Christmas + mental health

Not another mental health post, some of you may be thinking. Where are the pretty travel pictures and travel stories, others of you may ask.

They’re here. I’ve got them. I cannot wait to share them, but with only nine days to go until Christmas I have something else on my mind.

Mental health. Not mental illness, not mental disorder, and certainly not mental problems. Mental health.

Christmas to my family is incredibly important, we love Christmas. We love being together and cooking and sharing thoughtful gifts, blasting Christmas music and wearing silly hats and telling terrible jokes from our Christmas crackers. My favourite memory of many of my christmases will always be that moment when I simply could not continue, I was full and exhausted, I’d had a day of fun and it was finally time for bed. I will always hear my mum and dad saying Merry Christmas darlin’ as I headed to bed each year. That is my favourite Christmas memory.

The holiday season is not always a happy time for some, for some people it brings with it memories of loss, a time of grieving, feelings of sadness and confusion. For some it means nothing but anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts.

Christmas is hectic. The holidays can be a real trigger for many people out there and we have a responsibility to check in on others.

For one of my friends, she lost her Mother on Christmas Eve. Another lost her best friend to depression on Christmas Day. Some people no longer have anyone to put their tree up with them. There are families who cannot afford to eat. Families without homes. Families doing their best to keep everything together, even though it seems impossible.

My favourite Big Issue vendor in Brisbane, Nathan is someone who stands outside of the 7/11 on Adelaide Street and wishes a Merry Christmas to ever single person who walks past him. I always make the time to stop and ask him how he is and have a chat. December brings with it a lot of hurt and sadness to his life. Not only is he homeless, but he lost his Mother, Step-Dad and his brother in various December’s. Still he wishes you a Merry Christmas. When I see people ignore him or even scowl at him I feel nothing but disgrace for the human race.

Last year, the week before Christmas, Nathan was telling everyone it would be his last week in Brisbane, he was moving to Hervey Bay to be with his son. His happiness was contagious, he hadn’t been that genuinely happy in months. I was silently rooting for him.

When I saw him on that same corner in January, my heart broke for him.

Missing out on the Portman’s dress you wanted for Christmas is not a tragedy. Working Christmas Eve instead of partying with your friends is not sad. Spending Christmas with your family-in-law or annoying Uncle / Cousin / Sibling is not depressing. They are all circumstantial situations.

I want you to enjoy your Christmas, be kind to everyone. Forget misgivings, remove toxic people from your life. Remember the reason for the season and practice kindness. Smile at your Big Issue vendor, if you have $7, buy a magazine. Chat with them. Ask how are you and be ready to listen and to mean it. Be socially aware.

Christmas is not shopping. Christmas is not presents. Christmas is not enduring Christmas with family, it’s an honour.

Christmas is love.

Practice love, always.

Advertisements

Father’s Day – when your Dad is no longer here <3

Today is the eleventh Father’s Day without my Dad and on Thursday it will be the eleventh anniversary since he passed. I almost lock myself into a room the week leading up to Father’s Day. Every t.v ad, social media, shop signs, the radio. It’s everywhere.

Is it Father’s Day for those of us without Dad’s? Guess what? – for all of us out there who don’t have our father’s anymore – its still Father’s Day for our dads too.

Dad. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for being my hero and warrior when I was little. Thank you for giving me your height and confidence, but not so much for the skin and feet.

Thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike on the cricket pitch when I was 5, and how to read a clock/watch when I was 6. Thank you for teaching me the art of telling stories and having a laugh.

Thank you for showing me how important family is, it took us a while but my sister and I are now the very best of friends.

Dad, thank you for instilling in me pride for being Australian, for being tall and for looking different to others. I miss you saying “pacifically” instead of specifically, I miss how cranky you would get when you would bust us cheating at monopoly.

My brother has so many of your traits. As does my sister. But I got your looks. I have your tenacity, Irish-Australian temper, stubbornness and confidence but I also share your fears and concerns for the world. How DO we keep our loved ones safe? WHY is the world such a mess? I too am dwarfed by the same things you were.

