The Case of The Exploding Brain

The Case of The Exploding Brain

What will it feel like?

It will be like nothing you have ever felt.

How will I know?

Oh, you will know! It will be the worst pain you could experience in your life. You will either be dead or wish you were.

Good to know.

Social Skills may not have been in his repertoire but hard facts certainly were.

When someone tells you this, you don’t forget it.

I forget my pin number and my sunglasses. But never this.

Then it happens. The Thunderclap headache. Standing in the kitchen having a conversation, perfectly normal. No build up. No symptoms, no warning. Instant projectile vomit and what feels like someone shooting me in the brain from across the room. Shock. Trauma. Ouch. Not in that given order.

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The pain. Today, some six months later I can’t believe I could be in that much physical pain and not be dead.

The ambulance came quickly that night.

Then the sirens. My name, over and over again. Kirsten, can you hear us?

She’s not breathing; BP is dropping. I answer. Why can no one hear me? They can, someone is screaming. I think it’s me. Don’t leave me.

The rolling vomit, the wave after wave of nausea surges through my body, like nothing I have known. The entire contents of my body feel like they are pouring out of my mouth. A tsunami I have no control over, and my whole body shakes and shudders from the violence of it.

By the time we got the hospital I was passed out, pupils dilated, and I was in trouble. A suspected brain bleed. 25% of bleeds cannot be picked up on an MRI; they require a lumbar puncture. I had one of those once. Never again. When one’s spinal chord is impaled with a thick needle by an intern with shaky hands, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I awoke in time in between vomiting to say No thanks. They were not happy with me.

By Friday I was washing the dishes and planning dinner. At my kitchen sink, with what felt like a hangover but no other symptoms. How? How is this possible?

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Gratitude, wonder and then Uh Oh set in. Then “everything is fine today, so let’s move forward, nothing to see here” set in. Its the survivor in me. Thinks she’s a cross between Charles Bronson and a Williams sister. No one likes a martyr. The grief counselor reassured me this sweet denial was a path to potential disaster. It happened. It happened to me, it happened to Lothario, my children, my brother and a lovely friend we had visiting at the time of the “Incident.”

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So I went to Magnetic Island with my youngest son and Mamma bear for a month. I wrote it off, played with him, had adventures, explored my second home some more in all of its pre Summer glory. I enjoyed the company of my island friends. I walked the beaches alone and cried out my fear, my panic. Papa G and I had many conversations on that beach. He was helping me mourn.

What was I mourning?

Well, it’s more than easy, in fact it is downright intoxicating to forget you are unwell when your symptoms do not stop you. You are invigorated by the hypnosis of a fulfilling life and do not want to subscribe to fear. EVER.

But then there is being emotionally truthful. The fact is unless someone comes up with a solution, I am not going to hold my grandchildren. I will not get to be old and grey with my boy. I will very possibly die from one of the most physically painful experiences you can have. Or I could end up a vegetable sucking bacon and eggs through a straw and getting Sunday visits. Sound depressing? It is! Bring on the Tropical Island and a few well deserved Margheritas. 

Rule: don’t ever talk about this to people. They will stop you immediately with: Well I Just Know You Are Going to Be Okay, I Can Feel It. Or No Kirsten, Don’t Say That, YOU WILL BE FINE. IMG_6679


Here’s the thing, I am really glad you can feel it.

I know that the love we have for people makes us want to make them feel better again. For those reading this that have said that to me, I love you for caring enough to say it. I am invested in believing that I am going to be fine too, 365 days of the year which is 825 days longer that they expected me to live. BUT sometimes shit gets real.

Sometimes it JUST IS. Left with the facts you then rely on your faith to surge through again, creating an equilibrium that is a force to be reconned with. In the meantime? There are moments of emotional truth. Good or Bad. Pretty or Ugly. They just are. But this can be distressing to others. So I don’t do that. I take it to God. I take all of those “thoughts” and talk to God about it. We are sitting in a kitchen eating pancakes and discussing matters of the universe. Like what on earth is She going to do with Stephen Hawking now? Whoa. That’s a big one.

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There are people out there who walk around with some disease inside them, not of their own making. Someone operated on me and made a mess of my brain. The entire contents of my cerebrum, my grey matter, the old think tank and noggin is being held together with a microscopic thing called a FRED which isn’t doing it’s job very well, because it has slipped and has created a high volume bomb ticking in my head. Sneezes- dangerous. Flying – Dangerous. Humidity and the Common Cold ain’t great.

Constipation now holds a genuine concern. Vomiting? Forget it. Anxiety, Stress, and a raised heart rate are the worst. But head knocks? I can take those. I have titanium in there. One unfortunate head butt from my husband getting out of the car almost knocked him out, and I didn’t feel a thing. It was quite amusing.

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As much as I love Louise Hay, I did not manifest this. I am human. Therefore I can break. I did not have unresolved anger issues, but thanks and no Frankincense oil under my tongue each night won’t cure me or special drops made from a rainforests Monkey’s toenail clippings, as delicious as that sounds.

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There is a process involved, and it has taken me places I never dreamed possible.

So is it a dis-ease? Or is it a blessing of the most peculiar kind? Depends on the day. Everyone lives and everyone dies, why does dying have to be the worst thing that happens to us in the Western world? Why can’t it be a celebration of how we lived and then the next journey begins? Like saying “Wow, you lucky thing, you are off to Hawaii now! Good luck and see you soon!” “She’s gone to walk with Jesus, lucky bugger.”

Because time is relative don’t you know? A word of advice- religion is not just a safety net for the emotionally weak. I am strong. I did my research. I believe in Physics. I believe in science. I also do not believe in chaos, but design. Conclusively. I do not believe in some Zeus like Gandalf in the sky. Please with a cherry on top, do not spruik your disbelief about the existence of a universal architect to the possibly dying. It is unkind. It’s just a shitty thing to do.

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This journey is upsetting at times. Especially times like “the Great Vomiting incident.” If I can change that fear, that sadness I will. Purely because the vibration is heavy and it doesn’t feel very nice. Good one Captain Obvious.

But it is life.

It is. None of us get out of it unscathed or without learning, so why pretend we do or can? For me, its the faith I foster through it and the learning it presents me that creates joy within the crisis, as I have mentioned before, the alchemy of it all is the light that changes any darkness.

Think of it like walking in a deep dark cave, you know you need to turn on the light, so you do. You find yourself looking at a cave filled with magnificent, luminous waterfalls, diamond-lined walls, and beauty. But you are still in a cave. You have stumbled over sharp rocks, trying to find your way in a cold and hard place, and everyone else is standing in the sunshine. You are in a cave. No denying. There’s the emotional truth bomb. It’s what you DO with it that counts.

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Sometimes the message is clear for me to write about this path I walk.

Other times I don’t think it’s a great idea. I enjoy writing other things more. I enjoy writing for others more. But I am reminded. It’s not just about me.

I reminded that there are 1 in 50 aneurysms out there. I am reminded that there are people out there in Australia who have a Used By Date that just keeps going. There are people out there that every time they cringe with a tiny pain, their child looks at them with fear and they must wrangle with the conversation “no sweety, I don’t plan on dying today, did you put your uniform in the wash?

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There are people out there who are losing friends and family because the journey they walk is too painful for others to bear, so they walk away. Sometimes it’s time. It takes too much time. Seriously? You keep going on about dying, but you are still here.

Sometimes some desperate people feel it would be easier to bring that final journey closer because then it’s in their control. That’s a scary one. Researchers at Baylor University Medical Center believe depression, grief, and suicidal thoughts affect up to 77 percent of people with a terminal illness. Would you like an after dinner mint with your taboo topic?

There are people out there who have been told they are going to die and it feels like someone took your arse and shoved it through your nose and out your ears.

