Saturday, 26 May 2012


Walking on the beach path, umbrella braced against the wind,

The pretty umbrella with the silvery-blue butterflies,

Designed to brighten up the wintery months.

I juggle many things – umbrella, dog leads, the thoughts in my head

That haven’t quite cleared from the dream

I was pulled from when I rose.


The dogs’ fur is sleek; they don’t seem to mind the cold wet slashings

That batter their eager faces in the wind,

Their tails still wag and they pull their leads

To sniff the stories that other dogs have left behind.

I remember singing in the Geelong West Town Hall

As part of the choir in a winter concert,

Dressed in rain-coats and donning a range

Of colourful gum-boots;

Singing wintery songs about rain-drops and snowflakes

To an audience sipping bowls of steaming hot soup,

Brewing mulled wine with wafts of cinnamon

That filled the old high ceilings;

Tickling the nostrils of past mayors –

Imprisoned in heavy frames.


Rug up! Rug up! Enjoy the chilly excuse

To cosy up in blankets and warm the soul,

Or go outside and feel your every cell come to life.


Sue Oaks, Copyright 2012.


Saturday, 19 May 2012

The woes of licking between your toes!

The herbal concoction is bitter, making my tongue curl and I wash it down quickly with freshly squeezed juice ... phew!

After battling with my tummy for about a year (cramps, bloating, indigestion) I think I might be finally on the right track. I have come to the following conclusions about why my digestive system has gone crazy:

  1. The six months I spent on Jenny Craig (frozen food, processed foods and becoming disassociated with food preparation)
  2. Going from a vegetarian diet to eating a lot of meat
  3. Eating every 5.2 minutes
  4. Drinking 362 coffees daily
  5. Inhaling helium and other strange substances
  6. Eating my dogs' meals
  7. Chewing non-edible surfaces e.g. my table, chairs, pillows
  8. Drinking from the toilet bowl
  9. Pulling my hair out in tufts and eating it
  10. Licking between my toes
  11. Having sips of petrol when getting fuel from the servo
  12. Eating from the rubbish bin
  13. Accidentally swallowing a lot of makeup when attempting to wear it on my face
  14. Licking my floor clean instead of mopping to save water
Okay... this started well but sadly, was hacked! So I will summarise it as having changed my diet too radically too quickly, not eating enough nutrients, eating too much sugar (especially chocolate) and not dealing with stress very well.

And the plan? Cutting out caffeine, dropping the sugar levels, eating heaps of fruit and veges and fresh juices, snacking on nuts and sultanas instead of lollies and using some stress-reduction techniques. Boring? Not if it means a happy tummy! My lovely naturopath also prescribed me digestive enzymes and pro-biotics. So maybe I can keep licking between my toes after all!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

I’m not a perfect mother

On the day before Mother’s Day, I just want so say
I’m not a perfect mother.
I’ve changed nappies by the thousands
I’ve breast-fed for 42 months
I’ve lost hundreds of hours of sleep.

Because I was a young mum, I didn’t totally dedicate my life to my children
I kept on studying and trying to find a job that I enjoy.
I never really felt like I fitted in with the older mums,
Who seemed to have it all together.
I couldn’t relate to their conversations about house decorations, new cars and shopping sprees.

I had depression.
I probably had depression before I had my babies
I definitely had it after
On and off.

I’ve been an okay mother for some of the time.
I bought them nice toys and set up play areas
I took them for walks and to the play-ground
I read lots of books to them and gave them massages and cuddles
And tickled them to sleep.

I tried to do it all with little support.
Their dad was good at playing with them
But didn’t really do much of the practical things.
My emotional tank was empty to start with
I think sometimes I got it to a quarter full
But it would usually empty pretty quickly.

So I studied.
I worked.
I worked and studied and gave what emotional resources I still had left.
I tried to keep my marriage alive, offering to go to courses, begging to have time together, setting up motel stays that were simply rejected because he had other more exciting things to do and he made me feel guilty for ‘making him’ marry too young.

Leaving the marriage wasn’t easy. I didn’t take it lightly.
It looked like I left it for another man but really the marriage had been long over and the other man became the motivation I needed to make the move.
But I didn’t think about how to make it work for the children.
How can it ever work for them, really?

So I’m not a perfect mother.
I’m trying to create a warm and welcoming space
In a house that’s too small, in a relationship that’s still insecure
In many ways
While I try and finish my studies and make a living,
To pay for their school fees, their clothes, their activities and the foods they like to eat. And I keep loving them, whether they believe me or not.

