Friday, 30 November 2012

Hardest Blog I have ever had to write - Part 2!!

What a day!!   I appeared before the select committee at the Novotel in Auckland today for what was possibly one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my existence.  I got there early enough to see other submissions including a Doctor who was absolutely fascinating and who brought up points of objection that I had not even contemplated and I found myself furiously scribbling down most of what she was saying just to remember it for future use.  However my hand was shaking so much with nerves I am not sure how readable any of it will actually be!

It’s a fairly intimidating experience with the committee sat around three sides of a square with you sitting on your lonesome (in my case) in front of the panel.  They welcomed me and off I went.  I found it incredibly hard even with my public speaking and acting experience under my belt not to become overwhelmed by the emotion behind what I feel.  It took everything I had to keep it together.  I tried my best to remember what I had written and not read it off the page as I wanted to see what impact I was having on the members and make eye contact with as many as I could.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I knew I had got to my last paragraph.  My oral submission was really well received by the committee who congratulated me (well most of them!) for a passionate and well reasoned piece.  Then the questions started....I think nearly every person there asked me something. I can’t remember all of them but a few of them below.

Question 1 - Did I feel my children got the necessary and normal socialisation required by not attending ECE and School

Answer - (This old cookie!!) Do you think it is normal to put a child of three into a classroom of 30 other 3 year olds?  My children are far more widely socialised than this and attend sports, clubs, dance and Sunday school where they mix with an age group of babies to old people.  My children are far more widely socialised than your average child I believe.

Question 2 - The lady asking this question was very nice and said I did not have to answer this question if I didn’t want to, the question was - Due to the element of abuse within my marriage what extra help or support did my children require coming out of the relationship.

Answer - I explained that I thought single parents who have come out of an abusive relationship whether that be verbal or serious physical abuse need to provide their children with extra support.  I know I babbled a bit more but it’s all a bit of a haze now!!

Question 3 - (The only objectionable member in the room, giving all speakers a hard time) Did I really believe ECE was a form of child abuse.

Answer - At this point I was extremely glad I had taken the advice of someone whose opinion means a lot to me and reworded what I had originally written as I was able to answer with the following - I did not say that ECE was a form of child abuse I said Obesity is a form of child abuse and if there is proof that children in ECE were 50% more likely to suffer with obesity then it was yet another reason not to send my child.

Question 4 - (He continued with another question) What’s so bad about ECE, I sent my kids and they turned out alright and it was an important part of their day it’s only 3 hours a day you could fit everything else around that.

Answer - Was hard to answer this as he kept interrupting but I basically said how long have you got?!  I mentioned the studies from my submission and I also mentioned how difficult it would be from a practical point of view from where I live.  

Question 5 - Would I be happy if a form of exemption was introduced for homeschoolers that would include preschoolers too.

Answer - I said that ECE should be a choice for all New Zealanders regardless of whether they were on benefit or not but if this was the only option to save me putting my children into ECE then that would be something.

A debate then ensued between the various members of the committee and the very awesome Jacinda Ardern reminded other members that according to these new regulations I would be forced to put my eldest in school too and this needed immediate attention as it simply was not right.  Some members seemed to have no idea that this was so and that beneficiaries would not be allowed to homeschool.  In fact one member came up to me afterwards to talk to me specifically about that aspect as he had no idea this formed part of this bill.  I have to say that didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.

All in all it went really well, I felt like I handled myself well and spoke coherently and intelligently (most of the time).  The Chairman came up to me during the coffee break as did four other members of the panel and assured me that they would take everything I said very seriously and they would be looking into the matters of homeschooling as they had been overwhelmed on this front.  (Go homeschoolers!!!).  

I thought I would feel like it was a big waste of time that the bill would go through regardless of how much fuss we may kick up but you know what, this committee (mostly) all listened to what I had to say with an open mind and I felt like there was every chance that this bill will be looked at again but only time will tell!  

Below is roughly what I said today -

Oral Submission

The role of a mother used to be viewed in society as the most precious job a woman could do…what happened?  I did not choose to become a single Mother with two young children to support on my own. To be honest I am not sure if anyone would consciously choose to live that life, it’s really hard emotionally, physically and financially.  As a single Mother or Father your job description is not just that of the Mother/Father but nurturer, doctor, nurse, teacher, cab driver, cook, housekeeper, clothes washer, cheerleader, disciplinarian and so much more. We do it all for nothing except love.   