Then you have to get back to being “normal.” You have to make sure it doesn’t ruin you, consume you or turn you into a victim. Becoming a victim to me is like denying the existence of a JEDI, somewhere a light saber just dropped dead. It’s just not cricket. (I was only joking about the Light Saber thing if you doubt my cred about the whole God thing.)

You are out there. Hopefully, you are reading. Hopefully, you feel a sense of connection that says I am not alone.

I see you. You are not alone.

PS- I know Mr. Hawking was an Atheist, but at the same time I wonder if he is having maple syrup with those pancakes?

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Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au LIFELINE: https://www.lifeline.org.au BRAIN FOUNDATION: http://brainfoundation.org.au    

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Ponder Kindness Part Two

Ponder Kindness Part Two

There is nothing I like more than meeting a person who surprises you with a character that is refreshing and far from mundane.

 

This interview with Fr. Rod has created a joyful series of conversations that spark the mind. The most refreshing facet of this man and his beautiful wife Kerry is that even though at times I am sure they fear the backlash that comes with being a messenger, they march on. They march on not because they revel in it. They march on because it is a calling. It is a calling that they cannot ignore.

It’s the stuff that your soul emits in unison with your heart so strongly, that to ignore it would be emotionally dishonest. This is why the congregation has grown, this is why many Australians are intrigued and captivated by the message Fr. Rod echoes, its quite simple: compassion and kindness for everyone.  Not everybody agrees. Is it easy? No way. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

 

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This boy from the Hunter Valley, the son of conservative country party graziers is now the voice of many.

In Part Two we chat about the lighter things in life; cubby houses, Lucifer, climate change, Netflix and so much more…

Kirsten: Ok, so now I am shifting the subject, but if there’s music that’ll get your foot tapping what would it be?

Fr. Rod: Can you believe I am not a huge music fan? (I audibly gasp) But, if there were one it would be Jazz. And improvised, very highly improvised Jazz. I think the biggest-selling Jazz album ever was Miles Davis and Arlo Guthrie, and they came together and basically just cut this thing like nothing in the day in these jams sessions.
I was actually out having drinks last Thursday night, and the guy at the piano was the guy who composed the music for the Compass documentary, and I asked him if he could play this because he’s a very clever musician. So he started playing it.

Kirsten: Okay, so I ask everyone this question as we always get the most interesting responses. As a child did you like tree houses or cubby houses? What would be your preference?

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Rod: I’m a cubby house fan because I don’t like heights. I can remember, we must’ve bought a new refrigerator or something at one stage when I was little kid. So, I created this cubby house out of it, and I spent a good couple of years in this box.

Kirsten: (Laughs) There you go.

Rod: But I did climb trees from time to time. I’m not fond of heights, though.

Kirsten: If you could meet with your 25-year-old self and give him a piece of advice, what would it be?

Fr. Rod: Don’t drink so much. Don’t waste a lot of time, money, and brain cells and use that money to travel. I kind of regret I didn’t, I should have. I had an opportunity to go overseas when I was 20, and I never did, and I still regret that to this day. I wanted to travel in my late twenties and early thirties.

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Kirsten: What made you decide, was there a moment, was it a series of events, which lead you to be in service to God?

Fr. Rod: Well, there was no Damascus road. In fact, it was a long journey of resistance to an insistent call and people sort of encouraged me to be a priest and me agreeing at each step along the process to engage in that. At the same time, I was totally expecting that I’d be rejected by the Church and so I found myself, you know, the day of my ordination, not really understanding how I had got there. And there’s a sense in which I’m still in that process. I’m daring the Church to throw me out.

Kirsten: So I take it you’d have to walk a pretty fine line.

Fr. Rod: Sometimes.

Fr. Rod: While I’m accused of being progressive, I am, I think fairly theologically orthodox and especially regarding patristics in the early Church years. I know I’m not seen as orthodox by contemporary Protestant conservatives, but they’re not really orthodox in terms of the Great Theologians.

Kirsten: But I think too, one of the reasons people find you progressive is because you guys have a real social presence. You are literally streaming online. You’re on Facebook for starters and churches don’t usually have a strong following on social media. This is not your usual stiff upper lip, cause no waves Anglican church!

Fr. Rod: 150 followers is the average for many churches.

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Kirsten: Exactly! You’re up front and center, you do it very well, but it’s also the way you explain theology. It’s very friendly, it makes sense, it’s logical, and it’s not stale. People want to listen to you.

Could you tell me a little bit about your passion for climate change?

Fr Rod: Yeah I have to say we have been very focused on the last few years on refugees. It’s taken over a bit of the agenda for obvious reasons, and in more recent times focus has been on the marriage equality debate. I am hoping this will be resolved quickly and we can get on with other things. Note: this interview happened before the wonderful marriage equality results

I mean, the climate is the ultimate question for us, for our generation, my children and my grandchildren’s generation. It’s going to be the defining subject over the next 100 years. It’s the defining ethical subject; it’s the defining scientific and economic question. It’s the new paradigm. We are the economic paradigm in which we have been in for the last 70 years. It’s crumbling after the GFC. We’ve propped it back up again, but it’s crumbling, and the emerging paradigm has to be the environmental and ecological paradigm. It’ll be the new economy.

 

Kirsten: The new economy?

Fr. Rod: Yes it has to be. It’s farcical to watch the old right clinging to their coal philosophy when even AGL are saying, um no, that’s old, that’s the old we aren’t interested anymore. They know money is in renewables and clean energy! You know we are so close to this renewable technology being introduced, so why on earth would you invest in coal fired?

But there will be ethical and moral questions to ask in this process, and I think this is where theologians need to be.

KM: You are bringing back the cool. Reminding us of why we look to women and men that question everything and bring our ethics and what we stand for to the forefront. Which leads me to this part of my questioning: Why is it seemingly so uncool sometimes to be Christian? I said to someone at a dinner party that it seems to be very zen and modern for people to be Hindi, Buddhist, or even Zoroastrian, Muslim, anything other than Christian. But it seems to be very uncool to be Christian; this seems a bit unfair!

Fr. Rod: Yes they seem to be the flavor don’t they? (Hearty laughter injected from my interviewee)

Fr. Rod: I think the life and teachings of Jesus, has an enormous amount to offer society. The basic doctrines of Christianity are an anchor that we let go of at our peril in that sense because we float off into this sort of nothingness. But I think we can get a bit obsessed with that side of things and not so much on the social ethics.

Kirsten: Outside of all of this theology, as a regular bloke, what do you like to do?

Fr. Rod: I don’t get much time to relax, it’s quite foreign to me! I grew up in an environment where you didn’t take holidays, and so my brain isn’t programmed in that way. Which is not a very healthy. I am not very good at relaxing, I try and take time each day to walk. I am 55 Type 2 Diabetic with high cholesterol, a very typical 55-year-Old Australian male. (more laughter)

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I enjoy getting home, after a long hard day and having some cheese and bikkies, a glass of pinot noir; occasionally I get to veg out I will binge watch something on Netflix. I just finished binge-watching Lucifer.

KM: NO WAY! Are you serious? Ok, if you are watching that, I am so watching that! What did you think? (I am shocked, gaping like a goldfish and laughing).

Fr. Rod: Well it was challenging for a while because Lucifer’s Dad- God is portrayed as a very capricious character, very punishing and I was resistant to this! I am like: God’s not like this! He’s not like this! But the more I watched it; I think he is portraying God in a way in which many people see God. And while it made me uncomfortable, and I don’t believe God is like that I had to acknowledge that this is how many view God.

