Book Review: “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult

The Lowdown:

Small Great Things” is told with frank honesty, thus is quite a heavy, challenging read. In true Jodi Picoult style, the novel deals with a compelling moral dilemma and intractable social justice issues. Set in contemporary America, the novel tackles racism, inequality and prejudice. Ruth, an innocent African-American labour and delivery nurse, finds herself faced with the consequences of a medical incident involving the death of an infant child belonging to white supremacists. Offering very different angles of events, and insights into differing life circumstances that have each led the characters to be who they are, the story is told from three different points of view – the African-American nurse, Ruth; her Caucasian lawyer, Kennedy; and the late infant’s white supremacist father, Turk. Throughout Ruth’s trial, she and Kennedy work on gaining each other’s trust –  great introspection is achieved through each of their perspectives in the novel; both Ruth and Kennedy have to question their beliefs and what they have been taught about others and themselves. Through Turk’s perspective, Picoult explores the radical ideas behind white supremacy, and beliefs behind their immoral social behaviours. Overall, the novel is quite thought-provoking, brutal at times, and an important narrative. Continue reading

Adventure Awaits, Hidden in the Warburton Valley

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East Warburton Redwood Forest, Victoria

One of Victoria’s hidden gems is the Redwood Forest, east of the Warburton Valley. Without any official signage, besides on Google Maps, the forest has an aura of a secret, mystical place. The moment you step foot into the forest, you are instantly faced with a sense of calmness and wonder. The trees were planted in perfect rows that soften the noise of the outside world. Walking through the forest, all you can hear is the sounds of the birds that you cannot see, chirping away in the towering canopy above. The magnificent Redwood trees make you feel so small. In this way nature really has a way of putting things in perspective. It’s a beautiful place to explore, to sit and think, to have a picnic. A sense of clarity comes with being in the wilderness. There is no phone or data reception in the Redwood forest, but you will find a better connection.

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The towering canopy of Redwoods

Now Heritage listed in Victoria, the Californian Redwoods – Sequoia sempervirens, were planted in the 1930s by the Board of Works for experimental purposes, to study the canopy interception results in comparison with native forest trees. There are over 1,476 trees all planted in an aesthetically pleasing grid, some trees reaching up to 55 metres! Continue reading

Book Review: “My (Not So) Perfect Life” by Sophie Kinsella

The Lowdown:

Named on the Goodreads 2017 “Reading Challenge: Top New Releases” , I thought I should give another Sophie Kinsella novel a read – and I am glad I did!

Katie Brenner, a country farm girl from Somerset, has had one goal her whole life – to succeed in London. The protagonist struggles to find her identity in a world that is obsessed with the images that people portray online and in real life. Working as a research associate at a large branding agency in London, Katie changes her image and even her accent to reinvent herself as “Cat”. Persisting to remain optimistic – through her long city commute, tedious work tasks, her tight budget, a tiny room whereby an overhanging hammock is her closet, and oddball roommates – Katie’s expectations of the “perfect London life” fall short. Despite this, Katie is adamant on remaining upbeat and portraying an image of perfection on her Instagram page.  Continue reading

Day Tripping – Sorrento and Surrounds

Day trips are a perfect way to adventure and to take some time out to refresh and revitalise. Being surrounded by nature makes me appreciate how beautiful the world can be. Taking in deep breaths, and paying attention to my surroundings automatically improves my posture and inner being. It brings an invigorating sense of harmony, and a Zen-like peaceful state. The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is stunning, there are many places I could highlight. However, in this post I place a spotlight on some of my personal favourite spots – Sorrento Back Beach, Portsea Pier, and the London Bridge. Being limited in terms of how much walking or activities I can do, this is the perfect place to still see a lot and enjoy experiences within a close vicinity.

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Sorrento Back Beach

I love the atmosphere at Sorrento Back Beach.The fresh breeze of the ocean air. The vast coastline surrounded by the hills of the Mornington Peninsula National Park. Lined with sandstone cliffs and rock formations, there are many rock pools to explore – some deep enough to jump into off small rock platforms. Continue reading

Raising Awareness

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), or more commonly labelled as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is an immunological and neurological dysfunction disorder. It is characterised by a severe worsening of symptoms after minimal physical or cognitive exertion. ME is a chronic illness that lasts for years and is often lifelong. It is a controversial diagnosis in need of more awareness and understanding. Due to a lack of medical education and government research around ME, many affected by the disease remain misdiagnosed or even dismissed, being wrongly told their severe disabilities are a result of their imagination.

