Animals Abound: What Dogs Would The Characters From Friends Be?

Lucas and I had a conversation about what type of dog each character of Friends would be. Then this post happened. You’re welcome. 

Ross – Greyhound

Takes themselves way too seriously. Causes divided opinions. 


Monica – German Shepherd

Hard working and loyal. A little intense sometimes. 


Chandler –  Irish Setter

A bit ridiculous, but knows it. 


Phoebe – Labradoodle

Adorable. Scruffy but has a big heart. 


Joey – Dachshund

Loves food. Has no concept that anyone could be laughing at them, ever. 


Rachel – Afghan Hound

Very pretty. A little confused how it got here.


This Is How It Feels

Some days, it’s like there’s white noise all around the inside of my brain.

It’s like there’s a static noise in my head. For anything to get into my head and make sense, it has to penetrate this fog of noise. For anything to come out of my head and to be useful and coherent, it has to travel all the way through that white cloud that’s blurring the world and making everything hard.

Some days it’s like my thoughts get stuck on loop.

I keep repeating the same (usually untrue or unhelpful) concept or idea or set of words – anything really – over and over in my head, because I can’t shake the hold it has on me. I can’t redirect my thoughts. When I try my brain sabotages me and I end up back where I started, fixated on the same idea I was trying to escape.

Some days I have to sing all the words to hymns I know to drown out the chaos.

I’m scared to hear where my thoughts are going and I can’t convince my brain to think about productive or useful things – so I sing ‘How Deep The Father’s Love For Us’ or ‘Come O Come Emmanuel’ until I don’t want to think the bad thoughts anymore.

Some days I can only articulate my thoughts in the written word.

So I write and write and write and write until there are no more words. The important thing isn’t that people read what I have said; it is that I have found words for what I am feeling.

Some days, all this or some of this happens and I can function anyway. I can be polite and social or at least not catatonic. Other days I am blank eyed and mute, unable to form coherent thoughts or follow complex arguments.

Some days my rocky mental health makes me run from people, run from deep emotional connection and hide from the world, isolated and alone. Other days it makes me cling to the people who make me feel safe, who understand the mess inside me and just take each day with me as it comes.

Some days I get sad for no reason. There’s no one thing wrong – it’s just that I have depression, and sometimes my mood is illogical or unstable. Sometimes I get sad. Sometimes I get very very sad. Then sometimes, it will go away again.

I’m not trying to shift blame or excuse my actions – I’m trying to explain. Things aren’t easy at the moment and this is how it feels. Getting through a work shift or focusing for an hour to work on an assignment take a huge amount of energy and effort. Little things can unbalance and upset my day, can derail my thoughts and leave me wobbly.

This is how it feels, at least right now. If I had more words, more insights, I would share them. If I had more answers, I would share those too. But I don’t. This is all I have right now. The reality of my lived experience. The sadness I carry and the fears I hold.

I’m hoping one day it won’t feel like this, at least not so much. I’m hoping for a good day, then another good day, and then eventually some good days in a row until suddenly I can’t remember the last bad day.

That’s all I’ve got right now.

10 Moments from Austria That Stayed With Me

My transcript from my time in Austria at the University of Graz arrived this week, which apart from being exciting in that I can claim credit, has also made me miss my winter adventures in Graz and Vienna. The weather in Brisbane is dropping, but it won’t be a winter with snow and frost and scarfs and gloves (for example, right now Brisbane is a whole 17 degrees).

Memories and reflections are a funny thing. They change over time – the things that stand out from my trip studying overseas are not the same things I would have drawn attention to at the time, or even in the weeks immediately afterwards.

So here’s 10 moments from Austria I remember vividly.