And you know, Lucifer is the devil, and he does kind of challenge in the show this idea of “the devil made me do it” type stuff. He comments that humans make their own choices and actions, his only job is to punish them, he doesn’t make them do anything. Not that I believe in that either, but I have found it challenging, thought-provoking. Its the antithesis of what I believe but it reminded me of how endemic folky religion is in our culture. Because that is what a lot of people believe. I am a Game of Thrones fan.

Kirsten: Now I like you even more. (grinning) This is my all-time favorite series. We actually have a GOT night at our house with friends and eat special dessert. Seriously.

Fr. Rod: I like Tyrion Lannister, he is the archetypical human in that he is carnal, but also has a social ethic, that he actually doesn’t want people to be hurt.

Kirsten: His transformation in the show is pretty entertaining and so complex!

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Fr. Rod: Yes, because he is vested in good, even though he is a drunken fornicator and even a user and abuser of women which I hold to be highly immoral and terrible. But his complexity fascinates me. I enjoy the religious metaphors in the show, the use of faith metaphor because I think that’s quite challenging too. You know, we are in the process of electing a new bishop… (and there might be a few GOT’s comments, as well as Dutton…I am leaving the next 10 minutes out, what gets said off the record stays off the record) (grin inserted).

 

The conversation continues in Part Three… where we discuss some serious business like Homosexuality, Kingdoms and that Heaven thing people get so hung up about.

The Number 36

The Number 36

Here’s a morsel of numerical quirk to chew on and bust apart the mundane. We like the unusual at Ponderings, so we drew a number out of a hat and we got 36. So how is this number special?

In 1936 Jesse Owens smashed Hitler’s Aryan race in the Olympics. Jesse was an American track and field athlete. At the Berlin Games, he won 4 gold medals. Hosted in Berlin, Germany chancellor Hitler opened the games, and much of the world would be fooled with propaganda. Many international guests were unaware that the regime had temporarily hidden anti-Jewish signs and the roundup of Roma in Berlin. 800 Roma residing in Berlin were arrested and placed under guard in a special camp in the suburb of Marzahn. Jewish sportspeople were unable to compete. Boycotts rumbled but never took off. Interesting fact; Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas convinced Owens to wear a pair of his sneakers and Jesse became the first sports-sponsored African American. 

Zoologist, activist and superstar academic David Suzuki was born in 1936. The advocate for swift climate change response is a leader around the world and an expert on nature. His foundation states: The right to a healthy environment is the simple yet powerful idea that everyone should be able to breathe fresh air, drink clean water and eat safe food and to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future.

 

“When we forget that we are embedded in the natural world, we also forget that what we do to our surroundings we are doing to ourselves.”

According to Jewish legend in every generation, there are 36 saintly people Lamed Vav Tzadikim who will save the world. Unrecognized by their fellow humans and unknown even to each other, they are said to pursue humble occupations such as artisans or water-carriers.

36 is the perfect number. Perfect number: a positive integer that is equal to the sum of its proper divisors. The smallest perfect number is 6, which is the sum of 1, 2, and 3. 

+36 is the country code for Belgium 

Ethel Scull 36 Times was Andy Warhol’s very first commissioned portrait and the genesis of his business- making portraits at the request of wealthy celebs. 

36 Gods assembled the various parts of the first human before Tāne, the god of forests and birds breathed life into its nostrils, according to Maori legend. 

In Numerology the number 36 represents energies that accomplish creative goals for helping humankind.

A checkers board has 36 tiles.

1836 (MDCCCXXXVI) was a leap year and is the year Spain recognizes the independence of Mexico. 

Pontius Pilate, the guy who gave the order to kill Jesus, died in 36CE. He was also a Roman knight. 

Harvard University was established in 1636. 

Barbara Streisand has 36 Studio Albums.

Marilyn Munroe, Bob Marley and Princess Diana all passed away tragically at age 36.

Last but not least in gematria (a form of Jewish numerology), the number 18 stands for “life”, because the Hebrew letters that spell chai, meaning “living”, add up to 18. Because 36 = 2×18, it represents “two lives”. (Zwerin, Rabbi Raymond A. (September 15, 2002). “The 36 – Who Are They?”)

Now I wonder if you start noticing the number 36? If you do, drop us a line! media@ponderings.com.au 

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Bullying and The Gift of Individuality Explored by New Book: Danyon

Bullying and The Gift of Individuality Explored by New Book: Danyon

Written by Montanna Macdonald

Author Dacre Danes is one to keep your eyes peeled for with his newly anticipated release of the novel Danyon. The pro-surfer/photographer from Queensland has entered the publishing foray with charm and a book filled to the edges with an in-depth tale. 

Themes of friendship, bullying and complex relationships in an authentic narrative will leave you pondering. Threads of history, romance and mysticism are explored in a backdrop fuelled with sex romps for good measure. 

“This book is for hope. The whole message is to prevent suicide events and to make people aware of what they say to each other, be careful what you say because you don’t know what the other person is going through,” says Author Dacre Danes. 

The protagonist of the story; Danyon, is severely bullied and suffers from violent trauma from his years of mental anguish. With support from his best friend Blake and newfound friendship with his school bully Dash, Danyon comes to realise his suffrage from being bullied might just be a gift of individuality. 

Author Dacre Danes joined us to share his excitement about his book, five years in the making. 

“I have always been a writer since I was given a typewriter for Christmas when I was ten. I have always read books; books are like trophies for me. [the book] started as therapeutic for me to get a few things out, and then I remembered lots of things that have happened to people and stories. A lot of the inspiration has come from my experiences personally and other people I know. I want this book to get into the hands of people that need it, especially people that are getting bullied. I want them to realise they have a gift, they’re here for a reason, and there is hope.” 

A parallel war story throughout the novel touches on human relationships in the past, and this juxtaposition Dacre says is like the war of bullying. 

“You had to be at war then, but we don’t have to be at war with each other now,” Dacre says. 

The book touches on what Dacre describes as “magic realism” which he uses to explore the character’s blackouts and other symptoms. As a reader, you are left wondering if Danyons spiritual and mystical experiences are clairvoyance or a diagnosed illness. 

There are also underlying themes throughout the novel that explore the LGBTQIA community. Dacre wanted Danyon to be an icon for those who did not feel the need to be labelled but instead fuelled by romance based on connection over gender. Dacre believes novels should be more accepting of this community, as “love is love”. 

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Dacre Danes is an ambassador for bullying prevention organisation Bully Zero. In partnership, Dacre will release a live podcast called Bull Rush, which is in conversation with Bully Zero CEO Ali Halkic. Dacre is also an ambassador for Equi Energy Youth and the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association. 

 

“I have a hashtag called #iamdanyon, and I’m gathering people who have my book to upload a picture of themselves on Instagram with a hashtag because everyone has a story of mental health or a story of bullying. So when people tell a story, they can say, well I am Danyon as well,” Dacre says.

Danyon is Available at Barnes and Noble & Amazon along with all good book stores. 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/d-a-n-y-o-n-dacre-danes/1137436388

 Amazon;

 https://www.amazon.com/D-n-y-Dacre-Danes/dp/164999396X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1598054280&sr=8-1

 

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THE NEW AUSSIE APP SOLVING FASHION’S BIGGEST ISSUE

THE NEW AUSSIE APP SOLVING FASHION’S BIGGEST ISSUE

A size 12 in one store isn’t always the right fit or style for a real size 12, and who can really afford a personal stylist? An Aussie app has taken this problem and created a breathtaking solution. Meet, Mys Tyler. 

When it comes to shopping, returns are a huge problem. Clothing and shoes bought online are the worst offenders, with 30-40% returned. According to research, 91 percent of those who ordered clothing online are not satisfied with fit. In the US alone, return deliveries will cost $550B in 2020 with this cost expected to soar globally into a $1 trillion issue3. Not to mention the often demoralising fitting room experience most women face thanks to the disparity between how clothes look on a model compared to real bodies of myriad sizes, heights and ethnicities. 

