Is reverse …ism helping the cause?

My very first blog was nearly one year ago, with the majority of the content dedicated to the train wreck that is MAFS. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that I’m referring to the height of reality TV: Australia’s Married at First Sight.

Channel 9 undoubtedly hit the jackpot last year with ratings for MAFS absolutely obliterating MKR and any other rival network’s programs. Realising that they probably needed to up the ante to avoid any staleness or comparisons to last year, they have included some absolutely vile characters speaking vile words to their mate. I use the word “characters” because each year, ex-contestants claim that they were assigned scripted conversations, and that each show was so heavily edited to pigeon hole cliché characters such as villain and victim. Or in this case; several narcissists, a douche-bag alpha male, his mate who claims to be looking for marriage but won’t stop kissing his wife just to shut her up, Australia’s very own Kim Kardashian, a boring meditator who finds spirituality in buttering toast, a virgin, his lesbian wife, a farmer who took a wrong turn on his way to audition for Farmer Wants a Wife, several gym junkies, several psychos and several plastic lips that closely resemble frankfurts from primary school fetes.  Not to mention the main characters of this show: carefully placed family sized blocks of Cadbury chocolate and jars of Nutella.

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Someone’s gotta pay the bills

I had no intention of writing another blog in relation to this ratings phenomenon, until last week’s episode included what I, and over 54,000 Aussies (according to an online petition) found to be blatant reverse-sexism. Our resident villain Ines and her gentle-giant, ex stripper husband Bronson were on the couch discussing their first week of ‘marriage’ (I use the term loosely) with the supposed experts who matched them (for reasons unbeknown to us). The entire week was dominated by Ines degrading Bronson in every situation, from his appearance, to his past, to his clothing etc. Bronson copped it on the chin all week (the man has the patience of a saint). He sat silently each time she screamed at him to “shut the f#@k up! Just shut the f#@k up!” Each time this happened, I imagined Bronson’s lovely dad watching the TV through tears in his eyes, as some psycho terrorised his only remaining son. When it was Bronson’s turn to speak to the experts, he described her behaviour in a word not suitable for young ears. Whilst we were all at home cringing from the use of a word that we don’t ever want a man to use when describing a woman, we also thought “well that word really does describe her to a tee”. The experts felt it necessary to publicly shame Bronson for his behaviour, whilst the charming Ines got off scot-free.

Ines doing her best Joey Tribbiani “smell the fart acting”

The internet was in an absolute uproar the next day, with an online petition #SetBronsonFree doing the rounds. I tried to comment on MAFS Instagram post but they have restricted the comments so no-one could comment. Which for a TV show, feels like a major cop out. The point I was hoping to bring to their attention, was that if Bronson spoke to Ines the way she did to him, he would have likely been removed from the program, with the producers citing ‘verbal abuse and intimidation’. Especially given his large stature. I tried to call the show out on what I feel is blatant reverse sexism. Which got me thinking, how rife ‘reverse everything-ism’ is in today’s society.

I’m a feminist. Why? Because I believe in gender equality. Plain and simple. But I don’t need to put men down to prove my staunch feminism; that would just make me an assh@le. Whilst I used to love t-shirts that state ‘the future is female’ or sing Beyonce’s lyrics; “who run the world? Girls!” I realise now that this is not helping our cause, and merely alienating some of our brothers. Why would you ever get men to agree in gender equality if they believe that they have to put themselves down to do so? How about, ‘the future is male & female’? If an alien race ever does invade, they won’t need to divide and conquer, they’ll only need to conquer.

Since I was a child, I get very upset and quite teary when I witness racism. I grew up in a generation where we all came from different backgrounds and had pioneering teachers like Miss Dunlop at Newtown High school of the Performing Arts who encouraged us to watch brilliant, eye opening material such as Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes experiment, which hi-lighted just how ridiculous it is to segregate one section of people for something as trivial as colour (watch it on you-tube now, and show your children). I get physically ill when I think of the atrocities that certain groups have had to endure such as the African-American or Jewish communities (it saddens me to my core to think that this is still not yet extinct). I know that a lot of people in the media have voiced opinions that you can’t ever be racist to a white person; I don’t necessarily agree with this. Whilst I admit that in certain societies, more doors are open to white people (unfortunately), I’m still of the belief that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’, and ‘lead by example’. I would struggle to explain to my future children that they’ll just have to put-up with someone picking on them for being white, because evil people committed in-humane acts many years before they were born. Does punishing people in the present make up for the sins of others in our past?

Always lead by example, you never know who is watching

If we want to create a better future, free of prejudice, we should encourage love and kindness to all. How else will we evolve?

I hope that the date of Australia Day is moved by even one day, because as it stands now, I’m terrified to throw a snag on the BBQ for fear I’ll be labelled racist. I don’t believe I am. I’m in agreeance with the Indigenous community (go Yumi!) and for those who just keep saying that we should move on and get over it, allow me to enlighten you with a little perspective in language you might understand. If you’re a follower of that horrendous excuse for public opinion; Pauline Hanson, you’re probably terrified of Asian Invasion or too many Muslims in your backyard. Well let’s say that a whole fleet of them turned up tomorrow, brandishing weapons you’ve never seen before, killing your men, raping your women, stealing your children, then sticking a flag in the ground and conquering your ‘already occupied’ land as their own. Then every year after that, celebrating it with their national dessert and heaps of booze. Would you find it hurtful and insensitive? Another example might be, that my best friend was killed in a car accident on 30th January 2008 by a hit and run driver who got a very short prison sentence. Each year on this date, I have a very heavy heart and am reminded of my loss. What if the driver came over to my house on that day every year with an eski and streamers to celebrate the day he had a fun joy-ride?

How can you look in their eyes and argue against Yumi?

I would love to get together with all Australians to celebrate a day that does not symbolise the sins of our ancestors, but rather the new Australia in which we respect each other, in this beautiful sunburnt country. As opposed to the land in which Yumi Stynes was rightly speaking up for those whose voices are not represented in mainstream TV, only to receive weeks of messages from strangers urging her to go and kill herself.

First 5 stages of effective conflict resolution:

  1. Stay Calm.
  2. Listen to Understand.
  3. Accentuate the Positive.
  4. State Your Case Tactfully.
  5. Attack the Problem, Not the Person.

I don’t need to put others down to win the argument. I just have to have the more educated and compassionate argument.

I was born into the Catholic faith. I also went to a Catholic Primary School, which truth be told, were some of the best years of my life. Though how terrifying it is today to admit that you’re of this faith because some hateful/uneducated people have tarnished it. I admit that over the years, my faith has drastically evolved from your typical Catholic. I have wonderful friendships with gay men and women, I voted yes on same-sex marriage, I think priests should be allowed to marry and I think that a lot of the bible contain outdated scriptures written by man, not God.

My beliefs mirror that of Jesus: be kind to ALL, don’t judge, spread love, be good to your parents and bless those who sin against you because they need it most (that last one will test your patience).  My grade 6 teacher sat us all down in a circle one day to play a game of Chinese whispers, she started with the phrase “I love Jesus” which at the end, after making its way through thirty kids, became “I ate Coco Pops for breakfast”. We all had a good chuckle then my teacher said: “and that’s how the Bible works”. This teacher is now openly gay, and one of the smartest women to ever educate me.

