Monday, December 23, 2019

My Year in Review 2019 edition

It’s year in review time. This is not going to be fun, but I am going to attempt to add a positive with each sad moment that I recount.

1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
Positive – Taught Year 11 ATAR Literature – and did a damn fine job of it, even if I do say so myself (and so do my students’ marks).
The bad thing – I attended the funeral of my Triffitt baby. Losing Blake is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. If someone offered me a contract stating, “I will bring Blake back to life, but you have to endure every bad moment of your childhood in order to do so” I would sign the contract in an instant. In my own blood. Twice.
This review is mainly about Blake. Be prepared. Be very prepared. 
2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
The bad thing – I know I wanted to finish the year at 58kg (I was at 60 at the beginning of the year and still moving downwards), read a huge number of books and some other stuff. I am ending the year at 70kg (my heaviest ever), I’ve binge watched Netflix and played mindless games rather than read as nothing else feels important right now.
The good thing – I am still making goals for next year. I want to read 12 novels, I want to write 5000 words and I submit a short story for the Black Dog Anthology. 
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
The good thing – My boss Ben and his wife welcomed their first child into the world.
The bad thing – Ben bought his baby into work on the last day and I couldn’t face seeing him. I choked up with anxiety and I don’t know why. I just couldn’t. I’m happy for Ben, so it doesn’t make sense to me, but there it is.  
4. Did anyone close to you die?
The good thing – Lee’s dad died and he seemed to deal really well with it. When my Mum died, I went through a lot of grief, not because we were close, but because we weren’t and now we never would be. Lee seemed to escape that totally. Even now it seems like a nothing event to him. Brilliant.
And then.
The bad thing. On the 21st September I received a phone call from my son, Aiden. “Has anyone called you?” My first thought was Cassandra. She has demons and I felt that something bad had happened to her or her kids.
“Blake hanged himself.”
My world stopped at that moment. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t stay still. I prowled the house screaming against the news and waiting for someone to call me back to tell me he’d been revived.
The call never came. What came was grief, the funeral, an outpouring of love from friends, family, and total strangers. I don’t know how I survived. I’m not convinced I have, that I am the ghost of Blake walking the earth searching for the rest of myself.  
5. What countries did you visit?
The good thing – But I interacted with people from around the world who contacted me to share their experience of Blakey Boy. That meant a lot to me. 
6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
There is nothing that could come into my life in 2020 that could replace what I lost in 2019.
The good thing – I guess I would like to get my sense of self back and with it a sense of will.

7. What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
The bad thing - 21 September. The day Blake left us.
The good thing – 22 December. The day Erin received an offer to study Psychology and Criminology at uni. Erin has worked hard at her education ever since the first day of kindy. I am so proud of her. 
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Despite my virtual ghosting of Term 4, every one of my ATAR 11 Lit students passed their first two units of study. I means I gave them excellent foundations in the first three terms which they were able to use for themselves in Term 4. I’m really proud of myself for that. And them. They pulled themselves together when I really need them to. 
9.What was your biggest failure?
The bad thing – I spoke to Blake a lot while he was on his prac. He’d mentioned his struggle with his depression, so I feel I failed him by not phoning him more.
I wasn’t there properly for my students in Term 4. Most of my term was spent ‘door-knobbing’ ie making up a lesson as I’m letting the students into the room. I spent most of the time in a fog, barely registering my own presence let alone theirs.
The good thing – However, things began turning around in about Week 7 and I started to get my act back together. Yes, there were a lot of movies for my students, but I did engage them in conversation based on what we were viewing. 
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
My heart broke.
I’m self-harming by overeating.  
11. What was the best thing you bought?
The good thing – We had a brilliant week in Toodyay to celebrate my 50th birthday. It was the last time we saw Blake and I’m glad we had it.
The bad thing – Lee and I spent the entire time believing something was very wrong with Blake. We commented on it to each other and felt that he had an illness that he was keeping secret from us. He appeared to be wasting away and we thought he might be deathly ill.
It turned out, he was, but not in the way that we were imagining. I wish I could go back to that moment and ask him directly what was going on.  
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Connor continued to perform in the school play, calling on his grief to put forward a performance that had teachers still commenting weeks later.
Aiden delivered the news in a caring, loving way. He and Rachel took us in whilst in the midst of their own overwhelming grief. It wasn’t easy on them and at times their nerves were frayed by having so many people infringing upon their space, but they made sure we were okay when they clearly were not.  
My ex-husband took control of the funeral and made it a time of reflection and celebration of our child. It was beautiful, sad, and happy all at the same time.
Lee has demonstrated that he really is a bonus-father to Blake, Aiden and Cassie. There were times when he needed to take over parenting one of my Triffitt children because I no longer could face it. He did, and in doing so, kept our family functioning until I could take over again.
My students were my rocks throughout this trauma. Hugs, cards, presents, the ‘mother-duck’ award, quiet conversations of love and respect, hearts, flowers, emails, messages on the white board, drawings, lollies, chocolates, a heartfelt “are you okay, miss?”, and a handmade blue and purple ‘suicide awareness’ Christmas tree signed by my class of Year 9s all came my way in the aftermath of Blake’s death and continued right up until the last day of school. I will miss each and every student. They mean the world to me.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I can’t talk about it here. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy angsting over the behaviour of someone I love more than my own life. Hopefully things will turn around in 2020. 
14. Where did most of your money go?
Trips to Perth. We couldn’t afford them, but we did them anyway. Homesickness, birthdays and funerals conspired to keep us poor this year.
Alcohol. Food. Books. DVDs. They’re all self-medications right now and we need to work ourselves out in order to progress next year.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The holiday in Toodyay. I really needed it and it turned out to be the saving grace of this year.