Mys Tyler (@mys.tyler) is revolutionising online shopping by offering women of all body types a new way to find clothing that actually fits their shape, size, and style. The free app matches users with like-bodied women across the globe, already shopping for clothes that will suit them.

Mys Tyler’s FIT algorithm and data from 40,000 real women is set to fix a $1 Trillion problem

Mys Tyler contributor April Watson

By creating an accurate picture of how items will look and fit on your own body, Mys Tyler will take the guesswork out of shopping, and save women from the inefficient (and often demoralising) trial, error and return cycle. A cycle that also has negative economic and environmental impacts. 

“We’re fixing a critical flaw in the world of fashion that has meant women have had to buy clothes off models or influencers who look nothing like them,” says Mys Tyler founder & CEO, Sarah Neill. “Until now women have had to imagine what clothes would look like on themselves, only to try them on with a shockingly low success rate.”

Sarah, a Sydney born and raised serial entrepreneur has returned home after a decade living and working in top tier startups in the US to build Mys Tyler. She explains that the industry has been trying to solve fit with size, with solutions like body scanning and virtual fitting rooms. “These tech solutions aren’t solving the human problem. As women we know fit is more than just size, it’s how clothes flatter our shape, complement our colouring and knowing how to style them. While current solutions have fallen short on solving fit, we believe that real women and a little bit of innovation can.”

Photo above:Mys Tyler founder & CEO, Sarah Neill.

The first-of-its-kind fashion app works in three simple steps:

  • A body quiz and Mys Tyler’s FIT algorithm matches women of similar heights, sizes, and skin tones;
  • Users choose to “follow” women whose style they like to create a personalised feed of fashion content that is both body and style relevant;
  • They can then shop their favourite items directly through the app.

“There are millions of women around the world who look like you, love shopping, and know what clothes best flatter your body. We help you find them”, says Sarah. At this time, Mys Tyler matches women to a database of hundreds of celebrities with a true range of heights, shapes and ethnicities

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But while celebrities are real people, not all real people are celebrities, and so Mys Tyler is actively recruiting women from across the globe to share their fashion wins and help their #sizesisters, while also earning commission.

User-generated content from Mys Tyler contributors will be available on the app in the next app release. As Mys Tyler continues to grow, the app will make a move to focus purely on contributed content from real, diverse women across the globe. Mys Tyler is already resonating with women who have jumped on board to become contributors. Contributors, like these women below, who join early will receive “founding contributor” status and additional perks.

Above image: Robyn- contributor to Mys Tyler

“I love Mys Tyler for normalizing every body type. In a world where social media is rampant, has filters to ‘perfect’ your physical appearance, sets ridiculous standards for women, this is a much needed app to bring us back to reality. Show us that we are all beautiful no matter what our size is,” says @thebodzilla AKA April Watson.

 

Holly Richards @hollynrichards says: “As a plus-size woman, I was dubious that Mys Tyler would be a place for me. But then when I took the Fit quiz and was matched with a celebrity the same size and shape as me, I was so emotional! Finally, an app that includes all bodies. I immediately signed up as a contributor because I want to help people like me who don’t fit the “norm” find clothes that actually fit, make them feel good and look good!” 

“I absolutely love the concept because it’s important to realize that not everyone has the easiest time finding things that properly fit their body shape. It seems easy to go on Instagram or Pinterest and find styles and outfits you love, but sometimes when you try them on yourself you feel uncomfortable or even upset with the way it looks. Mys Tyler is a great way to find outfits that will look amazing on your body and to help find your personal style!” says Robyn @missrobynelizabeth_.

The revolutionary fashion app is a transparent and honest representation of how fashion looks on different shapes and bodies and it’s empowering the way women shop while combating the fashion industry’s trillion-dollar returns problem.

Mys Tyler is now available on the App Store and Google Play as a free download.

www.mys-tyler.com

@mys.tyler

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FOUR PAWS Save Bear Cubs Nikko and Nara

FOUR PAWS Save Bear Cubs Nikko and Nara

Written by Montanna Macdonald

These Asiatic black bear cubs’ names are Nikko and Nara, the cutest two bear cubs you have ever seen saved by organisation FOUR PAWS; a bear rescue mission in Vietnam. 

FOUR PAWS is a global animal welfare organisation supporting animals, creatures who are victims of human battery in varied and horrific ways. The organisation is a noble one, and their work includes projects in emergency rescue and ongoing care for a great range of different animals. 

This year, FOUR PAWS Vietnam rapid response team saved two bear cubs from smugglers from the illegal wildlife trade. The legal and illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam is a billion dollar industry. Bile farming is the process of breeding bears in captivity. The terrible conditions are made even more atrocious by the shocking bile extraction process from the bear’s gallbladder while alive; only to be sold in markets, restaurants, online and used in pseudo-traditional medicines. 

There are two types of rescue missions FOUR PAWS do to save these bears. One where bears are voluntarily handed in by owners willing to give up bile bear farming. Two: bears are confiscated from illegal traders. FOUR PAWS act quickly in a short time frame to rescue bears just like Nikko and Nara.

On the 21st of July, FOUR PAWS were notified of two Asiatic black bear cubs that had been confiscated by the environmental police from wildlife smugglers who were trying to sell the cubs online via social media.

On the 22nd of July, the small FOUR PAWS team made an 11-hour journey to Lai Chau Province at the Vietnam border where they rescued the cubs and brought them to their new home, Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh. 

“Both cubs were very stressed and huffed at anyone trying to approach them. The male is quite protective of the very timid female, hiding in a corner and nestling under him. They will now receive all the care they need to calm down and recover from a turbulent start of their lives. Both cubs are in stable condition, but slightly underweight. Our vets are examining them thoroughly, and once we are sure they are disease-free we will socialise them with another bear cub we rescued earlier this year from similar circumstances,” says Emily Lloyd, Animal Manager at Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh.

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The Vietnamese Government announced on the 24th of July the banning of imports and trade of wild animals.

While this is promising after years of effort from FOUR PAWS and fellow animal welfare NGOs, the organisation hopes the Government’s efforts to enforce the ban will be effective. Still today, there are over 400 farmed bile bears in Vietnam. 

“Although the sale and possession of bear bile are illegal in Vietnam, it still exists as due to weak enforcement of the laws. We hope that this new directive and subsequent revised enforcement efforts will also affect bear farming and eradicate the illegal sale and possession of bile products,” says Kieran Harkin, responsible for Wild Animals in Trade at FOUR PAWS.

The Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh where Nikko and Nara now live is a wildlife conservation education centre and a beautiful, safe home for these furry friends while they heal and grow. Nikko and Nara have made a fellow friend, bear cub Mochi. 

The sanctuary, which began construction in 2016, now has six outdoor enclosures, three bear houses, a quarantine station and veterinary unit, a feeding kitchen and an admin building.

It can house up to 50 bears now, but once fully finished with construction will be able to provide a species-appropriate home for up to 100 rescued bears. Currently, all 33 Asiatic bears in Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh were victims of bile farming and illegal trade. 

“Our bears often arrive with a multitude of health issues; some are obese, some emaciated, some are even missing paws or limbs from being trapped in the wild. Dental disease is common along with mobility issues and gallbladder and liver infections from the unsanitary bile extraction process.”

It is admirable the work FOUR PAWS do to give these bears hope for a better life and future. We asked FOUR PAWS spokesperson Elise Burgess, what does a day in the life of the Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh look like?

For FOUR PAWS, they do a variety of tasks, from essential rehabilitation and quarantine processes for bears newly rescued, to feeding, medication, general enclosure maintenance but also what they call “environmental enrichment”. 

