From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

Last Christmas, during the midst of a 40+ degree ten day long heatwave, I remember sitting in my lounge room, trying to be okay with permanently sweat-damp hair and the ever-present perspiration beads that were forming on my brow and nose quicker than I could wipe them clear.

I had my laptop open with the windows set at facebook and the Country Fire Authority website. I flicked between the two pages, watching people update their statuses on one web page, and checking the updates for bushfires that were threatening to consume my community on the other.

firedanger2 From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

 

I was witnessing the two extremes that were occurring simultaneously in the different hemispheres; Mother Nature giving us all a reality check on the realisation of her immense and contradictory power.  On one side of the planet, in Canada and Northern America, I read stories of boiling hot tea being thrown outside and freezing immediately in an arc shape upon reaching the outside air, frozen tree branches snapping from the sheer cold, even one of my Canadian friends had her eyeballs freeze while waiting for public transport.  The pictures were even more compelling; like frighteningly beautiful scenes from the apocalyptic blockbuster movie Day After Tomorrow, I saw ocean waves frozen as they were about to break over a bridge and house roofs looming out of immense snow drifts like titanic-sized icebergs while the children inside waved from their window … like not-so-happy snaps of an impending ice age.

Ice Storm 300x300 From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

While the chaos of the polar vortex caused devastation in the Northern Hemisphere, in my part of the world, the Southern Hemisphere, it was never more obvious that we really do experience completely opposite but bizarrely similar weather extremes. Both the intense cold in the North and the intense heat and bushfires in the South were helping to propagate the future of our planet despite the fact that both had left behind it a wake of apocalyptic style devastation. In the Northern Hemisphere, Canadian and American scientists spouted evidence that the -40 temperatures were helping to kill off introduced biological pests and in the Southern Hemisphere, Australian environmentalists were quietly reveling over the 40+ degree heatwaves and resulting bushfires because our natives need the extreme heat and smoky water from bushfires to germinate seeds. Mother Nature has her own special way of making us feel very, very insignificant.

us snow storm updates.si  From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

 

While the Icestorm consumed my Northern Hemisphere brothers and sisters, in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly the Upper Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia, my Christmas tradition of preparing for bushfires had very obviously hit … and hit hard.

It is an odd thing to have to tell your five children, aged from 12 to 6, to go into their rooms and pack a single backpack of things that they couldn’t bear to lose if a bushfire burnt down our whole house.  It is even stranger to see what they actually pack.  I usually have to explain to them every year that a PlayStation 3 or a One Direction CD can be replaced, so only pack things that you absolutely, couldn’t bear to lose.  I think they understand … and then, I don’t really think they do.  The finality of the devastation caused by a bushfire eludes them, as it does most of us who live through the dread of it every Summer.

Until you stare one dead in the eye.

Black Saturday Bushfire From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

It is an odd thing to have to walk around your house, looking at all of your beautiful, precious things, seeing irreplaceable family photographs and a long list of items that tell your family’s ‘firsts’; baby clothes that you’ve kept from the early days, crazy kid paintings from primary school, a glitter-covered, messy and lovingly created Mothers Day card.  It is odd when you realise that you could potentially be saying goodbye to all of it as soon as you shut the front door to evacuate.  It is even stranger to be okay with never seeing any of it again.

Enter the logistical nightmare of relocating a ferret, two cats, a dog, a mouse, a blue tongue lizard, five children and two adults, along with seven precious ‘bug out’ backpacks and safety supplies of woolen blankets, torches and bottled water for an indefinite amount of time.

Welcome to Summer in the Upper Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Black Saturday Bushfire From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

 

Each Summer, usually after Christmas, a single suitcase is shuttled down to my Mother’s house. She lives an hour away from my town, in the middle of suburbia and a place highly unlikely to be hit by bushfires.  My suitcase contains most of those firsts; one item of baby clothing from each child, a few precious child school artworks, a hard drive containing digital photographs, videos and a copy of important identifications.  Every Summer I repack and unpack it, trying to be satisfied with the fact that if my house did burn down, this suitcase would be all I would have to show for the past 37 years.

 

Normally I am right on it.  Normally, that suitcase is on my Mother’s doorstep before the temperatures even look like they are going to reach 25 degrees celcius.  But, this year I became complacent and it wasn’t even packed when we received the first ‘Watch and Act’ bushfire warning.  Now the suitcase sits permanently in the boot of my car and the childrens’ bug out backpacks have taken up residence behind their bedroom doors, ready and waiting.

