29 March 2014

Reflections on engagement.

It's been a big week! I've felt all the feelings - particularly nostalgia and thoughts about family. An engagement and an international trip!

My Mum said that the day I got engaged was the date of her late aunty's birthday - it's a special day for two reasons now. Ma Josie raised my Mum and her brother - teaching them how to be good people. I was two when Ma Josie died - I never met her, only knew her through the stories Mum told me. I know she was hard working and she made the offcuts of meat go a long way by turning them into curries and breedies. I know she braided my Mum's hair into tight rows when Mum was a little child - the gaps between the braids marked the streets of Cape Town. And I know, that despite the colour war in South Africa at the time my parents were courting, she loved my Dad like his colour didn't matter.

I've been thinking of my grandparents this past week - they've been gone a little while now. They would be so happy that I've found a wonderful man, that I'm leading the best life that was never predicted for me. Nanny had a beautiful ring, an engagement ring I think, that Poppy passed down to my Mum. It's a gold and sapphire flower ring. We never saw her wear it. I want to wear it on my wedding day, to remember Nanny by. I want to somehow know that Nanny and Poppy will be there.

My parents have welcomed Adam into the family. They are so happy! While I'm away, he will spend some time at their house in the country, making models with my Dad. I bet Dad is thinking this is the son he never had! Adam's parents have welcomed me too - we've been out for dinner a few times which has been lovely. I'm excited to have a sister-in-law - and so is she!

So many people have wished Adam and I their love and congratulations on our engagement . We are overwhelmed with the kindness of others. Thank you for all of your beautiful wishes - our family and friends are as excited as we are! I've bought two bridal magazines and I've been staring at my engagement ring a lot - in meetings, on the plane... Wouldn't you?!


And I bought him a ring too, which he loves and wants to get engraved with my name and the date of our engagement. So cute!

I was saying to him, how our life has changed since we met in October. We've turned I into We and have worked hard at a big life adjustment. No, it's not been long (and yes, I've had a few people remind me of that this week), but we are so sure it's right. We had a lovely day together yesterday - aside from me being a bit lot stressed over last minute packing. Much of it was spend grinning at each other and him fixing my tech stuff.

I'm in Auckland now. We saw each hother off at the airport very early this morning. I asked him not to cry, but it was me who couldn't hold it together. I cried seeing him off, I cried through the security gate and in customs and blubbered to the hostess on the plane. I expect my return in six weeks will rival the opening and closing scenes from Love Actually.

This is what love feels like.


26 March 2014

Ever after.

Last night my boy asked me to marry him. I said yes!

I never dreamed I would be loved by anyone as much as he loves me. I thought i'd only be loved unconditionally by my parents. The love he shows me radiates from his face like sunbeams. He looks after me so well.

He has taught me that a big heart and kindness is the most important trait. He's taught me how to share my life. Time spent with him is the best time. We've not known each other for long, but we know each other well, and we know this feels right.

I am the luckiest. I love him.

We're getting married!


24 March 2014

On activism and speaking up. Does it make me the fun police?


"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm pretty outspoken, saying what I think, telling people I don't agree, and reasoning why there's a different way of thinking. Just over the weekend I told a sales assistant who was glued to his phone while serving my Mum at the market that serving her is just as important as his phone call. Since I've been blogging here and using social media, I've been more vocal than ever in speaking up about the things that matter. These aren't just the things that matter to me, but the things that matter for equality, kindness, harmony and empathy.

Last week a friend made ableist remark on Facebook (no offence intended, of course). Another friend made a racist remark about women wearing burkas (or balaclavas, as they said). I called them both out on it, publicly. My responses were "wow" to the ableist remark, and "If you're referring to a burka, then it's not a balaclava. It's cultural dress. The woman probably isn't going to go skiing nor rob a bank. How lucky we are to have freedom to express and uphold our culture through our dress, without being discriminated against." (And then I saw a meme saying "counting peoples' sins doesn't make you a saint" - oh the irony!)

It got me thinking. Does calling out prejudice - like ableism, racism and homophobia make you seem superior or easily offended, or strong? Is it a way to influence people or lose friends?

As an activist, I constantly think about people see me as a victim or over sensitive for speaking up or blogging about ableism or discrimination issues. I wonder if people think I'm a whinger or the fun police? Am I a busy-body when I comment on things that aren't directed at me? Am I a sanctimonious bore? And then it's tiring having to explain why something is discriminatory or offensive when a person says "but language evolves, it's ok to use retard", or "I wasn't intending to offend". Or even having an opinion based on experience rather than viewing a program out of choice. I can no longer count the amount of arguments I've had due to my stance on Embarrassing Bodies. I have an opinion on it - based on my own experience and observations of how others react - but I won't watch it. And I think that's ok.

