m in a happier place now. My kids are happy. Even though the family isn’t a regular family, with a mum and a dad, it’s our very own little family. My kids have hope. They have a future.” Ate Jennifer began to smile. “Joshua is about to graduate high school, he has a part time job and earns his own money. Jenelle just had her year 10 formal last year, she wore a red dress and mum curled her hair… Just a few weeks ago Monico got awarded with a principals award for mathematics… my kids have such a bright future now.”

I asked her if it’s been hard. “I have my moments where it’s hard. I am both mother and father. But my kids keep me together. My kids made me stronger. They’ve made me rise above all my struggles and be strong to give them a good future. They never gave up on me and I could never give up on them.

“I had people help me. Mum and dad were always by my side. They gave me strength on days when I felt like giving up. I’m so thankful. I’m thankful for having the strength to leave him. I’m thankful for having the strength to move on from the past and I feel so relieved. I used to wake up everyday worried and scared. If I never left him, who knows where I would be right now. I could be dead. My kids wouldn’t have the future they have now.”

Her message to you.

“They’re not going to change. If they haven’t changed now then they never will. If you are in an abusive relationship, get out of it. It won’t be easy. But it’ll be better. I want you to learn from my experience, not have to go through them. Think of your children, think of your future.”

As I looked at my Ate Jennifer, I saw her in a different light. A new found respect. In times where people would judge her, ridicule her and humiliate her – she never gave up. She took responsibility for not only her role as a mother, but her ex-husbands role as a father and provider.

Never once did those people who ridiculed and bullied my sister ever apologise. They’ve had many chances to, they see her every Sunday. But they never have. I do hope one day they read this article. And I do hope that they realise that on that Saturday night, when they publicly humiliated my sister, they humiliated one of the strongest and bravest women I know.

Ate Jennifer, you are a beautiful person, a wonderful mother and a loving older sister. I commend you in so many ways. You have shown strength and you have told the world ‘f*ck your labels, I’m not simply a single mother, I am a provider, I am kindness, I am strength and I am love’. Thank you for always letting your smile shine. Thank you for allowing me to share your story with the world. I love you and I hope you know you are a fantastic mother. You have raised my beautiful niece and nephews to be the most kindest and loving human beings I will ever know. Dad would be so proud of you right now.

And to my readers, thank you once again for reading this article. Please know that if you are ever in a situation where you feel there is no way out, know there always is. It may be a tough road ahead, but that road is what’s going to lead you to your future. Just look at my Ate Jennifer.

xoxo Vanessa.

*Ate – a filipino term added to females older than you as a sign of respect.\

The Power Of Woman – Maria Gallardo Goddard

This is an article about one woman’s courage. A story about finding yourself in the darkest moments of your life and finding that inner courage, the inner strength and will to stand up and fight towards the path of happiness. 

Meet Maria Gallardo Goddard, also known to many as Maricel. She is a mother, a cancer survivor and a fighter. She is a woman who has fought her battles, struggled with her demons and traveled from depression and anxiety, to a home of happiness and contentment.

Picture This… 

It was a Thursday morning, the sun was peaking through the clouds and the sound of silence filled the room. The kind of silence that tells you the kids are at school and everyone else is away at work.
It was during this silence that Maricel and I were seated on her back porch, the still water of her pool and vegetable garden in view. 

“You look so nervous!” She teased, a cup of fresh coffee in one hand and a cigarette lit in the other. 

“I am,” I admitted. It was my first interview and I had an excited feeling that this experience was going to exceed my expectations. It did. 

My hands trembled as I pressed the record button on my voice recorder. This was one interview, one story that forever changed my perspective and my life. 

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” This is a quote from Confucius that has resonated with Maricel’s life. It is the best way to describe what she has been through, to where her life is now. 

As I look at where she is now, how happy she is, her family, her beautiful children and supportive husband, I can’t help but feel empowered at what a strong woman she is. All the stones she moved, to move her own mountain.

“I was blinded by my fears…” 

“Depression back in my days was looked at as a sickness. It wasn’t known or
spoken about, as it is now. People were afraid that it was sickness that was not accepted… I felt alone…” Maricel began to describe to me her battle with depression and anxiety. 

“When you feel like you’re alone you have a different mindset. I felt like I had no one there, when really I had everyone there. I just felt like I couldn’t turn to them. Instead, I ran away from them – the people that cared about me the most. Instead, I turned to drugs and alcohol…”

She took a drag from her cigarette. “I had all this built up anger and resentment… I hurt people. I wouldn’t care about the consequences of my words, I wouldn’t care if what I said would hurt someone… I was blinded by my fears.”

