Women, Money & Shame

Most women I know are pretty excited to show off a new purchase – the fabulous new handbag, a great new pair of shoes, a piece of jewellery or that amazing dress – but when it comes to sharing our true financial status – that’s something that rarely gets a mention!

Being honest about what we have or don’t have, is part of cleaning up our financial lives.

If there’s levels of personal debt that we’re uncomfortable with, it’s not often we speak of it,  Shame tends to come in first place.   When we’re invited out, we’d rather not tell someone we can’t afford that particular restaurant or outing.   At times, our need to fit in is greater than our financial circumstances, and so we lie both to others and ourselves and go anyway, placing ourselves further into debt.

It’s time to own what is the truth. There’s nothing embarrassing about saying, “I’ve put myself on a budget these days, I want to save for a holiday and I’m watching what I spend.”

Have you even got a goal to work on that’s more important than your immediate want to spend?  It’s much easier to say, “I’ve got a trip to Europe lined up, so I don’t want to spend that kind of money.”  “I’m paying off the credit card…”  “I’m trying to get the mortgage down…”

The story we often tell ourselves, is that ‘we can’t afford it.’

It’s actually all about how you choose to spend money. Your friends are highly likely to respect you more and some may even start watching where their money is going too.

You might just start a savings revolution amongst your buddies!  Why not give it a shot?

2015 Women in Focus Conference

I was incredibly excited and honoured recently to be invited to the sixth annual CBA Women in Focus conference held in the beautiful Sheraton Resort in Hastings Street, Noosa.  To whomever was unable to make the event, and prompt the lovely Katie Mihell to include me in the guest list – I am eternally grateful to!

Due to prior commitments, I was unable to make the opening dinner, and so I hit the road at 4.30 am on the Thursday, arriving in time to quickly check-in and kick off with the first sessions at 8.15 am – and we didn’t stop for two full days.  I’d also lost my voice by this stage, thanks to the kindness of my daughter sharing her winter lurgies with me and this isn’t a good place to be with 180 amazing women cranking the decibel level at every opportunity.

The opening session kicked us off with Dr Fiona Kerr followed by Doc Jordy Nguyen and my brain was fried from inception.  Hearing about artificial intelligence, mind controlled wheelchairs and the hope of robotics for the future for those with disabilities hit close to home for me with an intellectually impaired and autistic nephew.  Cracking into his little brain and being able to communicate with this non-verbal little man now sounds like something that may just be possible in this lifetime rather than a pipe dream.

The breaks were a brilliant opportunity to meet up with some old friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen since our trip to Uganda with The Hunger Project in May and connect with some new and amazing ladies.

Panel discussions allowed various agricultural businesses to showcase their stories and their wares and I’m now a passionate convert to the Myrtleford Butter Factory.  I’ve devoured books by Cathy Burke, CEO of the Hunger Project and the fabulous Anita Heiss, a prolific indigenous author and all round great gal.

It was a blessing to watch new friendships and business relationships being forged and hear from inspirational women such as the passionate Rosie Batty, Australian of The Year and tired (not tireless) campaigner against Domestic Violence.  The story of the Allanah and Madeline Foundation was told and bra-burning passionate women such as Wendy McCarthy who has been paving the way for women everywhere since the 70’s were featured.

It was hard not to be overwhelmed with every presenter as brilliant and passionate as the last and all with a fabulous story to tell.  It didn’t just feel like I was among greatness, I actually was!

Andy Lark shared his fantastic adventures with Xero, another shared her ups and downs in building a billion dollar business Christina Re dazzled us with her spectacularly beautiful home-ware lines.  Mandy Gunsberger of Babyology told us all about her journey and her future adventures as she heads off to join the next Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion Program in Mexico.  I managed to score Beauty From the Inside Out by Doctor Libby Weaver and didn’t cease absorbing my entire two days.

An evening of country glamour had us up dancing at Yandina Station, and we boogied the night away to finish the conference in a fabulous marquee in the Noosa National Park.

The hashtag #disruption15 trended Australia wide as we cheered on our speakers and supported each other in the virtual and physical world.

It was an honour and privilege to be a part of this event.  I hope I take a long time to come down from Cloud 9 after this and will enjoy reviewing my notes for some time to come.

A Magical Trip to Uluru

Like most Aussies, I had the amazing Uluru (once known as Ayres Rock) as a place on my bucket list.  But realise too, that few have had the opportunity to visit.  And it is in the middle of our really big country, that’s sometimes a bit tricky, expensive and time consuming to navigate.

