Monthly Archives: June 2011

My Morning Pages

“Writing is a form of personal freedom.  It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us.  In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.” 
Don Delillo, American Novelist 1926 –

Do you find that your mind wanders in all directions?  I start out to read a blog, that puts me on a certain trail, from there I go to another trail and on and on it goes.  Several hours pass and I have done nothing except follow these bloggers, their thoughts and mine. This is really stream of consciousness and reminded me of a task I used to set all of my Life Coaching clients.

I discovered this process when reading and following Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way – it is now also an online course.  She calls it Morning Pages – a stream of consciousness writing.

I started to write my Morning Pages shortly after my husband died.  It was cathartic.  I could write down all the hurts, anger and disappointments and get them out of my system rather than laying them as a burden on friends or family.

Even before I started using this process a friend of mine told me how she wrote out all her frustrations with her husband who having retired, wanted only to play golf and spend time mainly with his male friends.  She got the angst and anger out of her system onto the pages.  By doing so she rid herself of the frustrations and anger without any major rows with her husband.  And in the process, she discovered that , what she really wanted to do with her life was run a bed and breakfast operation.  She now does that very successfully.

So with this example in front of me I took the idea on board and used it to determine where I was headed and if I wanted to go there.

As it worked for me I then, with some adaptations to reflect that my clients weren’t necessarily artists, I introduced it into my Life Coaching practice.  Of course, I gave credit to Julia Cameron and I encouraged my clients to either purchase a copy of the book or at least borrow a copy from the local library.

My clients were encouraged to start writing three pages by hand, each day when they first awoke.  Before the thoughts and interruptions of the day intruded.  All the minor (and perhaps some of the major) irritants that flow through our days can be written out in the Morning Pages – get them onto the page and out of the mind.

My clients were told that this was non-negotiable.  The pages had to be hand written every day.  Research has shown that handhandwrittenmulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—the physical act of writing brings it to the forefront.  Author Henriette Anne Klauser who wrote Write It Down, Make It Happen, says that “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’

They were told to “Ignore your inner censor who is very quick to point out that there are other things you could be doing.  Or who says you are not doing these pages correctly.  Get out of bed and begin your Morning Pages.  Just keep your hand moving across the page.  Three pages of whatever comes into your mind.  If you can’t think of anything to write then write that “I can’t think of anything to write”.  You could fill all three pages with this one sentence, but it is likely that in the process of writing this several times other things will pop into your head.”

I also recommended that they didn’t go back and reread what they had written.  Just write.  Why put it back into your head?  And if it was written several weeks ago it has no doubt been dealt with by now.

Stream of consciousness writing is a technique to achieve release.   Our minds have the capacity to think about all our problems and feelings but our minds can become clouded if there is too much information or if one occurrence is overpowering.  We can’t think clearly and the problem takes on a life of its own.

Jennifer Blanchard experimented with Morning Pages and she wrote a blog about it .  Why don’t you give it a try?  It could be quite liberating whether you consider yourself an artist or not.  In fact, just writing your blog each day makes you an artist.

“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe
shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”
John Jakes, American author 1932 –

And for no reason other than I like it –

“My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end.  Nothing is easier than fault finding.  All it will do is discolor my personality
so that none will want to associate with me. 
That was my old life.  No more.” 
Og Mandino, American author 1923-1996 author of The Greatest Salesman in the World.


Welcome Wednesday

“You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” Desmond Tutu

Do you have a favourite day of the week?  For many of course, it is one of the weekend days when one can relax with family and friends after a week of working.  But for me,  there are two favourites. Mondays afternoons are spent with grandsons Nos 3 and 4 whilst Wednesdays are spent with grandson No 1. Grandson No 2 is away at school.


James on his 16th birthday

I have written before about Wednesday.  How I spend time with my eldest grandson, have dinner with the family and then relax with them for a couple of hours usually watching their favourite programs on TV.

And Wednesday afternoon, before his mother and father return home, is the only time I have with a grandson alone.  Whenever I see any of my other grandsons their mother or father is with them.  So this is a special time.

Sometimes we have to go to the mall to pick up whatever ingredient I don’t have for dinner, or perhaps James has to have something for school or sometimes, we just go for ice cream.  Little things but important.  Last week when I was looking for carrots in the supermarket, James found them and told me that I couldn’t function without him.  Another comment to remember to bring up at his 21st?

