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1 November 2011

The glittering prizes

I think a lot about role models - about being one and about learning from them. Nothing inspires me more than seeing a woman working true to her values, being thoughtful about what she wants her future to be and then doing the hard work to make that future happen. I never think of celebrities as role models. I am an ordinary woman so my role models are usually women doing what I do, but maybe in a different way, at a different stage in their life or making gains that I hadn't even thought of. When I find a role model, I celebrate it silently, knowing that I can observe and remember from the side line, then use what I have learnt to modify and hopefully improve what I do and who I am. I want my role models to change me in subtle and magnificent ways.

The idea of improvement dangles like a carrot ahead of me constantly. I want to change and improve; I want to be challenged. I want to explore the things I do in my everyday life with forensic scrutiny so I know I am working to my potential. Once I understand a task, I can relax into it; it will blend into my days with the rest of my work until I get the urge, once again, to change and improve. It never ends. I hope.

Funnily enough, I rarely find role models in real life. I find them online in this virtual neighbourhood we call blogs. I see them pushing the boundaries, breaking their moulds, and cutting loose. They're women and men for whom creativity and innovation play a daily part in their ordinary lives. I am inspired by normal people who find joy and enrichment in working hard. When I see that, I usually find grace and kindness travelling close by, and it encourages me to work in a similar way and to hope for something similar for myself.  Hard work, grace and kindness; they're the glittering prizes for me but they can be elusive.

It's difficult at my age to find a good fit in role models. Many of my contemporaries don't live like we do, nor do they want to. But I have found that age in this context, like in most others, is irrelevant. What I look for and what I hope I provide to those who look to me is honest productivity, vulnerability, strength, courage and the drive to never give up when the going is tough; especially not then. I know I'm a hard worker, I'm not sure if I can claim grace and kindness but I do try.

I was stunned when I read recently that a 2008 survey of teachers in the UK found most young people look to celebrities as their role models. I wonder if that is true and I wonder about older folk too. Are role models important to you? What do you look for in a role model? Do you find them online or in real life? Do you consciously live your life in a way that provides a positive model for those around you? Do you think it's important to do that? If you have a few minutes today, I hope you'll take some time to answer one or two, or all, of those questions. 


  1. Until I found your blog through a Don Bourke magazine (I didn't even know what a blog was!) I thought I was the only one who felt living like we do the most comforting sort of lifestyle. I was so excited the first time I read your blog to find someone else striving to live a more simple life and then to find all the others as well. My role models these days are on line and also from past generations. I remember the things my Mum did and the way my grandparents lived and now I feel connected to them when I try to live the way they did and value the things they valued. I write my blog and plan to print it into a book so that my children will have a 'diary' of how their mama wanted to live.

  2. Love this post , Rhonda because it is something I think about too. Role models or mentors change as we go through each stage of evolution, each of them teaching us something along the way. As a farmer , I look at what Mark and kate are doing over at the Purple Pear blog , as a homemaker I come here of course and as a writer I often look to inspiring people like Jackie French who just lives her life how she wants and not according to fashion or popularity.And often it is the people around you that inspire, a good friend who never gives up on gardening or enthusiasm, a mother in law who loves to cook and share her knowledge.etc.A lovely thing to think about today.

  3. I think the difference is that we tend to blog about what matters to us, so can get to the heart of the artichoke faster than in everyday conversations with strangers. I do have role models - I learn such a lot from my friends, in different areas - if I want to flirt I have to channel my friend Eileen!

    When my first child was born the young pediatrician who examined him picked him up and handled him so tenderly I immediately saw this was the way. A recently widowed friend expressed her grief and anger so honestly that I saw I could loosen my stiff upper lip, with integrity. From folding T shirts beautifully to cleaning the toilet, I learn and need to learn, and I'm your age.

    Celebrities? oh dear.

