30 September 2013

Trey Ratcliff's keynote at Problogger: "Stop worrying what others think", Trey told us. "Be yourself. People that should be in your world will come into your world."


There was a guy at the Problogger Event wearing Google Glass. He talked about what they can do - make him see and interact with the internet using his voice, ear, eye and brain. This is the future and we are in it. Amy Porterfield, Facebook marketing extraordinaire, said Google Glass is like having a baby or a puppy - they're a total chick magnet. Here's Problogger chatting on the couch to Google Glass man.


Pip Lincolne and I had a photo taken with Google Glass man. We stood next to The Future.

His name is Trey Ratcliff - a photographer and blogger (that's his amazing photo above and below) and Google Plus expert (with over six million G+ contacts!), and to be honest, I was more interested in his beliefs than the highly technical and slightly distracting eyewear.

At times, the Problobber Event was a little evangelical. In a good way. So much was said that made me want to shout hallelujah or fist pump the air. Instead, to avoid looking like the only evangelical one in the room, I madly tweeted the things that resonated with me. You might have noticed that I've been writing a lot about dreaming, taking the leap and making great plans for myself. I'm often in a sense of wonder, realising the potential. And Trey Ratcliff's keynote address and photos at Problogger made me dream big, realise my potential and make more plans. People at Problogger just got it. They got the excitement of blogging, they got the drive and passion it brings. They understood and emphasised the feeling that blogging and creative pursuits are valid career paths.

Trey's keynote address on the second morning of Problogger had me fist punching, despite my throbbing headache from cider flu (read - a hangover from shenanigans the previous night). He spoke off the cuff, regaling funny stories that all had strong messages - the stories were chosen by the roll of a dice. His photos were magical, adding to the power of realising our potential. He spoke a lot about being different ("We don't want our kids to grow up 'normal' because interesting things happen on the edges of the bell curve.") and living in the moment ("I found peace through living in the now. I make more memories this way.") and being true to our dreams - getting out of situations that make us unhappy and dispassionate, and getting into situations that make us happy and passionate. He said he manages a small number of employees who are all passionate - and he'd rather this than managing a large number who are dispassionate.

"You can accidentally get good at a life you don't want And you end up trapped", Trey said. I feel this way a lot, and recently I've realised it's time to make changes. But I've also been thinking 'reasonably', wondering if my feelings are too self entitled, like I'm special. And then Trey said "We all have the gentle throbbing in the back of our heads that we're meant to do great and interesting things", followed by "I might not be much but I'm all I can think about." And I imaginary fist punched the air so hard. Trey said: "The question is not what's the worst that could happen?, but what's the best that could happen?" What is the best that could happen when you follow your dreams? That you are happy and fulfilled?

(Pic by Trey Ratcliff via Problogger's Facebook)

Trey also spoke about those who doubt you, who don't understand your passions - the haters, if you like. He said that in the photography industry, he does things differently - post edits his photos, but he doesn't let the critics get to him because he believes in what he does. "Begone with everyone that doesn't like what you have to say. Let the rocks they throw at you fall", he said. I've felt, in recent times, that I've burnt a few bridges with people. I realise I cannot please everyone, and have not taken things to heart as I may have done previously.

In blogging, and all creative pursuits, there's self doubt. Blogging and digital media is new, there's a high level of uncertainty and distrust. And there is the notion that following your dreams is unrealistic, selfish, frivolous, irresponsible and self entitled. I have read a little about the self entitlement and expectations of Gen Ys lately, and have worried I am the type of Gen Y that the journalists are describing. But those who have made the jump before us just get it. They will support your dreams. "Stop worrying what others think", Trey told us. "Be yourself. People that should be in your world will come into your world."

Pip Lincolne said "If you hang out with the right people, all kinds of possibilities present themselves. Ideas spark all over the place and you can feel yourself being grounded and growing like a vine, all at the same time." And I strongly believe this. The people in my life are bringing out the best in me, giving me ideas and support, and a great energy that makes me want to do more.

In Trey's keynote speech, there was so much validation that blogs are valid and worthy. They're a way of expressing ourselves and also exploring our thoughts and feelings. "A blog is probably the greatest self discovery tool of our age. It's a digital version of ourselves", Trey said. I've certainly felt that I've come to know myself better through blogging - I've grown personally and professionally. Writing this blog has helped me to know myself and know where I want to be. I'm more aware of the path I want to take than I've ever been.



27 September 2013

What I see when I look in the mirror - for the What I See Project

Sometimes I wonder whether people with visible differences and disabilities are not expected to be happy with our appearance. That we should feel ashamed. We should want to and try to change how we look. We should seek a cure, or at least something to cover up that unsightly... Why should we want to go to a hairdresser and get a fabulous haircut or buy some great clothes when we've got this affliction? How can we possibly be happy when we're so far removed from any magazine cover, let alone the model on page 87 of that magazine? Others tell us they could not handle looking like us.

So what would you say if I said I was happy with myself when I look in the mirror? Even when people question whether I should be or suggest I should find a cosmetic cure? Because I am. I can look myself in the eye the same way I look the world in the eye. Being comfortable with and confident about my appearance surprises people. It shouldn't.

I believe it's ok to be proud of our appearance if we have a visible difference or disability, or if we don't. We should celebrate our beauty by taking pride in ourselves. We should feel good about the way we look - as much as I hate this othering phrase - just like everyone else.


I've never had a problem with my weight or body image. I have never been on a diet and am body confident. I almost feel that I should feel guilty for writing that.