“An essential part of animal care is ‘environmental enrichment’, which is necessary for the optimal physical and psychological well-being of our rescued bears. The five main categories of enrichment are sensory, cognitive, social, physical habitat and food.” 

“Our outdoor enclosures provide a complex environment where the bears can forage for food, dig, climb, swim, play, hide and rest, all things they would naturally do. In the wild bears spend the majority of the time they are awake looking for food. By presenting our bears’ food in different ways such as scattering and hiding it throughout their enclosures or using puzzle feeder toys, for example, we are allowing our bears to express this natural behaviour. Bears are thought to have the best sense of smell of all animals on earth, 2100 times better than humans! Therefore olfactory (scent) enrichment is particularly stimulating for bears, so on certain days our bear caretakers put out different scents such as cinnamon, or peppermint, for the bears to investigate.” 

Now, Ponderers, we hope envisioning bear cubs safe in a beautiful haven sniffing for cinnamon and peppermint brings you all the heart smiles for your day. 

You can donate to FOUR PAWS at their website, and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on the incredible work they do with not only bears but other projects around the world. 

If you would like to know more information about the Bear Sanctuary  Ninh Binh, follow them on Facebook, and when international travel is allowed again, go visit Ninh Binh! You can see the bears in their tranquil haven, purchase locally made souvenirs and enjoy some traditional vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese dishes at the onsite restaurant. 

 

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I Was Four When I First Saw Him

I Was Four When I First Saw Him

Written by Kirsten Macdonald

I was 4 years old when I remember my first interaction with God.  I was very scared at the time and feeling very powerless.

Remembering what my Nan had told me I gripped my hands together, and I prayed. I asked Jesus to help, to help me be brave and to help it stop. In my mind,  I could see beautiful fields of green, flowers and animals with a man sitting there. He did not look like the anglo version I had been shown in pictures. But that didn’t matter, I knew who it was. He asked me to come and sit. So under the covers of my blanket, hugging my rabbit tightly and squeezing my eyes shut just as tightly,  I walked to him and sat. I knew somehow that God was here. He told me all about the animals and how loved they were. He told me it was okay I could sleep now, to lay down my head. So I did. I fell into the deepest slumber of calm and wonder.

There began the discovery that would last a lifetime; a cryptic riddle. Did “He” stop what was frightening me outside my room at the time? I don’t think so. But, there’s a big but here; when I asked for help, it always came. Every time. Without fail. Did it stop perceived terrible things from happening every time? No. Would answers, guidance and calm come every time? Yes. Were the actions of others stopped? Not always. This started a lifelong search on the discourse of free will, divine design and science. I never told Nan that his son didn’t have blue eyes and blonde hair. But maybe we all have our own version. The other day my mother found poems I wrote as a child about my relationship with God. This friendship has been a constant in my life.

(Sidenote: I am using the word He because whilst I fight the suffocating patriarchal rule of hundreds of years, my experience of God is He. My understanding of mother is Her. I also have moments when I speak with God and right out of the pages of the book ‘The Shack’ Papa G is a woman cooking pancakes. We are so porous.) 

As I grew up, I sometimes forgot to ask for help, until I was well and truly tangled and in the darkest of messes.

My Nan once told me; if you feel distant from God, you’re the one who moved. When I did call out, I was sometimes so tired from the fight, a pile of torn pieces, it was then I  handed it over to God. In the surrender, the calm and answers would come. Forehead slap. Wouldn’t you think when you have a calming trick up your sleeve known since toddlerdom, you would whip it out every time? Faith is no party trick or soothing blanket.  It occurred to me in the last few years that intervention is a bit like a teacher telling a child the answers to a test. How do they learn if you do everything for them?

 

I have discovered through this journey with faith that life is indeed a quest. 

 

It occurs to me we indeed may be the sum of our collective choices as a species. Choices of our ancestors may have impacted our genetics, our sociological makeup and our DNA progression or regression. We may have very well created manipulated bacteria, atoms and technology for one purpose and ended with another unintended outcome. Our species most certainly has interrupted the lifespan of endangered humans and animals, along with botanical wonders of this planet. 

The myriad of choices we fashioned under this umbrella of free will is all-encompassing and has self-imposed consequences.

 

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Choices are very, very important. As a child, we don’t get many.

Grown-ups need to teach their children well, and as a parent, I know this isn’t an easy role. We bring these fresh little souls into the world. The gravity of the responsibility can be overwhelming, we are raising future adults, and our job is to teach them how to survive and how to be fair and how to be happy, how to forge ahead in times of difficulty and we need to give them the resources for life. I am so grateful my grandmother taught me the resource of faith. 

I was going to need it. 

When you sit in an office, and a surgeon tells you are more than likely not going to live long, life is never the same again. You question the very essence of your being, what does life really mean? You want to teach your children, hold them close and never break their hearts. But the fear is as giant as a building about to fall down and crush you. You see buildings are not frightening until you think one might fall. 

An aneurysm is a sneaky taker of lives, and I know from experience that bleeding in one’s brain isn’t a pleasant experience. There are moments during this time that are etched into my soul like deep cracks in concrete. One was the surgeon conversation, the other was the realisation that I would be blind. No one told me I would be blind. No one insinuated I would be. But a solid inkling arose that I would be blind for a time. I threw a huge tantrum that day, my one and only. My Mum was there. She asked me not to think negatively, be positive. I told her to fuck off. My poor Mama. That had never happened before, and she held that space like a champion. 

She stood there with me, I threw porcelain at the back wall. It wasn’t my finest hour. I knew I would be blind. Think what you will, but I knew it to be true. As we sat down on the grass and picked up all the shards of cups and saucers ( we usually throw eggs when we are upset -family tradition), I prayed. Again, a calm came. 

I remember the night vividly before my first operation.

With a house full of beautiful family and friends. Watching them interact made my heart ache so much because the stark reality was that this might be the last time I see them, a bit like a soldier about to go to war. It is a very unnatural psychological event. When everyone went to bed, I paced the grass, talking to God. I cried and told him how scared I was and how I wanted to be his miracle. I knew it was a big ask, but I would dedicate my life to writing about hope, I was doing deals. (It is a survival thing and very human thing to do- seems we cannot help ourselves.) In the nakedness of that moment, I felt the calm rise and warm me. It feels cliche to use these words, but for me, warmth, love and calm are the only words to describe grace and they are nowhere near adequate. I was guided to go to bed, sleep and all would be well in the end.  

I kissed my children’s heads and hugged them without frightening them, I had to get in a car and drive away with the thought of goodbye and see you soon rolled into one. I wrote letters to them. My fears went from where am I going if I do die? What if I actually do just become worm snacks and memories at special occasions- to -what is death? Will Travis give the kids the right guidance when their hearts are first broken? Would I be scarred for life? Would I wake up with my personality intact? No small fears. I kissed my husband goodbye and waved to him as I was rolled into a room and a needle put in my arm. How did I stay on the bed? Prayer. When fear knocked at the door, and faith answered; no one was there. 

When I woke up from brain surgery, I knew they saved my life, but everything that could have gone wrong did; and I had no sight- completely blind, could not walk, was hooked up to everything possible in the ICU, and I was calm. The operation went south, and the surgeon had to cut into a deep part of the brain, in the process the nerve operating eyeballs was injured. 

When I woke up and couldn’t see, I did not panic. I was prepared. It was all going to be okay. I would walk again, and my sense of humour was better than ever. Can I explain to you how I knew? Not in a million years. But thanks to this calm, I could focus on recovery and not get stuck in the trauma. My thoughts were; I’ve never been blind before, so what can this teach me? I also knew my sight would be restored regardless of what the doctors said, there’s that. I had a psychologist demand in rehab that I share my secret, where was all this positivity coming from? He was intrigued. 

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The second surgery 3 years later for an aneurysm much nastier and much more dangerous bought a different experience.