I live with a proud atheist, am related to proud Catholics and have friendships with Muslims, Buddhists & the undecided. Each of these people respect my beliefs and understand that my relationship with Jesus is personal and has been my pillar of strength through every wonderful and heartbreaking moment in my life. I recently attended a different church with someone close to me which was much more personalised and hands on in comparison to my traditional church where most people wake up when it’s time to shake each other’s hands. This room was full of really warm, happy people who wanted to talk and connect. I would hate to think they some people would throw shade on their entire belief system, because some people within that community have opposing and somewhat rigid views. Tony Abbott’s lesbian sister is not a bigot just because she’s related to one. Let us not all be punished for sins of the father.

If we all throw stones at those with hateful views, have we not then become the monster we’re fighting?

Let’s lead the way for our youth by standing up for our beliefs in a compassionate manner. Let’s continue to educate ourselves on other cultures/genders/Religions. Let’s actively work together to create a society built on mutual respect, love and kindness.

I can only pray that my future children look up to me more than those sisters who have amassed an empire on the back of a leaked sex tape.

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Parenting 101

Finding your voice

Would you say that you are brave? Tough question, right? I’m pretty sure I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of spiders, public speaking, heights, being hungry on a long train-ride. I’m even scared of escalators! Though, actually I think that this fear is pretty rational, given that I was knocked unconscious on an escalator in ‘03 when my long, Stevie Nicks-esque cardigan got caught on one at Hurstville station and catapulted me back down to earth and left my back covered in escalator shaped tooth marks.

My partner, Allan is one of those crazy, calm people who doesn’t panic when everything falls apart. He does this really weird thing where he looks for a solution to the problem without attaching emotion to it (like I said; crazy). He’s also one of those mental patients who has jumped out of an aeroplane willingly, bungee jumped for the fun of it and continues to ask me to accompany him swimming with sharks (bless his cotton socks).

I am no thrill seeker, but there is one area where my bravery excelled as a child and returned with a vengeance in my 30’s after an unfortunate disappearing act in my 20’s; speaking my mind. Something that I believe young children and senior citizens are brilliant at. I remember visiting my nan in the nursing home the year of her passing, asking if she liked my new jacket; “not really” she replied. Ahhh, so refreshingly honest. What happens to us in those years in between dummies and dentures? Is it that deadly disease sweeping the globe; ‘caring what others think of us’? Imagine what the human race could accomplish in those wasted hours spent worrying about the judgement of others?

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My greatest flaw and biggest barrier to success has been my ‘people pleasing’ personality. That need for a pat on the head, to be told that I’m doing a good job. Every time I have needed external validation, I have handed over my power to someone else.

I have this theory, from carefully observing those I deem to be successful: that some of the most successful people did not do well in school. I was a straight-A student whom teachers loved. They told me to jump and I asked; “how high”? I then spent my early adult years in unhealthy relationships with basic jobs and financial debt. Could this be because I was a victim of a system that encouraged ‘sheep’ rather than independent thinkers? I’m not suggesting to stop reading or being interested in gaining knowledge, I’m suggesting that perhaps a rebellious streak could have been a little less punished by our superiors.

Richard Branson is a name known around the world, not just for being one hell of a flirt, but for creating a hugely recognisable and successful brand in various industries. In his autobiography ‘Like a Virgin’, Branson talks about his struggles at school due to his dyslexia and poor academic performance. Before dropping out at age 16, the mogul’s headmaster told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. I would like to question; in fear of ending up as the former, how many of us have been prohibited from becoming the latter?

Some may call me argumentative; fair call. I grew up in a family who could have brought home the gold, if arguing was an Olympic Sport. Though I’m learning to pick my battles and walk away from conversations that can’t be won, such as disagreements with people who are more offended by two men holding hands than holding guns. “I could argue with an idiot, but then there’d be two idiots”. There is a fine line between being argumentative and having a voice.  Having a voice is my finest quality and it continues to make me proud of myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m not kind or compassionate, this just means that I value myself and my needs, which in turn, makes me stronger to help others.

Kasey Chambers articulated this brilliantly as she was inducted into the ARIA Hall of fame last month; “being a bitch doesn’t make you strong, and being strong doesn’t make you a bitch”. Amen.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I adore Lady Gaga. Not just for her amazing vocal performances that have inspired me in my own singing career, but because she’s just plain smart. After having back to back success with her first two albums, Gaga felt immense pressure on her from her record label and media scrutiny to continue and expand on this success. Having been a songwriter from a young age, Gaga felt the emphasis moving away from her creativity and onto her being a money-making puppet for people riding the coat tails of her success. After being hospitalised with a broken hip and experiencing constant pain from fibromyalgia, Gaga felt quite simply; depressed. I watch a lot of Lady Gaga footage on YouTube; there are some damn fine performances on there, but my very favourite is of Gaga’s speech at Yale University, encouraging us to SAY NO. The multi award winning singer and songwriter shared with the audience, some of the questions she asked herself to return to a healthier state of mind:

Stephanie/Gaga/hybrid person, why is it that you’re unhappy? Why is it that you want to quit music? Well I really don’t like selling these fragrances. I don’t like wasting my time spending days shaking people’s hands & smiling & taking selfies; it feels shallow to my existence. I have a lot more to offer than my image. I don’t like being used to make people money. I feel SAD when I am overworked and that I just become a money-making machine and that my passion and my creativity take a back seat; that makes me unhappy. So what did I do? I started to say no. “I’m not doin’ that. I don’t wanna do that. I’m not taking that picture, I’m not goin’ to that event, I’m not standing by that ‘cause that’s not what I stand for.” And slowly but surely, I remembered who I am. And then you go home, and you look in the mirror and you’re like; YES, I can go to bed with YOU every night, because I know that person. That person has balls, that person has integrity, that person has an opinion…I check in with myself throughout the day and ask myself, do I really want to do this? And if the answer is no, I don’t do it, and you shouldn’t either.”

I believe this speech to be a very powerful reminder of who is in charge of our own lives. Especially now, that we are living in a society dominated by ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. We may not have the same financial freedom as Gaga to stay at home if we don’t feel like going to work that day. But if you feel stuck in a situation that is sacrificing who you are as a person in the effort to appease another, then only you have the power to say NO. To remove yourself from that situation and then try something different. Once you can do that without looking around for someone to tell you that it’s OK, you have conquered fear. And you will be free.

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When we were children, we all wanted to grow up. Surely it wasn’t for the bills and wrinkles; it was for the freedom.

I’m a work in progress. I know that times will arise throughout the day when I will worry what might happen, what someone might say, or doubt my talent and abilities. But that’s OK. As long as I am aware of this and keep bringing myself back, then I am moving forward. 

I recently did something for my career that the mere thought of years ago would have terrified me to my core (it is ongoing, and I will be divulge more information in the coming months). But no matter the outcome of this huge risk I took, I feel so good inside, knowing that I pushed through the shaking legs and achieved something I never had before. I was brave, and I am so proud of myself. I go to bed each night and look at Steph in the mirror and say; “I can go to bed with you”.

As we draw to the end of the year; my first year writing this blog, I would like to thank you so much for reading words that have meant a lot to me. I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas filled with love, trifle and champagne.

My wish for us all in 2019, is that we say no to situations that make us unhappy, say yes to adventures that help us grow and have balls bigger than a rhino.  

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The real F-word

It was recently suggested to me that men have a higher suicide rate than women because of feminism. Please excuse me whilst I wash this vomit out of my mouth for a moment. If anyone believes this, I implore you to pick up a book or go out of your little box and into the world. These folk need to stop getting their education through over-dramatised social media posts or Trump-esque videos aimed at pitting one group of people against another. This ‘us v them’ culture is truly the demise of us all. Living with a football player, I can tell you that the reason suicide is much higher in men, particularly in the football community, is because they were raised in macho surroundings where you were called ‘wimp’ or ‘pussy’ if you cried or showed emotion. Many psychologists believe that those who internalise are at a higher risk of suicide. I fail to see how me expecting to be given the same rights as my male counterpart encourages suicidal tendencies. If that’s the case, you really are a pussy.