When the opportunity arose for me to attend a conference in the amazing spiritual heart of Australia (and hosted by the amazing Business Chicks) I jumped at the chance to go.  For I knew both the content and the location could only be brilliant.

Our first glimpse of both Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru was granted on the plane ride in to Uluru airport, and it’s pretty special.  I’m not sure the size was ever really quite abundantly clear to me, until I saw it rising up from vast flat lands dotted with mulga.  And it’s actually the Olgas site that holds a deeper spiritual significance for the traditional owners, the Anangu people.

For some idea of scale, it’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and three times that of the Statue of Liberty – that’s 348 metres high!.  It’s 9.6 kilometres around to walk the base.  Yes, it is a really big rock!

My stay was at the Accor run, Sails in the Desert resort and it’s not far to any of the viewing areas available for sunrise and sunset picture opportunities.  The resort is great for singles, couples or families and has a pool onsite, along with a restaurant, bar and conference facilities.

Some said they felt Uluru to be a truly spiritual area and being there affected them deeply.  I was awed by these majestic mounds of sandstone that make up both landmarks, oxidising before our eyes.  Incredibly, both extend for kilometres further underground.

It’s hard to tear your eyes away, and long after we swapped our cameras for champagne glasses, we were dragging them out again as the light and colours constantly changed before our eyes.

A few of us treated ourselves to a sunrise tour with Ayres Rock Helicopters, and it was worth every cent.  Our wonderful Venetian pilot Julio was a fabulous tour guide and took us on a 36 minute extended tour for fabulous photo opportunities and filled us in on fun facts throughout the flight.

Funnily enough, Aboriginal art also made a whole lot more sense from above.  I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of the traditional dots and stripes style of art, but from above, it’s clear that this is exactly what you see.  The dunes of a former inland sea snaked across the landscape and shrubs and bushes literally dotted the remaining space.

On our return from our flight, we headed to the watering hole area at the base of the rock that is a holding pond for water that pours down the sides of the rock during the rains and gathers at its base.  Depending on the heat and the seasons, it can quickly dry out.  Further up exists another collection hole that we couldn’t see, but is said to be up to 10 metres deep.

There’s a painting cave to visit, and a few signs along the clearly marked paths around the base of this amazing landmark.  Getting up close and personal was a fabulous experience that will leave a lasting memory.  It was only when standing at its base and staring up that it’s sheer amazing height and presence was truly felt.

If you ever get the chance to head out please do, or if not, make the opportunity happen.  It shouldn’t be left to just the hordes of European and Asian tourists to make the effort to visit this amazing natural treasure and take home the pics.  You owe it to yourself to see first hand just how spectacular this place really is.

My Top Travel Tip!

Travelling is a huge passion of mine, and each year, I try to add new places to my list of “Must See  Before I Die!!”   I’m so thankful to have been to over 20 incredible countries to date and continue to look for opportunities to visit new and amazing places.

I’m grateful to last year have been able to add South Africa, Indonesia and China, and this year include Uganda and Dubai.  Even a visit to our Red Centre at Uluru is planned and a quick trip across ditch will add New Zealand for the first time this year as well.

Travel experiences for me have traditionally been the usual “transactional” experience: visit, eat well, drink better, take the photos, buy a shot glass and head home with great memories.  This year, I had my first “transformational travel” experience with a visit to Uganda with The Hunger Project.  Wow!  Life changing stuff!

I’m blessed that my assistant is a complete home body, never likes to venture far from her comfortable home and can keep my business running and home fires burning, while I’m off exploring.

I am no fashionista and do like to travel in comfort, but definitely never want to look like Super Dag when I turn up anywhere either.  And I much prefer to collect experiences than souvenirs, so don’t usually come back with bulging extra suitcases of “stuff.”

Unfortunately, Australia is an incredibly expensive country to live in, so I do like to pick up a couple of additional clothing items when I’m away too.  It’s great to say ‘Oh, this dress?  I got it in South Africa.”  “You like my scarf?  Found it in a little place in Shanghai.”  Such great memories!  If just a little pretentious! 😉

So, trying to travel with just one (reasonably sized) suitcase and a carry-on, can sometimes present a challenge.

My favourite tried and true travel tip when heading overseas now, is to always take with me an empty jumbo vacuum seal bag.  You know the ones – those late night, direct buy space saving miracles advertised at 3am?