Escaping from reality

I asked her about her darkest moment, her brows furrowed as she remembered the day. “… I’ve tried to commit suicide. I was on suicide watch. There was also a moment where I nearly over dosed on drugs. I was found passed out on the floor of an RSL club. My mum was concerned, she started yelling at me and I just clicked it. I remember pushing her so hard that she fell to the gutter. But her eyes, I looked at her eyes, even though she was angry, her eyes were filled with tears of hurt and disappointment. I remember just thinking to myself ‘what have I done?’…”

That’s when Maricel decided to escape from her reality and buy a one-way ticket to the Philippines. “Now that I think about it, now that I have more clarity, I think my parents let me go to wake up. Let me experience it all in hopes that they would get their daughter back.” And she was thankful. Living in the Philippines for seven months changed her life. “At the time I was involved with the wrong people… If it wasn’t for my experience in the Philippines, if it wasn’t for what I had gone through, I’d probably be 6 feet under right now.”

“…I went through the worst parts of my life…”

Maricel described her lifestyle in the Philippines. “I had no money, no work. I gambled, drank and spent it all on drugs. I went through the worst parts of my life there. I was kicked out of my families home in Manila.” 

She then fled from the city of Manila to her family in the province of Zambales. A place where poverty and struggle is real, where there were only hard working farmers and her own thoughts to keep her company. 

“When I was there that’s where I felt the loneliest. My aunt was a pig farmer. There was no running water. There was no one around. I’d spend my days learning how to raise pigs – from the moment the pig fell pregnant, sleeping next to her days before she gave birth, to helping deliver the piglets, I learnt it all. It was my family’s livelihood. I did it because they did it.” 

She began to smile. “There was no running water. Only a well. A well that could only draw water once it reached to a certain level. I would use that well as my exercise. ‘How many buckets of water can I draw today?’ I would use that time to meditate, pray, gather my thoughts and reflect on life. That’s when I found my spiritual side.”

Her moment of clarity…

“My aunt and uncle had a family of five kids, plus our grandmother and I. That was 9 people living in that house. Everyone was in hardship and yet they were still so accommodating and kind.” 

She began telling me the page-turner; the moment that snapped her out of her mind set and made her want to make a change.

“Papa would send me money every fortnight, I would put that money towards my aunt, my cigarettes, and coffee. On this particular day, it would be a week before I’d get that money. My aunt had no money; we couldn’t even afford to buy any food. They ended up borrowing a can of sardines from the corner store; we weren’t even able to pay for it. That small can of sardines was to feed the 9 of us that night.” She took a pause and lent forward. “They told me to eat first. I looked at my aunt and I just couldn’t… Yes, I was hungry, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t take away what little they had between themselves.” 

She altered her future.

It was at that significant moment that Maricel found herself. She began comparing what happened to her in Manila; being kicked out of her families home, the money she had wasted on drugs and alcohol, things she didn’t need, to what had unfolded right before her eyes. “I had my family, my own flesh and blood, who were barely surviving. They were doing everything they could to survive. The kids would wake up at 3 o’clock every morning just to take the long travel to school.” 

It was then and there that Maricel made a promise to herself. “I can do better. I can do something to help people. I can do something to make life easier for them. I am so blessed with the opportunity in Australia to work hard… so that they would never have to share a small can of sardines again… I can turn my life around.”

 She then returned to Australia to attend her brother’s wedding. She had no job, no money, nothing to offer her brother and his wife as a wedding gift. All she had was a $10 note in her pocket and her handmade card. “It wasn’t much, but it was all I could give at the time. I wanted them to know it’s not much now, but in the future, I want to provide for them with all that I can. It was a symbolic moment in my life where I knew I was heading to better things.” 

Family gave her strength, purpose, and support. They gave her courage to see past her depression and anxiety, to see past the negative and fight for life.

“Depression happens to everyone for different reasons, it doesn’t mean that you are weak. The more that people acknowledge depression, the more that you as an individual acknowledge it, means the sooner we can accept it and work through it. That is when you start to heal in ways that you could never imagine. Never tell someone that they’ll get over it. Never ignore and dismiss it. People need to hear encouragement. People need to hear ‘are you okay?’ They need to know they are not alone, that they have someone to turn to – someone to talk to.”