I have travelled the world, knowing you didn’t get a chance to. I still go for your footy team, I was sad when they stopped making spearmint leave lollies and I laugh whenever I see the classifieds ads. Every now and then I watch a Clint Eastwood movie and eat a cheese and jam sandwich – just for you.

Dad, I love you and miss you. We all do. You were gone too soon. We are doing our best to make you proud of us. I hope you’re happy and although not in person, in your own way watching over us.

Love, your eldest daughter.

Courtney

X

Why I love being a Bonus (Step) Mum

The expectation when you are growing up is to meet the guy/girl of your dreams, and build your life together. For some people (not all), that dream extends to having children. To building a family, and loving that family, hard.

While I was growing up, I never had those marriage fantasies. I dreamt of far away places, of travel, of writing or creating movies. There was a small period of time where I actually tried to change my name to something horribly embarrassing. Most people laughed at me, my best friend Meagan backed me and immediately started rolling with it. Because she is amazing.

The thing is, I didn’t dream of my wedding. I didn’t dream of the family. The white-picket fence. Being pregnant. They all seemed like great things but they just weren’t on my ‘list’.

I had boyfriends. I had love stories. I had break ups. I did the thing. I have a lot of wonderful memories. The love of my life was always travel. I would work myself into the ground, saving every $ I had. Creating travel plans. Dreaming of my escape and throttling those holidays by the neck when I was on leave.

When I started to head towards thirty, something changed. I wanted that special someone. I wanted the text messages and the calls. The cuddles and the kisses. Holding hands. Being nauseatingly in-love in public, pissing-off all who saw.

I made a list. My now-Husband doesn’t know about the list. Because let’s face it, the list is something all of us girls keep hidden. Whether it’s in your diary, on your blog, in your notes, on your phone or just in your head. We ALL have the list. If you say you don’t, then you’re lying.

For me, my list looked something like this.

Taller than me. Has a job. Brown hair. Kind eyes. Great sense of humour. Likes to travel. Is honest. Is respectful. Hasn’t been married. Doesn’t have kids.

Your list might look like mine, or it may not. No judgement, #womensupportingwomen.

On my 27th birthday, I was out with my girlfriends, far from home. I met a man. He was the perfect man for me. We hit it off straight away. To say it was love at first sight, is an understatement. I KNEW this was the man I was going to marry.

The list wasn’t so much as a role-call as it was a guide. Find a man who doesn’t treat you like shit and wants to hang out with you and only you. The rest, was completely negotiable.

Fast-forward five years and I’m a Step-Mum. My dream man has two kids. Two gorgeous, intelligent, funny and loving kids. It was an adjustment. It wasn’t easy. For any of us. There are many extenuating factors when it comes to being a step-parent.

As much as you love them, you haven’t been a part of their firsts. You haven’t watched them grow. They aren’t yours. Now before you read that as a negative, I need for you to know that it isn’t. It’s anything but. Being a step parent is hard. It’s challenging, heart breaking and rewarding. All at the same time.

Do you know why this love feels insanely pure? It feels pure because there is no biological link. Your steppies are not a part of you. You are not biologically wired to love one another. The maternal instinct cannot be compared to that of a mother. That would not be fair. Unfortunately we have Cinderella to thank for the awful banshee portrayal of a step-mum. Step-dads are painted as self-serving, violent or cruel. Step-mums are painted as jealous, baron, nasty bitches.

We aren’t. When you choose to love children that aren’t yours- it shows dedication, commitment and intentional love. They are an extension of the person you love. When you look closely, you see the physical similarities, you also see the biological traits which do not match your partner. A reminder of where and from whom they were created.

You know what though? Children are innocent. Children do not choose where they come from. They don’t choose their future and they certainly cannot be expected to navigate the complexities that blended families bring.

So, in a painfully long-winded post, let me tell you this. Never shy away from a challenge. Never think that someone with children has “baggage”. You are only doing yourself a disservice. It means you have someone who can love others more than they love themselves. They are raising, loving and protecting kids and that is noble and attractive as HELL.