I’m not a perfect mother. But who is?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

9 Easy Steps to Writing an Article on a Common Title or Theme

Can't get any writing inspiration? Try this trick - choose a title from any article on the internet or find a catchy headline in today's newspaper or a magazine, and have a go of writing your own article on the same title. Avoid reading the article first but instead, try the following steps to create original, captivating material!

  1. Choose a title, for example in a recent post I chose 'Fragile Life - Diseases in the world today', which is a very general topic area.
  2. Gather your thoughts and ideas to work out what you already know about the topic - use a range of brain-storming techniques such as the ones found on Persistence Unlimited 
  3. Research - use Google to find some relevant and up-to-date information on your topic. Be sure to write down your source and include as a reference in your article.
  4. Divide into sub-headings. From the information you have gathered, choose 4 - 6 sub-headings. For my article on deady diseases I was able to divide a very general subject into a number of distinct areas which then guided the direction of the piece.
  5. Write your paragraphs. Keep them short, around five-six lines is a good average measure.
  6. Add an introduction to capture the attention of your audience, and finish off with a couple of lines which leave the reader thinking. Asking a question can be a good way to invite some reader comments.
  7. Illustrate - choose one or two photos or illustrations which you think will highlight the information in your article. You can use your own gallery of photos, take new ones or use a photo-site from the Internet such as istockphoto where you can purchase photos for around $1.00.
  8. Proof-read and edit your article! Grab a friend to read through, use spell-check and make sure your article is formatted in a simple, readable style.
  9. Share your article - on your own blog, on someone elses blog (try  for example), or offer to a publisher! There's a world out there of readers looking for new material, so get it out there!
If you have used these steps and written an article, I'd love to hear about it, so please leave your comment on the blog. Happy Writing!

Sue Oaks, Copyright 2012

Fragile Life - Disease in the world today

Human life is precious and most people would agree that we should value each and every human life. Sadly, human life can also be fragile and our world is full of diseases which threaten our health and sometimes our very existence. So what are our most deadly diseases, and can we do anything to treat and prevent them?

Definition of a Deadly Disease

The Oxford Dictionary defines disease as ‘a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury and deadly as ‘causing or able to cause death’. What this means, in simple terms, is that a deadly disease is the worst type of disease you can get – one you aren’t likely to survive.

Developed vs. Developing or Less-developed Countries

Identifying the most deadly diseases in the world is difficult, because despite the growth of globalism and the wonders of modern technology, the world is not an equal place. The prevalence of disease differs depending on where you live. If you live in a developed country such as Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Germany, Japan, the UK and the United States, the diseases which are likely to be most deadly to you are going to differ from the diseases you may face in a developing, or less developed, country.

Deadliest Diseases in Developed Countries

Among the main causes of death in developed countries that fit the definition of disease, there are some which have proven to be the most deadly. These include Ischemic heart disease; Cerebrovascular disease (disease of the brain); Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (disease of the lungs); Lower respiratory infections (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia, lung abscess); Lung Cancer; Stomach Cancer; Hypertensive heart disease (heart problems caused by high blood pressure) and Tuberculosis (a contagious bacterial infection involving the lungs but which may spread other organs).

The Most Deadly Disease in Developing or Less-developed Countries – HIV-AIDS

Not surprisingly the most deadly disease of the less-developed countries is listed as HIV-AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which is by far most common in African countries. In these countries, there are around 24.5 million people affected, which makes up more than 60% of people infected with the deadly disease world-wide. Of these countries, South Africa is the worst affected, followed by Nigeria and then India coming in as the third most highly impacted.

Other Deadly Diseases in Developing Countries

Apart from AIDS, diseases most prominent in less developed (or developing countries) begin with similarities to the developed countries and include lower respiratory infections and Ischemic heart disease as the next two most deadly. Following these comes Diarrhea, then Cerebrovasular disease (once again similar to the developed countries list), then Malaria; Tuberculosis; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Measles.