Maricel changed her life. She took control and changed the direction her life was taking. “When you can manifest an idea and you can take the first step, you are already on the way to success.” 

Faith & Love

She then met Kenneth, the apple of her eye, her number one supporter and husband. They fell madly in love and cherished the idea of one day having a family. But as I stated before, Maricel lived her life moving stones. 

 They tried. They tried everything for a long time to have children of their own. Disappointment would hit them, month after month, negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. 

I, as a mother myself couldn’t even imagine wanting to have children so badly, being ready physically and mentally to have children, and yet to find it so hard to fall pregnant.

But they never gave up.

One beautiful day, Kenneth and Maria got the news they had been waiting for, they were going to be parents to a beautiful little girl. 

Her war with cancer

On her 30th birthday, just before the news of her pregnancy, Maricel noticed her voice had disappeared. A month went by, she fell pregnant with their first born, but she still knew that something wasn’t right; this couldn’t be just a regular cold. Countless visits to the doctor told her that there was a possibility she had cancer. The doctor advised her that being pregnant, you’re not in a position to take the tests, the radiation and chemotherapy that you would normally undergo due to the risks to the baby. So she waited. 

It was on the 10th of July 2009 that their beautiful daughter Lotus was welcomed to the world. Maricel and Kenneth were now a family of three.

It would be six months until Maricel would go under examination. That’s when she was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. She underwent radiation therapy. She fought hard so that she could spend her life with the family that Kenneth and her had fought so hard to create. “I remember when I was under radiation no one was allowed near me. I couldn’t see Lotus. Kenneth had to wear a protective suit when he saw me.” It was heartbreaking. But she conquered and fought. Now she is cancer free, has a happy home and has not one, but two beautiful children.

My own moment of clarity…

Maricel did not let the things that happened in her life define her; she did not let these events control her. Instead, she chose to rise above it all and learn from it. She overcame obstacles that make me question whether I would have been strong enough, if I were in the same situation.

“I didn’t surrender, at any given time I could have, but I didn’t. And that in itself made me realise how strong of a woman I really am.” 

“Embrace everything that comes to you. Life will give you things you never asked for. It will give you things you never wanted, but that’s no reason to run away. People always assume they know their life’s outcome before they’ve even tried to live it, so they get scared and they run away. Face your fears, learn from your fears and keep trying. Losing could be the greatest lesson you’d ever get before you try again and actually win.” 

That night I went to bed with a perspective I didn’t wake up with that morning – with a lesson I didn’t learn until that interview. I remember watching her talking to her children, snuggling with her husband in front of the television and I just thought to myself – If she had given up so many years ago, if she had been successful with her suicide attempts so many years ago, then she wouldn’t be where she is today. She wouldn’t have met Kenneth, she wouldn’t have had her children, she wouldn’t have shown me a different outlook on life. And I thank god, I thank every being and greater existence out there that she didn’t give up. That she fought and showed the world how powerful she is. 

Thank you Maria. Thank you for teaching me so much and for having such a kind heart. Thank you for trusting me with your story. I only hope I could bring your great worth justice. You are a strong woman, a role model to many and I hope you see that you give women everywhere the power and the strength to fight through the struggles they meet in life – no matter how big or small they may be. 

To end this post I will leave you with a Chinese proverb that inspires Maricel and humbles my heart:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.”  

Take your own path, work through your own struggles and know that you will get to the peak of that mountain – your happiness. 

xoxo Vanessa

Hitting A Creative Block.

Running into a creative block can be such a pain, especially if your means of living demand you be creative 24/7. As fun and thrilling as a content creator and art directors role can be, it can also be exhausting and mentally draining.

One minute you’re inspired and shooting ideas out of your arse like rainbows and glitter, the next you have no ideas and are literally fumbling for some sort of motivation to even switch your brain on.

Musicians, poets, writers, photographers, directors, script writers, performers, even professors. You’d be surprised at how many occupations don’t just rely on the right side of the brain.

It happens to me all the time. For months on end I’ve got a book full of ideas, directions and mood boards. Content is being pumped out of me day after day and I’m on a bright, fast, creative ride. Then suddenly, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I have days on end where the thought of even turning on my laptop, reviewing a film that is in the process of being edited or launching photoshop makes me feel like vomit. Literally. Vomit. I’ve tried to force myself to go with it and try to “work” through it and honestly? It made me feel worse. Soon no ideas were cutting it. All imagination felt like mush. That my friend is what I call a creative block. A barrier to inspiration. A brick wall stopping you from thinking outside the box. A brain fart. Yes, a brain fart.