  4. Hi Rhonda Jean, thank you for this beautifully heart-warming and thought-provoking post. I'm in my early thirties, and find role models my age (in my real life) difficult to come by as well. I think there are often different role models for different things, and sometimes these change during the different seasons of our lives. Right now, my role models are also many people online and in books, most older and some younger, as well as people who have come before me, like my Oma (grandma), for example. Like you, I do feel that role models are important, and I look for those who live the simple, self-sustaining life I'm striving for. I want my role models to inspire and challenge me. I've found that the wonderful side effect of this is that it also makes me more courageous when faced with naysayers in my real life.

  5. Hello lovely Rhonda,
    the picture of you with a chook in your arms from the Women's Weekly graces our fridge as you ARE a role model for our family, and especially for me. I've talked to the children about the way you live, and noted that the lovely face you have in your 60's means you've lived with a kind heart.
    Growing up, my teachers were definitely my role models. I became a Buddhist and a vegetarian because of one of them, and devoted to yoga. Due to another, I determined to love every student I was fortunate enough to teach. Coming from a loveless home myself, I know what a profound effect it had on me to have a music teacher who always called me 'darling', and worried about my wellbeing.
    I notice with some regret that my almost 12 year old daughter does want to emulate celebrities. So, I'm encouraging her to find some that are intelligent and actually using their celebrity for some good. I also draw her attention to students of mine who are developing into beautiful human beings.
    As for myself, I'm always on the lookout for inspiring women around me so that I can learn and make the most of this wonderful life we've been given.
    Thanks for sharing yourself so generously online.


  6. Well said. My sentiments exactly.
    I enjoy reading your blog so much. I rarely comment but please know I appreciate your words, photos, and wisdom that you share so freely....
    Dawn Dutton

  7. Hi Rhonda, i have never commented on your blog before but have read for a long time.I was literally having this conversation with my daughter today. I commented on a song on the radio, by Pink- get the party went on to talk about how happy she seems as a mother and dotes on her young daughter. Obviously being true to herself- yet she promotes a tough aggressive image with her songs. It is a persona/imagery that the children seem to buy into, and not the reality of life. I am sure the same can be said of a lot of the gangsta style songs- but i am only generalizing here.
    It seems hard not to see how so called celebrities are pushed in our faces, earning money for selling their lives for all to see. Totally sad.
    My daughter did say that she doesn't see footballers or z listers who go on reality progs as heroes or role models, so i am glad that she is not buying into it all.

  8. That is absolutely true about children and especially adolescents wanting to imitate celebrities.

    It's so depressing, as not only do celebrities often act in ways you wouldn't want to see your children do, looks wise they have so much money to flatter their looks that most people feel ugly in comparison.


  9. I wrote a few years ago on Aussies Living Simply as Kasalia, that I felt I should have been born 100 years ago as I would blend right in, so it is lovely to now find on many many blogs, similar like minded people young and old.

    Most people in real life don't open up to you like a blogger can, bit by bit, so I think it would be rare to find a role model. Where as celebrities who are in the news constantly, come across to children as having a wonderful life all glitz and glamour,so it is not surprising they are role models.

    My life of vegetable growing and other things, started when we were first married 40 yrs ago and watching The Good Life on TV I wanted to be like them,they were my role models. Now in early retirement I still like to do everything myself, and it is a good life.

    Chris at Coffs Harbour

  10. What a lovely post this morning Rhonda, thanks again,
    Kathy (Tas)

  11. Beautiful post today Rhonda, thank you :)

    I find I'm drawn to different things in different people. One friend has incredible inner peace and integrity that I admire very much. Another is the most excellent host. I have friends who know when to stop and rest, and others who know when to give themselves a shake and get on with things. I think I have a kind of composite role model from lots of people, both in real life and online - and increasingly these cross over for me as I gradually meet up with people I initially met online.

    I like to be as true to my values as I can, and incidentally, a friend once told me I was the happiest person she knew - what an honour! I was truly touched.

    Jenni x

  12. Hello everyone. Thank you for your comments.

    Jenni, I do that too. I take all sorts of different things from the people I admire and try to incorporate my version of them in my life.

  13. Jesus is my ultimate role model. As I read the Bible, I see him showing the full-range of emotions & behaviour to everyone he meets. And he's honest with his heavenly father, too, to say he didn't want to suffer but if there is no other way, then he will do so.

