Blog 119 – Love Your Sisters

I’m proud of my little sister. She has become a massive part of my family this year. From barely knowing her older brother to being totally immersed in the weirdness that is my whanau.

Younger siblings are funny ones. They resist and they push back both in words and with shotgunning the front seat. Us older sibling counterparts are left wondering “how the heck did I get told off for that, all I did was change the TV channel?”

Since I was a little baby I was always the youngest in my family. Growing up in the foster care of my aunty, then my only fully biological little sister was born. My aunt made sure to keep us both in contact every few years or so. A strange relationship for any person to have with their sibling.

There were years between catch ups. So long that it became convenient for me to feel comfortable in my own family believing I was the youngest one. My step parents had two children, both of whom were much older than me. They babied me all the way through my childhood years. I was a loved and spoilt youngster who enjoyed running around sprinklers in the nude.

But there was a realism I didn’t know back then. A truth that underpinned my life that I wasn’t aware of. I had a younger sister who didn’t live with me and I didn’t know why? Our biological parents were not fit to be parents. They weren’t ready to take on the guardianship of two young tamariki. They were not the kaitiaki we needed. Their decisions were why my sister and I were taken into the care system.

 

 

 

In 2016 I made a phone call to Child Youth and Family to find out where my sister was. It took a number of weeks to get in contact with her social worker but eventually, I made it through. After making disparate connections to my sister’s Foster Carer, I learnt that she was living on a farm in the middle of the North Island. It brought me huge comfort knowing she was living in a safe and understanding home.

Towards Christmas, my sister finally came and spent a holiday with our family and after numerous discussions, the decision was made that she would finally come and live with us permanently and would continue studying in our community.

It’s been almost a year since the day she came to live with us. That day was beautiful. To hear my parents coming together to support my younger sister to come and be apart of our family. That there were no judgements to be made about her past but instead that they would make that commitment out of love and understanding.

It’s pretty heavy stuff to hold in your heart. That pure admiration for the strength and coordination of not-perfect parents making the ultimate decision to take on a life for now and forever… something not many people will probably ever do…

 

 

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My little sister is thriving. For sure she has days of tantrums and arguments, fighting over the TV remote but in all seriousness, she is thriving the way a rose flower blooms its petals as the radiation dances in the sunlight.

It’s weird that she has the same face as me. No, not just in the physical sense but she thinks in ways that I do. The thing I love about her so much is the way she tests the waters. She’s not afraid to challenge me or dad and is happy to say things how they are.

Her thoughts and feelings resonate to the way I felt growing up at 16 years old. Those really grouchy afternoons coming home after school tired and hungry and being confronted by an equally grouchy dad who loves to delegate chores and micromanage your progress… Oh yes… Memory lane…

But she surprises me in so many ways I never even thought of. Always being able to find something interesting to do and hardly ever getting bored. Excelling in her sports and has far better hand-eye coordination than I ever will. Already she is a better driver than I am, and she has a tremendous capacity to love others too.

One of those people she loves deeply is my older sister. My relationship with my older sister when I was younger was very strong. She would drop me off and pick me up from school, those sisterly roles. She would encourage me to do as I wanted and not get too bogged down in doing what pleased my parents.

My older sister is very independent, or co-dependent. Newly married the bro Paul. Together they live in their new home with a cute little puppy named Brick. A pretty awesome little whanau.

Joey spent the longer part of ten years finding her soulmate. She shifted cities, and countries to be with Paul. Built an entire family overseas before coming back home. At this time was some of the most progressive developmental periods of my whole life as a teenager.

We were very close when I was younger and we are still close now. But like all compromises lost connections are just another part of life. We all have to do what is best for us and we all need to love somebody. I’m just glad that our sister decided to move back home so that we can spend a whole heap of time together bow and into the future.

The greatest part about having my little sister come into my life was to hear that the connection between my older sister and younger sister was so strong. Neither of them knew each other very well beforehand but now it’s like they have known each other forever. I imagine it has something to do with my older sister continuing the familiarity of our relationship with my younger sister…

 

 

 

 

Both of my amazing sisters have taught me to put down my personality a bit. With older siblings, there’s always a card that can be played and it’s called the unsourced wisdom card. A lesson to love that no matter how big you may think you are, or how right you may believe to be, there’s no point arguing with your elders on some things.

Conversely with younger siblings, learning how to play the wisdom can be a great way to help mentor them. How to teach my younger sister the right life skills. It’s also taught me that being the older one has perks. I’ve learnt how to delegate responsibilities like asking her to do the dishes or overruling her call to shotgun the front seat in the car or which channel is to be played on the TV.

