Express Your Appreciation

How do you express your appreciation, your respect, your care, your love? How do you prefer others to show the same to you?

Reference: The Five Languages of Love by Dr Gary Chapman

I have found the insights on “languages of love” really useful:

I learned that while I like to receive words of affirmation, I appreciate that my husband often expresses his love through acts of service. Richard was our cook and main housekeeper as I spent evenings on my Soroptimist work. I once offered to help – and his response was that he would do the dishes – my job was to save the world!

Words Of Affirmation: These can be specific compliments or letters / cards of thanks. I was delighted at my first Soroptimist International Board meeting to receive letters of greetings and support from all the available Past International Presidents. What a privilege that they all did this small but significant gesture to stand by the incoming President.

Past International Presidents at an earlier function – wise women with an abiding interest in the Soroptimist mission.

Gifts: Giving and receiving gifts can bring joy to the giver and receiver. It’s not the cost but the thought. At the first Soroptimist International Board meeting in July 2015, I gave each Director a simple handmade gift of a flower brooch which I had made myself. I am no craftsperson! I felt very gratified that they would accept my humble gift so graciously. They understood that the flower was a symbol. I did the same at the final board meeting for the 2015 – 2017 biennium in July 2017. I gave them each a handmade woolen felted heart – with my “heart-felt” thanks.

Acts of Service: Soroptimists are volunteers – and generous with their time and resources, sharing of skills and expertise. It was a privilege to have such generous and talented women in leadership roles. The officers, like Pat below, worked hours unpaid to enable us to undertake our mission to transform the lives and status of women and girls.

2015 – 2017 International Director of Advocacy Pat was tireless in her work to ensure the Soroptimist voice was heard at the United Nations

Touch: This is a delicate one. One must take into account cultural sensitivities – for some the head is sacred, and not to be touched whereas in another culture a pat on the head is a sign of endearment.

Quality time with my Soroptimist sisters – whether it be in Italy, Australia, Mongolia or Ireland – has been a highlight of my membership.

Quality Time. Our family always had dinner together – and the conversations around the table have been highlights and provided wonderful memories. I have also been privileged to spend meaningful time with friends and sister Soroptimists. Priceless!

The 5 languages of love have been a helpful tool: there have been many times when I have been called on to reply to a toast to Soroptimist International. If it is a surprise, and I have not had time to research and come up with something original, I can recall the 5 languages of love and use them as a basis for a response:
I thank the proposers for

  1. Their kind words (Words of Affirmation)
  2. The time they took to research our organisation ( Quality Time)
  3. Their willingness to speak publicly ( Act of Service) and then I offer the following to make it a 5 / 5 occasion:
  4. A small thank you gift, maybe a pen, or a badge (Gift) and
  5. Offer a Hand Shake, High Five or Hug ( Physical Touch)
President Mariet, our Malaysian sisters on the Local Organising Committee and I look forward to welcoming Soroptimists to Kuala Lumpur in July 2019 to the Soroptimist International Convention. Come… Here is a wonderful opportunity to meet old and make new friends – and practise the five languages of love. https://siconventionkl2019.org/

Survive or thrive?

6 April 2020. Day 12 of lock down. I prefer to call it “hibernation” because although we are “squirreled away” in our homes, one day we will emerge . We have the choice to come out stronger.

My Soroptmist club declined to 6 members. They were at their lowest and one option was to give up and close. Those hardy 6 chose to rebuild and over a 10 year period the club grew to 36 . They moved from survive to thrive and we have been a healthy sized club ever since.

We are heading towards the half way point in our government decree, “Stay Home, Save Lives”.

We have had the honeymoon period, the holiday and cleaned out the cupboards that had been calling for Mari Kondo’s decluttering.

and now what?

The cycle is one of moving from FEAR – where we are concerned for our safety, the safety of our family, our job security to COMFORT, where we are adapting to this new norm. Maybe we find it exciting or fulfilling to have the freedom to catch up on chores, catch up on friends, albeit on line only.

But after comfort comes BOREDOM, where we have too much of a good thing, so much time that we lose momentum to fully utilise it. We become restless and being at home 24/7 isn’t so great or refreshing anymore.

In the absence of our usual stimulants and challenges, our busyness, we find we have a choice to utilise this boredom phase as a stepping off point to CREATIVITY.

It’s not a gentle and predictable flowing movement – but a jerky one with troughs of fear followed by a burst of creativity and then a lull into boredom. But the elements are there.

