Monday, December 28, 2015

It's now after Christmas, so let's look at what I've done.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?  Travelled to Bali. My brother and his wife visit a lot and have connections in Bali, so Lee and I packed up the kids and accompanied my brother’s family on a visit. We had a great time that included shopping, eating and drinking, but being us we also visited the museum and drove into the forests and saw waterfalls and climbed hundreds of steps and just had the best time.

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year? Our goal was to move house and get Connor back into the school system. Well, we moved house and we did get Connor back into the system, but the latter was a total failure and he’s back homeschooling with me. I blame the Education Department fully as it is their tolerance of bullying that made it impossible for Connor to receive the education he deserves.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not that I recall.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My cousin Andrew died of DVT days after returning from Nepal. It was a shock that that really shook our entire family. He was only 51 and was the first of the cousins to go.

5. What countries did you visit? Bali.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? A degree in English and Creative Writing. 3 units to go and I’m there.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I can’t single out a particular date but 2015 will always be the year that life started to get better for our family.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? It has been a year of achievements for me. I went overseas, I got through 5 units with High Distinctions in 2 and Distinctions in the rest, I helped Connor finish Year 5, I lost 16 kg and was offered a job with Weight Watchers.

9. What was your biggest failure? Cementing my relationship with my brother. I want to be close to him, but I somehow fail in this year after year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Oh my Lordy, yes. It was bad enough having chest infection after chest infection, but to make it worse, 10 weeks ago I took a fall that completely tore 1, possibly 2, ligaments in my left ankle. I still can’t walk take more than 3000 steps in a day without experiencing pain. I’m waiting for an operation to reconnect the ligaments but we’re looking at 3 to 6 months before that will happen.
However, I would go through it all again if it meant Connor never suffered from Rumination Syndrome ever again.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Weight Watchers membership? Tickets to Bali? My Pandora bracelet that continues to acquire charms as celebrations of my achievements? All of these are because we sold our old house and bought the one we now live in, so I’d say the house.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Everyone around me has been amazing this year. Lee has taken his own weight loss journey seriously and has created an exercise programme for himself that has seen him lose weight and gain strength. Erin has started High School with a brand new group of friends and is now achieving extremely high marks. Connor made the decision to be homeschooled again and has made the most of the situation, Aiden is continuing his university and has created a stable home-life for himself and Rachel, Cassie is doing really well as a single mother and Blake has faced his problems in a positive way. I am proud of my family and all they’re currently achieving.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? I received a comment on a post I made about my depression that left me feeling attacked and confused. So, I withdrew my secondary family for a while. I still feel rather wounded by their attitude, but time has a habit of healing wounds, so who knows?

14. Where did most of your money go? The mortgage, which is to be expected. For once, however, we actually seem to be saving money and have managed to save up for two holidays within the past 12 months.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Bali. It was a great opportunity that helped Lee and I face a few issues and take action on them. I dealt with my depression, I stopped drinking, I lost weight, I focussed on my changing relationship with my children and I came back to my studies with vigour. I will always be grateful to my brother and his family for giving us the opportunity and the space to reconnect.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015? Maybe Budapest, because it’s my current jam. There’s a line in it there goes “for you, oh for you, I’d leave it all.” No matter what problems I’ve dealt with this year (chest infection, torn ankle, juggling uni with Connor’s schooling) I’d do them all again just to keep Connor safe. It feels like I’m constantly bargaining with God, ie “You look after Connor and I’ll accept whatever life throws at me next.” I know God doesn’t cause our problems (Time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all) but I do believe He helps me bear up under the strain and I will bear them as long as Connor is safe.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? This has been a wonderful year for me. Yes, I’ve destroyed my ankle and yes, I continue to take medication for my chest and yes, some of my relationships are strained, but I am happier this year than I have ever been. Last year was marked by a deep depression that did not shift until April this year. My trip to Bali and my conversion to being a Mormon helped me confront some of the problems of my past and helped me reassess what I wanted from my present and my future. My depression and the way I dealt with it upset some people, and they’re very scarce in my life right now, but I remain hopeful that a reconnection will occur. I do weight less than I did at the beginning of the year and I feel more in control of my life as a result. Finally, selling our house removed a financial millstone that was slowing drowning us. Moving to this house released us from that burden. No, we’re not rich, but we definitely have enough money to live on plus a little left over for emergencies and savings.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Blogging. I really let it go this year and I find I’ve missed recording significant elements of my life. I’ve had a great year, but it’s been recorded in the snippets I place on Facebook which may make it more of a conversation, but also makes it less of a record.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? I wish I’d stopped seeking approval from my secondary family. Either they love me or they don’t. Nothing I do or say is going to change that. I was significantly hurt by my parents when I was a child, so all my life I’ve sought approval from my siblings, my cousins, my aunties and my uncles, my nieces and my nephews. Now, I realise that I’m okay without it. Yesterday I attended a family event and I didn’t give in to the stress of not fitting in. I just enjoyed the moment as it stood. I do love my secondary family, but for the first time I actually allowed myself to just be in their company without feeling the need to prove that I belonged with them.
Actually, I’ve just reread this paragraph and I’ve come to the realisation that this is the year where I stopped seeking approval.

