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.


Guest Kween: MARIA CONTARINO “An Open Letter To My Firstborn.”

Guest Kween: MARIA CONTARINO “An Open Letter To My Firstborn.”

Dear Carmela (Moo),

I loved you from the minute you were born and still do.

From a young age being a mum was all I ever wanted: I honestly couldn’t wait to fall pregnant.

At 11am on the 21st of February 1986, here you were, finally in my arms. It was a very long labour that ended in an emergency C section but from that moment my life completely changed; you were my world, the air that I breathed. Yep, the bond was there right from the start; I loved the fact that you needed me. Everything finally made sense. I was a mummy, it made me feel important.

You were such a bubbly baby; you completed my days. We were like a team. I talked to you every minute of the day and waited every morning for you to wake to do it all over again. Poor dad, he felt rejected, as all my focus and attention was on you.

When your sister Domenica was born you helped me in every possible way, we were in this together. Team ‘Mum and Moo’ was the best team ever. We filled our days talking, watching TV and having afternoon sleeps together in the big bed (my bed).

Life was great. Having two little girls felt like a sense of achievement. I dressed you both the same whenever I could.

Then came along your brother Sam, and I guess that’s when you really turned into a ‘mini-me’. Domenica wasn’t fussed but I think you thought he was pretty special. You helped me raise Sammy right into his teenage years.

With me being the youngest child of a large Italian family, I was incredibly spoilt. I really had the very best childhood. So when I became a mum I also wanted you to experience the same feeling. I’m just not too sure how I went with that, because with me having to work most of the time, I don’t think growing up you were as happy.

Nonna was always home and I got away with lots. As for you Moo, it just wasn’t the same because you had to step into my shoes when I wasn’t there. You were only eleven-years-old when I was running a supermarket deli (meaning I wasn’t around in the mornings). You would wake your sister and brother up, make them breakfast and walk them to and from school. You were a part- time mummy/part-time sister and were always asking if I needed anything. This is probably why you’re so mature for your age: you had to grow up really quickly. We needed your help but it’s one of my regrets.

Sometimes I feel like I failed you and wasn’t the best mum going around. With the long hours that I worked to bring the extra money into the house (which I thought was important at the time), I missed out on spending precious time with you. I compensated for this in your teenage years. I wanted you to make your own decisions. You probably thought I was the biggest pushover but I wanted you to love life and enjoy being free.

Even though I had the most amazing childhood, your nonno told me who, what, when, why and dictated how things were done. He made all my decisions till the day I married your father and life with your Dad has been pretty much the same. I didn’t want that for you. All I really ever wanted was to be a stay-at-home-mum and not work.

Carmela, we were friends all through your school years. I liked how you trusted me and talked to me about lots of different things. It made me happy.

When you moved out of home for the first time to live in Sydney, you left an empty place in my heart. You were on a journey to build your career and I thought ‘ahh she’s going to forget me’ but we still kept in touch (most days). I loved when you would call asking for advice (like the time you needed to know how to boil pasta) haha.

As the years have gone by, you’ve moved from Sydney to London with no job and no place to live. You’ve been there on and off for three years now and traveled to places I can only dream about. I want you to know how proud I am of you and your achievements; with all the ups and downs, you’ve always managed to survive.

Rumour has it you’re my favourite, well let everyone think what they want. 😉

Thank you so much for all the things you have taught me: mostly to believe in myself and have faith that I can do anything.

Most of all THANK YOU for loving me, still giving me cuddles and allowing me to be your mum.



P.s. Team Mum and Moo Forever.

Carmela’s response:

Dear Mum,

Please don’t feel guilty for having to work during my childhood. I’ve sensed for a while now that it’s been eating you up inside.

Don’t you dare let it!

YOU are the reason I am brave, the reason I am strong, the reason I have an impeccable work ethic, the reason I am resilient, the reason I am a fighter, the reason I am bold, the reason I am successful, the reason I am kind, the reason I am loved (and know how to love) unconditionally.

From a young age I watched a woman raise a family on her own and sacrifice everything to provide for them; you’re still providing for us now.

Don’t you get how fucking proud I am of you? In a world where you’ve never had it all, you’ve always ensured that I did.