The family lives in an old farmhouse about 45 km from me.  It is a rambling house with large rooms and open fireplaces.  It sits on 6 acres with pine forest meandering up the hill.  So plenty of wood for the fireplaces, and wonderful places for the two boys to play when they were little.   The property was purchased by my son and his wife to be closer to us when my husband was still alive – only about 10kms away – so that we would see more of our first two grandchildren.  Unfortunately, just three months after they moved in, Granpa died and shortly thereafter, Granma moved into town.  So the best-laid plans….

Back to Wednesdays.  Recently this 16-year-old has become quite talkative.  Does that mean he has passed through the monosyllabic teenage time?  And last Saturday was the school ball.  No doubt he will have lots to tell me today about that, or possibly not.

There has been a tragedy in Auckland. A schoolboy died after attending the school ball.  So there were quite stringent rules in place for James’ school ball.  All pupils were going to be breathalysed before entering the hall.  One wonders why they didn’t do this at the Auckland school as only last year there had been a case of another boy who died after drinking a bottle of vodka at a party.  Teenage booze drinking is apparently rife here in New Zealand and moves to stop or at least contain the drinking seem to have no effect.  Perhaps this latest tragedy will bring home the seriousness to our young.

So what will we do today?  Sometimes we go for a walk up through the trees at the back of the house.  This is a magical place and a magical time for me.  James has produced a pair of sports shoes for me – somebody bought them for his birthday and they are too small so he gave them to his Granma for our walks.Sport shoes It has been very wet recently so maybe a walk is off the cards.  A trip to the mall will probably be called for although James is always concerned that we don’t spend too much money – a budding economist do you think? And then we will return home where James will no doubt light the fire in the living room and we will spend time together just chatting, or most likely me reading while he does whatever he does on the computer.

So to anybody else, Wednesday is just another day but to me it is special.

And I recently discovered the writings of Ruth Goode.  She was an author who wrote about many disparate things such as the scenic attractions of Maine, advancements in medicine and the life of the impresario Sol Hurok under the title “Impresario”.

“Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends – and hardly ever our own grown children”.  Ruth Goode, 1905 – 1997 American author.

So as usual, I have rambled off the subject and will be back tomorrow with more thoughts and ramblings of this ancient brain.










Judith Baxter, Platinum Author Registered & Protected

Spending Tuesday With Friends

“If you’re alone, I’ll be your shadow.
If you want to cry, I’ll be your shoulder.
If you want a hug, I’ll be your pillow.
If you need to be happy, I’ll be your smile.
But anytime you need a friend, I’ll just be me.”  ~Anon

I discovered that quote (according to my notebook) on 14 August 1985 and it has stayed with me ever since.   We have many friends during our lives.  Some for a short time and some forever. But today, Tuesday, I am spending with friends whom I don’t know really but whom I have met through their blogs.

I have been busy recently and so have missed some of them.  Today I have put aside the morning to catch up.  So:

Andi at is a very special person.  She has two special needs children and we are invited to share with her their lives as they grow into the people they will become.  Lovely photos adorn the posts.

Carl at keeps us laughing with his clever cartoons.   I look forward to his thoughtful comments on my blog.

Susan at whose tag is ‘living life on sunrise at a time’  made me weep today as she shared with us memories of her sister.

Debbie at is on a journey of self-discovery.  She is currently in Costa Rica with a couple of her kids who have some physical problems that they are getting help with.  I am constantly amazed at the strength of this woman.

Linda at is another talented photographer.  She shares her photos and bits of her life with us.  And she has a fabulous new deck – check it out –

Val at is a very talented artist who posts thought-provoking articles and drawings for us to share.

A new friend tells us that there will be dancing, laughing, sharing and communicating and cherishing by and to somebody if she ever falls in love again.

Robin at has been to the Akron Zoo to see the jellyfish exhibit; spent a weekend catching up with her family and shares with us her fantastic photographs showing parts of her life.

Wendy at is surrounded by statistics, sewage among other things.  She has also told us a little about her new contract and I love to hear about the bookshop she runs with her father.  If I had a retail outlet it would be a bookshop.

Chris at is another of we women on our journey.  Today she talks about headlines in articles and blogs.  Interesting woman.

Mark (L’idiot speaketh) at is currently travelling through Canada on his stationary bike.  I kid you not!  He is also keeping us up to date on the saga of the pool, installed while he and his kid were away on vacation.

