Wednesday, December 23, 2015

7 Things I Love That Don't Cost A Thing

As another year is about to draw to a close I find I’m reflective on the year that was. For my loved ones it was a year of sickness, stress, heartache and joy. It was a massive year in a lot of ways and when I find everything is a little dark in my world, the universe has a wonderful way of slapping me on the back of the head and saying “Hey! Someone else has it worse than you, don’t sweat this,” and the universe is right.

I am blessed in so many ways and yes I will have my days where I lose my shit, but I will find calm again. After an early morning feed one morning I found myself staring at my son in wonder. Here is this little person just starting out. What will he be like? Will he be a good man? Will he always know he is loved? His smiles are like nothing I’ve ever felt and it got me thinking about things that make me happy that don’t cost a thing.

In a world that is go, go, go and where we never really switch off (I’m terrible at this) I have made a list of things that make me happy and don’t cost a damn thing. As 2016 begins I hope that I can spend more time in the now and just enjoy the moment and not worry about capturing it on my phone and enjoy the things we are gifted for free.

(Not my son but still pretty cute)
My son’s smiles. If I could bottle up and sell my son’s smiles I would put drug dealers out of business. Sometimes the smiles are easily won but other days I have to work for them. I have no idea what is going on in that tiny head of his, but when he smiles everything is perfect and I’m filled with a warmth and happiness I’ve never known before. Yes, technically he will cost me a lot of money in years to come, but that pure joy on his face when he smiles is something no drug can replicate.

Health. This is something I find we take for granted until we get sick. Our bodies are amazing things and although I don’t believe in depriving my body of the fun and naughty things in life (life is too short) most of the time I will try to treat it well. My body amazed me while I was pregnant and then after as I was nursing my son, and then I was reminded of how fragile it was when I ended up back in hospital 6 weeks after my son was born with appendicitis.  
Some members of my extended family are currently dealing with serious illness and are battling health on a daily basis. Be thankful for every day you wake up and feel good, well normal because you never know what is around the corner (like a gangrenous appendix).

Dusk. Dusk has always been my favourite part of the day. As a kid I loved playing in our backyard as it turned to night. There was something almost naughty about being outside as it got dark and as I got older and was driving at dusk, I fell in love with it even more. I love the colour of the sky as it turns from blue, orange, mauve and black and the satisfied feeling that  I’ve survived another day and the promise of a good night ahead.

The smell of rain on a hot day. Yes this one is a bit clich├ęd but really, apart from the smell of a wood fired pizza, is there a better smell in the world? Although rain on a hot day usually makes things humid, the smell kind of makes up for that. That fresh air feeling after a stifling day hits your nostrils and you can’t help but smile.

Thunder storms (minus golf sized hail stones). When I was younger I used to imagine that the claps of thunder were giant’s footsteps as they came to get us. Growing up in the hills I knew the giants lived on the other side of the rolling green hills and it was only a matter of time before they got us. Thunder is equal parts terrifying and thrilling and as long as I’m inside I still love watching a good storm (granted it’s not the tail wind of a cyclone).

Imagination. This is one of the best gifts I believe a person can possess and doesn’t cost a thing. I am lucky (and sometimes cursed) with having an over active imagination (don’t most writers?!) and it is something I truly treasure and hope my son inherits. I am rarely bored as my mind wanders and keeps me and those around me, entertained. Think Anne Shirley but without the habit of getting myself into tricky situations. My imagination keeps me sane and happy and that is kind of a helpful tool when you’re a writer.

Autumn. Apart from the fact my birthday falls in Autumn, it is not the only reason I love it. Summer is too damn hot and feisty, Spring is a mistress with severe mood swings (you never know what you’re going to get and times that if you live in Melbourne) and Winter can leave you sad and depressed, but Autumn? She’s a fine lady. I was lucky enough to spend the first 28 years of my life in the Dandenong Ranges, a place I consider one of the most beautiful in the world. Autumn has cool mornings and evenings but warm days and the colour! Oh the colour! Yes raking up leaves is a pain in the arse (or should that be arms?) but watching the leaves change colour from green to yellow or red that then create its own yellow paved road, warms my heart. Who doesn’t love trudging through fallen leaves and kicking them up in the air like you did when you were younger? Free, it’s all free.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I hate it when people ask me what my favourite book is. To me, that is like asking someone who their favourite child is. Now, some people may have a favourite child, but I don’t have a favourite book. I have books that I love and have read again and again but to name one? No way.

