Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There really is no excuse for not reading...

I took delivery of a couple of books today. I've been really looking forward to getting these for a number of reasons.



As you can see one of them is written by this year's Man Booker Award winner, Lydia Davis. She was quite a controversial selection because she mainly writes short fiction, very short fiction, micro-fiction, if truth be told. In fact, I counted five stories in her anthology which were only one line long - and I may have missed some because I was flicking through the book and it's easy to miss stories which are less than a page in length when you flick through a book.

Long time readers of the blog will know I struggle with reading. Having ADHD doesn't help, but the main reason is that I'm slowly - though less slowly these days - going blind. I can only read regular print when my focus co-operates, and more and more it is not co-operating. At work I now have a brilliant machine which enlarges print for me, but it's not something I can carry around in my pocket.

I have an app on my phone I can use to magnify print, but it is designed - and is very useful - for reading short bits of text; the sort you might find as directions on a medication bottle or your 2-minute noodles.

So, less and less I have found myself disposed to reading in recent years.

Time is also a consideration. Having the time - and mental space is a part of time as well - to read is hard when you're a mother of four kids, doing a PhD and somewhat addicted to crocheting and painting...

So, having set that scene, let me tell you about my discovery, my new-found lust, and the solution to my reading problems (no writer worth her weight in books doesn't read, you know!)...

VERY SHORT FICTION: also known variously as Flash Fiction, Micro fiction, Short-short fiction, Nano fiction, Smoke Long Fiction, Miniature Fiction, Palm Sized Fiction, Five Minute Fiction, and probably a few other names I have yet to discover.

This is what my PhD is about, so it's rather convenient for me that I will be writing flash fiction as well as reading it, and reading about it.

Very short fiction is great for people with not a lot of time or concentration. You can read a story in a few minutes - or a few seconds - and believe me when I tell you well written flash fiction can stay with you a life time, so don't be put off by it's brevity.

What the old saying? 'It's not how big it is, but what you do with it, that counts!'

Get into it, there's no excuse not to read now!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Alone... And Stuff...

Do you ever just need to be alone?

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As the boys are growing up, we have more times when the house is quiet. The youngest will be asleep. One will be reading, one will be playing on his computer with headphones on, one will be painting and there is stillness.

Sometimes, even that is not enough.

Sometimes I crave being alone, with no possibility of someone suddenly realising they have to tell me something important or ask me a question or even just crash about in the kitchen.

Sometimes I crave S P A C E, lots and lots of space, being able to walk from room to room without encountering another soul.

This is how I felt when I woke up this morning, so instead of getting ready for work, I decided to stay home. Get up, but not go anywhere, no hear the sound of my own voice, or anyone else's.

I think this might just be part of getting older. After a lifetime of chasing after other people and trying not to be alone, my mind and body is full of thoughts, experiences, feelings, and busy-ness and now I'm finding more and more I need quiet and solitude and expanse to unwind all that stuff and just be me.

Speaking of stuff.

I was watching a documentary about the history of the first Australians, last night, and it described how the natives of Tasmania became isolated from the rest of Australia for about 10 000 years and how in that time their tool kit didn't grow or evolve much, unlike that groups on the mainland. The Tasmanians had about 30 tools in their kit, while the other Australians developed up to 120 tools. but these Tasmanians survived for millennia with just a few tools. One man commented on the ingenuity and the simple needs of humans to live comfortably with a small number of tools. He commented on how they spent far less of their time and energy on the necessities for survival than they did on developing and enjoying their culture.

He commented on how in Western Society, we measure progress in the acquisition of more and more sophisticated tools and having to do less and less ourselves. He didn't say it, but it was there in the unspoken words and yet our life balance is completely out of whack and we are more stressed and strung out than any time in our recorded history.

I imagine the first Australians didn't crave aloneness. If they wanted silence, they only needed to walk a kilometre that way and they'd find it.

I think they were a helluva lot smarter than we are...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bags...

I posted a couple of years ago about winning a designer handbag - and I modelled how I really just don't know the first thing about wearing fashionable totes. I still have that handbag and I still don't use it much - it doesn't really suit any of my outfits...