Jenny at keeps us informed of her life with three small boys.  Another great photographer and an indefatigable woman – almost counts as superwoman.

Renee at is on her way to London where her daughter is expecting her second child.

Duke (sorry I don’t know his real name) at is keeping us up to date with his new craft business amongst other things.

Linda at calls herself an accidental author.

Marty at giving us daily updates on the Casey Anthony trial.  Her blog is worth visiting to hear her singing some of her own songs.

And the list goes on and on.

Mirth and Motivation; Sunshine in London; Photographic Memories; Out of My Mind; Monica’s Tangled Web; Ahsome; Pointcabrillolightstation; the Chameleon’s Backbone; Fribnits World; The Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife and on and on.

Is it any wonder I can sit at the computer at 9 am and start reading these and other blogs and suddenly find as now, that it is 12.30pm?  I love my new found friends and enjoy reading their comments and thoughts about life and living.

To the many others that I follow, I apologize for not including you in this list.  To do so I would be writing all day.  And now in my real life, I am off to play bridge (for the first time in 2 years) with some more friends.

See you all tomorrow.

Judith Baxter, Platinum Author Registered & Protected

Weddings with a Different Twist

Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate,
but through being the right mate.  ~
Barnett R. Brickner 1892-1958

We joined in the celebrations in New York when the law was passed allowing same-sex marriages.  Our papers today are full of this subject and I guess it is pretty exciting and a huge step forward for many.

Here in New Zealand, we don’t have same-sex marriages but we do have Civil Unions.  Civil union has been legal in New Zealand since April 26, 2005.  In effect, the Act gives the same rights to those of the same-sex as married couples.

There were great celebrations here when the Act was passed, coupled with concern from many quarters as to what this would do to the institution of marriage.  We have been aware that fewer couples marry today and there was discussion in our media recently on the future of marriage as the marriage rate has fallen to an all-time low.  In 2010, there were 12.5 marriages for every 1000 people who weren’t married, the lowest rate since records began in the early 1960s.  Compared to this, Civil unions registered in the same year were only about 1% of the number of marriages.  So I don’t think those who preached hell and brimstone when the Act was passed have very much to worry about.  Many people choose not to legalize their relationship for any number of reasons and people will still go on living together, whether as same-sex couples or heterosexual couples.

Concern was felt in our Historic Church by some of the volunteers and stakeholders, that we would be inundated with requests to hold these ceremonies in the Church.  A note here, the church is still consecrated although it has no congregation and no regular services are held there now.

However, in the period I was the Wedding Coordinator we had only three Civil Unions and only one of which drew the attention of the media.  That was a local politician who ‘wed’ his longtime partner.

So what does the future look like for gay marriages in New York?  We read today in our newspaper that a wedding coordinator in Massachusetts was moving her business to New York City because many of her clients have been from New York.  So will there be a great number of marriages?  I guess we will have to wait and see once the euphoria dies down.

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it yourself”.  ~
Author unknown, commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin


A Different Wedding

I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.
~Author Unknown

I have used this quote in an earlier post on weddings because it is my absolute favourite.  Over the four years that I acted as Wedding Coordinator at Old St Paul’s I heard many, many verses and sayings about weddings and ceremonies; this is the one that has stayed with me.

During that time I  attended and coordinated more than 340  weddings.  We had weddings conducted in English (of course) Maori, German, Russian, Dutch, French and Italian.  In each instance, part of the service had been in English and so has been relatively easy to follow.

On January 24, 2009, we had a beautiful Chinese wedding.

Chinese Wedding Program

The bride duly arrived to the peal of bells. A fitting start to this lovely ceremony. The bride was a perfect picture so tiny and delicate in her beautiful white wedding gown.  The bridesmaids complimented her so well in their deep pink gowns.  Bride and bridesmaids each carried a bouquet of summer flowers.  What a great picture.

The groom and his groomsmen were also a joy to behold.  All had on dark suits with white shirts and a pink flower in the lapel.  Very smart and didn’t they all look so good standing awaiting the arrival of the bride.

The Priest was resplendent in his white robes with a rich red sash.

At the wedding rehearsal there had been a lot of talk in Cantonese/Mandarin but never was there a suggestion the whole ceremony would be conducted in other than the English language.

The bride told me she was ready and so I had the bell-ringers stop playing and the organist begin playing the processional for the entry of the bridesmaids followed by the bride.