The most powerful thing about learning to love and understand my siblings had been learning how to have people skills. To adapt to new personalities. Whether big or small things for either my younger or older sister.

To learn how to ask for her to turn down shit music in the car. How to ask where the pots go after going over for dinner at my older sisters place. Laughing with her at the latest viral video on Youtube. Trying to explain to her what my new job is all about. The difference is that I have a deeper invested interest in my sisters because I love them and it shapes the person I have become the same way it shapes other families.

 

 

 

Having these relationships builds people skills too in a way that allows for personal development. it forces you to grow and adapt to the new landscapes, the new personalities. When my little sister challenges my request to change the channel it is a micro level argument of power dynamics and a clashing of minds.

In that space, somebody will have to make a compromise, or both, The resistance promotes a creative response, something witty to say that lightens the mood, or conversely something controversial to stamp down some authority. This is politics played out on a really small scale.

The relationships we develop with our family is the practice ground for real-world politics, whether it’s in our family, with our friends or out in our communities. I’m sure most families have their occasional domestic every now and again. One uncle disagreeing with another uncle business…

We all hear the Trump stories on a macro scale too. The compelling ridiculousness of an orange-faced man banning people from entering his country. Or a Zimbabwean President refusing to step down from power. These are examples of poorly executed community focused politics played out on a massive scale.

Power hungry individuals willing to bet it all on losing their credibility in order to maintain their status, their wealth. However, something important to remember is that sometimes it’s better to just listen instead of trying to be right all the time… Another lesson I’m still actually grappling with… Without learning the lessons of these giants builds a personality that is in many ways a deployable characteristic. It makes you replaceable because anyone can be a dick. It takes a special person who understands how people are to create roles for themselves that are indispensable.

 

 

 

 

Which.brings me to my last point that the most powerful thing to come out of relationships is love and understanding. This stuff is like Google Maps when it comes to navigating the ever-changing world of people skills and communicating. It gives us a scope on collaborating with our sisters instead of competing with them. Like taking the dog for a walk or protecting one another from hazards on the road when out driving.

A healthy sense of love and understanding grows our personalities when we know we are supported by each other. We build our confidence and learn the thin line to arrogance. Like making mistakes playing the piano, even if we are good, there are still insecurities if we fumble and can’t finish playing the song. So we stay humble to the end.

At a deeper level, showing love and understanding for your family and friends will help you become more empathetic. In that space, you can take wisdom into any situation. Whether it’s a family argument or a relationship meltdown. Having empathy for a situation shows that you care about other people, which opens pathways in places that don’t exist for people who don’t care or have the right people skills.

Having good people skills and a solid understanding of empathy towards others backed up by a lifestyle full of love and understanding ultimately makes you more employable. How often do you see in a job description phrases like: “must have good people skills” or listening skills, or is a good team player, “must be proficient at communicating.”

These are essential skills for any employment role even beyond getting a job or creating partnerships with other organisations. It builds friends with people, invites you to become apart of the larger family, our communities.

In my opinion, all this stuff can be learnt through appreciating every relationship you have. For me, those relationships include loving my sisters. (And our dog Boxer…)

But at the end of the day, the most powerful use of love and understanding is not to just make yourself more employable for others but to also help you love who you are too, and that skill cannot be overlooked.

Thanks for checking in!

 
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Blog 103 – Being A Ministerial Youth Advocate

My role involved being part of a seven-person panel over 15-months. The young people were all care experienced and all had their own stories. A youth panel was requested by the orders of Minister Tolley, Social Development Minister, and set up by The Office of The Children’s Commissioner.

Our name was Te Whanau Aroha or The Love Family, and we all had incredibly valuable insights into what we want to see in a system that looks after and cares for the most vulnerable youth in New Zealand.

You might ask why the adults needed our voices in the first place, and you’d be right to ask that question. But the why is important because it symbolises a huge shift in authority from the adults back to the people who matter the most in that equation and that is the young people.

Like a school kid catching the school bus. Young people in the care system are users of that system and so they occupy its service. Because they are considered as consumers or users of their care system they are effectively the best people to ask about the process. To help uplift and feedback on how the system operates and where it might be overlooked.

That’s why the voices of young people matter. Not because they’re the last resort, kick it down the street,, token. But because they used the system and are the best people to ask how it’s going and if it works or if it could do better.

What It Was Like Talking With A Minister. 