It's no secret I love my food. There's evidence about what I eat on my social media - it's for the world to see. I eat what makes me feel happy and healthy. Sometimes I eat too much.

Lately I've been looking at my body and not loving it as much as I should. I could do with toning my tummy. My arms looked huge in a recent photo. I should probably lose a few kilos. I've been comparing too much. I watch those Bonds ads - where the trim and taut girls are dancing - and think back to when I looked like that. I'm almost 32 and I have noticed that my super lucky, super fast metabolism has started to slow down a lot compared to when I was 22.

I've been dreaming of exercising, and actually want to do it. I've been pretty sore over the last month and that's probably what stopped me. That and fear. Fear of being sore, losing precious time and a lack of enjoyment. I need to drink a cup of concrete and do the exercise properly. (I have gone for a short run, lots of walks, done some arm/thigh squats and a few situps/pushups on my floor, but I need more than that.)

I went past a sportswear shop yesterday and bought some new clothes for exercising in. They are heavily discounted, brightly coloured brand names - leggings and tank tops and an awesome hi-vis lightweight jacket - five items for $120!

And I wore those clothes last night. To the gym. I did 45 minutes of exercise. I clumsily navigated the elliptical trainer (I imagine astronauts feel the same way when they walk above the earth) and held on for dear life runwalking six kilometres an hour on the treadmill. I burnt calories and felt the burn in my calves. I moved three kilometres in total. It's a start.

It felt great. Then it felt sore (in my skin). Then great again. And I realised that I should love my body for what it can do - walk and climb and lift. And renew. It's amazing that every day I start anew with a different layer of skin. Different skin to what I had yesterday. That's amazing!

So, what I see when I look in the mirror is more complex than just appearance. It's about my skin working really hard - so hard I can see it changing - and also my face - being a silent participant in changing expectations about it might be like to look different. Sometimes I set out to be an appearance activist, other times I just find myself being one by going about my daily life.



I was asked to participate in the What I See Project, answering the question "what do I see when you look in the mirror?". I filmed it weeks ago now - well Tash filmed me, and I did 3467 takes, because it all sounded better in my head. Here's what I had to say.


The What I See Project is a global online platform that recognises and amplifies women’s voices. The What I See Project was established to celebrate the inspiring women from everyday life whose stories would otherwise go unacknowledged. It was launched in February 2013, and has already seen over 500 contributions from more than 350 women across eleven different countries. This community continues to grow everyday.

The project aims to provide a safe environment where women can share their struggles, achievements and inner thoughts, and express themselves freely through a website that appreciates them for who they really are. Throughout a year, The What I See Project aims to reach out to as many women as possible, from as diverse a range of locations and walks of life as possible.

From 26 August - 1 October, The What I See Project will showcase over 100 unique female voices as part of an awareness campaign. A diverse group of writers, editors, bloggers and communicators from fashion, science, business, politics, art, sport, feminism and motherhood have participated to tell their inspiring stories. There are also a number of prominent female ambassadors representing the campaign. The campaign highlights real female role models, the everyday heroines whom other women can relate to and admire, and amplify voices that would otherwise go unheard.

Ten short documentaries have been released, each one exploring the thoughts and feelings of a woman who has become an outstanding success in their particular profession. A film of these ambassadors will then be premiered on 1 October at The Science Museum in London (I was invited but sadly could not attend).

I was honoured to be asked to be involved in the What I See project - I came across it on Twitter about six months ago and loved the diversity of women and listening to the ways they saw themselves. There is such wisdom, knowledge and self awareness in all of their stories. A friend of mine happened to be in a video too! Small world!

You can get involved with the What I See Project in the following ways:

Submit your story


Twitter (Hashtag for campaign #whatiseecampaign)




Linked In


26 September 2013

Fundraising update: Wrap Tina With Love.

Overnight the fundraising effort for Tina topped $1000! Our target was $300.

This generosity and kindness has blown me away. So many people have made donations that will go a long way, and so many people have shared Tina's story and link to her donation page.

Thank you for raising funds and awareness. These funds will make an incredible difference to Tina, and I know she will feel loved by the wonderful words and gestures of support.

In the next few days I will write to Tina to ask her exactly what she needs from this money, to ensure she is comfortable.

The treatment (both medically and socially) I have relieved in Australia for my Ichthyosis has been exemplary, and I only wish it was the same around the world. Tina has had a difficult life suffering from Ichthyosis in India, and this fundraiser is the least I can do to make her life a little easier. DeDe has articulated the need to help others less fortunate than ourselves so well - read her blog here.

You can donate to Tina at My Cause.

Thank you all.


25 September 2013

A cause for you to consider: Wrap Tina With Love - Tina's story continued.


A couple of months ago, the beautiful Tina shared her story of living with Ichthyosis in India on my blog. Her story was heartbreaking - and many of you were moved by her words. Here's an excerpt of Tina's story in her own words:

"At the age of 5 all children started to go to school but I could not as the schools never wanted to give admission to a child who was terrible to look at, I don’t remember anyone carry me as a child, or speak kindly. I did not have friends as the mothers used to tell their children to keep away from my as I had a terrible disease and they would get affected. I had lots of problems as the skin used to scale all over from scalp on to my shoulders and arms and I had to hear those unsightly remarks My only friends were the stray cats and dogs and pigeon that I rescued when they were injured. I took solace in these animals, and as I grew up books and music and church was my entertainment. I used to dread going out because of the stares and the rude remarks. I was always and still considered an outcast by some. There are people who will not touch anything that I touch. They will not eat when I offer and will not like to offer food to me. Parents do not like me to hold their babies. In fact many used to say I have leprosy. I have friends a few now who are very supportive."