20. How did you spend Christmas? The good thing about converting from being a Jehovah’s Witness to a Mormon is the reclaiming of Christmas. Plus, I’m so new to the experience, we get to invent our own traditions. Because I’ve never really celebrated before, the kids have always spent Christmas Eve with their grandparents and woken up with them. This year I put my foot down and demanded they spend it with us. Last Tuesday we held a Secret Santa where we all drew out the name of a person. One by one we walked into Elizabeth’s Bookshop (Perth’s biggest second-hand bookshop) and bought for our person. On Christmas morning we put together a cheese platter, and opened our book-gifts. Then we spent the afternoon reading. It was the best day of the year.
On Christmas morning we woke up and opened the rest of our presents. We spent breakfast together, then at 9am the kids went off with their grandparents. At the time of writing they still haven’t returned.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? In March of this year I walked into Baldivis Ward and met a whole church filled with Mormons. They have welcomed me with open arms and I’m grateful for their place in my life.
However, I’m grateful to those people who have remained my friends during this time. Sure, I do things a little differently now, but they still love me no matter how I spend my Sundays and their ongoing friendship means the world to me.

22. Did you fall in love in 2015? Every year I look for a witty way of professing my love for Lee. So, let’s just say Lee, shall we? I love Lee completely and utterly.

23. What was your favourite TV program? Much debate has gone on in the Batthouse this week as we’ve contemplated the length and breadth of this question. Dr Who gave us its best season to date and deserves an acknowledgement. The Flash was an unexpected treasure that brought the family together in discussion as we tried to work out the truth about Dr Wells. There’s a series of documentaries on ESPN called “30 for 30” that introduced me to the complex world of American sports stars and the lives they inhabit, ad which has led me into a love of college football. Lee and I became engrossed with both Blacklist and True Detective, both of which entertained us with their intelligent plots, characters and twists. Any of these could be said to be my favourite, so I find it impossible to pick just one.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? Not a hater.

25. What was the best book you read? This is so difficult. I read a lot this year, but everything that stands out in my mind is either a play, a poem or a text book.
However, a week ago I sat up until 2am reading a novel called Getting over Mr Right by Chrissie Manby. It wasn’t deep or meaningful. Honestly, in a year filled with Shakespeare and John Donne and Lisa Hopkins, this was escapist chick-lit in its most distilled form. And I loved it.
Let me also add my nominee for ‘worst book’ – Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. I didn’t not like it, Sam I Am. I did not like it at all.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Remember the good old days when a song would come on the radio that somehow managed to capture the feeling of the time/space you were in? I do. I think I was about 18 then. Now I’m 46 and I don’t really set my life against a backdrop of music. I didn’t really discover any new sounds or new acts. Instead, I allowed myself to be pulled along in Lee’s and Erin’s wake and music sort of happened around me.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? Again, the list is long for this. I enjoyed so many movies, including Julius Caesar (with Marlon Brando), Jurassic World, Antman, Terminator Umpty-Billion, Predestination, Gone Girl, John Carter, Big Hero 6, Inside Out, The Force Awakens and Suffragette. However, if I had to choose one favourite it would be What We Do In the Shadows, an insane arthouse vampire movie filmed in New Zealand. And Everest. And Stardust. Yes, those 3 were my favourite movies.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 46 and I was in the middle of a raging chest infection that had me feeling rather weak and sick, so I don’t think we did a lot. I know Lee, the littlies and I went to The Silver Tree for dinner and Lee surprised me with a cake, but I don’t think we stayed very long.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I am really satisfied with this year. I love my family, I love my life, I love my God and I love the way everything has come together. I have a lot to be grateful for, so I’m not going to ask for more.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? Smaller clothes for my smaller frame. I went from a size 14/16 to a size 10 and I was even able to put on some of Erin’s clothes.