Thankfully, I’ve never had a hotel yet deprive me of a vacuum cleaner so am able to pack all my clothing into this, suck the life out of it, and leave space for those extra items or gifts I like to bring home.

And as someone so cleverly pointed out to me – no, it doesn’t save on weight, but the extra space is a lifesaver!  It means you don’t need to buy an extra suitcase every time you go somewhere, or pack an extra case into your large luggage, braving excess baggage charges.

Why don’t you try it sometime and see how you fare!

This post is part of a brand-led competition and entry to the Virgin Australia comp for Pro-Blogger attendees.

Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Our drive from Lake Mburo took around 6 hours and is mostly due to the appalling state of the roads in most of rural Uganda. Some appear to have never been graded and most are deeply rutted and potholed. Even surfaced roads are covered in multiple speed bumps and allow little respite from bumps. (Ladies, a sports bra is a must, or you’ll spend most of your time clutching ‘the girls’ as they’re jolted mercilessly on your travels!)

Thankfully, our 4WD Landcruiser handled everything and our driver Baker was amazing at getting us everywhere safely.

image Continue reading Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

A Visit to a Child Bride in Mbarara

The Mbarara Epicentre was our next stop on our tour with The Hunger Project (THP.)

Set in lush green hills flanked by towering mountains, it’s a spectacular backdrop for the centre.

Daisy, the Country Director of THP told us that this was where God sat when he made the rest of the earth. I’m inclined to agree.

After a winding walk through magnificent country not far from the Epicentre, we found the home of Rosette (now 34) and her husband Christoph (41.)

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Rosette was 15 when she was married to the handsome businessman, then 21. She is a strikingly attractive woman, dressed in a matching blue top and skirt and was obviously quite house proud and not shy to share her story with us. A dowry of 750, 000 shillings changed hands (about USD$250, or the value of a cow.). Her first child Edith, was born when she was 16 followed the next year by Victor.  Asked if she was afraid of marriage so young, she said that she wasn’t really as she viewed it as the end of her childhood and the start of life as a married woman.

The legal age for marriage in Uganda is 18, but child marriages are still common, especially in rural areas.

They now have 6 children, having added Darius, Owen, Jonan and another to the family. Edith is now 16 in P7. She likes maths and wants to be an accountant. Victor wants to be a Doctor.

When asked if she’d like Edith to be married young, she replied that no, she wants her to wait til she’s finished her schooling at 28!

Happily for Rosette, things have turned out well. Christoph sells coffee beans to a factory and can provide a basic lifestyle for his large family. They have a modest but clean home and raise poultry amongst the banana and coffee plantations lining the hills. When asked if Christoph loves his wife, he replied ‘too much’ leaving us to all awwww at his admission.

Another woman seated in the crowd there to welcome our arrival was Caroline. She too was a child bride, married at 14 and is now 24. Her husband is four years older than her. Her first child was born when she was 15 and she was nursing baby Henry, her 4th child, while we spoke. Like Rosette, she too was excited to be a married woman.

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These concepts that seem so foreign to us are ‘just another day’ stories here.

Thankfully THP is in the area now, and providing Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes, a health centre, food bank and Microfinance for those also looking to improve their lot. Rosette and Christoph are thinking of joining soon.

The Moth and the Cocoon

The Moth and the Cocoon

A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth and he took it home to watch it emerge. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as the moth struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Deciding something was wrong, the man took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The moth then emerged easily, but it’s body was swollen and wings small and shrivelled.

The man expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body in its natural beauty, but they do not. Instead of developing into the creature free to fly, the moth spent its life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings.

The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the moth into its wings. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. The merciful snip was, in reality, cruel. Sometimes struggle is exactly what we need in our life.

Author Unknown

This story I first discovered in my handbook for my Business Chicks Leadership & Immersion Program to Uganda with The Hunger Project and I found it really resonated with me.

In the context of this trip, I feel that it relates to the struggle that takes place when The Hunger Project first heads into the villages to meet with the elders and discuss the work they do. For two years they work to create a vision of what is required for that community, with a huge shift in mindset being required.

The local villagers need to take complete ownership of what they’d like to create and THP helps facilitate. To get people to shift from generations of chronic, persistent hunger to believing better things are possible, is monumental, and not embraced by everyone.

Each of the lovely ladies, or Trippers, too on this journey have their own struggles. Each has a unique family, personal or work situation that requires energy and focus.

Like the moth however, we too need to recognise that often freedom and flight will come after the struggle.

A great lesson and really fitting on this journey.