But before the bridesmaids entered, the MC said a ‘few’ words in Cantonese or Mandarin and then indicated to me to start the ceremony.

The bridesmaids entered on my cue and each walked slowly down the aisle to their designated place.  Then, when all three were in place, I brought in the bride.  She was radiant but a little tearful.

The bride and her father walked slowly down the 34-meter aisle – the train of her dress following behind and showing off its snowy white perfection against the deep ruby red of the carpet.

The father handed the bride to the groom, the chief bridesmaid fluffed the train, the father took his seat and the ceremony commenced.

I can only assume that the priest welcomed the couple and guests in a speech in Chinese.  Then the ceremony took its usual course.  But all in Chinese so that I didn’t understand one word of it.  The affirmation and vows; the introduction of the candle ceremony and its significance, the homily from the priest; two Anglican hymns were sung, and all in Chinese.  I joined in the hymns, singing in English of course.  The hymns were “Joyful, Joyful” and  “To God Be the Glory”. Beautiful music and great words.

The Director of Music was a bit confused as he had to play music for the candle ceremony and signing of the register and he can’t see around the organ up to the altar.  Usually, he gets his cue from the words of the priest or celebrant.  This time he had to rely on my signals from the back of the church.  A bit like the blind leading the blind.

Then just as I was getting ready to cue the organist, a man stood and proceeded to address the bride and groom and the assembled guests.  Obviously, once again, I had no idea what was being said.  Then he waved to me that the recessional could begin.

Then the service was over.  The bride and groom started to walk back down the aisle and stopped and hugged parents and friends on the way.  The bells started to ring as they left the church.

All in all a great ceremony and full of emotion and feeling, even though I didn’t understand a word.

Following the ceremony, the bride’s mother was in tears so I gave her a tissue from the box kept always at the back of the church.  That seemed to set off a chain reaction as so many of the other women then took a tissue.

Photographs were taken in the church grounds.  Congratulations from me to the happy couple and hugs from the happy couple to me.

A fabulous summer morning wedding.

Love is a symbol of eternity.  It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.  ~Author Unknown


Wednesday at Lake Woebegon

“If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable – each segment distinct. ”
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
, American writer and journalist. 1939 –

Wednesday is the day I spend time with my eldest grandson.  This time is very special to me, as I have said before.

Children at piano

James 18 months old playing piano

James is now 16 and no longer plays the piano.  But he has ‘dabbled’  and had lessons in clarinet, guitar and saxophone.  The dabbling came to nothing.  He now plays his iPod.

After spending time with James and having dinner we settle down as a family to watch a series of TV programs, most of which I would never have watched on my own.  We start with Two and a Half Men.  This is becoming dreary now that we know that  Charlie Sheen has been shown up for the ass he really is and know how he will be written out of the series.  Wonder what the future of the series is.

Then The Big Bang Theory.   My question each week is where did they find these goofy people to act in this sitcom.  The fashion police aka James always has comments to make on their clothes.

William Shatner stars in another sitcom – $#*! My Dad Says.  I understand this originated as a blog, so perhaps there is room for a sitcom from your blog!

Then Cougar Town and Drop Dead Diva.  I usually leave before the final one starts as I have an hour’s drive home (and it is currently winter).

But there is another reason I leave.  At 9pm on a Wednesday Night on Radio New Zealand (our public radio), we have Garrison Keillor and a Prairie Home Companion.  This show certainly keeps me entertained on the drive home.

We are told “the show originates from the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota, although it is frequently taken on the road. A Prairie Home Companion is known for its musical guests, especially folk and traditional musicians, tongue-in-cheek radio drama, and Keillor’s storytelling segment, “News from Lake Wobegon”.

I wonder how the people of Minnesota (Minnesotians?) react to his very dry humour and constant picking on them and their habits.

One of my favourite parts is Guy Noir, Private Eye.  A down-on-his-luck detective, who ends up taking odd jobs to get by, such as finding missing poodles.  And often comments on current events weaving them into his story.

With this fabulous cast of characters, the drive home passes with laughter, lively music and enjoyment.

And quite recently when I took James to have some stitches removed following an operation, the surgeon and I spent a happy 15 or so minutes discussing Keillor and Lake Woebegon.  I don’t remember how we got onto the subject but interesting to see that we both shared the same sense of humour.  His parting words to James were “Look after your Granma. She’s rare”.  Was it my sense of humour, the love he could see I share with James or something quite different?

