I’m Souri Sengdara (pronounced ‘Suri’ like Suri Cruise). I’m 38yrs old, married to the man of my dreams and mum of two gorgeous kids – Jaclyn (12) is my daughter from my previous partner, and Ethan (3). I currently reside in the stylish city, Melbourne in Australia.
At 5yrs of age my family escaped the communist regime of Laos and landed in New Zealand. Mum and dad did their dash across the Mekong river over to Thailand first. These poor people swam across with nothing else but some belongings in a plastic bag, which acted as a floatation device, in the middle of the night. My parents have witnessed people shot down around them for trying to escape. They could have been unlucky too. How brave they were to take the chance, with the possibility of never seeing their children again. My dad still gets teary whenever someone asks him about it.
My parents did the best they could to provide for us. They were process workers, making minimal wages working in factories. They are the best parents I could have asked for. They’re super kind and giving Buddhists. Unfortunately they were of no help to me as I struggled through high school. My parents still speak broken English to my kids! I dropped out of school when I was 16 and I too ended up in a factory. The future was looking bleak!
I guess the turning point was when I started dating an older New Zealander who had some wealthy friends and took me to nice places. I was inspired by being in the company of these people and knew that a different life awaited me. Marrying into money was never something that I was ambitious about. I wanted to achieve wealth with my own blood, sweat and tears. That’s exactly what I did. I don’t have millions of dollars in my bank account, but I reckon that I’m richer than a lot of people who do.
When I first set foot in Melbourne, I felt instantly at home. New Zealand is a beautiful country but I was over it. Every time I went back to visit, I felt like nothing had changed. Maybe Melbourne just had that many more interesting things to offer. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d like to live at this moment. I’m a big fan of dressing up and heading to the horse races. Melbourne holds the yearly Melbourne Cup Carnival and plenty of other race meets throughout the year.
As an adult student, I studied for four years at RMIT to become a Myotherapist (muscle therapist). This was to compliment my personal training (I was a personal trainer for eight years). I’m helping people with their aches and pains on a daily basis. My clinic, which I run from home, is very busy. The maximum I’ll work is twenty five hours a week. Sometimes I’ll limit it to twenty hours. Mentally and physically I can’t cope with much more. I have done up to forty hours a week, when I was working for other people, and I was always exhausted! Now it’s half the workload with double the pay. My husband and kids are my priority so I want a lot of time to spend with them.
The creative person inside of me regularly wants to surface. I’m always doing something creative. I like to make clothes, hats for the races, folding origami things. There was always a bit of an artist in me. I remembered when I was about 10 yrs old, I told my father that I wanted to be a photographer. He told me that I wasn’t pretty enough to be one! He thought that I wanted to be a model. Did I say that my parents were super kind?! See why they couldn’t help me with my school work?
Thirty years later, I’m living my dream. My husband, Andreas, and I decided to take up wedding photography mid 2012. Andreas was my CTO (chief towel officer – looking after the towels needed for my clinic). He worked in the corporate world for a very long time and just needed a rest. We decided that it was best he stayed home and looked after our little boy while I worked in my clinic at home. Ethan speaks fluent German because of the time spent with his dad.
Andreas and I were married in January 2012. We were supposed to be heading off on our honeymoon to Tuscany. Instead, we spent our money on the best camera equipment we could buy and started FreshPhotography.com.au. We watched plenty of tutorials online and followed a lot of advice of one photographer in particular, Jose Villa. He’s from South Carolina and still shoots with film! This guy is amazing! Our work is consistently good and at the moment, it’s still very affordable for what we produce. Bookings for weddings and family shoots are coming in regularly.
Oh, this all started because I absolutely love weddings! I love wedding dresses, the venues, the floral arrangements, the joy that was shared at a wedding. What better way to see more weddings, and we get paid for it too! We want to be great. Our photography just keeps getting better. I want every wedding that I shoot to look editorial worthy. We love our work and people can feel this through our photos. Our clients are quite surprised at how much fun they have while their photos are being taken. We have and will never make our clients say ‘Cheese!’. It’s all about capturing the moment and the lovely couple in a natural state. We call it ‘Creative Photojournalism’.
Just because I had so much time to spare (not really), I started this website www.fabulous-femme.com. I’ve wanted to blog for a while but never knew what to blog about. So I just started. In my Myotherapy and massage clinic, I see a lot of women who are suffering from depression or a lack of inspiration. I’d always try to make them break out into a smile or a laugh. That brought me to thinking that I’ve got to make more people smile. This is what Fabulous Femme is about. Making people smile, giving some the inspiration that they lack. This blog is a reminder to myself of how life should be. I also get to be a model! My dad is super proud of me.
