Monday, December 31, 2012

In 2013 I resolve to...

Step outside my comfort zone.

That's probably the best way to describe all the stuff that's been milling about my head in the past few weeks.

Earlier this month I mentioned that I feel my world has shrunk a lot over recent years. I think I've been waiting for someone to rescue me. Terrible, I know! 

I've been waiting for a hand to hold and someone to do my talking for me and maybe even just hand me my dreams on a platter. Wouldn't that be nice!

No very realistic, is it?

So, in 2013 I resolve to be BOLD.

I'm going to put myself out there and talk to people when I'd rather just hide away at home.

I'm going to put my writing out there even when I'm not sure anyone will appreciate it.

I'm going to offer myself to people, even when I feel I have nothing worthwhile to offer.

I'm going to paint because painting is fun and I'm tired of seeing paintings at the School Art Show that I'm sure I could have done - but didn't.

There are some things I'm resolving not to do anymore as well.

I resolve not to...

  • Complain about my life. My life is pretty good, even when things don't seem to be going my way life is still awesome and I'm going to see that and acknowledge it and focus on the awesome in life.
  • Live in the future. There is a lot of life to live right now, without reaching into an unknowable future. This New Year's Eve I haven't look at any forecasts for the coming year and I'm not going to because it has no baring on today and I want to savour today while I have it.
  • Make promises I can't be sure of keeping. Oh, it'd be nice say I won't ever eat rubbish anymore or I won't got to bed later than midnight anymore or that I won't yell at my kids ever again - that would be nice... But then when I do those things I just feel so much worse about it and I find myself justifying doing those things, and then I usually end up focusing on how bad things are that I was driven to do things I promised myself I'd never do again. I don't want to focus on negative things, so I'm not going to set myself up to do that.
It's funny, for the first time in many years, I'm not busting to see the end of this year. I'm not hanging out for a new year and a 'new leaf'. I don't have any illusions that somehow 2013 is going to dawn full of miracles which will change my life. Today I've been occupied with writing and making arrangements to pick up a painting from the framers on Monday, shopping for uniforms next week, maybe getting some new ink (if my brother is feeling better). I've been thinking about how to organise our busy timetable in 2013 and encouraging mother-in-law to get someone in to regularly run errands for her one day a week in case we can't make it. December feels like it'll blend into January seamlessly and before we know it our busy lives will be in full swing again, so we need to focus on now and spending some time together and restoring our reserves for the months to come.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year celebration - whatever form it takes - and I'll see you again in 2013!

PS. One more thing... I really like this idea!

I'm totally going to do this and then on NYE next year, I'm going to blog what I found on all the notes! Join me!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A quiet house...

We've had such a quiet week here this week.

Sounds a bit unusual, doesn't it?

Well, it is quite unusual and it isn't because my children have suddenly decided to become excessively well-behaved and co-operative and, well, very unlike my children. No Siree...

The main cause of all this quietude has been a bug.

Luckily - and despite Ari vomiting early on Box Day - it was not a stomach bug. A stomach bug you would have heard about long before now because I'm really not very good at dealing with them and I would have been lamenting my lot within twenty-four hours. Instead I've been enjoying the quietude which comes with a nasty cold or mild flu bug (depending on how you look at it).

It all started with Erik, on December 23rd, developing a case of the sniffles, which was accompanied by high temps and generally feeling under-the-weather and sleepy - which for Erik means he's really quick sick because nothing gets that boy down, really. He was having day naps and by Christmas Day had a chesty cough, as well. I'm happy to report that a week later he's feeling much better, though the cough is persisting (but that's kind of normal in our boys anyway).

Luey then came down with it on the 28th. For Luey, it went to his throat and so he's been voiceless for going on three days now - and that means lots of ssssshhhhh around here, as Luey's squeaky whines of 'Eriiiiiiiiik!' are usually the first sign of a fight breaking out. The kid has also suffered fevers and headaches, and has basically spent three days laying under his doona on the couch or in bed (today he is sans doona which is a sign of his impending improvement).

Just having these two out of commission has brought much peace to our tiny house!

Do I sound like I'm revelling?

Oh dear, I'm such a bad mummy!

This morning Ari has the cough and a raspy voice, and Bryn had a bit of a temperature, though the administration of Neurofen seems to alleviated all Bryn's symptoms.

I don't really like my kids being sick - honest - but my, it has been quiet and there has been a distinct lack of bickering, with people just quietly slothing about.

I'm almost loathed for the new year to begin. The kids will all be better in about a week and then it'll be time to organise new uniforms for Erik and kinder gear for Ari and I've also made plans to contact Writers Victoria about volunteering with them and I've found a local writing group I should probably see about joining.

But today I'm enjoying the quiet of sick children.

The legion of the sick... They don't look sick, but believe me, they're too
quiet to be well...

Who says I can't see the blessings in the every day, or the silver lining in dark clouds?

Friday, December 28, 2012

12 Things Happy People Do Differently - a self-reflection...

A few days ago a Facebook friend posted the above poster on her wall. I believe she got these points from this blog which she enjoys reading, and the bloggers on the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog derived their discussion of these points from this book, available on Amazon - you're welcome! I have to admit, I haven't read the blog or the book I've just mentioned but wanted my readers to have access to the sources of the poster for their own reflective purposes.

The New Year will be upon us in but a few days and I thought this a great opportunity to do a little personal assessment on how I'm playing the happy game. I'm often not very happy at all - I don't need to be happy all the time, let me just say that up front - I personally believe that life is a balancing act and those who seek euphoria often will also often feel desolation because in all things there must be balance. The great riches of the few on this planet come at the personal cost of the many as is shown over and over again in graphs such as this...

And in fact, based on financial wealth alone, there seems to be an overbalance towards poorer people - but we all know financially wealthy people experience other forms of poverty, as well... Balance is my point here.

So, I don't expect to be happy all the time, but I am aware that my happiness levels are out of balance with my anxiety levels and so I thought I'd use the 12 Things Happy People Do Differently poster to reflect on that today.

I'll go through the points one by one.