Too often enough I’ve experienced it. So I’ve learnt how to manage to it. Yes. I’ve learnt how to manage a brain fart (lol). Here are the things I do when I hit that brick wall and find myself with a head cold.

Get Lost – Escape

I get lost. Not in the sense that I’m in the wilderness, I have no idea where I’m going and I’m on the brink of death because I’ve run out of water – NO, we are not talking about experiencing the film 127 Hours here. I am talking about going outside. Stepping out of your office/workspace and losing your mind. Go for a hike, go for a day trip somewhere. Explore.

Personally I love hitting the gym and running. Not weights. Running. Why running? Because instead of me focusing on reps and sets, I focus on nothing, absolutely nothing. Thoughts pop up, then thoughts turn into ideas and soon ideas turn into me jumping off the treadmill and writing bullet point notes on a piece of toilet paper in the gyms bathroom – True Story.

Whatever form of active recreation you choose to do, make sure you lose yourself and let your mind wander.

Get Digital

Digital has never been as advanced as it is today. We’ve got Netflix, Stan, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr or one of my favourites out of them all – Pinterest. I-am-a-pinning-queen.

When ideas run dry I turn to social media. I turn to Pinterest. I turn to Youtube. I turn to Instagram and Netflix. I analyse composition, ideas, content, angles, transitions. I look at what these other creators have done and I take flight on my inspiration jet.

Declutter and Organise

I am not talking about turning into a full blown minimalist, I’m just talking about keeping your space and time organised.

‘A cluttered room creates a cluttered mind.’ Live by it every single day. If my office is in shambles, if my files are scrambled on my desktop, if my SD cards are full of old content – then I can’t focus.

A mess is a distraction.

Personally? I find the biggest satisfaction after spending a weekend spring cleaning.

I am a #planneraddict (see what I did there?). I have everything split into notebooks and planners. I have a large divided notebook for my blog, youtube and photography ideas. I have a smaller pocket sized version that I bring with me on the go (you never know when an idea will come to you). I have a large A4 planner for my daily schedule, partnered with a seperate small pocket planner for meetings and errands for my work bag. I am a planner addict.

Anything that comes to my mind I have to write down. This blog post? It’s written down, in bullet form but none the less, the idea was written down.

It doesn’t matter what form of planning or organising methods you use, what matters is that it works for you and it helps you to clear your mind.

Express Yourself

Just as Charles Wright sings it. Express yourself. Sometimes pent up frustrations, sadness and emotions can build this wall, stopping you from entering that creative state of mind. Spiritually deep? Maybe. But us creatives always think outside the box.

So what do you do when you are met with this huge emotional fence? You knock it down by expressing it, express how you feel, express your emotions. Deliver it any, which, way, how you want to do it.

Do you paint? Paint it.

Do you write? Write it.

Do you photograph? Capture it.

Sew, cook, bake, play an instrument. Whatever your weapon of choice is, choose and create some real, juicy damage.

Enjoy The Moment

We as busy adults have such a hard time in living and enjoying the present moment. We are always so busy thinking about the future, steps we will taken in the future, for the future and all things alike. Take a moment for a breather. Meditate. Enjoy the moment you have and be positive about it.

Maybe this creative block is a sign for you to take a moment to sit back and relax a little. Go have a glass of wine (maybe two), go get a massage (or a back scratch), go on a date (go get some), have some good quality family time with your kids and your spouse (they miss you). Read that book that’s been sitting on your night stand collecting dust the last few months. Go call that friend you’ve been meaning to talk to for the last few weeks or go start that online course you enrolled in four months ago.

Sometimes when you hit a brain fart. A creative block. It is a clear sign for you to step back, turn away and enjoy the moment. Ideas will just come through naturally.

Thank you all for reading this weeks post.

I hope all you creatives have found some inspiration and ways for you to clear your mind. Let me know if theres other things you do to work through a creative block, I am very interested to know.

xoxo Vanessa






Five Things I’ve Learnt In My First Five Years Of Marriage

Life. I look through my life and I remember everything through moments. Significant moments. Moments that play and leave a permanent beat in my very own musical.

With each scene that is played, with each compelling moment that has passed, it is always partnered with a song. And when I hear that song play on the radio, when I hear that number play on my soundtrack, I am reminded. I feel the feelings I felt through that moment, I see the things I saw through that moment. Nostalgia – The combination of all five senses.