Normally I would say they’re just another person. That they are just another human being a deserve no more respect or effort than a service station worker or a bus driver. While that’s true, talking with Minister Tolley about the changes that need to occur from a tiny group of six people meant that we had a huge responsibility to ensure that she was informed at an educated level.

We would meet for two day periods bi-monthly and talk to all kinds of people from Judges to Policy Analysts to ensure that the people who are working on the ground and had hands on experience drafting policy or speaking with young people in youth justice facilities. It meant that we were informed about how the system was going and that drawing from our own experiences in the system we could then relay that information back to the minister or help the people working in those areas and point out things that could be easily overlooked.

It was a really nerve racking process talking with a lady who was renowned for being stern and to the point. Somebody who took no hostages and was very forthright at telling you how things were. Then to add that she was a politician really made things interesting and trying to convince a politician that some things she was saying you didn’t really agree on was really nerve racking.

One of the things that I wanted to put into the bill was to prioritise that brothers and sisters be kept together when they were taken from their families. That sometimes kids get split up because of gaps in the system. That these mistakes can sometimes go on to affect their lives all the way up until their late teenage years when in some cases, like mine, they’re reunited again.

But she was a lovely lady. She came to be known as Aunty Anne. Not this scary, wicked, power hungry machine that people call her out for being but this really eye’s open, down to earth figure that took on board everything we were saying.

Because of that, I am happy to announce that we were able to influence change onto the new legislation amendment that was designed to look after and protect young people in the care system.

And that’s pretty amazing.

Thanks for checking in.

Blog 007! The balance talk… 

By Mana Williams.
Today I want to talk about Balance. My experience with fighting for this idea of balance and trying to accomplish it in some form.

Take a seesaw for example. Some crazy optimists out there like to think that balance is a destination when it’s really a way of living.
What we lust is the desire to better ourselves in the hopes that one day we might come out three steps ahead of the next person. It is a form of competing against others when it shouldn’t be. This is a classic example of pushing others down to better yourself.

Jealousy is the end to a civilized humanity. The term civilized is to be civil or to work. Hard work is the access we earn to give us reason and pay us with purpose. Jealousy is the lack of purpose as a currency. It inhibits itself within a person who has lost their balance In some way. The greater the persona, the more significant their imbalance can be.

Take a friend for example, both In a night club on a Saturday. A person walks in with their friends and you notice they get isolated from their group. You quite fancy this person but your friend, at last minute, steps in front and offers them a drink. In that moment, this spike of Jealousy kicks in. This need to have the talking stick rips in and you don’t feel great about yourself. You decide to join in conversation rather than feel weak by showing that you’re hurt.

By fighting for balance, we exert a force. Like physics,  the conservation of energy rule states that “Energy cannot be destroyed, only transferred or transformed.” When we fight against Jealousy, we look to administer the blame on others. Like exhaust fumes from a car, when something isn’t going our way we feel the need to make ripples. These ripples can create ripples with others. By treating other people like shit, makes other people feel like shit. Jealousy is a by product of unfairness. It isn’t a natural emotion.

To put it simply. When we fight for balance we create imbalance elsewhere. We usually step on other people’s feelings when we have to compromise.

Social status is like a hierarchy without stripes or badges. We live in an age where social media is intertwined with our everyday lifestyle. A photo or tag can induce mixed emotions from a person you’ve never met who lives in India. Our acquaintance list has grown to the stage where we could probably only count our real friends on two hands. Yet so many people will fight to earn the honor of an invisible badge. Social status equally breeds people who feel they need to live up to the hype by buying the right clothes and using the right filters and hash tags. In effect we have an invisible hierarchy that informs us that we need to compare amd contrast ourselves to a common medium. If we blur the lines between normal and appear wobbly people say that we are weird or queer. People feel the urge to state their differences with other people by using themselves as being defined as “normal.”

“Being ordinary is a blessing.”

Looking at humbleness and self refuge, you can see that by living large or using energy on silly things like Jealousy and social status we lose out on what matters. When we set the table for dinner at a family reunion with all of our loved ones gathered, in today’s environment isn’t it sad that half of our family members are sitting on their phones, tablets or in some cases in their room playing Playstation? It matters that we can’t experience as many moments that are important when we fight battles that mean nothing long term.

It falls back to you how you respond to unfairness. The battle is not important, so much as the battle of love, compassion and experiencing life in a way that is meaningful without the benevolence of Jealousy and inequality being present. The fight for balance is insignificant when sitting at a dinner table with your family.

And that’s todays thought for you!

I was late to the party though so I’ll likely post a second entry this evening. Thank you for reading!

