Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where I get all sentimental over a lost tooth

Since the age of six months, the LGBB has been sporting teeth. I remember so well the day Steve pulled down her bottom lipso I could take this photo:

Look Ma and Pa, I done gone and grown a toof! Or two...

We were so excited to see this milestone. She was so excited we were within her vicinity. In fact, her ability to be chuffed at herself hasn't ever really been an issue for our LGBB.

The first tooth became wobbly about a month ago. It felt like it still had a lot of staying power to me.

But what do I, her mother, know?

Our little Lolly lost her tooth yesterday at preschool and didn't even realise. I was greeted by her gapless grin when I came to collect her. "It must have just happened!" the teacher said. "They were just outside eating broccoli from the garden..."

The culprit vegetable eaten and swallowed, the options are obviously that she either swallowed it or it fell out somewhere, never to be recovered for her scrap book. I have my first tooth. I thought it was a bit eugh growing up. But now I have my own child, I appreciate that my mother did that. It was more special to her than it ever will be to me. I get that... now.

I'm sad. I'll admit it! I am a sentimental sap, I am really quite glum about it. Of course, in the grand scheme of the state of the world, hey this is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Still... we will never get to keep the first teeny, tiny, marvellous wonder of a tooth that was the first to grow and the first to fall out.

Our teeny, tiny, marvellous wonder. She's growing, she's growing, slow down, my tiny love, my beautiful growing big girl! Mummy has got to catch up and try to get used to this.

Complete with a big teardrop for good effect.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

10 ways you can help a bereaved person

You cannot "fix" it but you can:
  1 say "I'm here for you" and be there
  2 show you care
  3 offer practical support
  4 don't take anger personally
  5 be patient - allow silences
  6 listen and accept strong emotions
  7 don't say you know or understand unless you really do
  8 avoid platitudes: it's God's will, etc.
  9 allow them to talk of their loved one, and speak their name
10 take care of yourself know your limits

I really appreciate this particular list for its open-endedness, which invites thoughtful interpretation to act within what feels appropriate for you and the bereaved person in your life.

Grief and bereavement comes in different forms, wearing different faces. I think deep down, even when it might appear the person before you doesn't know this, we do all know this. Sometimes we forget, is all. There are so many emotions from all sides when a death occurs.

That is why I am always on the look-out for a good dot-point list. There are many, scores of them, online. But where are they when you need them? And where are the good ones?? I want to add my list of top 10 to the throng, as it is one that resonates with me. It is not a list I made up, but one I came across last week in a waiting room. It is from The Compassionate Friends, an organisation that brings together mutual support and self-help models for those whose son or daughter has died (at any age).

As with any group or support organisation, it's not for everyone but it could just be for you. In my time, I have availed myself of the services (quietly, usually via online means and searching as I strived to heal) of the most widely known grief support services in Australia - SIDS & Kids, SANDS, Bonnie Babes (now the Small Miracles Foundation) and most often, I found myself visiting various websites of The Compassionate Friends: A world wide family supporting bereaved parents and siblings.

You can find out more about TCF by visiting their Victorian-based website or Freecall 1800 641 091. They offer 24 hour grief support within Australia, with support contacts in each state.
They are also in the UK and USA.

Ellanor & Me - 2004
Her fragile, beautifully delicate little fingers hurt my heart

Friday, August 26, 2011

Unexplained Infertility? Let's look at Heavy Metals, Hormones & Tummy Fat

A message from MassAttack - This is an unsponsored post and is a copy of MassAttack's latest e-newsletter that comes directly to my inbox. The information contained in this post is intended as an information reference. If you are experiencing unexplained infertility, perhaps this presents something new for your consideration. 

For your own copy of the e-news or to find out more about what they offer, why not check out their website?

Female hormones are influenced by heavy metals and this is an area that is so readily overlooked when dealing with unexplained infertility.  Heavy metals also have an influence on your weight.  In fact, if you want to attain your ideal weight and improve your health in the process you need to start with detoxification.

Everything in our bodies is interrelated so you really can't change something without changing something else. Let's consider one example of such interrelationship:

Heavy metal intoxication and tummy fat. How are they related?
Studies show the connection between certain chemical substances accumulated in the body and underactive thyroid function leading to weight gain. For example, mercury and copper toxicity can result in hypothyroidism and hence the weight gain. Heavy metals also interact with each other, for example the presence of lead can make the detrimental effects of mercury much stronger.