What makes me laugh is when a woman feels the need to preface a smart statement with the line: “I’m not a feminist, but…” It reminds me of when Pauline Hanson says; “I’m not racist, but Asians are taking over”. Ladies, if you’re going to say something in support of your fellow sisters, please don’t feel the need to apologise before it escapes your mouth. That’s only perpetuating the myth of feminism being hateful. This is the exact problem. That feminism is a dirty word to many. This movement has never been about hating men, it’s only ever been about equality. Imagine a world where we weren’t pre-judged on our gender, our race or our religion. Because that’s what prejudice is; pre-judging. You can judge me as much as you would like, but please judge me only on my actions. Because that is all I can control. Everything else was a birthright.

When I was in high school, I was in a group of friends that consisted of  two other girls and about 10 males. My favourite thing to do on a Friday night is have steak and wine at the pub whilst watching Friday night footy. When I am invited to family functions; all of the women sit inside eating cake and talking about celebrities, yet I sit out the back with the men; drinking scotch, smoking cigars and talking about sport. Yet, I am a feminist. I repeat; feminism is not about hating or lowering men, it’s about making everyone recognise we deserve the same rights, whether I can change a tyre or not (I so cannot…NRMA anyone?). Can I also clarify another misconception? You don’t actually have to be a woman to be a feminist. My hot, straight, football playing boyfriend believes whole-heartedly that he and I are equal and that he is not entitled to any more than I due to a difference in gender. He too, is a feminist. Believing in gender equality is what makes you a feminist (and also not an idiot).

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Having been born in the 80’s, I was brought up on movies that led us to believe that our happy ending was standing at the end of the altar in a white dress. What’s interesting, is that very rarely did they explain what we did with our lives after that (presumably barefoot and pregnant). Men saved the world, and women married those men. Gradually, with each generation, you see a shift in entertainment. Disney used to portray Cinderella getting rescued from horrible (and catty towards other women) step-sisters by a handsome prince. Poor old Belle had a bad case of Stockholm syndrome when she fell in love with her captor. But today, Moana is sailing the seven seas to rescue her whole village! She’s warm and wild and brave, and the world fell in love with her (I love her crazy grandmother who dances with Sting-rays; that’s my kinda woman). The big shift arose when I was a teenager, The Spice Girls introduced us to Girl Power and my TV screen was dominated by Buffy, the Charmed ones and Dark Angel. Their ass-kicking moves and sassy retorts will live on in my soul forever.

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Can someone please explain to me why so many believe it acceptable, humorous even, when a man is drunk at a party but inappropriate if a woman is? I wanna have some fun too (right Ms Lauper?) Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t alcohol work its way down to the liver rather than the penis? Hmm, perhaps I need to look at a diagram of anatomy again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning drinking to excess, I just fail to see why it’s socially acceptable for one and not the other. I was not born to be the designated driver with an expensive handbag. I have a voice, and I intend to use it. Plus…I am a fantastic dancer after a few champagnes. I was recently shamed by a wife of my partner’s friend for having been drunk at a party two and a half years ago. I recently walked up to her at a wedding, as I didn’t recognise her, and introduced myself, to which she replied; “oh we have met at that birthday party years ago, but you were too drunk to remember”. I found that very interesting, considering that her husband was drunk at that birthday party, her husband was drunk at this wedding and her husband has been drunk at every occasion in between, as were all the men in that group. I’ve even had my sink clogged by their vomit. But I suppose that’s funny (I can almost hear men chanting “yeah the boys” as I write this). I’ll tell you this much about our lovely friend, I wouldn’t have remembered her even if I was sober. I tend to only remember people with personality.

It’s disappointing to realise that it’s not only men who are fighting our belief in gender equality. We can only succeed if we work together and stop tearing each other down.

No one can be ‘better’ than another based on something they were born with, such as a postcode, a colour of skin or a chromosome. Your actions are the only thing that determine your importance. Graham Long is better than most, because for decades, he provided a safe haven for the lonely and hopeless in Kings Cross. He used his voice to help others find their own. Turia Pitt is better than most because she is breaking down the walls of perceived beauty and continues to rise, despite her setbacks. She is using her strength, to help others find their own.

Allow me to share with you an actual exert from the Woman Anti-Suffrage Association of New York, urging men to vote no on the woman suffrage amendment;

  • Vote NO because there is no adequate reason why the women of this State should assume this duty in addition to those they already carry.
  • Vote NO because women are not suffering from any injustice which giving them the ballot would rectify.
  • Vote NO because man’s service to the State through government is counter-balanced by woman’s service in the home. One service is just as essential to the welfare of the State as the other, but they can never be identical.

Housework was actually referred to as a woman’s service to the State.

Remember the old saying; “who died and made you boss?”. Who died and put men in charge? Why did we ever have to ask for permission to have a voice? It makes as much sense as black people sitting on one end of the bus, and white people sitting on the other.

Inequality is in play when TV executives deem it OK to have a male news anchor who is old and unattractive, but his female co-anchor must be under 55, slim and attractive (I know you all remember Brian Henderson). Inequality is in play when Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence were paid less than their male co-stars for the same film, even though they’re both Oscar winners. And inequality is in play when tampons are taxed as a luxury item but condoms are not.

Once a month, I love to spoil myself with some luxurious indulgence.

Feminism is a beautiful word. It might not be as beautiful as my two other favourite F-words; Free Food. But I am damn proud to use it.

A woman with a voice is a beautiful creature, not as the lovely Greens member Greg Barber put it;fat, hairy lesbians”, “power pussies” and “hairy-legged feminists”. Sit down Greg; you ain’t no oil painting.

Any movement that encourages equality and fairness is a good and necessary movement. It is met with resistance only by the weak who fear losing their strength if others are stronger. True power comes from within, and cannot be taken away by another.

FEAR; now that is truly one of the filthiest words.

I can’t adult today

Wake up at 4:20am; gym, shower, eat breakfast, hang laundry, wake boyfriend, catch train, nap on train, make social media posts for business pages, pay electricity bill, go to work for 8 hours, catch train home, read novel, text friends for dinner catch up, send message to ex-colleagues about that dinner you were supposed to organise two months ago, walk home, make dinner, wash dishes, fold laundry, wash hair, do vocal warm-ups & learn new songs for singing gig next week, write blog, email club owners about gigs, spray exit mould in shower, moisturise, kiss boyfriend good night. Go to bed.

Damn. Can’t sleep.

This is my typical day. This is probably pretty similar to your typical day, with a few substitutions.

Boyfriend’s day goes a little something like this: eat, work, gym, play Fortnite. Please God, let me have a penis in my next life.

I don’t deserve pity, I agree, it’s all self-inflicted. I could choose not to do so much. At least once a week mum tells me; “Stephanie, stop doing so much! Just enjoy life.” I can’t mum, there’s no time! We’re in the midst of a gender shift where women are in their element. I flick through the Sunday paper and find articles of female entrepreneurs telling me how I can achieve my dreams, just like they did. We used to be encouraged/programmed/brainwashed (you say potato) to marry someone on a stable income (or filthy rich). Now, we’re being told we can create our own riches and achieve business and personal goals, from real-life women who have done the same.

The problem we’re all having with trying to create a noteworthy life, is that we’re not leaving enough time to live it.

