The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Randoms and More…

What 5 years without caffeine has taught me

About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with PMDD: Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. It means that every month before a period, I experience a full depressive episode, sometimes with suicidal thoughts. It was debilitating. As soon as my period started, the world became bright and sunny again.

Five years ago, I read several studies linking caffeine to depression and anxiety. My GP had also advised I shouldn’t have caffeine, so I gave it a try. I’ve never been a coffee drinker but I did drink a lot of Coke Zero and energy drinks. I already suspected I was affected by caffeine as I’d get shaky and jittery after an energy drink. Luckily, Pepsi has a delicious caffeine-free version with that same cola taste I loved, so the transition wasn’t too hard.

Where am I now? Mostly symptom free. There are still some months where I am a bit mental, but nothing compared to what I used to suffer. Sometimes I forget what I went through. I’ve got diaries and Facebook entries to remind me how bad I was.

What has caffeine taught me? I’ve learned it is a growing addiction. In the course of my job, I have met a lot of people who want extra shots of coffee to get that caffeine buzz. I met one man who was up to six shots per coffee because he was so used to caffeine that he needed that much to get the buzz.

I’ve learned caffeine is everywhere. I still eat some chocolate, but tend to avoid dark chocolate for the higher caffeine levels. Mountain Dew has added caffeine to its drinks. There are now lemonade brands with added caffeine. Some sauces/glazes have caffeine. “Superfruit” boosts in juices often contain caffeine.

People assume I’m weird. Well, maybe I am a bit weird… But usually they think I’m weird because I don’t have caffeine. I often work early mornings and during a yawn, I’ve been offered coffees and energy drinks to wake me up. No, thankyou. I’ve also learned people don’t want an explanation, so I just exaggerate and say caffeine makes me suicidal. No questions asked!

Caffeine causes a lot of problems. For nine months out of the last 5 years, I was pregnant. Caffeine is a no-no during pregnancy, but I actually researched why. It can cause miscarriage and bleeding problems. I wasn’t aware of any mood disorders directly attributed to caffeine during pregnancy though.

The most important thing is: I feel great. I’m not saying it’s a cure-all solution for everyone with depression, anxiety, PMDD or PMS, but it worked for me. And I’m a much happier person for it.

February 20, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Stories ’16

For those stalking me, or have long memories, you may remember I started a project last year in which I was writing a short story every month for a year with the hope of self-publishing well, now.

So where’s the tome?

It didn’t happen. I started uni again in March last year after a two year break. Working full time + toddler + uni = very little time and even less creative energy.

Writing is important to me, and I absolutely plan to finish my short stories. I just can’t give myself a time-frame to do so. If all goes well, I will finish my degree in November, which frees up some time (and energy!) By then, who knows what adventures lay ahead?

I do have a lot of things happening this year which I am very excited about. Unfortunately, writing short stories (or even a novel) probably won’t happen this year. I’m disappointed in myself for setting an unrealistic goal, but I am proud of myself for going back to uni to finish this degree. I’m excited for what the future holds and I’m optimistic for new opportunities which I am sure are right around the corner.

January 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Moana: A Review

Disney non-princesses sure have come a long way. No longer do Disney heroines need Princes to kiss them, they just need an animal sidekick, a loving mentor and a dude who can help kick some butt along the way (but she does most of the work).

Enter Moana, a tale of mortal heroine defeating gods to restore life to her dying world. Moana herself is Disney’s first Polynesian heroine, based on Polynesian legends and culture. The daughter of a Chief, she’s poised to take over official duties but cannot ignore the call of the ocean as she’s drawn to find the demigod Maui and convince him to return the Heart to goddess Te Fiti in order to save her island (and the world).

Moana is everything modern audiences would want from a Disney film. Visually, it’s stunning, although I thought the people looked very plastic-y. Everything from the crystal clear waters to the fierce gods is beautifully animated and I read that Maui’s tattoos were hand-drawn. There’s a ton of Easter eggs and other film references hidden in the film so keep an eye out for those.

The story is based on Polynesian legend. I’m not usually one for stories of gods vs humans, but I was able to overlook it just this once. Moana and Maui meet some interesting characters along the way, including the materialistic Tamatoa. He is voiced by Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement with a David Bowie-esque song (which I am still humming).