Heavy metal toxicity also results in different digestive tract disturbances such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and others. Heavy metals accumulated in the body can cause the liver damage and since the fat regulation is among the important functions of the liver, it will be impaired too.

Don't think that heavy metal exposure is a problem only for people who directly work with them
All of us are widely exposed to heavy metals in our daily lives. Cosmetics, deodorants, dental amalgams, newsprint, paint, birth control pills, aluminum foil, antiseptics, body powders, cheese, toothpaste, milk products, nasal sprays - all of them are sources of heavy metals. As you can see, nobody is immune to them.

The heavy metal intoxication levels in your body may need to be addressed before you can solve your hormone imbalances and weight-related problems. 
We now offer a full 24 hour comprehensive urine heavy metal test, and if this is something you would like to chat about, please call 1300 133 536. 
Remember, you need to fine-tune your health if you want to attain and maintain your ideal weight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Better the devil you know: Facing a demon in the garden

I dug out no less than three blackberry root balls in the garden yesterday. For some reason, I needed to do hard physical labour so the weeds got an absolute shellacking.

As I wrestled with the stubborn, deep roots that would not give ground, I mused about the fact that these things have been here in the corner of our front yard for over a year. I've barely given them a cursory glance in all that time. About six months ago, when the bushes were in full pelt, strangling the beautiful native shrubs around them, I had a go at Steve for not containing them and overpowering them before they got so out of control. Dumbfounded, my husband (correctly) assumed it was better to simply don his gloves and get hacking than argue any rational points he had regarding timing of removal, proper equipment to do the job once and for all, or his already long To Do list for that weekend.

But the problem didn't go away. I cursed the return of the blackberries. Having been poisoned, they were weaker now. But they were beginning to grow and get healthier again, having staked a good position for themselves.

There is a young grevillea that I planted the year we bought this house. There is also a menacing, determined blackberry stump with a trunk thicker than the grevillea right beside it, strangling the life out of it. I can see the native is weakening, its leaves are yellowing. The blackberry is gaining strength beside it. They are fighting for the nutrients in the ground, both of them struggling to survive. I can't have that happen again. It's time for the plant to be saved. No more letting things take their course on their own.

So I intervened.

As I pulled and yanked at this blackberry yesterday, having conquered three other smaller ones nearby and feeling high on "Take THAT!" power, one of its thorns pricked my thigh deeply through my pants. I felt like I had been bitten by a snake. When I looked down, I saw that it had sunk into my flesh and I had to delicately remove it, being careful to pull it out the way it went in. I don't know if it was the rush of the pain registering in my head or the hunger for that euphoric feeling of the roots giving way to my force, but I suddenly felt like I was doing battle with the demons of my childhood.

I don't speak of my molestation on here. I don't feel it necessary. I will never go into detail, that's for sure. That, too, is not necessary. Suffice to say, for three years (at least) from the age of six, my innocent life as a child was stunted, interrupted, stolen. These were not sporadic, random happenings. These were systematic, ever-present, regular sessions. I know the scenes well. I know my feelings about it all very well. The healing is all but finished.

An event happened recently that enabled me to see just how far I have healed in the past couple of years  (this is something that has taken me over thirty years to properly and safely release). The push-pull yesterday with that unrelenting, strong blackberry was no accident. I began to curse it under my breath in my sunny, beautiful front yard. I felt safe. I felt in control. I felt I could over-power that fucking sucker of life and save the beautiful young plant trying to blossom and grow alongside it.

It is a delicate operation - their roots go deep, side by side. One false move or a premature stab and I risk severing the life cord of the precious plant by mistake. So I backed away from the project for the day. I was starting to get a little stab-happy with the spade, like a woman possessed.

The cut. Running parallel with the vein. An ass-hatty reminder
 that this thing HAS to stop walking beside me.

The blackberry remains, for the moment. It did not yield. But it will. It stung me, as if to remind that it is still there. Still present. It won't let go without a fight. But it is weakened now. I really worked hard at destroying it. I will conquer that invader. To save the organism that is now healing beside it.

