All I wanted was an Education and to Stand on My Own Two Feet – Anna Thomas – Australia

The first time I experienced sexism was at the hands of my mother. I grew up in Richmond, Melbourne where my parents ran the local MCG  pub and my mother imported shoes. My mother had a strong

belief that girls should not be educated. Instead, our ‘duty’ was to be ‘barefoot and pregnant’ and this caused friction in the household between us when I was growing up because all I wanted was an education and to be able to stand on my own two feet.

Due to her belief that education was wasted on girls my mother attempted to take me out of school when I was in year 11. I fought to stay and thankfully my grandmother supported me in my quest to earn an education and finish high school which I did.

When I was 19, Mum kicked me out of home and I have supported myself ever since, working multiple jobs to put myself through university where I studied and completed a Bachelor Degree in Social Science. My grandmother, through helping me to stay in school and encouraging me to go to university, was the first experience I had of female empowerment. Her actions and support changed my life.

Without this experience, I don’t believe I would be as passionate about female empowerment as I am today and I thank my mother for this learning as it enabled me to pursue something I really care about. Since graduating from university I’ve run large teams in a variety of industries and established my own consulting, recruitment and training company which I ran for over four years. My clients included Telstra, CBA, Crazy Johns, Australian Air Express, Origin Energy, Officeworks, Nokia and Siemens amongst others.

I’ve worked in banking, technology, insurance and am now the Chief Operating Officer of real estate franchise, Stockdale & Leggo, a role I took on in 2012. In this role I am responsible for setting the strategic direction for Stockdale & Leggo. This involves setting and holding the vision, developing the growth strategy, ensuring we have the right technology infrastructure and rolling out innovative group marketing strategies which achieve cut through in a tough industry.

I am great at leading, mentoring and managing people and genuinely love feeling like I am making a difference. We have just over 1000 people in the overall group and I take that responsibility very seriously. It is a great privilege to be at the forefront of such an incredible company, working daily with many people I now call friends.

Due to my own disempowered childhood, I am incredibly passionate about empowering women in real estate and have worked to equalise the playing field within our own network by setting a goal of having 50/50 ratio of male and female franchisees by 2020 (currently we are at 20/65) which is a significant improvement from when I commenced, when we had only 3 female franchisees.

Having seen and experienced first hand the lack of support for women within the industry, I decided to establish a community which holds an annual event to inspire, motivate and support women within the real estate industry to step confidently into more senior roles and in the process take control of their own financial future. ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ is a movement, which holds one of the industry’s few women’s only events, designed to inspire and empower women into believing in themselves and chasing their dreams.

This event also raises money for charity through a silent auction where prizes are donated by sponsors and all money raised is given to a nominated charity. This initiative also helps dispel the industry’s gender wage disparity and raise awareness and support for women in the workplace. I reached out to some heavy hitters to establish further support including Domain, Westpac, Audi and Deloitte Private which has helped awareness spread more quickly. I’ve also now established an EWIRE Committee with some prominent female leaders from within and outside the industry to help push the movement and its mission forward.

My passions outside of my work are my two children and my husband. We live on 22 acres just outside of Melbourne and we grow our own fruit and vegetables, with two dogs, one kitten and 12 chooks. I play basketball with my son Will regularly and have started running again. I used to be a triathlete when I was younger but after getting married, having two children and taking on the COO role, I had not made this a priority however this has changed recently after a health scare.

In 2018 I’m focused on spending more time with my family and growing the Stockdale & Leggo franchise, continuing on with my role as Brand Ambassador for Empowered Women in Real Estate and hoping to positively influence the industry as a whole.

About the Author

Anna Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer of major Australian real estate network, Stockdale & Leggo. She was recognised as a Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist in the Corporate and Private Award in 2016, a 2017 Finalist in the Real Estate Business Awards ‘Industry Thought Leader of the Year’ Award and a Bronze Stevie winner in the Woman of the Year category in the 2017 International Business Awards.

She is also the Founder and Brand Ambassador of the ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ initiative, a community empowering women to believe in themselves and step forward into leadership roles.

For further information, interviews or speaking engagements, please contact Chiquita Searle e: p: 0423 686 380






My life has been a series of ups and downs – Jude Lord – Australia

Hi to all the Gorgeous inspirational women out there, and thank you Nikki for the opportunity to share my story.

Warning: Please don’t read my story over dinner!

Like most, my life has been a series of ups and downs. A few major events have shaped who I am today. In my childhood, I remember being really scared of my Mum, the household was always turbulent,
back then smacks were the norm. I have strong memories of being chased with a knife from the kitchen, locking myself in the bathroom, Mum screaming “I’m going to kill you”. I have no idea what I did that day to make my Mother act this way. One neighbour yelled out “child abuser” as we were getting packed into the car.

A family of four girls was not what Mum envisioned for herself and I
guess she took out her frustrations on her children. (she wanted to be a Nun and was very religious). Dad was the calming influence, patient, loving and hard working.

When I was 14; doctors found a Tumour on Mum’s brain, the size of a golf ball! After major surgery to remove the pituitary tumour, and follow up radium treatment, Mum was rendered completely blind. Things changed from then on in. Dad had so many extra responsibilities, I took over the household cooking, cleaning, washing etc., and Mum required constant assistance and guidance.

It was a difficult life for her, plagued with many illnesses throughout her years. God bless her, she has passed now. I often wonder if the tumour caused her moodiness and aggression.

