Essay: This woman's work

I can understand why some mothers might retreat into the ether-land of nothingness once their children are at school, floundering like a fish in a puddle that's drying up under the merciless afternoon sun in a desert land. Because once all is invested into the little ones, then what is left of mum?

She is tired, she is flailing, she is disappearing...unless. Unless she is able to somehow wrench from this whole motherhood business a sense of self so purposeful and so strong that anything can be overcome because she knows - knows to the depths of her soul - that this child, these children, are utterly dependent on her for nurturing, strength and security as they find their feet in the world, and tumble and tumble and fall and fall, and get up again and seek mother's approval for a job well done.

It is hard work; harder work than you will ever know. Harder for me than labouring over words at a computer, because that is something you can control. Little people are unpredictable, unfathomable, unwieldy creatures. As one mother puts it to me, "That is why God made them cute, right?", because though you get up to them night after night after night, and cuddle and coo and caress and feed them at your breast, there is also pure, utter delight.

Introducing Isabel Louise (aka The Satcheling) and a little story

The Saturday night before Isabel Louise was born, I had looked up at the stars with Mr Satchel by my side and exclaimed, "I cannot wait for our tiny baby to experience all this - the enormity of the dazzling universe God has created" (or some such thing), at which he said something very romantic along the lines of, "Yeah", and we set out for home in our separate cars (which had been a metaphor for our entire marriage), as I had been dining with friends (The Last Supper, indeed!) and he had been to a bucks party (the last hurrah?!).

The next morning we awoke and had a cuddle and, well, whaddayaknow, my waters broke! "You have peed yourself!" exclaimed Mr Satchel, as I've always been on the weak-of-bladder side. "Oh, ha, pregnancy is all glamour!" I retorted. But, really, there was so much water! Niagra Falls. And so he called my sister-in-law who suggested it might be an idea to call the hospital and then sent a text message to my father: "Erica won't be at church today; I think she's going into labour".

But here's the rub - it was still seven weeks before we were expecting to see our bub. Thinking it was all a bit on the funny side - like as if we are about to have a baby right now this Sunday morning! - we took our sweet time getting to Pindara Private Hospital, a 40-minute drive away. I packed my copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting in the car, thinking I ought to cram-read the section on Premature Babies (just in case), and Mr Satchel stopped to buy an Ice-Break and piece of fruit cake.

GWAS Notes Part Deux: Hatching a satcheling

Following on from The Long-Winded Good-Bye diatribe, an update for those who still check in here from time to time (oh, ye faithful!)...

Mr and Mrs. Satchel are expecting to hatch their first satcheling around the same time as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (just a week or two prior). Yes, we are "with child", and it goes without saying that this is the best news ever, though The Australian Women's Weekly is yet to note its world-changing significance in the light of the royal baby's arrival. 

What exactly does one do while pregnant? 

Well, one works at one's job while fighting fatigue, all-day-sickness (morning? ha!) and back pain; grows significant girth in the stomach region; shops for clothes to suit changing figure; fondles sweet baby things in department stores; picture-stalks 'Jools Oliver Pregnant'; reads Meg Mason's wonderfully hilarious Say It Again in a Nice Voice; visits the obstetrician as frequently as the loo; takes nana naps at every possible chance; friends women with little ones (in a sort of mad, me-too! desperation); avoids most media by instinct (protect, nurture, shield...); nests, nests, nests; calls/emails one's mother often; walks around caressing one's tummy; smiles graciously at those who like to touch one's tummy; thinks BIG thoughts about the tiny LITTLE miracle that is making a person and bringing said person into the world; thanks God MUCH for said miracle (His grace truly knows no bounds)...

That is all. 
This is my world. 
And it is supremely lovely. 
A new season of life, indeed.

I won't bore you anymore with baby talk. 
But... wheeeeee!

Girl With a Satchel

P.S. But, of course, it's not all about me! Since we last checked in... Georgie has taken her first classes at the University of Sydney, Beci has been to Fiji, Brooke has been to Egypt, Emma got married, Ellen-Maree became a News Limited journalist, Sophie got a new camera, Julia returned to Malaysia and The Guardian set up sticks on Australian shores.