I have scars. The blackberry got me. Again and again it got me. But I know I can beat it now. Those barbs don't sting nearly so much with the realisation that I am stronger than it. It has to go. I felt the roots giving. I'll not let the sun go down today without removing it ceremoniously from its place. Its purpose has been served.

Thank you, blackberry, for what you've shown me today. Now... piss off!

Returning to the back yard in the late afternoon sun, I took a seat and was treated to the LGBB practicing her skipping with the skipping rope. I gazed past the roof of our house and saw our spectacular liquid amber, naked in all its late winter glory. It was leaning towards the sun. I had never noticed how much so until that moment.

It knows what to do. And look at the tall, thriving tree it has become in its lifetime.

We all know what to do, to survive.  Don't we?

Where are the barbs snagging you in your life? Are they deep-rooted? Have they served their purpose and is it time for you to do some weeding?

Don't forget to lean towards your life-giving Sun.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Note to Self. Subtitled: That's what tampons are for....

Oh God!  The LGBB has a friend over today. They're playing shops.

And I learned two new things today:

1. Check old handbag before giving to the LGBB as a play thing because, guaranteed, you'll forget a hidden zipped compartment and she'll find it. The day her friend is here. And they'll come to you asking what "these" are, holding a mini lip liner, the sample perfume that you've been looking for since your last office job 8 years ago, some Mylanta tablets (because you left said job when you were pregnant and had horrible heartburn you'd tried to forget) and, oh yeah... four "just in case" tampons.
You can explain the rest - Mylanta are lollies for sore tummies, perfume is to make you smell purdy on your wrists and lippy, well... I needn't explain. But the little blighters, they really wanna know what those tampons are for. So you reach for the easiest explanation that comes to mind. And you hear yourself say as convincingly as you can, "Those are for your ears." 
Cue: Confused looks from the two riveted five year-olds who want more information. 
"So that you can't hear," you say. And for good measure, you stick one in each ear... "like this" and you proceed to demonstrate by partially inserting tampons in your ears.
They are suitably satisfied and you are free to go. Good save, you think proudly.

But then.... another lesson:

2. You need to remember to choose your timing and your words carefully.
You all come home and your first stop is the bathroom, where someone has obviously done an "urgent wee" before leaving the house earlier and did not clean up the floor or the toilet seat. So you call your child to the bathroom to ask calmly whether this mess was made by them. "No" is the perturbed response. "Hmmm... must have been someone else then," you muse, not pleased but unable to accuse her definitively. She's free to go. You get cleaning. And then you hear her loudly repeating the story to her friend and you wonder whether she will in turn take the story home to her mother:  "Mum had a wee accident on the floor near the toilet."

So K, if you hear it from your daughter, I just want to reiterate: Nooo! It wasn't me who had the toilee accident! But I did stick tampons in my ears. That's a true story. If she ever comes to you asking to play with your ear plugs, this'll be why. Sorry. I thought that was better than explaining periods......

Got any pearls of wisdom arising out of your weekend that you'd like to share?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Be your own Light source

The other night, in my jumble of thoughts that had been piled one atop the other until I could start to sort through them - much like a pile of clean clothes that waits to be folded until you absolutely MUST move them because you need the laundry basket - I remembered a single line from one of the latter chapters of my book.

The first part of the chapter (unedited, okay, just if you're reading and you're "in the field" and you want to take potshots *disclaimer over*) is below. But the poignant line that kept repeating in my head as I grabbed that much-needed alone time in the shower was:

Be your own Light source.

I can't be more profound than that. Perhaps it will speak to you if you read the following, but I am damned if I can string together a coherent sentence in my mind now to more properly or completely explain myself.... Gimme a break. I've just farewelled Cyclone Family (I love them, I gnash my teeth over them - the children - I wonder why my daughter MUST copy the naughty antics and lose herself in her cousins instead of being her beautiful self, while they are here. I mourn, deeply, the fact that I will not see my sister in-law again for another two years when they leave... But now, at least I can think for the first time in two weeks and have some precious sweet Me Time)

For now, I want to ask you:  Do you know how to be your own Light Source?