After graduating high school at 16; I went to University in Toowoomba and studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Stage Management, which I loved. After graduating, I worked for the Royal Queensland Theatre company for a few months. After three years at Uni, I wanted full time work, so applied for an Island job which I had found in the Newspaper. I took up residence on Great Keppel Island for three years, running reception and the gift shop. I absolutely loved the island life.

I fell pregnant on Keppel Island with my first child in 1995; so, my partner and I headed back to Brisbane to reside closer to family. I am the proud mother of four children, who have grown into lovely adults. My partner and I were married in 1998 but unfortunately, due to domestic violence, and after many failed attempts to reconcile, our relationship didn’t last. I wanted and needed a better life for my children.

My career has been a mixture of Retail business ownership, working in Sales and finally in 2007 settling into my passion for Real Estate working as an on-Site manager for a 75-townhouse complex in Nundah, Brisbane. I studied for my full agent licence, gained my certificates in 2011 and started my own Real Estate Agency in 2012. I absolutely loved my role and aimed to keep owners, tenants and the Body Corporate happy, well informed, and maintain the complex to the highest standards.

This role enabled me to encompass many of my strengths and abilities. I helped create an awesome community feel, with regular resident gatherings for Christmas and Australia day, where residents
could get to meet each other around the pool and get to know their neighbours.

I was happy, but my health wasn’t the best. Shocking news was about to rock my world. In 2013; after years of pain and bleeding, discomfort, many doctor’s visits and misdiagnoses, I changed doctors, and was immediately sent for an urgent colonoscopy. Following the colonoscopy, I was taken aside to a separate room where the specialist explained that my bowel was blocked with
cancer! Stage three at least. I asked if he was sure, he showed me the pictures and explained “that is what cancer looks like”.

A million thoughts raced through my head: “I can’t have cancer, who will look after my kids? The doctors MUST have made a mistake! Bowel cancer: but I’m only 41! You don’t get that till after 50! Is this all just a bad dream? I’ll wake up from this nightmare soon!” Instead of sending me for surgery immediately, which was the Colorectal surgeons initial plan, I endured 7 days of radiotherapy, where they also ‘zapped’ my ovaries as a precaution. This sent me into early medically induced menopause. I was a little bit happy about this side effect.

Apparently, the radiotherapy was not successful in reducing the size of the tumour which had blocked 30cm of my bowel. On the scans it looked like cancer had broken through the bowel wall and was connected to my uterus. Surgery followed the next day and I was informed that I may require a hysterectomy and an Ileostomy during the surgery (like a colostomy but reversible).

The surgery, an ultra-low anterior resection removing the 30cm of cancerous bowel, took 7 hours with a team of specialist doctors. It was successful! All 23 lymph nodes clear, not attached to the uterus so no hysterectomy. However, the surgery was followed by the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life. To compare, I have had four children naturally, my first was a 36-hour labour, 9 ½ pound (4.3kg) baby, so I had experienced pain!

The Ileostomy was necessary and overwhelmingly scary. I don’t thing you can prepare your mind or anticipate what it’s like beforehand. Due to the extent of the surgery, the staples and stitches etc., my body needed time to heal. A bag for your bowel; it’s an unforgettable experience. As a single divorced Mum of four I can only say I struggled and there were many hard days. I always try to hide my pain, and was on high doses of pain relief which eased things a little, but never took away the pain completely.

Six months of chemotherapy followed my surgery. I always felt so drained. Things started to fall apart a little. The chemotherapy treatment for bowel cancer doesn’t make you lose your hair. I am one lucky woman there. It would have been a little devastating for me to lose my hair because Mum always made me keep my hair short, and it took me years to grow my hair long! Looking back, this seems such a petty thought. The chemo treatment effected my fingernails, toenails, teeth and immune system. Some of my nails rotted and fell off, my teeth started rotting at the gums, I was catching every bug that went around.

The Oncology waiting room was filled with patients and their support person if they had one. In my case, I didn’t. My closest sister would have loved to have been there, but she worked full time with a family of her own. I was ok with it. My children were all in high school. Dad passed away in 1997;

Mum was blind and in a wheelchair after breaking her hip. If nobody can be there for you, you find ways to cope by yourself! For some reason, I didn’t talk to people, kept to myself and sort of stared into space. Unusual for me because I love a chat! I was scared I guess. As I was one of the youngest in the waiting room; my chemo treatment was usually left till last. Some days I waited 7 hours. I returned to work straight after getting out of hospital (signed sales documents on surgery day) but really struggled with the pain of sitting or standing for any length of time so I ended up not being able to work. The Ileostomy bag burst when I was holding an open for inspection at a property I was selling. Luckily it was at the end of the inspection and I was able to discreetly sort my issues without anyone noticing. Anyhow, this was the last straw for me.

The property sold, and I decided I needed to focus on my health, so didn’t take on any more listings and passed my rental properties to
another agent. I couldn’t give 100% to clients: this really mattered to me. Unfortunately, not working took its toll and my savings were depleted just trying to pay the rent, electricity and put food on the
table. It’s taken years for me to feel like things are returning to normal with my body. After 9 months following the initial operation, surgery for the reversal of my Ileostomy was successful, however the
body doesn’t quite recognise what to do, so bowel incontinence was an issue up until early 2017. I found this to be so embarrassing and  it’s been difficult to go out in public when your body is so unpredictable. All scans and tests since the surgeries have been clear (I’ve lost count of how many).

Happy days, things have improved immensely! I am now pain relief free. In February 2017; I renewed my real estate agents licence and kicked my business back into gear. It’s a slow process, but I know the future is bright for my business. My reputation as an Agent was
something that kept me going. It’s such a great feeling when you can help people with something you’re passionate about.