A good book should grab you from the first few pages and never let you go. A good book is when you groan about having to stop reading and go to sleep/work/eat/socialise/live outside the world you are currently living through the pages of the book. You should feel a magnetic pull to pick up the book and keep reading whether it’s because you have no idea what’s about to happen, you know what’s about to happen and like a car crash it’s happening in slow motion, you love or loath the characters and you want to see them happy/sad/seek revenge/justice etc or, if it’s a really good book you have no idea where the story is going and you need to know. Like, yesterday.

I’d like to begin by saying I love JoJo Moyes. I first discovered her when I read her novel The Last Letter From Your Lover which then led me to read her exceptional book Me Before You. Me Before You was a book that I finished in 2 days as I had no idea how it was going to end right until the last few pages. I loved the two main characters Lou and Will, and they made me laugh and cry. Moyes writing is both entertaining and emotional and she writes in a way that makes you NEED to know what happens next. When I’m asked by people to recommend a book, Me Before You is one of my top answers, so when I heard she had written a sequel named After You, I had mixed emotions.

Part of me was upset that she would tamper with the magic that is Me Before You. Here was a book that I had cried over, thought about for weeks after I’d finished it, I had been that emotionally invested in it, so did I need to know what happened next?
 So, when the publication day rolled around, my finger hovered over the ‘buy now with one click’ button debating whether I wanted to go down this path again. Deciding that yes, I did in fact want to find out, I purchased it through my Kindle and started to read. And read and again, like Me Before You, I couldn’t put it down. The blurb didn’t give much away in terms of the story so when one hell of a curve ball was thrown, my jaw dropped and I was hooked.
The book doesn’t have the same pull emotionally, as it did for Me Before You but Moyes has created and captured characters that will entertain and move you. The main players are still there, although like real people, they have changed and moved on in some way and the new characters are colourfully created.
Moyes writing is part of her charm and one of the main reasons she is the success she has become and After You is no different. Looking for a book to read? Start with Me Before You and then decide if you want to find out what happens next. I guarantee you won’t be bored.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Quote Of The Day


When was the last time you were alone? I mean really alone. Not in a lonely sense, but the way where the only thing you have to keep you company was your thoughts. No phone. No computer. No talking. Think about it and I bet you can't remember.

On New Years Eve I was talking to a friend who is a primary school teacher. We were talking about the great conversations you can have with kids (the ones she teaches and the ones I used to coach rhythmic gymnastics ) and we were saying how we felt sorry for kids today. I told her I was worried that children were losing the ability to have an imagination. Who has the time or the need for an imagination when you have your head stuck to a computer screen all day? I'm worried we'll have a generation of kids who don't know how to make believe.

We used the example of when we see families out and about and the kids eyes are glues to their phone or ipad. While I'm sure this keeps the parents sane and we said we may end up doing it, I can't help but wonder what is it doing the kids? As a kid growing up in the late 80s and 90s, if we went out for dinner with our parents we had to, wait for it, talk to them and whoever we were having dinner with. Then, once we'd eaten we were be allowed to go out and play.

My husband and I both recall great childhoods. While he grew up in the suburbs, I grew up in the country where most of the time we were outside riding our bikes, playing chasey, climbing trees or playing stick people. I have a younger brother who always followed my lead with games and we would create our own make believe words.

One day, my Dad came across me playing and asked me what I was doing. I was holding a small branch off a gumtree in my hand making the leaves shake like hair of somebody talking. I told him I was playing Stick People. My Dad roared laughing and asked for royalties. Being a kid I had no idea what he was walking about until he explained that as a kid growing up in the 40s and 50s, he did the same thing. Except he called it Stick Men (we'll call my upgrade of the name moving with the times).

We escaped in Disney movies and books. Maybe I'm not a good example of a child with an imagination because I believe writers have overactive imaginations and maybe I always did. My point is, we were given time to Sometimes we had nothing but our imaginations to keep us occupied, so we had to work on that.

I think nowadays we are too concerned with kids becoming accomplished adults that we are forgetting one key thing: giving a child the time to have an imagination is not a bad thing. An imagination is where dreams and goals begin. If we have kids doing something every second they're awake doimg sports, learning ,musical instruments, language classes then homework and bed, where's the time to just be a kid?

This goes for adults as well. The older I get the more I'm realising that its ok to take it slow every now and then. It's ok to say I have nothing planned for the weekend and I can't wait! While yoga is a little too slow for me now, I quite enjoy ignoring my phone for awhile and just relaxing. Whether this is lying on the floor just letting my thoughts roll around or going for an early morning walk where I only have my thoughts for company.