 2009 02102009bushfires0134 From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

Since Black Saturday, which occurred in February 2009, Australia’s worst bushfire disaster in history, which claimed 173 lives and 2029 homes in towns as close to my home as 24 kilometres. Just to give some perspective, a bushfire as intense and uncontrolled as the Black Saturday bushfires would cover 24 kilometres of bushland in less than ten minutes. This does not give a family long to leave…and heartbreakingly, this is what happened to 173 people.

I didn’t live through Black Saturday as I was living down by the beach at the time. I moved up to the Yarra Valley a few months later after the face of the bush changed forever.  But I see the scars of Black Saturday written across the faces of my community every Summer.

 

We all watch glued to CFA (Country Fire Authority) updates on the internet, scan the wind websites for changes and try to predict if one of the twenty fires in our area will turn its fury towards us, we share fire warnings on facebook, sending our love to those who we know are surrounded by fires and won’t be able to get out.  Our partners stay up through the night watching the updates, reading the app information, deciding whether to wake their families

 2009 02102009bushfires0110 1 From one small spark, a bushfire grows.

This is our reality.

 

Every Summer.

 

 

Photo Credits – Scott Duff Photography & BlackSaturdayBushfires.com

Renter Friendly DIY – Kitchen Love

Renter Friendly DIY – Kitchen Love

For those who know me personally understand that I am the antithesis of Little Miss DIY but I’m stuck on the rental treadmill for the moment and I thought that I might as well put some energy and love into the houses that I rent – even if they aren’t my own to design and decorate.  So…take one … my first attempt at a renter friendly DIY project.

decals tasty kitchen vinyl wall art words decal sticker home decor 28630 Renter Friendly DIY   Kitchen Love

There is nothing worse than moving into a rental property and finding it lacking in every kind of imaginative way; bland, boring colour themes, immovable stains on tired walls, curtains and carpets that would have even been unpopular in the 70s.

At some point, we have all lived in a house that was crying out to become a home; a rental property that has seen years of tenants move in and out, but has never really felt the love of an individual’s touch to transform it from a house into a home.  The problem lies with the fact that rental properties aren’t ours – we are limited by the fact that we don’t own them so to completely renovate is out of the question, and even if we are allowed to add our own creative schizzle to the place, do we really want to invest time and money into a place that we won’t see the economic benefit from.

Then add to the mix the ability to actually pull off a DIY project.  This has always been my sticking point.  I am happy to put in the time and effort as I need to transform my house into a home that will reflect my personality so that when I walk into my home, I have comfort food for my soul in the form of interior design in every crevice and corner.

I’m not lacking in creativity but ask me to complete a DIY project and you’re likely to find me hiding behind a large piece of furniture, quivering in fear because I have been to DIY Land many times, and if I am driving the train, it is a high speed express to Epic Fail.  I am no good with straight lines or things that might involve nailing, measuring or … well anything.

kitchen wall decals 121 Renter Friendly DIY   Kitchen Love

 

On the search for renter-friendly DIY that is both easy and transformative, I fell upon an amazing idea for a kitchen backsplash that will brighten any heart of the home.

All you will need is a pair of good scissors, some sticker sheets or decals that will reflect your personality and the tone you wish to create and a steady hand.  Choose something that reflects your personality and works in well with the existing colours of the kitchen.

You can find the decals online or at ikea.  They are cheap, don’t stick to the walls, can be removed easily for replacement elsewhere .. it’s just a win win!

Cut out your stickers, choose where you’d like them to go and stick them on the wall.  It really is that easy…even for someone like me who has trouble cutting out a straight line.

Goodbye tired, old boring kitchen completely lacking in any kind of creative spark, hello fabulous individualised kitchen backsplash.

 

 

Batman is real and he lives in Canada

Batman is real and he lives in Canada

 

A few months ago, I interviewed a 38 year old Canadian man who spends half his life just like you and I, and the other half in cape and cowl wandering around the streets of Toronto’s little sister city – Brampton in Canada.  This all happened via a live skype cross to a cafe in Brampton.  Magic happened and I was floored by the real life superhero that materialised on my screen.

I won’t lie – intially I thought he was going to be a complete weirdo but now, well, I realise he is actually an ordinary man doing extraordinary things.

If you are a comic book geek, a fan of Batman or just a lover of everything weird and unique, read on …

 

IMG 6870 Batman is real and he lives in Canada

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“It really isn’t a character that I chose, I really am the character.” – Brampton Batman.