In August, I had a really profound dream. I was, of course, still coming back down to Earth after the euphoria of giving birth to our girl, as well as becoming familiar with the floating nothingness of learning how to live without her - and yet, with her, for she was both eternally in my life and not present.

At first, the dream didn't seem like much. But it was terrifying, bathing me in a cold sweat. One of those dreams that really grips you. One that you come out of, realising, by the sensations in your body, that you've had adrenaline coursing through you and when you connect it was because of the dream you just had, it kind of freaks you out a little bit more. Years later, I can still remember the fear and dread I felt, long after I woke up.

In the dream, I was somewhere outside, in pitch darkness. My eyes were wide as saucers, trying to adjust to the lack of light. Eventually, I was able to see a little way in front of me.

I was in a forest. A forest of dead, bare, white-barked trees standing grey against the pitch darkness of the night. It looked as though a fire had gone through and razed all the vegetation, everything seemed to be covered in white ash. It was beautiful, almost lunar in its appearance – if the moon’s surface bore dead trees, that is.  

In the distance, I saw something flicker. It was the flash of a wild animal’s eyes glinting off a light source. A rising sense of fear sent goosebumps right up my back and into my scalp. The animal was hunched over in a prowling, purposeful stance, coming towards me and fixing its steadfast, hungry intent on me as it padded closer, hunting me like I was its prey. I backed up and found myself standing alongside one of the trees. Clambering up the trunk, I tried to get as high off the ground as I could. I was petrified but I didn't know what of, exactly. The dark, the predatory animal, the silence. All of it. I was hyperventilating and panicking by now. This was not what I had bargained for, this dream, when I had gone to bed that night asking for a message or visit from Ellanor (something I had grown used to doing, for I learned to look out for her or her words in my dream state). And then I saw the animal. 

Wow, it's beautiful but it looks spooked, I thought. It looks menacing and out for my blood, why is it hunting me so fiercely? What is it? I was instantly informed, somehow, that it was an ocelot. Its staring eyes never left mine as it came closer and closer, really getting low to the ground now. And then it leapt towards me.

I was up the tree with nowhere else to go. The ocelot sank its sharp, feline claws into my right thigh. And I screamed. The pain was searing and instant, a sting that lingered for some time after I woke up. When I did force myself awake, there was a silent scream still in my lungs and I breathed out the air I had been holding onto.

I still felt shaken, hunted, although I was now in the relative safety of the darkness of our bedroom, feeling more and more present in the room, Steve sleeping peacefully at my side. When I made myself think back over the events of the dream, I suddenly realised I had been the light source. I made a promise to myself to seek out the animal wisdom teachings of the ocelot, for I had been getting used to seeing these sorts of things – dreams and other seemingly odd or out of place messages – as signposts to my further learning, becoming guided by the rhythms of these instances that were unfolding for me in my life more and more, instead of shying away from them. Once upon a time, before knowing Ellanor, these were the sorts of things that I would wave off, not even willing to consider them as anything other than random occurrences in my daily life (or dream state).

It took me four years before I finally got around to looking up the ocelot totem, even though I was still wondering from time to time during those years what it had been trying to say to me that night. What I uncovered helped to retrospectively patch another part of the quilt of my healing at that time in my life, for I had also been on the precipice of growing into the more aware, more open, more willing person I was to become.

Animal Totem: The Ocelot
Comfortable in the high trees and in water, Ocelot can show you how to adapt to whatever environment you find yourself and how to look at your surroundings from on high. Ocelot also shows you how to regenerate through solitude and quiet meditation. Because they live in both land and water, they have a connection with both the physical and spiritual world and the ability to be in two places at once. Use Ocelot as your meditation guide to connect to the spirit world.”  

Putting aside what was obvious to me - that the appearance of the ocelot in my dream, and now finding this particular totem’s wording, was a confirmation of connecting with Ella in the world she had so briefly left to come here – I found the dream so much more profound, now that the years had passed, as if it had happened back then in order for me to bookmark it, somehow, and provide me with this affirming proof so far down the path I had been on. I was the Light source, a point not lost on me, now I look back on it. It gave me some confirmation, at least, that I had been on the 'right track', even back then when I honestly thought I might shrivel up and be forgotten if I did not diligently stay the course in my connection to my own truth. 