What terrifies me, is that I don’t even have kids yet. How do people with kids do it?!!! I guess that’s why most new parents I know are in zombie mode. Just pushing through with a hell of a lot of eye cream and caffeine.

At night, my mind is occupied with ticking off today’s To-do List and writing tomorrow’s, that by the time I get to bed; I find it hard to shut my mind down enough for sleep. My boyfriend constantly bear-hugs me in the kitchen whilst pleading with my brain to stop planning and over-thinking (don’t tell him that I actually scheduled our sex-life into my list one day). In my defence, he and many other people in my life depend on me to organise many aspects of our lives. If I don’t plan and over think, very little would get done in our home, I assure you. In fact, my friend Alexis articulates it much better, when I send texts reminding everyone of what time to leave work to be at dinner on time and which transportation would be faster; “Bruno, what would we do without you?”

I have two modes; work like a ravenous beast until I feel a sense of accomplishment, or collapse on my bed and threaten to run away and become a waitress in a country town, spending most of my days lying on the grass, making shapes out of clouds and singing Stevie Nicks songs (if you can’t give me penis in my next life God, can I be a joint-smoking hippie?  Or a hang-ten surfie? Ooh ooh and long, tanned legs please!)

I am all kinds of tired lately. Things are going to have to change. I harp on about balance a hell of a lot, and I always start with the best intentions but soon enough, I’m back where I started.

I ponder now of the days in my teens I wished away; waiting to be older, to have freedom from rules and curfews and homework. What I wouldn’t give to be lying on my single bed in my parents’ home, letting Tori Amos’ ethereal vocals wash over my melancholy soul, dreaming about boys, under my Dawson’s Creek posters. “We’ll I’m not seventeen but I’ve cuts on my knees. Falling down as the winter takes one more cherry tree.”

My best friend Chantelle was killed at the age of 23 by a hit and run driver. As we planted some of her ashes under a tree in her dad’s front yard on what would have been her 25th birthday, Jean-Pierre turned to me and said; “she always wanted to be 25. Even as a child, she wished she could just hurry up and get to 25.” Oh, how I wish she didn’t wish any of it away.

I’ve made so many wonderful friends along the way but there’s a reason the high school friends have a hold on me. Even the dear old friends I don’t see regularly anymore like my beautiful friend Liz. We grew, and her path went one way and mine went another, but her words pop into my mind more than she realises. Like the time we had a fight about…actually I can’t recall at all what it was about, but I do remember that she appeared on my doorstep with a copy of Anne Rice’s ‘The Vampire Lestat’ and a note that read “Stiffy, don’t be angry. Life’s too short for angry”. She may have been my shortest friend, but she was by far the wisest.

These friendships are forged during such formative years. We held hands and crossed the equator from child to adult. I faltered along the way. I continue to falter at times. But I always feel those familiar hands at my back. And that’s all I need to know.

Your teens are like 5pm on a Friday; you’re relaxed, ready to party and in no rush because there’s still so much time ahead of you. Lately, I feel perpetually stuck at 8pm Sunday; in a frantic rush to get things done, haunted by that niggling feeling that the fun is all over and not within reach for a long time.

I never understood why Adam Sandler kept pressing fast forward on his universal remote in Click. I would much rather be Piper Halliwell and pause the world whenever I need. Just to catch my breath.Image result for piper halliwell freezing power gif

I’m of the belief that living in the past can bring depression and living in the future can create anxiety. The present moment is all that we do indeed have, and the key to a peaceful existence. But just for today, I’m going to close my eyes, allow my soul to drift back to a much younger version of myself and indulge in a little selfish teen-angst. Just for today. Now where did I put my Walkman and belly-button ring?

I didn’t participate in Dry July but I’m proposing a month free of Social Media in an attempt to disconnect from everyone else’s moments and create my own. I dub thee; Angst-free August. I’m predicting a result of either having so much free time that I finish writing my novel (did you see Bradley Cooper in Limitless?) Or becoming so Zen that the Dalai Lama has me on speed-dial (he probably doesn’t have a phone, so it may be a telepathic speed-dial).

Catch you in the Spring x

The rise of the keyboard warrior

“Thank you for your email. Human Decency is out of the office on extended vacation. If the matter is urgent, please contact Hostile Harry, Selfish Sally or Rude Roger”.

Tell me I’m not the only one who has noticed an increase in the impolite manner in which people are conversing these days? In person, I’d say we’re still resembling civilized creatures (though perhaps not in peak hour traffic).  This demise of human decency is overwhelmingly evident via text, email and social media.

I have always claimed that my words are my weapon. Whenever I have worked with anyone less than professional, I have always prided myself on using just the right selection of words to stand up for what I believe in. Your words really are your weapon, choose them wisely. In the end, we all end up in the same hole in the ground or as the same pile of ash, no matter if you were a CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or scrubbed toilets for a living. If the only real legacy you leave behind is your character, don’t we all want to make our character one to be proud of?

Malcolm S. Forbes, former Forbes magazine publisher and son of founder, B.C. Forbes, has some very poignant quotes. One of note is; “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” I adore this quote and try my very best to live by it. This is what concerns me. I am noticing a very fast-paced society where everything is so easily accessible; You can buy a whole outfit on a Monday afternoon from an App on your phone whilst sitting at your work desk, then have it delivered, for free, to the very same desk the next morning. You can try it on in the bathroom, and if it doesn’t fit, you can have it sent straight back, free of charge (yes, I’m talking about The Iconic, someone delete my App before I spend every last cent to my name!) No wonder retail is dying. I used to adore wondering through the shops, now I only go to Westfield to buy groceries. I do all of my other shopping online. The internet has made everything so easy and convenient hasn’t it? In turn though, people’s patience seems to have shifted and we seem no longer willing to wait for anything, and some of us become quite outraged if we can’t get exactly what we want on the spot. We are living in a world full of convenience and not nearly enough kindness.

Have we created a generation of The Simpsons’ character ‘Fat Comic Book Guy‘ sitting bravely behind his keyboard, attacking anything and anyone, just because he can? Is it just a way for the insecure to be heard?

I’ll bet on your last trip to a country town, you noticed that people said “hi” to you on the street, or chatted in line at the shops, or didn’t walk with their heads down staring at their phone. Perhaps they haven’t bought into the same society as us where our phone is our lifeline. Perhaps they’re not on fast-forward like us city-folk, so they feel they have the time to stop and connect. Maybe they’re just living a better life. Maybe they’re just happier.

One of my best friends just closed her tattoo business and recently received a text from a former client looking to extend his hand tatt to his arm. My friend responded with a very lengthy text advising of her change in circumstances and offering many alternative tattooists who may be able to help, as well as some other advice on picking the right design. His response was “LOL”. To which, my very intelligent friend responded, “not sure why that’s funny but OK”. This lovely man then proceeded to tell her that it was funny because her information was completely useless to him. Her information was of course not useless, it was rather helpful and informative but because he couldn’t get exactly what he wanted when he wanted, he pulled a Veruca Salt and had himself a little tanty. Here’s my question; do you believe his response would have been the same if they were standing face to face? I do not. I believe he wouldn’t have been delighted; but would have felt somewhat embarrassed to say these words out loud, for fear of sounding like a spoiled brat.

Remember when you started dating your current partner and you would send each other naughty texts? Oh, how I love those first few weeks (must stop blushing, people around). What was great about these texts, was that you felt so much braver to say everything your hormones wanted to say via text rather than to his face (accept after a few bevvies when you ended up sounding like you should be charging by the minute).