Blog 004! Treaty Talks

A modern view on Maori. By Mana Williams. 10-15 Minutes 

Historically, there has always been an imbalance of power. In cases where the consideration for the individual is considered less important than the concerns of the many. But when you bring it back to its roots what does the Treaty of Waitangi really stand for?

Waitangi day could be remembered as a justification that Maori people, as a collective, were and still are an advanced and intelligent people. Otherwise, what would have been the point in having a Treaty? James Carroll would not have been the First Maori Prime Minister in 1909-1911 and Sir Apirana Ngata would not have been entrusted by Parliament to create a Maori Battalion in WW1 and WW2.

On February 6th, 1840, a collection of different ethnic groups came together in New Zealand to sign an agreement establishing a mutual relationship between Maori, British, French, American and other settlers. A common mistake is that people believe that only the British and Maori came to an agreement when it was actually a collective between many different walks of life. This entailed that British, French, and American settlers would be able to segregate land masses within New Zealand, owned by Maori chiefs. By gaining their signatures, lands would be purchasable from their respective Iwi land owners. More importantly, a friendship could be reached between the many different walks of life.

Like many social developments around the globe, many indigenous tribal colonizations possessed a lust for progression. Maori people felt that they had reached a climax with the other participating nations before signing the Waitangi Treaty, but not all of the Chiefs agreed with the declaration. Similar to a few different cultures, a few significant leaders believed that they could progress their tribe by participating in the treaty signing.

Hone Heke as an example, was a Maori chief of the Ngapuhi iwi who was a cunning leader and a skilled warrior and tactician. Some of his best-known works were the cutting of the British Flag Staff four times in the first Capital of New Zealand, Russell. A real nuisance, but equally a respected individual who was a great ambassador for Maori people. Out of the belief of progression and the advancement of his people, Hone Heke was the first Maori Chief to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. From his influence over other Maori Chiefs, Heke inspired the thought of other Maori Leaders to follow suit.

Although without the skill and advanced education surrounding Treaty wording, the authors of the agreement intentionally used vague terms and elongated translations to create loopholes within the Treaty so that they could later manipulate land claims and effectively control the majority stake of land in New Zealand.

This natural lean towards self-empowerment leads me to my next train of thought. What struck me this afternoon when looking out of the window on my break at work was actually the significant shift in power that has occurred over time in New Zealand history, particularly in the last four decades where we have seen the restoration of Maori equality within our communities.

However, you can be sure that when a Kaumatua, an elder person of the people, condemns the stately affairs of their own Marae. You can guarantee that there is dysfunction within the iwi. In recent years it has been customary for the Prime Minister of New Zealand to participate in Waitangi Day festivities at Titi marae. However, in the weeks leading up to this year’s Waitangi Day, a total media blackout was enforced by the Iwi of Titi Marae, Ngapuhi. This order was disputed by members of Parliament, such as Winston Peters who condemned the act as, “an abomination,” as well as Labour Party Leader Andrew Little stating that, “I won’t be, in the future, participating in the shutting down of the ability for New Zealanders to participate in this Waitangi Celebration.” Although Little’s claims are politically motivated in the wake of the resignation of Former Prime Minister John Key and the upcoming elections. It is still significant that Labour Party Leader Andrew Little includes All New Zealanders as a collective, because what it does do is it balances the proclamation of the original Treaty. When we look at the Treaty today, it is sad that we say that it is a day for Maori people to celebrate when in reality, French Governors were present on the 6th of February 1840.

When we stand back from politics we begin to respect that the need of a nation to satisfy their quarrels is understandable. But as with power and people of influence, it is more significant to consider the voices of the individual.

Blog 003! A Bitch or An Idiot?

Is it time for more structure? By Mana Williams. 13-16 Minutes 

Here goes…

When Senators and Judges come to a collective agreement on the misappropriated policy enforced by a governing administration, you know something is up. With global leaders rallying to dispute travel bans as ‘questionable’ and in more extreme cases ‘racist.’ You can imagine a democracy to disperse in chaos. So why doesn’t it?

At the end of 2015, the Republican Nominee received a mere 19 percent of the popular vote for office as The President of The United States. On the lead up to the election date, many people were left scratching their heads wondering how this “man” could have made such a dramatic comeback. “He speaks his mind,” and,”He tells things how they are.” Both common phrases when asked why supporters drew breath for the man. As the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was being battered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, about claims of her misplacing of 33 000 emails. Many of us outsiders were left contemplating the severe mistiming of an investigation at such a crucial time in her campaign. Come 9 pm on November the 9th 2016, New Zealand Time, a President was elected. Although there were millions of people around the world wondering how the hell this happened when you put it into layman’s terms it’s quite simple.