I find it is these times that my best ideas for writing come. And why? Because I switched off the internet and tuned into my imagination. I don't know about you, but I love delving into my own world and thank my parents for encouraging it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: The Three D's

Firstly, Happy New Year!

I have a confession to make. I hate New Years Eve. I've never seen the appeal of staying up till midnight to see a new year in. I'm sure I did when I was younger (but I can't remember back that far) and I'm sure I had a great time. But not one New Years Eve stands out as an awesome, can-you-believe-this- is- happening, this-is-the-best-time-of-my-life night. Wait, I lie. I did spend one New Years Eve in London.

I was by myself, jet lagged and in bed watching terrible English TV by 9pm because my eyes refused to be open any longer. I woke up at 3am on New Years Day in my tiny hotel room that had funny shower handles, and said Happy New Year to myself and tried to get back to sleep. That is the only New Years Eve I really remember and despite being in one of my favourite cities, it wasn't the New Years Eve part that was exciting.

My point is, I hate New Years Eve, but I love New Years Day. New Years Day to me is like opening a new book and delving into a new story. It's all fresh and new and exciting and you don't know where it's going to go, but you hope it's a bloody good read.

 I'm not one for new years resolutions but this year I have created my own version of resolutions. Yesterday, I stuck a post it note on the side of my bed side table at eye level. It will be the first thing I see when I wake up. The post it note has three words: DREAM, DRIVE, DISCIPLINE.

These three words are my principles for 2015 (I have no aversion to the other 25 letters of the alphabet, my words just all happened to begin with the letter D). I have my goals, hopes and dreams and I hope this year they become fruitful and are applied to many aspects of my life, not just my creative one.

All three are important, but need to work together to pull anything off. I completed one dream last year from sheer hard work and discipline. I had the dream, I had the drive and I found the discipline and gave myself a deadline. I achieved it (and one week of 17 hour days) and I'm hoping (and praying) that my hard work will pay off this year. In the meantime my CADD (Creative Attention Deficit Disorder) is going into overdrive and I have written a list of projects to focus on, the blog being one of those.

So please raise your glass, and let's toast to 2015: The year our dreams become a reality.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Someone's Had A Little Work Done

Welcome to a new look and new Girl on a Soapbox. To those that are hoping for more issues and debates, I'm sorry, but I lost the love for writing non-fiction awhile ago. I used to love books and fiction and used to stay up to all hours and write until my eyes were blurry and in my absence of blogging on here, I've gone back there and I'm happy.

I have been working on a historical MS for years on and off but the research was weighing me down. I have these awesome characters that have become good friends of mine over the years but their stories are restricted by facts. I would be sitting at my keyboard writing and then I'd stop and ask myself, "is that possible?" "would that have happened?" The stopping and starting, like a kink in a hose was restricting the flow.

Then, I started a new project and then anther and over the years I have started several projects, one that is nearly completed and another that is only a few chapters in. This blog will force me to be honest about my writing and help me stay on track. Writer friends and my writers group are also helpful but I'm hoping this blog will also be helpful to other writers.

One thing I love about the internet is that it connects you with like-minded people everywhere. I enjoy hearing about how other people write and  their journeys. I'm hoping that this blog will interest and link other writers on this crazy journey that we thought would be a good idea: writing a book.

Monday, December 31, 2012

BLOG: 2012 – REFLECTION – 2013 – HOPE

New Years Eve holds so much hope and good intentions. Next year I’ll exercise more. Give up smoking. Learn a new language. Write more. Then, new years day rolls around and you’re hung over and nursing a sore head and talking in hushed tones and then you say, I’ll start tomorrow but tomorrow comes and goes and all your good intentions and vows go out the window. Until next year.

All I wanted for 2012 was a healthier year.  2011 had been particularly low as my body decided it would wage a war against me that I’m still battling. The only good thing that has come from it was that I now am in tune with my body now that I know when I have to stop and take it easy. So 2012 was showing a lot of promise . Then, on New Years Eve I woke up with a cold that turned into a sinus infection that then manifested into a middle ear infection. I got over it but then I was admitted to hospital to have my wisdom teeth out. A week off work and shiny blue and yellow skin later, I resembled the elephant man.