This brings me to the music. Wow! I was flabbergasted at the lyrical atrocities committed by the frighteningly awful Frozen (I know- just shoot me) but Moana redeems my faith in Disney musicals. Not only are they lyrically on-track, but the music itself is toe tapping happiness. I came home and downloaded the soundtrack immediately; I know it’s gonna be on repeat in my car forever.

Moana is awesome. I can’t write enough good things about this film. It’s amazing. As the cliche goes, if you only see one Disney film this year, make it Moana.

Nine out of ten popcorns.

January 9, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Does Christmas have meaning if you’re not religious?

I’m not religious. I have been to a Christmas church service with my religious cousins, but all I remember is my cousin farting through it and whispering, “Oops!” every time his bottom let Fluffy off the chain.

We are brought up in a society where Christmas should mean something. Yes, there’s the religious connotations, the birth of the Saviour. There are pagan origins and dancing naked to celebrate the Solstice. Then there’s Santa, elves and Christmas trees with lots of presents on December 25th. There’s family coming together and lots of food.

What if you don’t have or don’t like your family? Is there more to Christmas than Santa?

From a young age, we’re inundated with the idea that Christmas means something. Miracles happen at Christmas. Families come together while forgiveness flows like strawberry champagne. For just one day, the world and all its inhabitants are perfect. Thanks, Hollywood.

Christmas is hard for a lot of people. They don’t have family. They don’t talk to their family. They’re forgotten. For various reasons, people often don’t choose to be alone on Christmas.

This year, I supported Share the Dignity. They held a drive ( #itsinthebag) to collect unwanted handbags filled with sanitary items and toiletries for women in need. These women are homeless or in refuges, fleeing from domestic violence. Often, they have to choose between their children being fed or buying sanitary items. These women resort to using wadded up newspaper to catch their period. Not only ineffective but very uncomfortable as well. These bags were distributed to women in need, with loads of stories about how each bag made someone feel special. Not only were the women grateful for the toiletries, some bags contained books, messages, luxuries or something special each woman could call their own.

The drive collected well over 100,000 bags. The stories and photos shared on their Facebook page told of women in tears because they were overwhelmed that someone else cared enough to put a bag together. It’s not just the gift, it’s that someone thought of them.

Yes, Christmas has meaning even if you’re not religious. It’s a time to think of others who aren’t as lucky as you. It’s about making everyone feel special when it seems everyone else is getting a present. It’s knowing someone, somewhere cares about you.

I have a toddler who has just turned two. We sorted through all her toys, choosing ones she’s never played with, and donated them to charity. Not only is there more room in her toy box, she’s learning to think of others and share. OK, that’s optimistic. She was really just concerned that a stuffed animal she’s never looked at was suddenly very interesting and deserved to be pulled out of the bag to be played with…

Merry Christmas!

December 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


For those living under a rock, the latest (and, according to JK herself, the last) installment of Harry Potter’s adventures has hit both the shelves and the London stage.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child finds Harry a middle aged father of three teenagers. The play focuses on Albus, the middle child, who befriends Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius and together they screw things up pretty badly.

Yes, the book is a play. I personally have no problems with reading a play: I love Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare’s works are still hugely popular and read in schools. Maybe a novel would have eliminated the issues I have with the story, but there’s definitely no problem with it being a script.

I do have two main issues with this: 1) The dialogue is utter rubbish and 2) It’s hardly an original story.

I’m of the understanding (and happy to be corrected) that JK Rowling provided the story while two experienced scriptwriters brought the story to life. Personally, I don’t think it’s  done well. The dialogue ranges from sappy to exposition with little substance in between. Apparently the play lasts over five hours! There are parts that could be cut; I don’t see the value of speeding through three years at Hogwarts nor repeating the same scene in its entirety three times. Your audience isn’t stupid, don’t talk down to them. As for exposition – your characters do not need to explain what’s going on.

I was also disappointed with the characters. Ron wasn’t himself, Harry was the most boring middle aged office worker one could imagine but at least Hermione was everything one would expect Hermione to be. Albus was a typical teenage kid and Scorpius was not what I expected at all. Draco has mellowed with age with none of the wit he once possessed.