16. What song will always remind you of 2019?
Chicago by Sufjan Stevens. It was the song we used for the photo montage of Blake and it’s a song that has significance within our family.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
Sadder, fatter, poorer. So sad, so fat, don’t care about the poorness. I’ve been poorer in my life, but I’ve never been so sad or so fat.  
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Being honest with someone whose ongoing behaviour scares me. I should have told them sooner that they’re slowly self-destructing rather than enabling their actions.
Taking photos. I hadn’t realised how few photos I took in Toodyay. The photos I have of Blake are from other people. 
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I don’t know. I think I’ve done exactly what I’ve needed to do to survive. Is my eating out of control? Yes. Is my drinking getting beyond ‘normal’? Yes. Do I feel ready to stop? Not quite. Can I stop? Yes. When the time comes, I will step up and make the change. It probably won’t be today. I don’t see it happening before Boxing Day. Ask me next Sunday. That sounds about right. 
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas is still two days away, but I’m answering it now.
I will be spending Christmas Day remembering, laughing, crying, drinking and eating heavily, and making new memories with Lee, Aiden, Rachel, Erin, and Connor.  I won’t spend it thinking that on the 28th we lose another child (this time to Perth and uni). I won’t. I won’t.

I probably will. 
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
Friends of Blake’s. Together, they showed me just how important my boy was to other people. Online, and at the funeral, I met a batch of people who raved about the wonder that was Blakey. He was so freaking loved. 
22. Did you fall in love in 2019?
I have fallen out of love with life. Nothing matters beyond my beautiful family and students. The world burns around us (both literally and figuratively) and I honestly find it hard to not want to throw myself to the flames.
23. What was your favourite TV program?
MASH featured large in our TV watching this year. The kids started off fairly disinterested, but we persevered and then it happened – “Abyssinia Henry.” By the end of the episode the children were hooked; crying and hooked.   

But my favourite would have to be Killer Ratings. As Lee states it was “probably the oddest combination of wtf moments strung together.”