Video: The JC Clothing Co. Denim Project (c/o Cambodia)

Hello you! This is Mr. Satchel's latest project, and the video made by the talented young filmmaker Annika Salisbury on our trip to Cambodia last year (one of many for Mr. Satchel). I am very proud of him, of course. It's been a long, arduous, complicated journey to this point, peppered with an abundance of hope-filled moments, small graces (such as not losing our passports!) and people willing to sacrifice their own time and skills to help. That makes all the difference in getting a project like this off the ground. One of many campaigns aimed at liberating the poor, the captive and the vulnerable in Cambodia, the JC Clothing Co. Denim Project (aka 'Stop Traffick') is a work-in-progress - as much a learning experience for us as for the girls themselves (whoever thought making jeans - in villages with no electricity, no less! - would be so darn complicated?). And there's a way to go; but you have to start down the road in order to get anywhere, don't you? I hope you get something from the film, I really do!

And if you want to buy the jeans, or recommend them to someone, you can go to

See also:
To Cambodia with delicacy (how to make a small difference)
The Road to Redemption (via Cambodia)
Snapshot: Beate and Willem, a Cambodian Education
Virginity Trade & The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: A gentle, long-winded goodbye

Dear readers,

You might have guessed it, but Girl With a Satchel is taking a sabbatical (surprise!).

I am not the first media scribe to have headed to the not-for-profit/charity sector for respite and gainful employment in an all-too-uncertain media environment. But to say that were the sole reason for my exodus from online would be quite untrue. The reasons are manifold.

Parting is sweet sorrow, but excites me nonetheless. Sometimes it is easier to hold onto the familiar than to finally let go and see what God has in store. All feels like a new beginning. Which is where the very "me" that has been "me" must end, and so to it GWAS (we are impossibly inseparable, to some extent). 

As Watchman Nee writes, God is not satisfied with a simple exchange of interests. A change from economics and history, media and culture, to Corinthians and Ephesians, for example. "Origin determines destination," he says, "and what was 'of the flesh' originally will never be made spiritual by any amount of 'improvement'."
No great revelation to say that it is hard here online to make your way – operating at a dismal loss, ironically for the time I have felt least conflicted about, and most enjoyed, my work here, has been interesting to say the least! The site has been through many revisions in its time, all reflecting my current state of mind.

If the whole of life is based around one's relationships – with God and fellow man – then I have to say I've not always done a commendable job. When your heart is tugged in manifold directions, when your identity is in part tied up in your work, then it is easy to lose sight of what matters most: marriage, friendship, children, community, good health, God. Yes, there is also worthy work.
 There is something about the journalistic profession (writing, blogging, whatever you want to call it) that posits the journalist in a precarious position, forever negotiating whether the work is legitimately beneficial to others or not. The plumb line of truth is blurred. Loss is incurred. Human fallout is inevitable. No one is accountable. What of the Good News?
To be liberated from the thought of 'this would make a top story' is probably not what a practising journalist wants, and yet I cannot help but feel that all of life were not to be experienced as such. At least, not at this point in time. Not for me. There is very good journalism out there to be found.
For now, I am happy enough to sit on the bench and ride out the tide of this conundrum as the media world goes through its own growing pains (regressing or progressing? I'm not so sure). 

The world is in a state of absolute peril, as it always has been post-Eden. And all of the wrong that we still see is sparked by this 'going it my way' mentality. Oh, to be heard, to be thought highly of, to be proved right, to be loved! 

It is very human to want to improve, to better ourselves, to reach new heights and new goals, to think new thoughts, uncover new knowledge and accomplish some feat. But as Tasmin Archer sings in one of my all-time favourite songs, "Sleeping Satellite", 

In the rush of the race
The reason we chase is lost in romance
And still we try to justify the waste
For a taste of man's greatest adventure  

The individual is so often left behind in this relentless climb, sometimes to the point where there is nothing left of them at all. They are numb, irrelevant, dust. Or if they are the opposite, posited on high, the position is so often built on fleeting fluff; enough is never enough. That is not how things should be. 

And, yet, the quest to contextualise, to order, to make sense of what we see and hear and read makes us very much human. That is a gift. Where is it appropriate to do so? The classroom of life surely knows no bounds. Or does it? 
Sometimes we have to withdraw, decline, go offline, have some downtime to process what has been on rewind and work our way back to the present tense with better sense. And probably the best way to do that is in the comfortable pages of a journal (I have filled dozens of pretty little jotters in years), and not a public blog.