 

Who can say that at 9:30am (Australian time) on a Monday morning, that you are about to sit down to a chat with Batman, who is connecting via Skype at 6:30pm Brampton time.  I knew he wasn’t a cosplayer, or a street performer like Toronto’s Batman, but what I didn’t know was how the tragic parallels’ between this ordinary man’s life and that of The Dark Knight led to the 24 year long transformation of Stephen Lawrence into Brampton’s own Batman. 

 

Initially I was quite taken aback by the sheer intensity of his energy, which pervaded bizarrely through the ether, right from his computer to mine!  I’m not sure if it was the amazing, almost intimidating Batsuit, or his voice which echoed through his microphone, strong and powerful, and at risk of sounding ridiculous … superhero-like.  He cuts quite an imposing figure; as one would expect from a superhero. Within a few minutes, I actually forgot I was talking to an ordinary man with an extraordinary past on an even more unusual mission to make a difference in the world.  To me, I was really talking to The Dark Knight…and so, I guess that makes me Vicki Vale.

IMG 6845 Batman is real and he lives in Canada

Beginning his patrol as soon as the sun goes down, and continuing until the early hours of the morning, Batman walks the streets of Brampton to offer himself as a beacon of safety to Bramptonians young and old, to enact his civil liberties of keeping the peace, within the law, of course, because unlike Hollywood’s Batman, this Dark Knight is no vigilante. “Since I don’t have the money to pay high price lawyers, I have to stay within the confines of the law…and vigilantism is against the law.” quips Batman, with a cheeky grin spreading across his face.

 

However when asked about the scourge of ambivalence that is sweeping across society with regards to common citizens being unwilling to offer help to their fellow humans in need, Batman spoke very strongly about the importance of duty and “the right thing to do”; “We all, as citizens, do carry a loosely based power of arrest. In other words, if you see something that you do think you should get into, I do think duty calls you to get into it.”

Batman Instagram 2 Batman is real and he lives in Canada

He expanded further on the loss of old fashioned moral codes and contemporary’s society fall from grace, giving us our first clear window into what drives this extraordinary man to don cape and cowl each night, giving up his personal life for the sake of others;

“In a world that is ever changing, it is always the good values that stay the same”, he says, passionately. It is very clear that this man/superhero is trying to lead from behind the cape as well as without it; to be the example of old fashioned manners, of chivalry, of a knight out to protect the commonfolk with no gain for himself other than the desire for everyone to feel safe in their beds, including himself of course. Is this, in itself, not a true trait of a super hero?

bb Batman is real and he lives in Canada

 

 

Our second window into the compelling life of Brampton’s Batman was in the drawing of parallels between Bruce Wayne’s tragic witnessing of his parents death and Stephen Lawrence’s own tragic loss of his father at a delicate age of 14.  Coincidentally, this is when he first started wearing the Batman costume, and hence, embodied The Dark Knight . “If you look at the core values of the character or if you look at how the character came to be, you will find parallels between Bruce Wayne and myself.”  He continues, “When I was 14, my father suffered the same kind of tragedy that Bruce Wayne’s did.”. It is at this point that I notice Batman slightly loses the ready confidence in his voice, it shakes a little and I can see that this was the creation point for the man/superhero that I can see in front of me. He goes onto to explain how the good things that he managed to do in his youth set him up as further embodying the character of The Dark Knight, “ These sorts of things (good deeds) fueled me into doing further good things”.

 IMG 6998 Batman is real and he lives in Canada

 

One wonders if he drew upon this character as a way of gaining strength and being able to deal with, and move on from, such a tragic occurrence at a very impressionable age. He certainly showed himself from a very young age to have a strong sense of moral duty; stepping in to make a citizens arrest on a man wanted across Canada for credit card fraud at 17, reviving a person with CPR during his college days and as Batman recently, being able to locate a missing child and prevent a drunk driver from causing chaos on the roads.  Regardless of the reason why he came to have these two outward appearances, one as Stephen Lawrence, and the other as The Dark Knight, he is the one person united with the values that the latter is most famous for.  He has certainly has been able to transmute the negative experiences of his youth into positive outcomes today – giving us all an injection of what is possible in a mind with no boundaries.

 

And by the way, girls, he is single.

Raw Gaming – The GTA Addiction

Grand Theft Auto 5 … Is it ever okay to want to kill people, hijack cars and wage rampant drug wars on random strangers?

 

“You’re a d&*k without a d#$k!”

“Ha ha ha, your Momma is a slut.”

“I need to stop f$%king with this b$%h, she can suck d%k but she’s got stank ass breath!”