Tina does it tough with her Ichthyosis - it's medically, socially and financially challenging. She has been excluded her whole life and three quarters of her wage goes toward her medical costs. The heat in India is particularly difficult for her condition. She's told me that people are afraid to shake her hands, and wrote that mothers wouldn't let her play with other children because they thought she had leprosy. Ichthyosis is not contagious.

This week, Tina's mother passed away this week after being bedridden with vascular dementia. Her mother raised Tina alone while working as a medical missionary. Tina spent a long time caring for her mother, which placed greater financial strain on Tina. I am so sad for Tina - her mother was her rock.

To lighten her burden a little, I've set up a My Cause page, to raise money to buy Tina a cooling vest and some creams - and send them to India. Please read her story and consider making a donation that you can afford. Donations can be made in any currency.

If you're unable to make a donation, please consider sharing the link to the donation page with your networks. Or you can leave a message of support in a comment below - I will make sure she sees them.

Yesterday I created the My Cause page. (Prior to doing so, my good friend Friday wrote a blog post about Tina - thank you so much, Friday.) I set the cause target for $300. In less than two hours, it exceeded that amount by almost double. To those who have donated, thank you so much for your incredible kindness and generosity. I know that the money you've donated will benefit Tina. She has had a difficult life suffering from Ichthyosis in India, and this fundraiser is the least I can do to make her life a little easier. Ichthyosis is difficult to live with, and I cannot imagine not receiving the support, compassion and financial assistance needed to keep well.

I'll keep you updated about Tina's progress.

Thank you. I am overwhelmed by your generosity.

To Tina - I send you my love and sympathy. I hope we can help you in a small way.


24 September 2013

Getting into my comfort zone after the Problogger Event - read: seeing a band. #pbevent

There was a bit of talk about getting out of your comfort zone at the Problogger Event. Darren Rowse said “getting out of your comfort zone is when sparks fly”. He talked about the people you meet and the opportunities that arise when you push yourself into doing something you may be a little afraid of, or go somewhere you might not want to go.

I am such a social person – I can be loud, I love meeting new people and I love talking. I enjoy hearing peoples' stories. I like having dinner with people and laughing. I have a diverse range of friends.

But I do crave alone time (it’s the only child/sole dweller in me) and also familiarity. While apparently my personality type is an ENFJ - which means I am an extrovert, I think I'm equal parts extrovert and introvert. Those tests are freakishly accurate, aren't they?! (There was talk of personality types at Problogger, and I just took my test.)


- Prefers harmony to discord

- Outgoing and warm-hearted

- Genuinely interest in the feelings of others

- Often have a diverse range of friends and acquaintances

- Great at supporting and encouraging others

- Excellent organizers

- Seek approval from other people

- Organised and enjoy structure and careful planning.

- Likes sticking to a schedule - this makes them feel in control."

In between sessions at the Problogger Event, I wanted a little time out – some quiet, but also doing the stuff I like to do in every day life. I wanted to get myself into my comfort zone - at least for a few hours. Networking is tiring!

I read books and magazines on the plane, I dabbled my feet in the pool and I hung out with Clare, a friend who I met in New York last year. Clare came to the pre-conference party and we ate and drank at the Stingray Lounge at the QT hotel (great food!), then went back to my apartment for more drinks and icecream (hello Cold Rock cake batter icecream!) and a long overdue giggly chat.

And the next night, Clare and I went to see a band. Doing this sort of thing makes me feel at home, makes me feel like myself. Maybe seeing a band is my equivalent of going to a spa? It was a coincidence that Bob Evans (Kevin Mitchell) was playing on the Gold Coast when I was there. I left the Problogger party early (standing up and drinking at a party isn't really my thing, sitting down and drinking at a band is!), and Clare drove us to the Sound Lounge at Currumbin RSL where Bob Evans was playing. I find it interesting to see how audiences view bands in other places - levels of interest vs talking, camaraderie of fans (the fans here were very friendly and polite), the amount of singing along, and sitting vs standing. The Sound Lounge was a very relaxed venue - apparently Currumbin is not the Gold Coast that most people know.


Drinks were cheap, we sat on cushions on the floor, and I absorbed the music. I only took around three pictures of him playing – which is out of the ordinary for me – and had far more drinks than I usually have a gigs (again, out of the ordinary, because in Melbourne I have to focus on getting myself home safely). It was a fun night! Kevin played a new, yet to be released song with some affirming lyrics that Clare eagerly tweeted: "don't give up on yourself, 'cause you're the reason I get out of bed", and he also played two of my absolute favourites: Hand Me Downs and In Another Time. It was a great show!

Both Kevin and I discussed that we were too dressed up to be at a pub gig! (The patrons at the Sound Lounge were just lucky that I didn't choose the Carmen Miranda style fruit hat as part of my tropical costume for the Problogger party!)

What do you do to get into your comfort zone?

What personality type are you? Take a test here.

Do you like to see bands in other locations?

(You can view my other Problogger Event wrap up posts here.)


23 September 2013

Debt. AKA the really vulnerable blog post.