I have quite a few bags, actually. I have something of a crush on handbags and totes - and I can never really find the perfect one.

In recent years I've used these two a lot...


I love both these bags, they're just really beautiful to me. They're very roomy, too roomy really; they always end up overfilled and it's a looooooong way to the bottom of these bags. The red one has a really handy pocket on the strap which is perfect for keeping my phone and Myki close at hand thought. These bags cost me about $35 each.

These next bags I've used in the past when I didn't want to carry anything too big. You know, they always end up being too small. I never go anywhere without may purse, phone, or keys. Then I usually want to carry a drink and before I know it, these bags are bulging.



These bags were more expensive, they cost between $50-$70 each (a few years ago now, when I had that kind of money to spend on handbags).

Last week though, I found myself transferring all my crap important stuff this bag...

I picked this bag up at the School Fair a couple of years ago for $1. I wasn't sure when I was ever going to to use it, but I like it's simple lines.

I wear a lot of peasant clothing, and really this overly rectangular, black, officey document tote doesn't suit the organic, flowy, peasant look.

The thing is, I have to carry documents around with me a lot of the time, these days. Not just for Uni, but also for the various appointments for Erik and so I've ended up using this bag. As it turns out, it's actually quite perfect. It sits nicely on my shoulder, or I can carry it in hand. Everything fits and I'm no longer knocking my iPad into stuff - it even fits my lunch.

Oddly, it makes me feel more 'together' as well - I know that's really just in my head, but I actually feel more professional carrying this bag, I wonder if others will take me more seriously when I carry it? Ha!

Speaking of work, I had a supervisor meeting today and received some very encouraging feedback. Apparently, she's very impressed with my work. She said she often spends the first couple of supervisor sessions guiding and directing research students into better note-taking practice and developing their own views on topics, but I'm already doing those things well - yes, I've created a nice high pedestal to for myself to swan dive from, some time in the near future, no doubt!

I get to do some actual writing this fortnight, as well as more research and emailing a few experts in the field (that makes me nervous, approaching complete strangers even by email is well and truly outside my comfort zone, so pray or light candles or offer a sacrifice for me if you have a moment). It is reassuring to know I'm not completely flubbing my studies this early in the piece!

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Schitzotypal

I'm here... I just had a deadline to get ahead of before I could do any blogging...

Funny - well, funny is totally not the right word in this context, especially after two hours sleep and the amount of stress that inevitably accompanies this most unfunny phenomenon - how I struggle to get any work done in the past five weeks, and then this morning I do most of it in just two hours... Oh well, I have time to blog, that's the important thing...

While taking a short coffee break from reading and reviewing some flash fiction stories I read this article about creativity, eccentricity and the schitzotypal personality.

In short, it discusses the various studied links between eccentric behaviour and analysed levels of creativity in individuals. It also shows a link between schitzotypal personalities (those more open to metaphysical phenomena, more likely to dress strangely or claim to see and hear things others don't, or have a tendency towards superstition and so on) and familial histories or connections with schitzophrenia.

It does also say that schitzotypal traits are not a sign of schitzophrenia and do also occur in people who have no known family history or connection with schitzophrenia, and that highly creative people are not necessarily schitzotypal (though it is then suggested they have high IQ and or memory retention), but basically eccentricity is linked with low inhibition of stimulus absorption, i.e. highly creative people tend to have less ability to filter out stimuli which are irrelevant to their current situation and therefore are more likely to make unusual connections between ideas.

I found this all very fascinating.

I couldn't help but think that ADHD and ASD are also both 'disorders' where individuals have difficulty filtering out stimuli and a lot of highly creative people (Einstein, Gates etc.) are thought to have either one or both of these conditions.

source

The article also suggests that these schitzotypal traits are becoming more and more accepted in modern times and even sought after in the workplace. I want to believe this, I really do. I wonder though if there wouldn't be a 'normal minority' backlash if too many people were suddenly to let loose their creative, eccentric side?