The same principal applies in all texting. As a society, we’ve gotten Dutch courage hiding behind our phones and keyboards, and we’re voicing opinions that are very often crossing the line. Remember a time when people used to live by the old adage of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Just because you believe something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you always need to share it with the world.

Image result for open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence

I was scrolling through Instagram this week and saw a pic of Britney Spears lounging by the pool with one of her sons, who is surprisingly grown up now. I was impressed by how amazing Brit looked. So toned and so fit (note to self, must wake up early and go to the gym tomorrow). I think I left a comment saying something like “Hot damn” with a little fire emoji. I noticed the comment underneath said; “shame she doesn’t have the decency to cover up in front of her son”. She was in a bikini. She was at a pool. Seriously?  Then of course people came out in her defence writing comments like “didn’t realise it was the 1800’s”. I thought of a few comments myself but if I jumped on there and trolled the woman who trolled Brit, aren’t I part of the problem? Watching people attack one another online reminds me of those zombie movies where one bite takes over the next host so within seconds, an entire village has been claimed.

What amazes me, is that this woman chooses to follow the popstar. Why not unfollow her if she is offending you? Why try to correct her? Maybe she’s happy. Maybe her son is perfectly happy. I’ve unfollowed people I happen to love, on social media, because some of their opinions or posts hurt my feelings or did not sit well with my beliefs. I did not feel the need to blast them for their views. I just didn’t need to witness it. It’s called self-preservation and I make no apologies for it. Contrary to popular belief; Social Media is not life. It is a very small part of life. Some of the most important people in my life are not part of my Social Media world. Facebook will not be my measurement of happiness. Eckhart Tolle (yes, I will continue to quote he and Louise Hay at every opportunity I get) believes that people’s need to be right or their need to get others to hear their opinion is the ego. The ego needs to be right or to be heard to survive.

A few months ago, I, like most of the country, was caught up in the hype that was Married At First Sight. My friend Gill and I would talk about it constantly at work, so she invited me to a Facebook MAFS Group to get caught up in all the latest goss. For the most part, it was pretty entertaining. I made one post on the page that went a little something like “Every meal these guys eat is on white bread, they must be constipated AF”. A few minutes passed, it got a few laughing face emoji’s then I went back to work. I opened the page up again on my train ride home and nothing on this planet could have prepared me for the onslaught of comments that attacked my trivial post. And attacked me as a person.

  • Oh here we go, listen to the f###ing gym junkie”. Sorry I have biceps.
  • “Oh shut up you idiot, white bread is full of fibre”. Um, not really, but OK.
  • “You must have way too much spare time to notice that”. Yes, I had a spare seven seconds.
  • It’s people like you who are ruining the world”. Yes, I should be locked up with rapists and child molesters.
  • “I’ve been eating white bread for 70 years. I am perfectly healthy. You’re probably the one who’s constipated because you have a stick stuck up you’re a##e.” That last comment was from someone’s grandmother.

OK so in hindsight, it’s a humorous situation but I’m telling you now, I was rattled. The comments continued to come, one after the other. I left the group immediately. The whole night, I felt a state of anxiety. I felt not so good about myself. I don’t believe I am the kind of person who needs compliments or external validation to know my worth (not now anyway) but I have always been the kind of person who feared words far more than sticks and stones. Bruises heal. Psychological scrapes and bruises tend to linger for me. I would understand if I wrote something mean about one of their favourite people on the show, but I talked only about food. It has no pulse! I know carbs are delicious but how can anyone be that protective over a baked good?

Image result for good on ya mum tip tops the one

You see it every day. And it’s just gone too far here people. Just because you’re hiding behind a screen, it doesn’t take any impact away from the words you are projecting to another human being. Some will point the finger at moderators of groups or organisations or schools to do more when people are getting bullied, but I believe we all need to be more conscious of the way we are treating others. Let’s teach our children the importance of being a good person more than the importance of winning a race or a dance eisteddfod. If someone is being bullied, comfort them and be there for them. If someone is bullying, ask them if they are OK. Chances are, they’re not OK. Those who cause pain for others are usually in a great deal of pain themselves. We need to eliminate the ‘us’ v ‘them’ mentality in life. We’re all people. We all have battles to fight. We must cultivate kindness in our everyday lives. You can say that it’s what separates us from the animals but I gotta say, I see a lot more compassion coming from animals when I watch Youtube videos of elephants banding together to pull a fallen comrade out of a ditch or birds passing food to dogs who can’t reach the treat bowl.

In a week where yet two more creative celebrities have taken their own lives (Rest in Peace Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, you were wonderfully unique spirits who made your mark on this earth) we have to be aware that the human race is in a state of pain and agony. We’re hurting. Cruelty and bullying is a pandemic and the reason it has gained such momentum is because the internet has given it a global platform to spread like disease.

I am a staunch believer in kindness. I believe that if you think something nice about someone, anything at all, tell them. When I see a stranger on the street in an outfit I like I always say;“hot dress!” when I see a man with a gorgeous English Bulldog I always say “what a lovely dog you have” (I also say good morning to birds and trees but let’s start small). Mother Teresa believed you could change the world by smiling at strangers. One smile at a time. Boy was she spot on. You don’t have to create a fundraiser or make huge financial contributions, but you can add your small piece to the world. That small piece is more valuable than you’ll ever know. Your smile can create a domino effect. Kindness spreads like wildfire just as much as hatred does.

Please go out into the world this week with the objective to share kindness to others. To both your loved ones and to strangers. Even if the recipient hasn’t been particularly kind to you, in fact, extra points if you bring joy to a troubled soul. Resist the urge to share your opinion if it’s intent is to stick it to someone. Imagine each day as a score sheet to get into the pearly gates. One point for each act of kindness, minus one point for each time you inflict pain. What will your ‘for and against’ points look like on Judgement Day? I hope for your sake they’ll be in surplus.

Image result for choose kind julia roberts

It is what it is

I used to work with a Marketing Brand Manager by the name of Dan at one of my last jobs. He is one of my very favourite people. A huge personality and one of those lucky Geminis who has endless luck. He always has money, always has a black bag from The Iconic arrive at his desk at least once a week, always has a new fancy car and would arrive at airports for a work trip and magically get upgraded to first class. Very little worries him (or he would leave all the worrying to the girls who work under him I suspect). His most commonly used phrase around the office is “it is what it is”. A line that used to infuriate me when he said it and when a much older (and slightly condescending) ex-boyfriend used to use it. Though in the last year or two, I have had a shift in my outlook on life and I too find myself using this phrase quite frequently.

It’s so simple yet so truthful. Everything actually is what it is, whether I cry about it or not.

I think my change in outlook came about, upon reading Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’. I tried to read it once many years ago and just kept re-reading the same pages unable to make sense of any of the words in front of me. Now, I read it once a year as a top-up and every page is like a light bulb moment. I do believe that you have to be ready for certain life lessons. I wasn’t when I first bought the book.

Tolle states that there are no good events or bad events, there are simply; events. It is only when you attach emotion to them, do they have a positive or negative connotation. I know you’re yelling at the screen now saying “what about car accidents, what about Cancer”? I get it. To us, these events are life-changing. The premise however, still stands. To the Universe, events are like ocean waves and we’re the surfers. We can either ride the wave gracefully into shore or stand flat-footed, refusing to move with the current and struggle upside down, underwater until we’re snorting out salt water and putting our exposed bits back into our swimmers.