  1. Walking around the corner in Vienna and seeing Hofburg Palace before me and literally laughing out loud in delight.
  2. Wandering through the backstreets behind St Stephen’s Cathedral and encountering a ruined chapel and a surprise English bookstore.
  3. Walking into souvenir stores because they were warm and I was freezing.
  4. Not being able to speak in the Art History (Kunsthistorisches) Museum because I was in awe of the building and the art.
  5. Travelling with a group of Australian students and having intense constant interaction with them for three weeks.
  6. Walking up the Schlossberg (a mountain with a ruined castle on top of it), seeing the ground covered in snow and the texture of it underfoot.
  7. Stepping off the bus at Hallstatt and understanding why it had been called ‘the prettiest place on earth.’
  8. Walking past a dog park with bare trees and muddy dogs and stopping to pat them.
  9. Waiting for the tram to university one morning and having a ‘oh my gosh I’m studying in Austria’ moment. Also seeing a dog riding the tram for half price.
  10. Walking through Graz on my last day of class, with a clear blue sky and beautifully coloured houses, and knowing my adventure was almost at an end.

If you want to read more detailed accounts of my adventures, there are three posts up at the AIMOverseas blog (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3) and you can read my writing about it here on my own blog. (About Vienna, About The Course I Did, About Chance B, About Steinhof and About What I Learnt Travelling).

Out Of Control

I like to be in control.

I like to feel I am on top of a situation. I like to know all the relevant information and to feel I can make an informed decision. Then, I like to know that I have the ability to follow through on the decision. I like to know I can implement the plan without too much fuss or stress.

This works sometimes. I can control my schedule, my exercise, my eating, my spending and how I use my energy. I actually get joy out of discipline, out of control and measured responses, out of patience and necessary self-denial.

But I can’t control everything. The idea of someone having power and influence over me, the authority to direct my life and make choices for me, can be scary. I have quit things or said no to things because I fear it will take over too much of my life, or force me into certain paths of decisions. Sometimes that’s a healthy fear. Sometimes it’s not.

Self-control. I can control myself (most of the time). But there’s often things in my life outside of my control. When I have a chest infection, I can’t exercise the way I want to. When I eat dinner with friends or family, I eat what has been prepared and served. When my university changed the structure of my degree, it extended my time at uni for an extra six months. All outside of my control.

Though these are things I want to control, it doesn’t always work out that way. When we try to control other people, we quickly learn we can’t. Sometimes, people simply have different priorities and focuses than we do. No one is in the wrong or the right – we just want different things.

There are many things in my life that not only are out of my control, but should be out of my control. I am learning that it is not always good to be in control. My life is not my own. I am not the one pulling the strings or writing the script.

I easily forget that I am not God. I am not the one who is in charge and it is not my responsibility to ensure the world is run right. My idea of how the world should be run is not always right and even if it was, I have no authority to change things – not the kind of power God has.

Even my own life does not belong to me, but rather, I have given it to Jesus. Christians say that phrase often and easily – give your life to Jesus – but it is a heavy, serious thing. I have given control of my life to someone else. I have given up autonomy. I have submitted to a good God who knows more and knows better than I do.

I have acknowledged that when I try to control and manipulate things, people get hurt and the world is worse. I have accepted that I do not know best. You would think this would make giving up my life easier – but it doesn’t. It is the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is the process of daily denying myself autonomy and submitting to Jesus instead.

What does this look like? It means choosing kindness when I would rather be cruel. It means prioritizing relationships and people when I want to hide away. It means choosing to be generous with my money when I’d rather spend it on myself. It means that in all my decisions, I consider God’s glory and his will as the first priority, before my own wants and desires.

Because even though I struggle with wanting to be in control, I am learning: I can trust God with all these things. I can hand over these worries, these fears and the situations in my life that I don’t like and I can trust that God is good and is in control of all things.

A lot of the time this means my life will not look like what I might have envisioned. But that is okay. I believe God has a better vision for my life than I do, because he values my eternal safety over my here and now safety.

It does not mean my life will be easier or ‘better’ by human standards. In many ways, it will be harder. But that is okay. God does not want an easy or unchallenging life for me. Rather, he wants life to shape me to be more like him.

How do I know that God has the best intentions for me though? How can I trust him? How can I believe all this pain and sacrifice is worth it? Well, a God who was willing to give up his life for me must be trustworthy. A God who loves when he has right to hate must be merciful. A God who keeps his promises will keep me safe.

I can rely on God. In fact, I must rely on him. I don’t have the power to control things. But God does. I can rest safe in the knowledge that he is in control and he is good.

Please Practice What You Teach

I’m a university student. I’m halfway through my fourth year of university class, tutorials, and of course – lectures.