I am growing each day. I crave learning new things. The inspiring women in this world spur me on. My children support me, and even though they’ve had to endure a horrible few years, they see me gain strength day by day! They feel my passion & love! I am grateful for being alive!! Day by day I see more and more beauty surrounding me.

The world is my oyster and I am its pearl!

About the Author

Judith Lord (nee Kendall): known as Jude was born in 1972 and is a mother to four beautiful children.
She is also a Real Estate Agent & Passionate Property Expert
Business: RealGen ~ A New Generation in Real Estate ~ Providing Genuine, personalised services at
and you can also email Jude at

Born into drug and alcohol abuse, Kylie’s story – Kylie Stretton – Australia

I was born into a family of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships. Spent most of primary school in and out of hospital and when I did go to school I was bullied all the way through primary and high school. I couldn’t talk until I was 7 and read and write fully until 19.

At 17 I got involved in a domestic violent, drug and alcohol abusive relationship. At 18 I found myself in a girl’s shelter with nowhere to go and I picked up my first book I have ever read, and it was a self-help book about being happy I struggled to get through it, but it got me to start thinking different.

At 19 I was pregnant for the 4th time but this was going to be my first-born baby. While pregnant I became a consultant with a massive beauty company. Two weeks before my baby was born I went to a massive conference where my Regional Director gave an amazing and inspirational speech on stage sharing her story about leaving domestic violence, being a single mother of 4 children and her career success. It was the first time I have ever heard anyone speak on stage and it was the first time I heard someone else’s story. In that moment I thought to myself if she can do it I can do it to. I made a decision and a commitment in that moment that I was going to break the cycle and go down a totally different path to the rest of my family.

Two weeks later my baby boy was born on my regional director’s birthday. When they put him in my arms I looked into his eyes and made a promise to him out loud that I was going to be the best mother I could possibly be and that I was going to give him a way better childhood then I had. I took him home to the domestic violence, drug and alcohol abusive household for 13 months. The things that happened to him and what he saw was horrible and all while this was going on I lost contact with the Regional Director, as being a first time mum I threw in beauty consulting.

I kept reading self-help books and when my son was 10 months old I wrote out a list of everything I wanted in a boyfriend 2 months later I met an amazing, caring, kind, supportive, loving man that was everything on that list and more. When my son was 13 months we packed up our basic belongings and made a run for it staying at friends houses and a woman’s shelter until we got a place of our own.

I was so happy I had never had someone in my life that loved me for me, believed in me and my dreams, cared about me, could talk to for hours on end. I was treated like a princess every day and he took my son on like his own. However, I wasn’t use to loving relationships and had no idea how to love back. I spent years running away, being depressed and cutting myself even though I had the man of my dreams. So, I knew to give my son the best mummy and life and to keep this amazing relationship with my boyfriend I had to change. I worked really hard on myself reading self help books every spare minute I got and attending any workshops, seminars or courses that I heard of and I got myself a life coach after 7 years of counselling.

At 25 I got engaged and had our first baby together my second born and he was born with Phenylketonuria (P.K.U.) where his body cannot break down protein so is on a very restricted diet of NO Meat, Dairy, Nuts, Eggs, Legumes, Artificial Sweeteners or Diet Products, 6 months later I fell pregnant again. At 21 weeks pregnant I started my Life Coaching Certificate at 32 weeks my third baby boy our second baby together was born not breathing for 15 minutes. My third baby cried 24 hours a day every day, did not sleep at all and not meeting any of his milestones. At 10 months old we received his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy (Spastic Quadriplegia) and were told he will never ever walk or talk, he will just be a vegetable put him in a home and forget about him. When he was 2 his baby sister was born, and I tore my cervix 6 & 1/2 cms and was left in a hospital bed for 4 hours to bleed out. My life was saved in just enough time.

Six months later I married the man of my dreams, graduated with my Life Coaching Certificate and then I started my NLP Practitioner’s studies. The following year I started feeling like there was something I was missing I did everything the book’s said to do, I was a Life Coach and a NLP Practitioner but there were still roadblocks in my path and there was just a missing link I knew there was. We raised $40,000 in 6 months that year to get our son over to America for 3 weeks of intense therapy and that year ended with my brother’s suicide on boxing day.

I reconnected with my ex Regional Director a couple of months beforehand and attending her launch 11 days after my brother’s funeral and signed up to all her courses where I had my massive transformation where I broke all generational cycles once and for all and became a Creatrix® Transformolgist®.

16 months after my brother’s death my granddad died and then 3 months later my dad took his life after being in the mental health ward for 3 months. I started writing my book and 15 Months after my dad’s death my book was published.

I now support the mental and emotional well being of mums of children with special needs, write books, raise a beautiful, loving, caring, close and happy family that has so much fun together. All my dreams have come true. I have created a healthy and functional family that I always wanted, I married the man of my dreams, I write inspirational books, I have a transformational business and I live an amazing, happy, healthy, peaceful, loving, fulfilling life.

About the Author

Kylie Stretton is a loving mother of four beautiful children, devoted wife and loyal friend to many. A pocket rocket of energy, passion and inspiration, Kylie lives her life caring for her children (two of which have disabilities), writing and practicing living a full filled empowered life. Driven to help others in her position, she prides herself on her heightened level of empathy which grew over a lifetime of abuse, neglect and hardship.

A true inspiration to others, Kylie’s primary desire is to help women through her work as a Women’s Empowerment Intervention Consultant, CREATRIX Facilitator, Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Mentor to all Special Needs Mothers with over 16 years of personal development experience.