#1 - Express Gratitude

* When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value.

I find I often don't appreciate what I have - oh, I manage to appreciate it when prompted but I really need to be prompted, and that is a bit of a problem because often the prompting isn't there just when I'm at my most self-pitying. So, I need to find a way to prompt myself regularly until appreciating what I have become a habit - I will set a regular daily reminder on my phone!

* If we aren't thankful for what we already have, we will have a hard time ever being happy.

I honestly believe this, and can see it in other people quite readily, but I think I've slipped up on seeing it in my own attitude and in recent years I've slid further and further in a quagmire of not being thankful - not authentically thankful in any case. I will be conscious of this now and will use the word authentic in my daily phone reminder so that I don't just go through the paces, but really feel the gratitude.

#2 - Cultivate Optimism

* People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.

This used to be me. Before 2009, this really was me inside and out, but since the trying times really kicked in my optimism has depleted - mostly because I haven't fed it with gratitude. I guess it's easy to be optimistic when the scales seem tipped in your favour, the challenge is maintaining optimism when they consistently tip the other way - but that is also a matter of perception because even trials have their silver linings - it's all part of the balance! If I work on accepting that things will not always work out the way I hoped but that even in those situations there are real positives to be garnered, I will be a much happier person!

#3 - Avoid Over-thinking and social comparison

* Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous

* The only person you should compare to is yourself before now

This really is a challenge for me, at least the over-thinking part. I've always been an over-thinker. Just this morning, I had made plans to go to my brother's to have some more ink done, but as I was getting ready to leave, Erik told me my brother had called early this morning to say he was unwell and we'd have to postpone the session until another time. As this was the second time the session had been postponed, I started to convince myself he really doesn't want to do the work because I'm not paying him. The fact is, he has probably caught the nasty head cold my eldest had when he was visiting - and which my second has come down with just today. Over-thinking causes me a lot of anxiety and unhappiness.

I never used to compare myself with others socially, well not negatively anyway. Having had less income than the average family in our area in recent years has encouraged the habit of negatively comparing our situation. Especially as it has been difficult to keep up with the financial demands of our children's primary school which has caused me embarrassment and caused me to question my ability as a parent to provide for my children. I need to kick this bad habit. It's not serving me in any positive way, and I think it has contributed to my decline into agoraphobia and not feeling worthy of socialising with people who seem better off and therefore more worthy of respect than me. I say 'seem' because appearances aren't everything, and I may well be seeing what people have instead of seeing who people are and shutting myself off to lovely people because of my projections of judgement onto them.

#4 - Practice Acts of Kindness

* Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside

I admit, I haven't done this as much as I used to because I've convinced myself I have nothing worthwhile to offer. That's a convenient way of thinking, isn't it? If I have nothing to offer, I don't have to make an effort but then I rob myself of the opportunity of feeling worthwhile as well, which feeds the belief that I have nothing to offer. Ah, the mind games we play with ourselves, hey? From hereon in I'm going to look for opportunities to help others and offer of myself.

#5 - Nurture Social Relationships

* The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships.

Herein lies the rub. Social anxiety; fed by over thinking and believing I have little to offer because I've been comparing myself negatively to others socially has led to a breakdown in most of my relationships in recent years. I've backed away from people who have reached out because of my own sense of social self-worth based on what I believe I have to offer others which may be worthwhile to them. I will have to meditate on how I can remedy this in future relationships. Which leads directly into the next point...

#6 - Develop strategies for coping

* It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.

This reminds me of another two posters I saw on Facebook this morning...

One of my biggest challenges is my thinking and I believe I need to change that. I've been meaning to meditate for a long time, but in the past I've been frustrated in my attempts because my mind feels really cluttered. This is probably an ADHD thing, but it does not mean I have to give up on meditating. I believe any level of meditation should help to calm my mind to some degree, and even slightly calmer thinking, and slightly less over thinking would be hugely beneficial to me!

I will have these posters printed out and hang them were I can refer to them often.

#7 - Learn to Forgive

* Harboring (sic) feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being

Aha! Finally something I feel I am doing well. I don't hold onto grudges and I almost never feel hatred toward anyone or anything - and if I do it is very short lived, mostly because I find it too sapping and I'm a bit too forgetful to remember to hate anyone for very long. There is hope for me yet!

#8 - Increase flow experiences

* Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still.

* It's when you're so focused on what you're doing you become one with the task.

* Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.

To an extent I do this already - having ADHD means I occasionally hyper focus on what I'm doing. At the same time, I'm very much aware that I tend to be very easily distracted from what I'm doing and hyper focusing is not a conscious engaging in the moment so much as working automatically at something - and still the background channels play in my brain. It's like when I'm playing a computer game and I score very well, this is often as a result of not focusing on the game but one something I'm listening to - such at the television - so in that sense I'm focused only because I'm distracted. It's not an easy thing to explain to people who haven't experienced it. The closest likeness to this experience I've heard of is when people drive while deep in thought and end up at their destination without remembering how they got there.

Consciously engaging in the moment is something different, I believe. I will work on being more present in the moment - and not just when I'm playing computer games!

#9 - Savor (sic) life's joys

* Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy

I believe I do this most of the time, I'm pretty good at recognising joy in my life and savouring it. I do this in the moment fairly regularly, I just need to remember those moments more often and tap into those memories more often.

#10 - Commit to your goals

* Magical things happen when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere

I do this with some things. I've achieved a lot of goals doing this and achieving those goals has caused a lot of happiness in my life. Other things - perhaps smaller things - I tend to let slip. The smaller things are often just as important as the big things though because they underpin the big things so I need to commit to those goals as well!

#11 - Practice Spirituality

* When we practice spirituality or religion we recognise that life is bigger than us

* We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever

I know this point might not sit well with all my readers, but I do believe this - though I probably would not have used the qualifier 'silly' and just left it at 'idea'. I have had a stronger spiritual life than I've had in recent times and I need to get back there because lower spirituality does leave me with a feeling of disconnect and isolation. It leaves me feeling vulnerable in an unloved sort of way which causes me to feel defensive of myself and my ideas and weaknesses because I feel I am all I have. When my spirituality is stronger I feel connected and purposeful and part of something bigger than myself which provides a sense of comfort and security.