"If they can't get it through to you while you're awake, they'll do it when you're asleep!" Jen had once told me, laughing at my wide eyes. How right she was.

My life was much different around the time of the visit from the ocelot. I was looking at things from a higher perspective more often by then – from my soul's perspective, or my higher consciousness – for that was where I was learning to forgive myself and my actions, give myself and others a break, find my own solace and, most important to my survival, have a safe place in which to regenerate and fill up my reserves, sometimes daily. For this was my new way of being; Steve and I were living a life pummelled by insecurities now, without all our previous social masks and various obligatories to cushion us. We were dealing with our sorrow, learning how to incorporate our lost child in our lives with meaning and joy, whilst continually having to replenish enough strength to weather whatever the next day and its trespasses were going to bring. I was supposed to learn to accept these shortcomings, delivered by the people around us, even though some were clearly not accepting me in my newfound state.

Towards the end of August, I wrote in my journal:

I am a psycho
Now I’m totally depressed and low, I give up. Don’t even know why I am writing.
I can’t do “this” anymore, whatever “this” is. I don’t want to say I want to stop trying to get pregnant, but I think I have to. I’d say it’s for my sanity, but if I stop trying, I haven’t got any other focus, really, so how can that be good for me?
I’m exhausted. I just completely give up.
So tired of all this shit.
I just wish I wasn’t here.
I don’t feel, at the present moment, that there is anything that really brings me true joy anymore.
Not Steve. Not Pepper. Not friends or family. Nothing previously in this journal. I feel like a fake. And maybe I am.
I can’t stand this life. I hate where I am. And I am stuck here.
Just living.
And I don’t know what for.
Diary entry, 25th August, 2004

I recall that this was one of, if not the, lowest days I have ever had in my life. If I was truly going to end my life, it would surely have been on that day. But, once again, something gradually bailed me out over the ensuing hours. As acceptance of my continuing living, breathing, physical self set in, the tears flowed. I did not want to feel stuck here, on Earth. This was not the death sentence I was meant to subject myself to, not in Ellanor’s name. I briefly noted the turning point of coming out of destitution into decisiveness. There did not seem anything more to say:

Spent the rest of the 25th and most of yesterday inconsolably sobbing.
I have given up on being pregnant, of ever having children, anyway – something (someone?) in me keeps telling me it’s not giving up. It’s letting go, with acceptance.
Just as I did when Ella needed to go.
Diary entry, 27th August, 2004

Soon after I made this entry, Steve and I agreed that we had to confront the acceptance of facing a childless life together. It was so difficult to call it that, because we knew we had already given life to a child, yet here we were, having to consider ourselves possibly now destined to be “childless” anyway. We had connected very soundly with an amazing little baby with a huge soul and a set of challenging physical hurdles that meant she would leave us all too soon. It was, therefore, painfully difficult to say to each other, “Well, maybe that was it. Perhaps Ella was all we were ever meant to know.”

Don't wait for permission. Breathe out, it's okay to let go what you've been holding onto. You are adaptable, no matter what. Don't forget your Soul's perspective. You can be your OWN Light source. It is, after all, within you.

Have a good weekend. I'll be back properly next week!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Barter System

You would be forgiven for thinking I have ditched this blog. I haven't. I am just hellishly snowed under this week, what with my home being overrun by visiting family who are staying with us until the weekend. You know how it goes.... It just doesn't seem appropriate to sit and write lengthy blog posts when I should be spending time with family I don't see, save for flying visits every two years.

So, in lieu of the myriad things I want to say, please delight in a typical exchange between Yours Truly and the beloved:

Me: *making a grand statement I didn't mean to have fulfilled* I want a cheese slice

He: *trudges off and returns triumphantly*

He: *hands cheese slice over between index and middle finger with an air of 'breadwinner doling out money to the trophy wife'* Git yourself something nice.

Me: Awww, ta... Hey, d'you think in the history of time, they ever paid for goods or services with cheese?

He: It's possible

Me: But what if they didn't have change? 