Here is a link to her book:

You are the only one that can control your destiny! – Claire McGrath – London UK

I have got to say I don’t think I am inspiring person. Others may see things differently but I am just me. Being me means that I have these amazing hair brain ideas which later turn into reality. I must say, a lot of my success has come from making something from the moment in time, the right here, right now.

I grew up in a family of 9 kids (was a Brady Bunch) we didn’t have a lot of money because my parents put us all through good schools, they had to work hard and I believe that it where my work ethic has come from. They work hard and they play hard- I fortunately or unfortunately inherited this too!

I was not particularly smart but I had a brother my own age and growing up he challenged me because he was naturally smart, I have always had to work hard to achieve. So, I think that is where my competitive nature began.

I left home at 18 to be a nanny in the UK, I loved it so much that I decided to move here forever, held down a good job, but when I decided to move home because we were expecting a child at the ripe age of 24, our world just about came crashing down. My husband couldn’t get a job due to his Visa, I couldn’t work because of being pregnant and having a baby (no one wanted to employ me not through lack of trying). We decided to move to Brisbane where my parents had a property business that they were happy to employ us in for an interim period.  That is where I fell in love with property.

I was too proud to ask my parents for any more help, but some weeks we would have less than a $1 in our bank account and with baby and another on the way, we found it difficult to make ends meet. Pasta was on the cards most nights! When we had a bit of money we would buy lottery tickets and I tell you we were being looked after. Whenever we won the lowest division which happened a bit, we would hold those tickets over until we only had the $1 in the account and use those to survive to the next pay day. I ran 3 jobs and my husband finally got a job, funny enough with an English company.

I worked looking after my family properties on a very part time basis but decided to do my REIQ certificate and then I researched the best property managers in Brisbane so I could learn the trade. I ended up in New Farm with Harcourts New Farm. I learnt from the best in the industry. There I met Martin Millard which was a turning point really. I had just had a Cancer scare had to have half my Thyroid out and we weren’t getting ahead in life. Martin asked me to join him and Sally in starting a property management business with Harcourts Solutions, I thought this was a great opportunity to really start providing for my family and putting things in place to set us up.

I had never signed up a management agreement and really, I was an assistant property manager, but I thought what have I got to lose! I was so nervous but it has been an amazing business and yes were there low days, absolutely, did I have a cry here and there, yep sure did. However, Sally and I got up every day put our big girls pants on and kept moving. We grew the business from 0-940 in 7/8 years.

4 years ago, my husband I came back to England, the first time in 10 years, we saw an opportunity here to perhaps do a Real Estate business here but differently. Last year was the hardest year in my life, I was sick almost the entire year, I was the fattest I had been in my life and was not happy. It has been 4 years in the making but this year I sadly sold my share of Harcourts Rental Management Solutions back to Sally and Martin and perused my own goals. This year has been an amazing, but challenging year and after 4 years of planning, meeting people and researching I have literally just opened a ‘Winkworth’ office in Surbiton in the UK.

I can only say the things I have learnt is trust in yourself, believe in yourself, don’t always listen to what people tell you. If you have a feeling deep down run with it, go for your dreams. Treat people with kindness and love yourself. Today I am lucky to say I have two healthy boys, a loving husband, two dogs and two rabbits. I have lost 14kg and still going, and I could not be happier, however I have done this. My moto is where ever you are there you are. You are the only one that can control your destiny!

Tired of Living by Everyone Else’s Rules – Marva Johnson-Jones – London

You’re tired of living by everyone else’s rules, of having to hide who you truly are, of pretending you don’t want something more out of life. Yeah, I’ve been there. At some point, you have to take control of your life and forge your own path.


It should have been shocking, but for me it was normal. I stood in the background, watching my great aunt bark orders at her male employees. The men stood around obediently, seemingly inhaling her every word. I thought all women were in charge of the world like that, why wouldn’t they be?

My great aunt was my sole guardian after my mother abandoned me and moved to another country. I was treated like a precious doll, and showered with all the things money could buy. The lazy days under my great aunt’s orange tree in Jamaica would have been idyllic if I hadn’t been so lonely. For all the toys I had, I was friendless, kept safely inside the walls of my great aunt’s compound like a jewel to be kept under lock and key.

My absentee father would enter my life on occasions, treating me like a temporary fix he needed to get out of his system. He’d show up and we’d be inseparable, and then he’d vanish just as quickly as he appeared. I wanted for nothing but it was hard to find something stable and solid to hold onto.

At aged 9 I was whisked away from one gilded cage to another when I was put on a plane to a foreign country, my mother, by now a stranger met me at the airport. I arrived in London into my mum’s upturned life, where she’d nestled herself
comfortably in an abusive relationship. Seeing my mother as the passive object of her husband’s rage was such a change from watching my great aunt take full control of a group of men who worked for her. But some things remained the same. Loneliness. The culture shock. There were many tears, but no one noticed, as I trudged my way through a very isolated and lonely childhood.


“What is your problem?” My husband lobbed the question at me like a weapon, his voice accusatory, and his demeanour wavering somewhere in between exasperation and apathy. He made sweeping gestures at our beautiful home, fully equipped with tennis courts, a swimming pool, and many other vestiges of privilege. I looked at my husband, and realised that he’d become a stranger I no longer recognised.

But I was no stranger to gilded cages. Despite a lifetime of being locked up by someone else’s whims, I’d never become very adept at being a dutiful prisoner. My husband viewed me as his trophy, and I was expected to comply. To live my
life in his own image.