Which is not to say being here, and writing here, has not presented me with an abundance of opportunities – I have jetsetted to Singapore (thank you, Nuffnang) and New York (thank you, Planet Blue) where I skated on ice and made lifelong friends; I've been on afternoon kids' TV (yippee!) thanks to Rebecca Sparrow who wrote me into a script; I've seen and thought and asked things that I thought I never would. Not all of them good. 

I started blogging here six years ago with no clue as to how it would go; no agenda other than to write about those things I liked. Since that time, I have done a great deal of sorting out. I have found my truth, and it is wonderful and I hold onto it with all my might. 

As a wise man once said, 
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."

The emergence of my burgeoning faith, transparently accounted for here, has probably for many readers been an uncomfortable, disconcerting, irritating thing. That has troubled me a lot. To alienate is not the way, yet to deny that something incredible has changed within, and therefore the view without, would be inexcusable. 

Now, more than ever, I am confident in God, and so I lay down everything before Him and say, 'Take what you will.'  Should he choose to give GWAS back at some stage, then so be it. If not, I count it of no loss anyway. New assignments, not necessarily of the work-economy kind, await. New seasons, new duties, new wonders to contemplate.

There is so much to do in the world: so much hurt, pain, confusion to alleviate and joy to create. Let's not forget that for a second, even when we are "off duty" for a bit. No project with a worthy aim is too big or too small. I look forward to collaborating with my husband on a project or two, serving my church, doing a good job. 

Thank you so much for being such dear and true readers, without whom there would be very little point of posting anything here at all (and for bearing me with patience, extra gratitude!). Your patronage at the site has not been taken for granted.

The handful of kindred spirits whose 'offline' discourse I have cherished so much, thanks to emails exchanged on GWAS topics of interest (media, culture, faith), have warmed my heart. You know who you are! 

To contributors such as Georgie Carroll, our teen blogger who is now off to university (wow!) via a trip to the U.S.A; Brooke Lehmann, whose brilliant book reviews often made my day and who embarks for Egypt soon; Beci Culley, illustrator and girl-out-for-my-own-heart (off to Italy!); Emma Plant whose wit is always entertaining; Sophie Baker, whose photography is taking her places; Liz Burke, who is now an award-winning journalist at the Women's Weekly (ACP 'Rising Star'!); the always-lovely Alison Stegert, Julia Low and Lucy Brook... and Bloke with a Bag who is just a great dad, thank you.

To my fairy-blogmother, Diane, whose big, golden heart can melt the coldest of ice-capped personalities... you are a Cinderella's dream (and could teach those ugly step-sisters a thing or two) and your words of wisdom have been a beacon of light unto me. 

If you would like to be kept in the loop, might I suggest that you sign up to the Girl With a Satchel Mailings List (sidebar; right – though I confess, not a lot of mail goes out... the current newsletter is so detestably ugly that I can't bear to send it, and I've simply not had time to get it up to standard). 

You never know what you might find one day in your inbox out of the blue. If you would like to say hello or good-bye or good riddance (if you simply can't refrain), email

If you still would like to send us something, because snail mail is a nice way to do things, then I recommend this P.O. Box:
Girl With a Satchel
P.O. Box 204
North Tamborine Qld 4272 

For now, the comments section has been turned off (sweet relief, believe me!). And this grandiose, somewhat self-important soliloquy is just about over (phew). I fear I have said far too much (again). Quest: refrain.

So, until such a time as the wind directs me back here (like a Johnny Farnham reunion tour), or to another post in the precarious online media world or even the printed kind, farewell, so long, chin up and good cheer.

I wish you a safe and happy Christmas and wonderful New Year.

Erica, the Girl With a Satchel 
"'...She was made straight, and glorified God." Luke 13:13

Media: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Media: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus 
(a very GWAS Christmas tradition)

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Thinkings: G.K. In A Topsy-Turvy Land

Thinkings: G.K. In A Topsy-Turvy Land

"By perpetually talking about environment and visible things, by perpetually talking about economics and physical necessity, painting and keeping repainted a perpetual picture of iron machinery and merciless engines, of rails of steel, and of towers of stone, modern materialism at last produces this tremendous impression in which the truth is stated upside down. At last the result is achieved. The man does not say as he ought to have said, "Should married men endure being modern shop assistants?" The man says, "Should shop assistants marry?" Triumph has completed the immense illusion of materialism. The slave does not say, "Are these chains worthy of me?" The slave says scientifically and contentedly, "Am I even worthy of these chains?"

