This Christmas, take a minute to appreciate just how lucky you are.

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As I sit here in the comfort of my air conditioned lounge room on a Friday night, having just shared a lovely meal with my Grandparents, I have to pinch myself and smile. I am so darn lucky. How can I justify complaining about silly things like feeling tired, or having to go to work, when every night I get to sleep under a roof, and every fortnight I get paid? How can I complain about being hot when at the flick of a switch I can be cool, or go and jump in a pool? (That was absolutely not meant to rhyme by the way). Point being – the little things that annoy the majority of us, are the things that some people wish they could complain about.

This Christmas I challenge you (and myself) to stop and think before you go to complain about something relatively insignificant. There are people on every street, on every block, who don’t know how they are going to afford the rent this month. Who don’t have anything to buy their children. Who don’t know what they’re going to eat on Christmas, let alone tomorrow or the next day. Yes, you’re tired. You’re probably exhausted from working hard to ensure everything is done by Christmas so you can enjoy a couple of days off. You’re probably feeling guilty about over-indulging in festive treats and after-office drinks. You’re worried that your Mum won’t like the gift you got her, or that you got the kids the wrong colour. You’re wondering when you’ll have time to walk the dog, or buy the groceries. But just STOP for a minute and appreciate how lucky you are, because you really, really are.

Every day I feel so incredibly blessed to have my grandparents still with me, to share simple moments with them and (hopefully) learn from them as well. Watching my Pop grow to love the new puppy in our life, after initially not being too interested, has been a beautiful transition to see. Every time she comes over she runs straight to Pop’s feet for a belly rub, and the love between them is hard to miss. Seeing Nana fret over her too really melts my heart. From making sure she has a little bowl of water and plate of warmed mince, to worrying over her head getting sore from the way she sleeps with it all tucked into her belly, just really makes me smile. I could complain about little things like our puppy still having accidents in the house, or barking at the postman, but in all honesty she’s been a light in my life this year. It’s the small moments that count, and seeing the magic in every day has been something that I’ve learnt to appreciate.

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

Bob Hope. 

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‘Tis the season to be merry… So what does it mean to you?

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Christmas means something entirely different to everyone on the planet, whether you’re well off or struggling, young or old, in love or heart broken. Depending on your current circumstances, your fading memories and your near and dearest, the ‘silly season’ is more than just a day in December. For two women in my life, one of them my boss and one of them a close friend, both of them have sadly lost their fathers this year. I imagine Christmas will take on a completely different meaning from here on in, with the sadness of them not being there a constant reminder of the fragility of life. For those of us with large extended families, half and step siblings, cousins, aunties and grandparents, it can be an overwhelming time to make sure you’ve got everyone something under the tree. There’s also the annual decision making of whose house is designated for roast pork festivities, and which parents won’t be seeing their children this year. Oh the drama!

But let’s just take a step back and appreciate Christmas for what it really is; a time to be grateful for everyone in your life, to show your love and support for those in need, and to live in the moment. Too many times we work like crazy until the big day, making sure everything is in order so that we can relax for a few days before jumping back into things come New Year. Too many times we run around the stores in a frenzy trying to tick everyone off the list, and end up regretting half the things we buy. Too many times we don’t even enjoy the day – it goes past us in a rush of people, gift wrapping and food leaving us completely exhausted by the end. When will we learn?

I can proudly say that as of today, December 3rd I’ve completed all my Christmas shopping and it’s sitting nicely wrapped under the tree. What the? I don’t even know how I managed this to be honest, I’ve been completely flat out with work and travel the past few weeks but somehow managed to find something unique and personal for all the loved ones in my life, which is a huge weight off my shoulders. Now that I’ve got that sorted, I’d actually like to look into ways in which I can donate or volunteer to those in need this Christmas, to make this time a little easier for them. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ”
Norman Vincent Peale

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G’day mate… What’s not to love about Australia?

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This month I’m lucky enough to be doing quite a lot of travel – from the small mining town of Moranbah in Regional Queensland, across to the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia, to the picturesque Whitsundays for my 28th birthday. To be honest I’ve been living out of a bag all year, dividing my time between Nana’s, Mum’s and the boyfriends house, so spending the next few weeks living out of a suitcase is going to be pretty normal. What am I most looking forward to? Seeing what this beautiful country has to offer and discovering local secrets. You can’t just sit in your lounge room watching life go past on a TV screen, you’ve got to get out and enjoy it… and that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

So here I am 4 days into my ‘rural’ experience in Moranbah, about 2 hours drive inland from Mackay. A town that was built to accommodate families working in the coal mining industry, full of reliable locals and tradies in high visability work wear. There’s a certain peace to the town, an orderly silence and comfortable pace. People keep saying to me I’ll get sick of it, and maybe I would. But since I’m only here for a week I plan on making the most of it, exploring the outskirts and getting a glimpse of this multi-billion dollar industry: coal mining. To say you live in a regional area fuelled by the mining industry is one thing, but to see it in action is another. My boyfriend took me for a drive into the centre of his mine site, a trip which took nearly half an hour alone and that’s only covering half of it. To see an operation of such epic proportions is pretty eye-opening. This gigantic earth moving equipment is like something out of a Star Wars movie, and while I don’t feel that comfortable actually seeing the ground ripped up and displaced, it’s something I appreciate being shown.