Some friends constantly advocate on social media for equality. Like, more than I do. They share articles, photos, rants and blogs. They're forever battling with peoples' prejudice beliefs - reasoning, providing evidence and experience and sometimes blocking. I wonder if they're tired?

I recently prefaced a conversation with 'I made international news for speaking up about discrimination, but I'm not a victim'. This was because I was involved in what became a heated discussion about discrimination towards people with disabilities by taxi drivers and someone suggested that there is a lot of victim playing happening. I added that while lots of things are said to me about how I look on a daily basis, I don't write about all of them. I don't apply the word discrimination lightly in my own circumstances.

I don't want to remain quiet when I see injustice. If something discriminatory happens to me or someone I know, I'm going to speak up about it. It's cathartic, raises awareness and creates results if I speak up on social media (I have had a difficult time getting what I need on my upcoming flights - even speaking to someone in the special handling departments has been doffiuclt, and social media seems the only way I get results.) It's standing up for what's right.

And there's this.

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."

(Watch this speech. Just watch it.)

There are standards I won't accept. I will say something if a friend is racist. I will say something if the R word is used. I will politely speak up if it's a friend, family member, colleague, relative or, if it's safe to do so, a stranger. I will raise awareness about things that matter to reduce discrimination.

I do wonder (not worry) about what people think of me when I advocate for equality, call out prejudice or openly make a complaint about discrimination. But then I remember, it is making a difference in some way. It's showing strength and integrity.

And it might even lead to people talking about my activism.

(Julie McKay who is the director of UN Women Australia told me: "Carly - we are at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in NY. It's the UN's policy forum on gender issues. Your blog/ work was mentioned in a side event on media/ access to information. Really global!")

It's easier not to speak up on occasion. Reasoning can be tiring. But I'd always wish I had have said something in hindsight.

Do you speak up against injustice? How do people react? Is there a time you wish you hadn't?


19 March 2014

Miss Independent

Street art - Hosier Lane - Maggie Simpson so quiche

(Street art - Hosier Lane Melbourne, January 2014)

When I started to go on dates with my boyfriend, I remember telling Tash that I just don't have time for a boyfriend. I guess it was one of the excuses I used to keep my heart safe. And it was also true - I have so much going on that I didn't think I'd have time for a man in my life. I wondered how I'd schedule in boyfriend time.

The sharing-time part of my relationship took some getting used to. I've been single for a long time. And only child. A sole dweller since moving out of home 11 years ago. I'm driven, focused on my goals and probably a little selfish. I worried that I would not accomplish my goals in a relationship. For a few weeks I felt suffocated, I just wanted some time on my own. Looking back, I must have been pushing him away. He wanted to spend every minute with me. I didn't want to see him every day. I wanted to continue to have my own time - I didn't want my life to change. But I wanted love too.

I read this article on Elephant Journal - it's on how to love the independent girl. It spoke to me.

"She’s the self-sufficient, somewhat mysterious go-getter with big dreams and an even bigger heart, though not everyone sees it at first glance.

Some might see her as cold and distant, because she needs a significant amount of alone time to keep her from feeling scattered and spread so thin that she disappears. Sure, she has family and friends with whom she loves to spend much of her time, but it’s in her nature to crave those precious hours of solitude—being only with her thoughts, completely alone in a crowd or in the vastness of a quiet scene.

Some call it antisocial; she calls it sanity."

That girl is me. I love being alone.

I love my time on the couch writing and drinking wine on a Friday night. I love playing music loudly. I love falling asleep to I love to get up when I want, go where I want and do what I want. Being alone lets me think, let's me be me. I am an extrovert who needs to wind down in my own space. I love being alone.

And now he's here, because I love him, I've made time. I love being with him.

The more I see him the more I want to see him. We've reached a comfortable stage where we can sit quietly doing our own thing, or doing things apart and then coming together. Sometimes I ask him what his favourite part of the day was and he says "all of it, because it was spent with you". I feel the same. I can't imagine life without him now.

I've talked to him about the need for my independence. I've told him I don't want him to lose who he was before he met me.

As I write this, he's doing what he likes to do - bike mechanic stuff. We've texted a few times. Told each other "I love you" and discussed My Kitchen Rules. Later we will send goodnight messages, sappy and romantic. And there will be a beautiful wake up message for me in the morning: "have a wonderful day my princess".