#12 - Take Care of Your Body

* Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be

It's true that when I have done this I have felt happier. It is also true I have not put any energy into caring for my body in a while. This is something I will need to focus on specifically now.


So, if you did your own reflection while reading this, are there areas you can work on to feel happier?

The New Year is always a good time for starting afresh (and you don't have to wait until Tuesday, you can start today - I'll give you permission if you can't give yourself permission. Start now - we'll do it together!).


Also, today is a full moon, and for those of you who like moon rituals, today is a great day to focus on letting go of negativity; negative thoughts and feelings and actions, just imagine them melting off your body and flowing away from you and every time you feel them creeping back in, visualise the heat of love melting them away again! I'm going to do this. Then when the new moon begins, you can start focusing on growing the positive thoughts and feelings and actions which are left in place of the negative ones that have melted away!

Give feeling happier a go!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hello Boxing Day!

I'm amazed that people find the time to check blogs on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but when I had a look at my stats this morning I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers! I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas!

We were very busy; had my brother staying over and MIL came over for Christmas Day. Lots of great food, and more importantly lots of really great leftovers!

We discovered that Ari isn't a big fan of Christmas food. The kid loves triple smoked ham, but passed on the candied potatoes (I know, unbelievable, right?) and of course, everything else was vegetables, so he wasn't having any of those either.

He didn't like the Turkey - strange child - (though, he liked it cold for lunch today - strangerer child!) and the rest was vegetables, so you can fill in the blanks.

Wasn't keen on the pudding, but loves brandy custard and cream!

Oh, my chocolate ripple pudding with cooked apple was a hit though! I really think that is going to have to become the tradition dessert for Christmas Eve in our family - next year I'm adding cherries as well!

So, yesterday, he barely ate anything, but seemed very happy nonetheless. This morning when he woke with a stomach that hadn't consumed anything solid in sixteen hours, he was not a happy chappy at all and vomited all over Erik's bed (note, he had the forethought to get out of his own bed first).

It took two hours of raspberry toast (no margarine) and sipping water, then spewing and repeating the process to bring him back to his cheeky monkey self!

Other than that, Christmas was a blast!

Highlights included;

- Doing Christmas Eve dishes with my brother in the wee hours, with him scrutinizing every item I washed and returning several [clean] items back to the sink because they didn't meet his personal benchmark for sparkliness... Oh the memories of our childhood, and the hundreds of times we did this very same dance!

- Lukas opening the biggest present beside the tree (it didn't fit under the tree) which was for him and him alone (he was very much filled with glee over that little fact)...

We're really hoping this will help him pursue his interest in music with greater ease. He had some guitar lessons in term three last year, but with no one in the house able to support his practice, he floundered. At least I can help him with a keyboard a little bit (I can read music at an elementary level and know where to find notes on a keyboard), so we're hoping to find the money for keyboard lessons in the new year.

- Bryn opening his Skylanders present. My brother asked which game it was (as he gave the boys the Wii last year) and the Grumpy Old Man replied, 'Highlanders.' Yep, that's right, it's a game about men in skirts... Made us all laugh!

No, the child was not hopped up on anything other than pure excitement, but dear me, he has a future on the stage if he wants one, you could see that grimace in the nosebleed seats even without make-up!

- Erik opening his new mobile phone - finally - and now he thinks he's King Muck! It was only a Samsung Galaxy Y, but he loves it! You'd better believe I've memorized his number already! Also, because it's a Telstra pre-paid, I can call him for free from my mobile and home numbers, which is great!

- Receiving these beautiful candle sticks!

I love, love, love them! The pillar candles are scented in chocolate-gingerbread, and caramel and even when not lit, the smell of them infuses the room!

- Getting Vuze to talk to Tivo again! Okay, so it's not strictly Christmas related - although, it means being able to download Christmas 2012 specials of Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. 

After the power supply died on the Mac a month ago and it was fixed, my Vuze program decided it couldn't find my TiVo, which meant that while I could still download shows to Vuze, I couldn't transcode them so we could watch them in the comfort of our loungeroom on the TiVo (first world problems, I know!)...

I'd tried uninstalling and reinstalling Vuze, but it seemed to always find my old account and refused to boot up from the proper start. I knew this meant I hadn't deleted every Vuze related filed on my computer, but couldn't find them all to delete them. It felt like a hopeless task. And then I discovered this You Tube video which ensures the complete uninstallation of every file related to a specific program on a Mac - it worked perfectly for me, and is very simple!

Anyway, reinstalled, and Vuze talks to TiVo again, so I'm very pleased!

- Managing to get a half-decent photo of all the boys...

Love them so much!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with friends and family!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Is it Christmas yet?

Bryn just came up to me and whispered with much excitement, 'Tomorrow is our Christmas Eve and I can't wait!'... Doesn't it just make your heart melt?

I have to admit, I haven't even played one of my Christmas albums yet - though having written that I'm very likely to do so today - I just haven't thought about it. This week has been busy, busy, busy!

Mum and s-dad came for a visit on Monday night and left on Friday morning. Actually, they left on Thursday afternoon, but then after doing a computing workshop for work and visiting my brother, they realised they were just too tired for the drive home and crashed here one more night.

Having them here was wonderful!

We're all really looking forward to them moving back here at the end of January so mum can take up her new position and s-dad can build their uniforms business. It looks like I'm going to get some voluntary work doing administration duties in that business and I'm very excited about that for two reasons. First, it will allow me to learn some new skills and add some recent, actual work to my resume and second, it will make me eligible for a mobility allowance payment under the voluntary work scheme. It also helps them out a bit because with a fledgling business, they can't afford to take on paid staff but s-dad will also need to be out there drumming up custom and with mum working elsewhere for a steady income, the situation leaves them a little short-handed.