At Problogger (I know, lately all of my blog posts begin with that sentence - it's just because I was SO inspired!), Darren Rowse and other guest speakers like Andrea from Fox in Flats and Caz from Y Travel Blog talked of being brave and publishing a post that reveals something really personal about yourself - these posts showing your vulnerability will mean the most to readers, because its likely they will identify with what you've written. I write about quite personal stuff here, with boundaries. I've written about love, grief, death, sex, fandom and pain. I called my Mum on Saturday night and told her that I'm finally writing a blog post about my former bad financial habits. It felt cathartic to do so. And maybe one of you readers will identify with what I've written.


People only talk about money when they're doing well with it. Good debts like a house, investments or a lottery win. No one talks about when things get tough and they're receiving a final demand notice for their electricity bill or when their mother gets a call to follow up why her daughter's store credit card hadn't been paid off. That was my electricity bill and my mother receiving a letter from a debt collector for my debts, maybe six or seven years ago. Being bad with money is shameful, guilt ridden and a stain on a seemingly perfect life.

I came across a young woman in her early 20s, showcasing her latest purchases, proudly announcing that she has no financial control. This worried me - because I've been there. I was that 21, 22, 23, 24 year old. I wanted to tell her how dangerous her habits were - that they were nothing to be proud of or laugh off.

It started with that pesky 12 month interest free payment plan for my first computer in September 2003. Who knew no monthly payments doesn't actually mean NO PAYMENTS?! The life of the debt was longer than the life of that computer. And then there was a bank credit card or two, and some bills - phone bills, electricity and gas bills - that I ignored and went shopping for clothes instead. I thought the bills would go away. But they didn't.

Getting into debt was a bit like gambling, I guess. I'd shop, I'd ignore the bills, and I'd get some instant gratification out of the purchase of a new dress or DVD. I'd get a rush, shopping was a hobby, and I'd do it regularly. Maybe it was loneliness, or unhappiness with my situation at the time, and I think it had a lot to do with clothing aspiration through reading a fashion forum. My purchases were nothing lavish, no brand names - but they just added up, and spending frivolously came before the bills. I wasn't in debt a huge amount - maybe $3000 or $4000 in total - but I was drowning. I'd be awake at night worried how I would pay debts off, I'd worry that I couldn't afford the things I really needed - food and my tablets and creams.

And then my Mum found out. That was scarier than the knock on the door from a debt collector. But having someone in my life know my situation was a relief. Mum didn't have to rescue me, but she did. She paid off my debts - and I paid her back - as much as I was able to afford each pay. It took more than a year to do. At the time when Mum found out I was in trouble, I called Lifeline to talk things through. And I asked one of my best friends - an accountant - to draw up an budget for me.

That budget was drawn up about six years ago - and I still stick to a similar budget now, even though my wage has increased. At the time, I also made sure I scheduled all of my bills via direct debit so I didn't have to think about them. I pay off a little of my gas and electricity each pay day, so I don't deal with a big quarterly bill. (Once my electricity was out when I arrived home at night, and I called the energy company to check if there was a local fault or a problem with my account - and they said I was in credit by $600! Six hundred dollars!! That would never have been the case in 2006!)

I haven't given a house purchase much thought, because the reality is, housing prices are too high for me to afford. But I know that my credit rating will be tarnished by my need for a quick splurge at the shops one lonely Saturday afternoon when I was in my early-mid 20s.

In the four years, since paying off those debts, I've improved with money and bills by a thousand percent:

I am a secondary credit card holder with my Mum, and I pay off my credit card by the end of the month if I use it (and she reminds me if I haven't!).

I use my credit card for online purchases like domestic flights, accommodation and bulk concert tickets - but they're rare purchases. I occasionally use my credit card for in-store purchases like my new fridge last month or my MacBook in 2010, but I make sure I have the money in the bank to pay those purchases off right away or forecast how long it may take to pay them off before buying them. I use my Visa and MasterCard debit cards (above) for most online purchases and all of my everyday in-store purchases.

I schedule all my bills so they're being paid off by direct debit each pay. I pay a little of my utilities and insurance off this way so they're more manageable.

Shopping is no longer a hobby. But I don't feel bad when I spend the money that I've allocated myself to spend on fun stuff. (I bought a few lovely things on the Gold Coast, and the money I had left over was out straight back into my savings account.) I've also cut down on reading magazines that make me want to shop (ironically, even though I read Shop Til You Drop mag each month!) and spend very little time on the fashion forums. I don't aspire to dress like others now. I save for a purchase and use lay-by on occasion (I bought my new quilt and a dress on lay-by).

I talk about money now - at least to my Mum and accountant friend. I tell them how much I've got saved up. And I admit - to myself - when I can't afford to do spend money or do something that is out of my budget.

I've got some savings. All of the money I get for writing and speaking is paid directly into a high interest savings account that is not linked to my debit card or internet banking, and I put a portion of my day job pay into this account each fortnight. I have another online savings account that I can access for spare money if I need it. Sometimes I feel like I'm still skating on thin ice with my every day spendings account, but I've always got a buffer. And I make savings goals - I see that holiday that is 30 March 2014, and I know I must save for it.

I was so proud to have $8000 in savings a few weeks ago. I was even prouder to be able to pay for my entire previous trip overseas with my own money (I set myself little goals - buying tickets for BlogHer, then the airfares, then accommodation and finally saving up my spending money). And I paid for the airline tickets for my next trip up front.

I may not be rich but I've got my shit together with my money and bills. I used to be scared to look at my bank account and to open bills, and now I am not. And it feels so bloody good.