- G.K. Chesterton, 'In A Topsy-Turvy Land', Tremendous Trifles,

Bulletin Board: A Brisbane film screening

Bulletin Board: A Brisbane film screening

Culture: Gen Y loves reading

Culture: What's fuelling Gen Y's love of reading?
As the release date for the film is scheduled for release on December 14, 2012, picking up a pocket 75th anniversary edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit issued by publisher HarperCollins and featuring Tolkien's own illustrations seemed fitting. 

In Tolkien's tale, the precursor to The Lord of the Rings, we find Hobbit Bilbo Baggins leaving the comforts of home at the request of the wizard Gandalf to undertake an epic journey, reconciling the  two parts of his whole self and sharpening his character when put to the challenge.

"Tolkien’s first published novel... is a much more artistically and intellectually sophisticated book than it often gets credit for, and it richly rewards adult re-reading," suggests Corey Olsen at The Wall Street Journal, pointing to The Hobbit's character depth, use of poetry and song and story construction.

It's an unusual but not uncommon undertaking, to read again something you first chanced upon in the library at primary school. The characters are familiar but the story is not quite the same. But for new generations of readers, old tales are coming to life again, given new zeal by technologies, social media, films, crafty marketing and Generation Y's love of a self (or bookshelf) discovery.

"I'm currently reading Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie," says Malaysia-based blogger Julia Low. "I bought this while browsing through a children's store at the Sydney airport. I had heard only wonderful things about Neverland and wanted in on Peter and Wendy's adventures." 

In the year that saw the collapse of Borders book stores, a downshift in sales through book chains and the commensurate acceleration of online sales, Generation Ys (born between 1979 and 1989) spent the most money on books in 2011, according to research out of the U.S., usurping the bigger Baby Boomer population as consumers of the written word in bookish form, whether on tablet, online or in print. 

Kids' Book Shelf: The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas

(Kids') Book Shelf: The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson and Sue deGennaro
This book contains such a quirky spin on the theme contained in The Princess and the Pea, the story by Hans Christen Anderson in which we find a prince travelling all over the world to find a real princess. He found none and returned home. 

But one stormy night a real princess arrived on his doorstep, looking bedraggled and wet. To put her to the test, to see if her claim was authentic, the Queen placed a teeny-tiny pea under layers of mattresses and doonas on her bed... a true princess would surely feel the pea, deep beneath the downy sea, her skin being so delicate and all. And she did.

Creativity: Twinkle toes by Beci Culley

Creativity: Twinkle toes by Beci Culley
Illustration by Beci Culley
 Life is so often a precarious business – the heart is torn in this way and that. When desire conflicts with duty, choice with confusion, we can sometimes feel ourselves teetering on the edge of collapse, all tied up in knots and unsure of the way ahead. But we must find our feet again. The balancing act begins and ends with the time-tested truths; she lifts her arms in praise, finds her strength renewed, and pirouettes on pointe off into the sunset. A new day awaits.   

Girl With a Satchel

Arts, Culture & Entertainment - on ballet, books and baton twirlers

Dumbo feather, the magazine that makes conversations with real, live people its focus, has a new edition out, ripe for the picking. Word is that the front section of Issue 33 is devoted to "Going Local". "Many great things can happen in your backyard, your balcony, your street, your neighbourhood, and we explore some of the ways you can make a change in your immediate universe." How fitting!

The 2013 Illustrators Australia Awards are open (deadline November 13). The third Australian and New Zealand Illustration Awards aim to present the very best of regional illustration and will be judged by top professionals in the fields of advertising, design, publishing and illustration. The competition is open to all Australian and New Zealand illustrators. Categories include: Advertising, Book, Editorial, Fashion, Institutional (organisation), Self-Promotional and Unpublished.  
How's this for a colourful collaborative idea... Tour Mail by The Sketchbook Project sees visitors to the exhibitions across America take to a table to create something unique that will be sent on to another person in a different locale, thereby sharing the love between Sketchbook stations. "Whether they came to look at Sketchbooks or were just passing by, visitors are inevitably lured over to the Drawing Table by the bright Prismacolor materials and the possibility of making a piece of art," say the Project's proponents. Sadly, The Sketchbook Project 2012 is not coming to Melbourne this year as planned... perhaps next year? Entries for the 2013 Sketchbook Project are now open.

Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat has been announced as the winner of the 2012 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The "inventive and magical" story – originally penned to promote the charity The Reader Organisation, and given away on ferries, buses, through schools, prisons and hospitals – is about two Mongolian refugee brothers living in Liverpool, and examines the effects of the British immigration system on children. Guardian Books Editor Julia Eccleshare said readers "will be left wiser when they have finished the story".

Children's books as part of the drive to win the presidency? Yes, indeed. Non-profit organisation Authors and Illustrators for Children are supporting Obama 2012. The campaign includes children's author names such as Judy Bloom. Kids' books 'n' politics... I'll be!

The New Yorker asks, 'What happened to movies for grown-ups?'

I ask, how does one become a baton twirler like this girl?

The creative Beci Orpin will be hosting will be hosting a Harvest Workroom workshop around three fun projects to create from her new book, Find & Keep. The best bit? Your goodies will be bundled up at the end of your session in a Harvest Textiles Christmas backsack and accompanies by a signed copy of Beci's book. The small and intimate session held in East Brunswick on Friday November 30 or Saturday December 1 is $180 (a pre-Christmas gift for the crafty one you love?).

Katie Noonan recently melted audiences with her supremely lovely vocals at the Brisbane Powerhouse, accompanied by acoustic guitarist Karin Schaupp. They are working on an album together called Songs of the Southern Skies which features a reimagining of some classic Australian music.

What a sweet book video... meet Peggy, peeps. 

This neat little video of two Toowoomba snappers, who go by the Dickensian name of Matt and Katie Ebenezer (they are very un-Scroogey), taking the world by storm care of Nikon, is recommended by Sophie. I feel A Christmas Carol coming on.

The fledgling filmmaker finalists in the ACMI "Screen It" competition have been announced. This year's theme is "belonging" (in family, cultural groups and communities), and called on the school-aged entrants to explore topical issues while flexing their film-making muscle. This year's competition also incorporated an anti-bullying element in partnership with Bullying. No Way!, an initiative of Australian education authorities.

East Timor’s first locally produced feature film, A Guerra Da Beatriz. "East Timor hit the big screen in the 2009 movie Balibo, about the execution of five Australian journalists in 1975, but  that was essentially an Australian production. By contrast, this film is  conceived, performed and directed by young Timorese, with support from volunteer  Melbourne filmmakers," reported Natalie Craig for The Age.
Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously
Hobart-born Christopher Koch, the "warm and charming" author of 1978's The Year of Living Dangerously, which was made into a film by Peter Weir, starring Mel Gibson as a journalist and set in the time that led up to the overthrow of Indonesian president Sukarno, told Stephen Romei in The Australian recently:

"If a book is made into a film, they hang it around your neck forever. I've written other books since that I thin might be better, but people always come back to that one and it's because it was a film. That's how much film dominates our culture." No doubt, J.K. Rowling could relate. His new novel is Lost Voices. He is not a fan of Fifty Shades of Gray.

Recently, husband and I welcomed a new addition into our home... a piano! How timely, then, this lovely new edition of Anthology magazine. Right up our alley. Though we don't do dogs on mats indoors.

Stop whinging, fight cynicism and channel the creativity positively, says Relevant magazine.

Have you ever driven around town to the tune of Schubert's "Ava Maria" or Tchaicovsky's "Nutcracker Suite"? It's an experience in which I delight, as everything around appears to come to life like a ballet accompanied by a symphony; a Fantasia of sorts but steeped in reality. In Brisbane, we enjoy the station 4MBS, which recently had a fundraiser to keep up with digital technology. It's still on the air. Yippee!

The big buzz in Brisbane of late has been the Queensland Ballet's appointment of new artistic director Li Cunxin. In 2013 the author of Mao's Last Dancer and former stockbroker will be bringing audiences classic ballets, including Cinderella, Giselle and The Nutcracker, beginning a new annual company tradition each December

"I am very excited to share these beautiful ballets with Queensland in 2013," he said. "I have chosen works that will not only inspire a love of ballet in everyone who experiences them, but will showcase our exceptionally talented ensemble of dancers."

Opera Queensland will also be presenting a dark, "Dickensian" version of Cinderella in the new year. 

Even the classics need an update occasionally. And that goes for the Bible. The Bible Society's online 'Live Light in 25 words' campaign is in full swing. The latest edition? God's Library, an e-book by Greg Clarke. It's a goodie.

Girl With a Satchel