This Messy Little Thing Called LOVE

Last week I read a post that completely unravelled me. It was one of those innocent moments when something catches your eye…

You click…

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You read…

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And somehow the words slip past your defence and turn you inside out.

Judy Clement Wall spent a year in 2011 “publicly committed to fearless love”. I’m yet to find out what that means in her collection of essays, but the manifesto took me back.

I wrote poetry as a young girl. Copious diary entries and stories and poems.

At the age of about eleven, my best friend and I shared a little boy crush. Even then, I knew it was a case of displaced affection. But I played the part, and wrote a swooney love poem. Nathan, I think, was his name.

It was an innocent enough poem. All soft, melting sighs for the beautiful eyes and a wish for that one stolen kiss…

My poems were my prized possession. Carried around in school uniform pockets, re-read and re-worked until the scraps of paper fell apart.

Or until my mother found them.

I still remember the bitter, hateful look on her face.

“Disgusting!!” she spat, as if it had a taste. “I will not have that Filth in this house!!!” Tore it to shreds and threw it in the flames of the combustion stove.

It was the moment, or one of them, when Love became something rank and vile. A dirty little secret, to be hidden in words that never see the light of day.

Writing became the place I bury things. The most important things – hate, anger, pain. And the source of all the trouble – Love.

Hide Love

I learned to hide my love and affection, which also meant my writing, very well.

This post is officially my 53rd post, which means I’ve been blogging for a year.

Bringing my words, and my heart, out into the public has been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

Yet, strangely, also one of the most transformative.

Each one of you, whether you know it or not, has encouraged me to keep going. And with each week, to be a little bolder. A little braver. A little bit more personal.

Opening ourselves involves risk. It takes us down uncertain paths and, truthfully, I’ve lost my way a little bit of late.

But sometimes, maybe that’s just what we need to find ourselves again.

Coming back, I realise – I’ve been hiding under the pretence of ‘inspirational blogger’ to shy away from the topics that move me most.

They’re not always pretty. They hurt. They confront.

They also purify.

This last year, blogging has been the only thing between me and quitting writing altogether. And every day I hide myself, I die a little bit inside.

nurse-jackie-season-4-posterAs Nurse Jackie recently taught me:

 “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

– Zoey

 It’s the opposite of what love is all about.

So, going forward, if you notice a raw edge and the occasional ‘f’ word appear. I hope you will forgive me and understand…

It’s all in the name of Truth. Authenticity. And this messy little thing called Love.

Anyone ever tell you to hide your Love? Did you listen?

Glamour Me Happy

Pam

“You don’t know me that well.
My mad face and my happy face are the same.”

– Pam (the Vampire Barbie), True Blood

This week I was over at the lovely Heather (A Very Tessa Tangent’s) blog, reading “Unsnarkism: How to be happy in 5 easy steps”. My favourite is the stapler on the head – tip 4 🙂

I was trying to think what my 5 steps to happiness would be and, naturally, since I just finished watching Season 5, my mind immediately wandered to True Blood.

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There’s that scene where the ever adorable Hoyt begs his now ex-vampire girlfriend, Jessica, to glamour him.

“I tell you what I need – from you – for my going away present. I want you to glamour me. Make me forget about you. I want you gone. Out of my head. I want to lay down, go to sleep, close my eyes and not dream about you. Ever again.”

It’s one of those tear jerker scenes. And it took me back to some of my other favourite moments in entertainment.

imagesBuffy – and the spell Willow casts to make her girlfriend, Tara, forget about their argument.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – the movie that turned me into a Jim Carey fan.

Reflecting on it now, I realise that, at least for me, happiness is closely linked to forgetfulness, ergo escape.