Three years ago, I was apartment hunting for my boyfriend and I. It was a very exciting time; to have found the person you want to share your life with and both agreeing on the beachside suburb you will set-up camp in. I was constantly picking out furniture at IKEA and beautiful abstract paintings online. I had nearly everything picked out; except the actual apartment. Times had changed since I last apartment hunted. It had become a lot more competitive. I would show up to an inspection and there were nearly thirty other couples vying for the same property. I always made a point to shake hands with the agent and make sure they remembered my name and the fact that I was willing to take out someone’s knee Tonya Harding style until I got that property.

There were two apartments early on that I had my heart set on. The first had a nice little courtyard. On my vision board, I had specified that I wanted an apartment with either a balcony or courtyard because the Italian that I am, I love to host parties, dinners and BBQ’s for my family and friends. There were thirty parties applying for this property! The agent told me that our application made it into the final two but the Landlord ultimately picked a single, much older lady. I recall specifically going home, throwing myself on my bed and kicking and screaming like a child having a tantrum in the middle of the cereal aisle when mum picked All Bran over Coco Pops. I was 31.

Just a week later, we found an amazing unit with a huge living area, a lovely balcony, internal laundry, garage and very close to the cafes and shops. There were just as many applicants as the last two we had applied for, but we were blessed enough to get this one with very little effort. The Landlord is an amazing couple who sent me a personal email to thank me for decorating the apartment so nicely, they laid down new floors and they send us yummy hampers at Christmas and have just offered us a third year at the same rent. No price increase. Not to mention the awesome, rather quiet and predominantly, female neighbours. Every time something in my life doesn’t go according to my plan, I think back on this time and have a little chuckle. No, we didn’t get the property we had set our sights on. We got an even better one. Much, much better.

Perhaps when something fails. It’s not failure at all. Just a mere detour on the way to an even more suitable destination.

In his hugely successful book, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’, Deepak Chopra talks about the Law of Least Effort. How struggling against what is, can take you further from where you are meant to be.

“When you struggle against this moment, you’re actually struggling against the entire universe. Instead you can make the decision that today you will not struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment.

You accept things as they are, not as you wish they were in this moment.

When you feel frustrated or upset by a person or a situation, remember that you are not reacting to the person or the situation, but to your feelings about the person or situation.

When you become defensive, blame others, and do not accept and surrender to the moment, your life meets resistance. You don’t want to stand rigid like a tall oak that cracks and collapses in the storm. Instead, you want to be flexible, like a reed that bends with the storm and survives”.

I just love that last analogy of the oak versus the reed. I’m very visual and I like to picture something to aspire to. Only now I’ve evolved the reed into the blow-up dudes you see in front of car yards. Not only do they bend with the storm, they look like they’re having a little bit of a party.

Don’t mistake the word ‘surrender’ as letting people dominate you. Surrender means only acceptance of what is. You can still have an entire plan of what goals you wish to achieve, but it simply means that some factors which are entirely out of your control, will arise to change some of your plans on your way to your goal. Don’t waste effort wishing it was another way. Assess the situation as it is without attaching emotion to it, then reconfigure your plan to suit the status quo.

It makes me wonder if my friend Dan has Gemini luck, or if he is just so able to adapt to change that the universe constantly conspires in his favour.

This week, two of my best friends had major events arise that were not in their plan. For one, it is OK, he had a plan B ready to go which may even work out better for him in the long run. For the other, something quite heartbreaking happened. Her wonderful business is no more, through no fault of her own but through a very complicated legal situation. It was an amazing, creative and successful business. It was all she had known for a very long time and my heart really bleeds for her.

Sometimes it is quite hard not to attach emotion to such situations. I do hope that for my beautiful friend, and for any of you going through a new and daunting circumstance, that the closing of a door opens a window to a truly beautiful destination.

May you all ride the wave of life as majestically as Mick Fanning. And if a shark jumps up at you, punch that sucker straight in the kisser!

Note: If you’re looking for some extra inspiration in being more flexible in life, I recommend:

‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie

‘The power of now’ by Eckhart Tolle

‘The seven spiritual laws of success’ by Deepak Chopra

So many frogs, so few Princes

Who looks back at old pictures of themselves and cringes?

If the secret to being happy is living in the present moment and not in the past or future, then Facebook really needs to stop showing me what happened on this day five years ago. But I guess Zuckerberg has bigger fish to fry right now.

It’s rarely at the way I used to look (well maybe my eyebrows), but I cringed this week when I saw an old photo of myself from a time when I was in a very unhappy place. It was taken at the lovely waterfront spot of Doyles Restaurant at Watson’s Bay by an ex-boyfriend. You might look at the photo and think I look peaceful, but I know myself, and I see deep sadness in my eyes.

Sometimes I think I miss my twenties: The energy to party all night and back it up at work the next day, the beautifully plump skin on my face, and spending money on oversees holidays without worrying about adult responsibilities. But I was lost. It was a good decade of being on a quest. A quest to figure out who the hell I was and what I deserved.

I’ve had two very toxic relationships. I know which one my family and friends probably think was my unhealthiest relationship (the one I liken to a case of Stockholm Syndrome). But for me it was the last relationship. Due mainly to the fact that I was nearly thirty when it began, and I thought I had taken all the steps to get myself into a healthy place, only to be sweet talked into the most soul destroying two years of my life. With a man who was too busy with his own ego to realise that there were two of us in the relationship. I won’t go into detail in this article (let’s save all the juicy details for a blog about narcissists).

This week, I want to focus on the overwhelming feeling of living with a man who makes you hear concertos in your head every time you think of him. A man who doesn’t talk himself up. A man who under promises and over delivers. A man who has my back, every second of every day.

Throw your vomit bags away, I’m not going to start gushing about the romance and how gorgeous he is (hot AF). I want to tell all the girls out there who remind me of my former self, that love isn’t actually that complicated at all. Sure, in the beginning there is a major teething process. You have to learn a lot about your partner, and they about you. There is a lot of compromise and understanding of each other’s values to ensure that you’re not compromising yours or his unwittingly.

Love is not possession. Love is not Facebook profiles pictures. And the lesson that took me far too long to learn is that love does not make you live in fear or a constant state of anxiety.

Being with my partner is the easiest thing in the world. It is effortless. I don’t for a second wish that it happened sooner either. For without the downfalls, I wouldn’t have had such a deep appreciation for the state I am in now. Failure is the condiment that gives success it’s failure.

A lovely old friend named Carly once told me that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.  Boy was she right. Just be careful ladies, the frogs aren’t always green and will usually tell you that they are indeed your Prince Charming whilst having a drinking problem, a gambling problem and a secret online dating profile.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Maybe I was never really lost, maybe I was too busy being a compass for lost boys.

In a week where another Kardashian has been cheated on (no I do not follow any K girl on social media, but according to the internet, this was front page news) you have to ask yourself; what’s your currency?

Some girls seem determined to pick a mate based on status and income. I had a friend who used to select guys based on what car they were driving. When I met my man, he had a motorbike and an Opal Card…and I’ve never smiled this much in my whole life.

My currency always has been and always will be; love and happiness (Mazel Tov if you found a rich guy with a good heart). And upon assessing all of the relationships in my life today; I feel as rich as Gina Rinehart.

There’s a great little quote that says: Be with a guy who ruins your lipstick not your mascara. I switched over to waterproof mascara in my previous relationship because every night-out ended in tears and usually me catching a cab home to my parents’ house instead of going home with him. I still use waterproof mascara today because it makes my eyes pop! But the only tears that ruin my make up are due to laughing so hard that I ended up rolling around on the floor like a Looney Tunes character.

It’s ironic how being loved by the right people can make you feel so free.

I never gave up on finding the right man after a few false starts. After the last break-up, I took a good ten months to be by myself. Re-visit all the things I love like reading, writing, singing, dance classes and spending time with my girls. I knew that once I valued myself enough, the right mate would come along.