I became a single parent to protect my children from an escalating situation of verbal abuse within my marriage.  My choice to leave is I believe the most courageous decision I have ever made in my life and one where my children’s welfare was at the very core of my decision.

This new discriminatory Social Security Amendment Bill does not differentiate between neglectful and responsible parents. It targets all parents receiving state assistance no matter what their state of mind; their parenting philosophies, or what their future plans may be for their families.

Why is it suddenly deemed ok to remove rights from a certain group of NZer's – a set of people already facing huge challenges everyday, single struggling parents and their children? Instead of supporting these parents in their parenting roles, this bill seeks to punish them by removing their basic rights to choose what is best for their own children.

This one−size−fits−all government policy goes against my human rights New Zealand has understood and stated its ratification to the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights International Standards (E/C.12/1999/10,Article 13.29). If this Bill becomes law, New Zealand will not only be in the international spotlight as a country that holds contempt for The United Nations and their bills for Human Rights, but there will be more broken families and troubled children because of it.

I understand that the intent of the Bill is the protection of vulnerable children, but I believe a targeted approach would be more effective. Lumping us all in a category of neglectful abusive parents is simply not justified.  There is nothing more precious or important to me in my life than my two girls Charlotte and Rosie.

Perhaps the government could use their time and finances more effectively and tackle the rising cases of child abuse in this country and increase their promise of cutting the abuse from 5% to 50%, I am quite sure the entire country would be behind such a brave move.

Children of solo parents are already forced to live with only one parent why push to also separate them from the one loving parent they have left? I believe the most valuable contribution to our society I can make at this point in my life, is to invest myself and my time in raising my two girls to be moral, well educated, motivated, skilled, capable, contributing members of society.

Why is motherhood is no longer a valid job for a woman?  Or is it still valuable as long as you can afford the luxury and don’t find yourself at the mercy of having to ask for help from our government? (Which I might add is a very difficult thing to do) As a single Mum I work seven days a week three hundred and sixty-five days a year. We don’t get holidays, sick pay, bank holidays, pension, health or a dental plan but I do it all with a glad and loving heart.  Do we now expect our single parents to manage all this plus find employment whilst dumping our children in someone else’s care for the government to pick up that bill instead, it seems a little ludicrous to me, that I am willing and able to give my two girls the absolute best care, love and education and yet you want to force me into placing them into kindy and school.  Homeschooling in New Zealand saves our government thousands of dollars even from those receiving benefit.  Once again this is why a one size fits all policy does not work.

I mentioned in my submission a number of reasons why I am totally against my children attending ECE or school but would like to draw the committee’s attention to another recent study undertaken by researchers at University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre in Canada that has been in the news in the last two weeks.  This is the correlation between children attending early childhood/Kindy facilities and a 50% increase in obesity. The researchers are at a loss to explain the clear and very real link. It would be my suggestion that working parents, in particular a single working parent that has all the responsibility squarely on one set of shoulders is simply not superhuman to provide healthy nutritious meals at the end of a long working day and are too exhausted to do anything but reach for the nearest takeaway menu or processed meal from their freezer compartment.

Either that or perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of comfort eating in our little people from being separated unnecessarily from their loving parent.  In light of these internationally recognized findings I believe that in the words of one of the researchers sending some children into day care could be viewed as a form of child abuse and I for one am not willing to take the chance and  inflict unnecessary state care on my children. New Zealand is in the grip of an obesity problem and it is as dangerous as smoking, drinking or taking drugs, none of which I am sure you would force on my children.

Every child is different and copes differently. It would not be in my children’s best interests to send them to ECE or school in fact I believe that it would be to their great detriment. My children are thriving at home and when compared to their peers appear to be doing better in every way from their education to emotional well being. Neither of my children wishes to be separated from me and I believe it would cause them both a great deal of unnecessary heartache and upset to force them out of my care into state care.

I urge you with all my heart and soul not to take away my God given right to educate and care for my children as I see fit because I have fallen on difficult times and I am unable to support myself fully without help. I ask instead for you to support single parents whilst their children are little and value our importance as Mothers and Fathers and our extraordinarily important role in society.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The L Word

 Love, Love, Love

As unbelievable as it might be the old relationship cynic in me wants to write about love today.  I know, I know I can hear you all groaning, dating for five minutes and she is writing about love…but wait before you reach for your bucket. I just want to talk about the human condition of ‘being in love’ or ‘falling in love’.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes love as ‘a strong feeling of affection and sexual attraction for someone else’ 

When put like that you wouldn’t think love would be so elusive and yet for so many people out there, myself included love has proved to be anything but commonplace. The problem with this definition of the word ‘love’ of course is that it doesn’t describe the chemical process that goes on within our bodies when we are ‘in love’.  Likened in many articles and studies to the same physical and mental highs of cocaine use being in love fires up the brain in ways scientists are still trying to understand.  Plainly put it’s not something you can fake as far as your body’s response to it.