It may not be a recipe for lasting joy, but in the spirit of Heather’s meme, here are my 5 simple steps to a state of (temporary) bliss:

  1. Stimulants. Start the day with a strong cup of coffee, and end it with a martini. I’m in heaven.
  2. Home delivered dinner. In the middle of winter, when you’re staring at an empty fridge and your creativity is fried…Nothing spells happiness like Pumpkin Masala and some piping hot naan bread – delivered to your door!
  3. Quality TV. When I say TV, I mean, on DVD. Now that I’m done with True Blood, I’m hanging out for Breaking Bad to go on sale. Next week…
  4. Nature. A space to go walking, and forget about the world.
  5. Domesticity. This may seem at odds with the implied laziness of the first 4 points. But there’s nothing like cleaning to escape the intangibility of a writer’s pursuits. A physical task with a definite start and finish, to the tune of my best 90’s mix. I mean, who can’t enjoy cleaning to the beat of Mistadobalina?

Well, that’s about as close to being glamoured as I get.

Do you have a favourite superpower? What’s your happy drug?

For more happiness inspiration, also check out Coleen Patrick’s post on how to Bust a Wallow.

Susie Strong

I wasn’t going to post this week. Then I heard about Susie Lindau’s latest Wild Ride.

The Big C. Cancer. And a double mastectomy. Taking place today.

Just a twist in the road, she says. And, somehow, finds a way to laugh

Susie is an inspiration – always cheerful, always welcoming. And I never cease to be in awe at how she does the things she does.

As fellow wild riders, Susie and I couldn’t be more different.

Where in snow I’d be hugging a fire and a mug of mulled wine, Susie is taking a plunge

Where I am dancing on the inside, Susie is getting down Gangnam Style

Where I am holding down the brakes, Susie is strutting her scars.

If I was going to pick someone to take the Universe on for me – I’d pick Susie, every time.

Whatever higher power is responsible for sending you this latest roadblock, Susie, with a spirit like yours, there’s only one thing to be said…

Can’t touch this.

Stay strong, Susie!
Our thoughts are with you.

Many thanks to Maria, aka brickhousechick, for reaching out across the globe to include Australia in the Susie Strong message.  Please head over to Susie’s blog and send her some positive vibes today.

Coming Down to Earth

I’m warning you now. This post is not pretty…

Before I went travelling, I took great delight in watching shows like Worlds Apart, where people from developed nations got to spend a week in a village somewhere on the opposite side of the earth and live how the “natives” do.

From the safety of my living room I would hee-haw at the spoilt white people. “Wimps!” I’d say, and wonder how they could be so horribly naive.

All my words were swallowed when, on a little Indonesian boat, I was introduced to the concept of…the squatting toilet.

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“I’m not using that,” I whisper to Ms, and make a pledge to hold It til we make the two and a half hour journey to the national park. Surely they’ll have a sitting toilet there – it’s for tourists, after all…

When we got to the national park, I took off eagerly – bum bag firmly in place containing everything sanitary one could possibly imagine.

But I found, to my horror, a squatting toilet in a much less hygienic state than the one on the boat.

Until that day, I’d never before understood the point of doing squats.

Two days of squatting toilet later, I was lying in recovery on my ‘American spring bed‘ when suddenly I wailed…

“But whyyyyyy? I just don’t understand why, after this many years of evolution and advances in technology, anyone still uses a squatting toilet???”

Meanwhile, Ms (who grew up with squatting toilets) was doubled up in fits of hilarity at my expense.

When she finally recovered her composure, a lengthy discussion ensued.

I agreed I could understand how maybe the squatting toilet made sense in the days of sarongs and no underwear. “But everyone wears high heels and pants these days – it doesn’t make sense anymore!”

Squat Evolution

Then, after a long silence, “I suppose sitting where a hundred other bums have been is not hygienic either,” I muse, still unable to forget the pain in my thighs.

When I returned home, I did some research. And without going into graphic detail, scientific studies show that, in fact, squatting is a much healthier and more ergonomic way of doing business.

I don’t know. I’m not convinced. What about the splash back?

I remember the bemused look on our tour guide’s face, every time I trotted off to use the loo, and came back rubbing my hands with sanitising gel.

The moment I realised, with a stubborn kind of shame, that I am that white woman, after all…

What is it about western culture, and our need to be distanced from the dirt? It must look to others, perched as we are upon our thrones, like we think “our shit don’t stink”.

So I conclude – this is how they get us tourists back for going and messing up their formerly pristine shores.

It’s the locals way of bringing us back down to earth.

Has travel taught you any surprising home truths?