Forgetting to listen to my body I pushed through the warning signs to rest and then woke up one morning not being able to swallow, cue tonsillitis and more antibiotics. Having said that 2012 was a very big year for me. My best friend proposed to me and we bought our first house. Both as it worked out, in the same week. Now with a mortgage and an impending massive promise to make I’d say we've had a huge year. Change also came in the way of work as my role became more challenging and varied, draining what energy I had left to write.

As regular readers of this (very vacant of late) blog will know I also got back into fiction in a big way. I was still was getting fired up about issues but I had lost the love to write about them here. I hope to write more on this blog in 2013 but you may find that it’s still issues mixed with my ramblings on life and writing. The biggest inspiration for me this year, which I hope to carry on next year, was finding a Ernest Hemingway quote: 

Work everyday. No matter what happened the day or night before, get up and bite the nail –Ernest Hemingway

This is what I hope to carry into 2013. I’m by no means old but I see the window of having the freedom to write freely disappearing and I intend to make the most of it in 2013. I have so much I want to do and say and hopefully, god-willing you’ll be seeing a lot more of my name in 2013.

Thank you for reading this and I wish you all a very safe, happy and healthy 2013.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quote Of The Day

"Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young."

-Sir Arthur Wing Pinero

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bye Bye For Now Now

WARNING: The following is a first world problem.

I had such high hopes for 2011 and then illness got in the way. I was hoping 2012 was going to be a lot better (health wise I have been much better (touch wood)) but then my writing had other ideas.

While I was sick last year, my love of fiction was re-fueled and I finally decided to concentrate on the manuscript I had been flirting with for the better part of 10 years, and make it a serious and steady relationship. It requires a lot of research and I have set myself a goal, but to achieve it, I need to knuckle down and start bashing it out.

I had always loved a good debate and writing opinion pieces at high school and then uni, but over the last year (with mostly thanks to my book club girls) I have discovered fiction again, and fallen head over heels in love with it all over again. My non-fiction writing has now taken a back-seat while I try to make fiction work.

It takes different parts of the brain to write fiction and non-fiction and I struggle to flick the switch from one to the other, to change gears so to speak and unfortunately, this blog has suffered. I will from time to time still check in and write when something that has really got me fired up, or I find something witty to share with you. In the meantime, become a follower and you will get email alerts when I do post something new.

I would like to thank everyone who has joined in on a debate and shared their thoughts. If you're new to the site, check out posts from the past and still feel free to comment as most are still relevant.

For now it's goodbye, or as the French say au revior!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Odd Spot - The Age

A ram jumped to freedom over a 1.5m fence at a farm in Northhamptonshire, England, broke into a adjoining paddock and mated with almost a third of the West Lodge Rural  Centre's 109 ewes in less than a day. Vets confirmed 33 pregnancies. The ram's name? Randy. 

*As published on the front page of The Age newspaper  07/01/12

January: Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

I had a brush with cervical cancer.  A regular pap test  a few years ago came back with an abnormal reading and I had to go back to my doctor. Normally I get a letter a week later from my doctor saying that everything was coo- coo-cachoo with my lady bits and not to come back for another two years.

When another test came back with abnormalities my doctor sent me packing to a gynecologist for more tests. Long story short it turned out I had pre-cancerous cells that needed to be removed. A day surgery later, and a few pap tests every few months, then yearly and now thank god, back to the regular two years where (touch wood) they have since been okay.

When I hard that I may have cancerous cells I went into overdrive. I googled cervical cancer and the worst case scenario (apart from death) was a full hysterectomy. I am by my own admission a drama queen and went for the worst case scenario straight away and asked my partner what he would do if I had to have a hysterectomy and we couldn't have kids. He smiled, wiped my tears and said we will have lots of puppies instead (yep, he's a keeper).

In hindsight, what scared me was the what if. What if I was one of those girls who didn't have regular pap tests and I didn't find out I was sick till it was too late? What if it was cancer? What if it comes back?

Cervical cancer is often over shadowed by its more widely known cousins Breast, Bowel and Ovarian, and the main reason for that is that cervical cancer is one of the cancers that is most preventable and curable. A pap smear every two years can eliminate up to 90% of cases of cervical cancer and a few minutes of awkward is the best way to protect yourself.

What causes Cervical Cancer?
The following is courtesy of the Cancer Council Australia website:

The cause of cervical cancer is unknown. Factors that put some women at a higher risk of cervical cancer include:
  • infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • being the daughter of a woman who used the drug diethylstilboestrol (DES) during pregnancy to prevent a miscarriage
  • smoking, which increases the risk of cervical cancer fourfold.

