Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

 

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

 

First and foremost, it’s a real honour to be asked to come back and write for this incredibly empowering blog. I also want to thank the founder Carmela (CC) for giving me the power and encouragement to continue writing and for starting my own blog: Confessions Of A Married Woman.

From the bottom of my heart Carmela, I thank you for inspiring me and giving me the confidence and strength to keep doing this. You are a true friend and a real game changer!

The last time I wrote for #STFTL I was talking about how difficult marriage is, and has my mind changed? No. Not at all.

I still acknowledge its difficulty. Living with someone that can drive you insane on a fairly regular basis will drive you insane, literally. But I must also acknowledge the fact that it works both ways. My attention to detail, my pedantic way of placing glasses in the cupboard, how the t-shirts should be folded and how the towels should be hung up after use could drive somebody crazy too (and in reality, that somebody is my husband).

Do we argue about my anal retentiveness? Totally. Why am I like that? Because I just am. I can’t help it, but then again, I can. The question is: do I want to stop being like that? Sometimes I do, but then I wonder if I stop being so anal about one thing, then I will become lax about other things and then all the balls in the air that I juggle will come crashing down on me.

There seems to be a lot of balls and anal discussion, doesn’t there? 😉

Here is what I know a year on about marriage. Find your best friend to marry. Don’t marry a guy because he is rich, has a cool car, is good looking, is good in bed, looks good in a suit, seems like he comes from a nice family (but doesn’t). I know 95% of you wouldn’t be so superficial, but some people are.

If you do choose to marry somebody and it comes to your actual wedding day or the night before, week before, month before and you find yourself having second thoughts, don’t hesitate to call it off. I’ve had too many friends tell me that they had second thoughts before getting married but kept up the pretense because of silly reasons like, all the money spent on the wedding, not wanting to disappoint parents or family who have traveled such a long way. I’m calling bullshit. You were just too afraid to just come out and say it.

Of all the friends who have admitted to me that they wished they had called it off, 99% are now divorced. Yes that’s 99%! Not only did they enter into a marriage, they entered another family’s life (the bride or grooms). They created attachments and friendships with family members. They created children only to leave them all later and leave others picking up the pieces and everybody wondering ‘Why!?’ Just don’t do it in the first place.

Of course, you wouldn’t regret having the children, but you will always regret putting your children through that split-family situation. And perhaps a partner who you really don’t want your child exposed to.

Another thing that has happened in the past 12 months to my family unit is that my husband was summarily dismissed from his job. This was a job he dedicated more than 12 hours a day to. He was in management and loved by his team. When he came home before Christmas and told me what happened it was a shock to all: him, his staff and of course, us as a family.

I work from home mostly, so hubby now being home 24/7 has been a real learning curve for the both of us. It started out fun but then you realise you have no personal space and after about the 3rd month you want to kill each other. Figuratively, not literally. 😉

It’s nearly been a year. He too is working from home now and we have set out terms and conditions. Because I married my bestie, we are able to negotiate things reasonably well. We still have the occasional malfunction but mostly we respect each other’s ability to occasionally act like an asshole. No harm done, just stand back and wait for it to blow over.

Seriously, the better you know each other, the more you understand that you have to deal with someone you don’t like sometimes. That’s marriage. That why it’s called a partnership.

As I mentioned before, in my blog there’s a piece called Is it better to love? Or to like? where I write that I think it’s better to ‘like’ than it is to ‘love’. Love is temporary, it comes, it goes. But if you like somebody, you generally always will; even if they annoy you sometimes, because that is what a friendship is about. I’ve always thought the wedding vows should be ‘to LIKE in sickness and in health’, ‘not to LOVE in sickness and in health’ etc.

Obviously, I love my husband but over the years that love has changed and evolved. Sure, sometimes it de-evolves but more importantly, it also evolves. You can’t expect to feel the same way you did when you first got together.

Life changes, you both change, you grow as individuals, so your love changes too. I have his back and he has mine. Every marriage is different and different circumstances call for some creative thinking in what will make you both happy. Whatever works for you as a couple is what suits you as a couple. Don’t be caught up in the conventionality of marriage or partnerships. If it works, do it. Enough said.

When you are working, you tend to live to work and not work to live. You think you are building real bonds and friendships but most of the time you are being used to help others in your workplace. I know it’s hard to get your head around it, but trust me and my 45+ years of living; no one gives a shit about you once you leave your job. Maybe if you are lucky 1% will. Maybe.

The people who give a shit are the relationships you cultivate outside of work: your lovers, partners, husbands, girlfriends, family. They always will care about you, call you and love you. Most importantly they will ‘like’ you. Even if they call you an asshole, remember they’ve always got your back.

Ronni Swintek is a Mother, Wife, Woman of the World and Professional Media person.

@RonniFox

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Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Hi, I’m Yen. I am a girl that’s super independent. I grew up believing in my strength, was taught to think that I am bold, that my words carry weight and can help change the world. I learnt that I am a force to be reckoned with when I’m standing on my own two feet, and when I must decide, for myself, I know what I want.