I am often amazed at the things that bring people together.  I know they are far more powerful than those things that pull them apart.  Laughter is, of course, one of the most powerful things that bring us together.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.  ~
Albert Schweitzer













Judith Baxter, Platinum Author Registered & Protected

Learning to Soar in a Changing World

“It’s so curious:  one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief.  But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.:  ~Colette

For some time now I have noticed a definite shift in my feelings about grieving for my late husband.  After many years I am able to look back and see just how far I have come from that ghastly day in 1998 when my soul-mate was declared ‘dead’.

Of course, at the time I didn’t know how I was going to live without him.  I had grown up with him having met and married him when I was 19.  And now 41 years later he was gone.

The few days following his death are still even now, a blur.  I do remember seeing my two adult children sitting with a man (who later turned out to be the funeral director) under a tree in my son’s garden.  Those two adult children made all the arrangements necessary for us to move to the next stage – a funeral and the function afterwards. I declared to anybody who would listen that I was not going to the funeral.  Of course, I was ignored, nobody believed me and of course, I went.

Those of you have been there know that at the beginning you can tell how many hours since your loved one died. This moves into how many days, then weeks, followed by months and then (as for me now) years. I would not say that any of the stages through which I have passed have been easy. Time does not heal regardless of the old adage, but it does make living without that special one easier.

I learned that I can go on – it doesn’t come with a choice.  I learned that there is still life without that special person and that given the opportunity friends and family will be very supportive as one goes through the stages of grief.  My family still support me on those ‘mean blue days’ that sneak up on one when one isn’t watching.

As part of my healing, I wrote.  I wrote how I was surviving, what I could do and did to get through each day and I found this exercise cathartic. this was published in a small book that I gave to friends and clients who found themselves in a similar situation.

And one day I realized that in fact I was growing and learning to live in this changing world.  I also changed the focus of my life coaching work towards people who found themselves alone through death, divorce or separation. And I founded a group that I call ‘Together”.  This is a loose group of people who come together regularly, or not as they choose, to support each other in their loss.  This has proved to be very helpful for a number of people.

And so the learning and coping go hand in hand and no doubt will do until I too die.


Face your fears

These are two of my sayings about fear.  Try them on for size.  See if they fit.

“Let go of apprehension and have confidence.
All you need to do is take the first step and everything will fall into place.”


Some of us are more afraid of success than of failure.  Believe it or not, it’s right up there with fear of public speaking.

My mind was directed to facing your fears today when speaking to a friend.  And I remembered this article that I had published in a magazine a couple of years ago.  It was accompanied by a picture of an ogre and for some of us, our fears are like ogres.

Lonely woman

Fear is an acronym for – False Evidence Appearing Real – and this can be applied to all our fears. We all have them – so what is it you’re afraid of?  Is it:

  • Fear of public speaking – identified as the no. 1 fear for most people
  • Making decisions
  • Changing jobs – or any change
  • Growing older
  • Being alone
  • Success
  • Failure
  • Losing a loved one
  • Dying
  • Making a commitment.

I think I was one of those more afraid of success than of failure.  I was always going to write articles or even a book when the time was right, or when the ideas were properly organized in my mind and in my many notebooks. When I had time. When I had a real space in which to write, and on and on. Well, one day I said,”Enough! I can’t wait for everything to be right before I begin so, as the ad says, just do it.”

Here are some steps to help you face and overcome your fears:

  1. Write down your fears – when you see them on paper they lose some of their power.
  2. Decide which two of these fears you most want to conquer. Remember it’s too easy to overwhelm yourself with change. Take on a small number and when you have conquered those, take on some more. Remember to reward yourself when you have conquered a fear.
  3. Change your self-talk – don’t reinforce the fact that you fear flying, dying, or whatever it is. Listen to what you say to yourself and also listen to what comes out of your mouth.
  4. You attract to you that which you think about most so when you begin to think about your fear, change the thought to an affirmation – I enjoy flying or I love to write.  If decision-making is your fear, tell yourself, “I can’t lose whatever decision I make”.Affirmations may sometimes sound like you are being fraudulent (oh, who do you think you’re kidding?) but, over time, the little voice in the back of your head will be quiet.
  5. Turn up to the page to write your article; talk about dying with your close friends and relatives; volunteer at a hospice near you; make that decision – you can always change it; join Toastmasters or another club; spend time with older people and see how much they are enjoying this time in their life.
  6. Above all, act as if it is so. This is not the same as fake it till you make it.  People will soon see through that.