For over a decade you held down the fort while dad worked in Perth. You took a small business and turned it into an homeware institution. From not having a proper education; you’re the highest-paid person in your field. You’ve had three kids and somehow are skinner than me. Haha.

You were never just the mum that worked and wasn’t there. You squeezed in as much as you could and juggled it all. Even today (at nearly 60 years of age) you do a 9-5 and still put a home cooked meal on the table every evening.

No one ever has a bad word to say about you; though I brag about how ‘I have the best mum’ all the time anyway. You’re a second mum/nonna to so many and that’s because you’ve welcomed all my friends into our family home and treated them like family as well.

Yes, my childhood was different to other kids but I also got to grow up with a mum that I could tell anything to and never had to hide anything from. You trusted and respected me from such a young age; I think it’s really why I’m a feminist and enforce women empowerment.

You’ve taught me to put memories first before money and never stopped me from living my life (no matter how unusual my choices may be). I am the lucky one.

Happy Mother’s Day.



Maria Contarino is Carmela’s mum, she’s also the successful store manager of House in Bunbury (otherwise known as ‘Mrs House’). Maria cooks a mean bowl of pasta, is an obsessive owl collector and is the first one on the d floor whenever ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘You’re The One That I Want’ is playing.

Guest Kween: EFFIE PAPAS “What The First Year Of Marriage Is Really Like!”

Guest Kween: EFFIE PAPAS “What The First Year Of Marriage Is Really Like!”

Later this month marks our very first wedding anniversary. We made it! We survived! What will we do to celebrate? More importantly, which photo of us will I post on social media? And when I say us, I obviously mean which one do I look the best in? It will be a professional wedding photo of us, of course, after I gave my left kidney to pay for them.  What am I going to say in the caption? Because, you know, it’s not a real milestone unless it’s on facebook. Or instagram. Or snapchat.

I’ve been noticing more frequently, over the past year or so, wedding anniversary announcements on social media. Maybe it’s because I pay more attention to these posts since getting married, or maybe it’s because I just know more married people these days. Makes sense. I read these posts – the elevated expressions of love and affectionate words for their other half. How being married is the best thing that ever happened, how they can’t wait for more fun amazing adventures together, how they are excited to see where the future takes them. It’s like those made-for-TV Christmas movies: they’re all different but very much the same. I don’t know why, but these posts make me go ‘ugh’. Double ‘ugh’, if said anniversary post is made by the husband. Ok, ok. That’s a lie. Maybe it’s more like “Awww omg they are so CUTE and PERFECT!! insert love heart eyes emoji here”… but then followed by an ‘ugh’.

I am genuinely happy that these people are all loved up and happy and marriage is everything they dreamt of and more. I get it, I love my husband too. Marriage is good. Life is good. But let’s be honest, it ain’t always sunshine and roses. It’s hard work in between all the great bits. Writing a sappy loved up post to mark our anniversary wouldn’t depict our reality for the past twelve months. Not in its entirety, anyway. It’s not that we don’t feel all those feels, we just don’t feel them 24/7, 365 days a year. I know people don’t purposely intend for their posts to come across that way. I’m guilty of sharing only the good shit. I suppose social media just isn’t the place to expose real life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be no Negative Nancy either. I’d just like to read something real and honest, and think “Yes! Me too! I’m normal after all. Phew!” Actually now that I think of it, I’d rather look at bunch of memes… how good are memes?! The best! Seriously though.

Reuben and I are pretty in sync as a couple. We love food, we love travel, we love socializing. He enjoys my crazy impromptu dances in my baggy pyjamas and I laugh at his lame jokes. He doesn’t like my singing (that’s OK – nobody does, but that won’t stop me). He doesn’t stress about money and he teaches me things about… well… things. He likes my cooking, and I like his. We enjoy brunch and numerous other activities – yes, brunch is an activity.

Our wedding day was pretty amazing. The only thing I would go back and do differently, is eat more food. Yep. What I would give to try everything on that menu… That menu was made for me. Sigh… Since that day our marriage certainly hasn’t been a Sunday drive. We have been working incredibly hard at us. Like…. really hard. Those who know us well, know our whole relationship has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. You know how you have those crazy seconds on the ride when you’re going down a rapid decline and it’s all scary and you scream and scream and cry and you want to get off because you think you’re going to die but then it gets fun and awesome and you laugh and laugh and laugh and then get off and decide it’s the best thing ever and you want to get back on? Yeah! That’s us!