As for the story… All I will say is all your most loved and most hated characters are back, even if it’s only a cameo. The story itself is predictable but moves along at a good pace once you’re past the initial fast forwarding of Albus’ first three years at Hogwarts. Obviously in a novel, there’s time to extricate the story and set the scene, but still… it’s a five hour play which doesn’t need to be that long. Films have proven you can still have good story representation in under three hours…

Overall, I didn’t love it. Some of my friends say it was a wild ride from start to finish but I humbly disagree. I was severely disappointed with the story and the characters were not as rounded as I’d hoped.

Sadly, only six out of ten bookmarks.

August 4, 2016 Posted by | Reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Allegedly – A Review

Allegedly by Sarah Monahan

You may remember Sarah Monahan as Jenny Kelly, the adorable youngest child of the Kelly family in Australia’s most successful sitcom, Hey Dad…!

You may also remember she triggered an investigation into Robert Hughes after allegations of sexual molestation.

If you’re looking for gory details, you won’t find them here. What you will find is an interesting story of a former child actor, her life after TV and the gruelling years between the initial allegations and the day he was found guilty. Even without the gory details, this is still worth a read although I felt it was celebrity porn: Where did it all go wrong?

Sarah has managed to move on from her early years, and the years between Hey Dad…! and her allegations are filled with interesting times, such as her strained relationship with her mother and travels to the US, where she met her husband and now resides.

If you’re a survivor of sexual abuse, you may find this a trigger for anxiety, or you may find strength and courage. If you’re reading it for gory details, give it a miss. But if you’re reading it for another side of former child stars, it’s worth it. However, I will warn you that it is terribly edited and you may find yourself scratching out words with a red pen.

Three out of five bookmarks.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Yikes! Where did March go?

Yes, I’m a little behind in this month’s story. In fact, I only started it today despite thinking about it all last month.

This story started out differently. It was to tell the story of Stepsi and four friends with a twist at the end (I love twists). Instead, it evolved into exploring the relationship between Stepsi and her mother, also with a twist at the end.

Stepsi was originally a young woman around twenty, but she’s now six years old. She sees and communicates with ghosts, and her mother doesn’t believe her. Six is far too old to be making up stories about people who don’t exist. (Personally, I think this means Stepsi is going to grow up to be a writer…)

Stepsi’s name has been in my head for a while. I’m not sure where it came from but the seeds of it probably came from mishearing a word, or possibly from early ads for this season of MKR in which Hazel and Lisa, stepmother and stepdaughter, were referred to as Stepsies. Either way, Stepsi is unique.

Kids’ imaginations often run wild and for some reason, adults tend to quash them. Whether Stepsi is actually seeing ghosts or not, the issue is her mother, who fights to normalise her daughter. In my mind, this “normalisation” is the issue, not the supernatural. What is normal? Why are we quashing imaginations? Who decided that kids need to conform to the rigidity of adult life? What’s wrong with imagination? For that matter, what’s so wrong about talking to the dead?

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

February 2016

February’s story doesn’t have a title yet. Its working title is the uncreative Valentine’s Day and is essentially a love letter to my sixteen year old self.

February is full of love and retail. Just this morning, I walked past several jewellery stores proclaiming love is best said with diamonds. One 1ct diamond ring was $1799 reduced to $799. Makes me wonder if the ring was originally 2ct and one fell out.

These days, I don’t do anything for Valentine’s Day. I tell my boyfriend every day that I love and appreciate him. Plus I really don’t want an oversized stuffed gorilla holding a heart. Once upon a time, in the days before I’d ever had a boyfriend, Valentine’s Day was important. It showed the world that someone cared about me and I cared about them too. It was a day to celebrate our love with cards and roses and chocolates and a nice kiss. It was a day to say goodbye to being single and revel in the warm, gooey feelings of having a boyfriend.

Valentine’s Day represented everything my sixteen year old self wanted. This short story is an amalgamation of all those teenage thoughts and feelings, the desire to tell my crush I loved him but avoiding the public embarrassment should anyone find out. The boy-crush of this story is also a combination of high school boys I had a crush on, with added extra bits of awesome thrown in. He represents everything I wanted in a teenage boyfriend, along with dreams of our future life together.