31. What kept you sane? My spiritual beliefs brought a peace to my life that had been missing for a number of years. After a dreadful year of depression, the stability of belonging to a religious community helped me find direction.
Bali also helped me regain some sense of forward momentum, if only because it helped me make the decision to quit drinking. According to my family, I really am happier without alcohol.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? The refugee situation. I feel ashamed by our government’s policies towards people in need.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015. My most valuable life lesson is that I really am awesome. I have achieved so much this year, and often whilst sick or in pain.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. “I know you can’t become, if you only say what you should have done, so I missed a million miles of fun.” Steal My Sunshine - Len.
The best years of my life are the ones where I have acted on the things I’ve talked about doing. Last year was a talking year, this year was a doing year, and I’m a million times happier.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Start as you mean to go on

Yesterday, Lee and I attended the Perth Writers Festival. Lee went because he wanted to reignite his passion for writing. I went because I wanted to buy books. We both got what we wanted, plus we got what the other wanted. Laden down with new purchases (thank goodness for the credit card!) we both came home with a renewed sense of purpose.

This morning, after a walk and a discussion about the Australian writing-voice, we came home and set up our computers at the dining table. Then we picked an exercise and set about writing some new words. I chose "Last Line" where you pick up a work, write out its last line and then pick up your story from there.

It's best if you haven't actually read the work before, because it means your mind isn't muddied by the author's words. Lee picked the Locus Awards collection off the shelf and I chose story number 4 -"The Persistence of Vision" by John Varley, a story we likely have read, but not in many, many years.

Lee read out the last line: "We sit in the lovely quiet and dark."

And from there we went.

15 mintues and 390 words later, this was the scene I'd written:

We live in the lovely quiet and dark.  This morning when we were five, before Trotter’s ravings turned to screams and we had to turn him outside for the sun to eat, we felt our refuge to be temporary, a short-won thing. Now we had an extra set of rations, an extra set of blankets, an extra few days to make things right.
Four is easier to deal with than five. Three would be easier still. That, however, would mean losing one of my own and I'm not read for that. Not yet.
“I’m cold.” Jay, my youngest son, has broken the silence. The air once thick with tension, eases a little. I put my arms around his shoulders and pull him into my side.
“We’re all cold,” I tell him. “But it could be worse. We could be outside.”
“It’s time,” Argo says. As the oldest child, I have given him the job of counting to 3600. At the end of each count I take a chance and light up the thin console. The main power went shut down days ago, but the back-up generator allows me to shed a little light on the display panel every now and then. The radar flares. I count to ten, sweep my gaze across its dull green surface and yelp. Then I shut it down again.
“They’re coming. Help is coming.” Tyler is standing by my side. He’s seen what I've seen, noted what I’ve noted.
Help is nothing more than a faint blip on the top left corner, but it’s now visible. We can count our rescue in days rather than weeks. We’re saved.
Jay snuggles closer. “Does this mean we can eat now?”
I want to say “yes” and “of course”, but I’ve been in the service too long to take such things for granted. Half of basic training was devoted to holding out a glimmer of hope just to see what the nuggets would do. 75% of them ate their rations, drank their water, jumped up and down to make themselves seen. That 75% went home to their lives as shop-keepers, garbage collectors, milk men.
“No,” I say instead. “Remember your training.”

Outside the searing winds picked up, shaking the ship like a naughty child. My sons settled around me and once more we began to wait. 