We see a video of creative ways of dealing with Covid19. We laugh. We sing along. And we are inspired by the clever and creative use of song and dance to express or mock what we are going through. A video goes viral. .. Creative juices are flowing.

There is opportunity to look with fresh eyes.

There is opportunity to review our lives, values and rejig them for a changed world.

There is the opportunity to relate – recapture communication with a friend that had slipped to an annual Christmas letter.

There is opportunity to write ……………. ahhhhh

Birthdays in a Bubble

April 3 2020. We are in day 9 of hibernation, staying home in my Bubble with my Bubble Buddy… and celebrating my Birthdays.

Birthdays, plural? Yes, I have a birthday certificate which states I was born on 1 April. My mother claims I was born 2 April at 12.30 am., the nurse locked herself in the matron’s office, wrote out the birth certificate, and handed it to Mum triumphantly and exclaimed, “There, she will have a sense of humour!”

My mother stuck to her decision and we celebrated my birthday on 2 April. I found out when I was 11 that there was discrepancy. I needed my birth certificate to enter a swimming competition, took it to the adjudicator who smiled and commented that I was an April Fool. I remonstrated with him and he showed me the certificate. I was stunned! When I got home I challenged my mother who laughed and said, “No one makes a fool of me!”

And so for years, as a joke, my mother would give me a card or gift on 2 April. It was tradition to receive a piece of jewellery to mark the occasion of transition to adulthood. For my 21st birthday Mum gave me a bracelet engraved with my birthday: 2 April

This year’s birthday – in a bubble was lovely. It was one of my memorable birthdays:

My Bubble Buddy, husband Richard, made a lovely brunch. Simple, attractively set out , made with care and thought. We have now established a brunch into our routine – a time together late morning to toast the day. We have a date.

My family was in touch. Quality time via video link with the grandchildren – lots of laughter. What is more special that time with little people? and their parents?

A virtual bunch of flowers. My daughter lives in another city, and could go shopping, but flower delivery is not an essential service, so she bought the flowers from the supermarket and sent me a photo. Its a gift that keeps giving. LOL.

The quality of contact with my 95 year old mother who lives in another city took a downturn in the days before the resthome went into lockdown. She was ill and infection really knocked her mobility and energy. Holding the phone to her ear is too hard. Saying a word was a major effort. My birthday treat was a full sentence, and clarity that she understood what I was saying.

An unexpected call from my father-in-law, who despite the challenges of memory loss as he approaches 90 , called me. Other family members also phoned in. Friends used FaceBook.

That was all on my official birthday.

On 2nd April, yesterday, Richard and I were called to the Medical Centre, to queue up in the car, and have our free flu jabs through the window. The first round of flu injections are for the priority group of the elderly, and those with underlying health issues. So, I am now aware that I am officially “Elderly”. Happy 2nd Birthday! That’s a bubble burster!

For those of you out there, and end enjoy birthdays too – may I assure you that Belated Birthday greetings are also valued

Today I plan to have a “Happy un-Birthday” and send you all “Happy un- Birthday” greetings too

Leadership at the grassroots level

Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. … Put even more simply, the leader is the inspiration for and director of the action.

My friend Rosalie is a leader, an unassuming yet effective leader.

Rosalie owned a grocery store with her husband. They employed local high school students and this was often the students’ first employment. Rosalie’s role was more than a boss – she was a mentor, a trainer, a friend to the young people who were stepping out of their comfort zone into the world of employment: it was a huge transition. She nurtured, encouraged and empowered.

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Our daughter worked at Rosalie’s shop. There she learned or reinforced values of work, reliability, punctuality,being well present and dealing promptly and pleasantly with customers, wearing her name badge and bringing joy to the work environment.

Rosalie thought of her employees as “my girls” and even referred to them as such 20 years later when “her girls’ had moved into other careers. She always maintained an interest.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child and Rosalie was an elder in that village for many young people who took their first step into the world of work.

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Rosalie’s contribution to shaping attitudes and caring for others has a life time effect. She lived by her value of striving for excellence.

Leadership is about influencing others. Rosalie was a true and positive leader

From one of the many mothers , thanks Rosalie!

Leadership skills in a crisis.