We spend weekends together - usually Friday to Monday - and one or two nights in the week. I like this alone time, I know he does too. I like that I will see him in two days time. I am so excited about seeing him. (Though not sure how we will fare with six weeks apart.)

Being Miss Independent has been a challenge when it comes to love. My independence has been a brick wall I've had to dismantle a little to let him in - luckily that happened very early on. There's a fear of losing who I am. But I know I won't because of the love and support he continually shows me. Love is about compromise and life change. My life had to change.

I am still always super busy. I set time aside. I make to-do lists. I have let a few things go (admittedly as much as I love falling asleep in his arms, I miss falling asleep listening to podcasts). I say no more often. I ask him for help. I rest. I get stuff done. I'm still Miss Independent, only a little less.

Are you independent? How did life change when you found love?


17 March 2014

Busy. Sick. My body tells me to slow down. Impending travel.

It's less than two weeks until I fly out. Holy shit I go overseas next week!

Last week - though a short work week - I've felt the strain. I'm just so busy. There's my day job, writing commitments, speaking commitments to prepare for when I return in May, social outings, airline wrangling (oh God!), packing, cooking and housekeeping. I never like to complain about being busy, because I believe busyness is a choice. But I am overwhelmed. I had a little meltdown on Thursday night, worried I won't do everything I need to before I go. And so I did nothing. My boy ordered me to sit on the couch and relax. He made me a hot chocolate and told me to forget what I had to do. This was me relaxing.

My body is telling me to slow down. I have a cold - a sore throat and bit of infection in my nose and chest. I went into work today, was told I sounded as terrible as I feel, and went home to sleep. My body has less than two weeks to sort this shit out. And so it's a high dosage of lemon and honey plus home made chicken soup for me to get well. I spent most of the weekend resting and reading Anita Heiss' book Tiddas (it's wonderful) and watching catch up episodes of Neighbours. And I even said 'no' to some requests!

I was treated to the most amazing lunch cooked from scratch by my boy yesterday. He cooked while I was in bed. He hand rolled home made pasta dough (we made it two Saturdays ago) and cooked it with bacon, parsley, cheese, garlic and chilli. It was seriously the best home made pasta I've ever tasted. Four months ago he took my hand and said he was my boyfriend. He told me he can't cook. And now, he cooks, and is so proud of it!

I am so excited for my trip, and love traveling alone, but I'm a little sad that I won't experience my travels with the man I love. I'm going to miss him during the six weeks I'm away.

He's the best man I could ever wish for. The love he shows me radiates from him, like sunbeams. He's so cute. And he makes me laugh. And he likes food as much as I do. And he has a heart of gold. We go well together.

(I hope he's secretly booked a ticket and plans to surprise me by showing up in Paris or something.)

Since we've been together, we've seen each other every weekend since mid November. This weekend just gone was our last together before I go away, as he's away next weekend. I'm a bit sad.

I'm not one of those girls who can't do anything alone - definitely not - but I am new to this being apart from my love situation. I worry I will wish he was there with me more than enjoying the moment - and I know he doesn't want me to do that. There's more technology than ever for us to keep in touch, it should be fine!

Anyway, I think I'm probably tired and cough-y and emotional and over thinking things. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I've got an exciting last day together planned next Friday, I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Tell me about you - are you crazy busy too? Any tips for surviving a brief stint of long distance romance?


10 March 2014

The time I talked to Darren Hayes on his podcast.


This morning my boyfriend set his talking alarm to the sound of "Wake up Carly it's time to call Darren Hayes".

Say what? Call Darren Hayes? Well duh. He has his own talk show now - a podcast via Blog Talk Radio called Talk Talk Talk. The Internet grants us fans a whole new level of access, without being intrusive. And I'm an unashamed fan.

I've been listening to Darren's podcast since it started - again, well duh. Of course I have been. Most of the time I don't listen live, I listen via iTunes when it's convenient for me. He has guests and fans call in each week, talking about life lessons, growth, music making, creativity, sadness, happiness, and pure inspiration. I love it.

It's a great insight into a man I've been a fan of for so long (August 1996). He's compassionate, articulate, smart and funny. His honesty is astounding. Some of the things I've learnt about Darren have made me sad, others were puzzle pieces that finally fit. It appears that all the magazine clippings and CD singles don't tell the full story of an idol.