What is love? Why do some find it easily and others spend a lifetime looking for it? Do some of us have too high an expectation of what love is perhaps?

I remember as a teenager reading Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (something I still do yearly!), the line that stuck with my young naive romantic heart was ‘I am determined that nothing but the deepest love could ever induce me into matrimony’ I can remember thinking that was the only way to go, the deepest most unconditional love there is, that’s all that would tempt me into any relationship especially marriage.  However like so many others, until now the relationships in my life haven’t come anywhere close to the real thing. Yet I married not once but twice in my quest for true love.  With hindsight perhaps the love bit should come before the getting married bit!

So why do we settle into relationships that obviously don’t work? Are abusive or cruel? Why do we intentionally sabotage our own happiness?  Do we think it will never happen to us so settle for what does come along? Do we think so little of ourselves and believe that somehow we don’t deserve to be happy? Or is it simply really hard to find that someone who you can truly click with?  I could analyze the choices I have made in my life for the rest of my life and never understand the decisions I have made. (I can hear my Mother saying ‘that makes two of us’!!)

There is but one thing that my nightmarish relationship past and time as a single woman has taught me and that is when and if I got another chance I would not just settle for what comes along but find someone who ticks all the boxes on every level and vice versa.  It is simply not enough just to travel alongside a companion hoping that some form of love may grow between you, in my experience it doesn’t and even if it does it will never be enough to feed your soul.  

Just about every medium features love heavily but I think perhaps the one place where it is expressed with the most passion is through music. Whether your favourite is a heart-wrenching aria or a popular pop tune, in music you will find every form of love covered. As Shakespeare himself wrote ‘If music be the food of love play on’ I had forgotten the power of music in this genre until recently reminded and it’s ability to understand and express how you are feeling to another person. Or even simply as a way of almost counseling yourself through life’s journey in just about any situation you can think of!  I would imagine more songs are written about love though than any other subject matter there is. True love, unrequited love, I am missing you love, cruel love, jealous love, angry love the list is endless. 

I remember in the 90’s a band called the Beautiful South bringing out a song called ‘Don’t marry her F*** me’ (we never heard this version on television the ‘F’ word was replaced with ‘have’!) the video shows a stereotypical married couple, I suppose wondering whether this is all life and love have to offer. I can remember watching that video hoping that would never be me that I would find something deeper, something more passionate. Although more to the point I would never marry a man who spent Sundays making model airplanes in the living room!

Obviously relationships have a certain degree of compromise contained within them but if you go into a relationship with a list of things you want to change about the other person surely it’s doomed to failure before you even begin?  I am not sure you should really lose very much at all of yourself when going into a relationship if it’s the right one. You certainly shouldn’t need to change who you are as a person and what makes you who you are.  I think the letter below written back in 1958 by the author John Steinbeck to his teenage son sums this up rather well.

‘There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing, which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you, of kindness and consideration and respect, not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had’

My folks have been married over 50 years and set the bar pretty high as far as loving marriages go.  Still very much in love they set the perfect example to us as kids, perhaps too perfect it always seemed unreachable.  They lived their married lives to a very simple piece of biblical teaching ‘ There are three things that will endure, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love’. 

When love does come a knocking how long does it take?  Is there such a thing as love at first sight for instance or does love grow over a short time or a long time? According to Syracuse University Professor Stephanie Ortigue results revealed that when a person falls in love, 12 areas of the brain work simultaneously to release euphoric chemicals such as adrenaline and dopamine, it also affects cognitive function. It makes you question whether it is actually the brain or heart that is involved when we ‘fall in love’.  As far as time frame goes this same set of scientists believe it can take as little as 1/5 of a second to fall in love.  I have to say the long absent romantic in me likes that idea. 

The one thing we can all be sure of is that love is a mysterious and difficult thing to explain.  Who knows why one person is attracted to another or why they are not.  We can however believe that love does exist, it might not always be easy to find and maybe you might live your whole life without finding it but be in no doubt it does exist!

Have a good day!

Kate x

Monday, 12 November 2012

Food Additives...only in New Zealand!