He: *nibbles a piece of imaginary cheese down to smaller denomination and hands over to invisible salesperson*

He amuses me no end. That is all.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Don't judge me

Apologies in advance if you were after yet another D&M from Yours Truly. But this one is the piece-o'-fluff post that wrote itself - you know the ones? - over several weeks. The elusive post that was always going to have to be a work in progress because, dagnabbit, I kept thinking of things when I didn't have pen, paper or iPhone handy to jot points down.

So. Finally. Here it is. A piece I shall entitle......

Don't Judge Me

• Sometimes? I buy chocolate and don't share it. Not unheard of, I know. But when Steve asks if there's any, I tell him there isn't.... (don't judge me)
• I gag at the sight of spit on the footpath. I know I do this. Yet, still, I search for them, sometimes rather obsessively - particularly on train station platforms and the ramps leading up to same. I know not why.... (don't judge me)
• When the LGBB brings home lolly bags from parties, if there are any fun-size Smarties packets I keep them for myself before she can see them.... (don't judge me)
• I play with the dog by running around the island bench in the kitchen, calling her name to make her keep following me, even though I tell the LGBB not to use the bench as a lap circuit. In my [somewhat flimsy] defense, I do this when she is in bed.... (but still, don't judge me)
• I deliberately plant earworms in the LGBB's head because she sings them in the "voice" of Scraps, her soft toy dog. Seriously, until you hear good ol' Scrapsy belt out The Entertainer in a tuneful series of "bar-ar-ar-ar"s, you haven't lived. So... (don't judge me)
• I actually think I like the bloody cat.... (don't judge me)
• I get irrationally frustrated by eating sounds. As in, the sounds of people eating. The slurpier, the worse I take it. In fact, I can't even sit still thinking about this and typing it. My leg is jiggling in irritation.... (don't judge me)
• I tend to make stupid lists in my head. Good ones. But forget to write them down. A lot. Book plots, story connections, shopping lists for yummy recipes. Lost. I even sometimes announce an impending good blog post on the promise of such a list coming back to me. It often doesn't. And I post any old drivel in its place.... (don't judge me)

What don't you want to be judged for?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How I feel after today: Re-enacted in a single shot

This... is Jazz. Too tired to even get off the couch she knows she shouldn't be on.

Any resemblance to actual owner purely incidental

I am absolutely beat.

Hope your day has fared better. Care to share? How has your week been shaping up so far?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The elephant in the womb: Why I'm glad I'm not an elephant

In July, 2006, I looked like this:

A very early capture of our little Photobomber, Jazz, refining her art

My ribs being positioned where they are (right on top of my hips with nary a centimetre between bone structures), there is nowhere to go but out, baby! So the LGBB was hovering out over nothing. A bit like walking the Eureka Skydeck88, I imagine. I only know what it was like from the building's perspective: damn uncomfortable and actually painful (I tried not to complain at the time, grateful as I was, but man.... my body was not happy and I had to increasingly manage the unexpected pain as I got bigger).

Around the time the photo above was taken, I mused the following to Steve (lifted from my old, now private, blog). He had no end of these sorts of musings thrown at him and, thankfully - or not - I recorded them on my blog as they happened. He's a funny guy. Most of the time. This time, I wanted to stab him. But I couldn't move.

Please excuse me, but there's an expletive involved:

Me: Imagine being a pregnant elephant. And gestating for two years. WITH AN ELEPHANT.

He: *daring to speak after thinking a moment* Hey... imagine if YOU were pregnant for two years. With.... an elephant.

*****respectful pause*****

Me: Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I had forgotten all about this until tonight when I heard on the news that Melbourne Zoo's Asian elephant, Num-Oi, is expecting her first calf. Already four months along, it is considered very early and there is a risk of miscarriage, as with any, and I felt a pang of hope mixed with trepidation. I don't know why.

Then the news presenter said the expected due date was sometime in January..... 2013.

January 2013!?!

And of course, me being me, I got to thinking how utterly, utterly stressful that would be for an elephant if it had lost its first calf in infancy. They remember, you know. Don't they? Elephants, I mean. What the hell would go through an elephant mother's mind, I wonder. Waiting and gestating that, er... little 100kg precious bubba.

The day we took the LGBB to the zoo last year, I admit to shedding a happy tear seeing this gorgeous little three-month-old healthy girl:

Baby Mali on a family outing in April 2010:
"Are we THERE yet?"