Throughout my early 20s, I had everything: a semi-successful startup brewing, found the greatest group of people I still call my best friends today, moved to the other side of the world, travelled alone and graduated in the top two percentile of my university. Yep, all before 22.

I always knew I was super independent, it probably came with being the eldest sibling and a Virgo (think Beyoncé, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sheryl Sandberg: just to name drop a few). 😉

I was used to walking fast, spending my own money and opening my own doors. I learnt to trust myself and knew who I was through falling down and picking myself back up. I found my niche in the world, paving my own way, presenting my own smile and sense of self to whoever I met. I wasn’t used to balancing myself with another person. I wasn’t used to needing someone, or allowing anyone to help.

YEN

My independence definitely contributed to the destruction of my relationships in my early 20s too. I drove men crazy because I didn’t let them do everything for me. I didn’t let them cater to my every need. I refused to let them pay for every date.

I sometimes wouldn’t let them be the manly-man, the savior, the strong suitor that they so desperately wanted to be for me. It’s wasn’t on purpose; it’s just because I was used to being my own savior. Someone even told me to ‘pretend and be a little less independent, just so they can feel you need them’.

Somehow, something still didn’t feel right. And along the way, I lost my independence: I became that friend who disappeared off the face of the earth because she got a boyfriend. But I fell into this trap, of believing I had to dumb myself down just to make a boy feel better about himself.

My last breakup reminded me how much I needed to put myself first again and regain everything I knew about being independent. Although that breakup shattered my world, it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to be in a relationship with anyone else but myself.

Maybe it was a time for me to fix myself and change. Appreciate myself more and to never make the same mistake. To achieve more goals and more importantly find happiness. To hopefully one day understand, that I’ll attract the right things when I have a sense of who I am.

I had spontaneously decided to accept a job in London (the other side of the world) and pack up and leave within weeks. I had lived in London back in 2011 while studying there and had always called it my ‘home away from home’, so when the offer came through I couldn’t reject it. I called my best friend and told her I was coming, and recalled saying “I have nothing to lose”. I didn’t make plans to come home, or let alone have a plan? I was ready to accept whatever it was that the universe had installed. I felt so free.

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yen 3

The week my visa appointment with the UK consulate got booked: I met a guy who I never imagined would mean so much to me today. You see, I was so focused on my life that I was completely blind-sided; a relationship was the last thing I was looking for. On our second date, I had no choice but to tell him I was leaving the country. I felt like I owed this to him and was super nervous delivering the update. That’s when I knew, I really liked him.

I asked for answers “Why throw me a bone now universe? I am about to go on an adventure of a lifetime! Do you want me to stay in Melbourne?” I even went to church and a temple to find clarity. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.

I still left for London and to my understanding we weren’t official. But the distance didn’t change how we both felt about each other. Sure the different time zones were hard but we made it work. Last minute, I booked a flight home so I could surprise this guy on his birthday.

I was super super nervous, I mean, who was I to him to do that? We weren’t even official or anything exclusive! I knew I was taking a big chance. I guess that’s the whole issue with being independent yet a hopeless romantic too. Naturally, we then agreed to a long distance relationship because he acknowledged my dreams and supported it no matter how tough it was going to be.

You see, when you fall for a girl that’s independent, you will get frustrated. She’s used to doing things for herself and by herself. She’s used to following her own rules, making her own decisions, being selfish with her time. It will take a bit for her to get used to putting someone else first, to moulding her life to shape both yours and hers together. Don’t get me wrong, she won’t have trouble loving you, but she might, at first struggle to let you in.

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A long distance relationship ended up being the best thing for me. I learnt to prioritise a relationship; scheduling in calls with confusing time differences, improving communication skills and letting someone into my life, knowing I can still continually work on myself.

I learnt to let the small things go, had to invest a lot of trust in someone, believe that not all guys are bad (something that doesn’t come easy for me), to compromise and have patience, extreme patience. And finally, I learnt that when time and luck crossed paths the universe would find me a guy who will fall in love with my driven, spontaneous, independent character.

Go travel the world, battle your demons, set up a business, find people who value your heart and yours will attract. Don’t apologise for working hard, for having goals and being independent: we need more girls like this.

When the right person comes along, they will support you unconditionally and when you do come across that person, know that you deserve them.

I hope you love yourself enough to recognise the things you don’t like about your life, and I hope you find the courage to change them. And I hope somewhere out of the unexpected, a person comes along who will love and support you on your journey too.

Yen started her career in public relations with aspirations to work in the fashion industry, she became curious with e-commerce and technology and evolved her career to where she is now. Awarded Australian Best Young Marketing Talent (2016) for spearheading numerous innovations in her field, she is a passionate marketer with an entrepreneurial edge focused on overachieving outcomes. Competitive at heart, she never wanted to settle for just a nine-to-five job and saw an opportunity start her own business while still working a full-time job. People often mistaken Yen to be quite timid on first impression, but little do they know that she enjoys confrontation, is super opinionated and will definitely shut down dickhead behaviour (if she sees it). Her upbringing has been quite colourful (a story for another time) but as a result she is now super passionate about raising diversity issues (in every form) and empowering young girls to chase their dreams through running mentorship programs and teaching at a university outside of her side hustles.