Next on my tour will be a 6 hour flight over to Perth, Western Australia for my third visit. I honestly cannot get enough of this stunning place, from the gorgeous coastline to the funky suburban cafes, to the bushland wineries and gourmet cuisine, Perth has something for everyone. I’ll be catching up with one of my oldest friends over there, someone who has had my back since about Grade 5. We’ve gone through big life changes together and sometimes fall out of touch, but every time we get together it’s as if nothing has changed. We’ve booked a dinner and drinks cruise along the Swan River, and a half day wine tour (with cheese and chocolate stops along the way!). If you haven’t ever thought about including Perth on your bucket list, I strongly recommend you do. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Lastly I’ll be wrapping up the year by celebrating my birthday with 2 nights in Airlie Beach, a quaint coastal community known as the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. My plans include cocktails on the water, and not a whole lot more. This time last year I was in a really bad place, so I’m incredibly grateful to be feeling this optimistic and excited about things. There’s nothing quite like the support of family, friends and your partner to lift you up, but ultimately the fighting spirit must come from within – the most challenging and important lesson I’ve learnt from this year. Thank you to everyone who has made my year 100 times better than the last, and looking forward to more wonderful times ahead 🙂

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Reflections… How one year can change your world.

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I got a chill this morning realising the date; October 15th. On October 15th exactly one year ago I had a sleepless night, plagued with dread over what the morning would bring – that torturous walk to work, each step bringing me closer to my personal hell on earth. A million new emails to deal with, meetings to force myself to smile through, two-faced people with vindictive agendas, the constant phone calls and demands, endless paperwork…. It makes me sick just thinking about it. On October 15th in the wee hours of the morning as I lay there waiting for the darkness to lift, I decided enough was enough. My body had been letting me know for months that this level of stress was not manageable, but I’d ignored the signs. I’d ignored the increasingly tight chest, the pounding heart, the constant headaches and stomach cramps, the shaking hands and the dizziness. Until something finally snapped inside me on October 15th, and I quit my job. I quit something I’d moved city for, gone to University for, and made sacrifices for. And I’ve never looked back.

Well, something like that. To say I’ve never looked back would be somewhat of a lie, as I eventually did have to look back in order to move forward. To say I was naïve in thinking my sudden freedom would equal happiness would be a bit of an understatement. Sure, I had an immense pressure lifted off my shoulders. I had nobody to answer to, no where to be and no obligations. Unless you’re either very wealthy or very lazy though, there’s only so much time for ‘freedom’ that is realistically achievable. After the initial luxury and glimmer wears off, you notice a small yearning to belong creeping up on you once more. Apart from actually needing to earn some money to survive, you start wanting to be part of a team again. To rebuild yourself up and achieve something. So here I find myself exactly a year later, part of a great team in the town I grew up in. My family, boyfriend, animals and the beach (all the important things in my life), are within a stones throw away and I couldn’t be more content.

To say it hasn’t been hard work to get here would be a lie, because the first 6 months after I quit that job were really low. Some days I struggled just to function. Normal things like cooking breakfast, going grocery shopping and talking on the phone became these mammoth tasks to me. I actually had to mentally prepare myself for the tiniest of activities, things we do on a regular basis with no second thought. My anxiety levels were completely ruining my life and I felt like hiding in bed all day in the darkness, somewhere I felt safe. But that’s no way to live and I committed myself to getting better, day by day, with no time frame in mind. And I did. Slowly – very slowly, I noticed myself thinking less and less about my anxiety, something that used to be on my mind 24/7. I’d catch myself doing simple things like driving across a bridge or going to an appointment without panicking, something that felt like a huge achievement in my eyes. Spending time with the 3 cats and puppy in our family, long walks on the beach, meditating, movie nights with my step dad and cooking with my nana – simple, small things – literally were my God send. I’d been missing out on all these things and didn’t realise how desperately I’d craved this normalcy, this break from the rat race of living in the city and working in a corporate environment.

Some people know what works for them early on in life, whereas some go through struggles to eventually find their peace. I don’t know where I’ll be one year from now, but I’m grateful every day to be here. Because right here, right now, I’m okay.

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Life is unpredictable, so smile and take one day at a time.

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I’ve been seeing so much trauma on the news lately; tragedies and terrorism, murders and child abductions, natural disasters and everything in between. It’s come to a point that I almost want to shield myself from the constant coverage and treat myself to a little ‘media blackout’. You can’t be exposed to so much sadness without it affecting the way you live, and I certainly don’t want to go through life with the fear that at any second something awful is about to happen to me. Because in reality, we have no control over how we’re going to exit this world. I might make it to 100 years old and die peacefully in my sleep, or I might get hit by a falling coconut tomorrow and succumb to horrific head injuries. Who knows?