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Since returning from travel, I’ve learned another home truth – I am not managing my work and online obligations very well.

Until I can get my priorities sorted out, I will be off social media, and reducing my posting frequency to fortnightly. Apologies to anyone feeling neglected – I hope to visit you soon.

Thanks to Averil Dean for reminding me that sometimes, us writers have to say ‘no’ to Candy.

Appeasing the Dragon

Between the shamelessly ‘touristy’ chapters of our holiday in Bali, Ms and I took a detour to a more remote part of Indonesia.

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A one and half hour flight found us on the island of Flores – the gateway to the largest and oldest lizard on the planet – the Komodo Dragon.

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The dragon is endangered, its population numbering less than 4,000 and increasingly threatened by habitat loss due to tourism and a rapidly increasing human population.

Unaware that we were part of the problem, and keen to catch a glimpse of the mythic creature, we chartered an Indonesian boat and headed for an overnight tour of the islands of Rinca and Komodo.

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View nearby Golo Hilltop Hotel

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Our first surprise was finding the boat manned by two boys young enough to be in high school.

Captain Ajib, age seventeen…

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And his First Mate, Parman, age fourteen.

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While the rest of us, including our own personal tour guide, Lexy, sat back and – well, sat back – Parman hopped quietly about the boat, forever engaged in some duty or the other.

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His most important role was food preparation.

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A tasty menu of stir fried noodles, seafood and tempeh, sautéd vegetables, battered eggplant, potato fries, rice and banana pancakes – all came from a kitchen the size of a cupboard.

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His skills, picked up from his mother, frankly, put both of us women to shame. I will never again complain about my kitchen.

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Thanks to Parman, we had the energy we needed for our ‘moderate’ treks through the tropical jungle and savannah in search of the dragon.

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Our tour guide, Lexy, with the National Park Ranger.

We learned the dragon has over 50 types of bacteria in its saliva that will slowly poison the blood supply of anything it bites.

Wild buffalo (as well as the elusive wild boar)…

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Deer (as well as dogs, goats and anything smaller).

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The dragon also eats its own young, who are forced to take refuge in trees from the moment they hatch until about four years old.

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This one was about 3 months old.

We saw the whole family of dragons – the frisky teenager…

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Tired Mama (yep, another ‘Kodak Moment’)…

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Exhibitionist Papa…

And even the Grumpy Old Grandpa, whose been hanging around camp ever since he broke his leg in a fight with another male dragon.

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We were told the dragons often come to the camp, because they can smell food. But the connection between the dragons and humans goes way back…

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According to local legend, Princess Naga, the spiritual ancestor of the Ata Modo people, once gave birth to twins – a human child and a Komodo Dragon.

For this reason, the local people never kill the dragon, and would traditionally leave a deer or goat on the outskirts of the village, as an offering.

But since the islands became a National Park in 1980, this practice has no longer been allowed.

In 2007, for the first time in 33 years, a local 8 year old boy was killed by a dragon. Attacked on the outskirts of the village.

Then again, in 2009, two dragons mauled to death a fruit picker who fell out of a tree.

I wonder.  What happens when local customs are outlawed? Does the dragon magically forget its god given right to be appeased?

Or is this story symbolic of a wider imbalance between the needs of nature and the needs of humans?

Perhaps there’s no easy answer. But I know one thing – I wouldn’t want to mess with this fella…

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Have you ever seen an endangered species in the wild? Do you think they have a right to be appeased?

Kodak Moments

Hi everyone! I am back from my Bali trek, rested and more than a little mind blown.

Our travels took us to Kuta and Seminyak – the most popular beachside “villages” where most of the shopping and cocktail sipping takes place.

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Cocktails at Ku De Ta

Much of what I saw made sense when I learned that Bali’s population of 4 million is far eclipsed by the 7 million annual visitors it gets per year. Most of whom are from Australia.

Despite the overwhelming hospitality and warmth of the local people, it was impossible to overlook what they really think about us Aussies – giving pause for more than a little cultural cringe.

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Shopping sights in Seminyak

But leaving the tourism epicentre and heading inland to the arts and culture capital of Ubud, I experienced both the high and low point of my trip.