Anything I’d put my heart and soul into was disposable and readily discarded like trash. It was as if my aspirations didn’t exist at all, outside of being a wife and mother, along with the chief organiser of the family’s social calendar. We seemed like the perfect family on the outside, but everything was different on the inside. Hard as I tried, I just couldn’t play this role any longer. I wanted something more. I needed something more. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew I had to find it. The distractions that I was using to hide my unhappiness were becoming weary. Spending money on useless things that were never opened when they
were delivered, alcohol, smoking, planning the next holiday even before I finished the current one. Ultimately, I saw what I could become if I didn’t take more responsibility for my own life.

I could have discovered it had I looked in the mirror and really looked myself in the eye, but this sort of logic and reason didn’t come so easily when I, in essence had lost all sense of who I was. It was that moment when I returned home, with the children for the summer holiday, when I put the key in the lock of our front door and realised that I couldn’t go back to. I weighed my options, and it wasn’t an easy decision, but I finally decided to take charge of my own life. Putting the key into the door of our home where there were no guards, or maids, or drivers, or anyone but me and the children, flooded my body with an odd sense relief. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was my first step toward the redemption I’d been seeking my whole life.


Sitting in my home in London, I thought about my children, now grown, to whom I’d managed to give the stable and loving childhood I’d so desperately wanted for myself. Weaving my way through my journey into single motherhood and self discovery finally led to my conquering the loneliness beast that had been such a fixture throughout my life. I’d finally stopped engaging in the futility of trying to fit in and started living my life on my own terms, in pursuit of my own passions, and living in joy every day of my life, even on the gloomy, rainy days we have in London. I discovered my own brand of sunshine.

We are all here to be the masters of our own lives. I’m here to help you overcome the negative patterns that are holding you back, to stop looking outside yourself to find your happy place, and learn to find it within.

If you’re ready to conquer a lifetime of ingrained fears and boldly pursue your passion and purpose without hesitation, without holding anything back, without seeking anyone else’s validation, and without worrying about all the things that
could go wrong, I’m here to show you how to make it happen, to reconnect you with yourself, that person you were meant to be before you were forced by society, your parents, or anyone else into being something you’re not for someone else’s benefit. I’m here to help you discover the joys of just being you with no qualms and no apologies. This is your moment, take it!

About the Author

Marva Johnson-Jones is the founder of Acuity Rapid Results Coaching based in the UK. You can contact Marva on email
or by Mobile/Whatsapp: 07738115942 – Marva is currently offering a powerful, free 45 minutes Personal Empowerment and
Self-rediscovery coaching session. Book yours today. Please quote Ref#NTblog in the subject line of your email.

How Special Needs Parenting Encouraged Me to do what was Right – Miriam Slozberg – Canada

How Special Needs Parenting Encouraged Me to do what was Right Instead of Meeting Society’s Expectations

As soon as I had hit puberty, my weight started piling on and I also had an unfortunate case of severe acne.  However, my life at elementary school was fine until my family had moved to another area, and I had to start at a new school. That was also more of a difficult transition because at that time is when I was ready to start middle school.

My years at middle school and in early high school were horrible because I was bullied a lot. I was overweight and had a severe case of acne on my face. However, other newcomers were slim and had clear faces. They were automatically accepted. Why were they accepted? Because society glorifies slim and clean.

Because my appearance did not meet society’s expectations, I was ridiculed and left out. My self-esteem was always low, and it became even lower until I had lost some weight when I was in grade 10 and found a medication that helped clear up my face. I actually found that other kids became nicer to me and I was no longer bullied, for the most part anyway. Why? Because I was starting to meet society’s expectations.

My college years were a lot better and I got married in my mid-twenties and had my daughter about 2 years later after struggling with mild infertility. As it turned out I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which explains why my weight ballooned and why I had developed severe acne during puberty. However, after several attempts with Clomid and IUI, I successfully became pregnant with my daughter and had a decent pregnancy.

When my daughter was 18 months, my menstrual cycle seemed to have been messed up for whatever reason. Having late cycles was not a new thing to me considering I have PCOS, however after being 3 months late made me examine the cause. I was indeed pregnant. This was a shock because the odds were against my husband and I that we could conceive naturally.

The pregnancy itself was fine, however, my son’s birth was not as he inhaled meconium and lost oxygen. After being in the NICU for 10 days he was well enough to finally come home. However, he was not developing at the same pace as my daughter did when she was an infant.

As time when on, it was clear that he needed to be assessed. He lacked speech, interest in human interaction, and became lost while staring at lights and spinning tops. He was diagnosed with autism at 3 and my world once again came crashing down.

However, since I had this new issue on my plate, I had to work with it and do the best I could for my son. He received early intervention with various therapies that cost and arm and a leg. In some areas he progressed, and in other areas he didn’t.

As time went on, he was not doing well, and after trying out 4 different schools close to 10 years later, I was out of ideas. I was also at my wit’s end. I fell into a serious depression years prior to that and was even diagnosed with a Major Depressive Disorder.

I knew that it got to a point that in order for my 13-year-old son to live up to his potential, and for me to deal with the demons from my past and focus on my mental health, be a better wife to my husband, and better mother to my daughter, something drastic needed to change.

My son could no longer live at home because I not only feared I could snap, but he was regressing at home and I could not give him what he needed.  Then there was that part of me that worried about what other people would think of me if I were to send my son away. The same way I worried about fitting in and being part of the in-crowd.

Before I knew it, I had my ah-ha moment. I knew it was time to stop worrying about meeting society’s expectations and to do the one thing that was best for my situation. That was sending my autistic son to live away from home since him living at home was worsening the situation. I got the ball rolling to make that bold move become a reality.

