Lessons From My Mother: A Mother’s Day Reflection



Mother’s Day is the day that we earmark for celebration, to honour the special woman in our life that we call “Mum”. With this Mother’s Day upon us, I have been reflecting on some of the ways that my mother has shaped me, as a wife, a mother, and a woman.

My mum has always been a mother. Raised in a home where her parents took in foster children, she has been raising children since she could walk. Right out of high school, she got married and had my brother Shayne, and was a mother from that day on. When her youngest child – my sister Shaniya – was still a child, my brother and I began our own families, and more children were introduced into the mix, inducting her into the new role of ‘grandmother’. In a way, she has been mothering her entire life.

In my experience, my mother fully embraced her calling as a mother. Even though mothering isn’t the kind of job that produces a tangible salary, she viewed it as her primary job, and the most important one on earth. The years she was raising me were spent running me around to vocal and dance classes, to rehearsals for musical productions, accompanying my class on school excursions, and taking me on trips out of town to compete in singing competitions.  Though spending days at home raising children doesn’t win you any accolades, she has invested in my life in every way possible.

Is my mother perfect? Of course not – she’s human, like the rest of us. But she is a lot of amazing things, and she has taught me everything I know. The following outlines just a few of the ways that my mother has influenced my life, and the lessons that I have learned from her, thus far.


My Mother is the Strongest Woman I Know

Strength and confidence radiates from her. I was raised to understand that I could do anything I set my mind to, and I believed her, because I watched her do the same. Mum taught me to be strong, and ambitious, despite what curveballs life throws at me. I watched my mother bounce back from some of life’s biggest challenges, and come back fighting. Because of my mother’s strength, I have been able to run a home, raise children, cook, do the dishes and grace the hallowed halls of the ivory tower, whilst also working. If I am wonder woman, it’s only because I was also raised by one. Mum displays a kind of strength and resilience that taught me never to let life beat you down. She taught me that when you get knocked down, you get back up, adjust your tiara, and come back stronger than ever.


My Mother Taught Me to Manage my Feelings

Though my mother is strong, she is also sensitive, and she never tried to hide it. While some mothers “Bree Van de Kamp” it by crying in the shower and emerging from the bathroom perfect, my mother let me see that she was normal. Human. I saw her cry, get angry, and exhibit almost every emotion under the sun.

Like my mother, I feel things very deeply, and mum embraced this. In my house it was okay to feel things, to cry, to talk, and to grieve. But afterwards, you pick yourself back up, put on your big girl pants and get on with the job. When things got a little more serious, she encouraged me to see counsellors, and to be open about what I was going through. When I was better, we moved on. My mother is never down for long, and she modelled the kind of self-management that has gotten me through the emotional rollercoaster of my adult life thus far.


My Mother Taught Me What it Means to be Beautiful

My mother was blessed with stronger beauty genes than I’ll ever have, and growing up watching her get ready to go anywhere was paralyzing. When perfect complexions were being handed out, I’m pretty sure she was at the front of the queue. Even now, she is growing in grace, and always looks like a million bucks. What I learned from Mum is that one should always present their best self to the world. Even though we look different, and I will never have her ice blue eyes, I was raised to be proud of my Maori heritage, my enormous hair and to embrace everything that makes a person beautiful – even things that we can’t see.I was taught to take pride in my appearance and to enhance whatever I had going on with happiness and making the most of my best features. Most importantly, mum taught me to be a lady.


She Raised a Strong Feminist

I was raised by a strongly feminist mother who had been heavily influenced by second wave feminism, and by negative experiences with men. A victim of abuse, my mother fought against male control, and in an attempt to fight against misogyny and patriarchy, she placed herself, and all women at the centre of our world. As a result, my upbringing was very gender dominated. My household was committed to creating strong women,  who would not be controlled by men.

Being raised by a feminist mother, I naturally recognise and call out patriarchy, and gender stereotyping, particularly in relation to women and their roles. I recognise that even at my daughter’s age of eight, I am teaching her (both consciously and unconsciously) to have personal agency and empowerment in all things. This feminist upbringing has woven its way through everything that I do, and everything that I am.