This time there was a lack of reassurance coming about my ongoing existence here with my peeps. I did not know if I was going to be okay. In fact, every time I prayed, I got very clear its all in the air. Try that one on. Ouch. I had not dedicated my life to writing about hope. I had focussed on recovery and getting well, on life and living it to the max. I felt cheated. I did not want to go through all this again. Some people very close to me thought this was negative thinking, but seriously, regardless of my faith I knew in my heart my life was up in the air and then came the process of being okay with this process. 

Deeper contemplation and conversations with God went on for hours in those weeks leading up to surgery. The question arose- what is death? A word we give to the animation of our cells here and now. But what of consciousness? Was heaven, not some Zeus like an imaginary place in the clouds we humans conjure up to save ourselves the terrible notion of no longer existing? What if we romantically returned to the Cosmos as magnificent dust, part of the circle of life? Grown-up thoughts. 

JAX Tyres for Ponderings

 

Volunteering for total surrender in true faith is not easy, even for someone who has spent a life knowing faith consistently. There was no guidance saying you are going to be blind, you are going to live, you are going… it was just peace.

A deeper, more profound understanding began to unfold. It was a mighty and vast and calm joy without needing to scratch the human itch of satisfying conclusions. We, humans, get irritated when we don’t understand when the door and its mechanisms evade us. Closure and acknowledgement oscillate around us always. 

 

I did not wake up blind, but I woke up knowing. You cannot touch the ether without bringing the sand back on your feet, and the leaf you see on the surface is only the tip of a deeply rooted tree. There is much more but now is not the time. It will come. We are so visual, and limited. 

 

I can’t rely anymore on the wisdom of the world, because I have felt beyond it, behind it. An egg cannot go back into the embryo once cracked. Untangled from the clatter. An existential crisis creates a whole lot of magnificent possibility. This is not a test. This is not a punishment. This is a university with icebergs, trees and bad breath. We are magnificent, and we are loved. But we make choices, and they are a gift. So we have to spend them wisely. Death is not final. 

 

When you hold a personal truth so large in a world of cynicism and pain, hurt and disdain, you do not want to share it. Because when everyone touches it, holds it, questions it, it loses its lustre. The shine wears off, and it feels like a beautiful creature you let everyone pet until it tires out and dies in the corner. My choice has now been superseded by something much greater, the whisper in my ear to speak boldly about my faith. As Rudyard Kipling said, Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.

 

As a kid, I was bought up in a house that firmly stuck to the idea that you if you told other people about your beliefs you were shoving it down their throat or assuming your faith or beliefs were better than someone else. You had no right. Whilst this is based on mutual respect, I have discovered that for me, it leaves no room for the joy of communication or seeing each other without the small talk. 

 

The most incredible conversations I have had have been with Anglican ministers who have spent a lifetime studying God, Atheists who have spent a lifetime denying God, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Shaman and Wise women. When we speak our truth with respect, we are not condemning anyone else. I spent years studying religions of the world and different scriptures as part of an Anthropology degree (unfinished – turns out epilepsy, narcolepsy and short term memory loss are not conducive to the PHD dream)

 

One thing became evident through all that study; many of these religions- so completely unrelated and often at odds with each other shared a common truth; God is the name we give a creator, an architect so complex; defying human understanding and with a simple covenant; love and faith conquer.  It seems from texts cross-sectioned across faiths that many messengers have been sent to tell us how to survive. Many interactions have even happened with divine beings sharing the same names but in different times and different languages. Interesting right? According to many scriptures, codexes and scripts; we are pretty unique critters designed for continuing creation along with boo-boos. 

 

The words of these records have been translated, repaired,  interpreted, rewritten, repurposed and used in ways inspiring but also in some cases in ways most foul and corruptible; because the lure of power amongst the patriarchy is very strong. But when you start believing the power of people and not the message that sits in all of our hearts, we get in trouble. People start wars. Religion is the structure through which we experience and explore belief. It is a man-made construct, and in many cases, it serves as an excellent scaffolding for this purpose. Power, on the other hand, is anything but.  

 

“He wrapped himself in quotations- as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.” R. Kipling

 

We wear the social narratives we are given like coats; the stories we are told form our own threads and layers. But sometimes we have worn them so long the fibres have etched into our skin, and we forget the simple truth; so long as you seek the light and open your heart to hope you will find it. 

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The Haunted History of the Hollywood Sign

The Haunted History of the Hollywood Sign

Written by Cassidy Krygger

Hollywood can be a pretty scary place at the best of times.

However, that is nothing compared to the real haunting going on at the Hollywood sign. There have been numerous reports for over 80 years of sightings of the supernatural. But the most common sighting is of a woman, dressed in 1930s clothing that appears and disappears in front of peoples very eyes.. So who is this mysterious woman? And why would she be haunting one of the most famous landmarks in the world?

The Hollywood sign is now an American icon. But in 1923 when the original HOLLYWOODLAND sign went up, it was just a real estate gimmick for the new housing estate in the Hollywood Hills that was originally only meant to be there for a year and a half. But after the rise of American cinema that developed in Los Angeles, the sign became an internationally recognised symbol of the industry. But on September 16th, 1932, the legend of the Hollywood sign took a sinister turn when the 24-year-old actress Peg Entwistle climbed up to the top of the H of the Hollywoodland sign and jumped to her death. 

Peg Entwistle was a successful Broadway actor in New York 

Who in early 1932, decided to make her way to Hollywood and try to make it in the relatively new world of the movies.

She quickly landed a small role in the movie Thirteen Women and was signed by movie studio RKO. But after watching her performance in the movie, RKO decided not to renew her contract. This devastated Entwistle and she disappeared from the house where she had been staying. The next day, a hiker found her body right under the H of the Hollywoodland sign. It was soon after that, that the paranormal sightings began. 

Hollywood was rife with rumours in the 1930s that Peg Entwistle was haunting their famous sign. But it wasn’t until 1940 that the first truly spooky moment happened when the H of the Hollywoodland, the same that Peg climbed over eight years earlier, mysteriously fell. And from that point on, there have been dozens of reports varying from witnessing a chilling white mist going up towards the sign and then disappearing, to sightings of a distressed female apparition dressed in 1930s clothing.  In 2014, Megan Santos was jogging near the sign and told Vanity Fair that she saw what she thought was a woman who was ‘walking on air’. Could this have been the ghost of Peg Entwistle? 

Today, the Hollywood sign is fenced off to stop people from climbing it, however, there are plenty of ghost tours that cash in on Peg Entwistle’s name and take groups of brave and willing people on hikes around the hills of Hollywood. I do understand the curiosity and fascination in searching for the famous ghost that haunts the Hollywood sign. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story?  But I think it is important to remember that Peg Entwistle was a real person who had aspirations and dreams like the rest of us. 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing depression, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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Piano Bar Harmonising Hope In The Face of COVID-19

Piano Bar Harmonising Hope In The Face of COVID-19

Founder and co-owner of Geelong’s Piano Bar Andy Pobjoy laughs as he explains how he creatively juggles playing the piano, singing, hosting their Facebook live streams, meanwhile changing the camera angles with his right foot.  

 

“It started off with just me, as at the start of lockdown you weren’t allowed to have other people in the venue, so I worked out a way of switching cameras with a foot trigger, but its necessity! We had to do it! What started as two Go Pros has now turned into an eight-camera shoot with full lighting production. It’s pretty cool.” 

 

The much loved Piano Bar on Malop street Geelong is a hot-spot for live entertainment, as founder Andy shares how performing on cruise ships inspired the unique idea. 

“I used to work on cruise ships, and I was doing the same sort of thing we do at Piano Bar, getting a whole bunch of people from different walks of life, and sitting around the piano asking for their favourite songs. It just brings people together; it all starts with the music; it all starts with a song.”