I’ve had some amazing lecturers and tutors over the last few years. People who are passionate about learning, about helping us become the best teachers we can be. They want to inspire us with their passion, and teach us all the things we need to know to help students learn – and to help students love learning. To those lecturers and tutors, I want to say thank you.

However. There are the times where I am struggling through lectures and enduring through tutorials. There are the times when the person up the front of the room is speaking about ‘best practice’ for teaching – yet is reading off a PowerPoint slide. There are the times when the juxtaposition of the situation makes me want to either laugh out loud or cry in frustration.

Dear Education lecturer, teacher of teaching, please won’t you practice what you teach? I know you know how to engage a classroom, how to make content interesting and activities useful. I know you believe that each learner is unique and that a good lesson has multiple ways of engaging a range of learning types. I know you would be horrified if you walked in my classroom in five years and saw worksheets and PowerPoint slides and students copying off the board. So why do you continue with these methods that we know don’t work?

Is it because we’re adult students? I’m sure you know that doesn’t mean that knowing comes easily to us. In fact, it means there’s a whole cloud of other priorities that compete for our attention. Then throw into the mix that Education degrees have a higher than usual percentage of mature age students, and there’s even more barriers being thrown up. Changing classrooms, new technologies, bad associations with learning and teachers, preconceived notions from previous professions – plus, it’s possible your students have just been out of the practice of learning for a very long time.

Please, lecturer, won’t you listen to my plea? I know it will take more effort, more time. Good teaching always does. But just as you expect the best from us, could you also expect the best FOR us? Could you make your lectures interesting, dynamic, with examples that connect with us and clear explanations that help us? Rather than so much time devoted to complicated assessment pieces we’re not sure even you understand, could you focus on helping us see the value of the information you are presenting, with motivations beyond the end of semester exam?

Maybe I am an idealist – well, I know I am. But I feel these classes could be so much better. We as students could be so much better – but only if you show us how to be. Please, dear lecturer – lead by example. Be the teacher you want us to emulate. Won’t you please practice what you teach?

Things I Liked In April

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. April has been a bit of an upside down crazy month for me, so my list is not as extensive as it has been previously. But here’s my list of what I liked in April. What have you liked this month?

New Doctor Who 

Doctor Who season 10 has aired it’s first three episodes. I’m hesitant to comment on the overall quality of the season yet, but I am just enjoying watching something so familiar yet new. I like Bill, our new companion, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to Peter Capaldi as the Doctor yet. I have Opinions about the storytelling and themes but I’ll probably write a whole thing about that later on.

Break The Twitch

A site for all your minimalist needs. Lots of helpful thoughts on living simply and changing your habits of buying, spending and eating more than you really need.


My friend has written a post about deliberately cultivating friendships. I like her post and I like my friends who are intentional about doing things together. My weekly writing group just had a writing retreat, and it was refreshing, relaxing and totally achievable without too much stress.

Using Social Media Differently 

I’ve deactivated my Facebook, and don’t think I will be returning. I’ve also changed how I am using Instagram – I now have an account for my blog, searchingforgrace_blog and a separate account called animals_abound where I will be taking and posting pictures of all the animals. All of them.

Imagination – Part 2 – Escapism

Hiding from reality in books, tv shows and other alternative worlds is a common tactic people use to unwind. It’s so common, we gave it a name – escapism. We disappear from view, from ‘the real world’ for a few hours, to live through characters with more interesting lives, or worlds with more exciting adventures. We lose ourselves in the make believe. We escape.

Why do we like escapism? Wherever it is that we prefer to escape to, there’s a pull towards leaving our own world and problems to dwell in another world. We are attracted to worlds where the problems are usually easier to solve, or at least, there’s different problems to solve. There’s a clear issue or tangle to sort out. There’s a more obvious divide between right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies.

The good guys are good and motivated by honor and charity and justice, and the bad guys are bad and motivated by greed and hate. Even when the good guys mess up, it just makes them more relate-able, more like us – and in the end, they still sort it all out anyway.

That last part is the key – the thing that draws us towards these stories is that we know there will always be a resolution. The story line finish, the plot points will resolve and there will be a clear solution to the problem. Most of us will be dealing with the same stressful things next week, or even next month, as we are today. Our problems are generally ongoing and exhausting, without a clear end or fix in sight. Not so in the fantasy lands we escape to.

Of course it’s not just fiction that we can use as an escape. Some people use work or their area of expertise or a hobby or interest area. They spend all their time reading about it, or only interacting with others who share this niche interest. Of course, when you only spend time with people who share this hobby, and never talk about things other than the hobby, there’s no risk of deep friendships developing. It’s emotionally safe – and it’s escaping true emotional connection and accountability.

So there are many forms of escapism that different people use in different ways to cope. Is that so bad? Well, like most coping mechanisms, what is helpful in small doses becomes unhelpful when we rely on it and use it constantly. Finding the balance between disappearing to other places to recharge, and living more in fake worlds than in the real world is a tricky tightrope to walk. Generally, when you’re consistently avoiding your real life problems by investing emotionally in fantasy worlds, storylines and characters, there starts to be a problem.

I have certainly spent times in my life on the wrong side of that balance – where the stories I am viewing and reading seem more real and important and interesting than the real people I see day to day. When life is hard, it feels like, well, why not? Why not escape for a while and check out emotionally until things are better? But of course, the difficult things don’t just go away. They will still be waiting when I get back. They still require my time and energy to tackle and solve.

So I’m trying to be more aware of my flights of imagination and the joy of escapism as a useful coping strategy, without relying on it to avoid the difficult things in my life all the time. I am trying to find that delicate balance between enjoying something and being consumed by it.

There are times when it’s okay to use escapism as a temporary form of coping. Sometimes, you can’t deal with the difficult thing or react to the hard conversation straight away. Sometimes you need to pull yourself together for a few more hours of class or work or social interaction. Sometimes, if ten minutes of escape into a book or to your Instagram feed is what you need, it’s okay to do that. Sometimes that is what will help you keep it together until it’s an appropriate time to process what has happened emotionally.

However, spending hours in these escapes, constantly checking out from real life and avoiding work and responsibilities in favor of an alternative reality is where you run into a problem. It’s where I can see I am struggling, if I’m spending all my time in the fantasy world of a book or tv show rather than staying on top of my uni work and talking to my family.

There’s a big difference, at least for me, between watching the new episode of a tv show I am watching and then talking to someone about it, than spending hours scrolling through the internet for more gifs and reviews of the latest thing I’ve watched. This is when I need to stop, take a break and start focusing where I am right in the moment, and what demands are making me want to run.

Everyone deals with these things differently. Maybe escapism isn’t the temptation you face or maybe you find it easier to visit these make believe worlds without neglecting real life. But i think a lot of us still have work to do in finding that balance between a healthy coping mechanism and an unhealthy avoidance strategy. I know I do. I’m going to keep working on it.

Animals Abound – Part 5 – Animal Helpers

Today I’m talking about animals as trained helpers and assistants. I’ve already talked about why can be good for your mental health here, but now I’m covering more specific ways animals can be helpful to those who have barriers to overcome in participating in society or living independently. The range of ways animals can help are as varied as the animals themselves. I’ll quickly cover the main categories these helper animals fall into. Thanks to this site for their helpful information on this subject.

Guide dogs – Dogs who (usually) help the visually impaired, by identifying and avoiding potential obstacles as their owner moves around both the home and wider society. These dogs are trained to a high standard, and can often even navigate busy streets and shopping centres for their owner.

Hearing dogs – Dogs who alert their hearing impaired owner to events happening around them, such as a siren, a ringing phone or doorbell. Dogs are trained to then physically touch their owner in different ways to let them know the type of sound happening, often within seconds of the event happening.

Service dogs – This name is given to dogs that assist people with a physical disability, or a disability that doesn’t clearly fall under the visually impaired or hearing impaired category. As a result, this type of dog is the most common. They can pull wheelchairs, retrieved dropped objects, close and open doors and turn lights on and off. Skilled companion dogs are very similar, except that they worked under the supervision of a facilitator who is not their owner. This is usually a family member or caregiver.