@yhoang

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

I just remember being so fucking angry.

Why is it that a chick on crack can deliver perfectly healthy babies? And here I am, off alcohol, off ham, off mouldy cheese, off everything!! And yet, my babies – yes, plural – babies! Are fighting for their fucking lives?

It was at this point, the NICU psychologist suggested I continue my sessions.

The NICU.  The Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

It’s a world unto itself.

My hope is, you never have to experience it. It’s where all the really sick babies go; and the lower your bed number, the sicker you are.

My twins occupied beds 1 and 2, for over six weeks. It was only about half of their time in hospital… and yet, we were lucky!

Hi. My name is Tam, and I was never going to have kids. I have one ovary (the result of an ovarian cyst removed during an endometriosis operation). However, in a bizarre twist of fate, I conceived on the first attempt at pregnancy.

So again, lucky right?!

Yep. These are the things I kept telling myself, sitting bedside in the NICU, while twin 2 stopped breathing for the 10th time that morning.

It had already been a difficult pregnancy! At 12 weeks, I’d been told I was having a miscarriage. Only to discover, I’d actually lost one of three.

At 20 weeks my water broke, and I was told to abort the pregnancy, and start again. I ignored that advice, and decided to take it day by day.

Every day was a long day. Especially after the twins had been born. Welcome, 12 to 15 hour shifts sitting bedside in the NICU. These are my children. I love them. But I couldn’t sit for 15 hours a day.

I couldn’t sit there and watch them stop breathing every three to four hours, only to be brought back to life. With that moment of hesitation every now and then, when the regular ‘tricks’ didn’t work. When the monitor kept triggering the non-responsive alarm a few too many times; wondering if this was it. Am I going to lose a baby right now, in this moment?

It was mentally draining.  Day in.  Day out.

My only reprieve was going to milk myself in what we called the ‘boob room’ every three or so hours. Hooking my massive twin mum melons up to a double suction machine, to get every last drop of milk out for the twins’ current diet of 1ml, every two hours. Yep. 1 ml!!!

Fun fact: even when you deliver a baby 15 weeks early, your body knows you’ve expelled life, and starts producing milk.

Just a reminder, my name is Tam.

The woman with: one ovary, two premmie babies and a gazillion tears.

A miracle mum to twins born at 25 weeks gestation.

I can tell you, at 25 weeks, babies are U.G.L.Y.

Their skin is transparent.  They still have hair all over their bodies. And they’re small.  So small. Imagine a tub of margarine, and add a half. That was the size of the twins. Less than 30 cms long from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes.

Black eyes, because their eyes actually haven’t developed yet. And their lungs are so tiny, they actually can’t operate on their own; so they need breathing assistance, 24 hours a day.

Add to this, a Swine Flu outbreak.

It’s 2009, and Melbourne is reeling from a Swine Flu epidemic. I walked into the NICU, and the section where beds 1 and 2 are, is isolated. The rest of the beds in that room have also been removed.

There’s a certain kind of paperwork across a bed area, next to twin 2, so I know someone’s baby has died.

Truth is, I saw that baby dying the day before, when the nurses called a code blue. I left my babies’ bedside that day, so the mother of the dying baby could spend time alone with her miracle. The mother of that baby saw me the day after. She didn’t speak to me. She simply squeezed my arm in appreciation for allowing her to be with her baby privately.

For us, the isolation meant five days of sitting bedside wearing face masks and waiting for the results of two blood tests. Finally we discovered the twins didn’t contract Swine Flu.

What they did contract though, was a certain ability to talk to each other subliminally.

Still, Twin 1 wasn’t well at all.  For the best part of nearly two months, machines had been doing the breathing for her. As her mother, I’d only held her a handful of times in those eight weeks. In fact, it was seven days before I got to first hold her after she was born. Seven fucking days. An entire week of not being able to hold my newborn daughter.

I had to sit beside her crib, and just watch a machine breathe for her, holding onto her tiny little leg while another blood transfusion made its way through her translucent foot.

It was at this time, twin 2 needed an operation that could only be performed at a different hospital. So, off we went in the morning for surgery. There was no room in the NICU for twin 1 post-surgery at this other hospital; so we were on ward. It was AWFUL.

I pleaded to get my boy back to the same hospital as his sister, and back into the same NICU and as fate would have it, we luckily qualified for the last transport ambulance for the ‘week’.

We made our way back to the hospital where twin 1 was pulling her usual ‘help me breathe’ routine. As twin 2 was wheeled past twin 1 on his way back to his crib, he stopped breathing.

Alarms start ringing. Twin 1 then decides to stop breathing also. More alarm bells!

The nurses put twin 1 and twin 2 side by side. They both start breathing fine. No alarms.

And this continued for the entire night.

This was my life. Watching these tiny, tiny humans communicate through lung capacity!

I had visitors during the week, each helping me take my mind off the fact that one or both of the twins could die at any second. But it was the weekends that were the longest.

One weekend hubby would be down, relieving the pressure on me for a few hours. The next weekend, I’d be on my own.

We lived four hours away from the hospital and with a mortgage to pay, another child to care for… there were only so many times he could come and visit.