She Taught Me Not to Take Any Crap

My mama didn’t raise no fool. I was taught to value myself, and my opinions, and not to take abuse from others. She taught me the meaning of self worth. She also got herself out of a bad situation. Many women find themselves in destructive and unhealthy relationships, which they often don’t have the resources to emerge from. Watching my mother leave this situation taught me not to allow myself to get into, or remain in, a relationship like this. By her example, I learned to walk away from things that are not meant for me, and to believe in myself above all things. I learned that the opinion of others does not define me – what defines a person is how they bounce back from setbacks, and how hard they fight for what they want. What doesn’t kill you, ony makes you stronger.


She Taught Me to Be Kind

My mother may be fierce, but she is also kind. Growing up, she was a busy lady, but she still found time to volunteer, help out at school, and work in animal rescue. She was, and continues to be, very charitable to strangers. If I came home from school and told her about someone who didn’t have any lunch, the next day I was sent with two lunches – one to share. If someone needed baby gear, Mum went op shopping. Now that Facebook groups have become so accessible to those who are in need, Mum has become very active in the South Auckland community, helping out whenever she can. My mother taught me to be generous through her example, always believing that actions speak much louder than words.

Tenneva Jordan says that “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” This describes many moments of my upbringing, and how Mum continues to conduct herself. She will go the extra mile for others, and will not ask for anything in return.


She was Both Mother and Father

Even though my mother was married, she raised me alone. She slaved and sacrificed the way that all mothers do, but I never felt the absence of a second parent. When I was young, I didn’t really think about all of the work that goes into running a house. As an adult, I realise how much I rely on Stephen to get me through this thing called ‘parenting’, and can’t imagine how Mum did it alone.


She Creates Her Own Happiness

Determined to find happiness in a difficult life, Mum always follows her heart, and that which makes her happy. She taught me that you can still be happy, even if times are tough. Even in difficult circumstances, she is the brightest, bubbliest person in every room.


She Taught Me to Be a Mother

Now that I am a mother myself, I know there are hard days. There are days when everyone will get sick, nobody will sleep, and the dinner will end up flicked all over the ceiling. But, I learned from my own mother that there’s nothing to do but embrace it. Motherhood is humbling, and it takes sacrifice. But, if you are willing to take your rewards in sloppy kisses and mud pies, then it is the most rewarding job in the world. I saw my mother sacrifice her time, health, money and youth to raise me, and she complained very little. In these little moments that make up life, I know that I am not the perfect mother, but I am the perfect mother for my children, because my mother taught me how it’s done. She showed me how to take care of a family, how to be strong and resilient, as well as kind and compassionate. She lead by example, and I am proud to follow in her footsteps.


Everyday this person continues to surprise me with her courage and determination. Mum, you are the Lorelai to my Rory – my support system, my best friend. You taught me all the important things in life – how to sing, how to write poetry, how to put on makeup. You taught me everything, and for this I will always be grateful. On this Mother’s Day, I want to say thank you for all that you do, and all that you are. I’m lucky to have you.


Happy Mother’s Day!

Reflection: On Being an Introvert


From a young age, I have been introspective, and reflective. I have always enjoyed my own world more than anyone else’s, and feel uncomfortable – bored even – when I am not in it. In my own world, I am comfortable, safe, and at peace. I have been reflecting on this lately, and have come to realise that Introversion is not a weakness, or a fault. It is a -multi-faceted, nuanced, and unique way of life.

I am an INFJ on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. This personality type is reportedly the rarest on the planet, with only 1% of the population falling into its category. The letters in this acronym stand for Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J). Sylvia Plath was an INFJ, as was Charlotte Bronte, and many other writers that I look up to, and draw inspiration from.

As an introvert, I tend to be more inward focused – I am normally wrapped up in my internal thoughts and feelings, and do not enjoy, or seek out external stimulation. Living inside my head is easier, because my inner world is as animated and vivid as the outer one. I am more reserved, and introspective than my extroverted counterparts, and find that alone time, or quiet time with family allows my mind to decompress.

When I am with other people, I often feel overwhelmed, and experience sensory overload. In a crowd I also experience a feeling of disconnectedness, and am left feeling drained and socially burned out. This is often referred to as the “introvert hangover”. It’s a common misconception that introversion is shyness. While some introverts are shy, they often find conversation easy and enjoyable. What they struggle with is how draining it can be to socialise, and how important it is to recharge and re-energise afterwards. I don’t have any trouble socialising or chatting to people, but my battery dries up pretty quickly. For this reason, introverts relish being alone, or experiencing quiet moments. I feel good when I am alone, or with family. In my introverted comfort zone, I find contentment, solitude, and freedom.