Darren and I have been chatting on twitter and last week he said he wants me to talk on his podcast sometime this year. As you can imagine, I flipped out!


He's changed the time of the podcast to 1.00 pm Californian time - which is 7.00 am Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time - this is far more doable than it was previously.

And so this morning being a public holiday in Melbourne, I called in.

"Is that My Carly?", Darren asked. I melted.

Earlier in the podcast, he talked with Casey Stratton about uniqueness:

"The thing that make you unique make you a target;

The thing that makes you unique sets you apart."

I talked to Darren about this concept -how when I was a child, all I wanted was for a classmate to touch my thumb in the game Heads Down Thumbs Up - but they wouldn't because they didn't want to touch me. And now, I have so many friends - I couldn't imagine my life would be this way.

Darren went on to talk to me about why he reached down from the stage and kissed me at his Tension and the Spark album launch, back in 2004 - almost 10 years ago. (And he did it again at the same venue in 2007.)

Here's a photo from that concert. All my band photos look like this because I stand too close to the stage!

And here's when he grabbed my camera and took a selfie, with me in the background.

I cried when we spoke about this. He said talking about it made him cry too.

I told Darren this after the show: Thank you for taking my call Darren Hayes. It was an amazing experience to chat live with you. There's so many more things I could have said - but I think the most important one that I didn't get to say today was that your music, your own uniqueness and your inclusiveness was something that helped me get my confidence.

You can listen to our chat here - I'm around the 40 minute mark

New Lifestyle Podcasts with Talk Talk Talk Darren Hayes on BlogTalkRadio

My life is complete. Thanks for making the time to talk to me, Darren Hayes.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Subscribe on Blog Talk Radio


08 March 2014

Five women you should know about this International Women's Day.

It's International Women's Day today - this year's theme is 'inspiring change'. I've got many women in my life who I look up to - they are inspiring change - my mother, my many female managers over my career in my day job, my blogging colleagues, my mentors (thank you so much to Debra Cerasa and Layne Beachley for their recent words of encouragement) and my friends. The women in my life are pretty remarkable.

I've been sharing stories about women who inspire me on my Facebook page today. I wanted to share them here too. These women are women who are definitely inspiring change.

Katie Love Smith

Katie, my friend who I met in the Ichthyosis community, is going to intern as a student nurse at a Tanzanian hospital in the middle of the year. She writes:

"Working on improving access to healthcare for women and children in the developing world is what I want to spend my life doing so this is truly a dream."

However, she needs a bit of help getting there and she's calling for the generosity of strangers.

You can watch her video about her dream:

And consider making a donation to her cause. Thank you!

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong'o is inspiring change. Lupita is the American based Kenyan actor who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in in 12 Years a Slave. Lupita is champion of appearance diversity - highlighting the issue of racism in beauty.

She gave an incredible speech as she accepted her award for Best Breakthrough Performance at the annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon:

“I too remember a time when I would turn on the TV and only see pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter skinned.

"The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself before I was in front of a mirror, because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced just the same disappointment at being just as dark as I had been the day before.

“I tried to negotiate with God. I told him I would stop steeling sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted. I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But, I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because I never woke up lighter.

“And then Alek Wek came on the scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman that looked so much like me as beautiful. Now I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far-away gatekeepers of beauty."

“My mother used to say to me, ‘You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.’ And these words played and bothered me, I didn’t really understand them until finally I realised that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume. It was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant by saying that you can’t eat beauty is that you can’t rely on beauty to sustain you.

“What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master. But it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even though the beauty of her body has faded away.

“And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

Watch her speech:

Like her Facebook page

Follow her Instagram.

Jessie Taylor

Jessie Taylor is inspiring change this International Women's Day.

Jessie Taylor and I met at a human rights event we both spoke at last year. She's a barrister (not a barista), a human rights activist, a refugee advocate, a foster mum to a young refugee from Afghanistan and a film maker. Can you believe she's only in her early 30s?! The activism she does on social media is incredible - educating so many people about the plight of asylum seekers.

When Jessie spoke at the AYAD Forum last year, she said how important it is to inform people of the facts, especially around human rights issues that are feared, to help remove their prejudice. She ended her speech saying "Don't ever let anyone put fear into you. If you want to create change, do it and do it now."

Read about her remarkable accomplishments.

Watch her speak at the AYAD Forum.

Read about her fostering Jaffar.

Find out about her film The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Read the transcript of her Australian Story feature.

Listen to her conversation with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio.

Follow Jessie on Twitter.