“But I was away from my family, and it was time to start thinking about doing something closer to home. So against everyone’s advice, saying this would never work in Geelong, we ended up with a little venue on little Malop Street about five years ago, and we have never looked back!” 

However, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing the Piano Bar to close, Andy is determined to support the venue’s performers, staff and community through the power of song and social media streaming. 

“We missed everybody. We had to come up with ideas of how to keep the business running and that’s why we started doing live streams. So it was about community, it was about connection, and certainly still feeling like we still had some sense of control when we really had very little.”

This innovative idea of doing free live performances with musicians, vocalists, special guests and taking song requests from viewers comments turned into an online hit, with thousands of views, media attention and over 100 live streams. 

“Our record was up to 110 thousands viewers on one particular Saturday night, that was the night we were on Channel Nine News,” Andy says.

Resonating with people during the COVID-19 crisis, the Piano Bar expanded its newfound digital fame globally.  

 

“We had people overseas and a lot of people suffering from chronic conditions who are immune-compromised. This was a lifeline for people that were on their own as well. And we had some people who were at every single live stream and shared that entire journey,” Andy says. 

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Co-owner and performer Joss Russell says not only did the live streams provide entertainment for viewers, but the online donations from audiences also offered support for their performers who have lost income. 

“People really get involved in the live stream, and on the other side of it as well, the donations have gone towards the performers who couldn’t get Job Keeper, so it’s gone a long way in supporting those of us who have had their gigs run completely dry throughout the COVID-19 crisis.” 

While virtual audiences have been a success, Joss says it will be great to have real crowds again. 

“We have had so much fun with the live streams, but I think nothing will truly replace the atmosphere of having a real crowd in front of you. When you look around the room, and you see smiles on everyone’s faces, and you see everyone up on the chairs dancing, smiling and cheering, it’s just a good feeling to know that people are as happy as you are.” 

As of September 16 under Step 3 of the COVID-19 Roadmap for regional Victoria, the Piano Bar is opening its doors in Geelong and their other regional Victoria venues. 

With limited space for 20 patrons in it’s Geelong venue, the team has evolved once more with creative and safe ways to entertain from the outdoors. 

Every weekend the Piano Bar will be at the Geelong Race Course, the West End/Little Malop Street precinct with laneway jazz sessions and also regular and special guest shows. 

“It’s going to be great, and it’s awesome that we have adapted to the restrictions so that we can still provide something good while keeping everyone safe at the same time,” says Joss.

Andy hopes the Piano Bar’s newly found online community will convert from screen to table in support of keeping the entertainment industry alive. 

“Rain hail or shine we are going to be outdoors! We hope people will jump on board with it and get excited like we get excited every time we get to do something new.” 

To support the Piano Bar and purchase tickets to upcoming events, go to www.pianobar.com.au

 

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Who Switched On The Light? A Book Review

Who Switched On The Light? A Book Review

Pina Di Donato’s has emerged to the self-help arena with her newly released book Who Switched the Lights On?

Self-described; it is a companion guide for the person ready to have an illuminated life.

The 158-page paperback is easy to read, down to earth, humble and give’s a first person account of the author’s journey after reaching 40; living more consciously and mindfully.

Anecdotal, the conversational tone makes it a breeze to read; like a warm chat between friends, a rarity for many self-help books.

Themes of friendships, leadership, life, children, along with timing and entanglement feature throughout and it felt like a beginners guide when you start to get that itch that says life might need some attention and some cleaning out of the metaphoric cobwebs.

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“Who Switched the Lights On? is essentially a book about life; my life. More than a self-help book, it is a journey over time which highlights my growth and the things I was able to learn, or unlearn, along the way. It is my hope, that by coming along with me as I adjust to the light, clear out the cobwebs, and work through my process of ‘un-conditioning’, that you too will be inspired to shine a light on your own life and adjust the brightness until it’s just perfect for you” says Di Donato on her website. 

The lens of the author is transparent and poised, wordsmithed with pleasing honesty and the hum of authenticity. 

About the Author

Pina Di Donato is an avid philanthropist, business person, highly experienced marketing professional and author. Pina lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her three children.

https://www.booktopia.com.au/who-switched-the-lights-on–pina-di-donato/book/9780648792741.html

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Messages of Hope From Brisbane-based Poet Tom Stodulka

Messages of Hope From Brisbane-based Poet Tom Stodulka

Written by Renae Failla

Around the world, lockdown and isolation continue with long term impacts of COVID-19 lurking, many are struggling to come to terms with what a COVID Normal will look like.

Tom Stodulka, named 2019 Australasian mediator of year is reinforcing messages of positivity in these challenging times. Contrasting COVID-19 to experiences of war, he reminds Australians of how we have overcome and survived what has been thrown at us. “Sometimes it is easy to forget that as a nation, we’ve survived wars, conflicts, depressions, and economic uncertainty all before COVID-19,” And stresses focusing on the small moments of positivity to help get us through “We should remember that life is about enjoying what we can in every single moment. Enjoy the world around you, because happiness is found in every single one of those moments, especially when you’re being active and creative.”

Tom is no stranger to life’s hardships, with his birth taking place in Bathurst 1951 in one of Australia’s post-WWII refugee camps after his parents fled Czechoslovakia in 1947 during a time of political unrest, while his older brother was born in a UN Displaced Persons Camp in Italy. His parents primarily spoke German in his childhood years which added an extra burden to his school years and English essay writing. Seemingly a very distant memory, Tom went on to study law, join the Royal Australian Navy and secure a full-time career as a mediator and facilitator.

He is now an inspiration to people all over Australian. With three reprints of his first book and the support of his loving wife and three children, Tom now hopes to spread messages of hope to Australians experiencing their own hardships.

His new book Life is a Dance, explores the way in which we are challenged as life unfolds but despite whatever is thrown our way, life is about enjoying what we can in every single moment. Hence, Life is a Dance, not a journey. 

So as we wake up each morning and type “Daily Coronavirus cases” in our Google Search Engine to read the news and lasting impacts COVID-19 is having around the world to determine when we will go back to work full time, when we will be able to see our family, ponder on when we will be able to leave the house without a mask, wonder when we will next be able to travel overseas… it’s important to find the positivity to enjoy that singular moment – Like the added time at home with a loved one, your newfound cooking skills, the opening of your new business or the introduction of a new exercise routine. Celebrate those small wins!

Tell us more about your latest book.

It’s exciting to have a second book out there called Life is a Dance it’s a follow on from a previous book that I wrote about 2 years ago called Storm Clouds and Silver Linings: My Journey and I thought rather than repeat the word ‘journey’ I would try and look at things from a different perspective and again look at things positively with ‘Life is a Dance’. Someone then said to me when they stumble they did part of a dance and I think that’s very positive.

Some people have asked me why the word dance and when you think of music and people’s need for entertainment and gaining some pleasure or joy often people meet in life through dancing, certainly in the old days – maybe not so much now but it’s nice to think of those concepts and those actions of people dancing. Whether they danced together, alone or in a group a lot of people are inspired by dancing – sometimes in a group running across cultures like for example Australian, Indigenous, European, African, Asian and South American so there is a cultural play in it too.

Fun fact: The cover of Life is a Dance features the backdrop of a painting of a Bush Fire scene that Tom’s Dad had painted in the 80s. He selected it as the cover of “Life is a Dance” as Australia was going through the intense bushfires last year when the book was being prepared for publication.

Can you tell us what inspires you to write poetry?