My quest for good health has led me on so many paths over the last twelve months everything from the dangers of artificial sweeteners to eating raw foods.  I have learned so much about nutrition and diet and after a year with weight watchers I feel like I am finally able to make good choices when it comes to what I put in my mouth and in the mouths of my children.

However....(come on you knew that was coming!) I was rather shocked by an article I read in the Herald this week about additives that are allowed in our food here in New Zealand.  Additives that are banned in other countries across the world because of side effects such as high blood pressure, skin rashes, breathing problems, allergic reactions and the link between cancer and some of these additives.

The question is why have these additives not been banned here in New Zealand if research clearly shows they are harmful to our health? It seems to be the consensus of opinion that if we did not have a joint food regulatory board with Australia that these food additives would not have made it onto our shelves.  However this bothers me too as I am quite sure that the people of Australia have no more wish than us to be slowly poisoned from the inside out!  Whether or not we make decisions with our neighbours in Australia I want to know why these additives are not even being phased out here or in Australia?  There are in fact no immediate plans whatsoever to do anything about these issues as apparently according to Spokeswoman for FSANZ, Lorraine Belanger, believes "all additives we have approved are safe", as reported in The Herald back in October 2012.

I suppose the fact that having a joint regulatory board across all the states of Australia plus New Zealand decisions of a unanimous vote are maybe harder to achieve but surely both countries have their people's health at the forefront of all their decisions?!!  Am I over simplifying this? To me it seems pretty simply -   Additive proved to be causing health problems - remove from shelf!!!  As far as I can see it IS as simply as that.

As I am learning though it is never as simply as that we only have to go back to issues I recently blogged about concerning the toxicity content of immunizations to see that although they may be proven links to all sorts of side effects and health problems governments decide to take a 'Oh it'll be alright for most' approach.  I digress....

Unlike immunizations though there are NO health benefits to even one person by continued use of these additives in our foods, they help NO ONE!  It is more I would think a question of convenience and the money it would cost to overhaul the industry where these additives are common place.  I love New Zealand but we do seem to have an attitude that can be just a little too laid back at times.  Some of these additives cause cancer or least that's what the research is saying.  Would you go out and buy a product that said on the packet - Lollies for kids get a free helping of cancer with that?  Of course you wouldn't so why are we sitting back and doing nothing?

The very least we can do as a group of individuals is make our presence felt by writing into the food regulators and government (I know how happy they will be to hear from me again :-)  but the most important thing we can do is NOT BUY products containing these ingredients.

I have managed to obtain a list of some of the problem additives and will add to the list as I research further.  I would appreciate anyone who finds these additives in products to post on my wall and let people know which processed foods we should avoid.  Let's face it though folks I think processed food should be avoided completely but it would at least be nice to know which ones should be well and truly struck off our shopping lists for good.

I would also strongly suggest you send a clear message to companies out there still using these products that as consumers we will simply not tolerate there use.  Write to these people let them know what you think and let's send a clear message to our government that this is not acceptable.

Ministry for Primary Industries

By Phone: (within New Zealand) 0800 00 83 33

You must also take a look at the government page where it talks about additives and studies done that show hyperactivity, asthma, breathing difficulties, allergic reactions results in children but apparently it effects such a small percentage and such a lot would need to be ingested that it's OK to carry on using them!! It makes for unbelievable reading after all these products as I have said before carry no health benefits whatsoever, so surely even a slight risk to human safety and they should be removed?

There are currently at least 14 additives in our foods here in Green New Zealand that are banned across the world. They are used in foods such as sweets, soft drinks, mushy peas, biscuits, ice cream, jelly, pickles and sausages to name but a few!  Make a note to drop them from your life!

-->Don't even get me started on how many other sweeteners should be on the banned list!! Check out my previous blog

Have a great day folks

Kate x

P.s Thanks to Photopin a bloggers best friend when it comes to images. Click on images to find where I found them on Photopin :-)

Monday, 5 November 2012

Goal Weight Reached!

