Monday, November 24, 2014

How NOT to keep a hyperactive six year old on an even keel...

Arius Von Barius has been driving his father and I right up the wall, across the ceiling and down around the bend for the past couple of weeks. Like fools, we could not figure out why... I finally figured it out this morning... In the past three weeks, he's moved house, fractured his arm, fallen in love with his cousin who lives in Denmark (and who went home and did not take him with her!), and had a visit from his grandad, who he usually only sees maybe once or twice a year.

Cuddles with his cousin.

That's a whole lot of excitement for a six year old who is prone to spin off axis over an unexpected sports day at school.

His teachers have (gently) complained about him being extremely distracted in class, not being able to focus on a task for more than a couple of minutes at a time, or sit still for any length of time. At the same time, they say he's been yawning and almost dropping off in class. There were some rather strong suggestions we try to get him to bed a bit earlier (Earlier than 5.30pm? When is he supposed to eat, exactly?).

It would be nice if life was predictable all the time, or if everyone took change in their stride, but neither of these phenomena are realistic. In fact, with me going away for a few days next weekend (and I've never been away that long without him), and him starting swimming at school (which will completely upset the school time table), there isn't much hope of predictability or easy transitions in Ari's near future.

So, how will we all cope? Here is the plan (drawn from my many years of experience, and a little head scratching and resource relocating)...

1. Do a big grocery shop to eliminate fast food from the diet. All those additives and preservatives are no good, neither is going to a busy fast food 'restaurant' after a long day at school. What he needs is quiet after school, and a nourishing dinner and a very predictable, early bed time each night - especially once swimming starts, because all the excitement and change and swimming will exhaust him.

2. Lots of attention to detail. That is, make eye contact with him when asking him to do stuff or telling him important stuff (including 'I love you', even when he's being a right, royal pain). Lots of cuddles. A bit more 'in' time - reading a book together, or just having a quiet chat for a few minutes before going to sleep. Debriefing is important for kids!

3. Self-talk. This is for the Grumpy Old Man and me! Remembering to tell ourselves that he is experiencing all the challenging things for him. This is a phase. We will get through this. Losing your temper never helps. Wait until he's in bed, and then treat yourself - a long hot shower, download a favourite tv show or movie, eat chocolate if you have to! This is just another opportunity to teach resilience, by modelling it.

So, that's the plan... Get through the upheaval of the trip and of swimming, and before we know it, it'll be Christmas, and... D'oh - Christmas is not at all overstimulating, right?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Amazing Race...

Yesterday, I participate in a really fun birthday celebration for the partner of a friend of mine. My friend organised for his partner's friends to meet up in the city, where they would be divided into teams and given clues to find destinations and to perform tasks, all leading to the final destination where they would received free unlimited drinks and food for two hours!

My friend and I did a dry run (ahem, walk) for the trail last Monday, in total it was approximately 7 kilometres back and forth around the CBD of Melbourne. Yesterday, I participated as one of the stop points, checking the teams had completed their challenges properly and them giving them an enforced break before sending them off with a new clue.

Everyone had lots of fun!

The teams receive and read the game rules - NO public transport, if you are caught taking public transport it's an immediate disqualification and you must pay a donation of $30 to Vision Australia.

The teams receive their first clue!

I then went to my pit stop destination - can you tell where I am? It was a lovely quiet place to wait, and there was awesome, fast wifi to be had!

The teams arrive and show me they completed their challenges - this one was very innovative, completely all three challenges in one go by photographing themselves a) posing in speedos, b) eating a grape, and c) emulating a film poster.

Some teams had to go back and redo their challenge because they didn't photograph ALL members of the team doing each challenge, but the results were hilarious all the same!

When all the teams had been through my pit stop, I headed to the final destination via Melbourne Central.

I was just in time to see the clock play Waltzing Matilda, so I had to stop and take photos (and get a little choked up, as I always do).

Then it was time for a refreshment while I waited for the others to reach the final destination!

The final destination was Spigas, which is situation in a lovely little lane above Melbourne Central station.

And the winners were... Team Xtreme!!!

Then it was time to party!

Party food, yum, yum!

Party drink!

Oh, and I popped my Tequila cherry, as well!

It was a great event. And I was especially pleased that one of the challenges each team had to complete was to give a homeless person a meal, so four homeless people received a meal yesterday in honour of our friend's birthday, which I thought was a really great thing to make happen!

The race wasn't all love hearts though, I heard one team alerted security to another team at my pit stop, so the second team was stopped by security and asked questions and had their bags searched, just to slow them down... It didn't work though, hahaha, as that team ended up winning anyway!