So….

To my two bonus-kids. I love you. I am proud of you and I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. Consider me part of your cheerleading team. We all want the best for you both. I love your Dad and I love you. I could not be prouder to call you my bonus-kids xxxx

Are you a step-parent, are you a step-kid? I want to know!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

To follow me on Facebook – you can do so here – Courtney Gaye Travels FB

If you are a Pinterest fan – you can find me here – Courtney Gaye Pinterest

A Celebration of Women – International Women’s Day

 

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and it is celebrated on 8 March every year commemorating the movement for women’s rights. First observed on 28 February in New York the year 1909, it was confirmed at the 1910 International Women’s Conference that 8 March would become an ‘International Women’s Day’.

Each year there is a different UN theme, this year it is The Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives. IWD is an official holiday in several parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Armenia, Cambodia, China, Russia and Turkmenistan. Countries such as Croatia, Romania, Bosnia and Chile celebrate the day, although it is not a public holiday.

team-motivation-teamwork-together-53958.jpegThis years campaign is heavily focussed on #PressforProgress – on global activism for equality for women – heavily fuelled by movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp (amongst others). The world is aiming for gender parity and shockingly, the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings suggest that gender parity is over 200 years away!

#PressforProgress is a call for us all to motivate and unite each other, our friends and colleagues, our communities to act, think and be gender inclusive For more – read here.

There is no denying that the last year has been tumultuous in terms of the struggle for women’s rights. You only need to observe the inauguration of Donald Trump, the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the rise of #MeToo & #TimesUp campaigns to understand the significance of this years IWD.

IEGO9851

A little snapshot of the IWD which I have found really interesting is below:

  • In 1010, Clara Zetkin became the first person to table to idea of an International Women’s Day
  • Later in 1910, 100 women from 17 different countries gathered to formally establish IWD and in 1011 when this occurred, more than a million people rallied in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland for women’s voting rights
  • It was officially declared by the UN in 1975.

So why do we need to keep celebrating it now? Surely women’s rights have improved? Could this really be as prevalent as it was 108 years ago? The answer is yes. We continuously need to mark this event because although huge progress has been made, much more needs to be done.

pexels-photo-567633.jpegThe income of female workers worldwide is predicted to continue lagging behind males for another 70 years and it has also been suggested that the gender pay gap will not fully close until 2186.

One in three girls in the developing world is married off before her 18th birthday and more than 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. Two thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female and only 7.8% countries in the world have a female head of government.

For me, being a feminist means respect and an aim for equality – at the core of it it is the struggle to end oppression. I am fortunate enough to live where I do, be in an equal and loving relationship and hold both a Degree and a well-paying job. In 10 countries, women are legally bound to obey their husbands and only 76 countries have legislation that directly targets domestic violence; with just 57 of them including sexual abuse.

pexels-photo-568027.jpeg

This year I have donated to the UN Women National Commission of Australia – Link is here.

  • $48 you can help provide food for a woman living in a shelter for a month.
  • $98 can deliver a young woman’s leadership program.
  • $156 can ensure women have access to legal services.
  • $456 can provide financial and literacy and business training for three women to create sustainable enterprises.
  • $873 can support a safe hour to protect women from domestic violence.

IMG_8750This International Women’s Day, let’s continue to empower each other and work together to ensure women are safe from violence and have choice and opportunity.

Happy International Women’s Day!What do you wish you could change for women in today’s world? I would like to see everyone in this world have access to mental health care.

Some of the beautiful ladies in my life, at my Hen’s Night ❤❤❤.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see!

Please note, I am not paid any sponsorships at all, I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

x C x

Christmas in Sydney!

Christmas morning we woke up to the madness that is Santa and present deliveries, lollies and excitement in deciding which of Santa’s goodies will be making it to Grandma’s for Christmas day!DSC08075

We had the car packed and a fresh bag of fancy croissants and were on the road by 9am and heading out to the western suburbs. Once we got to our destination it was time for celebratory drinks and cuddles and putting the family gifts under the Christmas tree.