After several months of my son going through more assessments,  and after I went through other ordeals, my son left home in September of 2017 to a much better place. A place and school where he would get everything he needed 24/7 so he could live up to being his best, whatever that may be. I see him every Sunday and I can say with confidence that I am already seeing subtle positive changes in him and in myself. I did the best thing for my family.

However, why have I found myself defending my decision? Do you know how many parents who were in my position that sacrificed their sanity because they thought that sending their disabled children away (to somewhere better yet) was wrong? That is because society has taught us that doing something like that is wrong and it makes you selfish. That is right.  Society glorifies martyrdom! The same way society glorifies anyone who isn’t overweight and an acne-free face.

If society was more accepting of different appearances other than the types that are not considered “beautiful”, there would be less bullying and more confident men and women around.

My message to anyone is if you are in a difficult situation whatever that may be, and doing the best and right thing goes against what society expects of you, then take the risk at being hated and mocked, and do the right thing. Your sanity, wellbeing and the health of anyone involved will be better off in the long run.

About the Author

Miriam Slozberg is a Canadian mom of two teens, author, blogger, freelance writer, social media manager and astrologer. One of her teens has Autism and she has written several pieces on a variety of platforms about her experiences with raising a child with special needs. Miriam is an advocate of mental health and depression. You can visit Miriam’s sites at and for more information.

Divorce is Never Easy! – Joie Serrano – Australia

Everyone’s divorce story is different. Everyone’s coping mechanism differ from one another. But the one common denominator in these stories is the emotional wallop almost everyone experienced. If you are experiencing divorce right now. My heart goes out to you. I know the heart rending pain it could bring. I know about divorce. I am a divorcee too.

My ex and I had trouble synchronising. We just didn’t mesh. We just didn’t fit. As hard as I tried to deny it, my marriage was irreparable. Divorce was inevitable. Despite the widespread familiarity of the effects of divorce however, it didn’t prepare me nor helped minimised the onslaught of pain and grief. I was devastated. Faced with depth and breadth of the loss of my hopes and dreams is probably one of the most challenging aspects of my humanity. My world reeled.

Life has just thrown me a curve ball and I had no choice but to accept it. My world collapsed all around me as the process unfolded. I was in such a low ebb as it launched me into uncharted territory and disrupted my very identity. I found myself going through the motion as I struggled to create a comforting sense of structure and normalcy in my life. I dragged myself to work to
maintain a semblance of life order.

It was tough but I need to do it for my little one and to maintain my sanity. I exhausted myself physically. I tired myself so
strongly that at the end of the day I had no more energy left to think about my worries. I allowed myself to freely mourn my loss. I sobbed away my pain, but jealously guarded my thoughts. I know a certain amount of anger and bitterness is justified, but I didn’t let it beat me up. I didn’t want to get stuck in anger. I didn’t hold a grudge thinking that, why should I – while I am being angry, the other person is out there partying! I forced myself to stop playing and replaying scenes from the split which I was wont to do during the first few weeks.

I tried to slam a door in my mind every time an inner voice would pester me with what ifs and & if only’s. It became like a game of mind over matter to me. It was a tall order but I eventually forced myself to do it. Through the haze of pain and even at my lowest, I tried to maintain my faith that, “there is always light at the end of the tunnel”, faith that, “this too will pass”. I kept repeating these beliefs and it eventually became my mantra.The empowering repetition of my mantra helped reinforced my belief that there is indeed a silver lining somewhere in all these darkness.

It has helped sustained me. In hindsight, I don’t think I would ever get to where I am now though, without God and my healthy, strong support system composed of Jean my boss, my family and friends. As divorced rocked my life, I sought solace in God. Jean, my family and my friends became my anchor. But even as I struggled to rise out of my slough of respond and tried to
stay afloat , I never lost of the possibilities ahead.

I am confident that I am a veritable tough girl. I can do it. I tried to get a grip on myself and promised that I will rebound from divorce. That, I will never allow myself to fall in the wayside nor crumble under the weight of the transition. I pulled myself into the moment as I slowly psyched myself into recovery, made myself adapt into my new singledom and tried to live in the present. Slowly, I regained control of my life and developed a positive mindset. I began my personal transformation too as I
committed to fully own my humanity.

Compared to most people i know I am pretty slack on the exercising front. But with my renewed psyche, going to the gym became easy and fun. I went on a diet. Had my hair colour changed and went on a shopping spree. I dated. Yes, I dated. LOL.I felt good about myself. And as I stirred myself towards rebuilding my world, i felt that had finally regained possession and control of myself and my destiny.

My divorce was recently this year. I felt twinges of regrets for what might have been but I felt a greater sense of pride in what I had accomplished in so short a time. Today, I am still a full-time nurse but I also rediscovered and have reconnected with passions I have set aside. I went back to modelling and professional singing and became a bona fide radio broadcaster of 4EB, a digital radio broadcasting.

Early this year I joined a TV Reality and Modelling Competition which paved the way to my representing Australia in the Ms.Megaverse Competition at the Dominican Republic this coming December. On top of these I am now the Marketing Executive of Ms. Earth Australia. I am by no means in my final destination but I know I am in a good place. My journey was not easy but it was a wonderful learning and unlearning experience.

Life is beautiful!!!

About the Author

Joie Serrano is a single mum with a beautiful daughter, she has been divorced for 2 years now.