'On Set' my Stepford Wife look!
After ten long months today is the day I have finally reached my goal weight.  That is the goal weight I wrote down in my weight watchers book when I joined.  Not necessarily the weight I have decided I want to be but that's another story!  In total I have now lost 24.2kg and feeling rather proud of myself this morning :-)

Looking back over the last ten months I would like to tell you it's been easy.  In the hope that it will encourage others who want to lose weight but I would be lying.  It has been a long, hard journey fraught with stumbles, mistakes, really low times and grumpiness!  However and this is a big however watching yourself change is a remarkable journey and I am not just talking about the number on the scale however thrilling that is.  I am talking about the changes that take place inside you as a person.
I want to be around for my kids! 2011

Ten months ago my wardrobe was bordering on a size 18.  My clothes were uncomfortable and unattractive.  I had absolutely no wish to shop or buy clothes and I had got to the point where clothes buying only happened out of necessity.  Baggy pants and t-shirts had become the norm for me.  Inside was a woman bursting to get out but the road seemed so long and hard and not one I thought I could be bothered to travel.  With no one special in my life I didn't see the point of making the effort.

That was the first thought that needed to change and the first lesson I learned.  I am that special person it shouldn't be about anyone else it should be because you are worth it, that you care enough about yourself to make a change.   Of course there are other factors involved for me. Being so ill over the last five years and watching the devastating effect my absence had on my children and my family made me want to do it for them too.  I wanted to make sure their Mum was going to be there for them and not in a box before she reached middle age! But looking back the most important change I made and it was a hard change was to be able to look in the mirror and like the person staring back at me.  The expression 'how can anyone love you if you don't love yourself' rings very true for me and many others like me I am sure.

The minute you start to like yourself more it makes the journey easier, you actually start to care!!  The first wondeful moment for me was losing a dress size and although I didn't rush out and buy any clothes to celebrate it proved to me that I could do it, I just had to stick to it.  The thing I really love about weight watchers is that it's not a diet plan it's about finding a way to live your life differently, it's about a lifestyle change.  My problems were basic there was nothing complicated about what I needed to do.  My meals had grown too large, I choose the wrong foods and I ate for comfort.

The most difficult one of those three to break was the comfort eating.  Funnily in the last month I have also learned that comfort eating isn't just about being down in the dumps or depressed.  I have discovered I like to comfort eat when I am really happy too.  I looked it up on good old google and it's actually a fact that when you start dating a new person or you get married that the average person puts on weight.  Will be keeping an eye on that, as I am currently suffering with extreme happiness!!

A year ago
Now I start the life long journey of actually keeping it off and my next goal is to reach my weight watchers life time membership.  To get that you need to maintain your weight loss for six weeks and then no more having to pay!!!  I think I will always go to meetings, there is something that really works for me about having to climb onto a set of scales and face myself on a regular basis.  If I know I am going to do that once a month then just maybe this will be a long term change.  I don't want want to go back to the person I had become it was a miserable existence.  I like the new confident me....gosh I even like shopping!!!  That's something I never thought would happen, I am positively hanging out to go shopping with Mum these days!  Just wish I could do more than window shop.  I don't think I am ever going to get bored of being able to pick up a 10 or a 12 and it fitting :-)

'Enjoying' a salad in Italy
They say you create your own happiness and I know that since I have made these changes in my life that new and wonderful chapters have started opening up.  I have more confidence, I do better in auditions, I have a new wonderful man in my life (who makes me smile constantly), my kids are happier and healthier too.  The up side of getting off my fat butt outweighs the hard graft it has been to get here by a million times and to anyone contemplating this journey I would say this.  Yes it is one of the hardest things I have done but it is the best thing I have ever done for myself.  You are worth it and you are going to feel amazing.  I absolutely guarantee it will be worth the blood, sweat and many tears you will shed because when you reach the light at the end of your tunnel it engulfs you and it's amazing.

Now I am at goal weight I am of course not quite content!  So I have a few new goals for myself and as my online buddies have helped me get to this point I will share them here and effectively set them in stone.

1.  I want to lose another 5kg and be right in the middle of my ideal weight range for my height
2.  I want to start exercising and tone up what's left!!  I might need to enlist some help on this point and wait till my back is right.

I know I still have much to learn and do and this journey will never be over but I just wanted to say thank you to you all for all the emails and comments of support I have received over the last ten months.  I would recommend blogging to anyone who is embarking on a weight loss journey it has helped me so much.  Made me accountable for every little decision I have made, every stumble I have taken I have been able to share and get help from others who understand.  Thank you all so much!

So onwards my friends to the next 5kg and I think I will do it for 'Million for a Million'  If you haven't signed up yet please do it's for a great cause!

Have a great day!

Kate x

P.s Forgot to mention that still doing well on the raw front.  My life has now settled well into a 70/30 raw diet.  All the aches and pains have continued to be absent from my life.  Although after having gluten last week I woke up with severe pain in my fingers so won't be doing that again any time soon!!