According to Carl Jung, introverts are happy alone, with rich imaginations and artistic tendencies. They often stand apart from society, and are misunderstood. Introverts are often seen as withdrawn because they are internally focused. They make their decisions based on their internally established thoughts and beliefs. This is why they are often artists and writers. The Gifted Development Center writes that “Introversion correlates with introspection, reflection, the ability to inhibit aggression, deep sensitivity, moral development, high academic achievement, scholarly contributions, leadership in academic and aesthetic fields in adult life, and smoother passage through midlife.

As a child, I was told I was an ‘old soul’. This is probably because introverts tend to be natural observers. We take in information, and think before we speak. We are analytical and reflective, often looking for the deeper meanings or patterns behind what we see. Because of this, introverts can come across as wise, even from a young age. I spent a lot of time on my own, with my own thoughts, and have always been rather philosophical. I like to reflect on things, and have always been told that I am “too intense and serious” and an “overthinker”. Feeling things too deeply, I have been told, is my problem.

Always more comfortable in a quiet space with a book, or pens and paper to write, as I grew into my own as an adult, I assumed that I was just ‘bookish’, and preferred to be alone because the things I liked to do were more solitary activities – reading and writing doesn’t usually take place in a group. I now know that it’s the other way around – I do not choose to be alone because I like these solitary activities. I am naturally drawn to solitary activities because they fit better with my personality, and they allow me to remain in my introvert comfort zone.

I also prefer to be alone or in small, meaningful groups because I don’t enjoy meeting new people, or socialising. My family jokes about my lack of friends, and counsellors over the years have asked why I have no interest in creating, or maintaining relationships with others. I always thought it was because I had a steady partner, children and am close with my mother. I felt, and continue to feel, that I don’t need any other relationships. What I did not know until recently, is that the main reason for this is probably my introversion.  I struggle with the draining aspect of being around people. It’s a common motif that writer’s don’t like people (consider writing You Tuber Jenna Moreci’s t’shirt design: “I’m a Writer. I Hate People.”)

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What I’ve come to realise is that it’s not because I’m a writer, it’s because I’m an introvert. Becoming a writer was a way for me to remain in my comfort zone, doing thoughtful, reflective, creative work in a setting which I could control. I connected with people minimally, worked in my own home space, and at my own pace. The idea of being around people is tiring to me, and I desperately crave solitude in my everyday life.

A common writer, and introvert problem is being better at writing words than speaking them, and it’s one that deeply resonates in my life, and work. I prefer to communicate by email when possible, as my thoughts are better and more accurately reflected when they have been written down, than when I try to express them verbally. Writing gives me the time I need to reflect on what I want to say, and how I need to say it. It allows me to craft and edit my feelings before I have to articulate them. It is this that drew me into writing as a career. Introverts prefer the inner world of creativity and imagination, which is why introversion is a natural characteristic of writers. The writing process gives me the time I need to think and organise my ideas. I think, in a way, my brain processes words all day long, and writing provides the much needed outlet for these. 

In addition, like most INFJ’s, I am extremely goal driven. “Hi. My name is Taryn and I’m a personal growth junkie.” A few years ago I wrote a piece for Massive Magazine about ‘achievement addiction’. It focused on serial students (like myself), for whom no achievement is ever enough. I also have an insatiable appetite for learning and knowledge which has kept me at university for almost a decade. I now know that this passion for fulfilling my own goals is tied up with my introversion. Introverts are more concerned with making themselves happy, and prefer to spend their time working/pondering on ideas and concepts which they find important. Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were introverts. Just sayin’.

