The basics in a snap shot… I am a mother, a partner, a traveler and experience lover, a retired athlete, a seeker of truth, the founder of Australian non-profit Soles4Souls Australia, a graduate of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program, a Paul Harris Fellow and a finalist in the Pride of Australia Medal Awards for my work with Soles4Souls Australia. This and so much more…
(I am also a writer… which explains why my story is so long…)
Here is my story…
I am the daughter of loving parents and the youngest sister to three protective and loving older sisters. I am also blessed with 3 nieces and 4 nephews.
For a long time I defined my life in two distinct parts: Before Kenya (2010 & earlier) and After Kenya (2011 & onwards).
In 2016 that changed again to include another key life moment:
Becoming a Mum. It was the moment when life as I knew it, once again, changed forever.
In 2010 I lost my mojo. I lost my passion and purpose. I lost my “Big WHY”.
I am sure to some I looked “successful”. I was independent and had a good job, my own place, loving family, sporting success and friends to have fun with. But… I wasn’t really happy and I had lost faith in a lot of things. I was also sick and tired of every week looking and feeling the same.
I once read a quote about climbing the ladder of success only to realise the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. That’s how I felt at the time!
It was that realisation which lead to the decision to travel and to do something meaningful.
From the moment I made that decision and shared it with a friend a series of synchronistic events unfolded and door after door opened for me to pursue and live a purpose filled life.
The first major event was a friend forwarding me an email from an organisation looking for team leaders to lead and manage volunteers on their international programs. The second major event was my employer making my position redundant, and presenting me with two options:
Option A… Behind the blue door was a different role within the organisation.
Option B… Behind the red door was redundancy.
I took the chance and the opportunity to once again find my purpose and passion. I took the redundancy and left the organisation the following day…
In that moment I picked a motto for that next stage in my life…
… My motto quickly became: “Choose Your Own Adventure”…
The organisation looking for team leaders was World Youth International, and after several interviews I was successful and was offered the position of Team Leader in Kenya.
Combining my previous leadership, management and travel experiences with months of training I departed for Kenya in November 2010 with the single goal of being the best Team Leader I could be. My focus was to support each of my team members on their journey in Kenya and to successfully deliver on the community projects we would be undertaking.
Living and working in Kenya for three-months remains one of my most significant experiences.
It was an opportunity to form, grow and lead a team of eight individuals from diverse backgrounds in a foreign environment without the daily comforts we are familiar with at home (inc. running water).
While we were without running water and all meals were cooked on a two burner gas cooktop I had never before felt so connected and on-purpose. My focus and attention was directed outwards (to my team and the community) and I couldn’t have been happier. However, I was also challenged by the level of poverty and the impact this has on the health and happiness of people and families living every day in this situation.
… My highest purpose is to be of service and to contribute positively to the lives of others, and seeing the deep level of poverty was overwhelming. Sometimes the problems just seem so big…
When I returned to Australia in February 2011 I experienced acute re-entry culture shock. After spending three months where the opportunity to have a shower with running water was exciting, I struggled with the abundance and perceived lack of gratitude for all the opportunities which surround us in western society. A simple walk down the local Mall would have me in tears.
Once again I was unhappy and lacking purpose and direction. I had gone from contributing to others each and every day in Kenya to feeling very lost at home in Australia.
It took three-months before I began to truly move forward and to feel positive again… that turnaround happened from one conversation about shoes…
… Sharing my experiences in Kenya with friends, including seeing the impact of children with jiggers (a sand flea which burrows into the skin), it was suggested we donate our netball shoes. From there “The Butterfly Movement” (now trading as Soles4Souls Australia) was born.
Establishing The Butterfly Movement Ltd. (trading as Soles4Souls Australia) is to-date my highest achievement in regards to my contribution to humanity.
A great deal has been achieved by the organisation and community since 2011 including:
- First and foremost the re-distribution of 125,000+ pairs of shoes around the world to people in need including in Australia, Tanzania, Pakistan, Vanuatu and Guatemala;
- Indigenous Australia support through footwear for sport and fitness;
- Shoes for women in need at shelters; and
- Establishing key partnerships, including a working partnership with Wesley Social Enterprises, which provides meaningful employment for South Australians living with a disability.
Since 2011 I have volunteered 10,000+ hours and continue today in the role of Chair. If you want to learn more about Soles4Souls Australia I invite you to visit the website at www.soles4souls.com.au
Finding Mr Watts
Throughout my adult life I was very good at being single. I worked hard, I played hard and I loved to travel. I thought I wanted a special someone in my life but it was easy being single, and I certainly didn’t focus on that area of relationships in my life.
In late 2013 that changed.
I felt ready to invite love into my life…
One evening I recall having a profound and particularly connected meditation, and that night while I slept Mr Watts sent me a message on facebook offering to collect football boots for Soles4Souls and inviting me for a coffee.
I had met Mark just once previously several years earlier. I recall thinking that it was odd that he was asking to have coffee to discuss collecting football boots from his club (supporters of Soles4Souls collect shoes all the time without meeting with me) but it was a moment of listening to my intuition – I knew I had to go…
… Today I am still waiting for him to host that shoe drive, but I am grateful for the love and joy Mark has brought to my life and for the support I receive from him each and every day.
I certainly do feel blessed that we are together now…
Becoming a Mum
In 2016 I became a Mum. I don’t think it is possible to prepare yourself for becoming a parent.
From the moment I looked at our daughter I was overwhelmed with the deep love and connection I felt for her.
I’ve never believed in love at first sight, not true unconditional love, the kind of love which lasts forever…
But this year I found out I was wrong… Love at first sight is real and it’s shockingly overwhelming and amazingly beautiful all at the same time.
This realisation came the day I became “Mummy”. In a moment everything else fell away and life for me became all about my little girl.
I cannot explain the feeling. There are no words to express this love. I have actually found motherhood cannot be truly explained, it can only be felt and understood through living it, and for that reason I am so grateful for this opportunity to be a parent.
I have since developed a whole new understanding and appreciation for how other parents feel about their kids and how my parents must feel about my sisters and I. When thinking about my daughter and how much I love her, I have thought several times “wow, my parents love me this much!”
And while it’s still relatively new for me I imagine this love only deepens and grows (this is what I’m told anyway).
(For all the parents and carers out there (biological, step, foster, hands-on grandparents and special aunties & uncles), I express to you so much gratitude for loving and raising your kids.)
Parenting is certainly an unrelenting and important role, and a constant lesson in trust, surrender and unconditional love.
I have enjoyed every moment since our daughter’s arrival, and if I had the opportunity I would go back and repeat it all again…
… I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to love and raise a precious child of the universe.
We can never be sure what the future holds, but I do know it is…
- Filled with love and connection
- Contributing positively to the lives of others
- Taking the path less travelled – choosing my path, my adventure
- Listening to my intuition
- Enjoying the moments and all the time in-between the moments
- Choosing experiences over “stuff”
- Surrendering to the magic of life