I had the excellent idea to have matching Christmas t-shirts, which quite frankly has to be one of my better ideas to date! 🙂

Christmas was filled with far too much food, amazing drinks, a sea of Christmas paper and presents for days!

As I was away from my family for the day, I needed to have a bit of my families Christmas tradition and so I decided to cook my annual Christmas ham.

IMG_8086Quite a bit of pressure to pull of the perfect Christmas ham in front of 16 members of another family!

Thankfully it worked out beautifully and even though my sister has referred to me as a #hamwhore – I truly believe it was worth the risk ;).

IMG_8223Christmas went off without a hitch – the kids came home with a truck load of presents, I scored a new 24mm pancake camera lens for my Canon and G loved his new GoPro!

A wonderful day and a reminder that Christmas is about each other and good times and we cannot afford to forget the reason for the season :).

I don’t think there is anything in this world quite as cute as my husband with his Grandma Ivy – just gorgeous ❤ x

x C x

It’s locked in!

Happy Fri-yay! What a week it’s been – how did you go?! Here is a cute little flower from Peru to start your morning!

Today is pretty exciting, because today – we are booking our flights to London for our trip next year!!!

Initially we had planned on flying on Qantas’ new Dreamliner from Perth to London direct, but seeing as we live on the East coast of Australia – the price for the flights were a bit much. So my wonderful gf found sale flights with Cathay Pacific – via Hong Kong. Have you flown with CP? Are they okay?

We still have 10.5 months until the trip but I have a feeling it is absolutely going to fly past!

So today we book our flights, our deposit on our Hurtigruten adventure has been paid and this is really coming together!

Have a wonderful Friday!

X C X

I love you then, I love you still. Always have, always will <3

I was looking through my photos today, as I have been trying to collate my travel photographs into my Instagram page (@novaturient_redhead); and I realised that our honeymoon was ONE YEAR AGO!!!

This time last year we were in Milford Sound, the torrential rain had us locked in our room for three days – which, to be honest – forces you to relax and just enjoy being away on holiday!

We did get out on our last day as the rain turned into a light shower for a couple of ours.

I cannot wait to repeat our last year and every year forward. Bring it on – rain, hail or shine ❤

Akaroa, N.Z – spending a long weekend with friends <3

Hobbits, fish and ‘chups’ (they don’t say this, at all just fyi), kiwi fruit, Russell Crowe, Angela from Real Housewives of Auckland, being mistaken for an Australian, explaining where the country is on a globe and not getting credit for the pavlova.

This is a short summary of some things every kiwi I have ever met, dislikes. Kiwi’s, or New Zealander’s (a bit too formal I think), are the FRIENDLIEST, funniest, most giving and warm-hearted people on the planet.  You will never find a better companion than a friendly kiwi. One of my favourite people on this Earth is from Christchurch and I can honestly say, I have never met a kiwi I have disliked. It would be near impossible.

I think it has something to do with how astronomically beautiful their country is, not to mention how progressive the country is in general. New Zealand will always be one of my favourite places to visit. I have seen more of the North Island than I have the South Island, so i was excited to be able to visit more of the South Island.

Two years ago, in October 2015, we had decided a girls trip was on the cards. We are all spread out across the eastern cost of Australia and of course NZ, so Nats and I decided we would head over to New Zealand for a long weekend. Jem was going to show us around Christchurch and we were going to spend the weekend out at Akaroa. Akaroa was settled by the English and the French, the cultural influences of both are littered throughout the region.

Akaroa is on the Banks Peninsular in Canterbury area of the South Island of New Zealand. The name Akaroa is Kāi Tahu Māori for “Long Harbour”. It’s around an hour and a half from Christchurch, depending on the number of cars, sheep, the weather and of course the car you are in. If it takes twice as long, enjoy it! The drive is beautiful. We took the trip with  the best of Fleetwood Mac on repeat and catching up with one another.