It’s 31 March 2020 and we, in New Zealand, are in Day 6 of locking ourselves in our homes and going out only for exercise and essential shopping. Most of us are in hibernation; some in isolation if there was any possibility of direct contact with the virus. We are doing it in trust to protect our vulnerable citizens and buy us time for a vaccine to be developed to halt the Covid 19 virus decimating our population.

We need effective leadership in a time of crisis. That leadership can come from the grassroots and from established authority.

I believe that New Zealanders have confidence in the leadership shown by our Prime Minister and her team. They have shown


To act quickly and decisively. There is a cost to the lockdown measures; freedom has been curtailed, jobs have been lost. The short term losses have been made for the longer term safety of all. It is a big ask and I think our Prime Minister’s previous acts of compassion and courage have given her credibility in the eyes of the country, which makes it easier to follow her instructions.


An emphasis has been on the safety of the most vulnerable – defined as those over 70 and those with current health problems. Civil Defence has been updating contact lists and asking community groups what processes they have to look out for those over 70. There is publicity about connecting with family, friends and neighbours and keeping connected as a community.

Clear Communication:

Many of us turn on the television at 1 pm for a 30 minute information session with our leaders – political, medical, police. They are giving a clear and consistent message using simple words and concepts : “Stay Home Save Lives”. Live in your “bubble”. “Sneeze into your elbow”

New terminology has been used eg ” Social distance” and this is measurable at 2 metres away from another person. We have been asked to keep our distance – and more importantly been given what that means.

We are given the how and why of “Wash Your Hands”. How – 20 Seconds or singing “Happy Birthday” twice. Why – washing with soap and drying breaks the viruses coating and destroys it.

There is also leadership from the community itself.


Resources are being freely shared to support young families entertain their children. The “Going on a Bear Hunt” asks for teddy bears to be put in windows so families out for a walk can give their children something to look for.

“Clap to Care” was a call for New Zealanders to go to the gate at 7 pm on Sunday 29 March and clap in appreciation of those who are away from their families providing essential services.

A crisis can bring out the best in us. It causes us to review what is really important and by working together, albeit from isolated pockets, we can regain and strengthen our community. The key factors are courage, compassion, clear communication and creativity.

From my bubble to yours – Take care, we are connected and we can rise above this crisis.

Impossible dreams are possible.

I learned a very important lesson at 16.

I loved the international scene. At the age of 12 I had 29 penfriends from around the world. I was fascinated by the exotic scenery on postcards, pictures and different currencies on stamps, and the concept of other cultures coming into my world through letters. ( It was in the 1960s. Internet may not have given me the same thrill as holding a letter from the other side of the world).

My school hosted exchange students from USA and scholarship students from Malaysia. I was in awe of the opportunity they had to live and study in another country.

That, I decided,was beyond my wildest dreams. At the time I decided it was beyond my resources, so the dream was fleeting and then dismissed. Later, upon reflection, I discovered that the person who put an overseas exchange beyond my reach was… me.

I was brought up short when a girl in my class, from a home not too dissimilar to mine where finances were limited, decided she wanted to go to Japan .. and did.

She made her own clothes, had a part time job, and applied for and got support and sponsorship from her church community.

She lived in Japan for a year.

I had a Japanese penfriend.

The difference was that she made her dream a reality. I limited myself with my belief system.

The positive outcome is that I learned the lesson, and that lesson has been a driver in my life: You can shift an impossible dream to being a possible reality. I grew stronger with that belief – and even now I look at opportunity and consider how can I make that chance real.

In my Soroptimist service I also apply that lesson to making a difference to women and girls. Is education for a girl in rural Nepal an impossible dream? What can I do to make it a reality?

As 2015 – 2017 Soroptimist International President I chose Educate to Lead: Nepal as the SI President’s Appeal. With funds raised by Soroptimists all over the world, we empowered thousands of girls with the reality of the dream of an education. May their dreams beyond secondary school also be a reality.

We also enabled many Nepali women to learn income generation skills to help them rebuild their lives after the 2015 earthquakes.

It was a privilege to see the impact of our dream become a reality.

Dreams do come true.

Bill’s Breakfast

My friend, Bill is a manager of a company that has a monthly quota of tasks to fill. When the goal is achieved, Bill cooks all staff a Saturday morning breakfast.

The result is very positive – the staff are focused on achieving targets, the owners are happy because the target is met, Bill has got the best out of his staff and everyone gets to enjoy a tasty breakfast cooked by the boss.