It’s something that is inspired by nature, our surroundings and people because the poems in both books are about people and about trees and the changes in weather and scenery. Many aspects of Nature are a given in our lives but its not always positive with storms, cyclones and droughts but there is always a perception that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s a change in the seasons or a change in the weather. When you think of the terrible droughts across Australia a year ago and the bushfires and then it’s a very Australian thing to think of a return to a better result with sea change in the weather and people have been over the moon across the country to have their dams full again or to be able to grow plants and agriculture is thriving in many ways again thanks to the changes of the weather. There’s a connectivity between everybody and everybody in Australia is affected by the things that occur right across the country.

So many people have been looking for positives despite all the stresses that they have experienced. Just to hear today that all the kids are going back to school today in Victoria and its sort of like a new beginning for so many people – there’s an amazing hope again. There are some people who have really struggled with COVID and the lack of connection with their friends and family. As you may know, I am a mediator so I work a lot with families with conflict and dispute and that’s something that from working in the field you’re always looking at remaining positive.

With poetry, like music, there are so many ways to be creative in our world.

 

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During the COVID-19 what has kept you inspired?

Always to think in a positive light (7.31) because magazines like yours that are real community literature, I’ve been reading those because magazines like that are able to pick up what’s happening in society and what people are doing, what’s inspiring people to keep going or do things differently. All these new ideas – fantastic new ideas like Food Services for people working in hospitals, they were really struggling to get their meals and to virtually keep going. These community incentives, community motivation and community-driven to feed thousands of people that are sort of futurists in a way whether its writers or musicians – some of these writers capture the moment noticing all the good things despite the stresses. One of these positives, for example, is the loads and loads of wattle that line this road in the Sunshine Coast.

I’m very inspired by people and what they are doing like the people living with very serious illnesses, these people that have lived through some of the most tragic experiences can come out being so positive. Like Turia Pitt for example or the lady that lives up in Sunshine Coast in Maroochadyre who had a fall doing some things around the house and it just didn’t put her off she just came back being stronger than ever before and that’s what can make life better for so many people.

I have developed this perspective as a mediator to work with the concept of a ‘glass half full’ so you can give it your best shot and get the people you are working with to adapt and adopt an idea or concept of looking at things which can be helpful.

 

Can you pick one of your most memorable poems and explain why?

On page 42 of my latest book Life is a Dance there is one that is dedicated to my writing teacher Linda Henderson. It was her amazing capacity to inspire and encourage people to recognise that they have actually got something to give by their writing. This poem talks to the influence of people around you which not only focuses on messages of hope like many of my other poems but is a different aspect of positivity.

Below is an excerpt from Life is a Dance:

Imagination and reflections 3 April 2018 by Tom Stodulka

The Commonwealth Games are about to begin.

Let the best win,

Let the other’s too enjoy the din.

And bask in the glory and the sun.

You fantasise many a thing,

What may it all bring?

Even one day a lotto win.

Reality lost, as reality is not always kind.

May even start playing on your mind.

And get you into a bind.

You try to be a cool dude.

Hopefully never rude.

Patience sometimes sorely tested.

Still staying in control.

Though not always very droll.

The drum may start to roll

Beating at your very soul.

The bell also may toll.

Sharing and caring are best.

As you ride high upon the eagle’s crest.

Full of zest.

Taken up to the very highest nest.

You still soar and conquer, but too often never rest.

Let the young give you a jolt,

Just like a young colt.

Give up some of that control,

As you accept, that you too may one day have to accept the dole.

Imagined for certain.

Just avoid the final curtain.

What’s next? And how has COVID-19 impacted your planning?

I’m hoping there might be a third book in the works. I have thought I might not be able to manage a third book with me writing less – I’ve only written 10 poems in the last year whereas previously I was writing 1 or 2 a week and I think COVID has had that slightly negative impact in some ways I should have more time but then works picking up again and there is a lot of working via zoom and phone and this completely different way of operating. The very nature of life has changed, there’s no more of that going out to have a coffee before meditation starts and that interconnection with people has been very important to my life.

The coffee culture has changed and all of a sudden we have lost that ability to meet up, we’re now so restricted and that can have an impact on you. That’s why it’s important to write about the positives.

To learn more about Tom or purchase his new book Life is a Dance for $24.99, head to his website.

 

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How Books Save Us- A Pondering by Karen Brooks

How Books Save Us- A Pondering by Karen Brooks

Written by Karen Brooks

Here we are at the tail end of a year that, in its numerical configuration alone (2020) promised so much.

Instead of clarity, pragmatism and all the other positive meanings that arise when we used to think of 2020, many of us have encountered sickness, death, loss of income, stability, isolation, family crises, never mind sadness, fear, and familial, social and state divisions. 

Throughout these long months, the arts – music, dance, poetry, prose, films, TV, clips and events on social media etc – have played an enormous role in helping us cope with the harsh reality of Covid-19 and its fallout – including the endless dismal and doom-laden news-cycle. This has enabled us to appreciate, perhaps in ways we haven’t before, the integral role the arts play in helping us understand and define what it is to be human.  

Books and fiction especially provide a measure of unquantifiable comfort in harrowing times.

 

They allow readers to escape, even briefly, the cruel or mundane veracity of the everyday and walk vicariously in someone else’s shoes, to safely experience their emotions and undergo a journey that, more often than not, resolves in a satisfying way.

More than just bibliotherapy (which is how the psychological and emotional consolation books offer is sometimes described), books can be personally transformative and, most certainly, transportative as well.

After all, when the going seems tough, there’s always a story to fall into, a lexical journey to embark upon, and sometimes quite literally lose yourself in.

According to recent studies, reading has increased anywhere from 37% – 41% during  the pandemic.

While some folk sought eschatological narratives (end of the world scenarios) in order to perhaps channel their own fears, others turned to the classics, re-read old favourites, reached for their enormous TBR piles – some of which contained books they’d been promising themselves for decades (War and Peace anyone?), found the time to increase their knowledge around certain topics (racism, politics, history etc), or took the opportunity to read genres they’ve never tried before.  

One British study simplified people’s choices as those who “read for exploration and those who re-read for safety”.  

At home, curled up in a chair or in bed, reading of other people, periods and places, is a panacea that both soothes the soul and fires the imagination. It reminds us that while we might be doing it hard (whether that’s because of the pandemic, loss, grief, sad memories, poor health, relationship issues, anger, parenthood etc), struggling or triumphing, these are what humans have done since time immemorial. We’re remarkably resilient. Sometimes, the only way to recognise and appreciate that characteristic, to understand we too will get through this, is within fiction.  

What’s evident is that books offer something few other options can: they’re the word equivalent of comfort food and we’re hungry for it.

Gratitude for what creative artists have given us during lockdown – through their books, art, music, film, dance, TV, social media, cyber-performance etc – has been loud and clear right around the world. What a pity our government cannot acknowledge the importance of the arts and artistes; their intrinsic social, cultural and personal value, choosing instead to cut funding to important bodies and prizes, or offer meagre and competitive grants and loans – and at a time when both the creators and the grateful public need the arts most.

Creative artists are both inventors and curators of culture, of our collective imaginations and hearts. Their work worms its way into our souls and minds, becoming part of individual histories, our memories; they’re a short-cut to a moment in time, even to a version of ourselves we no longer recognise – for better and worse.

Books allow us to escape the nightmare of the present (or past) and dream of other spaces, possibilities; of different ways of being. They enable us to move beyond the present and imagine a different future and even, in our darkest moments, a better one.

About Karen: 

 Dr. Karen Brooks: is an Author,  columnist, social commentator and academic. Karen is also a part of a gorgeous brewery in Tasmania with her partner. The brewery and the authory keep her busy!

www.karenrbrooks.com

Twitter: KarenBrooksAU

Associate Professor and Honorary Senior Research Fellow IASH, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland.

Join Karen for great conversations and sharing on FaceBook: Karen Brooks Author – love to have you!

 

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