Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS

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…

Hey there Kweens!

You might remember me from such blog posts as:

  • Make Your Own Damn Rules!
  • Don’t live anywhere! 
  • Be single! 
  • Quit your job! 
  • Girl power YAHHHHH!! 

It’s been awhile since we last I wrote this and well, I still don’t live anywhere. I really, really wanted to get myself a home this year but life didn’t work that way. So that’s 18 months and counting. I’ve managed to get through another year on contract work and have avoided getting a ‘proper job’ HUGE WIN.

I also turned 40. It was bloody wonderful. I wore a big pink tutu and was surrounded by people I love. Kylie Kwong sang me Happy Birthday. I didn’t even know I wanted that to happen: but it was the best thing ever. Turning 40. Tick that one off.

I remember turning 30 and really coming into my own about who I was. Turning 40 was that on steroids. I feel like life has become real.

Here are some things I’ve worked out. Sit back for some advice from your older, wiser Kween!

DON’T FIT IN. DO YOU 

I no longer have time for trying to fit into this life. For doing things the way we are told. For meaningless conversations. For buying stuff I don’t need. I don’t want the same things I once did. They say your new life will cost you your old one. And hasn’t it what!

We are given a single story-line on what makes a good life. Just the one. And it’s not for me.

Choose YOU. Don’t run with the status quo, if that’s not what’s in your heart.

Get married. Don’t get married. Have kids or don’t. Become a lawyer, become an artist, work in a shop: so, you can get home to your family and not answer emails at all hours. You have all the choices in the world. Make them. But make sure they’re your choices, not something you’ve been told to want.

The world is your goddamn oyster!

Sidenote: Don’t question someone else’s choices. Don’t force your beliefs on them. We are all so different. Let’s just be different. Let’s celebrate that.

Other sidenote: Oysters are disgusting. 

BE SINGLE. OR DON’T BE.

I no longer think of being single as less than. I’m bloody happy. Being alone feels like freedom to me. Being in a relationship could feel the same to someone else.

I’m sure if I met a guy who brought me coffee in bed and liked to get to airports really super-duper early (like when the bag drop is just open) then maybe I’d sign up for this love stuff too. But I’m not going out searching for him because I think I need that.

You don’t need it. It’s nice but you don’t need it.

HAVE KIDS. OR DON’T.

I never wanted children and I always worried I’d regret it. But I know now I won’t. To quote Cameron Diaz: “The one thing I know is that I’m not childless. I have a ton of children in my life. It’s not like I’m the spinster who didn’t have a child. I just didn’t do that in life, and I’m OK with that. I know the choices I’ve made. I know why I made them.”

I love that quote. 

I am not childless.

BE YOUR OWN HERO. NON-NEGOTIABLE.

I started my 40th year with SO MANY PLANS! But life had other plans. It always does. I swear life must laugh at my New Year’s resolutions each year. This year has brought me to my knees. I have cried more than I can remember.

My stepmum died this year. We found out she had cancer and she died within a month. Just like that. It felt like she just disappeared. My stepbrother died two months before that. He was my age. 40. And he died.

It was the second son my stepmum had lost. To see her afterwards; there are no words for that level of grief. My stepsister and brother have lost two brothers and their mum. That seems like an exceptionally unfair amount of pain.

But pain doesn’t work like that.

I sit here today and it feels like spring is coming. It’s coming and people are missing from my life but it’s coming anyway. Winter always ends.

So, for now: I give myself permission to be changed by the events of my life. You can’t be the same person after such a huge loss. But you can get back up when you’re on your knees.

You are stronger than you know. Choose to be strong. Choose to see the light in the dark.

Don’t avoid the pain. It’s meant for you. Let it leave you with the fuel to do more and be more. Let it have meaning.

We all get dealt bad blows. And when you do, you are acutely aware of people going through worse.

Life is always both. The good, the bad, the dark, the light. When you’re going through the dark times, remember the light. Try and find it. It’s always there.

Sometimes your life choices help you in ways you never thought about. Not having a permanent home has let me be there for my family so much more. Working as a contractor meant that I could work anywhere. I have been able to be physically present when it mattered and I could not have done that working a 9 to 5 job. This was not what I was thinking about when I made those choices but that was the outcome and I am blessed because of that.

It sounds cliché but you have to be grateful. Because when the sh*t hits the fan, people do amazing things.

I am grateful for all the love I’ve received this year. For the friends who have loved me through it. Who have made me laugh in spite of everything.

I have a beautiful memory of sitting by the water with a girlfriend and trading war stories about this past year. And all I could see was her light and all she could see was mine. That’s what life is about.

Being human hurts at times. Let it. Because it’s so beautiful too.

Jane is a freelance tour/event manager in the health world and has been lucky enough to work with some of her biggest heroes and inspirations. She has technically been homeless for 18 months now and hopes 2019 is the year she learns to sit still. But she will most definitely freak out if she signs a lease. She loves laughing, saying ‘wot?’ and knows all the best people in the world.

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: TONI LODGE “My Membership To The Dead Mums Club.”

Guest Kween: TONI LODGE “My Membership To The Dead Mums Club.”

“Hey Mumma, sorry I missed your calls, I just finished work, do you need me to grab something for dinner?”

“Toni, it’s Dad, I’m at the hospital with Mum – she’s not feeling well, they’re saying she’s had a stroke. I need you to go home and feed the dog and your sister is going to meet you there and you can drive here together.”

“Toni are you there???”