I remember thanking the guy at the local coffee shop with a card when we were allowed to leave the hospital. He pretended to understand why I had looked forward to his coffee every Tuesday afternoon. He really had no idea.

No one has any idea how hard it is to have a premmie baby, unless you’ve actually had one (let alone two).

This isn’t meant to be an ‘I’ve done it harder’ story. This is simply a ‘Fuck, I did it hard’ story, that you may or may not identify with.

Either way.  Motherhood…

It’s the hardest, most rewarding, awful, beautiful, gratifying, disheartening, fucked up, beautiful thing… ever!

I just hope your journey, doesn’t include a NICU. But, if it does, I’m here if you need to talk.

Tam Heinjus is an overworked, underpaid creative writer who writes for passion when she can’t pay the bills. A woman who tries hard to be a good mother, wife and friend… and fails miserably at all three some days.

Tam Heinjus

365 Real Days

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

I climbed into bed a few nights ago and my husband immediately shuffled close to me. He wrapped himself around me and got his body as close to mine as physically possible; every inch of our skin was entwined. I smiled and relaxed into him.

I had a sudden flashback to about four years ago, it was my nightly mission to get as close as possible to my edge of the bed; as far away from my ex-husband as I could. When I heard him approaching our room or falling in the door after a ‘work dinner’ at 2am, I would almost stop breathing in an attempt to keep my body still; so he didn’t think I was awake.

Amazing what can change in four years.

I met my ex-husband at the ripe old age of 21. I was naïve, immature as all hell, vulnerable, amenable and easily influenced. I had just been dating a guy who suddenly decided he was into someone else, so I was craving love and affection.

My ex-husband was 11 years older than me. From the moment we met at a mutual friend’s wedding it was go, go, go.

Ever heard of the term love bombing? It’s the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. It’s never ending flattery and attention.

-It’s constant text messages, a day after you’ve just met.

-It’s tokens of affection, elaborate gifts and surprise international flights to swan around in a hotel, while he attends work dinners.

-It’s talks of having children together, when you’ve only known each other a month.

-It’s taking you away to a secluded beach shack, for your second date.

-It’s flowers delivered to your work, so everyone knows what a ‘great’ guy he is.

-It’s surprise appearances that are designed to have you spend more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own.

You get the picture.

Love bombing is intoxicating at first, it’s all encompassing. Reading the above paragraphs now, I just think ‘woah, creepy’ but at the time, it was charming; I felt special, amazing, loved.

Now, not everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissistic jerk, but if you’re feeling that something just isn’t quite right about the person or the relationship you’re in, you should trust it. Yep, if your partner is constantly telling you ‘how good you are together’ but your longest, dearest friends disagree, if your gut is screaming at you that something is just ‘off’ and you’re so anxious you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep and chewing the inside of your mouth, then there’s a pretty good chance something isn’t right.

Love bombing feels great, until it doesn’t.

It feels great until….

-You are endlessly confused because nothing you say or do seems to be right, even when you’re pretty darn sure you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

-There are so many seeds of self-doubt planted in your head, that you’re growing a fucking tree of self-doubt out of there.

-You’ve given up your dream job, which you went to uni for five years to work towards, because you think you’re too dumb to do it.

-Your boyfriend proposes to you in front of your family (knowing you won’t say no that way), and you find yourself curled in a ball crying yourself to sleep on your engagement night.

-Your husband (who earns a lot of money) sits in a bank and manipulates you into taking out a $16 000 personal loan under your name because he has a ‘bad credit rating’ and then somehow convinces you in the car park afterwards that you’re a bad person for thinking it’s a little weird.

-Your 35 year old husband starts coming home on weeknights at all hours of the morning and spends his Saturday nights playing online poker with his mates, getting wasted and you get in trouble for being upset about it.

-You find endless webpage listings for ‘Perth escort services’ on your fiance’s computer and he lies to you and tells you it was his cousin, and you believe him.

Yes, love bombing feels awesome, until you actually don’t even know who you are anymore.

Enter: gas lighting.

Gas lighting, to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. A malicious and hidden form of emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self doubt and alter your perception of reality.

Love bombing morphs into gaslighting pretty quickly. You are so bound up in the love bomber’s web of manipulation that you literally don’t realise it’s happening, until things start to feel really, really wrong.

Some days I just didn’t speak at all, because it seemed easier. We had no money, despite him earning an annual salary four times what I could ever dream of earning. I knew he was using drugs but the couple of times I tried to confront him about it, he laughed in my face and made me feel awful for even thinking it.

So the day I finally plucked up enough courage to leave my ex-husband was hands down, the most invigorating and empowering day of my life.

I had just spent a weekend away for a girlfriend’s wedding. My husband did not enjoy hanging out with these particular friends (I see now it’s because they were smart enough to know better).

I was sitting with my girlfriends, listening to them talk about their experiences as occupational therapists and suddenly I sat up straighter in my chair. I heard the passion in their voices and I remembered that I used to talk like that!