During the week the administration at Tabor sent a letter to the HDR department at Deakin with all the relevant information showing I should have been properly considered for the PhD at Deakin. I'm not holding out much hope this will lead anywhere, really. At this stage, the HDR department received the letter just two days before the end of the working year and then it only went to one person, so really he could just pretend he never received it and not do anything. I have a lot of built up frustration and resentment over this entire matter. I really feel I should have been working on the literature review at this point and not looking at applying elsewhere. I'm trying to let it go, but I honestly feel quite ripped off - I worked hard for the Masters Degree and because Deakin didn't check its facts, I was not given equal consideration to other applicants. On top of every other idiotic situation which has cropped up over the last few years with Dave's work and so on, I'm feeling very paranoid about the some sort of universal conspiracy to keep us down.

Yes, yes, I have a logical side of my brain which says this is just nonsense and that I need to understand everyone goes through shitty stuff and it will be okay in the end and we've also had many blessings, it's just the petulant, childish side of me that screams, not fair!


Yesterday was the end of the Mayan calendar and the world did not end - though some would say it ended metaphysically and we are now in a new spiritual era - however, primary school did end for Erik. The joke this week at our house has been that the only purpose of the Mayan calendar was ever to count down the years and days until Erik Bird finished primary school!

The Grumpy Old Man and I lay in bed last night marvelling at the fact we now have a child going to high school! The years are passing very quickly, indeed!

Erik received the most delightful poster as a graduation/early Christmas present from his mate, Harry...

How awesome is that? We were all very impressed around here!

Bryn also had his junior school Christmas concert, and he was so cute!

I was quite pleased to see him getting along very well with the child he had so many troubles with in the second half of the year, things seem to have settled down nicely between them!

We did a lot of Christmas shopping as well - thanks to MIL's generosity - and thanks to my parents being here we didn't even have to navigate public transport too much! We heard last night that there is a proposal to put a night time curfew on P-plate drivers, and I joked that by the time we eventually get a car, the Grumpy Old Man won't be a P-plater anyway (the curfew only applies to young P-plate drivers on red Ps, as far as I can tell, the GOM is on green Ps for older drivers - I think it has already been implemented in our state but the news was referring to NSW and other states).

I'm very grateful that we will be having a good Christmas this year - for many months now I've believed we wouldn't have any kind of Christmas at all, but MIL and my parents really came through!

I'm very excited about the boys presents this year, I think they'll love them. I have to wrap everything tonight and will take a photo of the boys and the tree and presents before Christmas (which for us is Monday).

2013 is just around the corner, but for me, in many ways, it has already started. 

Are you ready for Christmas and the New Year?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Things I would think about if I could find the time...

Christmas is less than a week away (for those of us who celebrate it on Christmas Eve) and, of course, like most other people in our society, we're running around like hairy goats trying to get everything done around here.

My mum and s-dad are visiting us at the moment which is great.

As well as this there is Christmas shopping still to be done, including groceries, and on Friday it looks as if we're going to spend most of the day up at the boys' school running between junior school end of year concert and the year six final assembly before the school year come to an abrupt end at 1.30pm.

There are things, though, non-Christmas related things, that I feel pressure to think about.

The pressure is all internal. I'm really the only person who cares about these things, but it's there nonetheless squeaking at the back of my mind like the proverbial wheel.

The issues with Deakin have not been sorted and I'm beginning to despair of them being sorted before Christmas.

I guess, deep down, I had probably hoped that if Deakin saw the examiners' reports (which were very favourable) they might suddenly realise what an asset my thesis would be to their program and would offer me a candidacy there and then.

Yes, well, this is probably not very realistic.

So, I should try to move my thinking towards what to do next.

I need to get published. I need a longer list of publications under my belt and I need to network.

Networking is something most writers need to do, and it is also something most writers find contrary to their nature. I know it's a stereotype, but writing is a solitary business when all is said and done, and many writers are not the type of personality to get out there and mingle and sell themselves and make nice with other people (though there are always exceptions and, boy, do I wish I was one of those).

There was a life-writing workshop at Writers Victoria that I was very keen to do, but since I first saw the event less than 48 hours ago, it's been booked out. I have put myself of the waiting list, but my concern is the cost. I may have to suck it up though because doing this workshop would tie in nicely with applying to do my PhD at RMIT.

That's another thing I have to think about. I still want to do a PhD. My first preference would be to do it at Deakin with the lovely Dr Cassandra Atherton as my supervisor, but it seems this isn't going to work out. So, as far as I can tell, my other options are RMIT or the Victorian College of the Arts through Melbourne University. RMIT offers a doctoral degree closer to the style I would prefer to do; consisting of an artefact (80%) and an exegesis (20%). The VCA on the other hand seems to be more 50/50 artefact and research, which I'm not sure is what I'm looking to do.

I still want to research Flash Fiction, but am now leaning towards incorporating life-writing and flash fiction, or perhaps even creative or narrative non-fiction (though those may be a stretch for what I'm considering writing for my thesis). I need to look into this some more.

I need to sit down and write lists. Lists of stories, lists of ideas, lists of opportunities I need to take up. I need time to think about it all, but at the moment time is crammed with life and people to feed and organise and respond to, and time is also running away - as time tends to do.

Well, this was a muddled post - sorry for that - it reflects my thinking processes at the moment; disjointed, incomplete and inconclusive.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why didn't God save the little children...

The shooting in Connecticut on my birthday has been in the media for the past day and a half and I've read and participated in debates about gun control, and shed tears over the loss of life and compared this horrific event to the mass knife attack in China, also at a primary school, where every one of the 22 victims survived.

For me the ugliest part of the aftermath has been the debate about God's role in the Connecticut shooting.

Yesterday I read about Bryan Fischer and Mike Huckabee's comments on the shooting and I was appalled and dismayed that this tragedy would be used to point the finger of blame at non-believers, or even at believers who did not fight hard enough to enshrine Christian religious instruction or prayer into the school's everyday schedule. Essentially, another blame the victims attack which has come to characterise right-wise conservative politics in the US.

There are so many things wrong with this attitude that I struggle to know where to begin.