Interestingly, we'd both written about a small family group, waiting for something to happen. In my case I wrote from the POV of a protective parent. In Lee's, he wrote of the child waiting for the mother to act. 

As exercises go, it was a good one. It got the creative juices flowing and now I feel ready to continue with my writing day.

Friday, February 06, 2015

An exercise in random thoughts

This week's exercise was rather random in tone. Quite simply, I sat down, rested my fingers on the keys and allowed my fingers ride the subconscious-train to freedom.

"We built the snowman in mid-January."

Okay, it became immediately apparent that my subconscious was not in Australia, or, indeed, in any other part of the southern hemisphere. January, for me, is about drinking beer while testing the strength of the air-con. It's most certainly not about snowmen.

Aware of this, I nonetheless kept my mouth shut and let my fingers get on with it.

"We built the snowman in mid-January, at a point when the very best of our Christmas presents had grown dull and the worst lay broken at the bottom of the wheelie bin." 

Aha, hmm hmm, yep. Do they even have wheelie bins in the US or UK or Canada or wherever the heck the scene was taking place? I mean, I know they have wheelie bins, but is that what they're actually called?

Shut up. You can edit it later, I snapped at my all-too-critical brain. When it comes to writing, you've let me down lately, so how about you let someone else have a go?

My brain, not used to being addressed in such a manner, crossed its arms and pouted, but I noticed it didn't move away either.

And so, slowly at first, but then with some speed, the story came out.  I began to notice little things, such as the US setting and the unusual Point of View (first person, plural). Even as I grew used to thinking as an American 'we', I kept to Australian spelling. This, I told myself, was something that should be addressed in the editing process.

I'm never going to send it out, because it really was an exercise, but, as flawed as it is, "The Snowman" acts as a reminder that when it comes to writing I need to stop editing as I go and just let the story find its own path. This is what I wrote, unedited, unproofed.

The Snowman

We built the snowman in mid-January, at a point when the very best of our Christmas presents had grown dull and the worst lay broken at the bottom of the wheelie bin. The snow came slowly at first, as if deciding whether this was a neighbourhood worth moving into, but eventually it took the plunge and settled all over yards and trees and cars.
It’s still not exactly certain who started the snowman, but it is suspected that the Beaumont children, with their untamed hair and wild eyes, were the first to roll the ball that would become the first layer.  
What is certain is that the Templemans, those three children of grace and charity, were away down south, helping to rebuild after the destruction of Hurricane Lucille. And yet, despite their absence, or maybe because of it, the snowman became known as the Templeman snowman, for it was upon their driveway that the beast saw construction.
Manuel Rodriguez arrived just as the bottom layer was being rolled into place. It was his father that pushed his wheel chair close, his mother who wrapped the blanket firmly around his legs. We welcomed him with a hearty “Manny” and they left us to our build.
“Can I help?” Manny asked and we pushed a mound of snow into his gloved hands. Manny’s gloves, made from a mixture of leather and lamb’s wool, left a texture upon the compacted snow, a texture that made the rising sun dapple and dance around the fractured lanes.
Someone suggested we invite Corey Meyer to play, so construction stopped while he was fetched. He must have been waiting for our invitation, for he appeared only minutes later, decked out in his full winter gear and carrying three large pebbles from his sister’s terrarium. We told him we hadn’t got that far, so he placed it in Manny’s lap for safe keeping.