Dear 16 year old self,
You’re so cute. Those guys don’t know what they missed. Wait for someone worthy of you.
Love, yourself in 20 years.

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

January 2016

Sometime last month, I decided I would write a short story each month of 2016 with the intention of self-publishing an e-book at the end of the year. No biggie.

Lately I’ve been feeling creatively unfulfilled. I constantly have things running through my head with no outlet. I’m unproductive. I seem to be doing a lot with nothing to show for it except a clean, well-fed baby and not burning my workplace to the ground (accidentally, of course…).

One night as I was driving home from work, I was listening to the radio and singing along (as I often do). Goo Goo Dolls’ 90s hit ‘Slide’ came on. Even though I’ve sung it a thousand times, one lyric caught my attention and I thought I could do something with it. I did. January’s short story is called Slide and I just finished editing it last week. It’s not the most cheery story, it’s not at all autobiographical, I just liked where that one lyric took me.

Slide is a story about desire and where desire can take us. Although I’ve chosen the dark places desire can lead, it can also be a creative force which drives us to do whatever we want, wherever we want to go and end up in the best possible place for ourselves.

I hope these stories showcase life, love and loss in all their gritty, beautiful glories. Don’t worry, February’s story is a lot cheerier!

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Motherhood

I promised not to make this a mummy blog, however, I couldn’t resist the urge to pen a few thoughts as I approach my daughter’s first birthday.

Yes, I’m still getting used to referring to her as my daughter.

Congratulations to me for surviving this first year. Yay me for not putting her out for kerbside collection or handing her over for adoption until she’s finished teething. Go me for not having to take her to emergency because she’s injured herself on something I really should have paid more attention to (don’t get me wrong, there have been several close calls… but we haven’t yet actually sustained any injury).

Apparently, you’re not supposed to chain a child outside when they wee on the carpet. (This should really be written in some sort of manual…)

Stuff you think is unbreakable… isn’t.

My house permanently looks like a cyclone has hit it. I can’t find anything moments after setting the item down. Once, she pushed my phone under the lounge and I spent the morning rearranging the lounge room in order to retrieve it.

I’m missing the O key on my laptop because there was toast crumbs underneath it, and the catch broke when I tried to clean underneath it.

She’s very clever. She used the dog to climb on and off the lounge (dog didn’t usually mind, which is weird). She can now open sliding doors, including the one to the ensuite, resulting in visits to daddy in the shower.

She’s also recently discovered that falling off the bed isn’t the only way to get down; in fact, you don’t even need the dog to climb on!

Motherhood means never going to the toilet alone. It means there’s a little person climbing on you when you’re trying to get dressed (“Yes boss, I was late for work. Mini-me was climbing on my back, up my leg and “helping” me put on my socks.”) It means cupboard doors are opened, contents thrown askew (or placed in mouth), and that hairclip you’d thought long gone was actually right up the back behind that bottle of perfume you last used in 2010. Everything takes up more time because I’m either wandering off to rescue her from the garage (we really do need latches on those sliding doors…) or I’m madly back-spacing from her bashing on the keyboard.

Nothing is mine anymore. When she was newly born, the lyrics to ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’ ran through my head constantly. Now, it’s still pretty much the same. The mug of Milo is now pulled from my hands because I’m supposed to share (God help me if I try to “share” her food!). I’m slowly transitioning into a life of no unhealthy food when she’s around. The other day, I gave her a sushi roll because a) I didn’t want the remaining 5 chicken nuggets when she’d only eat one and b) sushi is easy to hold. She actually didn’t mind the sushi roll, but she was definitely more interested in my mum’s fried rice plate.

I’m learning that sticky tape repairs most things, and for the things it doesn’t, well, did I really need them anyway?

As I look now into her Milo-covered face from the dregs I left in the mug, I see her smile, sing, and call me Dadda. I’ve temporarily forgotten the times I’ve screamed at her to shut up, the sleep I’ve missed, the days I wished I’d never had her, and it all seems OK.

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment