Family, Life, Life and love, R U OK

Thankful for the end of January.

I am so glad to see the end of January. Since my brother went missing in January 2018, I have found this bright and bubbly first month of the year incredibly difficult. Thankfully it’s a busy month, so I have always kept myself occupied to try and put grief out of my mind. It’s hard when January just happens to be the month of positive messages. It’s common for social media to be filled with motivational and inspiring messages, especially during the start of a new year. “New Year, New You” messages flood social media, but true change comes from within. Don’t let the hype fool you, personal growth is a journey unique to you.

We don’t suddenly break all the habits of previous years, just because it is the beginning of a new one. Sure, we can manifest success, and we should plan and set goals, quite honestly when I choose to plan, I am more successful, but the pressure to start afresh in January can be too great for some of us. It’s up to each individual to determine what works best for them and make meaningful changes in their own way and pace.

In December 2017, I bought Grahame and I matching planners, they arrived beautifully wrapped, and we were excited to plan our year. His was blue and mine was pink, we set about creating our goals and going into 2018 we were pumped. Then my brother died, and it all went out the window. Since then, until recently, I have not successfully used a diary/planner. I could not look at a planner without fearing that I was set for failure. I have negotiated with this year’s planner and given myself some time, and one rule was that I wouldn’t start using it until February. I wasn’t making plans in January, and self-care in January didn’t include making plans for the year. It is important for me to acknowledge “me” and my vulnerability, I know that I will always feel grief, and that to honour my brother I must talk about him and our memories together, but also remember how he left this world. His legacy is not defined to his suicide, he had many happy times, but he obviously didn’t believe that he had permission to talk about how he was feeling. He would want his time on this earth to have made an impact, he would want to see people being supported and talking about their feelings. At his funeral one of his mates spoke about how when James was running a building site, he would down tools and give group hugs, that made me so proud.

I have long been concerned with the rise of toxic positivity. Our feeds are filled up with quotes from people who are making a career out of inspiring others. Once again, it’s great to be positive, but it is not possible to be positive all the time, and the sheer volume of these positive posts can become overwhelming, especially for those with mental health problems. We must understand that without failure, we will never understand what success looks like, and we must be prepared to be vulnerable if we are to experience real connections.

When positivity is pushed to an extreme, it can be bad for us. It is a fact that those who acknowledge and validate their emotions progress much better than those who live in denial. By living in a fake positive emotional state, we don’t get to experience real positive emotions. It is unrealistic that we can be happy all the time. The problem with pushing positivity on to yourself or others, is that it shuts down the conversation, stifles vulnerability and could actually reduce the opportunity to have a real conversation that could then lead to people seeking help.

Many years ago, I reached out for help about my business, and I was asked if I had tried being positive? That’s where the conversation ended. I am in a very successful coaching group now, we set goals, plan our weeks, months, year. We celebrate our wins, but we also have an opportunity to be vulnerable. It’s true, nobody wants to hear negativity, but emotions like sadness, anger and grief are not bad emotions, they are real. All emotions are important and if we are to lower the suicide rates, we must open up the conversation and lose the stigma.

I too have previously been guilty of telling people that they are lucky to have their health, a roof over their head. I have tried to get mates and people I care about to look on the positive side. I understand now that those things can’t make you happy if you are feeling incredibly sad. I also know that perhaps whilst putting out the “let’s be positive” vibes, I was hiding from the truth about my own happiness. We need to reframe the conversations, not only the conversations with others, but the way we talk to ourselves. Naturally we want to put out good vibes, we don’t want people around us to feel depressed just spending time with us, but we need to find our tribe, because our true mates will listen and respect us for being open and honest.

Be kind to yourself.

I now acknowledge that to be vulnerable is to be brave.

In the words of leading vulnerability advocate Brene Brown;

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.”

Love Donna

Family, Life, Life and love

Farewell 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, I reflect on the year that was. I have posted on my business pages already and now I begin to think about how the year went for “me”. The personal events back in 2018 had me thinking that no year could be worse, and thankfully no year has measured up in terms of trauma. Having said that, the past few years have not been easy. As we entered 2022, I was positive that it would be a great year, but it certainly threw some challenges, lots to do with business and staff shortages, but these all made for a bit of an anxious year. 

It was not all bad though, and I permit myself to brag a little, because we should always celebrate our wins, and because I have friends who feel nervous about self-promotion. This is a discussion I often have with other businesswomen. I have been in business for 18 years now and I want to set an example and give you all permission to always celebrate your wins. So, I share a photo to celebrate the two awards I won this year, neither of which I entered, and I had absolutely no idea that I had been nominated. In August I won a Local Hero Award for my contribution to regional tourism, then in November I was awarded the Dean Goddard State Award for Contribution to Tourism by an Individual in NSW. I am so proud of these achievements. 

I am also proud to have become a Great Aunt for the second time to beautiful baby Cali. I am happy that I got to celebrate my nephew Izzy’s 18th birthday with family in August and we had a little party for my Great Nephew Harlyn’s 2nd birthday in February.  I am grateful for friends and family and for a loving partner.

I will miss my “Other Dad” Alan Catt who we lost in November, he was such a wonderful man who has always supported me and my dreams. His family especially “Other Mum” are in my thoughts, along with my friends who are battling illness and those who have lost a loved one.

I don’t do resolutions these days, but I do like to look back at what I have learnt during the year. I have acknowledged that grief never leaves us, I think of my brother every day, and whilst I am celebrating my wins, I am also accepting my grief and thinking of the memories we shared. I am learning to block out all the toxic positivity and to be vulnerable if that’s what I need to be. I am learning to manifest my future. 

I feel like as a society, we are grateful for the end of every year, every week and every month just so that we can start all over. New beginnings so we can lose weight, travel more, work less. This can be done, but perhaps we are wanting too much and setting ourselves up for failure? Next year I am going to continue to reset but take small bites and not overwhelm myself with “things to achieve”. If I f….ck up, then I will just get back on that horse and try again. I won’t wait for Monday, for the beginning of the month or for 2024 to get on track. If I miss Monday, I will start Tuesday. And remember, we can’t succeed if we have never failed. 

I hope that 2023 brings you all that makes you happy, I hope the resilience we have gained helps us to accept that this is not a perfect world. I hope that we learn to care for our planet, love each other, grieve freely and accept that our happiness is not dependent on others, only we can create the life we want. Use your voice, it is your power. Ruffle some feathers. You have one life, make it matter. 

Happy 2023 and big love to all xx

Family, Life, Life and love, R U OK?


He is not just a statistic, he was my brother.

Today is R U OK Day. It is a day that is close to my heart and one that I never thought would speak to me so strongly. To be honest, before I was affected by suicide, I thought that R U OK Day was a bit silly, I wondered why we would choose only one day of the year to ask someone if they were OK?

I know now that those three words could be the words that a suicidal person may need to hear. I wish that I had asked those those three words more often. But it can be hard to ask the question, especially when we know that it could open up a conversation that can be difficult to address. R U OK Day was developed by someone just like me, a person who had lost a loved one to suicide. It was Gavin Larkin’s grief after his father’s suicide that lead him to champion this one question ; R U OK?

R U OK Day’s mission is to inspire and empower people to meaningfully connect with those in their world and lend support when they are struggling with life. 

My brother wasn’t OK. I knew that, and I had tried to reach out to him, but days turn into weeks, and he wasn’t talking about it. It’s not easy when families are unsure of the resources available to them. We didn’t know what to say. I will never forget the day after he was found, we were handed a pamphlet, it explained what the signs were, what we should look for. It was too late for us.

James was the youngest in our family, the only boy with three big sisters who adored him. He spent a lot of time acting tough, but he had a soft nature. He had a beautiful heart, it was generous and loving and his cheeky smile radiated a room. I miss him every day, and would give anything just to have him back.  

James was a skilled carpenter and mentored many young builders, who often message me with stories of how much he taught them. Ironically at his funeral, his best mate spoke about James’s ritual on the jobsite, where he would get all the guys into a group hug and check in on them.

James was loved by many and left behind a devastated family, including a beautiful son. He had many friends. He just couldn’t see past his sadness.

Today and every day, lets check in on a mate or a loved one and ask them R U OK? Be prepared to listen. Times are not easy and many are struggling. Show kindness.

Fly high James. 1973-2018

If you need to talk you can also call the numbers below

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

To help you ask the question, there are many resources at

Life and love

Love, loss and time for nostalgia

I have been thinking a lot about loss. Loss of business, loss of life and life as we knew it. We are going through difficult times. We are unable to see family unless they live with us, some of us are struggling to make ends meet, others are worrying about our health or the health of a loved one. Some are feeling the impacts more than others, and mood swings are a common thing. (for me anyway)! In our region, and other fire impacted regions, people were already traumatised due to the effects of the bushfires. Life does not stop for them and they must get on with it, often without access to any help.

Many are finding that creativity helps. People are cooking, gardening, painting, crocheting, renovating and jigsawing. Zoom is the new best friend of many. I wish I had shares in Zoom.

The hardest part for me is hearing of the massive loss of life, especially at the volume that Europe and the US is experiencing. Apart from the constant media reports, we are almost removed from that, and in comparison we are doing very well here in Australia.

But what about the positives? The sky is clear, pollution is down, people are making an effort to connect in different ways. Sure, nothing beats a hug but when we can’t see our friends or family in the flesh, we try harder to make the time to talk to them. We crave what we can’t have.

Aunty Louise with me as a bub

My Aunty died last week, she was my fathers only sister. I hadn’t seen her for years but I remember visiting her home as a child and spending time with my cousins. Her daughter asked mum if she had any photos and mum remembered that she made me a scrapbook and in that book was a photo of my Aunty Louise nursing me. She was wearing a super cool spotted dress and she was beautiful. I turned my middle room upside down to find that photo. In the process, I found many other photos. The scrapbook contained photos of my sisters and I, along with my brother. I got emotional seeing James as little Jamie, and then I found the poem. A little poem I wrote as a 9 year old about how much I loved my little brother. It wasn’t a great poem so I wont share it but I was only 9.

The poem

I sent the photos and the poem to our family page and it seems I wasn’t the only one having one of those days. My sister was missing her son who is living in Queensland. We were all missing someone or some time when life was a little bit fuller.

Jamie and I

I thought about my businesses. Grace came home and I talked to her about it. Those of us in business often treat our businesses as our baby. We nurture them, love them, get disappointed in them and we don’t want to let them go even when we know we should. I love my business, but I believe as a business owner, I am coping during this pandemic because I have learnt the hard way that a life is irreplaceable and a business is replaceable. I would live in a tent, give my business away and live without if it meant one more day with my brother, one more family Christmas with my brother in law Steve shucking the oysters. One more day of family bickering and naughty children.

Just one more day.