Seizure response dogs – Some dogs can predict a seizure, but this is not the function of most seizure response dogs. These dogs can activate life-saving alert systems to summon medical help. The can also roll a person into a safe position or retrieve medication needed to halt a seizure.

Emotional Support/Therapy Animals – often, these animals aren’t dogs. They can be a cat, rabbit, horse etc. The main role of these animals is to assist people with mental health issues by providing a stable, comforting presence. A therapist may prescribe a therapy animal to help someone deal with panic attacks, PTSD, depression or a range of other issues.

Facility animals – are a type of therapy animal. Supervised by a facilitator, these animals (usually dogs or cats) work in healthcare or educational settings, to provide companionship, emotional connection and sometimes assistance during physical therapy sessions. These animals can be a coping mechanism for people facing serious medical challenges.


I also want to mention the use of animals in autism therapy, because I read some really interesting things about it here. Horses have been used to help non-verbal children contact to another living creature and begin communicating. The rhythm and balance needed to ride the horse can also help increase balance, which is a common issue for kids with ASD (autistic spectrum disorder). Dogs are also used with children with autism, as service dogs, by helping keep the child safe and alerting the parents of potential danger. Cats can also play this role, though this is less common.

The innovation used by people in training these animals impresses me. The dedication and emotional intelligence of these animals amazes me. As I talked about in this post, I think that including animals in more spheres of society will only make society richer and more empathetic, not only towards animals but also towards each other.

The doors, literal and figurative, that these animals can open from people who otherwise might be excluded from society, or have to live without independence and autonomy, is phenomenal. Can you imagine the freedom it must give a someone who is blind to know that they can get on a bus and do their grocery shopping independently like anyone else? Or the reassurance it gives a parent of a child with autism to know that they can leave their child playing in the next room, because their service dog will alert them if the child is in danger or needs help?

Just as I hope we will see more and more animals out and about in society just for the fun of it, I also hope it will become more and more normal to see students at university with their guide dogs, people in the workplace with their service animal and children at school with a therapy pet. I hope we can become more and more open to removing the barriers – whatever they are – to including people in all parts of society. I’m excited to see how animals can help us do that.

You can donate to Assistance Dogs Australia here or Guide Dogs Australia here. If you’ve heard other stories of animals helping people, please let me know – I’d be interested to hear about it.

Imagination – Part 1 – Anxiety

“The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety,” – Deepak Chopra.

I have always been an imaginative person. I have also always been a person prone to anxiety. Do these two things go hand in hand? Is it possible to have one without the other? Or does my imagination mean that when my brain tends towards panic, it has more capacity to picture all the worst scenarios and disasters that could result? Does my anxiety force me to consider all the possibilities, and so, in the process, open up new worlds and outcomes?  Is it possible to separate the overthinking hyper-vigilant part of me from the opportunity-seeing, world-creating and story-telling parts?

When I was little, I had two imaginary friends. They lived in the linen cupboard in the hallway. They would sit there obligingly, until I wanted to get them out and use them in my imaginative games. Sometimes they would stay happily in their cupboard-home for months at a time. But inevitably, when times of stress or sadness in my childhood world came along, out would come my imaginary friends, and I would disappear into the make believe world and stories they came with.

From my teenage years, I have a small collection on a hard-drive of half finished creative projects and stories and worlds I would create in an attempt to escape the difficulties I faced in my ‘real life.’ Inspired in a burst of creativity when I was struggling, the motivation to create and imagine would always fade as my mental health stabilized or I made peace with whatever hardship I was facing at the time.

My blogging started in the midst of a season of doubt and questioning. From this season came the urge to write, to overthink, over-analyse and overshare. This blog was then born as a safe space to process and write out my thoughts. My blog’s tone is constantly changing and evolving, which reflects my constantly changing and evolving creative desires and needs – never able to settle to anything for long, always finding a new thing to think and write about.

Recently I also realized I was using social media to escape. That I was scrolling through my Instagram feed looking for distractions and browsing Facebook to avoid thinking about the difficult things happening in my life. This was leading to an addiction to my phone that was making me unfocused in situations where I wanted to be present. So I quit some social media sites and drastically changed how I used others. I took apps off my phone and gave myself boundaries and limits.