When I hear 50 cent I cringe as I remember my days in High School. Red dyed hair straight from the box and bootleg pants, partnered with a bad attitude.

Trey Songz brings me back to the beginning of my relationship with Tony when we spent hours on end talking, holding hands and then rushing to come home in time for my dads strict 10pm curfew.

The road is long, with many a winding turn…” That heart wrenching beginning to the beautiful song by The Hollies. Always bringing me to back to the cold, winter day that we had to say goodbye to my father.

Luther Vandross always brings a smile to my face as I remember my father walking me down the aisle, placing my hand into the hands of the man that is now my husband, Tony.

Tony. He is a song on his own. When I hear his beat play I am reminded of our marriage and our wedding day. Even though we had been together for three years before it, our wedding day marked the beginning. The beginning to what is now our beautiful family. Our home. Our lives.

I look back and I see that our marriage has made so many beautiful moments. We have two amazing children. One who claims her first job will be her transforming into Ariel – The Little Mermaid. The other claims that our leather sofa needs to be redecorated with crumbs, sticky fingers and toy trains.

Through my husbands support I discovered my passion for film, my love for writing and my crush with photography. We’ve travelled, although we haven’t seen all corners of the world – we’re on our way there.

Recently Tony and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary. We spent the night away from the kids. It was peaceful. It was wonderful. It was needed – boy was it needed!

We talked and talked and talked. We talked about the kids, the past, the future. Our dreams, our goals, what we miss and what we are looking forward to. We ate under the stars light, with the oceans view. We laughed, we held hands, we cuddled and just flourished in each others uninterrupted company.

The next morning we woke up with a hangover and the hot Australian Summer – but that’s another story.

I am no veteran when it comes to marriage, I am no expert. But I am experience. And what do you do with experience? You learn from it. Here are Five Things I’ve Learnt In Our First Five Years Of Marriage.

Goals & Dreams – Marriage is not the end of your life.

Tony and I got married when I was in my early 20s. I remember the day we announced our engagement we had more people asking if I was pregnant than actually congratulating us. A lot of people were questioning our decision.

‘Why on earth would they want to get married so young? There has to be a reason.’ Is love not reason enough?

‘I bet you she’s pregnant’. I wasn’t.

‘Are you sure?’ I’ve never been more so.

‘Aren’t there things you want to achieve?’ Absolutely.

Well there goes your life!’ Or the beginning of it…

I don’t know what it is, but most people are implanted with the thought that marriage means you have to give up all your aspiration and that you can’t accomplish or see the things you’ve always wanted to. I’ll tell you the truth? It’s complete bullshit. Unless you’re marrying a couch potato. Please never marry a couch potato.

What I’ve learnt in being married to a man like Tony is that you don’t lose your dreams, you don’t lose your ambition or your career. Marriage becomes a partnership. My goals became his goals, his dreams became my dreams and we both worked hard to accomplish all of it.

I don’t feel like it made my life stop. I feel like it made my life begin.

I’m getting closer to what I want to accomplish because I have a partner there pushing me, ready to catch me if I fall. And if I do fall, I have someone there to dust my right shoulder, as I dust my left and try again.

And it goes the same for him. If you love someone. Truly someone, you will do what it takes to make them happy. And if making them happy is to become the worlds next top vlogger or travel the globe to see the worlds biggest cake – then you will do it. Their happiness is your happiness.

Don’t Lose Yourself – Have Your Own Thing

I don’t know if I learnt this through becoming a parent or through marriage, either way I learnt it.

I remember there was a moment where I completely lost myself. I was so in love and focused on my children and my marriage, that without me even realising it – I lost myself.

Because I lost myself I had turned into this crabby, clingy wife and mother. I had nothing to focus my spare time on. I had nothing to soothe my wondering mind. I would actually get angry at my husband when he went into the garage to work on his car.

“Why don’t you want to spend time with me?!” Oh God I was clingy.

My husband was never at fault with me losing myself, I let it happen. Tony was the one who actually pointed it out.

“You use to paint. Why don’t you paint anymore?”

“Why don’t you go for a run to spend some time for yourself?”

I was just so focused on playing this role of what a mother and a wife “should be” that I completely forgot who I was and the things I loved to do.

That’s when Tony and I invested in a DSLR. I got into film. I got into capturing my life. I was addicted. Soon I found this passion, a sort’ve fire was ignited inside of me. I captured and edited anything and everything. I found this creative outlet to draw out all of my negative energy and release this self satisfaction that not even a dedicated partner could provide.