There have been various articles discussing ME in prominent newspapers all around the world, such as the New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Australian. Despite this, the stigma seems to continue surrounding the disease, mostly due to a lack of understanding by both the medical community and the general community. It is an invisible illness, so people will not often “look sick” on the outside, yet their lives are often so compromised that the majority of suffers cannot work, some remaining permanently housebound. Researchers have estimated, among those who have received a diagnosis, that approximately 150,000 Australians, 1-2.5 million Americans, 250,000 British people, and 400,000 Canadians have ME.

“I don’t know is a beautiful thing. I don’t know is where a discovery starts.”

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Book Review: “The Undomestic Goddess” by Sophie Kinsella

The Lowdown:

A high-powered, respected lawyer Samantha Sweeting, runs away to a small country town unexpectedly, to pursue a vocation as a housekeeper because of a horrible mistake at work. Groomed into workaholism from a young age by her mother, Samantha successfully rose above the ranks to the point where she was about to make partner at the top-tier law firm in London. Dazed and in the middle of a meltdown due to the huge mistake that could cost her successful career, Samantha jumps on a train to a small country town in the middle of nowhere. Keen for a glass of water and directions, Samantha walks up to the first house she sees. There she is mistaken for an interviewee for the position of a housekeeper, where she hired. Here’s the catch – Samantha cannot cook or clean, to the point where she has no idea how to make toast or use a washing machine! Continue reading

A Perspective on the Pressures of Ambition

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Where does this overwhelming desire to “do more”, to “be more” seem to come from? Even when we are in the process of achieving our ambitions, there is this element of “what else” or “what more” can we achieve? Is it a generational thing, a personality thing, or merely the pressure we have put on ourselves? It seems that millennials in particular have been brought up with a necessity to “follow our dreams”, in a way that we not only should “live to work” but love it too. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however it can become a negative thing, if it compromises other aspects of our personal lives. The origin of the pressures, being the idea that it is not acceptable unless we are overachieving. It can seem that gaining economic security, on its own, is not enough. The overachieving mentality can become damaging because it has the power to contribute to anxiety, dissatisfaction, a lack of self-esteem, or confusion about the important things in life.

A career becomes a part of our image, our reputation. The way we see ourselves; what we feel we need to portray to those around us as a result. It contributes to driving our need to put extra pressure on ourselves. Whether we are good enough, whether we are worthy. Continue reading

An Elegy to my wonderful dog, Moose

Moose, you were the best dog I could have ever imagined. Words cannot describe how much I will always miss you.

I will miss not being able to take you to your favourite parks.

I will miss seeing you elated running through those muddy streams.

I will miss taking you to the beach, your enthusiasm when running along the sand or trotting blissfully through the water.

I will miss seeing the attention you loved receiving from the passerby’s who couldn’t resist patting you or taking a “selfie” with you.

I will miss taking you on adventures in the car, and how you would pop your head up to the window every so often to surprise others.

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On Creating Confidence, Coping Mechanisms and Symbolism

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Creating confidence through chronic illness is an up and down process. We often cannot do as much as we used to be able to do, across many facets of our lives. Once we’ve built ourselves up, something else may come along and throw us back down again. However, this seems to be just the way life is, it is a roller-coaster. We can make a choice to stay strong, to look for the silver lining. When I catch myself being afraid of the future, I remind myself that I should instead focus on my next step.

In order to get through difficult times, I pay attention to things that I can look forward to each day. For example, my morning coffee, writing for my blog, having the time to read or paint when my mind and body permits. I practice mindfulness. I look for little bits of inspiration, Pinterest is a great one for that. I really enjoy reading various blogs on WordPress. I admire the stories and posts; the various topics people write about; the insightful discussions that ensue; and love the supportive community. 

Symbols are a strong motivator and coping mechanism for me. When I was going through different struggles in the past, I bought myself an arrow necklace. For me, the arrow symbolizes strength, focus and determination. When I wore it, the necklace gave me confidence to keep trying – that no matter what difficulties I faced, I had to just keep aiming forward. It worked.  Another symbol is the Phoenix, the mythical creature whose core is in line with Maya Angelou’s great poem, “Still I Rise” An anchor reminds me to stay focused on the present, to be mindful, and just do what I can for now.  The wildflower, the symbol of persistence and independence from which I named my blog, are flowers that grow and flourish no matter what environments or situations they face.  Continue reading