Of-course every relationship I have been in started with love and I do hope that they are very happy now and most importantly, treating their current partners with the love and respect they deserve (hey I put a lot of work in, someone should benefit).

For anyone out there struggling in an unhealthy relationship, I leave you with a line that I used to repeat on the daily, to remind myself that the distressed state I was in, wasn’t my final destination:

I’m a sundial in the shade; I’m not broken, I’m just in the wrong place.

Let’s disconnect and connect

I’m still on a slight high after watching the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games this week. It’s not something I had even planned on watching but I flicked over just in time to catch the industry veteran Katie Noonan (who was also the musical director for the ceremony) singing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘I still call Australia home’, accompanied by the Gold Coast choir. Noonan’s ethereal voice was so calming as she sang songs aimed at welcoming other cultures into our land.

Next was a very special moment to honour and to showcase the indigenous culture of this beautiful land. Contemporary Indigenous artist Luther Cora conducted a traditional Smoking Ceremony with three generations of his family. The smoking ceremony involves burning native plants to produce smoke – it is about cleansing (oneself) and connecting (with each other, the land and spirit). It was such a captivating moment that slowed down the whole proceedings and made you feel like you were watching a piece of history from a faraway land unfold.

To add a little glitz, glamour and power vocals to the night; Goddess Goodrem appeared in the middle of the stadium singing her new single: ‘Welcome to Earth’. It’s not hard to see why Goodrem has led the pack in the Australian Pop music scene for over 15 years. She can write a song underwater, her vocals can carry for miles and she’s genuinely her happiest when on stage. The lyrics in this song are so perfect for these games and are really motivating me this week; “Welcome to Earth, where the broken and the beautiful collide”… “Make this moment all you’ve wanted, we were made to live our dreams out loud”. It’s the first time in a long while that I’ve played a song on repeat.

As beautiful as all of the performances were, what made me smile the most (and in all honesty, a little bit teary) were the faces of the past and current athletes taking part in the ceremony. From walking out onto the arena, waving to the crowd and representing their country, to parading around with the Queen’s Baton, to standing around dancing & clapping as the performances were underway. There was such pure joy and pride on each and everyone’s faces. I can imagine their parents and grandparents sitting at home with the ceremony on record, hoping to catch a glimpse of their pride and joy on screen. These athletes have most likely worked their whole lives to perfect their craft, and they’ve most likely dreamed of the moment when they represent their country on an international scale and it’s really moving to see people achieve their dreams.

Everyone in that arena was so fully immersed in the present moment and connecting with one another. I truly believe that there is no greater purpose for us in our lives than to connect. They weren’t looking down at their phones, they weren’t running late for work, they weren’t stressing over an expensive bill: they were sharing a moment together. And it was really special.

Of course the next day, journalists jump online and start stirring the pot about diva antics, possible lip-synching, the absence of major stars….yadda, yadda, yadda.

Watching the ceremony took me back nearly 18 years ago to my time as a wide-eyed 17yr old school girl, performing in the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. I, along with all of my school friends (Newtown High School of the Performing Arts) dance friends (Brent Street) and countless others, were the tap dancers who came running through the crowd, onto the main arena with metal plates and steel cap tap boots. What a time to be alive in Sydney. The weeks of rehearsals leading up to the event were both thrilling and exhausting but the actual night was just magical! I remember walking around the city after the event which was centre stage to tourists from all around the globe and not for one second did I feel scared, even though we were a group of scantily dressed teenage girls (it’s a safe assumption that I spent most of my teens scantily dressed). It was quite the opposite. Everyone was so warm and friendly. You would stop in the street and converse with complete strangers. The city was magical and buzzing, like a theme park for adults. Of course there were no smartphones or Social Media sites in the year 2000 so you had no choice but to be in the moment and connect with each other. How magical indeed.

Think of a time when you have gone to a concert to see your favourite band or singer. There is a particular buzz in the air. The strangers next to you become your temporary possy. You sing your favourite songs together at the top of your lungs and you feel like you’ve shared something with everyone in that room.

Whenever I attend mass at church (admittedly not as frequently as when I was a child), I always look forward to the part towards the end of mass where the priest says “now offer each other the sign of peace”. For my non-Catholic readers, this means you turn to your neighbours and shake hands whilst telling them; “peace be with you”. Such a lovely sentiment, no matter which, if any, sect you belong to. As a child I used to get so excited leading into this section that my palms would get sweaty and I would wipe them on my dress and blow air onto them so I wouldn’t have a clammy shake when the big moment arrived. I used to plan my targets of who I would shake hands with and in what order. Usually turning to my family or friends first, then everyone in the row in front of me, then swing around to nab everyone in the row behind me. I would do awkward leans to reach as many people as possible and I would keep shaking until the priest commenced the next segment. If you look around at everyone after this exchange, you can see them talking and smiling more, their body language has shifted and everyone is really jovial. That’s the power of the human spirit; sharing a moment with one another is like recharging the batteries of the soul.

I still carry this with me on my morning walks along the beach, smiling at everyone I can and saying “Good morning”, especially to grumpy faces (you get an extra ten points if the grumpy ones smile, 20 if they wish you a good morning in return).

I missed my train this week and it was a 12 minute wait until the next train. Instead of picking one of the empty seats and scrolling through my Instagram, I decided to sit next to an older lady and say ‘hi’. The lady’s name was Jill, and she was more than happy to enter into a chat with me until our train arrived. Jill grew up in Newtown and we both talked about how much we love Newtown’s culture and welcoming vibe. Though we reminisced about the awesome Op Shops that seem to be dwindling out. I could remember my first purchase of an aqua singlet top of just $3 in 1996. Jill bought a stack of fine China for just $10. We’re both Cronulla residents now and agreed that it’s nice to see people still stopping and chatting to each other in the street. Just like the good ol’ days (but with far more green juices & protein balls and far less cream buns & sausage rolls).

I set a challenge for you this week: Connect with three people who are not a part of your family, circle of friends or workplace. Strike up a chat with a neighbor (even if you’re ignoring him since his dog pooped on your lawn last year) keep your phone in your pocket or bag and talk to the lady sitting next to you at the train station or smile at the crazy guy trying to cut into your lane without so much as a thank you wave.

Happiness spreads like wildfire. Shoot every grumpy douche bag you see with an arrow full of it this week.

Happy hunting.

La Dolce Vita

I like to think I’m a healthy balance of both ethnicities: My passion and temper are all Sicilian (much to my Papà’s pride). And my love of Kath & Kim, Vegemite on toast, and walking barefoot up the street make me a product of this beautiful sunburnt country. Not to mention the fact that I can recite the entire opening song to Round the Twist.

When I’ve visited Italy, Sicily in particular, there is a part of me that feels like I’m home. My soul feels connected to the land and culture, like someone who meets a long-lost sibling later in life but feels that instant connection. I love spending time there but imagine I could never live in Italy. Everyone moves soooooo slowly! Walking along the beach with the family after a big bowl of pasta is like the march of a 100yr old tortoise. When my cousins came to visit Australia, I took them to Taronga Zoo and kept them to a rather tight schedule to ensure that we saw as many animals as possible. They nick-named me The Sargent! In my defence, they spent 20 minutes watching a bear sleep. Um hello? The Bird Show was starting at 1!

There is one part of the Italian lifestyle that I really wish I could live by and that’s their relationship with food.

I feel like Italians treat food like the truest love of their life, while so many of us treat food like the cheap mistress we just slept with and are pushing out the side door before our wives come home and catch us.