At an Australian operated Elephant Safari Park, we were introduced to a herd of 31 elephants.  Three born in the park, and the rest rescued from Sumatra due to habitat loss from palm oil plantations.

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The lodge was its own little oasis – a small tropical jungle with ponds and fountains, a lake and a safari track.  A little Garden of Eden tucked away in the hills of Ubud.

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Booked in for three nights, I had high hopes for an elephant hug or two.

On arrival, we were informed a schedule had been drawn up for our stay.  At 6.30pm, an elephant would collect us from our room and take us to dinner and a show.

We would rise for an 8.00am elephant washing, 9.30am safari ride, lunch and another show, and the whole routine would be repeated daily during our stay.

There were many opportunities for ‘Kodak moments’, as the staff insisted on capturing our fumbled attempts to scrub an already clean elephant…

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If I look like I haven’t had coffee, it’s true!

Our ‘swim’ with the elephant, that consisted of the elephant dunking us in the water, and lurching back up for a photo…

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Our hand feeding of hungry elephants, and their on command moments of gratitude. Click. Click.

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We learned that the elephant’s day typically starts from 8.00am and ends at 9.00pm.  On a busy day, they can take up to twenty rides around the same thirty-minute circuit – in addition to the rest of their activities.

Sometimes, this means eating on the job.  But on quieter days, they get time out for a feed, tethered to small patch of dirt amidst the park.

On one of our Safari rides, the elephant suddenly stops on the track.

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“She’s tired,” her mahout explains, pressing her ears with his foot to push her forward.

“It’s okay,” we say. “Let her rest.”

Relieved, they both relax. The mahout swivels around on her neck to talk to us as we pause there, in the man made jungle.

We ask how he enjoys his work.

“I love the elephant,” he redirects, politely. “My wife is jealous. She says she is my second wife.”

He explains he came with her from Sumatra, and has worked with her for thirteen years. A job for life.

“There is no training or study you can do
that can teach you how to love the elephant.
You either have it or you don’t.
Some say it is magic. But it isn’t magic.
It just comes from your heart… ”

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I’m tearful as the mahout gently encourages her to move on down the track.

When we reach the end of our ride, and disembark, I reach down to pet the elephant’s head.

She sighs, and leans her head and trunk on the platform next to me, hungry for the recognition.  Her eye searches mine, and a tear escapes us both.

“Thank you, you are a very beautiful elephant.” I say. And she lingers there until her mahout gently pushes her to go.

In that moment, I forget to take a photo.

And perhaps that’s just as well.

Do ‘kodak moments’ make you uncomfortable? What’s your favourite kodak moment that you didn’t take?

Travel Wag

After last week’s technological shutdown, I’m glad to say, things are back to normal, so now I can introduce you to some furry friends I’ve met in my recent travels.

The animal hospital’s oral history project has taken Ms and I from one end of the state and across the border to another, around the bay and everywhere between.

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Many cups of tea and 17 hours worth of interview footage later, my ears are ringing with a wealth of tantalising gossip.

But, it’s the patient bystanders who are the real heroes of this story.

On one side of the bay, in the cosy seaside town of Portsea, we met Coco and Utah.  Coco, intent on giving away some home truths, and Utah, bored silly and a little sulky after being locked away in a room for more than an hour.

The challenge of recording interviews with animal lovers is, of course, convincing their pets to be quiet and still while the camera rolls.

I felt more than a little sorry for this galah, who was intent on dancing to what was clearly the memory of a tinkling bell.

On the other side of the bay, overlooking the stunningly wild Airey’s Inlet, we met Sally – a beautiful ten year old, who did her best to feign ignorance of her misdemeanours.

She had the sadness, and the knowingness, of a dog surrendered by an overstretched single mum family to the home of a doting older couple.  And that is the most touching part of our journey.

Almost all the animals we’ve met are rescue cats and dogs.

In the middle of surburban Melbourne, we met a couple who spent thirty years rescuing strays cats.  Their home and yard is a cat paradise – as Bob’s leisurely pose seemed to suggest.

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There’s a separate dwelling for newly acquired trauma victims, and the yard is fully enclosed to prevent escape.