The breakfast is on a Saturday, no time away from the work, and there is no impact on reaching the next month’s target. They all come together to enjoy a companionable social break after achieving a big task, no work pressures hover, and it reinforces the desire to achieve again and enjoy more of the same.

As well as the recipe for a delicious breakfast, the important aspect is the recipe for success through teamwork, mutual respect and reward.

Rescuer – Persecutor – Victim triangle

I genuinely like helping. I prefer giving a hand up to a handout. However sometimes I need to stop and ascertain if I am rescuing someone when they could help themselves. One situation moved from me rescuing to me feeling bad and abused.

What happened there?

I learned about the rescuer – persecutor – victim triangle. It’s a vicious cycle as you move from one role to another in an unhealthy relationship. The only way out was to break free by removing myself from the rescuer role. This then removed me from becoming a victim.

Since then I have learned even more and that I can retain the relationship but not get caught in the triangular trap. I can shift the dynamics. “All” I needed to do was make a shift in my own responses – and the rest followed.

I know I can move from rescuer to coach, utilising questions and setting boundaries; from victim to problem solver reflecting on what goes well and being grateful; from persecutor to challenger being firm and fair and clear on whose problem is it.

The video below explains it particularly well.

I found this explanation and the shift we can make to be beneficial

A schedule for success

I retired from my regular paid work on 11 December 2019. The most common question was how would I fill my time. It surprised me because the challenge really is how would I get everything done?

Last year I dropped from .8 workload to a .4 workload. That gave me more time, but ironically I filled it and did less on my priority (of writing, of working through my journals). In fact I stopped writing my blog altogether.

So, it is not the amount of time (I know, we all have the same 24 hours in a day) or perceived spare or free time, but how we utilise it.

I had an insight when I read Jeffrey Archer’s prison diaries. He was disciplined to write for 2 hours, then take a break of 2 hours, write again for 2 and break again for 2, with one final 2 hours writing. This was his normal routine, before he went to prison. The schedule gives structure, and the breaks give refreshment. He created a similar schedule while in prison and achieved three books.

Retirement is not a prison full of imposed schedules but more the opposite of full freedom. This year, my first year of retirement from paid employment, I am using Jeffrey Archer’s schedule of 2 x 2 blocks to write. Watch this space. I don’t anticipate a novel completed in a few weeks, but I do expect to create regular blogs from my journals.

What if that person was so special she/ he would one day save the world? Would you treat her/ him any differently now?

The Christmas message I heard (ie really heard because I can still remember it) was the story of a religious community that was dysfunctional. Members were cross with each other; some left in a huff, and generally the atmosphere was toxic. The leader, the Bishop, was concerned and went to a Rabbi for help and advice.

The wise Rabbi told the Bishop that he was to tell his community one thing and then it was never to be mentioned again. The Bishop gathered his community together and shared the instruction that he would say something once and they were to never mention it again

The message was, “one of us is the Messiah”.

The community members went away back to their tasks. The message was never repeated, but what did happen was a change in the way people responded and related to each other. The community changed and flourished in harmony.

The message I took was that whatever the community we belong to – whether it be a community of faith, a family, a work place, a club, a social occasion – it is the way we respond and relate to each other that determines the quality of that community. We are responsible for how we treat others and when we treat each other with reverence and respect, treat each person as if he or she would one day save our world, then the miracle Christians see as Christmas, would become a reality.

May 2020 (the number that denotes perfect vision) be the year we treat each other with reverence and respect and truly bring peace to our world. It will also be the tool to bring about the Sustainable Development Goals of gender equality, elimination of poverty, quality education for all…. by the target year of 2030. We can do it – simply by changing our attitude and then acting accordingly.

I read “Pollyanna” and was glad.

One of the wonderful things about holidays is that you can take a little time to read, recall and rejoice.

I found “Pollyanna”, the 1913 novel by American author Eleanor H Porter, on my kindle list; I recalled seeing the 1960’s Disney film with Hayley Mills when I would have been about 9 years old, and read the story last week for the first time. I remember the happiness Pollyanna brought to her community and then the tragedy that befell her and how she faced it.

Pollyanna has an unfailingly optimistic outlook; a subconscious bias towards the positive. Sure, it can be seen as overly optimistic and naive. But my take is that it is a reminder that innocence and naivety can bring joy … so let it. I think that there are many times we would enjoy life more when we find and utilise the “Pollyanna” within us.