If you feel brave enough look for situations where you can face your fear.

  • Volunteer to introduce the guest speaker or give the thank you at the next club meeting.
  • Put aside some time to be on your own.  Here you can clearly determine what you enjoy on your own – is it reading, walking swimming?
  • Get involved in a club where you can meet new people.
  • Start looking for a change of job – attend interviews and be prepared.
  • Join a club so you don’t always have to be alone.  There will be at least one in your neighbourhood that attracts you.
  • If commitment is your fear, then commit to somebody for a short time, say for one week.  Then extend that commitment to two, three and more weeks.  If it works out great, if not you can try it with another person.

Take back your power. With positive thinking and affirmations, we know we can change anything and any situation. My favourite mantra is ‘If you can conceive it and believe it, you will achieve it.’
Remember too, that nothing happens without action and, in this instance, it has to be action on your part.  Take things slowly, take your time and enjoy the process if you can.  You’ll never know if you are a success or a failure until you try.  Facing and overcoming your fears, although scary, can be very liberating. Try it.

And of course, I have already posted a blog on this subject earlier.  In that, I gave other meanings for the acronym FEAR.  My favourite is Face Everything and Rejoice.

“I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness. Other things being equal, I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side.”
Katharine Butler Hathaway 1890-1942, American author.

The Meeting

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.”  – “Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn”
Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist 1947 –

This morning I got up at the crack of dawn – well actually 7am but that is early for those of us who have ‘retired’.  The reason for this?  I was to attend a meeting of staff of the organization for which my Real Estate friend belongs.  I may have told you that in my ‘spare time’  I act as back up for this friend, doing all the behind-the -scenes work that she really doesn’t have either the time or inclination to do.

The meeting was scheduled for 8.45 am so I left home at 8.15am as I don’t really know what the traffic is like at that hour, and true to form, my friend was running late.  When we arrived all eyes turned to us and the manager intoned “Welcome”.  This is a regular weekly meeting and apparently – how surprising –  my friend is always the last to arrive.

Anyway, the meeting got underway and it brought to mind many other meetings I have attended in my long life.

  • Meetings with school teachers who told me either that my child was exceeding expectations, meeting the expectations or in some cases “must work harder” and “could do so much better”.
  • Meetings of fund-raising committees.  These, of course, are volunteers and although in many instances decisions were made as to what would be done and by whom, often the plans went awry.  And of course, volunteers cannot be held to the decisions made as can those we employ and pay.
  • Meetings of brides, their attendants, grooms, their attendants and mothers and fathers of the happy pair.  At one such meeting, we had the father of the bride who had been married three times, attending the meeting with all his wives who all wanted to have a say in what was going on.
  • Meetings of architects, builders, plumbers, electricians and sundry other tradespeople on building sites, often in the rain, and sometimes I was asked what I was doing at the meeting and sometimes even ‘should we wait for your boss, dear’.  You can imagine how well that question was received by me.  Women were quite rare in property development at that time.
  • Meetings of the policy committee when I worked for a short time for a quasi-Government Department.  By quasi, I mean that some of the funding was from the industry and the rest from Government.
  • Meetings of the Building Owners and Managers Association in which I was the only woman and the speakers used to begin by saying “Gentlemen and Judith”.  And I was on the committee of this organization as well.

I have sat through presentations on all manner of things; have met people on the committees or at the presentation who have gone on to become well-recognized in their field.

Have you seen the training program “Meetings, Bloody Meetings” by John Cleese?  Click here to see the trailer.  It’s hilarious.

And finally, a quote from one of my favourite motivational speakers.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude. Be kind but not weak. Be bold but not a bully. Be thoughtful but not lazy. Be humble but not timid. Be proud but not arrogant. Have humor but without folly.”
Jim Rohn, 1930 – 2009  American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker.

Jim has now sadly, died but his legacy of the inspiration remains and lives on in those of us who had the opportunity to meet him and to follow his advice.


Casting Call

“Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse.  It’s a bum’s life.  The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis.” Marlon Brando, 1924-2004 American actor.

Wanted women over 55.  I read the advertisement again.  Surely there was a mistake.  It must mean women over 5 ft 5.  Whoever called for women over 55 and with grey hair?

The ad was for Extras for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  I had never had any leanings towards the stage but I am open to new experiences.  So, with my friend Sally who had seen the ad in the first place, I attended the casting call along with several hundred other hopefuls.