To that girl in her early 20s, who's proud of her lack of financial control and credit card adventures - I urge you to be careful. Those clothes may look great on you and make you squeal and sigh when you unwrap them at home. Shopping may be a social, adrenaline filled activity. But that credit card bill and possible future debt might not bring you so much joy - instead it may lead to guilt, worry and sadness, spiralling into further debt, fearing the debt collector, getting a bad credit rating and not being able to afford the essentials - all making you wonder whether that new dress was even worth it?. The clothes I got into debt for were in fashion for one season. My debt lasted longer.

Don't be proud of being financially out of control. Be proud of saving and paying those bills and that credit card off. Be proud of being able to pay for your purchases up front.

If you're seeking financial counselling, visit Money Smart - the Australian government website.

If you need to talk to someone, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


22 September 2013

The weekend: pizza, a blogging class, a movie and lunch with new friends.

I've been quite sore this weekend - with Friday spent resting and much of Saturday and Sunday doing a little more of the same.

I made pizza for dinner on Friday night - I bought this dough already made up from my local bakery and it rose to the size of a football. And it was $2.45 for half a kilo! That's three pizzas worth!

My pizza was a halfa - potato, rosemary and garlic, and tomato, salami and olives - with mozzarella all over.
It rose so big in the oven!
On Saturday morning I had a sleep in and then gave a lesson in blogging to a friend. I was so excited! I've decided to give some more blogging lessons - do you want to hire me? Contact me if you do!
Here is her blog - isn't it great?! She commissioned that logo after giving a brief to 99 Designs. I loved seeing how excited she was when all of the elements came together. Visit it here.
I wore denim and stripes - my new fave combo. I picked up a denim jacket on The Gold Coast last weekend and have worn it to death this week.
I rested some more at the cinema - drinking an iced lychee bubble tea and watching Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. Gosh I adore Cate.
Sunday morning was sunshine and sandals. That sun was lovely. I sat outside the State Library before meeting some friends.
I met some new friends - a family I've come to know through an Ichthyosis support group. The two little girls have Ichthyosis. They are so adorable: chatty, smart and funny - they guessed my age at 90 and 20, and then asking "how come you are 31 Carly, Why?!", quickly adding that I was born "many many many years ago"!
They both drew me pictures - this was the five year old's picture of her and I! She's invited me to come to her school to talk to her class, and calls me her new friend. The cutest!

The five year old wants to be a school teacher, a swimming teacher and hairdresser but doesn't know what days she will do those jobs on, and the three year old wants to be a princess and the The Tooth Fairy!

It was a lovely lunch - gosh this condition has afforded me the opportunity of meeting great people!

I'm still a little sore but will be ok :)

What did you do?


20 September 2013

What I learnt about digital content creation at the Problogger Event #pbevent

Character using scissors to create content



One of the big takeaways I got at the Problogger Event was that us bloggers are all content creators, and that it’s really easy to value-add onto the content we’ve already created (our blogs, duh!). Years ago, it was very expensive to create digital content, but now it’s become much cheaper, though quite a bit harder to get our content noticed.

I went to a couple of sessions that talked about content and product creation – a “launching your speaking career” with the very lovely Yvonne Adele (you may know her as Ms Megabyte) and Trevor Young (you may know him as PR Warrior) and also a session specifically about creating digital content, run by social media experts Ed Dale and Shayne Tilley (pictured below). Ed and Shayne said "Everyone has a product inside them that will help someone".



Here are my top five tips about digital content creation – the things that I will be doing, like right now:

1. Don't spend too much money on your blogs and digital products. There are apps that do stuff cheaply, and online communities to answer your questions. Shayne and Ed recommended Fiverr – where you can source experts to do stuff for you, for $5. You don’t need to learn coding for your blog when there’s an expert who can do this for you.

(Edit: I forgot to add - There was also talk of bartering of skills, so you don't necessarily have to pay the bottom dollar for a service that you believe is more valuable than $5.)

2. Take the time to learn about the things you are interested in and want to be good at. (I cant recall who gave this tip - it may have been said in another session. there was just so much to absorb at the conference!) I’ve changed my reading habits to include blogs and magazines to educate myself in start-ups and social media - my two faves at the moment are Collective and Monocle magazines. I've also bought a few books of wisdom. Ed and Shayne recommended Digital Publisher, which I have found on iTunes. And to think, five years ago I bought Cosmo and Cleo every month...

3. Podcasts are easy to create and distribute onto your blog and social media accounts. Shayne and Ed recommend the Auphonic app to create podcasts straight from your smart phone - no complex thingies needed! I've downloaded it to my phone and will have a play soon. I love podcasts and want to make my own!

4. Take your top 10 blog posts, copy and paste them into word, brand the document with your branding, and make the document into a PDF. You now have an eBook. You can sell this at your speaking events, or giveaway in exchange for email addresses/reader details. This was a tip from Yvonne-Adele and Trevor, and I would say it's my favourite!

5. “Don't be intimidated by others who have created content before you. It's creative carnage for everyone. Just do it.” Ed and Shayne were very passionate and encouraging. I’ve been thinking about value adding onto my blog for a while, especially through podcasts and ebooks, and now I know it’s not hard and nothing to be afraid of, I will give it a go.

What are your goals for your blog?

How are you learning new things?

Have you switched from reading trash mags to intellectual ones?


19 September 2013

Nine awesome people I met at the Problogger Event #pbevent

I met lots and lots of people at the Problogger Event. There were simply too many to be able to meet everyone, but the people I did meet were all wonderful. Here’s just a few of the people I have come to know through Problogger (and some online prior to the conference), and think you should know them too.