The Carson twins, aged 8 and a half, were late to the show and, to be honest, we thought it unlikely they’d join us at all. Their parents, an Australian couple who seemed dazed by American attitudes, had spent the past year of residence surveying the street from behind the safety of their net curtains. However, join us they did. Damien Carson arrived with a tie looped loosely around his thin neck, while Sarah Carson displayed rusted tin-and-glass earrings.
They also bought with them the first handfuls of snow that would make up the middle of the snowman. Sarah dropped hers as she walked, but she scooped it back up, bringing a top layer of dark soil with it. Gently, we had to explain that a snowman couldn’t contain sand, that it was bad luck, so she dumped it where she stood (which is just bad form) then fetched another.
Despite this rocky interlude, the snowman’s tummy and chest took shape and the Australians learnt our ways.
The tolling of the church bells reminded us of the O’Reilly family. Sure enough, their car pulled up in the street just as we brought together the first handfuls of head snow. Eight kids rolled out of the mini-van, three of them peeled off and headed towards us. The O’Reillys were an original family and really we should have waited until they were home, but despite the rumours of their New York mafia connections, they didn’t seem too upset about the slight. Instead, Seamus O’Reilly, oldest child of the street, removed his trademark trilby and placed it upon Manny’s head.
Throughout the morning we came and went. Sometimes we were three, at others ten, but always we worked; building, decorating, changing, adapting. Together we built up our snowman, together we created him from snow, sweat and the bits and pieces of our families’ lives.
And then, it was time.
The snowman was complete. We needed to decorate.
Stones in hand, Corey placed one on the lower layer where the belly button would be, and two in the middle layer for buttons.  
Damien unknotted the tie, then wrapped it around the snowman’s neck. Sarah, scratching at the red of her ears, hooked the earrings into a small groove on the sides of the man’s head.
As probable masterminds of the scheme, the Beaumonts grinned as they sculpted a wide smile from roasted coffee beans and stuck a real pipe into its centre. Most people would have brought a carrot for the nose, but not the Beaumonts. They had stolen a red light from their tree and it was this that did the honours in giving form to the face. For a while we debated eyes, but in the end Sarah removed the tin-and-glass earrings from our creation’s head and placed them in the side space above the light.
And then, the crowning glory.
Manny removed the trilby from his own head and handed it to over. We weren’t sure who should do the honours, so we decided to do it together. With forefinger and thumb we reached up and over until, as one, we finished our creature. For a brief, shining moment, the Templeman snowman pulsed with life.
Our parents, keeping one eye on our progress and one on their own, private, lives, stepped out into the weak sunshine and congratulated us on our efforts.
Manny was the first to leave, his Dad grabbing the handles of his chair and pushing him up the drive and into their house.
Following his cue, we peeled off one by one and trudged home.
The sun crested the top of the sky, before heading towards the west. The wind blew and changed direction, the air warmed.

And, out there all alone, our snowman died.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

FightDay, WriteDay Exercise 2

List five things you most dislike touching, then find five adjectives to describe each item (e.g. maggots - slithery, wriggly, writhing). Do the same for your other senses.

Five things I hate touching
1.    Belly buttons
2.    Eyes
3.    Raw pumpkin
4.    Vomit
5.    Flannelette sheets
Belly buttons: It’s not just me touching them. I hate seeing other people touch them, too. This is my biggest phobia and it comes with a name – Omphalophobia. It’s hard to assign adjectives to the feeling, because a) it’s a phobia and therefore an irrational fear and b) because I can’t bring myself to touch my belly button. I will, instead, ascribe words that jump to my mind at the thought of touching my (or anyone else’s) belly button
1.    Creepy
2.    Hide
3.    Blood
4.    Dirty
5.    Deformity
I don’t know why these were the first real words to take up space in my mind (along with ick, yucky, eww etc) but they were. They were the images or the sensation I had when I contemplated touching that area.
1.    Squishy
2.    Squelchy
3.    Delicate
4.    Fragile
5.    Plump
Raw pumpkin (I love pumpkin, but have an allergy to raw pumpkin)
1.    Reactive
2.    Burning
3.    Itchy
4.    Painful
5.    Bleeding
I have spent the past two years dealing with my son’s vomit via his Rumination Syndrome. I had to clean a lot of partially-digested food and bile from walls, floors, beds, blankets, sheets, cars, toilets, sinks and doors and so, quickly, built up a tolerance of the smell. However, one thing I never get used to was the touch of it against my skin as I stepped in it or wiped up the mess. So:
1.    Slippery
2.    Slidy
3.    Lumpy
4.    Scary (you slide across fresh vomit and you fear for safety)
5.    Sticky
Flannelette sheets
1.    Dusty (to me, the texture feels like dust upon my skin)
2.    Hot
3.    Uncomfortable
4.    Dry
5.    Rough