My first job out of uni was working in an acute stroke rehab ward; where I would use my knowledge of the nervous system to help people relearn how to brush their teeth and dress themselves. I thought I knew how to make a difference in people’s lives but my ex-husband had been very encouraging when I said to him one day, “I’m not cut out for this job. I’m just no good at it.” He supported me into leaving the profession I loved so much and then made me feel bad about how little money I had.

It was in that moment, sitting with my girlfriends, that I knew I had to leave. So many things had happened in the lead up to it but somehow it was witnessing that particular conversation, and feeling like an outsider (when I should have been right there in it) that made it all fall into place.

I drove the five hours back home, told him it was over, packed a bag and spent the next three months living in friends’ spare bedrooms.

I share this story not to have a good ol’ bitch about my ex-husband or to shame him in any way; I hold no anger towards him (anymore). I’m sure we both really believed that we loved each other at some point in our lives. I don’t believe he had a malicious intention to inflict so much pain and hurt. We were just two very different, very incompatible humans.

I share this story because I know how easy it is to be manipulated and not realise it’s happening.

I share this story because I’ve met countless other women who took 20 or 30 years to get out of these toxic relationships; amazing, incredible women who are still healing and trying to remember who they are.

I share this story because you can find yourself in an absolute shit storm of toxicity, manipulation, debt, loneliness and yet still have the strength to stand up to a narcissist and remove yourself from the situation.

I share this story because it happens ALL THE TIME.

If one person who is in an emotionally abusive relationship reads this and finds the strength to take the steps they need to remove themselves too, then that’s all I can hope for.

Today, three and a half years after shutting a door and opening a new one, that giant tree of self doubt has reduced to a seedling.

Don’t get me wrong, the voice is still there. If I spill my coffee, drop something or forget to do something at work, an automatic voice in my head is triggered immediately, “You fucking idiot, you’re so useless Janine, sort your shit out! Of course you spilt your coffee, of course you did!!”

Thankfully, I now find myself in a real world of love, kindness and simplicity with a man who won’t let me talk to myself like that.

Four months ago I married my soul mate. I asked him to marry me, in a very normal, non-dramatic kinda way; there was no grand gesture. It was just us, together, camping in the pouring rain (as you do) and I said “Hey Kimbo, wanna marry me?”

He appreciates the simple things in life.

Every Tuesday we have tacos for dinner and every single time it’s like he’s never eaten tacos before. Every night as he rolls into bed, he sighs in absolute bliss about how comfy our bed is. He lives authentically. Appreciating every moment for exactly what it is. Nothing is ever a drama. Ever.

For a while, this was hard to get used to. For five years of my life, I lived in an environment of confusion, lies and drama. Oh the drama. So much drama!!

With Kimbo there are no over-the-top declarations of love or ridiculously expensive dinners or gifts. There is adventure, there is fun and there is of course, love. There is an appreciation of the things in life that actually matter.

I remember the first time he got me flowers, we hadn’t been dating all that long. He got home before me and put them in a glass on the kitchen bench; they weren’t in plain view, just chilling near the sink. There was no mention of it. No begging for recognition. Just a simple act of appreciation. I looked at those flowers (lilies, my fave) and watched him walk around my kitchen, drying my dishes and wiping down my bench tops and felt so genuinely overwhelmed with love, I nearly passed out.

I guess that’s another reason why I’m sharing this story, to show how recovering from a bad relationship can make you so appreciative of the good ones.

It’s the days that break you, that make you.

It’s the tough things that happen to us that help us grow and put ourselves on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

I believe that everything we encounter in this life really helps to pave our journey, to build our character and teach us lessons.

Ladies, if you’re in a relationship that feels wrong, it’s wrong.

Trust your gut.

Listen to yourself.

Do what you need to do to find out who you are again, because you’re so worth it.

Janine Plant is a Bunbury gal. She’s a proud mumma to her feather babies (chooks), step-mum to a beautiful little boy and wifey to her soulmate, Kim. Known amongst her friends and family as the resident tree hugger, she’s also a yoga teacher, vegan, nature and animal loving free spirit. With all this in mind, still never get between her and her morning triple shot Bonsoy latte! 

Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

The last Friday of June in Australia is Red Nose Day and I’m one of the unlucky parents who this day has a very significant meaning to.

For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to be is a mother. Growing up all my friends had specific career goals that they wanted to achieve but for me, all I knew for sure was that when I ‘grew up’ I’d be a mum!

Well, as they say ‘dreams do come true’ but my journey into motherhood has been far from what I dreamed it would be as a little girl.

On Monday, the 22nd of August in 2011, my dream became a reality when my first son Nate Lachlan Brandis was born. My labour was long and if I’m honest, waaaay more painful than I could ever have imagined. I ended up in an emergency C-section but it was totally and 110% worth it when my big 9lb 9oz baby boy was handed to me.

The first week was tough, Nate’s blood sugar levels were so low, he needed to stay in the special care nursery. My milk never came in, which after my third baby I finally discovered I had IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue) which is quite common with women who have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Recovering from a C-section was also no walk in the park! After that week, I caved and decided I was going to bottle feed (my now starving) child.

I have to admit, it was one of best decisions I ever made. After his first full bottle, he slept!! He slept so well that I was the mum at my mothers’ group who lied to all the other poor mums because I felt so bad that my now three week old baby was sleeping eight hours straight a night! (While they were up every hour to attend to their baby.)