You need your own thing. You’re so busy in giving all of you to your marriage and your children that you forget that you need something for yourself, something that you could call all yours. Find it, immerse yourself into it, learn it at every possible angle and be f*cken selfish with it. Have your own thing.

Filming, writing, photography, painting – that’s all mine.

Don’t Get Use To Things – The Little Things Matter

I remember the first months of dating we would go above and beyond each other romantically. Leave love notes for each other every day, fall asleep talking to each other on the phone, scrap book memories for each other. It was the same during our first months of marriage as well. Then of course we had children – 24 hours just didn’t seem enough. The sun would set before dinner was even close to being cooked. There were clothes that needed to be ironed and a mortgage that needed to be paid for – the above and beyond soon seemed impossible.

Admittedly, I would frequently complain to Tony.

“You don’t love me like you use to.”

“You don’t do the sweet things you once did.”

Unconsciously the bar had been set up so high that anything less was unacceptable. I never took into account all the other details that had entered our lives after marriage (kids, work, a mortgage…) that may have contributed to the lack of “above and beyond”. Sounds bratty? I know. Trust me, I know.

Tony and I would be arguing and I would just spit it out “You don’t do the sweet things you once did for me!” That’s when he said it. He said it and it clicked. “Why do you always see the things I don’t do and never the things I actually do.”

He was right. I completely ignored the fact that after he worked a full 12 hour day in the sweltering heat, he still managed to vacuum the floor as soon as he got home – just so I wouldn’t have to look at it. That he always makes sure that there’s a hot cup of coffee on the kitchen bench to greet me as soon as I finished my morning shower. That he would always give me the last piece of dessert, or that he’ll pick me up a frozen coke on his way home from work.

The thing is, he does those things, everyday. I just got use to it. I got use to the small stuff that I didn’t even acknowledge it. I stopped acknowledging the fact that he would fold the clothes (terribly, I’ll admit, but nonetheless) and pack them away even though he’s got a migraine. The fact that he would give me all three pillows and he just has the one when we slept.

When you’re about to judge your partner on not doing their part, not being sweet, not loving you. Take a closer look, never over look. Acknowledge and be thankful. The small things are what makes your day come together – my day would never end if he didn’t do the small stuff.

Hold High Respect For Each Other – Never Hang Your Dirty Laundry Online

Todays technology is so easy for us to vent and click publish for the world to see our frustrations. Personally, I’ve never done this to Tony – but I have witnessed it.

I get it, frustrations in marriage can be overwhelming. You feel disrespected, unheard and unappreciated. Tell your partner, not the internet.

Rather than gaining compassion and sympathy from your followers, you’re gaining hate, controversy and disrespecting your life partner in public.

It’s nobodies business. Especially mine and your social media following.

Communication Is Key – They Can’t Read Minds

It’s cliche and known – but we hardly do it. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times Tony and I have had misunderstandings because I never opened my mouth and he never opened his.

Tony: Hun, what’s wrong?

Me: Nothing… *slams and bangs everything*

Tony: I’m sorry if I did something wrong.

Me: Why apologise if you don’t know what you did wrong.

Tony: I know I did something wrong to upset you. Tell me what it is, you know I can’t read minds.

And surprise surprise. He really can’t read minds. He doesn’t know the fact that I wanted to watch Miss Congeniality and not Fast & The Furious. He doesn’t know that I wanted Pepperoni pizza and not Supreme. Why? Because I didn’t tell him.

There should never be secrets in a marriage, especially secrets of how you feel. Communication always cuts a lot of bullshit out of the day and creates solutions rather than hours of arguing over what movie to watch, what to eat for dinner or who’s side of the family will we be celebrating Christmas with this year.

There are so many other things I’ve learnt in my first five years of marriage, for instance, Tony loves aiming his farts at me, or that men hate the Allen Key and never actually follow directions. All of which I’m sure many of you already know or will soon discover.

To my husband Tony. Thank you. Really, thank you. I may not be the most patient woman on the planet, but you are the most patient and compassionate man in my universe. You are my strength, you are weakness. You know my strengths and you know my weaknesses and you make up for every single one. I love you and all that you do. I will always be here next to you, to tell you that that bolt doesn’t go into that shelf, that that’s the salt not the sugar and that you are amazing and together we do amazing things.

xoxo Vanessa






Discovering Family. Uncovering History.

In all my life, my father still stands as one of the most sincere, the most gentle and the most kindest man that I have ever encountered in my life.