Tamsin Howse - editor in chief at Kiki and Tea - I'm a sometimes contributor there. It was so much fun hanging out! (Note that I'm standing on my toes to be as almost as tall as Tamsin, and my eyes were a bit blinded by the morning sun!)

Economies of Kale – Liz blogs about chronic illness and healthy food. We sat next to eachother in the final session of the first day.

Jules Galloway – a natropath and another healthy eating blogger – a lovely woman who took me under her wing.

The Life of Clare – Clare is all about sustainable living, whole food cooking and travel. I met her early on in the conference, at the breakfast, and I introduced her to her blogging idol, Veggie Mama. Her fandom was very cute. Clare is expecting her first baby too!

The Plumbette - Bec a female plumber! I chatted to Bec sitting outside at lunch on the second day – she asked me lots about my blogging journey and she seemed so keen to learn.

Vanisha - I also met Vanisha early on during the breakfast (first world problem: the croissants were too scratchy for my face). Vanisha is a blogger from Canberra and she has also started a blogging mentoring website and program called The Purposeful Blogger. I went on a Gold Coast shopping tour with Vanisha and six other lovely ladies on Sunday.

Emma Stirling and Catherine Saxelby - I have met Emma and Catherine before - they're both dietitcians. I met Emma at the Heart Foundation cooking class and bumped into Catherine in New York on a food tour (so funny that we were on the same tour in such a big city!) and then we were at BlogHer together. These ladies are so inclusive, and they really care about healthy eating and social good.

Jacinta Tynan - I have followed Jacinta's newspaper columns for a little while now - I admire her as a writer. She asked a question at one session I attended, and I thought she looked familiar. I checked her twitter, looked at her, then tweeted to her that I think I am sitting next to her, and that I like her writing. We had a little chat - she is starting to blog after writing for the mainstream media for a long time. I also really loved her pink jeans and striped top!

I have truly made some good friends through blogging. I love meeting the people I get to know online in person. I only wished there was more socialising time at the Problogger Event!

If you were at Problogger, who did you bump into?

And what new blogs have you discovered recently?


18 September 2013

Problogger Event part one - daring to dream with Clare Bowditch #pbevent (and I was published on The Guardian!)

Last week I went to the Problogger Training Event on The Gold Coast in Queensland.

It was a fantastic working holiday. I'm not rested but I am inspired, motivated and assured that dreams are allowed and very possible. My blogging colleagues and friends just got it. Blogging is a thing, its valid and it can lead to a career. I had so many lightbulb moments - I want to soar.

Thanks to everyone who put the ProBlogger Event together, all the friends I have made through blogging, all of the encouragement I received, to Queensland for its nice weather and friendly people, and for tomorrow and beyond - where I will implement this inspiration that I immersed myself in throughout the event.

I live tweeted the shit out the the event - 282 tweets with a reach of over one million people - and I want to share my favourite parts with you all in series of posts.

There was a lot of permission given to dream at the Problogger Training Event. Darren Rowse, Problogger himself (or The Master as I called him) spoke about it. Trey Ratcliff did too. And so did Clare Bowditch. This post is about her session.

Clare Bowditch ran a session called "How to do what you want in life". She is a singer, actor, mum, wife and founder of Big Hearted Business - a business school for creative types. "There's no better time in the history of humanity for people to be doing what they want and to talk about meaningful things", she said.

Clare talked about how she really just wanted a creative career but was stuck in a job that didn't match her goals. She wanted to make a difference to people. She wanted to sing. And then she jumped. She's so warm, friendly and funny, and the audience was captivated.

She asked us to write down what we wanted to be when we were children. I wrote down that wanted to be a writer. And I am.

Clare said "When you are doing what you want to do in the world, you'll forget it's your job" - something I've been been thinking a lot about lately.

She also said "Sometimes it's our suffering that leads us to do what we're meant to do in the world". It resonated with me so much. I'm not suffering by any means but I'm making the best out of my situation by telling my story.

"How do we do what we were born to do?", asked Clare Bowditch. "We Begin."

Over the weekend, lots of people asked me how did I go from being a blogger to writing for mainstream media. I told them that I began. I just wrote, wrote for practice, studied journalism, practiced some more, and then got up the confidence to pitch to publications once I'd built up a portfolio of writing on my blog. I participated in writing festivals, I noted down publications that aligned with my values. I introduced myself to the people I needed to know. And I promoted my work. And I'd encourage everyone else who has a dream to write to do the same.

Clare Bowditch encouraged us to listen to our dreams, to follow them. Everyone at Problogger Event did.

A couple of months ago I wrote one of my dreams down for a journalist. To be published on The Guardian, I said. The article she wrote about me was published here.

And so it happened. I was published on The Guardian. (!!!!!!)


I blogged, I tweeted to the twittersphere, an editor from The Guardian saw the tweet and read my blog and asked me if she could run it in The Guardian. I squealed! And said yes! It was run last Thursday!

Just don't read the comments. Except for these, which are pretty tame and supportive.

And this comment thread if you want a laugh.

FYI DavidNcidl - I work full time and freelance on the side. I don't receive any benefits from Centrelink. And The Guardian Australia commissioned this article (it's syndicated to the UK and US editions). There's always one commenter pushing the welfare angle, isn't there?

I dreamed, I wrote that dream down, and my dream came to life.

"You want this amazing life, but you can't decide. You don't have to be just one thing, but you have to start something", Clare sang. Just begin. Just start.