We also stopped and did a massive haul at the shops. We had ten different types of cheese, since we are all cheese fiends, we also stopped by Barry’s Bay Traditional Cheese, which is in Akaroa. Barry’s Bay Cheese is made from local farms and is made in the traditional way since 1895. Their Havarti, Cracked Pepper and Chilli Cheddar cheeses are amazing!

fullsizeoutput_1a60No good girls trip is complete without several bottles of wine, some champagne, some cider and some delicious food before the drinking begins! Jem had found the cutest cabin in in absolutely gorgeous location in Akaroa, overlooking the water. It was a little walk out of town and was up on top of a hill.

We spent the weekend exploring the area, eating cheese, watching trash T.V, sleeping in, eating more cheese, drinking copious amounts of wine and just hanging out. It was amazing. We don’t get to spend too much time with each other, so it was really nice just being able to hang out and chat and bond. I firmly believe that your friendships with your girlfriends in your 20’s and 30’s are some of the most important and rewarding relationships we can have.

On our last day we visited a crazy little tourist must-see, the Giant’s Garden. The Giant’s House is a sculpture, mosaic garden and gallery and has the tag of “the happiest garden on earth”. It was certainly something different. It’s not cheap, at around $22 per adult entry. However, it’s worth it for the photos and it helps the owner’s keep the place open to the public. It is located within an historic house and gardens and is only a few minutes walk from the centre of Akaroa. It is seriously different and like I said, worth the photos! We also stopped in and checked out the local boutique stores as well. There is certainly a lot more about crystal’s and their healing powers I need to learn!

The Australian NRL final was on our last night in Akaroa and having found a little pub to spend the afternoon/evening and with no other patrons there, we asked the bar tender to change the channel. It was a Sunday night and hardly tourist season so it was super quiet. It turned into one of our rowdier nights and watching the game with a few locals who potted in later on was good fun as well. Our other girlfriend who was unable to make the NZ trip because of the grand final, was the reason we found a pub to watch the game in. Thankfully her team, the North Queensland Cowboys won, so it was celebrations all around!

Soon enough our amazing Akaroa break had come to an end and we made our way back to Christchurch. Hunted down fish and chips (with whitebait fritters – which I LOVE!) and watched a stack of reality tv whilst sitting near Jem’s fire and just soaking up each other’s company. Our little break had come to an end and Nats was back to Sydney and I back to Brisbane the next morning. Until our next catch up.

Having your friends so far away is really tough, but having the quality of friendships I have I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

fullsizeoutput_1a61Thanks for reading ❤

x C x

It’s the little things in life…10 things that always make my heart happy <3

  1. Cuddles with my Mum. Possibly my favourite thing as a little girl, something I resisted as a teenager (I was a shit of a teenager, honestly) and cherish and crave as a grown woman.
  2. When I am completely relaxed, anxiety-free and depression is under control. Oh my goodness, best feeling in the world. Normalcy, control and happiness.
  3. Taking. Off. My. Bra. Hello freedom! Oh and scratching along where the bra line was on my back – is this not the best feeling in the world?
  4. That first sniff/sip of coffee in the morning. Not a dodgy Moccona from the tin + hot water, coffee. A decent coffee.
  5. Ham + Cheese croissants. Worth the 400 plus calories and 51% fat content. Every damned time.
  6. Cake. Oh my god, cake. Chocolate, mud, red velvet, orange + poppyseed. I don’t even care, just make it moist and make it delicious.
  7. The smell of jasmine. Will follow the smell and inhale for dear life. Oh my goodness, that smell. Heaven.
  8. Crawling into bed on a Sunday evening when I have laid fresh sheets which have been in the sunshine all day after having been washed. It is important to note that this step can only be as deliciously satisfying if I have shaved my legs and washed my hair.
  9. That beautiful change of season which is palpable. The air is thicker, you need a cardigan – I cannot tell you how much I love that feeling when summer in Queensland has broken, and autumn is on its way.
  10. Laughing with my Husband. I mean REALLY laughing. Losing our sh*t, struggling to breathe, snorting – the lot of it. Laughing with your best mate – you cannot get better than that.

Lucy

x