She works full time as a Nurse in Wesley Mission Queensland, and also works as a Marketing Executive of Miss Earth Australia, Radio Broadcaster for 4ebm 98.1 /Digital Radio Brisbane. She is also the current Ms. Megaverse AU 2017 and will be representing Australia later in 2017 at the Dominican Republic for the World Finals of Megaverse. She is also a professional Musician and a Runway Model.

This is ME! Real & Raw – Renate Halleen – Australia

I grew up in Melbourne with a half brother and sister. My mother was not a nice person as was my step father too.

I endured years of child sexual assault, child abuse and drugs. Being the eldest child I took charge of nurturing my younger siblings, trying to protect them also.

My mother giving me drugs on most occasions to serve her husband and later most males that visited or stayed. Beaten by her If I stepped out of line, the house had to be clean, the food had to be cooked, the younger siblings needed attention.

At just 12 my mother took off with a new boyfriend, took my sister but left me behind, she left me with him.

At 14 my mother came for me, I was excited that she did, took me away from him, but I was quickly treated badly again. I left with a hairline fracture to my temple and a very swollen face. I was placed in a woman’s remand centre to protect me from my mother.

I asked to be placed as a state ward, I did not want her to be anywhere near me, or her boyfriends and male friends. I was told I was too dumb, too stupid and no one will ever like you. I am lazy, all I ever did was try with all my heart.

I kept trying to go to school, I was told in year 9 to leave I will never make it, and like before “Im dumb”. I didn’t want to do cooking or sewing, I wanted to fix cars, and to do wood working, but I’m a stupid girl, too dumb, too silly.

I left school, I rebelled against everyone, took off from the children’s hostel and formed a relationship, a boyfriend, a violent abuser and …… so was the next one.

I was pregnant at 15 and then gave birth at just 16 years old.

Through all the domestic violence, rape, child abuse, child sexual assault, through all this crap. The constant verbal and physical and spiritual abuse, I am not lazy, I am not dumb, I am Intelligent, I just took the wrong turn as I didn’t know any better.

I have since been diagnosed with Idiopathic Hypersomnia, Hyperkinetic ADHD, Acquired brain injury and PTSD.

I have never been an addict, I have educated myself with schooling or hospitality training. I also have other training and skills, I have learnt many lessons along the way, I got knocked down, I got back up again and again.

One thing for certain, I have always felt as though I am a healer and also I wanted to help.

I help out with certain charities such as, Support the Girls Australia. Where ever I can, I give my time and my healing hands to heal and nurture. I love what I do, It’s my calling……

I am now a fully qualified Remedial massage therapist. I graduated and I have a Diploma and I’m proud of ME, I am ME !

About the Author

From the age of 15 I have tried to educate myself from different schools and training facilities. I loved cooking for a time and even part owned a coffee shop.

With 5 grown sons and a lot of life’s experience under my belt especially dealing with ADHD.

I also enjoy and encourage good health, good food, make and use bath bombs and Magnesium creams etc. for the relief of muscle cramps, pain, and to just relax. People don’t realise how depleted they are of this crucial mineral.

I now have a new business and a new direction, A tight Knot massage and Alternative Therapies.

You can contact Renate on 0405 030 968 or by her Facebook page

Our Motivations Change As We Move Through Life – Jan Cavelle – UK

Our motivations tend to change as we move through life. As a teenager, I was typically full of ideologies, ambitions and plans both for myself and the world around me. I harangued anyone who would listen about various social and political injustices. I fully indulged in those traditionally rebel years. I messed around, failed to get myself a decent education or launch into any career.

Underneath all that angst, was a mother in wolf’s clothing. I passionately wanted children. I wanted to do the whole stay at home Mum bit, with beautifully turned out, happy children eating wholesome food, much of which I had grown myself. The reality of that one didn’t take long to set in, with the sleepless nights, the barely heated baked beans on toast both on plate and down fronts of aforesaid children, the garden neglected. The actuality of life as a Mum is a wake-up call for most of us.

Even so, those of us who become parents, tend to spend the next couple of decades focussing every scrap of energy into our children’s needs.  For me, initially, the challenges were simply day to day.  I had been able to drift into marriage and motherhood cocooned in the security of a partner and a trust fund. But life has a habit of sending us wake up calls and when the trust fund I had went bust overnight and my marriage broke up shortly afterwards, I was left absolutely penniless, totally alone with two small children to support. I was not the first woman that has happened to nor will I be the last.

I was soon living on government support but failing to make ends meet. So with very limited skills, I set up an “office” under the stairs at home where I could watch the children play at the same time and started selling goods from a variety of local manufacturers to interior designers.  

It was really hard; hard being broke; hard working with two small children around. But I managed over the next few years to build a small business which enabled life to become near to the perfect vision I had of motherhood. It was a happy, innocent time in many ways.

By the time the children were in their teens, I was buying the furniture I was selling from one other small company. One Friday, the man who owned it rang my doorbell and announced he was shutting up shop that weekend. Panicking, I asked him in, agreed a deal I could pay him when I could, and by Monday had two small businesses. I amalgamated the two. There were a lot of touch and go moments, but eventually it became successful. With a lot of hard work, I built it up to the size where we were selling my own furniture designs worldwide. Over a hectic few years, I had become something I didn’t set out to be – an entrepreneur and businesswoman.   

It was great in some ways, especially initially. But as success came, so I became very depressed.   There were expectations on me to become a person I had not set out to be. It took me very far from my original values and authenticity. When we allow the noise, the sheer hectic pace of the lives we lead to drown out our values or to lead us into living lives that do not fit with them, we have a recipe for great unhappiness and dis-ease. And sure enough, that is what happened.  Increasingly, I became physically ill and more and more depressed as well, yet there was never any time to deal with either issue. I tried hard to make it work, but we all need a reason to get up in the morning that goes a lot deeper than you “ought” or “should”. Breaking point came finally, one illness too many, and the business and I parted company.  