I am SO glad I am not an elephant. Respect to the mamas. Major respect.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm an ex-introverted extrovert turned introvert. Blogopolis told me so.

In my defense, it could well have been the copious amounts of alcohol that passed across my unimpressed liver the previous night that prevented me from going up to more people and introducing myself like I normally would. Or the <3 hours sleep I managed to put under my belt because I just could not stop talking. Or listening. Hey, I had a compelling roomie! Cut me some slack, Jack.

Whatever it was, I felt pretty darn ordinary sitting in the conference room as the first speakers got up to kick us off. But within the first twenty minutes, I had gone from sitting self-consciously thinking "why am I here? Me and my little blog are not monetized, won't be anytime soon, I've got a different purpose, I'm inferior because I'm not thinking big 'enough'..." yada yada yada, to being so grateful I had purchased my ticket on a whim. In fact, I bought the ticket to Blogopolis only because it was in my home city and I thought it'd be cool to only have to catch a train this time.

You know. All the big reasons.

Before the day was out, I had taken over eight pages of notes and picked up so many tips I was surprised my brain kept up. Okay, by 4pm it probably wasn't so much.

The official round-up of the day can be found here at Nuffnang - I won't list it all again, there are plenty enough posts floating around from attendees that are doing it. The following is by no means comprehensive and does not even mention all who spoke. But here are a few little tips and links from the day that I particularly noted, so I thought it would be more personal if I transfer my scrawl onto my blog here for those who didn't attend and/or who are interested to know what captured my attention most:

Nicole Avery from Planning With Kids is super-impressive. If you already knew this, okay fair enough.... but did you know she also has a new website:  Blog Coaching Boost? Well, get over there! It contains slides from her presentation on the day.

• I was introduced for the first time to the informative Michael Aulia from Craving Tech. He was so good, in fact, that he almost snapped me out of my hangover.... His slides and some information from the day can be found in this post. He successfully tackled the sensitive Google Blogger vs Wordpress topic and made a very convincing argument for self-hosted WP blogs. You can read more about it in his post. I will certainly be dipping into his blog at leisure, he was fantastic and I feel grateful to have been introduced to him by way of his involvement in the line-up.

Image compression tool (reduces the loading size of your images): use Smush.It to remove unnecessary bytes while retaining the quality of your photos. A "lossless" image compression tool. Awesome!

Arnold Aranez from Mr Gadget likes to use visual tools. He also has a great sense of humour while managing to keep content extremely informative and useful. Clever lad. By the time he made his presentation, I was fully captivated by the speakers who were front and centre.

• Try for photo editing and watermarking your images.

SEO (search engine optimization) is not as boring - or scary - as it may seem. I usually see the term and my mind glazes over just like it used to during R&D maths in high school. But boring or not, I need to address it for my blog. The key points I came away with were:

  • Establish your blog's keywords (five words that describe your blog)
  • Be consistent with including these in your posts
  • Add keywords into your blog's meta data (it'll be in the code somewhere, I've yet to track mine down)
  • Add them into title, content, tags
  • Share your blog posts - via Twitter, Facebook, email and now Google +
  • Trickle your posts for sharing through your stream - timing is everything - and be considerate of your followers and friends. Don't blast them with posts!
  • Bookmark your posts on Stumbleupon
  • Review your blog's performance at least once per week (Darren Rowse likes to experiment, tweak, repeat often)
  • Understand where your traffic is coming from
  • Automate - install plug-ins like All In One SEO, install sharing options so readers/followers can do some of the work for you, establish a network of sharers (this was a particularly interesting tip that I am going to pursue further)

• I want to bottle Susan Thye's zest for life. Seriously. Her rainbows and unicorns presentation was hilarious, very attention-grabbing and unassuming. She told us, "You need to look for new ways to blog about what you love." How nice and simple and unique that would be! Very clever young woman indeed. You need to go check out her blog, chocolatesuze. Off you go.

Christie from Childhood 101 has become a personal favourite of mine in the past twelve months, particularly since having the pleasure to meet her unassuming self in Sydney in March. I love her blog and visit it often. What a great soul she is. She spoke admirably and with guts. The Twitter feed went ballistic when she was up at the mic and rightfully so. She was captivating. Thank you, Christie, for your openness and ability to share in your inimitable, personable and knowledgeable way.