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No. I’m not a hater and I tend to let my hatreds go easily.  
Actually, no that’s not true. This time last year I did not hate Scott Morrison. I didn’t like him, or respect him, but nor did I hate him. He was a nothing politician in a sea of nothing politicians.
This year, I absolutely hate him. I hate how he has treated refugees, I hate how he has closed his ears to climate change professionals, and I hate his many bad reactions to the bush fire situation. I hate him. And I don’t see myself letting go of this particular hatred.
Now, I think we need to stop relying upon any politician to act for our best interests. It’s time we, those who want change, to ignore the government and do what’s necessary to fix the various crises. #ghostthegovernment
25. What was the best book you read?
Earlier this year I reread The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. It’s the book that got me into books and, having read it for about the tenth time, I can still see why.
My favourite book that I’d never read before would probably be Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. I studied it with my Lit kids and it just blew me away. Loved it.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I love the band James. “Laid” and “Getting Away With it (All Messed Up)” have been favourites since the 90s. And then, a few months ago Connor asked Google Home to play “Say Something.” And from that moment I had to have more. I have now listened to everything James has released and I love all of it. All. Of. It.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

This is the year in which I discovered Adam Driver. Yes, yes, he is Kylo Ren and no, I didn’t think much of that character. But then I watched BlackkKlansman and suddenly I found myself excited by a performance. Driver was mesmerising. I loved the movie, I loved the interplay between the many characters, but I absolutely freaking adored Driver.
And then, one night of insomnia recently, I watched Marriage Story starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson. Oh my God. As movie plots go, I would probably have placed it on the Weekday Midday Movie Opposite Ray Martin part of the spectrum. However, Driver and Johannson were absolutely fantastic and I could not look away. Driver is amazing and I would watch anything with him in it. Including the next Star Wars movie.
But to answer the initial question, BlackkKlansman.
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 50 in Karratha and celebrated it by having a birthday lunch that I invited over 30 people to. Five turned up.
A few weeks later we did the family thing in Toodyay and it was the holiday I needed.  
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If my daughter had finished her bridging course. 
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
What fits?
31. What kept you sane?
I am far from sane. Blake’s death tore my heart, mind and soul apart and continues do so on a daily basis.  I don't think I will ever be my true self again.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Climate change, people who mock Greta Thunberg, the water crisis, the mockery of a government that is supposed to support the will of the people rather than their own religious ideologies. 
33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.
Take more photos.  
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow
We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go
Chorus of “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens.
RIP Blake
14 September 1994 – 21 September 2014

Holly, Blake, Aiden and Rachel chilling in Toodyay, July 2019

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Weighing it all up

At a loose end while the family is asleep, I decided to categorise our 2018. I know it's been a great year, but I still wanted to see it on balance.

Yeah, it worked for us.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Is this thing on? Hello? It's Christmas...time to revisit my Blog.

1. What did you do in 2018 that you'd never done before?

I started my job at Karratha Senior High School. It has been a rollercoaster ride full of laughter, tears, tantrums, teaching moments, learning moments, favourite students, students who told me they loved me and those who openly told me they hated me. Best of all, however, was that I found a work place where I felt happy within my community of colleagues. Karratha is the happiest I have ever been.

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?

I achieved my reading goals, my cooking goals and my ‘personal space’ goals. It was a successful year, goal-wise.
I will make goals for next year and they're bound to revolve around my desire to be a better teacher.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, not really. The SF community was awash with new babies, but no one that I know personally. Oh, wait, there was this one couple that I know personally, but I'm not giving away information about other people's births in such a public forum.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

In the Trumpocalypse, we’re all dying a little more than we should each day. This is a terrible part of history and I hope we can recover from it.

5. What countries did you visit?

Not so much countries as country towns. Dampier, Point Samson, Wickham, Roeburne, Broome. That’ll do, Donkey.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

Real money that can support my family on one wage. My wage is nowhere near Lee’s former wage and I feel like I’m letting the team down.

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

15 December 2018 (yesterday). A student gave Lee and me tickets to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” because he felt that I’d been important in his year. I will never, ever forget that. The movie was wonderful, as was the gesture.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finishing my first year as a teacher. I discovered that I am actually good at this. No, I wasn’t perfect, but I haven’t met a perfect teacher yet. We’re all doing our best in a most-trying circumstance.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not being there to help my daughter during her darkest moment. I should have been in Perth. I wasn’t. I don’t know what to with that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? 