If an enemy were to hit you, naturally you would hit back. My father was anything but natural. Instead in mid fight he would try to find a similar ground and befriend the enemy – true story.

Rarely would you see him frown. Rarely would you hear him raise his voice. Being the only male in a household of four temperamental females you could see where that would be close to impossible for a man. But nope. It would take a lot of fussing, cursing and crossing the line to make my father budge from happiness. And if he ever did (which he did on occasion), us girls knew we did something really, really bad.

My father was a joker, not a good one (dad jokes), but a joker he was. He was a goof ball. A comforter, a worrier, a hard worker and a nice cuddle after a bad day. He was also a man who passed away early in life from cancer – but I don’t want to concentrate too much on that in this post.

As upbeat as my father was, he wasn’t exactly always this happy, strong, family man. Like most first generation immigrants – he had a past. It wasn’t dark. But he was never fed with a silver spoon.

Being a half cast in the Philippines, my father grew up labelled as a ‘war child’ and still to this day, many people still describe him as a ‘war child’. Now for those unfamiliar with that term, it was often used during and after World War II to label a child born to a native parent and a parent belonging to a foreign military force.

My fathers mother was a Filipina who nursed a lot of the US soldiers during their military service in the Philippines. My grandfather was one of those US soldiers… and that’s pretty much all we ever knew about my grandparents.

With his father being sent back to the US before he was born and with his mother dying from pneumonia when my father was an infant, he grew up most of his childhood floating from house to house, from orphanages to streets. He polished rich mens shoes for food and sold balut from a cart for shelter.  It was a grim and hard beginning, but he proudly said it shaped him into the man who became my gentle, loving and providing father.

All my dads life he wondered about his father (my grandfather). He wondered about where he came from, what kind’ve man he was, did my dad have any siblings? He wondered that until his very last breath. In ways I wondered the same. Wouldn’t you?

You may also be thinking, why didn’t he ever come back for your dad? How could he just abandon his son? This is where it gets a little bit more grim.

When my dads father got transferred back to the US he lost all contact with my grandmother. He had no idea my father even existed. Now this story is in no way unique because I know it happened so much with military soldiers. But I’d like to think and imagine that if he had ever found out that he had a son, that my dad was his little boy – he would’ve gone on the next flight to Australia and he would’ve given my dad the biggest hug a father could ever give to his son.

I’m not going to lie, my family and I did contemplate several times as to whether or not we should try and track down my grandfather. Whether a visit to would give us any closure. If googling my grandfathers surname would give us any answers. It didn’t. And we, in ways ‘gave up’.

Then. A couple of months ago, just after my 27th birthday, one of my sisters suddenly started bombarding me with a bunch of Whatsapp msgs, along side a bunch of screen capture shots and hysteria.

“Vanessa, I think we found dad’s family.”

No freaken way.

“A man named Ron just viewed my profile on linkedin… and he has the same surname as us!”


Now ok. You may be thinking, come on Vanessa! The world has a population of over 7 billion, surely people will coincidently have the same surname as you. No. If you knew my fathers surname you would know it’s not common at all. But I am human and it is the 21st century – ensues doubt.

Then I saw the photos. That’s where I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

I was staring at a man’s photo who resembled my dad in so many ways. My dads pensive eyes, his narrow nose and his cheeky grin. Except it wasn’t my dad. It was this man named Ron.

“Should I make contact?”


Emails and photos were exchanged. Stories and confirmation was made. Fate, god, buddha, the universe (what ever you want to call it) brought us together.

Something we assumed ceased to exist was living on the other side of the world in sunny Florida and making contact with us.

Through email Ron then introduced us to Joan, his older sister, a beautiful, wonderful soul and my cousin. Yes. MY.COUSIN! One of many apparently. Ron is my cousin and a comedian as well (apparently dad jokes run in the family).

A few emails, Facebook friending and commenting later – we scheduled a Skype Video Call.

Shit. Should I wear makeup? Does this shirt look skypable? I didn’t even iron it. What if they don’t like me? I hope they like me. Yes. These were the thoughts going through my mind minutes before our scheduled video chat. Talk about first world problems.

After a bunch of “did you get my skype invite?” “I can’t see you. Can you see me?” commotion, we finally connected – talk about connection. Immediately I felt it. I laughed till my tummy hurt. I cursed Trump until my throat felt inflamed. Tears were shed and a family was found.