My life is wonderful because I’ve done what was needed to make it so. I want everyone to know that life is seriously too short to spend on negative things. I read a wonderful book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle which taught me to live in the present. It was life changing. I was once a stress-head and dwelled on the negative things. When I learnt to let go of it all, I propelled forward. It’s amazing what you can achieve with positive thinking and belief in yourself, whatever background you may be from.
What’s a typical day for me?
I don’t want to work too much. They say that if you love what you do, it’s not work. Does that mean that I don’t work at all? It’s the case most of the time. Even though I love my Myotherapy work, I’d rather spend all that time with my husband and kids. That’s why I limit the hours that I do. It’s not something that I’m going to give up in a hurry.
I will only work a maximum of six hours a day. Some days I see less clients. I’ll cap it off at twenty hours per week. At night, when the kids are in bed, I sit on the couch and process photos or write for my website. I’m lucky that I can spread my working hours around so that I have time to spend with my 3yr old during the day.
What makes me a Fabulous Femme?
My smile! I like to think that it rubs off on those I give it to! My confidence just keeps getting stronger as I get older. I can laugh at myself when I’ve been ridiculous! Sometimes Andreas and I would laugh at each other until our faces hurt!
I love lounging around in my tracksuit while I’m home but when I step out, I like to dress up. Looking my best whenever I go out is a form of pampering for me. My daily routine may take up to half an hour but it’s worth it. I’m doing something for myself on a regular basis. People appreciate seeing someone making an effort and looking great when out and about. I love receiving compliments about how I look and what I’m wearing. I can cook delicious meals and bake fantastic cupcakes! My husband and children are hanging out for my baking!
Most importantly I’d have to say that it’s my positive outlook on life. When I first met Andreas, he would always ask me ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ to keep things in perspective for me. If I’m not going to die from it, then it’s not worth worrying about!
With three jobs and a family to look after, there’s no time to get bored. I have to be very particular with what I spend my time on. Luckily I do love all the things that I do in my life. Working for myself allows me to balance things out.
Spending time with my family is super important to me. I see my brother and parents regularly for family meals. My mother is a seriously good cook. I turn up and the food is there waiting for me! Laos food is very similar to Thai food. Since I don’t cook it at home, I overindulge when I’m visiting my family. I try to see my girlfriends when possible but sometimes life gets rather hectic for all of us and it’s months before we chat! Thank goodness for facebook! The good friends are there regardless of the time spent apart.
I’m not one to run off to get a manicure and pedicure. I did a manicure and pedicure course a long time ago but decided that it wasn’t a career that I wanted. At least I know how to keep my nails beautiful! My husband gives me the best massage when I need one. I’m not one to stress myself out to a point where I need to go and get de-stressed. For me, regular exercise and stretching are the most effective ways to hold off stress and maintain a pain-free body. Of course I’d love to have more time to go for a run, play tennis, dance salsa. That will come when my little one is in school – just under 2 years away!
“We don’t do winter” was what a seventy yr old client told me one day. He and his wife travelled away for three months of winter every year. Since then, I have been determined to achieve that. I’m not prepared to wait til I’m seventy, I want that soon. It was a four year goal which was made three years ago. We’re very close to being able to say that too, due to our photography work.
We try to travel yearly back to Germany, where Andreas’ parents are still. How lucky am I! We’re so excited that we have two wonderful weddings to photograph while we are there this year. A bit of a working holiday.
There are two places that I’ve been in the world that I would highly recommend. One trip was to South Africa on a safari. A safari in any African country would be superb. The other was to Vanuatu where we came very close to a live volcano on Tanna Island. Both something you have to put on your bucket list!
So I hope you get something out of my story. If anything, please believe in yourself and the power of positive thinking. I’m sure that some of you have gone through a lot and are finding things tough. I’ve met a lot of people with heart wrenching stories which have reduced me to tears. The one thing these people had in common was their need to look on the brighter side of life. There is no future if you choose to live in the negative.
Another book (You Inc.) told me to write down my goals and read over them frequently. Even though I’d hidden them somewhere, these goals all became a reality – all except my desire to learn salsa properly! Maybe that wasn’t so important to me.
Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. Life is short, be fabulous every day!