I’m not entirely sure of what use this exercise is, as I personally hate the overuse of adjectives and believe that if you have an adjective then you have the wrong noun. However, as FightDay Write Day is supposed to be an opportunity to put writing first in my day, I’ll have a go at writing a paragraph that uses at least two of the adjectives above.
Despite multiple doses of paracetamol and two cool baths, the child’s temperature remained high. Aided by his mother, I tried to place him in the bed, but he fought against it.
“Too rough,” he cried. “Too dusty.”
“It’s the sheets,” his mother explained as she pulled him back into her arms. “He hates flannelette.”
I understood and nodded. “You rest in the chair,” I said and began stripping the bed. The hospital’s supply cupboard was set for winter, but I knew the dispensary would carry cotton linen.
Rushing from the ward, I found a patch of vomit we’d missed earlier and slid several centimetres, leaving a trail of slimy bile in my wake. I’d deal with that later, but for now, the comfort of my patient came first.

Not my favourite exercise of all time, but I always enjoy the opportunity to pull paragraphs from nothing and see where they lead me. The sheets were the strongest image that I carried into the paragraph and I just allowed the setting to come from that. Once I set upon the sick child and his mother, it seemed obvious to include the vomit. As usual, my mind swung away from the belly buttons, which means I should explore the idea in a story at some point.

However, I did enjoy thinking about my hatred of certain tactile experiences, so I think I’ll continue with the other senses, but without the accompanying adjectives or paragraph.
5 things I hate to smell
1.    Blue cheese. It’s mouldy. End of.
2.    Cigarette smoke. Show me one non-smoker who lay on their death-bed and listed their only regret as never taking up cigarettes. You do that and I’ll allow you to blow smoke in my face.
3.    Other people’s sweat (although Lee’s does not offend me at all. I’m sure George Clooney’s is fine, too.)
4.    Cats. I know people love their cats. I do not. I particularly hate the smell they leave on everything.
5.    Men’s feet (having 2 teenage boys with male teenage friends, this was a hard one to live with at times.)
5 things I hate to see
1.    A child being smacked. I’m not saying I’ve never smacked a child. I have and I hate that I have. There’s always a better way to deal with discipline and violence against another person is never excusable.
2.    A bruise on a woman’s body. It doesn’t matter how she got it, I’m ALWAYS going to assume a man hit her. I’m also aware that I bruise easily and I’d hate to think people assume that about my beloved husband.
3.    Misused apostrophes on commercial signs (people have paid for that sign. The least the sign-writers can do is provide a proof-reading service)
4.    Pay-by-the-hour parking in hospitals. You are really taking advantage of other people’s misfortune when you force them to pay.
5.    Toast crumbs in the margarine container. To me it’s simple. You take a small amount of margarine and that’s it. You don’t take more than you need then put the rest back. I cook a lot. Do you really want toast crumbs in your cheese sauce? Same goes for Vegemite.
Things I hate to hear
1.    Swearing. I hate it in everyone, but I especially hate it when I hear children swearing. I’m told swearers are more honest, but the fact that many writers swear shows this to be a lie. These people are paid to lie.
2.    The beep of a smoke alarm that needs it's battery changed. As a Witness and a Census Taker, I heard a surprising number of these in the door-to-door work. I'd wonder how the occupants handled it.
3.    The rasp of Velcro being pulled apart. Just rip my teeth out while you’re at it.
4.    Furniture being scraped across wood. Pick it up, for crying out loud.
5.    Music from a party after 11pm. Well, unless it’s an 80s retro-party with an emphasis on the years between 1979 and 1983. Then you can be as loud as you like. True story.
5 Things I hate tasting
1.    Off milk. I can’t think of anything as bad as off milk. Not even number 4.
2.    Dates. What I imagine cockroaches taste like, including the crunch and ooze as you bite into them.
3.    Pawpaw. Smell and taste like old socks, which is fine in Parmesan Cheese, but not fruit.
4.    Okay, this is going to be disgusting but it’s one that has stayed with me a long time. Snot. Yes, snot. 20 years ago I dated a man (or late teenager) who cried a lot and then kissed me. All I could taste was the snot at the back of his throat. It was disgusting and my stomach still turns when I think about it.
5.    Sweat. I hate it when my face sweats and the drips into my mouth. Yeah, you know what I mean. It’s salty, but not like Samboy chips are salty.
 So, things I hate on a sensory level. There are many more I could list, but these are the most apparent in terms of writing. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

FightDay, WriteDay

As noted in my previous post, I'm finding it hard to get my act together to write. In response to this I've instituted FightDay, WriteDay; that one day of the week in which I fight off the rest of the world in order to fulfill a writing exercise. I did actually do the exercise last week (on Friday) but as we didn't have internet at the time, I couldn't put it up.