    But, besides him, I have learned from many people and value them and their unique gifts....and have been changed for the better through their lives.

    I have just written a thank you to my 17 yr old daughter's Cell group leaders (high school church youth group) to be included along with others in a thank you evening to all the various leaders. Her leaders are a young married couple who voluntarily give up every Sat night to spend an hour & a half with girls & guys about 10 yrs younger....listening, talking, laughing, empathising, praying, reading the Bible, questioning and just hanging out together. They are great role models as they have endured hardship in their families and consistently show faith in God, wisdom & caring.

  14. Hi Rhonda.

    Good questions this morning. I find role models both online and in real life, but I guess the real life ones shape me more, ultimately, because I can see into their real world.

    Some role models I have gone looking for, because I'm interested in living a certain way and have to go out of my way to connect to it. So I seek out 'simple living' types. You are an example, and an encouraging role model. But as I've done that, I've looked more closely at the families around me in my local and church community, and noticed those who exemplify the simple-living values that I think Jesus calls my family to, and so I have found real-life models as I go.

    When I think about my children and who they will look to as role models, I realise how much influence my husband and I will have in shaping them. We have clear ideas about what is valuable in this life and we do communicate that by how we spend our time and energy and money, and what we praise in our kids. For us, healthy relationships are primary - with each other, with our Creator and with the creation. 'Success' is about being content in our circumstances, learning to be resourceful and being a good neighbour. My hope is that if we as a family focus on these values, then those are the types of role models my kids will seek out. When parents don't communicate values (or prioritise shallow things), I think that leaves a bit of a vacuum which then gets filled by celebrity worship.

    Anyway thanks for the questions. Good to reflect on.

  15. Celebrities as role models? No way! I keep thinking back to a dear aunt of mine who I remember telling me way back when I was in my late teens that she doesn't have to buy much - only sugar, salt and a bit of oil sometimes; the rest she produced herself on her farm. I found that amusing and strange at the time because I had grown up in the suburbs of a large city. But it must have struck a chord 'cause I still remember her words and now in my 40s I find that that's exactly the life I am trying to achieve myself - to buy as little as possible and to produce as much as I can for myself. I don't have a farm (yet) but doing as much as I can on my suburban plot. One day it is my dream to buy a few acres in the country but for now I'm happy where I am. I'm certainly not impressed by the 'glamour' and shenanigans of today's celebrities - many of them do not have a lot of talent but seem to have a knack for marketing themselves through silly and shocking antics. Not interested. Rhonda, I'd much rather read about your soap recipes. :) Keep doing what you're doing - you inspire me in the same way my dear aunt does. Warmest Regards, Miki

  16. Role models are important to me especially when there are so few in real life. I'm a gen X and most of my peers are still influenced by celebrities and consumerism. I would love to have a mentor in my life but not as lucky as Madeleine who were able to find role models in her teachers.

    I went back to school earlier this year and studied alongside with young people. Most of them are still looking for easy way out and wanting to be cool among their peers. I see nothing wrong with that because I was once at that stage and it's just the follies of youth. I guess everyone goes at different pace and will get to a stage where they really think about their lives, how authentically they want to live and which role models to follow in order to get there.

    Most of my role models are found online or in writers. I read a lot to find the answers I need to get through life. I don't live my life consciously to be a positive model because the people around me tend to have their own ideals elsewhere. As the saying goes, "A prophet is never accepted in his own country".

    A quote from Eckhart Tolle, "But who you are is always more vital and powerful than what you say and even what you do". So, just being our authentic self is sufficient.

  17. I've been mulling your post over for a few hours now and I've relised that I don't actually have any role models! People whose efforts I appreciate and applaud, people whose skills I can learn from but no-one who I want to "model" myself on.... I learned many years ago that I need to be true to myself and my values, that when I treat others and their ideas/beliefs with respect then I am living happily within my own skin and don't need to try to change into anyone elses...if that makes sense?