Preventing Deadly Diseases

Thinking about the grim realities of diseases can be disheartening but it can also be a wake-up call to reality. That’s when people start to think about how to address these problems and think of ways to prevent the occurrence of the diseases to start with. This involves thinking about disease in both a small, localised way and a larger, globalised way. AIDS-HIV, for example, has raised many challenges for professionals around the globe as they strive to find ways of preventing the spread of the disease and face difficulties in educating people in culturally sensitive ways. Heart Disease, on the other hand, is the most common cause of death in most Western countries and can be more simply prevented with a healthy diet and readily available medication for diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Disease in the future

The human organism seems fragile when we look at the prevalence of disease. Consideration of how to stay healthy raises a number of ethical questions. Who should be prioritised when it comes to health care? Is it fair that developed countries have millions of dollars poured into their health system to treat diseases which are quite easily preventable? Whatever questions may be aroused and whatever ethical dilemmas the problem raises, the reality is evident – that disease is part of human existence and if we want to live healthy, productive lives, there will always be room to improve the way we deal with it.

Copyright Sue Oaks 2012

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ugly Animals - Misunderstood (Guest Post)

The human race is known for being drawn to what is aesthetically pleasing.
Attractive people, beautiful cars, houses and scenery are all things that draw the eye and fill a person with a sense of admiration and sensory pleasure.

(Image source: screen capture)
There are creatures in this world that make many recoil. You’re more likely to see a person strutting along with a sweet looking Labrador than a hairless, all be it, perfectly healthy runt. Bearded dragons can be considered 'cute' or 'interesting' and millions are kept as pets. The blobfish pictured above would not readily be kept in a vivarium in peoples homes.
As citizens, we are taught not to exclude or differentiate those who are not physically appealing and be compassionate to those who are disfigured.
Yet when it comes to animals, we decide that birds are beautiful but bats are ugly. I find this unfair and my mission today is to dispel these myths and cut these animals some slack.
Arachnids be gone!

Image by Rhys Asplundh 
Spiders and tarantulas are considered so frightful by such a large number of humans that a fear and hatred of them has been scientifically identified as arachnophobia.
While I am entirely sympathetic to anyone who suffers from a phobia, I find that spiders are far too often screamed at, squashed and bad mouthed.
They are incredibly shy and they quietly dispose of your house flies and other unwelcome bugs without expecting anything in return. They do their bit for girl power (the females outlive the males by years because they kill them after mating) and they are adorably house proud, weaving lovely webs and carpets from silk they resourcefully produce themselves.
I urge you all to join the British Tarantula Society and help promote these lovely creatures and defend them from being persecuted.
Cute and Fluffy Rats Vs This Ugly Thing
Rats continue to have a hideous reputation, largely due to their false association with the Black Death that ravaged Europe centuries ago. They were widely considered to be dirty, sneaky and generally unpleasant, but rats are gradually building up a loyal fan base among pet rat owners.
These rat lovers spread the word on the internet, run campaigns and generally fight tooth and nail for the acceptance of these lovely rodents into the top pet lists.
Pet rats do have cute faces, fun personalities and a high level of intelligence, making them stimulating and entertaining pets. Fact.
Try and say the same about this bad boy:

The naked mole rat – source: Wikipedia, public domain.
These dudes won’t get such a warm welcome at the rat conventions methinks.
They are blind as they live underground and have no need for eyes. Anyone who has seen Pan’s Labyrinth may be picturing this hideous guy right now.
I’m reluctant to admit that when I first came across this picture, I recoiled slightly and wondered how affectionate I would feel towards one of these little things if it were my pet. I too may be guilty of discriminating against more unbecoming creatures.
It would be more difficult for many people to pick up a tarantula than it would be to pick up a cat. I wonder how accommodating we’d be to aliens, if they came peacefully for a visit to earth looking like this:

Image by Steam Pirate
It could be the kindest, most gentle creature alive, but given it’s rather unflattering appearance, most people (conditioned by what society deems as physically appropriate) would run screaming in the other direction without stopping for a chat.
Let us all stop to think about these sentient beings that deserve to be loved just as much as the pretty ones. Here is a list of unattractive animals that you should stop and hug at some point in your life. Comments below, but keep them kind people.
-          The Sloth
-          The Hagfish
-          The Aye-Aye
-          The Horseshoe Bat
-          The Star-Nosed Mole (and don’t forget the lovely Naked Mole Rat)
-          The Mata Mata Turtle
-          The Vampire Bat
-          The Proboscis Monkey
-          The Warthog
-          The Angler Fish
-          The Turkey Vulture (and The Turkey for that matter...)

Susannah Plomer is a prolific blogger and friend to the underdogs of this world. She loves to write about animals for Supapet who happily provide a wide range of pet accessories for all pets from dogs to bearded dragons.