I spent the majority of my life as a dancer and a singer so the word ‘diet’ was ingrained into me from a very young age. I remember being on diets and having nightmares that I would demolish an entire tray of cakes and wake up sweating, before feeling so relieved that it was just a dream I didn’t break my diet.

I lead a very health conscious life. I eat a large amount of vegetables and organic food, I limit my intake of sugar and processed foods, I don’t smoke, I only drink at special occasions and I exercise daily. But I’m the first to admit that I have an addictive personality and if someone in the office announces cake in the kitchen, I no longer a hear a word people say for the rest of the day, all I hear in my head is CAKE, CAKE, CAKE! Until I either give in and shove three pieces into my mouth then spend the rest of the afternoon berating myself or I distract myself by eating a hard-boiled egg.

         (actual footage of my lack of restraint)

The older I get though, the more I count emotional and mental health as just as important as physical health, if not more so. It’s kind of a package deal, as one affects the other. I’ve become more flexible with what I eat in an effort to increase my enjoyment. When I go out with friends, I indulge a little more and try not to think how it will affect my appearance.

I remember reading an article once, where nursing home staff were interviewed about what people said on their death beds. The top ten included such sentiments as “I wish I spent more time with my family”, “I wish I stopped and smelled the roses more”. No one ever said “I wish I worked harder”,I wish I didn’t eat that extra piece of birthday cake”.

How many of you eat breakfast standing up at the kitchen counter, or shove lunch into your mouth at your desk in between calls?

Italians do not.

They sit down and make a ritual out of a meal. Everything is laid out on the table like a feast, with the freshest, aromatic produce such as sliced tomatoes and bocconcini, covered in olive oil and basil, with crusty bread to soak up the juices. You would usually not eat alone either. You would have your family sitting around (enough people to fill a small village) and you would sit together and eat slowly, talking to one another, without the distraction of phones or television.

Image result for the sopranos eating( The Sopranos had a few good meals together before killing each other off)

Remember the scene in Goodfellas when a few of the men were in prison and they had their wives smuggle in salami? They cut garlic finely with a razor blade and made a rich, tomato, pasta sauce and they all sat together and had a feast…in their prison cell. Ain’t nothin’ gonna keep an Italian away from a good meal.

I remember in my childhood, my mum laughing at my Papà because we’d be eating lunch and he’d already be planning dinner. I used to come home on a Sunday afternoon and the smell of garlic simmering in olive oil would be wafting down the street. My Papà would be in the kitchen sipping on red wine and singing Italian Opera music as he cooked. It was, and still is, his true enjoyment.

Another fabulous comparison of Italians v Westerners is from the character Luca Spaghetti in the movie adaption of Elizabeth Gilbert’s biographical novel: Eat, Pray, Love. Luca tells Liz (played by the beautiful Julia Roberts) as she whines about her guilt of eating carbs;

“You feel guilty because you’re American. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself! It’s true. Americans know entertainment, but don’t know pleasure. You work too hard. You get burned out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend… in your pajamas in front of the TV. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says, ‘It’s Miller time’… and you say, ‘That’s right. Now I will go to buy a six-pack’. And drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says, ‘You deserve a break today’… and he says, ‘Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon… to go over to your house and sleep with your wife’.”

Perhaps this is why there is not a binge drinking culture in Italy. They don’t binge on anything. They enjoy everything, slowly.

It’s my aim to have a better relationship with food. After all, we are lucky to have healthy, nutritious meals at our fingertips daily when so many of our global brothers and sisters are quite literally starving.

I’ve started saying a prayer of gratitude before each meal. Though it doesn’t have to be to God if you’re not a person of faith. Louise Hay (author and Wonder Woman) used to bless each and every meal she ate. She would thank her food for giving up its life to nourish her.

My wish for you this long, Easter weekend is that you savour every morsel of food that you ingest. That you spend time with your loved ones and really listen to everything they have to say.

May you treat your food with the same regard that you’d treat Ryan Gosling lying on Japanese silk.

Buon appetito!

Image result for ryan gosling in bed

Reality, shmeality

I have a confession to make. I have a terrible hangover.

All the symptoms are there. I have a headache, my neck is sore, I’m irritable and I’m way behind in my housework.

And yet, I haven’t had a drink in weeks.

I suspect I’m not the only Australian suffering from this hangover right now. And the culprit…MAFS!

I’ve been known to dabble in the occasional reality show in the past, but I’ve never watched a season of MAFS before this year. I’ve never really had much interest, or I was too busy watching people carry on about their dead grandmother’s recipe on MKR.

A few weeks ago, on an idle Sunday afternoon I was cooking my meal prep for my partner and I for the week and the TV just happened to be on and a catch-up of the previous week’s MAFS was on. Within about 8 minutes; the stove was turned off, my feet were curled up on the couch and I was completely and utterly hooked! The first wedding I saw was Matt and Alycia’s, and the Disney Princess inside me was adamant she was watching a real life love story unfold. Alicia was just beautiful and kind and Matt was all jittery nerves and gentle manners.

Fast forward a few weeks to the final week and I had to grab my calculator to realise that I had spent a total of 48 hours watching this show over a 7 week period! (Grab your calculators now: 4 x 1.5hr episodes a week = a country obsessed). And not only did Matt leave Alycia high and dry with little explanation straight after their honeymoon, but hardly any of the original couples (possibly none) are still together and I find myself feeling betrayed by complete strangers for not trying harder to make it work!

I’m pretty sure I was following each and every MAFS personality on Insta until one by one, they kept pissing me off and I started hitting that unfollow button. There’s homewrecker Davina (#Davina # coconut oil), misogynist Dean (who miraculously had me warming up to him in the end, in spite of him being a 39yr old rapper and skateboarder) poor old lip-licking Tracey (who had every woman facepalming week after week, even with the help of Holy Oprah watching over her) and everyone’s favourite loud mouth Charlene (who started as our Wonder Woman but quickly had us scratching our heads as she screeched at the nicest guy in the experiment to “Be a Maaaan” every time he did what we’re always saying we want our partners to do: share his feelings).

We all got way to invested in the lives of average, Australian strangers who will now return to their own fame-free lives. It was the water cooler chat at every office around the country (not to mention the hilarious recap articles by James Weir) and it even had straight, male, footballers hooked…whether they admit it publicly or not (I’ve seen the insta stories fellas). It was marketing genius and well done to the producers for not only creating a nation-wide addiction, but including contestants who aren’t all white and blonde (I’m looking at you The Bachelor). I just hope next year we see some same sex couples.

I have, however, come to the realisation that not only did MAFS make me unproductive; it made me somewhat anxious. Watching people yell at each other at dinner parties or immoral people prowling after other people’s wives or husbands with little or no regard for their current spouses creates a feeling inside me that is not calm or loving. Even MKR, that is advertised as a reality cooking show, has turned into a bizarre version of Real Housewives that sees contestants hurling more insults at each other than food onto a plate. I’m all for a little light entertainment but pitting people against each other on TV is getting a little out of hand and I worry that it’s becoming the norm, more than making friends with someone in a line at the bank.

I went for a long walk along Cronulla esplanade this afternoon and I smiled at strangers and they smiled back at me. I stopped at the top of the cliff and did some deep breathing over looking the ocean and I felt good. I felt clear in my head.

I am now going on a Reality TV Detox. I have asked my partner to crash tackle me if he catches me having a sneak peek at any upcoming Bachelor shows or cooking shows….but I’ll be damned if I’m letting go of Gogglebox or Travel Guides. That would be un-Australian.