The National Cervical Screening Program started in Australia in 1991. Since then, the cases of cervical cancer has been halved. The recent introduction of vaccine Gardasil will also hopefully help future generations avoid abnormal test results, however the Cancer Council of Australia highly stress that Gardasil is NOT a replacement of regular pap tests.

Gardasil protects you against two strains of HPV which causes 70% of cervical cancers. The drug is most effective on women who are yet to become sexually active but talk to your  doctor about the vaccine and whether they recommend it for you.

British celebrity Jade Goody was the first person to really put a name to cervical cancer. Goody became well known in the UK when she entered the Big Brother house in 2003. From there she launched her own perfume, had her own shows and wrote two best-selling biographies. But to the rest of the world she became well known when she died of cervical cancer in 2009. Ignoring doctors warnings of coming in and getting a abnormal result on a pap smear checked out, Goody was diagnosed with cancer when it was too late. Treated for the cervical cancer part, it was then discovered that the cancer had spread and she was diagnosed as terminal. Goody herself admitted that this all could have been avoided if she acted when doctors wanted her too.

It was the wake up call that doctors had been waiting for. Regular pap tests are serious and could save your life as shown unfortunately in the loss of Goody's life. 

This post is designed to scare you. To scare you and your partner into action. If you or your partner are not having regular pap smears then START NOW. You don't have to have had and STI or STD to get cervical cancer as even the Cancer Council of Australia admits they don't know what causes it. I have friends who haven't gone for awhile because it's awkward. Yes it awkward, not painful, but wouldn't you rather a few moments of up close and personal with your doctor then the risk of losing the ability to have children or the loss of your life? 

I'm here today because of a pap smear. 

Jade Goody photo by Eamonn McCabe

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quote Of The Day

"People say that you're going the wrong way when it's simply a way of your own."

-Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Does This Ad Sexualise Children?

This ad is the print campaign for Marc Jacobs perfume Oh Lola!, starring 17-year-old actress Dakota Fanning and it has just been banned in the UK for being in breach of the UK's code of ethics.

The Herald Sun reported on Saturday that the ad which has been running for months in magazines, may also be banned here in Australia.

Australian watchdog has received complaints about the content of the ad and Australian Advertising Standards Bureau spokeswoman Sari Mattila told the Herald Sun "Complaints about the ad focused on the age of the girl in the ad and the sexual overtones of the image."

Child advocate Melinda Tankard Reist told the Herald Sun the ad should be banned. "Lola is the nickname given by the paedophile Humbert Humbert for Lolita in the novel Lolita. The perfume bottle acts as a phallic symbol, suggesting possible penetration."

I'll be honest, when I first saw the ad I questioned where the bottle was placed but nothing more. Fanning is in a pretty, granted, short dress with hardly any make-up on. She's not made up to look years older then she is, but shone in her natural, beautiful state.

I hope the name has nothing to do with Vladimir Nabokov title character because then the choice of representative and ad takes on a very dark undertone. Is Fanning been taken advantage of here? Does this ad sexualise children? Do you find this ad offensive?

Which is more offensive: Fannings ad, or this UK Vogue shoot: the "model" is 10. Do you even take offense to it?

How about this little beauty for your baby (and yes, this is a baby sized t-shirt)

Should Fanning's ad be cancelled in Australia? Do you find the t-shirt above amusing? Is it all just Australia becoming so PC that we've all lost perspective? Or should t-shirts and photoshoots like the ones above be left on the scrap of paper they were created on?

Stepping off the box and handing the megaphone to you.

Cheers! And Handcuffs

The following is a true story and could fall under the headline of Odd Spot, but I thought the efforts of the Derbyshire Police in England deserved a post all of their own.

A British undercover operation has nabbed almost twenty suspected criminals after enticing them to call up for free beer. The Derbyshire Police apprehended the suspects after sending out letters to them urging them to claim a free crate of beer from a marketing company. The recipients of the letters had evaded arrest for crimes ranging from breaking and entering to sexual assault for several months so the police got clever.

The phone number on the letters put them straight through to police at Chesterfield police station where the police then named a time and place for pick up of the free beer. Instead of beer, the suspects received a one way ticket in the back of a divvy van.

Chief Inspector Graham McLaughlin stated: "These suspects are people who have managed to evade arrest for some time so we have used different tactics to find them."

Aussie crims beware, I believe this would work very well here too!

Quote Of The Day

"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that."

-Lauren Bacall