I needed to do this, because social media had become another shiny make believe world I could go to when I wanted to distract myself from reality. My imagination was making it easy to lose myself in the things I saw on my feed. I used the outrage cycle of the internet to inspire my own writings and creative outputs. But it came at a cost – I was anxious, distracted, constantly reloading and rechecking all the various apps. When there was nothing new to distract me, I would feel a sense of panic at being left alone with my thoughts.

This constant link between my anxiety and my creative abilities scares me at times. Does my anxiety open up these creative worlds and give me inspiration? Am I reliant on my anxiety to be passionate and excited about creating things? Or is my imagination a safe place to fall back on when the real world gets too scary? Do I escape into make believe worlds when I can’t handle reality? Obviously neither answer is particularly encouraging for me. Either I’m dependent on anxiety to propel me or I’m hiding from reality.

But despite the anxiety and catastrophe-creating abilities that come with an over-active imagination, I am thankful for the creative inspiration it gives me. It’s nice that there’s an upside to my brain being prone to stress and panic, considering all the other not fun side effects. I’m trying to be more aware of my imagination as a useful coping strategy, without relying on it to escape all the time. I’m trying to be more deliberate in my creativity, planning ahead for my writing projects. So I’m trying to blog regularly, rather than overflowing with constant ideas and new posts for two weeks and then writing nothing for a month.

It’s important to harness your imagination and use it, as the good gift it is, without letting it control you. So I am taking back control over my imagination. With that, comes a small measure of control over my anxiety as well. If I’m less in the habit of giving my brain free rein, even in the good things, then it’s easier to be disciplined when I want to spiral into panic.

I’ve been given both an imagination and anxiety. I’d like to have one without the other, but I’ve learnt that just not the way it works. So I’ll take the good I can get without letting the bad over run me.

Charities and Being Generous

One day, a few months ago, there was a knock on my door. Little did I know, when I opened that door, I got dragged into a vortex of emotional manipulation. I was charity mugged.

The girls at the door were lovely, charming. They chatted with me, fawned over my dog and were friendly in every way. They tried to make connections with me and compliment me. But it was all fake. They were doing it so I would give the charity they represented money.

The work done by this particular charity is good work, and ultimately they do just want to help people. But that costs money, and so soliciting donations by knocking door to door, running raffles and stopping people in the street or in shopping centers to ask for money ends up being the most visible face of charities that most of us see.

These tactics aren’t fair. They aren’t fair to the people trying to do shopping or walk around town or even just sit in their homes without interruption. These tactics are not fair to the people who are hired to try and coax money out of unwilling donors and who are probably being exploited. They’re not fair for the people who already donate to charities and are made to feel like unfeeling monsters because they can’t support every valuable organisation out there. These tactics are especially not fair to the face of the charity and their reputation for doing good work.

I want to be generous with my money, along with my time and all the other resources at my disposal. But I don’t want to encourage these shady tactics and I don’t want to feed the cycle of emotional manipulation as the only way charities get money out of people.

So I’ve decided to be deliberate about it. To plan out my generosity. To investigate charities and pick which ones I will support for the rest of the year. Then, when I get ambushed by those wanting my money, I can politely but firmly inform them that I’ve already decided where my charity donations will be going this year.

As well as giving to my church, I’ve chosen one local charity and one global charity to give money to for the rest of the year.

Locally, I chose Micah Projects because my church has partnered with them on a bunch of things, I think the things they do in the West End are valuable and worthwhile, I see the results of their work regularly when I visit their Hope Street Cafe and the ways they approach raising money for various projects fits with my ethics and doesn’t resort to guilt to pry money from people. Check out their current campaign for an example of how they raise funds.

Globally, I chose TEAR Australia, who describe themselves as a movement of Christians in Australia responding to the needs of poor communities around the world. I especially like that their work is centered on the belief that God loves all people, and so priority is given to those programs that strive to involve the most marginalized and exploited members of each community, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.

Charity is essential to functioning as a society that’s not only successful, but compassionate. But deliberate and thoughtful generosity will always be better than generosity instigated by guilt and emotional manipulation. How can you be deliberate and consider in your approach to generosity?