• Don't discount e-newsletters. An invaluable tool. Check out MailChimp vs AWeber, via Nicole Avery's presentation - click here and scroll down to the part where she comprehensively describes blog newsletters.

Some basic, tried-and-true, but often overlooked blogging rules:
• Be consistent with when you post (day and time). I used to do this but have become slack and haphazard. Some better regularity is coming. Soon.....
• Anything in the news relating to your niche (think back to your SEO keywords), blog about it straight away.
• Mix it up! Categorize (and reduce your number of categories) - how many categories do you have and how often are you blogging about each of them? Use them all consistently, improve and organise them regularly.

Sponsored posts: General tips
• Know your style - be able to succinctly articulate who you are and what your blog is about.
• Know your audience - and when they visit your blog (helps to target brands).
• Brands don't necessarily go for blogs with the biggest number of followers, but whether your audience wants to listen to you.
• Make your statement: "If you want my content, you have to pay for it." Don't sell yourself short.
• Ensure your post title is correct (and appropriate)
• Be sure you have improved your site speed
• Categorize your post effectively

Problogger gets a bit all his own - so much good stuff, here's most of what I wrote (find more at
• Content is key - more central to your brand than your logo or blog design
• Aim for consistent long-term grown (10% per month)
• Look after the readers you already have - love your readers, make them feel noticed and spoiled, they will do the promoting for you
• Your brand is, basically, what people say about your blog when you're not in the room
• Set the agenda about your brand yourself
• Who do you want to read your blog? This will inform the way you build your content and marketing
• Educate your readers about sharing (on social networks)
• Run projects and challenges on your blog, relevant to your niche
• Reward good sharing - affirm and thank people directly, either privately or publicly
• Create useful and shareable content
• Share of other people - be generous
• What kind of content draws new readers in? Look at its:
  - usefulness - inform, sense of belonging, teaching, enhancing someone's life
  - how it informs, inspires, interacts (add depth, invite readers to engage)?
• Mix serving current readers with New Events content to draw new readers in
• List posts are good - try to put links to other posts of yours to draw them further in to your blog (these are called "sneeze pages")
• Link to newsletter signup/email subscription on your sneeze page/s
• Build anticipation - mention future topics

New to follow on Twitter:
@JaciEly - Jaci is a born natural speaker. Fantastic to hear her talk
@y0z2a - Andrew Hughes (or was it really Louis Theroux? LOVE him...) from Reprise Media
@HardieGrant - Hardie Grant is an Australian independent publisher of quality non-fiction books
@problogger - if you're not already, Darren Rowse is a brilliant mentor and all-round affable Mr Nice-Guy

It was a simply brilliant day.

All thanks to NuffnangAU and also Wavelink for their unwavering wifi at the event - the live Twitter stream on three big screens around the conference room really made for a fantastic, dynamic atmosphere.
Lots of fodder for the serious, or those wanting to get serious, or even the bloggers (like me) who didn't realise they could probably do more to help themselves to make it a better, more fruitful experience - both blogger and reader. Not so much networking for me this time as there was at the Aussie Bloggers Conference in March, but scintillating relevant content and speakers who were engaging and exceedingly knowledgeable about their domains. Heh.... see what I did there?

And all in my gorgeous city of Melbourne. Perfect!

Now, before I go, don't forget to watch 6.30 with George Negus the week commencing 8th August. We have it on good authority (direct from the phenomenal blogger herself) that our very own Eden Riley from Edenland and Mrs Woog are going to be on the show. Hanging out for that one. I can't think of two better representatives of the personal-mum-blogging scene Down Under than those two women. They're off in LA-LA Land this week for BlogHer and get this: Eden is giving a keynote address! WHAAAT!!!????? Balls of steel, that chick. Love her to pieces and wishing her all the fabulous luck I can muster. If ever there was a blogger who deserved to have her Universe and world-community heart messages broadcast widely, it's her - as a taste, her recent post "Glint of gold" encourages us "don't wait for yourself".

We could all do with a dose of that realism Eden naturally exudes. And, just as an aside, what a bloody hottie to boot!

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