I tell you, after this last month of moving and preparing for the conference next week, it was brilliant to just do something completely different and to have some fun!

Friday, November 14, 2014

A little bit excited! First, ever, peer review paper comments are in!

The review notes from my very first peer reviewed paper came in on Wednesday. I had been expecting them last Friday, so was a bit worried they hadn't turned up yet. I needn't have worried! As is often the case, the two reviewers didn't agree on everything. In fact, they only agreed 100% on one aspect of my paper, which was it's originality. But hey, I'll take that! The reviews were, none the less, very positive, which was such a thrill for me! 

The guideline for the paper was that if the submitter had not submitted a paper before, they should not submit a paper for peer review (category X), however, I was advised to ignore this directive (ha!). So, I was quite nervous to be 'playing with the big kids', so to speak. However, I didn't shame myself, so it's all good, right? I now have until December 12 to make revisions and resubmit the paper for publication - SO EXCITING!
Reviewer One...

Reviewer Two...

I have no idea who reviewed these people (it's all anonymous, chances are, they have no idea who I am either - though anyone who knows me or my work could probably figure it out quickly, LOL).

Monday, November 10, 2014

We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical...

Wouldn't it be lovely to be in control?

I think so!

Hey there, long time, no see! A lot has been happening around here in the past four weeks, and by 'here' I mean somewhere quite different from where we were four weeks ago. You see, we moved house.

We didn't move far, only about two kilometres from our previous house. We are still renting. We weren't willing movers, but it had to be done. It became clear that MIL was simply not ready to pack up her house, and yet, we knew we couldn't stay in our previous rental (and utterly perfect as it was) because it is due to be razed to the ground in February.

The thought of moving in the middle of the school holidays, in the heat, with a deadline on us was too much for me, so I told The Grumpy Old Man we needed to bite the bullet and move before I went to Wellington at the end of November. That way we could enjoy Christmas without a move hanging over our heads. We had to find a house that MIL could also stay in once her legs gave up.

So, we're in a house where the boys have their own rooms, for the time being, at least until MIL moves in with us. So far since moving here we have discovered that Telstra cannot supply cable to this house, and their ADSL connection is crap. So, we've had to move to Optus, which I said I would never do. Also, the washing machine has died.

Ari fractured his wrist at school last Thursday, so we spent a fun-filled five hours at the new Box Hill Hospital emergency department, which cost us $30 in parking. Seriously, I think if you have to attend the ED and it turns out there really was something wrong with you, they should validate your parking, because the parking bill literally adds insult to injury!

I have also had mobility training and gotten my first white cane. I'm still too self-conscious to use it but I can see that I really do need to start using it. It just feels so odd to take it out around people who have known me forever and start waving it around.

My passport arrived. Also, this morning, though not without tears, I did finally manage to submit my reimbursement application. I'm really hoping I will be reimbursed very soon as I still have not booked accommodation in Wellington.

I have not received the peer reviewed paper revisions yet. I don't know if that is a good thing, or a really, really bad thing!

I think that's us completely caught up for now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rewriting the hypothesis...

Today I'm one year, four months, and two weeks, exactly, into this PhD. I just rewrote my hypothesis.

When I first applied to do this PhD, I proposed that flash fiction has as much literary weight as short stories, novellas and novels. As it turned out, the concept of 'literary weight' was somewhat problematic. It was a bit like the 'how long is a piece of string?' problem. 'Weight' is quite an arbitrary measurement.

So, I kind of let go of the hypothesis and just starting researching the history and definition of flash fiction, coming to the conclusion that while there isn't a lot of writing about flash fiction in academe, there is already more than enough writing aimed at defining flash fiction, and the only thing I would add to that writing might be a push to use flash fiction as an umbrella term to round up the lexical variant whichs populate the general definition of very short fiction.

I went on a bit of a trek into concepts of narrative identity and narrative lives, as well as realising that my attraction to flash fiction probably stems from my familiarity with Icelandic smásaga and the similarities between the two practices.

This morning I realised that all along I've been maintaining the same position; that is, while I'm interested in what flash fiction IS, I'm far more interested in what flash fiction can DO. I'm all about that action, peeps.

Why is flash a relevant form of writing. What can it do that other forms of writing cannot do as well as flash.

And this is where, at fourteen and a half months into my thesis, I find myself rewriting my hypothesis.

I heard this can happen. I've heard this happens a lot. Now it has happened to me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sorting all the things...

I've registered for the conference in Wellington, and also booked my flights. As it turned out I have to stay four night because the conference starts early on the Sunday and ends late on the Tuesday, so I have to be there Saturday and Tuesday nights. Oh well, I'll survive, I'm sure.