We talked about my grandfather, how much of a rock he was in the family. Did you know my grandfather was an engineer? I didn’t! Apparently he was a very smart man (Obviously I take after him).

We clicked instantly. I fell in love instantly. Questions were answered. Closure was made. But most importantly – friends became family.

Do you ever meet someone for the first time and instantly become captivated by every word they say? Every tale and story they’ve had? Did you ever meet someone for the first time and actually lost track of time? That’s exactly what happened. There was no awkward silence that had to be filled. There was no small talk about the weather. Remove the seas and land between us, remove the fact that it was hosted on Skype and you will have what felt like a loud, joyous family reunion – catching up after being departed for so long.

Our Skype call with the wonderful Joan & Ron.

It’s absolutely unbelievable all the history, the ancestry, the background I’m finding out. Here I was, in humid Sydney thinking my dad had zero family. Only to find out, not only did my dad have relatives – he had them all over the world!

Did you know we are part Jewish? Or that we originated from Romania and have family in Brazil and Canada? Cause I sure didn’t! I’m horrible with money, I’m petrified of Dracula, I suck at soccer and don’t get me started on hockey. Haha! Stereotypes aside – Unbelievable!

As a message to all the readers out there. I want you all to know, life throws a lot of surprises. Some may be good, some may be bad. You never know how life will turn out for you. I as an adult thought I had already met all the people in the world that would transform and make a resonance in my life. I was wrong. Thank god I was wrong.

Last year I said goodbye to a lot of people. I wasn’t expecting to say hello to anyone. I thought I was made – I wasn’t. Now I have a wonderful family living on the other side of the world who have made such a positive impact in so many ways. Lesson learnt.

To Ron, Joan and Steve. Thank you. You’ve all been incredibly welcoming. Incredibly warm. You have made my year all the more better (and it’s only the beginning!). I can’t wait for the day I finally meet you all and give you all giant teddy bear hugs! Beers, wine and bagels all round!

xoxo. Vanessa

Dear 2016.

Hey 2016!

It’s me. Your girl Vanessa.

‘Mesmerising. Fulfilling. Understanding.’

If there were words to describe you, those would be it.

Picture this. I was sitting down, brainstorming ideas for my first blog post for 2017, when within seconds I found myself reflecting, then I found myself smiling… soon with each bullet point I wrote down I was there filled with laughter. I found myself radiating with pride. Pride for all the thing’s I had set out for myself to do and actually did them. I-actually-did-them! (Bravo Vanessa!)

In the years before you I would always find myself passing through them. I would sit around waiting. Waiting for what? I have no idea… for the year to end I guess. Always proclaiming that I will give it another shot when the next year rolls around. What-a-waste-of-time.

I found myself being happy and dreaming… Yes, I’m a dreamer and yes, I dreamt so much during 2016, but the amazing thing is I had made those dreams happen.

During your span, I had started creating my own happiness, realising my own aspirations and hitting every-f*cken-one. I learnt to push myself to heights I never thought I could ever reach. So much so that the things I once thought were absolutely impossible in my life span, now seems so tangible, so real that I could actually feel it within my finger tips.

2016 you were definitely an eye opener. You’ve taught me lessons that the previous 27 years of my life had never done.

You taught me to have the strength to say goodbye to the bad relationships (the meaningless, the emotionally draining..) and instead use that once wasted energy on nurturing and loving the good ones (You guys know who you are).

You’ve taught me that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, that yes they may know your history, they may have played a huge part in your past – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they hold a place in your future.

You’ve taught me that not everyone is willing to be happy for your success, not everyone has the same ideals of reality as you, and the fact that that doesn’t even really matter – because I created my own success, I took responsibility for my own happiness and because of that I have complete control over it.

If I just grab my happiness with both hands, instead of hoping someone else will give it to me, instead of hoping that it will miraculously fall onto my lap, then that happiness – it’s mine. All mine – no one can take away something that I continuously provide for myself.

You’ve taught me to have passion, to thrive and live. To invest in myself, for myself. To love, to work hard, to be open minded – don’t judge. To care, and on occasion, not care at all – not all battles are mine. And those battles that are mine is because I chose it to be.

2016, you were one year I will never regret playing. If I could have you on repeat, I would. You’ve prepared me in so many ways to meet your friend 2017 the best way possible. Thank You.

To 2017, I can’t wait to see our plans unfold. I can’t wait to see where the path will lead us, in what direction we will take and the milestones we will hit.

I am pumped. I am excited. I am determined.

xoxo. Vanessa.