(If you would like to buy a virtual pass so you can catch up on the audio and video of the Problogger Event sessions, you can. Click here for my affiliate link. No pressure though.)


16 September 2013

Walking Alongside Someone With A Visible Difference

It seems the more people I meet, and the more friends I make, the more I am reminded that people do treat me both normally and differently. Almost all of the new people who come into my life comment on how much they notice the staring. I never realised staring is that prominent until people remind me.

Tash, a friend I met through blogging, once said to me that she often forgets why people stare at us when we go out together. I am so used to being stared at and commented on that I forget what it must be like for my friends. Of course, I don't feel like my appearance is a burden on them, but I imagine the stares we receive must be just as tiring for them as it is for me. Camille has said that since her lung transplant (which means she no longer carries an oxygen tank with her), she's noticed a lot more stares when we go out together, because she no longer gets stared at alone.

James Partridge, CEO of and author of Changing Faces (the charity and book of the same name), wrote about how when people with visible differences are in the company of people with 'normal' looking faces, it can put strangers at ease during first time encounters - it shows that we are accepted by society. Partridge also wrote "being in a crowd with normal faced friends will almost certainly protect you from abuse and assure your integrity; the very fact of being with a normal-looking person will give you credibility." Furthermore, Partridge writes about implied slurs - people worrying their status of attractiveness could slip by you being in their presence. Partridge uses the example "You aren't pretty enough to be seen among us"; and adds "Nothing may be said, but the looks tell it all." Lifelong experience of having a visible difference has taught me how to read looks and hesitant behaviour from strangers (and sometimes people I know). I am not being paranoid, or thinking the worst of people - I just know these looks. There have been occasions where people have hinted they don't want me in their photo. And I'm certain that a reason for relationships not getting off the ground is that some boys have been embarrassed to be seen with me and not sure how to handle strangers' reactions.

My friends can also see reasons for me to be frustrated with ignorance, hurtful comments and discrimination, and how sometimes I can't keep on being polite. Recently I had dinner and a long, long chat with Kath, a friend who is missing part of two diagonal limbs. She is incredibly smart and funny, and very comfortable and confident about her disability. We were chatting about disability, and how it is just so tiring explaining and defending the way we look, and how we prefer to educate people on our own terms. She said that she is happy to stand in front of a lecture hall or write an article, but she doesnt want to educate people in her every day life just walking down to the shops. Which is the way I feel. I believe it's ok to only want to educate people on our own terms. When the taxi driver thing blew up in July, the things that annoyed me the most were that people expected me to educate everyone I meet - that I should be ok with answering every question that comes my way because I experience this all the time; and that I should also be polite in all my encounters. And for those who know me, and experience what I do by being a friend, can see that sometimes that's just not possible.

Tash has written her perspective of having a friend with a visible difference - it's one of the nicest things anyone has written for and about me.

"Carly and I have been good friends for over a year now, sharing laughs, going to new and different restaurants around Melbourne, attending movies and talks, and even travelling to Canberra together for the Human Brochure weekend. We have bonded over blogging, social media, and disability and other social justice issues we are both passionate about.

When the spotlight hit Carly amid the treatment she coped from a taxi driver a couple of months ago, and the positive and negative responses she got from highlighting this treatment, I was reminded how people see her and treat her differently. Because I often forget – she’s Carly to me! A vibrant, fun and funny friend, who is interested in many of the things I am.

I forget when we walk down a street together, or walk into a crowded restaurant, and people stare. Blatantly! I never remember why….I’m always so self conscious when it happens - “do I have my skirt tucked into my undies?” or “Do I have bird poo in my hair that I didn’t notice??” Oh no, I forgot, my friend is red and shiny….

This realisation, which also occurs at times when I read comments and tweets directed at her from the broader community, reminds me about how tiring it must be for her to be nice and pleasant in the face of such stares, comments and treatment by strangers, and how amazing it is that she does not react as most people would automatically react in such a situation. Given the volume of comments, intrusions and stares, she seems super human to me to withstand the Chinese water torture that is the constant drip drip drip of abuse and horrendously thoughtless comments. How lucky so many people think they are, to be in a position to judge someone else, because of their appearance.

I have also had a couple of different friends of mine talk to me about Carly and her story, and ask after her as you might after someone you know is in the hospital or someone going through some horrible time. It stops me in my thoughts, and makes me wonder if she may have been in an accident I didn’t know about, and thus the voice of concern. But then I always just mention that Carly is just living her life, just like everyone else – maybe I am too flippant, but I don’t see her as any different, in all seriousness! She’s working, socialising, chipping away at goals and dreams, writing, raising awareness for the things important to her, and things that matter and that should matter to all of us.

I have been told that because of my working history in disability and mental health, and my varied roles as a Social Worker, that my views are different to most people. That the average person doesn’t have the experience with people with disabilities that I do, and so it’s an unusual perspective. But I disagree.

You don’t need experience with difference to treat people as you would want to be treated. With dignity and respect. You don’t need a degree in disability to have empathy. You don’t need to work in the industry to have gained a glimpse into the experience, and recognise that people are people, regardless of each person’s range of abilities and challenges.

Am I wrong?

I wonder about people who are rude or horrible to Carly. Do they really not know anyone with a physical or intellectual or mental health difference? Really? The stats about our population would suggest otherwise. And so then I am even more baffled by people’s treatment of others.