Perhaps this is just paranoia on my part, but so much of society seems to be about subduing eccentrics still. From schools not allowing 'unnatural hair colour' because it seems 'less professional' to Governments refusing to legalise marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman - the state norm according to God (I have yet to hear God's personal views on this as, apparently, the only reference to God not supporting gay marriage is the writings of a man who claims to have heard God's voice thousands of years ago - as if that itself isn't schitzotypal behaviour).

It's very challenging creating those round holes, you know, circles are very precise and it takes a steady hand to determine the boundaries of what is 'normal', so no one is going to rush to start accommodating square pegs, I'm fairly certain of that.

That said, we square pegs are quite entertaining, so the round pegs have always tolerated us to some degree. We bring colour and surprise into their normal, predictable lives. As long as we aren't too confronting, too challenging, too unpredictable...

I can definitely account for schitzotypal traits being hereditary. It is running amok along one branch of my family, and the distinction between schitzotypal and normal behaviour is very evident. Though I'll leave it up to the individual branches of my family to decide which branch is the schitzotypal branch...

 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Facts About Insomniacs...

As a veteran of insomnia, I feel well qualified to disseminate a little FYI about the realities of being an insomniac and some helpful tips for living with an insomniac. Let's see...

source


  • Insomniacs are deep thinkers. This is the main reason we cannot get to sleep. We start thinking about something and then we get buried in the thought and then we can't get out again and the whole theory of 'just let the thoughts slip away, zen style' is completely lost on us because we'll probably just start thinking about the how zen itself isn't very zen because you still have a desire - the desire to let go of desire...
  • People with ADHD are notorious sufferers of insomnia - this is because a) we have overlapping thought processes; several channels of thought going at once - we can think about zen, and a den of lion, and Ken the lawn-mowing guy, and dammit the grass is getting too long in the front yard again, must call Ken, and b) we are readily distracted by every sound, car lights across the bedroom wall, that stupid bird outside who doesn't realise it's 2am...
  • We've already tried warm milk, reading before bedtime, a jog around the block, Valerian, sex, a hot bath and any other suggestion you can come up with, and now we're thinking of ways to smother you in your sleep, so thanks for the extra mind-work, that really helps...
  • Insomnia often begins in childhood, and I have a theory it is strongly link with controlled-crying or crying-it-out, so stop doing that to your babies because quite seriously, when they figure it out, you know, scientifically, you'll be on the list of people your darling child insomniac will want to smother...
  • After several sleepless nights an insomniac will suddenly find themselves drifting off to sleep effortlessly at 9pm, only to awake four hours later, and lay there wondering if drifting off effortlessly was really worth it.
  • It's a really bad idea to snore if you're the partner of an insomniac, and a worse idea to complain that a sleep mask makes it difficult for you to sleep comfortably...
  • Do not try to prevent an insomniac from falling asleep during daylight hours in the misguided assumption that somehow fighting sleep during the day will aide easy sleep at night. Insomniacs are a bit like babies, if their body says sleep, just go with it, because it's a rare bloody event, OK???
  • If your insomniac is sleeping in the wee hours just before dawn and you wake up and start thinking about your day and realise you have a question only your insomniac can answer, but that question can actually wait until your insomniac has to get up an hour from when it entered your dear, sweet, tiny mind, WAIT AN HOUR! Do not, under any circumstances nudge your insomniac and ask them your pressing completely unimportant question because once awake, your insomniac is totally screwed.
  • Do not subsequently tell your insomniac to 'just drift back off to sleep'... Not if you value your sleep...
Now, where can I buy a nice fluffy pillow?



Monday, July 22, 2013

Facing Facts...

Sometimes there's just no getting away from the truth.

Not that I'm the sort of person who runs from the truth much, but sometimes it takes a while for the truth the sink in for me.

This last week has been a bit like that.

For one thing, I've had a cold. We've had a lot of colds in our house this year. I was talking to my friend, Jayne, and realised we'd run out of Olive Leaf extract. I was probably the only one who took it regularly but possibly it was doing us, or at least me, more good than we realised. This week I developed a cough and laryngitis. The laryngitis didn't really hurt much, but I started to lose my voice. I took Friday off work - even though that deadline is pressing down now and of course, I've been slack - and then on Saturday I had decided not to go to friend's party that night, but then changed my mind in the afternoon because I was feeling a bit better having spent most of the day just lazing about. Sunday wasn't good, though, I pretty much landed right back at square one, recovery wise. I had no energy and no voice. I stayed in bed all day, only getting up last night because I desperately needed to wash some clothes for this week.