1. God is omnipotent - I'm not sure people understand what this means. It means no one tells God what to do. God has been many places God is not invited, if you believe faithfully in the word of the Bible there are many instances shown of God being present and performing miracles where not invited. To suggest God is hamstrung by the lack of an invitation is to box God into a man-made constraints.

2. Let's say the non-believers did not invite God into the school, is God then not allowed to protect the believers who pray to him every day for coverage and blessing? I'm sure, amongst the number of murdered children, there were those who prayed to God every day, who read the Bible with their families every day - they may not have done so on school grounds, but I don't remember reading in the Bible that God's protection was subject to circumstance. As I understand it, the believer is under the grace of God at all times in all circumstances.

3. Who says God wasn't in the school that day?

This is just one story of self-sacrifice and great love which has come from the Connecticut shooting - and I'm sure there are others. If this is not an example of God's grace, then what is?

4. Let's say the laws in the US were changed to bring back prayer to the schools and Bible readings and Christian religious education. Would no child ever die on a school ground ever again? Has no Christian child ever died in the house he or she lived in, where God was invited in on a daily basis? Would the non-believers be as protected as the believers? Would praying protect those who did not believe in their heart of hearts?

There were doubtlessly children who believed amongst the murdered, were they penalised because their parents didn't fight hard enough to ensure God's invitation into schools?

If God had an invitation, would he protect those who do not believe in him.

What a fickle God man seems to be creating in the wake of this horror!

How diminished by man is God becoming because children died and humans need someone to blame. Some blame God. Some blame the believers who didn't invite God onto school grounds. Some blame the non-believers who are quite happy for believers to believe, but not to proselytise to their children.

Who would Jesus blame?

Last thing I read, Jesus didn't play the blame game.

Go love your children. Go pray to your God. Stop diminishing the omnipotent being you claim to worship.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!


I don't feel a day over 28... Well, most of the time.

I went and cut off all my hair again...

I jokingly told a friend, 'Other people give up caffeine and sugar, I give up hair!' I was going to grow it long, but in the end I just felt middle-aged with a neither-here-nor-there style and that's not really me. I'm growing old disgracefully, not out of a sense of rebellion, but because I love trying new things. The hairdresser who cut my hair didn't understand my instructions at first. She started trying to cut my hair into a layered short bob (think close fitting helmet!). I picked up a mag and showed her Jamie Lee Curtis and said, 'No, this!'

She looked at me askance, 'That's very short, are you sure?'

So, of course, I told her I've shaved my head three times. I think she had seen me waddle into the salon with 20 shopping bags of groceries, in my peasant top and black pants and thought, 'Middle-aged mum haircut.' It was only when she looked closer that she spotted the tattoos, the piercings and then she realised the very short cut wasn't a stretch for me. In the end she was actually quite pleased with herself and a little surprised at how well this overweight, 40-ish woman wears ultra short hair...

In other news...

Erik had his graduation this week and had to give a one line speech - I'm so proud of him, there simply are no words to describe the feeling!

Also, the Macarena to that awful Gangnam Style song...

In other, other news...

MIL has been so generous as to give us Christmas this year - again, I have no words, I was very depressed at what Christmas was going to look like with no presents and no food, but she has come to the rescue and we have some great surprises in store for the kids thanks to her.

My parents are also being extremely generous and so all of us are going to be very blessed this year!

Back to me and turning forty-one...

This morning I received some gorgeous presents from the Grumpy Old Man and the boys...

The tall tea light holder is call 'Clementine', and you can find her at Dusk. The lotus tea light holder is also from Dusk (I really love so much of what Dusk sells - if you love candles you really have to pay a visit there - their prices are very, very reasonable). The strand of beads with elephants and mirrors is from Ishka and is another item for my growing lucky elephant collection, it has a bell on it too and I just adore bells - to me they are like angel voice warding off negative energy!

I feel very pampered today!

Tonight, I'm having some friends over for a birthday gathering-cum-Tupperware party - combining two of my favourite things; friends and Tupperware!

So, it's all fun and games here!

I love growing older. I don't believe in the reincarnation of a discrete soul, but if I did I'd think perhaps I died at a very young age in a previous life and that is why every new birthday and progression of age is so thrilling to me...

I don't really understand the trepidation with ageing. Possibly for me it's because I've never was a great beauty when I was younger and so I'm not really losing an asset I had. However, as I age and have more experiences I understand myself better and the world around me a teensy bit better as well, and for me that is comforting.

I am becoming more and more comfortable in my skin and with my life choices. I care less about what other people think of me (well, most of the time, but that's a lot less than it used to be, believe me!)...

Expect some changes and some mixing it up in the next 365 days. I'm feeling the need for a gap year, a year to be my own 'Yes Woman', a year to step outside my comfort zone - which has shrunk so much over the past few years and is now a very claustrophobic postage stamp sized space - and to do a few things I've only previously thought about but not given myself enough credit to throw myself fully into.

I've learned I only have right now. I can only affect this moment in time. I've always been a big planner, and I've always thought that if I crossed me 't's and dotted my 'i's, I could influence the outcomes in my life. More and more as I age, I find this hypothesis to be wanting.

I used to believe I could 'positive think' myself into the life I felt I should have. My brain is exhausted from the effort of that exercise.

So, now I just want to live in the moment. I've said this before, but then always slipped back into the old habit of wishing for the future. At forty-one I want mindfully practice Carpe Diem and when I feel inspired I will act - not by making a plan to do, but by doing!

Let's see where that takes me in the next 12 months...

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The problem with judging books by their cover...

I have ADHD, and as part of this disorder, I do have a strong tendency to hyper-focus and to obsess or get stuck in a loop with my thinking. This post is about something which was written in the email I received explaining why my PhD application was unsuccessful. It may appear that I'm obsessing, but please bear with me; there is a 'bigger picture' thought process within this post.

Let me quote part of the email I received.

 The difficulty in your particular case was that bothmasters supporting entry into a research Ph.D. appear to becoursework only, namely, an M.Ed. from Melbourne (2002)averaging a low H2A (72%) and an M.A. (Creative Writing)from the non-university-accredited Tabor College (2009).