I’ve also learned that introverts thrive in the introvert equivalent of a mancave. When my husband converted a shipping container into an office for me two years ago, it finally gave me the little cave of solitude that I had been needing in my life. It was fitted out with wall to wall bookshelves, as well as my ‘scholarly collectables’ (graduation bears, university merch etc.) This space became a haven for me to recharge my batteries and come back to life. I found myself increasingly looking forward to my time in this space, where I could read and write freely, and where I could draw strength and creativity from my bookish surroundings. The year that this office was set up, I was more productive, and well rested than any other time in my life. Sadly, the shipping container was converted into storage last year, and upon reflection, I realise that reshaping this office space in my life needs to be prioritised, because I draw inspiration and joy from it. After a long week, or day, an exciting Friday night is one where I can curl up in my own writer’s room in solitude, working on my current writing project, or researching things that interest me.

I am also very future focused. I have always had 5 and 10 year plans which I re-evaluate constantly. To see all of the things I am focusing on in the future, just take a look at My Impossible List. In reality, my ‘old-soul’ side thinks more like a 90-year-old than the 30-something I am. I spend a lot of time pondering and reflecting on my life, and how I will spend my time. I actually spend a lot of my time wondering what my life will amount to, and how I can make it all count. I’m a dreamer, but I’m also a doer. And, once I have decided I want something – you had better either help, or get out of the way.

Though most people view labels as restrictive, I have found the INFJ, and Introvert labels to be rather freeing. There is great comfort in understanding why you are, the way you are, and I have found that the more I read about my personality type, the more I resonate with it, and feel understood. The best part of understanding your personality is that things that didn’t make sense, suddenly do, and it’s almost like your entire life is illuminated by the light of this new understanding. Suddenly, everything that I am makes sense.



The Time I Worked for a Fake Newspaper



Having worked as a freelance writer and journalist for several years at home while my children were young, I was thrilled to be offered a full-time position as Editor and Chief Reporter of a small town newspaper. However, as the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I was recommended to the job by my editor at a magazine I was freelancing for, who knew I was looking to find an exciting opportunity where I would be able to do so much more – write more, earn more, and have something of my own to work on. Having spent years writing books, blogs and articles for others, this job would give me a publication that I could run, however I saw fit. After formally applying, I was offered an interview the following week.

The interview went well. Joan was a retired journalist, who had incorporated a new company which would produce a brand new community newspaper in the Coromandel area. Financially backed by a veteran editor from the New Zealand Herald, and run by a board of experienced journalists, all the newspaper needed now was an Editor, and I was the lucky chosen candidate. Joan offered me the position on the spot, and sent through a formal offer later that week.

It was a generous offer, one that was worth moving districts for, and which would allow us to be a one income household while my husband found employment in a new town. Our four children would be moving with us, which we didn’t take lightly, but the opportunity was too good to turn down, and so I accepted and we began making plans to move.

Because of a severe housing shortage in the Coromandel area, finding a rental home was nearly impossible. After countless phone calls, emails and applications, the time had arrived to start the new position and we were still living three hours from the new town. Since the newspaper had a set launch date which had been publicly announced, and advertisements had already been placed and paid for, Joan decided that the best thing to do would be for me to work remotely to get the early papers out, commuting when needed, until my family could secure accommodation. My written contract stated that this was permissible,so we proceeded on.

The first few weeks of the position were spent mainly at home, with trips to the area made for interviews and orientation. Joan felt that since I wasn’t from the area, it would be best to spend some time up there with her getting to know the locals, and the geography of the seaside town. It became clear on these trips, that something was not right.

On the first trip, Joan told me she had booked a restaurant for lunch, where we could discuss the content for the first edition. The restaurant turned out to be a local cafe, where Joan apparently knew the owners. I was told to order whatever I liked, as it was her ‘treat’. At the end of the meal, Joan called out to the managers that they could ‘add it to the tab’. As we left, one of the managers chased us out asking for payment. Joan explained that she would pay the account later like she always did. The manager looked uncomfortable, but let us go.

Over the next two weeks, things got even stranger. The financial backer I was told about at the interview apparently pulled out, and the board I was told about seemed to be absent from the situation. The other writers and staff that I was supposed to meet were always out of town or busy when I came to the area, and the paper seemed to largely exist just between Joan and I. Though I was told we had a team of people, I was not to contact them.

After the first week, I filled out the timesheet and emailed it to Joan. She thanked me for it, but stated that she couldn’t pay me until her advertiser’s had paid, since she couldn’t afford it. At this point, I tried to have a conversation with her about the future of the paper, and her ability to afford an editor. She assured me that everything was okay, and paid my first week’s wages overnight. This was the only payment I ever received, and I later learned that she had pawned jewellery to make this payment.