 

GTA 5 cheats and tricks  Raw Gaming   The GTA Addiction

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA5), the controversial fourteenth release in Rockstar Games’ open world, mission-based video games series set in fictional Los Santos and Blaine County, was released in September 2013.  While GTA fans everywhere waited four years for the new GTA saga, Rockstar game designers promised a step up in open world gaming, new underground communities to explore, and a daring new, albeit contentious, expansion to the already existing digital netherworld of gangs and street violence featured throughout GTA.

 

For some gamers, and parents of gamers, and the usual conglomerate of anti-violence gaming critics, GTA5 was a release too much.  It launched to mixed reviews and renewed moral dilemnas questioning the new level of graphically violent and adult-themed content that this latest release has taken the video game series.  However, these reviews didn’t stop the franchise making industry sale history by amassing a huge $800 million US within 24 hours of its release and a further $1 billion US worth of sales within the first three days.

 

Historically, the game content is a satirical look at contemporary American culture; whereby the player chooses missions to progress within a predetermined story based in the criminal underworld of prostitutes, drug dealers, gang bangers and corrupt police officers.  This story involves action-adventure, driving, racing and car-jacking motor vehicles, role-playing, and third person shooting.

 

GTA V franklinsniping 1920x1080 Raw Gaming   The GTA Addiction

 

You can visit strip parlours, casinos, prostitutes, gang safehouses, bars, shopping malls, dream car garages, firing ranges and cinemas.  You can get your hair cut, buy some clothes, watch television, hire a prostitute or a stripper,  get a tattoo, buy and decorate property, go hunting, do yoga or simply choose to build your social network of GTA5 buddies who you play with on GTA’s network player feature.

 

Or you can carjack expensive Lambourgini’s (or any vehicle of your choice) by dragging innocent passengers out of the cars at traffic lights by beating them to the ground and kicking them in the head and body until they lie in a crumpled mess, bloodied and dead.

 

If that doesn’t take your fancy, you act as a paparazzo, taking pictures of an actress while she is in a very graphic and very compromising position with another man, torture terrorists in the most heinous of ways and experience the rush of choosing your torture devices, or you can enjoy hallucinations of massacring people after smoking too much pot.  Hallucinations that you can choose to, or not to, act on…with a variety of different weapons depending on where you are in the gameplay.

 

Games are designed for gamers to relax, to zone out … ultimately, to upload their freedom-loving, ‘anything goes’ gaming spirit in order to download their mundane stress.  They are designed to waste huge amounts of time and fill a hole that their real-time life is not offering them.  So, do we need to ask the question why GTA gamers have a void that requires extreme, detailed and grotesque violence in order to be filled?

 

I don’t think so.  As long as you’re not under age, a relatively mature, sane and responsible adult, GTA gaming can be fabulous fun.  This is definitely not a game for younger players, or even teenagers, nor for anyone who can’t abide racism, sexism, or wanton abuse of the desperate.

 

There are no rules in the fictional worlds of Grand Theft Auto.  That is what is so appealing. Yes, you have to kill people, viciously.  Yes, you have to commit violent, incomprehensible crimes (for the ordinary person). But, you can be, do and act however you desire.  The freedom to be is what is lacking in today’s society but in the vicious crime spree world of GTA, it’s there for the taking.

 

Why don’t you make your own mind up? In my opinion, the Grand Theft Auto series is highly addictive.  And truth be told, I often refer to my occasional (very occasional) road rage days as a tad ‘grand theft auto style’.

 

gta5 ymCHxtv5 Raw Gaming   The GTA Addiction

 

Top Tips: Single Mums ~ why it’s important to have a love life…

Top Tips: Single Mums ~ why it’s important to have a love life…

Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored one. E Harmony contacted me and asked to write an article for my blog particularly targeting single mums.  Given that I’m a mum, albeit not a single one (I live with my three kids but have a loving, committed partner living elsewhere – although soon we hope to rectify that), and the fact that I’ve watched the E Harmony ads and thought to myself that they’d be the mob I’d use if I was in the market for some relationship hunting, I said yes. So, here ’tis. Ad break music begin…

 

Single mums are some of the busiest people around. More often than not, they’re doing the work of two parents – helping kids with homework, taking them to after school activities, doing all the housework and grocery shopping plus usually working full or part-time. It’s a tough job, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Here are some top tips on dating as a single mother.

 

Everyone deserves a second chance at love.

Chances are you’ve got a major broken relationship in your past. You have to move on and forget the problems of previous relationships; they won’t all be like that. However, it’s important to analyse what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes again. If you learn to recognise and avoid them, it will help in a new relationship.