I am far from alone in the millions who put aside their dreams to have children and do so happily and willingly. But from 50, our priorities change again. While some might have their lives revolving around grandchildren, many more revert to questioning life, trying to find a purpose and a recipe for happiness while there is still time, or simply focussing on a much more health conscious existence in order to stave off the inevitable deteriorations as we get older.

Now re-invented as me, I feel more successful now, doing a mix of coaching, writing and speaking, than I ever did running an international business. Following your authentic self, whatever that is, at whatever stage of life you are at, is the deep down essential rule to follow.

About the Author

Jan Cavelle is a successful Entrepreneur, Writer and a sales and Business Coach for Women based in the UK. Jan has nearly 40 years’ experience in sole trading and small businesses. This experience ranges from such diverse areas as music management, catering, freelance sales, furniture design and manufacture. You can contact Jan by email on or visit her website –

Life – Grab It With Both Hands – Elaine Smith – Australia

I was 39 when diagnosed with Breast Cancer in December 1997.   My youngest child was 8 years old and I remember standing at his bedroom door watching him sleep thinking about my diagnosis and crying at the thought of what was going to happen to me and to my family. My husband and I had four children and had just signed a contract to build a new family home.  

My Left Mastectomy was scheduled for December 16th 1997.  The diagnosis was Cancer ‘In-Situ’ but as it was all through the milk ducts a Mastectomy was the only choice. This was followed by taking Tamoxifen for five years.  My husband was beyond amazing and incredibly supportive and I had an extended network of family and friends who gave me such positive support. At 39 to have a breast removed was devastating for me.  Reconstruction wasn’t an option at that stage as I just wasn’t ready for it and wanted to make sure that the Cancer wasn’t going to come back in my right breast.

We had a young family and building the new home we had dreamed of almost seemed like it wasn’t going to happen….but we made it happen. I went back to work four weeks after surgery.  At the time, I was working as a Doctor’s receptionist but working with sick people every day wasn’t helping me mentally and the thoughts of Cancer were always haunting me so I decided to do something about it. I decided to change my working environment and get away from those negative thoughts as much as I could. I needed a job that took me away from the general public, where I could just do my job and go home. I ended up working for a company that made Air Conditioners for Holden cars. For three years I stood on a production line making Air Conditioners until one day I became so bored I decided that I needed more mental stimulation so I applied for a Traineeship in Property Management. I have been working as a Property Manager now for the last 14 years and am still with the same company. The job is demanding, the hours are long and no one day is ever the same as the last so there is no chance to get bored but it is a highly stressful career.

Thirteen years passed from when I was first diagnosed and finally I had the courage to undergo reconstructive surgery using a muscle from my abdomen and my own tissue. The operation was successful and the results were amazing. I was extremely happy to be ‘whole’ again. I took six weeks off work to recover.

On the 29th November 2016 I went for a routine check-up. Every year for the previous 19 years I have been going for routine check-ups and every time I became nervous regarding the results but this time I was working and had appointments to attend in the afternoon. I was hoping that they were not running behind. It didn’t enter my head that there could be a problem.  They called me in and I had the Mammogram. Then I was called back into the room for a second Mammogram. Something was seriously wrong, I could see the X-Ray up on the screen and it wasn’t good. I was then taken in for an Ultra-Sound and was told that I needed a Biopsy there and then. The news was devastating. I had invasive early Breast Cancer in my right breast. I was numb. I left the Doctor’s rooms in total shock.

How was I going to tell my husband and my family? How could I protect them from this news? I completed my appointments that afternoon in a state of disbelief over this new diagnosis. On December 10th 2016 I had a Mastectomy of my right breast. They found that the Cancer had spread to my Nodes under my arm. From the two they had taken during the Mastectomy, one had Cancer in it.  On December 22nd 2016 I was taken in for a second round of surgery to remove another 10 Lymph Nodes and out of those one more Lymph Node had Cancer in it. This time the Cancer had spread. I would need Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy followed by hormone suppressing tablets for 5 or maybe 10 years.

At the time of writing I have completed six months of Chemotherapy treatment and will complete Radiotherapy treatment in two weeks. It has been a long journey and there have been many challenges along the way but I am determined to keep a positive mind-set.  My husband and family continue to be as supportive as ever and I will be forever grateful to them for the love and support that they have given to me throughout this time in my life. Family is everything to me and I intend to be there to watch my Grandchildren grow up. I also have been very fortunate to have a caring and  compassionate employer who has allowed me to take this time out to receive treatment. My job will be there when I wish to return, but for now I will take time out to recover. It’s the mental battle that is the hardest.

We recently went bush-walking in the Grampians and over 4 days walked about 40km’s and I felt amazing when we got home. This was between Chemotherapy ending and Radiotherapy treatment starting. Life goes on and we must just take every day and enjoy it to the fullest. You never know what is around the corner and life can change in an instant. Grab it with both hands and enjoy every minute that you can!!!!

About the Author

Elaine Smith is one of life’s truly unsung heroes, she goes out to face every challenge that life throws at her every day with an amazing positive attitude. Elaine lives in Adelaide in South Australia and is looking forward to rejoining the ranks of the “employed” very soon. We know that Elaine will embrace this like everything else in her life. To contact Elaine email IWT support on and we can put you both together.