So, here it is, last week's FightDay, WriteDay exercise.

When it comes to writing, I’m far more interested in the story of character, rather than the story of place. Often, when editing my work, I come across sections of “white space” where characters are ‘doing their thing’ inside a setting devoid of colour, texture or being. For this, my first official FightDay, WriteDay, I’ve decided to do an exercise that focuses on setting rather than character. The exercise, taken from Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Kovich, asks me to “describe places where you have worked…Describe how people handle their tools and machines...(The objective is to) concentrate on the details and energy of a workplace.” (p44)
As per the rules of the exercise, I’m not going to say what my workplace is (was), so see if you can work it out by the description I give.

Long ago, back in the 90s, The Powers That Be made a promise “You’ll never wait longer than 5 minutes.” By the time of my induction, circa 2001, it’s a promise that has been broken, but not forgotten. A woman approaches, hands a sheaf of bundled notes, sticky with the juice of her toddler’s orange and a dog-eared passbook through the Perspex window.
“You’re not supposed to make us wait longer than five minutes,” she complains. The smile I offer is meant to be consoling, but it’s a thin smile, worn tight by weeks of hearing the same thing.
“That advert stopped years ago,” I answer. “We’re understaffed and doing our best.”
Still, a remark made by someone who wants to protest, but has no ground upon which they can firmly make their stand. I have her money, I have her details. In return, she has my attention for the next few minutes.
I open the passbook. Despite its worn appearance, it’s still mostly blank. I turn to the second page, carry over the balance, check my terminal for any outstanding transactions. The reason for the emptiness quickly becomes apparent. At least a dozen child-support payments have hit the account without being recorded. I pick up one of several pens allocated to my bay and manually bring the book up to date then stamp and initial the corrections.
“They’re phasing passbooks out,” I inform her. “You’ll be asked to move over to an ATM card soon.”
“But not today.”
“No, not today. You’ll be allowed to finish the book, first. After that they probably won’t provide a reissue. It’ll also make banking a lot faster.”
“But then I won’t have an excuse to come here.”
As if I’m the social highlight of her week.
I wipe the balance from my screen, then make the deposit, first of all filling in the blue slip, then sorting the individual notes so they all face upwards. A quick count and recount confirms the amount of $560. A lacky-band bundles the ten $50 notes together, which I tuck into my safe, while the three 20s are added to my drawer. A mental count confirms I’m well within my drawer limit.
My face time with the woman takes less than three minutes, including updating her passbook. I offer to stamp her daughter’s hands, which is happily accepted. One side states the child is “Not Negotiable” in blue. The other, outlined in red, shows her as “Cancelled”. The mother finds this amusing. She leaves in a slightly better mood. This was an easy one and soon I’m calling “Next” to the waiting customer.

Hmmm. After completing the exercise, I noticed I’m still more focussed on the characters than their setting, however, I do think I offer enough clues to situate both women and their roles within the setting. 

After doing this exercise, I came home and wrote another 500 words on a short story. It didn't follow the exercise at all, but it didn't matter. The exercise had achieved my number one purpose, it got me thinking creatively again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2015 - The Year I Take Up Writing. Again.

Well, the year is a week old and so far I've written 500ish words.

Not per day.


Let's face it, at 500ish words per week, I am not going to write a publishable story any time soon. This needs to be redressed, pronto.

So, my writing career is my career and I'm responsible for it, so what am I going to do to redress this issue?

Simple. I'm going to dedicate one day per week to a new writing exercise. Every, oh, I don't know, let's call it Wednesday, yes, every Wednesday I'm going to sit down at my computer, Google writing exercises and commit myself to fulfilling one exercise. I shall blog the exercise here and how many words I wrote. Hopefully, that will lead to another six days of writing, at which point I'll start a new exercise. I'll take a chance and say I tried (Ian Curtis.)