Nate was the easiest, crusiest, happiest, cheekiest baby I’ve ever met. (I’m not even joking, he actually was!) He fitted right into our world so perfectly. My husband Paul and I both thought life was pretty damn sweet.

When Nate was ten months and three weeks old our lives were irrevocably changed when he passed away from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I was totally blindsided. How could this beautiful, innocent soul be taken from us so soon?

I was that mum who never put the cot bumper in the cot and dressed my baby in a sleeping bag instead of blankets (as that was the SIDS recommendation). I did it all and it made no difference!! It just didn’t and still doesn’t make any sense!

The next few days, weeks and months were a total blur. All I can remember is the amount of love that surrounded Paul & I from our family and those few friends (who know who they are) that we now consider as family.

I remember in the days after Nate died, I was peeing on a pregnancy test just praying for my baby to come back to me; like I was asking for some sort of miracle.

The pain of losing a child never leaves you. You just learn of ways to cope and live with the pain, as if it’s a new part of you.

So that’s what we did. Paul and I decided to live life. We both took nearly half a year off work and travelled the world together. We did so many amazing things on that trip from learning to scuba dive in the Greek Islands to skydiving over the North Shore in Hawaii to learning the art of making traditional Spanish sangria & paella in Barcelona. It was exactly the escape I needed but it was also such a bittersweet time in our lives too.

In the back of my mind, I expected to return from that trip pregnant and it devastated me that I didn’t. However, after nearly four years of struggling with infertility and having to go on a range of fertility meds, we were finally blessed with our rainbow baby, another son Luca. Luca’s name (as well as being a family name) means ‘bringer of light’ and that he certainly is!!

Two years later we were blessed again in a rather suprising & unplanned way (due to some of my own serious medical issues, which is a whole other story in itself) with the birth of our third son, Hudson.

Being a parent after the loss of a child is hard, I mean ‘parenthood’ is hard in general but it adds a whole other level. Those fucking ‘mum guilts’ creep in way worse when you’ve just had enough but it makes you appreciate the little things just as much too.

Nate’s still every bit a part of our family. Luca knows all about his big brother ‘Angel Nate’ and Hudson will grow to know about him too.

So this Red Nose Day (as I do every day) I will be thinking of my darling Angel Nate and sending love not only to him but to all of the other angel babies and the families they have so sadly left behind. Please join me.

Find out how you can be involved and support Red Nose Day here. Help reduce nine deaths a day to ZERO and donate.

Janae Brandis is a Bunbury girl, born and raised. She’s been married to the love-of-her-life for 10 years and she’s a mother to three gorgeous children; one of whom lives in heaven. Janae is obsessed with wine and cheese but thinks chocolate is life. In other words, don’t come between her and her Snickers bar.

📷: Red Nose

Guest Kween: FAYE LYONS-WHITE “The Best Day Of My Life Was Not (For A While) The Day My Daughter Was Born.”

Guest Kween: FAYE LYONS-WHITE “The Best Day Of My Life Was Not (For A While) The Day My Daughter Was Born.”

The best day of my life was not (for a while) the day my daughter was born.

Even seeing that written down gives me an immense feeling of guilt. I feel anxious writing this.

With time and perspective (and probably some minor memory loss) it has become the best day but for a while, it really was not.

Before I had Aifric, I was told that having a baby would be the best day of my life; better than my wedding day, better than the time I was 16 and saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the London Arena, better than the day I danced with Jeff Goldblum (husband Simon will be rolling his eyes here), even better than the day Ryan Gosling shook elbows with me (even more eye rolling, but that’s another story for another time).

Let’s not get confused with the best day of my life and the best thing that has ever happened in my life. Because Aifric is certainly that. She is the best thing that has ever happened to us and I am overwhelmed with the magnitude of love and pride I have for her.

But the day she was born was awful. She was 10 days late. Eventually after 9 days of waiting, I went into labour in the early hours of the morning and by all accounts, it started off well.

I was contracting every 3 minutes, all while still able to have conversations about what was trending on Twitter and Trump. Who wants to talk about him during labour? Hand up: this fool over here! I even had time to eat a lot of Party Rings. The phrase ‘she’s made for labour’ was even bandied about (which is weird in itself, does that mean some women aren’t?!).

Suddenly I wasn’t making any further progress, I couldn’t dilate past 7-8cm because the baby was sitting on part of my cervix. Cue syntocinon drip, and an epidural. Then all of a sudden: chaos.

The baby’s heart rate dropped without warning and didn’t recover. We had an emergency episiotomy and forceps delivery and I got a third degree tear, losing two litres of blood. I was immediately taken to theatre and spent the first two and a half hours of our baby’s life away from her.

Later, when the feeling came back to the lower half of my body, I was in immense pain. So who can call that the best day of their life? Please. No one would describe severe haemorrhaging as the best day of their life!

It has taken me some time to allow myself to breathe and appreciate that thought. Even now my memory is playing tricks on me: was that the best day of my life? Maybe it was.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine, we were swapping labour stories and I said that this ‘best day of your life’ stuff is just total rubbish. Aifric is the best thing to ever EVER happen to us and we cannot imagine life without her but the best day? It certainly was not!