I am endlessly in awe of Carly’s patience and resilience in standing up for herself, and other people with a visible difference. But she is still Carly to me! I will always take the piss out of her for her different music tastes and her complete ignorance about sports, just as I would anyone else. I will challenge her on things I don’t agree with, just as I would with any other friend. And I will banter and laugh along with her at the range of things we come across every day. Because surely we are all the same, in the end."

You can read Tash's blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.



13 September 2013

OMG! America - Europe 2014!!

So... I booked a round the world air ticket for March - May 2014. I fly from Melbourne to Auckland to San Francisco - and then I'll see more of America - perhaps New Orleans - then New York, across to Milan and London via Paris or Spain. I head back to Melbourne via a short stop in Abu Dhabi.

I plan to do a few tours including a homestay in a European village so I can make some friends and see some landmarks, and live like a local.

I've been bitten by the travel bug - can't wait to jet off!

Do you have any tips for me?


12 September 2013

R U OK? Day 2013: my friend Lucy's story.

I asked my friend Lucy to write today's post. Lucy and I have been friends for about 15 years - we met through the Savage Garden Fanzine - we became penpals and have kept in touch by letter, then phone and online. We've met a few times in person too. For a little while, I noticed that Lucy seemed down - through conversations we had about her lack of employment security and subsequent financial worries, her Facebook statuses, and her sheer behaviour of not really wanting to talk. I wondered if she was ok. And then last year, on R U OK? Day, she admitted that she really wasn't ok. Lucy is a great writer - I wish she'd start her blog again. Thanks for being so courageous to share your story and a poem, Lucy!

"Depression affects around 1 in 3 people at some point of their lives. Anxiety disorders are just as common. Depressive mental health disorders touch nearly everyone in some way or another. Yet it remains a sad fact that we tend to brush it under the carpet and avoid speaking about it.

R U OK? Day is the day when it is ok – no, actually, more than ok – to speak about it. No-one should have to suffer in silence. No-one should ever have to reach the point of believing they can’t bear to stick around for tomorrow, that the pain is too much to bear.

A couple of years ago, I suffered a fairly mild bout of depression for a myriad of stress related reasons. They were manageable reasons, reasons I am more than strong enough and equipped enough to swim through rather than sink. And yet day after day, I felt like I was sinking. My insides felt more and more hollow. I lost quite a bit of weight.

But I had a support network. I didn’t suffer in silence. I knew I wasn’t alone even when I felt it.
Too many people suffer in silence. And that silence sometimes leads to people we love leaving this earth much too soon. I have never been touched personally by suicide, but so many people have. People I know and have known. I have seen first hand the relentless darkness and pain that is left behind after someone is gone, and it is time to start talking about it. Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a common chemical imbalance, and a sign of needing a helping hand and an ear to listen without judgement.

Today is the today to reach out to your loved ones, and to listen. Ask them. R U OK?
Last year I wrote a poem for suicide awareness. For anyone who has been touched by suicide or depression, this is for you:

Flutter by my butterfly
Dream of the deep blue sky
Fly like an eagle
Way up high
Listen closely to the ocean’s sigh
Fight like a warrior
With a spirit bright...
Flutter by...
Beautiful butterfly
Open your arms to forever
And fill your heart with a smile
Don’t cry
Just flutter by...
Let the truth do the talking
And your smile whisper to the sky
The secrets of the heavens
Let there be no question why
Close your mind to the darkness
Let life not pass you by
For the world is much too precious
And the stakes are much too high
Flutter by my butterfly
Dream of the deep blue sky
Open your arms to forever
...just flutter by.

For anyone wondering… I am OK. Things have a habit of working themselves out in the end. I am in a good teaching job, my financial worries have greatly eased, and I feel much happier and more secure. There are still sometimes days where I feel run down and stressed and feel as though I’m slipping, but luckily it passes. I just focus now on living a life of daily gratitude for what I have… but that’s another post."

"Today is R U OK? Day. R U OK?Day is a national day of action dedicated to inspiring all Australians to ask family, friends and colleagues, ‘Are you ok?’ By regularly reaching out to one another and having open and honest conversations, we can all help build a more connected community and reduce our country’s high suicide rate.

More than 2,300 Australians suicide each year and men are around 3 times more likely to die by suicide than females (ABS 2013). For each person that takes their life, another 65 people attempt to end their own life (SANE Australia). (Worryingly, these statistics have increased significantly since 2012.)

Most people don't openly share their feelings, particularly if they're struggling. The best thing we can all do is regularly talk to the people we care about - regardless of whether they are at risk - because connection is good for us all." (Text from R U OK Day? website)

The R U OK? Day website has some great resources, including a Facebook app to help start conversations.

Australian national helplines and information:

Emergency services for immediate help: telephone 000

Lifeline - 24/7 telephone counselling service - 13 11 14

Suicide Callback service - 1300 659 467

Reach Out! - Online crisis and mental health information for young people

headspace - Mental health services and support for young people 12–25 years

Black Dog Institute - Information about depression and bipolar disorder

SuicideLine Victoria - 24/7 telephone counselling for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereaved - 1300 651 251

SANE Australia Helpline - Mental health information, weekdays 9am–5pm - 1800 187 263

beyondblue Info Line - Information about depression, anxiety and related disorders - 1300 224 636

MensLine National - 24/7 support for men dealing with relationship and family issues - 1300 78 99 78

Kids Helpline - 24/7 telephone and online counselling for young people 5–25 years - 1800 55 1800

You can read my previous posts for R U OK? Day:

2011: a loved one not being ok.
2012: I wasn't ok as a young child


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