Gloria Malone

My friend Gloria Malone is inspiring change this International Women's Day by being an advocate for young mothers. She runs a website called Teen Mom NYC and has written about her experience as a teenage mother for many publications including the New York Times, as well as spoken on NPR and The Huffington Post.

Gloria fell pregnant age 15 and gave birth to a gorgeous daughter Leilani. When Gloria was pregnant and at high school, her guidance counsellor and many others around her didn't expect her to graduate. However, she graduated high school with honours. Leilani is now seven and Gloria in her 20s. Gloria is raising her daughter while studying at university.

Gloria wrote for the New York Times:

"At 15, I was a good student and determined to apply to college. But after I had my daughter, my high school guidance counselor refused to see me and help me with my applications. She never expected me to graduate. Most people, even within my family, assumed I wouldn’t amount to anything and would be dependent on government assistance for the rest of my life.

But I wanted to be someone my daughter could be proud of. So every day, I woke up before the sun, drove my daughter’s father to work, my daughter to day care, and still managed to be in class at 7:50 a.m. before the bell rang. I also worked 35 hours a week at a cellphone store. I would leave school early through a co-op program that allowed graduating seniors to work and go to school at the same time. After getting out of work I would pick my daughter up from day care and go home. I was always tired, but more than anything I was determined.

I also had a few people who encouraged me not to listen to the stereotypes. People like my chorus teacher, who allowed me to show up a few minutes late to class, so I could pump breast milk first; my economics teacher, who congratulated me on having a healthy child and reminded me that he was proud of me for not giving up; and the nurse at my daughter’s doctor’s office, who told me I was doing a great job and to keep it up."

She's such a great role model for her daughter and for young parents around the world. I'm proud to know her.

Read more about Gloria's Teen Mom NYC project.

Follow her on Twitter.

Connie Johnson

Connie Johnson, founder of Love Your Sister and sister of actor and unicyclist extraordinaire Samuel Johnson is a woman inspiring change.

She is a wife, a mum to two young boys and has terminal cancer. She doesn't know how much time she has on this earth, and she wants her legacy to be that all young women are breast aware.

She and Samuel created Love Your Sister - a charity raising money for breast cancer research. Samuel recently unicycled around Australia spreading the message "don't fall into the booby trap - be breast aware" - this trip covered 15,000 km and raised more than $1.5 Million for the Garvan Institute.

Connie's a fighter - fighting for herself and other women.

Donate to Love Your Sister.

Visit Love Your Sister on Facebook.

Watch Connie on SBS Insight.


A Mighty Girl

I have been following A Mighty Girl on Facebook - I highly recommend the Facebook page and website for parents and teachers of girls. A Mighty Girl shares the most inspiring quotes, stories and resources for and about girls and women.

From the website:

"Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure. It is our hope that these high-quality children’s products will help a new generation of girls to grow and pursue whatever dreams they choose -- to truly be Mighty Girls."

Happy International Women's Day! Who are the women that inspire you? Tell me how they're inspiring change.


03 March 2014

My skin hunger has been satisfied.

I've written a lot about how my skin was hungry. Hungry for moisture, but also hungry for touch. For so long I yearned to be touched - dreaming of the times to come, remembering how long it had been since. Skin hunger is sensory deprivation, and it's proven to result in a failure to thrive.

And now, I am touched, often.

My boy, he wants to touch me, and he doesn't hold back for fear he might hurt me, or that much of me will end up on him (it's inevitable with Ichthyosis).

He can't get close enough, asking me to stop what I'm doing for a hug, holding my hand when we walk and drawing me close when we stop to wait for traffic to pass.

My skin hunger being satisfied has changed my life. At times my skin feels as smooth as his. I don't wake up as scaly as I used to and I haven't had an infection for months. Touch really does soothe it. Loving touch is healing. It's more than pleasurable, it's life-giving.

I'm a marsupial in the warm pouch of his arms.

I fall asleep on his chest, my ear hearing that his heart beats fastest when I'm close.

He's the big spoon and I'm the little one, my body shining with warmth.

His touch is a salve - as critical to my needs as my cream is.

Some have said I'm glowing since I've found this love.

I think he's my sunshine, making me glow, and grow.

My skin hunger is satisfied and it's most wonderful. I'm thriving.

 "The pressure of the hands causes the springs of life to flow. - Tokujiro Namikoshi "

Visit my series on skin hunger:


Skin hunger

Interview with sex worker Rachel Wotton

This skin, it's hungry

Interview on ABC Radio National Life Matters



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