I won’t go into the details of our history together, that’s some serious novel material. Immigration services have a copy on file, if you ever want a read. Long story short(er), moving to Canada for love seemed like a simple enough adventure. How hard could it be? The extent of my thinking at the time was something along the lines of “Oh my god, I actually get to live with the guy of my dreams!!!” and the only concern I had was “Shit….what if I can’t sell my car in time?” That’s. Literally. It. I had some learning to do.

In the beginning I was incredibly homesick and experiencing FOMO like nobody’s business. I missed my family, my job, my income, my friends, my own place, my independence. I missed cheezels, Cadbury Easters, greek food, meat pies, warm weather and the beach. Did I mention food? When my visa ran out after two years, I made the move back to Australia. Life was good, but it was STILL missing something. I was finally achieving goals again, but Reuben wasn’t there. I was fulfilled in all the areas lacking whilst living in Canada, but suddenly had this new void that was bigger than all the previous voids combined. Neither of us wanted to give up what we had created for ourselves, but we weren’t willing to give up on each other either. So we waited it out. It was tough.

I eventually went back to Canada for a visit. I loved every minute of the trip and finally came to really appreciate this place. Now it was the cheap bars and restaurants, my Canadian friends, Sephora and cheap flights to Vegas that I missed. I decided on a whim that I was going to move back in the new year and try it all again. Suddenly my career wasn’t the number one focus anymore, it was Reuben. Home was wherever he was –  it was clear now. For the first time in a long time, I knew exactly what I wanted. I was no longer confused about whether or not to stick to my life ‘plan’ (which was to someday become ‘Australian Teacher of the Year’ and own my own home with ocean views). I no longer needed a plan! Is that the definition of finding myself? Perhaps.

I spent a few months back home first to make sure I wasn’t making an impulse decision, but nothing changed my excitement: I was ready to go. My first year back in Canada was perfect – we built ourselves a new home in a lake community, travelled to Jamaica, reunited with friends, made some new ones, and got engaged. I was content with where my life was at and no longer looked over that fence to see what colour the grass was on the other side. It was as green as it gets right where I was.

Then the wedding planning commenced. That’s when the next drop on the ol’ rollercoaster approached. Or maybe this was the loop-de-loop part. Either way, we strapped ourselves in for one hell of a ride! This time it wasn’t distance getting in the way, it was us. In true Papas/Teichroeb fashion, we pushed through it. A friend recommended counselling, so off we went. We chose the one that had the best looking website and was the cheapest (but not cheap) and commenced in letting everything out to some random stranger. She didn’t say much throughout the entirety of our pre-marriage sessions, but it worked. It was emotional and overwhelming and we let it allllll out. Everything. For a hefty fee, we took away some effective communication tools which come naturally to us now.

I also started reading more. The more I read, the more I paid attention to my actions and behaviours. I learned about the different vulnerabilities between men and women (shame vs. fear) and how to control them rather than spur them on. I started understanding why he was saying and doing what he was saying and doing. I became more patient and less reactive. I figured out how to control my emotions rather than be controlled by them. I try to focus on what’s important, not the little things. A relationship shouldn’t be 50/50, but 100/100. There will always be new issues to deal with and you can’t control them but you can control how you respond to them. Books, guys!! They help, I’m telling you. Good ones though. Not bad ones.

If I have learnt one thing about relationships, it’s that they need work. Even after you tie the knot. Sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s a shit show. We’re a work in progress, but we are progressing. It’s a consistent effort and we have become very intentional with it. Social media will never show that side of us between all the smiles and travelling and great dinners, but know it is there. We aren’t perfect. Remember that when I end up sharing some sappy loved up post on our anniversary!

Effie Papas is a Greek girl, from Australia, living in Canada. She loves to eat and she really loves to travel. Gin is her drink of choice. Effie is a junior high school teacher as well as an entrepreneur. She’s working towards financial freedom and retiring by the age of 35.