 

angelicaminx 1 Top Tips: Single Mums ~ why its important to have a love life...

 

You deserve fun and happiness.

Being a mum really is hard work – especially if you’re doing it alone. You’ve definitely earned some time off for yourself. Enlist the help of family, friends and trusted babysitters to watch over the kids a few hours a week so you can spend time doing something specifically for you: whether that’s dating, a new hobby or class or going out with friends. Don’t feel like you have to be a slave to your kids or your job 24/7.

 

Get out there!

There are many ways to meet new people (click here to find out more). You could take a language course; or join a sports team or an amateur dramatic society. Online dating sites, like eharmony.com.au, are a particularly easy way to ease into dating. You can pick and choose according to things like lifestyle, time commitments, interests and goals.

 

Choose your moment to tell the kids.

 

angelicaminx 2 Top Tips: Single Mums ~ why its important to have a love life...

 

Your kids might have difficulty accepting a new partner in your life and theirs. Let them know that you’re dating as it’s important to be honest, but hold off actually introducing anyone until you’ve met someone special, then ease them into life as part of your family. If it works out, they’ll have to get along with your kids too.

A lot of the time, mothers think of themselves as being in ‘mum mode’ or ‘work mode’, ‘friends mode’ or ‘family mode’ – this doesn’t leave much space to be in ‘dating mode or even ‘relationship mode’. However, it’s important to get the ‘me’ time that goes along with dating. The fun of dressing up and going out without the kids is important for your sense of self – and sanity!

 

(Editors note: I love the last comment…going out and being without kids – uhuh, sanity inducing for sure.)

When You Least Expect It

 

regrowth When You Least Expect It

 

Sometimes things appear in your life when you least expect it.

A hug…with two arms, a body that embraces all of yours…from someone who is present to you at that moment, right when you need them to be.

A beautiful text message from someone who you really didn’t know cared.

A divine meal cooked for you with love for love.

A car drive to a place where the wind makes you feel like you can breathe again, and where the peace is tangible.

A single look from that person; one that sears through your soul, cutting it up, splaying you open and then puts you all back together again until you are how you were always supposed to be.

An impetuous giggle about something absurdly unfunny…just because you finally find absurdly unfunny things funny again.

A moment when relief, fear, contentment, grief, beauty and bliss all reside together in perfect oxymoronic harmony.

 

When you least expect it, the beauty of life rears up its divinely scary head and waves goodbye to fear.

Gratitude sets in and that little hole which became a huge chasm quickly gets filled with the potential of everything.

 

We are all a little bit lost.  Until we are found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What death threats, gaming and being a woman have in common?

What death threats, gaming and being a woman have in common?

 

 

Big news.  I’m back writing with the delicious bunch of bloggers (we now calling ourselves columnists – I feel a little bit spesh) for The Shake again as their resident gamer columnist.

You can find my latest article Sexism and Gaming:The Real Virus over there right now.  It wasn’t easy to write this one because I just didn’t want to admit to the toxic vitriol that has woven itself through the fabric of the gaming subculture.

I expect a bit of a backlash in the tone of  ’toughen up Princess’ when the ‘men’ see it  but we will see.

Maybe I underestimate them.

Enjoy, and please do comment with your own experiences if you’re a girl gamer.

Peace x

 

image What death threats, gaming and being a woman have in common?

 

 

Managing My Crazy. Not.

Managing My Crazy. Not.

Ever wondered how previously stay-at-home self-employed Mum’s of three small children return to full time work without losing their mental capacity to string more than a sentence together, stay awake past 9pm and still manage to do all the Mama Kat things while being successful at their new job?  Newsflash: It’s freakin’ hard.

It has been a challenge…to state the understated.

So, something had to give and yet again, this blog was it.

I love teaching.  I love my family.  I love my bed.  But, personally, intimately and for my own way to manage my internal dialogue of crazy, I need to write, I need to dance, I need to cosy up in my hammock, I need to fill up my well of love with much beauty, peace and contentment.

Just two weeks in and I’ve not done a whole lot of those four things.

Want to read more?

Unicorns Are Pooping Rainbows: What Matters Today

I was going to write about teachers’ strikes, Tony Abbott, the right to gay marriage and whether working mothers can  really ‘have it all’.

But you know what? I’m not going to.

I’ve been reminded, yet again, what really matters.

An infectious giggle.

A two-armed squeezy hug.

A smile that says, “I really really trust you … I love you … You are everything to me … I need you”.

 

IMG 2119 225x300 Unicorns Are Pooping Rainbows: What Matters Today

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