6 months into 2017 and I’m already feeling happier than I have in quite a few years, but I still have days where silly little worries consume me. I’m sure we all do. My grandparents are concerned about me going to Bali in a few weeks, as statistically a lot of tourists do fall into danger there – murders, alcohol poisoning, vehicle crashes and drowning to name a few. But when you think about it, most countries are not without their dangers and you certainly shouldn’t let fear prevent you from travelling. I want to experience the world, embrace other cultures and taste exotic foods. I want to see new landscapes, talk to different people and create wonderful memories. Of course I’ll have my wits about me, but there’s only so much careful planning you can do… and I think there’s a certain beauty about letting go and riding the wave. We can’t wire ourselves to constantly move from A to B and have contingency plans for everything – spontaneity, impulsiveness and random decisions are the spice of life.

Every day my Nana checks the funeral notices in the local paper to see if anyone she’s known has passed away. While this makes me a little sad, I think it keeps her aware of just how precious life is, and subsequently leads her to make the most of every day. She’s constantly on the go and caring for us family members, rarely taking time out for herself. Her joyful attitude and caring nature are an inspiration to me every day, and I can only hope that I’ll be half as an incredible mother and grandmother as her one day. So here’s to making every moment count, spreading love and happiness, and being the best possible version of yourself 🙂

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Why forcing yourself to converse is so important…

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I’ll just come right out and say it; my natural instinct is to run and hide, turn completely inwards and build things up in my mind. I’m not a natural conversationalist by any means, in fact a comfortable silence with loved ones is something I really enjoy. If someone invites me to a social gathering, I usually worry about the fact I’ll have to engage in small chat with strangers, something I assume poking needles in your eyes would feel like. I’m expected to be courteous, charming and interested while pushing down the screaming introvert within, and sometimes it’s just easier to decline. But at what cost to my growth and development as a human?

I have a girlfriend who calls me nearly every day for a chat, and every single time the phone rings my gut instinct is to not pick it up. Why? What the hell is wrong with me? Even though 9 times out of 10 I’ll feel better after chatting to her, bouncing ideas around and venting about life, I just can’t seem to learn. It’s incredibly frustrating and something I’m acknowledging right here and now that I’m committing to working on. I don’t expect to become a public speaker or the next biggest socialite, but I do hope to stop associating conversations with an ingrained flight response.

I assume this preference of mine was developed over the years from being an only child until I was 10, and from living mostly with my grandparents who aren’t big talkers either. Dinner was usually a silent affair over the 6pm news so my Pop could hear the stories of the day, and discussing your issues in any great depth was something not really done. If anything scandalous happened within the family it was conveyed in hushed whispers, so I suppose I’ve developed an intuitive response to internalise my feelings, or turn to diary (and blog) writing. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this, however if I should start a family of my own one day I’ll certainly be more conscious of these behaviours and encourage open discussion.

Would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions on how I can improve this tendency of mine… And hoping you have a great week 🙂

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Photo credits – rsa_mextures & yuugi83

My best friend is a dog, and I couldn’t be happier.

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There’s an age old saying that dogs are a man’s best friend, and I couldn’t agree more. Who needs human interaction and conversation, when there is an abundance of furry-faced creatures on earth ready to love you every single minute of every single day? I for one would be happier in a society where dogs are allowed to come grocery shopping with you (and taste test their food before you spend a fortune), or come to the hairdresser with you so you have something to pat instead of looking through trashy magazines. I know our gorgeous dachshund Audrey would love to come to the movies with me, curl up on a chair and nap in the darkness. At least I wouldn’t get judged for going alone seeing as I have approximately one friend left in my hometown at the moment, a new mum who doesn’t really have much time for nights at the cinema.

Seriously though – on my days off when someone asks me what I’ve got planned, the answer is usually ‘Oh I’ll just be hanging out with the puppy.’ This normally involves a sleep in and snuggles, lots of licking (on her behalf), lots of tickling (on my behalf), and generally just staring at each other wondering what the other is thinking. Then we’ll have a cup of tea under a blanket on the couch, typically followed by a mid-morning nap. Afternoons are usually spent together down at the beach jogging, looking for interesting shells and just enjoying the fresh air. Sunsets with her at the beach will forever hold a special place in my heart, both of us happy and content in the moment. Once a week or so I’ll subject the poor darling to a warm shower and shampoo so she doesn’t get too sandy, and even though she appears to hate it, I’m positive she’s thankful for feeling fresh once she’s dried off.

I honestly don’t care if it’s not normal to hang out with a dog so much or spend so much time thinking about them. It’s hardly an effort to ensure she has a happy life, in comparison to the joy she’s given me. On days where I literally don’t feel like talking to anyone, I’ll just lay in bed with her kissing her warm little belly and that’s about as comforting as life can get. I don’t think much compares to the endless amount of love that dogs can bring to your life, and when you get home and see their tails shaking around with pure joy – that’s precious.

” A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose ”

(Tom Wilson).

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Photo credits – anthropologie & folkgreen