    Teenagers are a whole different kettle of fish-it is in their very nature at that point in their development to look for somewhere to "fit"and thus they will generally try many things (often to their parents despair!)...our two daughters have been swimmers at a high level and a few years ago the then 13 yr old was asked by friends if she was excited about meeting X & Y (Australian Olympians)...she paused before saying :"Why? They are just swimmers-they do the same thing I do only faster!" On that day I realised that our kids are doing OK! :)

  18. I had a great auntie and a neighbor who were my role models earlier in my life. They were both caring women, good friends and lived relatively simple lives based on service to others. One was a teacher and the other was the matriarch of her church. I hope that I can be that kind of role model to younger women I meet now.
    I can't say that I have many role models now, but I learn bits and pieces from many people I meet or read about. I really think I understand how I want to live now and hope to pass that knowledge and peace on.

  19. Hi Rhonda, I love this post and the photos! I agree with what you said about being inspired by normal people. For me, my greatest role models are probably my parents - they have set a template of honesty, hard work, and integrity throughout their lives that makes me know what achievement really is. I can see those qualities pass on to my own children. I definitely draw inspiration from a collection of people's blogs online, including your own. Somehow a kind spirit seems to shine through any medium, and I always admire compassion, especially when it is unexpected. If a celebrity happens to set a good example - and some definitely do - then I admire them for that, too, but never for their fame. It is for their human qualities. I have great respect for those who quietly make this world a better place, are thoughtful and look for the best in others.

  20. I don't have any role models as such, although have been inspired all my life by various people along the way and continue to learn from and be inspired by people, whatever their age. I would find it hard to think of any one who "had it all together" or mostly all together to model myself from and love it when a group I'm in can share, learn from and be inspired by each other, whatever the age groups.

    Having grown older, hopefully being a bit wiser and having some experience on board (!), I am mindful of the others I'm with and the situations I'm in and strive to be a good role model myself, hopefully without being too egotistical about it all.


  21. Great post Rhonda. My role models are also fellow-bloggers, and the simpler and more ordinary the person, the more I respect them. My adult kids have passed through the teen years, looking up to pop stars, etc and are now more interested in grounded, wise people. In fact, my daughter is a regular reader of your blog! :)

  22. Hi Rhonda,rolemodels for me are scarce in my community, I can think of only 2, but with different lifestyles. The rest including friends are in the "ratrace" . I try to live my own life and make do with what we got and make stuff we need if I can. It's by reading blogs like these that I don't feel like I'm the only one who's making different choices , and indeed it gives sometimes idea's for improvement, to be the best I can be and for what I can do. Example: My best friend just recently gave birth to a little boy, healthy but little. She did not have clothes for him that fit. Through the internet I have found a few complete sets of (as good as new and in the same village we live in) clothes that do fit him, accept for socks and hats. I have made those for her with patterns also found on the internet, with stuff I had already in my home. She loves it. But it didn't cost me anything except for some time. THis afternoon I'm bringing her the last 2 socks I made and than she should have enough.

  23. Hi RJ
    I see my parents as my major role models. We never had much growing up but I learnt to cook from scratch and to work hard. My Aunties were also excellent cooks and made everything from cordial to preserving excess fruit. I've moved a bit over the years and when I was far from my own mother I had a few other motherly figures, usually neighbours or workmates to inspire me. These days I count you as one of my role models as well as a few other simple living blogsI am following.
    This past weekend I attending a soap making course and had the confidence to make a second batch yesterday.
    Baby steps :)
    Thank you Rhonda for being such a great role model to so many of us.
    Lis xx

  24. Hi Rhonda, I also love role models, my mother was (and still is) mine when she was alive. To me a role model is someone who is genuine, honest, hardwoking and humble. I hope everyday that I pass these qualities onto my children. xxBrenda

  25. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rhonda.

    My role models are usually those who are doing what I aspire to do, whatever that is. I don't tend to live my life in a purposeful way to be a role model, but I believe I am one to my children. If I am to onlookers, then that's great, but I don't try to be a model for anyone but my kids. I am so glad that there are those who do, though, because without them, I'd not have any models to look to for meeting my own life's goals.