We stood in line for several hours.  You could tell who was used to attending casting calls and who, like us, were beginners.  The old hands were equipped with books, hot coffee and food while we turned up empty-handed.

The queue moved on slowly oh so slowly.  It was so boring until a couple of people in front of us starting telling us about some of the movies they had been in. A person kept coming out of the building to tell us they were only casting older women with grey hair that day.  It didn’t make any difference to the hopefuls in line.  They all stayed.

Eventually, Sally and I were at the head of the queue.  We were photographed and told that we would hear if we were wanted.  The old line ‘Don’t call us.  We’ll call you’

Weeks went by with no contact from Three Foot Six (the Production Company).  Then one day I received a telephone call asking whether I could attend makeup and dressing the next day.  Of course, the answer was ‘Yes’.

The organisation of the makeup and dressing areas was impressive.  There were rows and rows of clothes and I was put into several outfits before they decided on the right one.  Then off to hairdressing to have a wig fitted.  At this stage, I was not sure why they wanted women with grey hair if they were going to fit us with wigs.  Later I thought it might be because if they had younger women in wigs the faces would look all wrong.

In all, it took half an hour to be fitted for my wig and clothes.  I was then photographed wearing the dress and then again wearing the wig and dress.  The clothes and wig were tagged with my name and then the photographs were attached to the clothes.  This was so that each and every time that I appeared on film I would look the same.

During the makeup procedure I was asked if my nails were real and on answering yes, was told to remove my nail varnish.  I suppose if they hadn’t been real I would have had to remove the nails. All finished, I was asked to call the company on Saturday afternoon to find out what time to report on Monday.  This call was cancelled and I was told that I would be contacted again.

The first call was for 6 am on a cold June morning.    I drove through a deserted city to reach the studios.  First stop was makeup and hair and then we were sent off to the catering tent for breakfast.  Breakfast consisted of just about anything one would want.  From porridge and cereal, through bacon, sausages and eggs, to fruit and everything in between.  The crew, who had been there since 4 am, tucked in.  The Extras, a slightly more fragile bunch at this early hour, ate less heartily with the exception of the young men who were the centurions.  They relished the array of food.

CateringAll through the day the catering tent and hospitality areas were being replenished with food.  Coffee and tea were on tap throughout the day, with scones, biscuits, Danish pastries, etc in the morning; then after a sturdy lunch, sandwiches and cakes were provided.  One certainly wouldn’t go hungry as an Extra.

We had each been provided with a blanket to ward off the very keen wind.  We were very pleased to have this as the hours passed and we were not called.  Those Extras in the know had provided themselves with books, tapestry work, knitting and playing cards.  It was almost like a big sociable club.

Extras have to be flexible.  The call for Extras may be made the evening before, may be cancelled totally or as on one occasion when I was called at 10.30 am to be there as soon as possible.  As it turned out we weren’t called onto the set until 5.30 pm.  So that was a long but hardly boring day but I did have my book.

Before each scene, we were told what was expected of us and how it would be achieved.  In one scene I had to stand very close to a brazier.  There was a strong northerly wind blowing and at times the flames were rather too close for comfort.  The scene was practised and then when the Director was satisfied, the scene was shot.  It’s amazing how a disaster scene involving many citizens fleeing for their lives, can be achieved with a handful of Extras.

In one scene we were being attacked by those huge flying animals.  We had to act scared as of course there wasn’t anything there.

It was fascinating to watch the stunt people at work.  This was a group of very dedicated actors.  One scene called for a stuntman to lie prone while a hoard of untrained Extras jumped over him.  In one scene masonry rained down on these stuntmen (stunties as the crew called them) and following the shooting of the scene, the crew was very quick to check that nobody was hurt.

We are all aware of special effects in the movies but we actually saw how some of these were achieved.  And at the end of each shot, we were able to view the rushes on small projectors.

Occasionally we would glimpse Peter Jackson the director.  He would stride around the set in his shorts on his little stubby legs.  He was the only one in shorts.  The rest of us were dressed appropriately for a cold June day in Wellington.

My life as an Extra lasted only 5 days, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  And no, we have never been able to recognise me in any of the scenes from The Two Towers.












“Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse.  It’s a bum’s life.  The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis.” Marlon Brando, 1924-2004 American actor.

Judith Baxter, Platinum Author Registered & Protected