I went to the hospital with my twin sister (who, coincidentally, is actually 12 years my senior) and we arrived with a stuffed bear and all of my family in one little hospital room. There is no way I could forget the smell of that room, or the sticky feeling on my cheeks from crying in the car with Libby.

“What’s going on, what’s happening?” we rushed in and asked, grabbing Mum, all six of us, looking at each other.

“Um.. Mum didn’t have a stroke” my Dad said. “Fuck me, that’s amazing! Awesome! Well come on mum, let’s go home, why are we still here?!”, I said (tenderly). She looked at me, and my big brother gave me this shoulder squeeze that silenced me.

“I didn’t have a stroke”, she said, starting to shake and fight back tears, “I have a brain tumour.”

My whole world crashed. This perfect world I was living in where the only reason I could have a few missed calls from my Mum would be because ‘she needed something extra from Coles’ was gone.

I was in my first year of uni and feeling pretty damn invincible. After going to every WAAPA open day since I could understand what university was, I was there. I’d been accepted and I was on my way. I also had a job at Coles at nights and on the weekends, which gave me enough money to buy clothes, fuel, booze, and cigarettes to socially smoke (because that’s what you did at uni).

As soon as Mum got sick, that money changed to having just enough to buy fuel for my red Hyundai Getz to take me from the hills of Perth, to Mount Lawley, to Nedlands (where my Mum was in hospital), to Maddington (where I worked), and back to the hills. Paying for hospital parking and trying to look after myself as best I could to take any burden off my parents. (Definitely get private health insurance if you are reading this, it saved us.)

Eleven months later, she died. I had a Mum – this amazing Mum. Like, ah-maz-ing. And then I didn’t. Huh?

We got called into the hospital at around 3am on the 9th of September 2013 and she’d died. My Dad drove him and I, and we met my brother and his wife, my twin sister and her husband, and my other sister in the wee hours of the morning in the hospital car park to clean out her hospital room.

And then I just needed to prepare for my first funeral – my Mum’s.

I went with my sisters to buy a dress for this thing that we could barely believe had even happened yet. The shop assistant did the age old “Oh that’s pretty, what’s the occasion?!” and when I told her it was for my Mum’s funeral and she clocked all of our dreary faces she almost shat herself.

I wrote a eulogy and tried to fit my Mum’s amazing life into a couple of pages.

After that, so many people changed the way they spoke to me. Things like “I’m having the worst day, I missed the bus” or “I was late because I forgot to get fuel” or “My life is over this guy will NOT message me back” was always quickly followed by “Ohhhh Toni, I’m so sorry, you’ve just lost your Mum, this is nothing in comparison.” As much as this chubby girl with a brand new membership to the Dead Mums Club is horribly appreciative of the fact that my life seemed SO horrendous that it was the benchmark of shitness, everyone also has their shit too. Just because my shit is my mum being dead and your shit is that you were late for work, or a waiter said “Enjoy your food” and you said “Thanks, you too”, that’s okay! Your bad thing is your worst thing. We shouldn’t be on this planet to fight about who has it worse.

When I started at WAAPA I remember telling Mum that all I wanted to do was leave Perth and make something of myself. Then in 2016, I got my first job away from home (she’d been gone for a couple of years) and by this point, I was with my incredible boyfriend Alex, and we’d had been living away from home for a few months anyway. I moved a couple of hours south of Perth to pursue my career. I was finally doing it– making my Mum proud! Even though everything I’d done so far was coupled with her telling me she was so proud, it was the first big thing I had to do without her.

September rolled around and I spent the anniversary of her death away from my family. I dealt with problems at work, triumphs both professional and personal without her, and desperately wanted more than anything for her to be able to give me advice. Something I took comfort in was being able to imagine what she would say to me, or hoping one of my older siblings had gotten into the same mischief at some point and asking them what Mum said.

I made so many promises to my Mum as I grew up. I was the youngest child by a number of years which meant we spent a lot of time alone together. I told her all about my hopes and dreams, how I was going to have an amazing job that was going to move me around the world so she could come and visit whenever she wanted, how I would be famous (that one’s coming along really fucking well), and how I would be happy (workin’ on it. getting there).

But one thing is for certain: I took everything that happened to me on board and am now stronger and better for it. I am, of course, so heartbroken that my Mum is gone. In my moments of weakness where I miss her so much, I feel like I don’t know where my next breath of air is going to come from but somehow I always manage to inhale and exhale once more.

These days everything I engage in has a part of me that does it for her. Nothing changes your perspective and state of mind like recovering from loss, whatever the case may be.

Right before I jumped on the plane to my new Sydney life, I dropped in to visit my Mum. I cried. I wished she was here with me, then I realised she was, because there’s no way in hell I could have even thought about getting on that plane without her. Yep, for the second time, I was moving (across the country) to pursue my career. I am here for me, I’m here for my future, but she’s here too. And now here I am writing this for me and my fabulous Mum in my new fancy Sydney office instead of doing the job they hired me for (wait, is this being published somewhere?).

So my promise is to see the world with Mum in my handbag. To achieve everything I promised her I would because I’m fucking tough and I’m fucking strong. I am who I am because I knew my Mum, and also because I lost her.

Toni is a young 20-something year old trying to have it all. After the comedown of a brief brush with internet fame for having a Harry Potter event shut down due to it’s unfair under 15 age limit, she now spends her workday producing many National night radio shows for KIIS and iHeartRadio in Sydney.

@tonilodge