It’s been three years since my ankle injury, but I still suffer from it. Thanks to conflicting opinions within the medical profession I have never regained any real control over my left leg. I still need my walking stick from time to time (like the past 2 days) and it pisses me off, mightily. Recently I found out that the tears are constantly shredding and that it’s only going to get worse. Right this moment I am doped up on Panadol Forte and am wearing my strong brace. I want to go to the gym tomorrow, but this is most unlikely.
In positive news, at this rate I might soon qualify for a disability space at school.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Duromine. 8kg lost. Curcumin. It really helps my ankle.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My entire family because they have made the most of this year in one way or another. Some lost direction, but I do believe that they will pick themselves up.
My boss, Ben, for hiring me. He’s cool.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

A family member who made some stupid decisions and then had to suffer the consequences. However, we all make mistakes, and everything is a learning experience. Onwards and upwards.

14. Where did most of your money go?

School supplies. Teachers are the only people who steal supplies from home to take to work.
It's amazing how much this little girl looks like my granddaughter.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Work. I love my job. It’s freaking hard and not always rewarding, but it does MATTER.

Also, having my boss believe in me enough to give me the ATAR Year 11 Lit students. It’s a brand new course and I’m excited to be part of it.

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?

“Baby It’s Cold Outside.” For some reason, this song raised a lot of anger in the #metoo era, but for me, it was an opportunity to have a real teaching moment with my transition ATAR Lit 11s. The class debated back and forth about the lyrics and what they meant, both historically and today. It was brilliant and the moment when I knew I had them.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?

Happier, slimmer, poorer. Way happier. 

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Writing. I miss it. A lot. These holidays will mostly be about reading for my ATAR Lit course, so I don’t anticipate things changing in 2019.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Hiding from the problems going on in Perth. I couldn’t do anything concrete, so I applied myself more fully to Karratha stuff. And then things got really bad for my children.

20. How will you spend Christmas?

No religious expectations. Yay! Presents, food, drinks. And with my Battkids for the first time in years.

21. Who did you meet for the first time?

The entire English department at KSHS. They’re awesome and they are my friends.

22. Did you fall in love in 2018?

Okay, Lee and I have always been close. We just fit and our dynamic works. Lately, though, something has changed and we’re even better than ever. We’re passionate about each other, we can’t get enough of each other. I am still crazy in love with my husband and I will organise for everyone to get their diabetes shots after reading this answer.

23. What was your favourite TV program?

The Good Place by a long shot. There is no better show on TV.

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

Every year I say, “I don’t hate anyone, I’m just not built that way.” This year I definitely hate three people with a passion, one of whom is my daughter’s ex. What a complete dickhead. I can’t talk about the others.

25. What was the best book you read?
The Marriage Lottery series by Stasia Black. Yep, it goes the full smut, but the post-Apocalyptic world building makes it a fantastic read that I find hard to put down. I often consider moving past the sex stuff in order to read the main plot. I would, but that would be disrespect to SB’s work, so I don’t 😊

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I have no idea. I have a musical playlist which I listen to when I’m alone in my study, working.


Love is a Stranger

Afternoon Delight

I Love it When He Calls me Names
Lay Down

Tainted Love
Total Eclipse of the Heart

How Soon is Now?
Angel of the Morning

Bad Things
Kiss Me

Moonlight Shadow
Sweet Dreams

Love Will Tear Us Apart
Never Tear us Apart
We Belong
Throw Your Arms Around Me
Wicked Game
I Know Him So Well
Don’t Stand So Close to the Window

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

It’s such a toss up between Bohemian Rhapsody, which was wonderful, and The Room which was delightfully terrible.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 49. My Triffkids and grandkids arrived from Perth to spend it with me. It was wonderful.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Nothing. It was a great year and I have loved everything about it.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

School Marm, 1950s style.

31. What kept you sane?

Having a cry in the staff toilets when it all got too much.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

The murder of women by violent men in their lives. This form of domestic terrorism really needs addressing, and soon.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

The sins of the mothers visit themselves upon the children. My daughter faced a situation that my mother, my grandmother, my Aunty and myself all faced. We all lost. She won. I’m so grateful that she broke our curse and kept her children.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“Okay, guys. You’ve done well. I’ll play music for the rest of the lesson.”
“Miss, miss. Can we listen to…Africa?

Every single time. And guess what, these lyrics work in with my year, too.

It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had.

Africa – Toto.