The next day I sent this friend a follow-up message saying how guilty I felt. How much I felt I had let Aifric down by saying her birthday wasn’t the best day of my life and that really it was a great day because we got baby Aifric out of it. I wouldn’t want Aifric to ever think I resented any of it. Ever. Because of course, I don’t.

This lovely friend of mine replied. She told me that I hadn’t let Aifric down just because I didn’t enjoy the labour. That the labour was a reflection of my love and appreciation for her. A testament to my love for her; that I could go through all that and still think she’s the best thing I have ever done.

Thank you to that friend for helping me manage that funny guilt, one which I think is probably going to stick with me for a little while longer and may possibly change in its appearance, cloud my judgement and my memory: but it’s ok, I am ready for you!

And thank you to my friend for teaching me (us!) yet another lesson. To be a little kinder to ourselves, a little softer, in this totally and utterly crazy journey of parenthood.

Faye is a showbiz correspondent living in London with her husband Simon and 6 month old daughter Aifric. Life was all about the red carpets and interviews: now it’s Napisan and nipple shields.

Faye started blogging about life as a new mum on her site notsoshowbizmum. She very much enjoys an instastory, a good gin, netball and is pleased TayTay and KP have finally made up!

@posh_faye

Guest Kween: KYLIE RICHARDSON “I Serial Dated My Way To My Dream Guy!”

Guest Kween: KYLIE RICHARDSON “I Serial Dated My Way To My Dream Guy!”

At 22, suddenly I was alone in a country where I knew next to no one.

I’d moved to New Zealand with my first boyfriend but after 5 years together, I realised that I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. All I knew was that the life I was living was not the one I dreamt of growing up.

Dating should have been the last thing on my mind but I was so used to being in a relationship that I didn’t know any better.

Queue my first taste of online dating.

Can we just take a moment and reflect on what online dating was like 10 years ago? This was the real, online dating world with full profiles, Q&As, ice-breaker messages and a time when you could filter out guys that didn’t meet your criteria; ie were shorter than 6ft, smokers and didn’t like comedies.

Thinking back on that time in my life now, I was pretty naïve and totally out of my depth. But online dating was actually the best thing I could have ever done, and it’s turned me into the biggest online dating advocate ever to exist.

Did I go on some bad dates? Yes.

Did I meet dudes who were not at all like their photo? Yes.

Did I fall for half the guys I met way too quickly? Yeah, probably.

But I was 22 and had never properly ‘dated’ so navigating my way around the ‘dating world’ was completely new to me.

Fast forward 7 years, a few more online dating stints and a few relationships later and the dating game had totally changed.

Helloooooo Tinder! 😉

It was the beginning of 2015, Tinder had been around a while, but it didn’t seem like something I wanted to try in any hurry. I won’t lie, even I was sceptical and hesitant to jump on Tinder after my last long term relationship ended. I wasn’t heartbroken and it wasn’t a bad breakup but it was the relationship that made me realise that I am the only person responsible for my happiness. If I wanted to experience those crazy butterflies, the anticipation and excitement of seeing my man (and wanting to rip his clothes off), and feeling that in his eyes ‘I’m the only girl in the world’; then I would need to focus on creating the best version of myself first.

I was no longer prepared to sacrifice my own dreams and desires for a guy and vowed that the next relationship I was in, would be the one. I was done spending time in dead-end relationships and was determined to not only meet the love of my life, but my best friend, my ride or die and the guy that would find me completely hilarious!

Having that clarity on what I was prepared to accept in a relationship immediately changed my mindset. 2015 was going to be MY year. I decided I was going to focus on smashing all my own personal goals and that I was going to tick off all the bucketlist items I’d been meaning to do since moving to NZ.

I had All. The. Possibilities.

In hindsight at that point Tinder was pretty counterintuitive to my personal goals but after some serious peer pressure, there I was, sitting in the lunchroom at work with my girlfriends egging me on. They were all in awesome, serious relationships and I think they got way too excited about the thought of living vicariously through me. Their persuasion was impossible to resist so I set-up my account, slapped together a quick profile and let the swiping begin.

I had no expectations and was just doing it for some fun. We swiped right on a few dudes and then went about the rest of our afternoon.

‘You’ve got a match’. Ooh, well isn’t this a bit exciting.

The first guy I got chatting to that night was a lovely, charming Spanish guy; who had been in Auckland a couple of years. We had great chats and he invited me to go out and have a drink for our first date. It was awesome.

I arrived at work the next morning and proclaimed to the entire office that I had met my husband. It was slightly tongue-in-cheek of course but I was just so pumped to be back in the dating game that I knew this time around was going to be a game changer.

I was happy, I had so much love for myself and I had rediscovered those butterfly feelings that I had always heard people talk about but had never truly experienced as an adult.

The lovely Spanish guy clearly wasn’t the one, but he was the first date of many, many great dates (we’re talking 25+) on the journey that ultimately led me to meet the love of my life.