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I was impressed with the ingenuity – empty cans hanging on curtain rods around the fence, designed to spook the cat that dares to jump.  Simple, but very effective.

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By far, my favourite visit was the small town of Barooga – just over the Victorian border in New South Wales.

When we arrived, we were welcomed by the exuberant Misty and Paddy.  The minute the car door opened, Paddy was in my lap, landing a giant wet kiss on my nose.

Paddy Dog

Later, I learned he had been dumped out the front of the property, and spent three days running in a circle, refusing to leave the spot in the hope his owner would return.

He had the demeanour of a well loved dog, who milked his hard luck story in a constant quest for petting.

But the best part was watching him play with his new friend.

There’s nothing quite like the love or the gratitude of a rescued animal.  And as my new friend, Margaret, so eloquently put it…

“The thing about dogs is –

they wag their tails, not their tongues.”

What makes your tail wag?

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My apologies to anyone who might have been feeling a little neglected of late. My haphazard schedule has been getting the better of me. And in other news…

I’ve also been busy making preparations for a little trip to Bali. As of today, I will be away for two weeks,  making the most of an extended summer, ignoring the fact that I’m turning 36 and, hopefully, hugging an elephant or two for comfort.

Look forward to catching up with you all when I get back… Until then, love, peace and tail wags 🙂

Not Responding

It’s been one of those weeks.

My Monday inspired this tweet…

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…and by Friday, it’s looking like mental health takes more than a day.

I had today’s post all planned out – at least in my head.  I was going to regale you with stories of cute furry animals, and a list of excuses reasons why I haven’t made it to your posts this week.

But last night, during an unusually last minute attempt to get the post ready, my Internet Service Provider decided it was time to have an outage.

I woke up this morning to find the three little videos I was trying to upload to YouTube were still at 1%.  And everything was down.

Not responding

The only thing I had left was email access on my very old Nokia 😦

I’m yet to decide if this is the universe’s way of teaching me a lesson in procrastination.  Or if it is trying to tell me that it’s time to get an iPhone…

I’ve been putting off getting an iPhone, so maybe it’s a lesson in both?

The thing is, I’m scared.

Just the other day I went out for afternoon tea, and except for kitchen clatter, the place was silent.  Filled with people sitting together at tables, glued to their iPhones!

Then I read the first of Nina Badzin’s iPhone intervention series, “Help! My iPhone Has Taken Over My Life” – and I was less than reassured.

The thing is, I already have difficulty staying present in my real life.

At least, that’s what I think Monday’s boiled egg explosion proves…

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Hmm, I wonder, is being more connected really what I need right now?

This could be the dilemma of the century.  So I’m turning to you for answers.

Is it time to upgrade my phone?  Will I ever be able to disconnect again?  How do you people do it???

Anchoring the Happy

Accidents happen every day.  Just before Easter, a gust of wind caused a wall in Melbourne to collapse, crushing a brother and sister, aged 18 and 19, and another 30 year old woman.

People with their lives ahead of them.  Gone forever, leaving in their wake a wide network of grief stricken family and friends.

I’m fortunate never to have experienced this kind of grief.  But even the momentary unexplained absence of a loved one is enough to provoke the terrifying “What if?” of unexpected loss.

This is a central theme to Coleen Patrick’s debut YA novel, Come Back to Me.

ComeBackToMEWhitney is a young senior a semester away from graduation.  Her parent’s golden child, she has a scholarship and a bright future ahead of her, filled with happy, a best-friend and a bucket list…

At least, that’s how it was.  Before.  Before the accident that turned what should have been a momentary rift…into one big “morning after hangover” of regret and unresolved grief.

Come Back to Me is a story that explores the tough issue of grieving for someone who’s left you on bad terms.  It’s about forgiveness, letting go, and finding your path back to happy.

The topic is dark, yet Coleen infuses the story with a sense of humour and hope.  It’s perhaps her own experience holding onto happiness that shines through.

Coleen is no stranger to grief.  She lost her brother to a brain aneurysm, aged 31.  It was sorting through the pages of his life via his journal that she found the courage to write again.