I have no issue with the bare bones assumed facts of this paragraph. They assumed correctly that the Masters I did at Melbourne University was a course work Masters. They assumed erroneously that Tabor is a non-university-accredited college, and based on this assumption they, referred back to the Masters at Melbourne, which was course work and therefore didn't qualify me to enter a doctoral degree at Deakin.

The reason, I believe, the line 'averaging a low H2A (72%)' is included is to point out that even if they were able to consider a course work degree, my mark was not competitive compared to other applicants.

What stands out to me though is the context of this mark - something they cannot at all be aware of and therefore cannot be blamed for noting it only just scrapes over the minimum benchmark entry (though an H2A at Masters level is not a mark to be sneezed at in any case).

I am very pleased with that mark! In fact, I wasn't even aware 72% was my average for that degree until I received this email and I was very pleasantly surprised by this information.

You see, even though all the other applications probably had higher markers; higher percentage H2As or even H1s, I know the circumstances by which I clawed my way to that 72% average.

While doing that Masters degree I gave birth two children, and raised them to the ages of 3.5 and 18 months. I suffered with undiagnosed anti-natal depression and agoraphobia and later with post-natal depression. I worked around having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (unmedicated) and being legally blind. I had absolutely no childcare for the children, no car to drive to libraries and to deliver last minute assignments.

I know many students achieve great feats in study against unseen odds which go unrecognised by academia because they are not accounted for on transcripts or in average calculations - I know because I have lived through it.

I know that mark pales in the presence of those who achieved 85% H1s. I also know that in my circumstance a lot of those even-higher-achievers may not have managed the 72% I managed despite my circumstances.

As my mother tells her students, 'Results do not reflect ability so much as they reflect circumstance.'

On Facebook this morning a teacher friend of mine posted the following image.

There is so much truth in this photo.

So, if you have achieved a mark which is high enough to gain you access to the next echelon of academia, even if you *only scraped in*, be proud of your achievement within the context of your circumstance at the time. The percentage you received ignores so many qualities which are essential to a successful life...

The difficulty of people...

I'm constantly writing about not getting people. Today, I'm going to write three anecdotes; two about not getting people and one about finally managing to turn a potentially negative situation around using a technique I've often admired my mum for having perfected...

The first anecdote involves MIL.

If you are a long term reader, you will know we've been hoping MIL might be able to help us out with getting a car. It took the GOM three and half years to get a licence, and cost us many thousands of dollars - some of which my in-laws contributed - all because we knew FIL did not have long to live and MIL would need support and our growing family would also become more and more active as the children grew and spread their wings.

Finally the Grumpy Old Man passed his driving test in June and we thought MIL would sell FIL's old manual (which was in fantastic condition) and buy an automatic which the Grumpy Old Man could drive.

She didn't.

The more we tried to get her to see the logic of having an active driver in the family, the more she dug her heels in the ground about selling the car.

The reasons not to sell the car yet were numerous and included not wanting strangers coming to the house, not having time to wash and prep the car (something the GOM would do, anyway), the battery being dead, needing a road worthy certificate, worrying about the GOM driving, not liking the RACV guy who came out to charge the battery last time and offered her $9K for the 11 year old car...

In the end, about two and a half weeks ago, the Grumpy Old Man and MIL had a very tense conversation over the phone which left the GOM in tears of sheer frustration! They didn't speak for 10 days after that.

Finally, he calls her, expecting vitriol for not having called in so long, but there was none of that. Two days later he went to see her and noticed the car was no longer in the car port. She told him she had sold it to a man (we have no idea who, except that she identified his race and we know from that it wasn't anyone we or she knows personally), for $4K.

Yay, she sold the car, but, she sold it for less than half of what she could have sold it for and not enough to get another half-decent car, anyway. She sold while she and the GOM weren't talking. We're not sure why she suddenly changed her mind and sold it. Perhaps it was just to get rid of the bone of contention, perhaps it was spite, perhaps it was motivated by fear having realised she had greatly upset the GOM, who knows.

What I don't get about this situation was the point of months and months of aggravation to get to a point where she was finally willing to sell the car. Why was that necessary? What good did it serve?

Will she buy a car the GOM can drive now? I'm not holding my breath, to be honest, and we have decided not to even mention it now, just let the chips fall where they may.


The next anecdote involves my application to Deakin.

On Thursday I received feedback as to why my application was unsuccessful. It wasn't because of my topic or how my proposal was written - I don't think they went so far as to even read it, to be honest.

As it turns out the staff at the Higher Degree by Research application department took one look at my previous degrees and decided I had not done any substantial research previously and was therefore automatically excluded from candidature.

I received an email stating that achieving the minimum level of H2A result on my two previous Masters degrees was not sufficient to apply for a PhD at Deakin, as those degrees both appeared to be what is known as 'course work' degrees. To do a PhD at Deakin, applicants must have completed a research degree to a minimum H2A level.

They further said, it appeared the institution at which I had completed my most recent Masters was not a University accredited institution. 

Finally, they stated that my 'thesis' (their quotes) was listed as a 'major manuscript' A-H and therefore not substantial enough to be considered an actual thesis and had not been examined externally.

In other words, they believed I was a twit who did not understand how applying for a PhD works.

Of course, all these assumptions are erroneous.

Tabor is TESQA accredited. My degree was a research degree with a research thesis consisting of a 40K word artefact and a minimum 8K exegesis (essay about the work and its main themes and place in a larger body of similar works). The thesis was externally examined by Dr Jodie George, who is a full time lecturer at UniSA and Dr Julia Archer whose creative writing PhD came from Flinders University.

I have contacted practically every staff member who worked at the Humanities Department at Tabor when I was enrolled there to clarify all of this and am hoping to be able to forward Deakin an official letter stating the facts which contradict their assumptions.

The thing is, they didn't check their facts. They never spoke to my referees who would have been able to reassure them I'm not a twit. All this frustration could have been avoided with a phone call.

Just the first two frames say it all for me, really...