During my Tinder stints I got pretty good at the dating game. I had some basic rules and a yes policy. My rules weren’t to do with the guys so much, but around how long matches were allowed to sit without conversation, how many times I would try to make the conversation interesting before giving up, and how long the banter could go on for before one of us initiated a date. My yes policy was simple: if they have the balls to ask me out, I would accept. After all, online chemistry is different to in-person chemistry, and I knew which one was more important.

Can I just put it out there and state that ladies, there is absolutely nothing wrong with dating like a dude (it shames me to even admit there is a gender divide in the way we date)? If you want to send the first message, do it. If you want to ask him out on a date, do it. If you want to be flirty in your messages, do it. There are no set rules, so date however the hell you want to.

Dating isn’t all coffee, wine and laughs. It’s time consuming and serious business; if you’re serious about meeting someone. I had weeks where 5 out of 7 nights were booked out with dates, some days I even had 2 dates. Generally, I was ‘dating’ more than one guy at a time, as most wouldn’t go past a first or second date. Because I was dedicating time to the task of dating, I didn’t want to waste opportunities to meet new people, on the off chance I might meet one that I clicked with. Sure, this meant I had to cancel on dates if I met someone who I wanted to see again but dating isn’t exclusive until it’s exclusive, okay?

I’m sure this will make a few people cringe, or roll their eyes in judgement but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest because after all of my serial dating I found myself a keeper.

I like to tell people that Karl tricked me into going on a date with him, and whilst there is an element of truth to that; there was no way that I was going to let the fact that he actually lived in a different city (island, even!) stop me from meeting him. Yes, despite this semi-vital piece of information only coming to light after a week or so of chats and agreeing to the date; by that point, I was going all in! He was funny, interesting, had great banter and looked pretty hot in his photos. Our first date was at a bar close to the hotel he was staying at whilst he was in Auckland training for a new job (as I knew he would be car-less). When I arrived he already had a drink, so I went and ordered my own. Not exactly dating etiquette but I let it slide as he was even better looking in person and he was wearing a cardigan; it takes a confident man to rock a cardigan. 😉

We chatted, laughed, shared stories and everything just felt so natural. Needless to say we were pretty keen to see each other again and it wasn’t long before we were making very regular trips up and down the country to spend time together.

I never planned to fall for a guy that lived an hour and a half flight away but I think the universe matched us for a reason. There was no way in hell that we would have ‘bumped’ into each other by chance. We had to actively look for each other and it’s bloody good that we did, I say.

During my few months of Tindering up a storm, I learnt a lot. About myself and about dating.

Firstly, I learnt that guys have it tough on Tinder. Hold on, hear me out. Do you know how intimidating women can be to the male species? When it comes to the online dating world women really do call the shots. We swipe left far more than the guys do, we have a list of prerequisites that they need to meet before we even agree to go on a date with them, and we are far quicker to judge them and write them off based on anything that has even the remotest resemblance to a past boyfriend/dating experience.

Secondly, as cliché as it sounds, you should never judge a book by its cover. I had been guilty in the past of making assumptions on a guy’s personality based on their bio and photos but when I decided to stop and give more guys a chance for a second impression, I was beyond impressed. When given the opportunity to be treated as a human and not just an object in a catalogue, people tend to respond positively. That guy with the topless selfie that you immediately think ‘douche!’ may actually turn out to be one of the funniest, most genuine guys you’ll meet and could be the best guy for you.

Thirdly, when I stopped worrying whether my dates would like me or not I had WAY more fun and was able to just be myself. I loved myself enough that I knew the right guy for me would think I was pretty rad, and I focused my energy on getting to know him and if he was the right guy for me rather than whether he thought I was funny or attractive or interesting. Each date was like a catch-up with a friend who I’d not seen in ages; so even the ones with zero chemistry or common ground were actually not so bad.

Fourthly (is that even a thing?), DATING SHOULD BE FUN, DAMN IT. If you’re dating be sure to make the dates interesting. Do something you want to do, go somewhere different, try something new because if the date doesn’t turn into anything, at least you’ve created a rad memory. In addition to traditional coffee and wine dates, I had dates at concerts, comedy shows, arts festival gigs, and even at the airport… seriously. If I had all day I would tell you all about them, but you catch my drift.

And lastly, I discovered that deal breakers should be treated with a pinch of salt because realistically you’ve possibly added a whooooole bunch of things to that list that really don’t need to be there. When you meet the right guy for you, you’ll realise what is really important.

If you’re single (or ever find yourself single) make sure your first priority is YOU. Then once you’ve gotten some clarity on who you are and what you want, get your sexy butt on Tinder. Really. And if you want some help or guidance, then I’ll gladly be your Tinder-Wing Woman.

Kylie is an Aussie Girl Boss, living in New Zealand with her handsome man, Karl. She’s an absolute coffee fiend, laughs at everything and is renowned for her infectiously positive, you-can-do-it attitude. Kylie runs her own business ‘Confident + Crushing it’, which coaches women to ‘be the girl that has it all’ in life, in love and in business. Kylie has just launched her newest side hustle, an e-commerce store selling limited edition pocket squares for men called ‘The Handsome Hombre’.

@kyliejrichardson