“Life is for enjoying,” he wrote.
“Write, damn you. Write! Anything, something, Please!”

So write she does.

Last year she managed 72 blog posts, drafts on three different stories, and final edits on Come Back to Me.

Frankly, I’m in awe.

But there are other challenges, too.

For the past couple of years, Coleen has been struggling to find answers to a cocktail of unsettling health symptoms – neck pain, short term memory loss and nerve numbness.  “Kind of like trying to find Waldo”, she jokes.

Only when the doctors find Waldo, he turns out to be an ‘idiopathic’ neurological disease for which there are no real explanations or solutions.

What might be enough to propel me under the covers for good, Coleen greets with her usual sweet stoicism.

Honey soaked challah.

“A little sweet can go a long way,” she says.
“Just the idea of it offers up HOPE”.

There’s a scene in Come Back to Me where Whitney, as part of her rehabilitation, has to climb a rock wall.  She’s encouraged to see each carabineer as a clip that grounds her to the happy moments of her journey.

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“What would I ‘clip’ in place as my anchor in order to move onwards and upwards?” she asks herself.

This is what inspires me about Coleen and her writing.  Whether it’s honey dipped challah or ladybugs, it’s the sweet little things behind her self-confessed smiley addiction that power her forward momentum… 🙂 .

I ask her about the motivation behind her story.

When my brother died, that grief was very normal. It was shared and acknowledged. That experience made me think of times in my life when I’d felt a pain that wasn’t shared. Something I’m sure everyone has felt, but not everyone knows what to do with.

Many years ago, during a lecture in college, a history professor of mine said something along the lines of – you can’t help what you feel, but you can help what you do about those feelings. This has always stuck with me. I think it’s empowering, because it gives you permission to feel and then the opportunity to choose – even if that first step is simply acknowledging that your feelings are real. That opportunity allows room for hope – and hope is another part of the story’s inspiration 🙂 .

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Come Back to Me is available now on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple i-Bookstore and Kobo.  Also, if you’re looking for a daily dose of smiles, I encourage you to check out Coleen’s blog.

What keeps you anchored to your happy?

Hello, World!

This week, I’m introducing you to a little fella who’s been itching to guest post on my blog.  I wasn’t sure I should let him loose – you never know what he might say.  But in the interests of going with the flow…

Please say, “Hello, Pepi!”

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Hello, World!! Finally, she let me out of my pen!

She promised me fame and fortune, but seriously, this writer has been sleeping on the job.  I bet you don’t even know there are already three e-Books out about me…

ME, ME, ME!

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Me when I was still a pup! How cute am I?!

  • Name: Pepi.
  • Age: Forever Young.
  • Breed: Small dog. BIG personality. (If you must know…chi cross foxy).
  • Eyes: Chestnut.
  • Fur: Raven silk (with peppered milky paws!).
  • Star sign: Gemini.
  • Likes: Bouncy balls, squeaky toys, Mummy’s platform shoes, foreign languages, talking, sugar, spice and Mummy’s home cooked food, being the centre of attention, all creature comforts, MUSIC!
  • Dislikes: Being ignored.
  • Idol: Prince.
  • Theme song: Return of the Mack.

So. Where was I?

That’s right.  There comes a time in a dog’s life when he needs friends.

At least that’s what Mummy tells me.  Apparently I’ve been chewing on too many of her shoes…

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Anyway, she’s in the process of finding me what she calls a ‘fur friend’. Can’t help feeling a little bit demoted – who said anything about fur friends?!

I want HUMAN friends! Like my mate, Andi.

She’s cute, adorable and (okay, a little bit naughty) – just like me! She loves dogs…

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…and she totally gets my need for celebrity!

The other day she set me up with my very own Twitter account! She’s my bestest buddy in the whole wide world – I follow her everywhere!

I’m so excited! At the risk of sounding a little bit needy… 😛

Pleeeeease follow me… I wanna play…!!

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I promise, if you do, we’ll have a blast…!!

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Phew! I’m glad he didn’t give away too many secrets…

Thanks for tuning in! We wish you a wonderful Easter break.

But before you go. Are there any Twitter tips you’d care to share with Pepi to keep him out of mischief?