A Bitch or An Idiot.

I remember sitting at my cousin’s place on my birthday last year checking my Facebook for posts about the election. People posting, “How the heck did that just happen?” Walking around a small town in New Zealand that evening with people wandering the streets and coming home from restaurants we started to ask people how they felt about the new President-Elect.

One man responded, “He seems like the lesser of the two evils.”
A woman responded, “He is disgusting, he treats women with no respect.”

Fast forward three months and the Inauguration has occurred. One of the first decisions made was that The Secretary of Education would be Betsy DeVos, a multi-billion dollar women with minimal experience in dealing with the many concerns of a growing country. One Senator during the Secretaries Senate preliminary public debate on approval votes of DeVos listed the many concerns that the Secretary has to consider in this role. “Over one hundred thousand appeals have come in from all over the country regarding the disapproval of Secretary DeVos.” After explaining the intricate details of six individual letters sent in from the public, the Senator continued to express the many responsibilities that the new Secretary of Education would have to be accountable for. The Senator stated that “One in Five female students in the United States will or have received some form of sexual harassment while at school.” That The United States Education System is failing their children and that the new administration has a responsibility to control and lead their country by protecting their kids.

This is not dissimilar from the current difficulties New Zealand faces of child abuse and the failures of a system to act on and bring a stop to domestic violence. The difference being is that these afflictions are occurring in American schools BY OTHER STUDENTS!

The Senator continues to explain the responsibilities DeVos would have… Stating that Bullying is a severe concern within the United States. The Senator then continues by talking about the concern for the lives of the LGBTQ community, making mention of the rate of suicides within the United States as appalling. “A student who identifies themselves as being gay is statistically three times more likely to commit suicide in America and twice as likely if they are questioning, based on statistics from 2016.”

Living in a Millennial generation plagued by suicide is a sensitive and tentative situation that requires diligence and understanding from a Senator who is aware of the social isolation and is adjunct to being humane. Buried beneath the fortune and heightened social status that is supplementary to the multi-billion dollar name of DeVos, what humanness does Betsy really contain? This is a subject matter that we can also apply to the  President himself.

What is the most significant difference we see between ‘Him’ and Obama?

Humane-ness, the ability to apply experience to sensitive situations, to show inspirational leadership in cases of difficulty. If Betsy DeVos is appointed the position of Secretary of Education by congressional vote. She needs to install trust within victims of abuse and teachers of knowledge. If The President is going to act like a President, he needs to show every forum that he is willing to be sensitive to any situation out of understanding and Humane-ness.

In 2017, The President of The United States applied a travel ban to seven different countries for ninety days based on the prevention of Terrorism. Thousands of legal green-card-holding migrants were refused entry into The United States. Families and loved ones gathered at large airports, such as JFK International in New York, protesting their family members be let back into their countries. Law firms from the city of New York encouraged their employees to do some pro-Bono work… So they did… Some of whom were pleading for their own family members through legislative means. Others took more significant action…

I was amazed to learn that Judge James Robart, a federally life-appointed congressional judge by former President Bush, took action against the new policy enforcing that essentially the policy was racist. I was more amazed to learn that this particular judge also made headlines when he presided over a case of excessive force of a police officer against a black person. Stating that “Police shootings (in the USA) resulting in deaths involved 41% black people, despite being only 20% of the population,” and that, “Black lives Matter.” The significance of this is not the controversy of the issue but that this man has shown, to a certain degree,  a level of human compassion that does matter.

The President later tweeting, with his tiny fingers, “Blame Judges and Courts if America is attacked.”

So to what degree does a dog get to bite the hands of its people? If the President was elected by the people how is it a functional relationship if he neglects the very people he was placed in that position to defend? If a system collapses because you have a President overruling a democratically operating country’s Justice Department, then how can you be sure that he is acting in the best interests of The Secretary of Education when they are dealing with the protection of at-risk kids or one in five female students who are being sexually harassed at school?

I remember a time of disillusionment when I would build a tower and break it down without any larger scale implications that maybe just maybe philosophically everybody has those same desires. Until he was elected on my birthday.

Put simply, the United States is responsible for putting him there, dispute that how you want, he is there. It is now your job to make sure the tower, your Federal Governing body and all of its Departments, do not collapse. By showing humility in the face of appalling atrocities. It’s the small acts of humane-ness that support a nation, not the legislatures and policies placed there to force structure.

“You see, freedom has a way of destroying things.”
Scott Westerfeld