I submitted my passport application this morning and was told it would take 2-3 weeks, I really hope that it happens as quickly as they say, because three weeks will be the 3rd of November and I fly out on the 29th (I know that sounds like plenty of time, but seriously I want all my ducks in a row with plenty of time to spare!).

I have submitted two weeks notice of applying for assistance (reimbursement from the university for a domestic conference, confusing, I know, but for conference New Zealand is considered domestic). Hopefully, once I submit the application itself, I'll get the reimbursement in short order because I have yet to arrange accommodation, international sim, pocket money etc.

I also have to lodge a postal vote for the Victorian state election which just happens to be the same weekend I'm away, lucky me!

What else?

Around the 7th of November I should, hopefully, get my peer reviewed paper back with revisions. This makes me a bit nervous, I've heard all sorts of stories about papers being outright rejected to needing extensive revision. I'm hoping mine won't need a whole lot of work, though I expect it will need some work, being my very first paper.

Once that is done, I can revisit the presentation, and make sure the two pieces tee up nicely.

For the next three and a bit weeks I plan to revise everything I've done to date on this thesis and see where I stand with the project and how I want to proceed from here (I suspect this won't take three and a half weeks, maybe only a week or so, but the rest of the time will be about a getting a start on what I want to do next. I suspect I feel very differently about it all now, even since doing the colloquium, I feel like I've learned so many new things that colour how I view the topic, but it's all brewing somewhere beneath the surface.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What a little 'coming together' can do...

I've been working on this degree for about 16 months now. I'm almost half way through. It was only in the past two or three months that I started to meet up with other research candidates and was able to share the experience of being a PhD student or candidate with peers. Finding these other students has made a big difference to my experience of doing the degree.

If you read blog or journal articles about being a candidate, you will have come across (probably many) references to the sense of isolation doing this kind of work brings. Even if you do know other research students, they are often doing a very different field of research, using different methodologies, and having different kinds of issues with their research. So, even when I did find peers on campus, only one or two of them were writing peers, and none of them were doing the kind of writing I'm doing.

For the past couple of days I've been attending a symposium of arts and education research students. There were between 20-25 of us in all, and with those kinds of numbers I was able to find people doing similar kinds of work to me. It was bloody brilliant!

Everything about attending the symposium was pretty awesome. Talking about writing and the challenges writers face, but even more so, hearing about all the very varied research topics was very exciting (there were research topic I would NEVER have been able to dream up, including one on dream based writing). But most beneficial was the emphasis on collaboration.

I knew I was going to the symposium to meet other researchers, and possibly, maybe make a connection with someone and maybe even consider collaborating on a paper with that someone, but honestly, with my social ineptitude, I wasn't holding out much hope of that happening.

Getting published is imperative to gaining employment in academia. I know I need to have research papers published in peer reviewed journal, and I want to do this, but it is a daunting task. I have almost no experience with doing this (I have only just submitted my very first paper for peer review). So, with almost half of my degree done, I've been panicking a little about how to achieve the holy grail of publication - what to write about, where to submit, and most importantly how to write in a way to make publication happen.

In the past two days we had several rounds of presenting papers. In each round, there were 2 or 3 presenters, and at the conclusion of the presentations the audience was asked to choose a presenter whose presentation inspired them in some way and sit at a round table with them, and at the end of the discussion each of the audience had to present the researcher they had chosen with a suggested title of a paper they could collaborate with that researcher on. Then the researcher would choose the title which most appealed to them and would pair off with the other person to write an abstract together for a paper they would work on in the next year or so!

From this process, I now have two papers to work on with two new collaborators! This is so exciting to me, I can't even express how I feel about it. Not only do I have two I will definitely be working on (two inspiring projects to work on), but I have several other potential papers in the form of titles I can go over (once I get my breath back) and then contact those people in turn to see if they would still be interested in collaborating in the future.

When the symposium ended yesterday, I also felt as if I had made a whole bunch of new friends and contacts. Some of these people will be attending the conference in Wellington in November, which makes going to the conference a lot less intimidating to me. I was able to practice my presentation on them, and got a thumbs up from one of the people who is managing and reviewing the peer reviewed papers for the presentation (I don't think they have seen my paper - it was only submitted a week before -, but gave me a thumbs up for the presentation, saying I should definitely present it at the conference).

I was on a high last night. I'm feeling very wrung out today. Of course, being back in my office, and back to being alone, is quite jarring but hey, what a wonderful gift this symposium was!

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