As time went on, Joan became increasingly controlling about my personal life. She insisted that my eight year old son would be delivering papers, despite my statement that he was not old enough, or able to be. She also tried to enrol my children into a school that I told her I wasn’t happy with, and had many stern conversations with me about how I was raising my children. The issue of accommodation also became an increasingly hot topic, and ended up being the excuse that Joan would later use for ending my employment. She vocally screamed at me on the phone several times for not securing rental accommodation, and lost her temper at me any time something happened that was outside of my control. She called and yelled at me for twenty minutes when Donald Trump won the US Presidential Election, and did the same when Leonard Cohen died. Though I was starting to feel that this position was not going to work out, I was hopeful that in time, things would settle down, and the smooth running of the newspaper would help Joan to feel confident that I could do the job well and alleviate some of that pressure she was feeling.

Because my husband would be unemployed when we made the move to the Coromandel, Joan had hired him as Distribution Manager for the paper. It made sense, since he would be otherwise unemployed,  and would be able to work closely with me to ensure that the paper was printed, picked up, and delivered without any problems. Part of his position meant he had to hire a team of delivery children. After advertising the position, he was able to hire several young people, many of whom were excited about earning money for the first time. This meant that the newspaper had now become the central focus in our lives, and our entire family relied on its success.

After weeks of hard work on the first issue, printing day had arrived. Joan had sent the paper to the printers, and I would collect them and take them to the Coromandel, since the printer was in Auckland, where I was still living. On the morning of the printing, Joan called me to say that she had some last minute advertising changes to make, and that the deadline had been extended. As the day went on, I became increasingly concerned about why the paper wasn’t ready, and about my ability to pick them up and get them the three hour drive into town before the day came to a close. When I questioned Joan about what was going on, she became frantic and upset, telling me that we had lost our printing space because of problems with advertisers pulling out at the last minute. Her anger escalated very quickly, and she accused me of pressuring her and not doing anything to help. She told me that I was “pissing her off”. I got off the phone, and decided the best thing to do would be to call the printer myself, to see if there was anything that could be done to not lose our space. To my surprise, the people at the printing company told me that the newspaper was not being printed at their facility. According to the manager, Joan had called a few weeks earlier to make initial enquiries and to ask for a quote, but that she had not confirmed the printing slot, and they had never received any further correspondence from her. The newspaper did not have a printing slot – it never did.

When I called Joan to discuss this, she became very aggressive, swearing and firing me on the spot. She cited my not having secured accommodation as the basis – despite this not being a condition of my employment. Earlier, when she realised that renting was going to be such a big problem, she secured me a rental property. It was a homebuilt shack, built without legal consents, on a rural commune. It had no power, and no flushing toilet or plumbing. I was told that I was being unreasonable for not accepting this rental, and that I must not want the job. When I explained the long lengths I had gone to, to try and secure accommodation, I was given an ultimatum. Leave my family, come live with her, in her house, alone, or leave the job. When I stated that I would not move towns without my family, she told me that I was fired. She followed up the next day with an email, where she stated that she had “decided to pull the plug on the newspaper altogether.”

Unsure of what to make of this, and now desperately needing work, I called the local competition – a well established community newspaper in the area. I had hoped to be able to pick up some freelance work, but I came across something unexpected. The owner of this other local newspaper was aware of who I was, and had followed my movements around the Coromandel after he learned that Joan had hired me. He told me that he and his wife had been concerned for several weeks about my employment, due to Joan’s history of fraud and con-artistry in the area, and had hoped to be able to speak to me before we packed up our whole lives and moved to the Coromandel. He informed me that Joan was being investigated for stealing from a local fundraising event, and had been evicted from the house she was living in for significant rent arrears. He was also aware of what happened at the cafe she took me too, as it was quite a regular occurrence for her to eat out in town and not pay. According to this man, Joan was infamous in the Coromandel and its surrounding regions for defrauding, scamming, and stealing.

