Howdy buddy,

Jen Aboki at mindgarden.meHow is your mindgarden and how are you this beautiful day? Ever had someone say "Good" without you asking the question? Funny beings we humans are. And now that we've got the 'how' out of the way, let's dive right into the age-old question, who are you? Or shall it be "Who am I?" for the purposes of this introduction. Let me start by saying, there isn't a book out there that will give the answers who the “perfect person” is, nor really is there such a thing. In fact, it'd be pretty boring if we were all walking around as flawless humans. So I live my life content in knowing that we are all a little quirky.

You'll often find me thinking about food. I confess, I am a foodie. Everything about food inspires me. It's so great that it's required to live, and even if it weren't I would be consuming it anyway. At other times you may see me scrawling ink doodles of random items. I'm particularly skilled at letting my mind take my hand on interesting journeys and what is produced is always a surprise. I was born with a keen interest to learn, I love learning, and hence I have a modest collection of books - mostly non-fiction. I can be anything from a hermit hiding under the blankets to an out going adventurous spirit... all depending on the day, my mood and the weather.

I started meddling with websites and HTML back in the early 90s. I was so excited to find that you could create something that people from around the world could visit, all from your house. Garfield was the subject of my first site and it was remarkably visually displeasing, but heck I was proud of it. I have refined my web skills since and this is a result of all those years of trial and error.

Why mindgarden?

My mind is a garden. My thoughts are the seeds. My harvest will be either flower or weeds

The words that inspired this creation. They talk about learning styles, I've very much a see it type of gal. I love the visual aspect of associating my mind with a garden. I think of some of the rundown patches of weeds I've encountered, that is not how I wish my mind to be. It's important to maintain the garden of our minds. Though, I didn't always feel this way, there was a time when my mindgarden was over run with weeds, nasty bugs and pesticides. It's a conscious effort to keep a mindgarden vibrant and thriving and some days are harder then others. In the end, it's up to us what we grow in our mindgarden. I choose flowers, and not just any flowers, singing flowers à la "Alice and Wonderland"

The focus of mindgarden is to share ideas, recipes and resources that will help nurture creative wellbeing. Creative wellbeing is a term I use which describes how to tackle everything that impacts on our wellbeing with creative flair.

The "serious" stuff... So what have I done with my life up to now?

Education has always been emphaised in my family. So in terms of professional accomplishments, here's the spiel. I am a qualified speech pathologist. My work was about giving children a voice. Sometimes literally, when providing the "alternative" part of  Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and other times as an advocate. In my experience with families, successful communication was often correlated to the number of words a child uses. Communication is more than just words and that's why I love art. The creative arts have power to transform who we are and how we ‘speak’ to each other.

My dream is to guide people to discover and achieve their dreams. The moment you touch on your dream is the moment you truly feel alive. Plus living out your dreams is super cool. I chose Speech Pathology as career because I love children, and wanted to be around them. The word ‘disability’ is used to describe the population of children I used to see. I didn't see it this way, I saw a child and how they showed us how to do things differently. I saw the resilience and strength of the families that are standing for all their child could be. Today, I mostly work with adults, though I still hope for a world where people aren't defined by their physical, intellectual or academic abilities.

Currently I work in Mental Health, a career change spurred on by my diagnosis of "bipolar". My first job in the field was working with adults who were considered the most marginalised in our community. A cohort of the downtrodden, abused abusers and rough sleepers. I still wonder about the child who was there before the adult. How did they end up at our door step? Unfortunately, it's often a sad tale and one that I hope I positively assisted while I was there. They were called "visitors", as opposed to clients. Now when I think of the word "visitors" I think of aliens (that could be because "Ancient Aliens" is a main attraction at our house).

In the transition to switching careers I did some volunteering. I was part of Compeer, a St Vincent de Paul Society program and represented The Black Dog Institute as an Insight Presenter within schools. To get some practice at sharing my "recovery" story, I was also trained as a Remind Mental Health Educator through the Schizophrenia Fellowship.

In my journey in life, I have participated in several "personal development" programs including, Landmark Education’s Curriculum for Living. I undoubtedly have a love/hate relationship with these workshops. Still, there is a part of me that enjoys being occasionally challenged and fraught with short periods of inner turmoil. I believe it's a great way to stretch myself and grow as a person (and grow more singing flowers for my mindgarden!)