I shall call this The Year of the Writing Exercise and it shall be my year. I've got my play list set up, I've got a new laptop, I've got a great motto for the year and I've got a desire to make a difference in my own life this year.

I'll see you next Wednesday.

PS If you have a writing exercise suggestion, please feel free to comment. I might have to moderate your comment (if you're not a follower), but I tend to do that quite quickly.

It's the final countdown

Saturday is moving day, so we have now reached the point of adding the word 'last' to the things we do around the house.

January 1 saw the last dinner date at Glenelg Way, an experience we shared with our McMinns. We ate Beef Obsession with bread rolls. This seems fitting, because all our social functions this year have featured Kris and Kim. They've shared many of our highs and lows including a cold and the first Dr Who of the season. I'm really looking forward to our first dinner at our new house.

Yesterday saw the last walk to the beach for the kids and me. Where we're going is roughly a 10 minute drive to the beach, so the kids and I won't be able to don bathers and head out as we used to. To be honest, it's not something I'm likely to miss all that much, as Rockingham's beach (routinely voted Best Beach in Australia) is way nicer than our local hangout.

Sunday was our last lunch at Sharkey's. This is significant because Sharkey's is our favourite place to eat in Mandurah. Great food at a reasonable price plus an excellent view made it an ideal place for the family to hold our weekly family meetings. Here we would eat, catch up, discuss the week we'd just had and plan for the week ahead. We'd make goals and discuss any problems and successes. We'd congratulate each other for the successes and work through the problems while just feeling the connection that is us. I'll miss Sharkey's and its significance a lot. 

And this afternoon I cooked my last slow cooker meal. Tomorrow we pack up the kitchen. so I've made one last meal which we'll eat tomorrow night. After that it's pizza and Chinese until that wonderful moment when my slow cooker sees light of day again.

Our last (homecooked) supper. Apricot Chicken.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. Amongst all these lasts there has been one new habit that Lee and I hope to take to the new house. This week we've taken to sitting outside on the patio, beer in hand, feet up on chairs as we gaze over our garden. It's not a big thing and it's not at all significant in any way shape or form, but it is just a moment of quiet togetherness before the next rush starts. Right now we're in the eye of the storm, existing in a moment of silence between packing boxes and moving them into the truck. Everything that needs to be done to this point has been done, but there is still so much to do. For this moment, however, there is silence.

And there is us.

Beer garden. Literally.
Takes me back to my student days. Oh, wait. These are my student days. Well, it's a memory for the kids, anyway. Also, pickswhich bed is Connor's and which is Erin's.

Erin's old room. Erin's a neat-freak, but this is ridiculous.

One room, many rooms. Started life as Connor's room, then became the reading room, then the book room (you could not see carpet for books) and is now the empty room. 

Another room of many colours. Started as a sitting room. Then a reading room. Then Connor's school room. Then the Lego room. Now, it's box room.
Are we ready for moving day? I hope so. I'm excited and I'm sad. Baldivis represents new beginnings for our family, but a lot of firsts happened in Meadow Springs, too. 

Aiden attended High School here and became a Dad in Year 12. A year later he was no longer a Dad. He met his current partner while living in this house, applied for uni here, made some of his best friends here. Cassie came here when she needed refuge. Erin found her independence here and Connor was homeschooled during his illness.

However, Most Chameleonic Room award goes to: The Upstairs Loft. In it's time it's been the TV room, the exercise room, Cassie's bedroom, Aiden's room when Georgie was expecting the baby, Aiden and Georgie's retreat when the baby came, teenage retreat when Aiden's friends came over after the Very Bad Breakup, party room and, finally hobby room. It was hot in summer, freezing in winter but thank goodness we had it during a turbulent 6 years.
So, there it is. The end of 6 years. Apart from my childhood home in Amberley Way, Balga, I've never lived anywhere as long as I've lived here. Yes, it's a white elephant and yes, it's provided us with many, many headaches, but it was our home and it sheltered us through a lot of storms. Good bye, Glenelg Way. You shall be missed.