On Thursday - before receiving the email from Deakin - I was pretty much walking on air after having turned a potentially disappointing encounter on its head.

You see, we needed to get a painting I inherited from mum reframed. I had called on Monday to check how much it would cost to do this, and been quoted $30-35, which sounded very reasonable. So, on Thursday the Grumpy Old Man, Ari and I set off to the framers.

We were a little excited to check this place out because the owner (or manager, I'm not sure which) was the man who presented Erik with his prize at the school art show in November and he had seemed quite impressed with Erik's work. He was also the person I had received the quote from.

So, we arrived and went to the counter. The woman behind the counter seemed harried. She asked how she might help and I showed her the painting and explained what needed doing. She immediately asked who painted the painting and I explained the painter was Icelandic. She said the painting really needed to be remounted as well as reframed, but I explained the mount had the painters signature on it and so we needed to keep it in place. She said the mount was not acid free, and she could attach the section of the mount with the signature on it to the back of the painting, but I was concerned changing the mount might upset mum so said I just wanted to keep it.

She wasn't happy that I hadn't taken her advice.

She quoted the cost of the labor and it came to approximately another 40% over what I had originally been quoted, but I wasn't sure how to mention this without getting her further off side.

Then it occurred to me to ask if several of the paintings hanging on the walls were by a particular painter. Immediately, I noticed the slightest change in her demeanour as she realised I recognised the artist, she asked if I knew him. I said he was the father of my sons friend and that we lived on the same street and the boys went to school together.

Her face lightened further.

I mentioned that I had called earlier in the week and been quoted a lower price. She stiffened up again and asked who I had spoken to, I said Karl*, she pulled a face, but nodded to acknowledge that if he quoted me that amount she would charge me the amount he quoted.

I then asked if Karl had been at the school art exhibition a couple of weeks earlier, she brightened considerably at this question and said he'd been a judge there. I said he had awarded my son a prize at the art show and this impressed, I then added that it was Karl's attendance of the art show that had brought us to the shop today because as soon as we realised the painting needed reframing we thought of this place.

That seemed to make her day and after that she was very friendly and cheerful.

Basically, I used all the rather tenuous connections I had to people and events she was likely to respect to build a rapport with her. This is a skill I've watched mum do and have never been able to emulate. I find connecting with other people very challenging. I feel a lot of it contrived (at least on my part) and that causes me to feel uncomfortable, but on Thursday I found trying to connect with woman actually led to feeling more at ease and leaving the shop happy, rather than leaving the shop disappointed because the other woman was feeling stressed at a busy time of the calendar year for the business.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to replicate this experiment, but I'm so pleased to have achieved this outcome at all!

*not his real name

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Are you one of those people who finishes other people's...


You did, didn't you?!

Some of you did it silently in your heads, but a couple of you said it out loud.

Yes, I heard you, because I'm a bit special like that...

Some people find it very rude that others have the compulsion to finish their sentences for them.

Conversely, it can be very frustrating being the kind of person who feels compelled to finish other people's sentences - I know, I fight this urge constantly!

But for those of us who struggle with this I just want to say it's not our fault!

It really isn't!

It's not that we are impatient or think we are smarter than those we converse with. It's simply that we have been conditioned to be this way, and it can be very difficult for some people to undo early conditioning.


What am I talking about?

Let me illustrate with a short anecdote from today which led to me thinking about this issue.

The Grumpy Old Man and I were on an errand with Ari. We were waiting for a bus at a bus stop. The bus was approaching yonder intersection and I pointed it out to Ari.

'There's the bus, Ari, it just needs to get through the lights and turn the corner.'

'Is the light red, Mummy?'

'Yes, it's red and in a second it'll turn to..'


'That's right, it'll turn to green!'

Do you see what I did there?

I asked him a leading question, I paused and gave him the opportunity to finish my sentence for me and thusly show he understood what we were discussing. I cued him!

This got me thinking...

We do this to children a lot!

We do it when they're infants and can't fill the blanks themselves - we fill in the blanks for them.

We do it when they're toddlers, and preschoolers and primary schoolers.

We still do it occasionally when they're high schoolers and Uni students - beyond the undergraduate degree it's considered a little condescending though...

The things is, while most people eventually learn that others really don't require you to finish their sentences for them, some of us get still get the buzz of achievement out of correctly anticipating the conclusion of another's thought processes.

We not trying to be rude, we're actually trying to please others by showing we are paying attention!

Bless, bless Sif xxx

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Pleeeeeaaaaase! Call yourself a feminist!

This blog post is brought you thanks to many of my feminist friends who posted this article on Facebook this morning...

The article laments the fear of so many young women these days have about calling themselves feminists.

It argues - part in sarcasm, part in desperate pleading - that feminism is not about being angry or man-hating, although the author resorts to name-calling, despite this assertion.

'Did she just say she's not a feminist? She's obviously oppressed by The Patriarchy!'

What this article and its writer, Mary Elizabeth Williams, fails to understand is why so many women do not identify as feminists - its not just about not wanting to be perceived as an angry man-hater.

Busily and desperately trying to explain that feminism is not homogenous; that they do not all agree with one another, and that the true basis of feminism is only the belief that women are equal and have a right of authority over their own bodies, this article, like so many before it fails to see the forest for the trees.

You see, I'm not afraid to call myself a feminist, and quite frankly being challenged with the 'scaredy-pants' call-out does nothing to persuade me to identify as a feminist, either. The reason I don't identify as a feminist - despite knowing women are equal and despite believing I have an absolute authority over my own body - is that I don't believe in a particular conspiracy called The Patriarchy.

It seems, in recent times. feminists have been careful not to mention the word 'patriarchy' as much when trying to persuade other women - despite their protestations - they really are feminists. This also seems to be something every feminist I've ever met has in common; they tend to believe they know other people better than those people know themselves.

I used to hear a lot, 'We're all controlled by the patriarchy; whether we know we are or not, whether we believe we are or not. We are all oppressed by the patriarchy, even if we don't feel oppressed.' This statement of fact is not disimilar to, 'You are a feminist, even if you don't think you are - because you believe you are equal to men and should have the authority over your own body.'