Upon further research, he had been right. Joan was known in her town for having severe financial problems and owing several people money from larger amounts – $3,500 to the landlord of the commercial premises she rented, to smaller ones – $20 for her attendance of an orchestral performance which she snuck into. She had no ability to fund a newspaper, and the financial backers and board she claimed to have didn’t seem to know anything about the newspaper. A private prosecution was even underway for funds donated in to the search for a local missing child that she misappropriated. From what I could find out, including being trespassed from a local hotel for using aggressive and coarse language, she had no credibility in her own town or anywhere else. Not long before I was hired, she had been released from a local district health board facility – a ward for people suffering from acute mental illness. It became clear that the newspaper was nothing but a delusion of grandeur, and she had dragged me into it when she hired me, for a pretend position – the editor of a newspaper, that never existed.

The months following this let down were a difficult adjustment for us. My biggest regret is the disappointment that ensued when my husband had to let down the newly hired delivery people, most of whom were school children starting their first job. One parent told us that her son cried himself to sleep that night, after our phone call to tell him the bad news. A lot of other people were also wronged as a result of this mess. Local advertisers who had put their trust into a brand new publication lost their money when the newspaper folded without ever going to print. The people that I photographed and interviewed were also disappointed when they did not get to see their name in our first edition.

Luckily, for our situation, my husband hadn’t left his job yet for his new position, and I was picked up by the local competition to do some freelance work from our home in Auckland. We had taken a financial hit by not being paid for the hours we worked for the newspaper, but given Joan’s limited resources, we were advised by a lawyer not to waste any more time or money trying to get what we were owed, as she would never be able to pay it. We had told the children and our families that we would be moving our lives, and then we didn’t need to, so it was difficult for us to re-acclimate in the wake of what happened. We also had to move house soon after Joan ceased my employment, since we had told our landlord that we would be moving to the Coromandel.

The following semester, I decided to return to school to complete my master’s degree in an unrelated discipline, as the experience had put me off journalism. Three years later, I am training to be a secondary English teacher, and working for myself, as a writer.

*Names have been changed

5 Unique Ways to Decorate with Candles


Candles can be a very beautiful way to spruce up a room, but a plain candle standing by itself is just boring!  Try decorating your candles and you will soon learn just how easy it can be to bring a room together with only a few items from your local craft store.

Easy Island Candle
The first candle design you can try at home is very simple, and it only requires a few items to complete the look. Pick up a small piece of cork, about three times as wide as your candle, in the shape of a circle.  You can easily find cork in all shapes and sizes at the craft store.  Place a white pillar candle on top of the cork, and set a glass rim around the candle, flush with the edge of the cork.  Decorate with brown and white miniature seashells and add a couple of faux tropical flowers to make a perfect island candle.

Triple Tea Lights
Another lovely island theme can be easily accomplished with a set of three tea light candles.  Choose three long, tall glasses in different heights.  In the bottom of each one, place a few brown and white miniature sea shells.  You can achieve a similar look by using river pebbles.  Fill the glasses about three-quarters of the way full with water, and float a white tea light candle in each one.  This creates a peaceful ambience perfect for a spa-like bathroom!

Autumn Harvest
Select three large pillar candles of differing heights in an autumn color, such as brown, cream, burgundy, or even orange for this design.  Place the three candles in a shallow tray filled with river pebbles.  Wrap each candle with a strand of raffia, then hot glue faux fall leaves, berries, and fruits to the front of the raffia strands.  With just a few items, you can create a gorgeous fall table centerpiece or room décor for the season!

Holiday Plants
A softly glowing candle amidst a fake plant is a great way to decorate your home during the holidays.  Choose small fake plants with fabric leaves that resemble bushes.  If you prefer, you can also opt for faux poinsettias or other holiday flowers.  Wrap the pots in ribbon and tie a bow on the front of each one.  Then, simply place a white candle down into the center of each plant to finish off this holiday style.

Rock Garden
Create a lovely addition for any room with a very easy rock garden candle design.  Start with a long rectangular box or tray, preferably in white.  Fill the tray with river pebbles or with miniature sea shells.  Choose six to nine candles of different heights to arrange in any pattern you like amidst the shells.  Then, simply place in a room and enjoy!

By now, you should have plenty of ideas to get started with candle decoration in your home.  Pick a theme for each room and check out your local craft store to find the items you will need to complete the designs you like.  And most importantly, have fun with your new DIY project!