    Have a wonderful day. :)

  26. Hi Rhonda,
    Like you I think Role models are vital to society but I think a lot of people choose bad ones, or poor ones.
    I have had different types of role models through out my life depending on where I was at. Like most people I suppose. You are drawn to a role model because they have something you want, usually a way of living and working with the world that you find difficult, they find easy.
    When I was an unconfident young woman I met a very extraverted young woman. She seemed to glow with vitality and love, I was drawn to her like a candle to a flame. I started acting like her and found that it worked, people treated me differently, better. I felt better about myself. Some time later I met her again and she didn't glow like she did. She was an ordinary woman, still wonderful but she didn't have anything I wanted anymore but she had helped me and I was greatful.
    That was a strong attraction, and as I have matured I react differently now. I have met quite a few on-line, more than in my life before the internet. Perhaps you are right that role models and extraverts tend to blog.
    But you are also right that they do have grace and kindness and they are wonderful qualities. I don't know why footballers are called role models or told to be role models. They are usually young aggressive (have to be to play the game) males who want a good time. I don't believe it is fair to put that pressue on them, they should be as they are and we should all understand that. Put them on a pedestal for great sports abilities and fair play but stop there.
    Celebrities the same. What motivates some one to become a celebrity?
    I recently got told off by a friend because I hand't heard of Lara Bingle, when all that business went on some time ago. I don't care to find out either. I can't see the attraction. But hang on, light globe coming on moment! When I was a young unconfident woman I was drawn to these sorts of people. Perhaps most people are unconfident and are drawn to them because they crave the confidence to stand up in front of vast amounts of people and perform. Oh if that is true it is a sad state of affairs. So many people wanting to live some one elses life because they are unhappy with their own! It certainly explains why reality TV is so popular. I don't get that either.

  27. I cannot think of one celebrety who deserves to be my role model. I've also had trouble finding rolemodels in my day-to-day. But, I've found many, yourself included, in the wonderful world of blogs. And that makes me happy. Just to know we're all in this together...even if we are far apart. It is the sharing and growing that matters most to me.

    Have a wonderful day!

  28. Hi Rhonda,
    I have been following your blog since the light switched on inside me that I had to change my life from being constantly frazzled, as an all consuming workaholic to living a simple life and embracing all that entails. I knew I needed to change but I needed a mentor to show me the way. I don't remember how your blog came to me but it has got me baking bread, recycling, growing herbs and learning to cook from scratch and I LOVE it!
    I'm 35 and I do not find role models in celebrity. As I'm typing my partner tells me in horror that Kim Kardishian's marriage lasted 72 days and cost 22 million dollars...he then says "what a waste of time and money - money that could have helped so many needy children/animals"! He is my role model. He has the values, morals and lives a life I admire.
    After contemplating who else in my daily life I consider a role model, I see that I have many people who show me what I don't want to be and this helps me take stock of how I'm living, monitor how I speak to others and remember to treat people they way I would like to be treated.
    I am a huge work in progress but I strive to live a life that someone may see as worthwhile. I want to make a difference to others.
    I find so much to admire in other bloggers and am thankful that social media can be used for good.

    Peta - A simple life in progress xx

  29. Hi Rhonda,
    What a delightful post! You have made me realise that it is OK to have bloggers as my role models. I had always felt like I was a bit odd in thinking that! You have inspired me for years on the simple living lifestyle. I'm a 27 years old and living in busy Sydney. I used to blog, I am not sure if you remember me but I sent you a photo of my dad enjoying a slice of lemon cake I made and took home for him on a visit to the family farm. You also enjoyed some photos I took near my work place of St Andrews Church and you told me of your ancestors who lived in a house on King Street! I have never forgotten that. Whilst I have been unable to make all the changes I would like I know one day when I buy a house the things to look for, thanks to your blog, such as room for a veggie patch and some chickens. But more importantly the lifestyle I would like. Thank you for being a role model to me and an inspiration. I am going to give making my own yoghurt a go next week :-)


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