What that statement doesn't mention is the little feminist clause of essentially having to believe there is an over-arching conspiracy theory call 'The Patriarchy'. You really must believe there is a conspiracy movement to oppress women - and men, too, it now seems... I'm sure there will be feminists who say they don't believe in the patriarchy conspiracy, but scratch the surface and they're all fighting the invisible evil force which compels men to oppress women, this belief is essential to the other belief that feminism is necessary. In the end it's a war - a war against the faceless patriarchy which controls and oppresses us all.

According to feminists this is why even though 95% of the magazine publishing industry is governed by women, written by women, and sold to women, they still uphold the cults of thinness and materialism. The patriarchy controls powerful, educated, supposed self-possessed women like the invisible demons which possess non-religious folk. This is also why women force female circumcision on their daughters and nieces and granddaughters in Africa. This is why women abuse their children. It all comes down the conspiracy theory of The Patriarchy.

And there you have it, I believe, the main reason so many women do not identify as feminists; they simply don't believe in the conspiracy theory.

As an aside, what is the desperate need for using the word feminist? Why is it so important women who already believe in equality and a woman's right over her own body must also call themselves feminists?

The hegemony of feminism, of the belief in the conspiracy of the patriarchy, and the desperate need to identify specifically as a feminist is off-putting. Is feminism a religious order? No? It certainly comes across as one, 'Be like us, or suffer eternal damnation - save yourselves, believe in Feminism!'

I don't care how nice all the feminists I know are (though, I have to admit, to one degree or another they're all pretty bloody angry, despite protestations to the contrary). I don't care whether or not 'All feminists do not believe the same thing' (well, except, you know, that whole patriarchy conspiracy thing... Hey, I could be wrong, but so far I haven't met a feminist who doesn't believe in some sort of patriarchal conspiracy). I simply don't identify as a feminist.

Now, if I - as with so many other women - have simply completely misunderstood what feminism is about, then feminism has a serious PR problem.

Chances are though every last feminist will say I'm oppressed by the patriarchal conspiracy...

And that's where they lose me.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The application wait is over...

So, if you have me on Facebook or Twitter, you already may have heard the news regarding my PhD application.

For those of you who are new to the blog, I applied to do a PhD in Creative Writing at Deakin University back at the end of August. At the same time, I also applied for a scholarship. Almost as soon as I submitted the forms, I regretted having applied for a scholarship because a) I was fairly certain I wouldn't get one and b) the Uni wouldn't process my degree application until after the close of the scholarship application round on October 31st.

One of the biggest challenges I was told to having a PhD application accepted was finding an appropriate supervisor, but I was very lucky in that regard, hooking up with a Deakin lecturer who was very keen to support my application.

The wait was a very long one, over three months of agonizing and fearing not being successful, but everyone was sure I'd get in. The lady who bought Erik's painting at the fair used to work in the Deakin research applications office and told me at the beginning of November that she thought I only had a very slim chance of getting a scholarship, but I would definitely get into the degree.

So, I waited and checked the mail with increasing anticipation and trepidation. On Friday when there was no letter in the mail I posted on Facebook that I might get something this week...

Then I checked my email...

My application had been processed!


I didn't get the scholarship - which didn't really surprise me considering all the research fellows I would have been completing with...


I didn't get into the degree!

That's right, I didn't get in.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised considering the support I'd had from my potential supervisor.

I'm in no way taking this as a reflection of my ability. I know I have it in me to do a PhD. However - because I rang to clarify that it was a 'no' to the scholarship and a 'no' to candidature despite me opting to do the degree even without a scholarship, I found out - 150 people applied to do a PhD at Deakin in this round. Every year only a handful of Doctors graduate, so obviously, there were far more applicants than academics to supervise them.

Institutions also tend to have research goals, and my particular research area (which is very new, and a humanities area - and most Unis, including Deakin, are downsizing their humanities departments) might not have fit in with Deakins preferred direction, whereas several other proposals may have.

As gaining a PhD is one of my life goals - one of only a couple left - my next move is to apply to RMIT and the Victorian Colleges of the Arts, which is part of Melbourne University.

I have to get moving on these applications; RMIT is time sensitive, not sure about VCA yet.

However, I'm still waiting to hear from the Genius Bar about being able to pick up my much missed computer, too.

I have to admit I've been on a massive emotional rollercoaster ride over the past couple of days; wondering if I was worthy of admission to a PhD, wondering what the point of all this struggle is, wondering if I'm cursed. Yes, I'm sure there is an existential angst blog post brewing... Maybe tomorrow.

Bless, bless Sif xxx

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Never Gonna Give You Up...

On Friday I got myself all dolled up...

And went into the city to have dinner on Little Bourke Street (chicken and vegetables with fried noodles) with a couple of lovely ladies.

Afterwards we took ourselves off to The Palace for a concert...

Now, to put this in context, in the mid-80s I was living in Iceland ('82-'85) and Norway ('86-'89), so I don't really know the music of the Chantoozies or Wa Wa Nee. They weren't too bad, but the highlight for me was Rick!


Wa Wa Nee

Besides all the songs - most of which I knew off by heart - and the voice; which is still amazing, despite his 47 years, Rick Astley is a funny guy! He swears a lot more than I ever imagined he would, which was funny in-and-of-itself because of his ultra clean cut image in the eighties.

He talked a lot with the audience, got all the blokes in the room to sing (Aussie blokes can actually sing quite well), did an AC/DC cover (I know, who would've thunk it!), rocked some Motown, and had a unknown could-barely-hold-tune-but-thought-she-could on stage to sing part of one of his songs for her birthday (and she didn't want to give the mic back - did I mention she was from Sydney, when he mentioned this everyone boo'd. Ha!)...

I'm pretty sure he styled his hair and dress this way for nostalgic reasons!

Despite wearing flats, my feet where killing me by the end of almost four hours of dancing!

Was a fun night!

It dawned on me I've been to more concerts this century a.k.a. since having kids, than I ever went to last century!

Bless, bless Sif xxx

Good Job!