This morning I'm at work because I have to be to get this stuff done, but if I had a choice, I'd still be in bed. The cough isn't so bad and my voice is coming back, but I feel drained. The truth is soldiering on is not always the best policy, even if it seems like it'll be more fun in the short term than a quiet night in.

Another truth I have been struggling with this week is Erik's diagnosis. Last Tuesday was his first day back at school for term four. That evening I received a call from his math teacher saying she had had to send him out of class (along with several other students) for being disruptive. I have to admit, I did not receive this news well. I explained to her about having Erik assessed and how the psychologist had said Erik's pragmatic language skills (or lack thereof) might be interfering with his ability to keep up in math. This, of course, was news to her. I admitted we probably should be filling the school in on the assessment and the finding, but the truth is, I wasn't ready to do that yet.

I wanted to get him to the Paediatrician and the Speech Pathologist first and make sure we had an official diagnosis before we started putting this label on him.

The truth of that is, and I only realised this just this week while discussing it with a group of friends. While I accept the diagnosis and it all makes good sense to me, it is also the realisation that Erik will never 'grow out of' his quirks. He will probably never grow out of thinking literally and on rails, of find it difficult to transfer concepts between situations. He will probably always struggle, to some degree, with understanding what others need from him and explaining what he needs from them.

Early intervention is great and according to his psychologist I have done a lot of what any early intervention practioner would have recommended and facilitated anyway, so he's already developed a lot of skills, the progress at this age and stage is going to be slower, more incremental, more subtle than when he was six. We're a lot closer to 'as good as it gets' than we would have had he been diagnosed at a younger age.

So, yeah, this is not a phase he's going to grow out of. It's a hard fact. Whether I'm ready or not, we're going to have to talk to the school about it.

We have a speech pathologist assessment on Wednesday, and I'll call today and book in with the Paediatrician as well - which is something I've been putting off. Hopefully we can at least see them before talking to the school - so we have the full picture.

Onwards and upwards I guess...
source


 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Things I'm Learning - second week in the office.

I'm more than half way through my second week as someone who goes to (unpaid0 work, and I've learned a few things over the past 9 'work days' I thought I'd share with you guys.

  • This is a great place to blog. In fact, I find I blog first thing when I get in here and that gets the creative juices flowing - so you can pretty much guarantee that if I have blogged, it means I've been to work.
  • The reticulated air in here is hot and dry and yawn inducing, and the only way I can combat it seems to be by taking my shoes off, so I'm becoming recognised as the 'researcher in socks' - as a side note, I'm not particular about matching my socks in the morning, so I'm probably secretly known as 'that crazy odd sock lady'.
  • Researchers in the department of Arts and Education don't seem to be morning people; Imagine tumbleweed city in here at 9am...
  • Except on Fridays - on Fridays I walk in to packed cubicles. Something about Fridays seems to motivate these people. I imagine hoards of researchers waking up Friday morning and going, 'Shit! Haven't made it into the office all week, better look as if I'm actually doing something about this degree!' You know, unlike me, who comes in several time a week... To blog...
  • Going to work was fun the first week. This week it's just repetitive. What is with that? I could not wait to get in here a couple of weeks ago, to have my own space to work and think in, to have a 'work day' structure with a defined purpose and timeline. Last night I was going to bed and found myself thinking - I wish I could sleep in and not go to work tomorrow... As if I actually get to sleep in when I'm not going to work, ha!
  • My plans to go five days a week haven't actually worked out yet. Last week was school holidays so I had to be home to do stuff with the kids a couple of days. This week there have been home demands of a different kind. Part of the problem has been that I haven't had a personal phone here until today, so hopefully having that will help, but seriously when you have a large family and you are the person who usually organises appointments, payments, applications, purchases and so on and so forth, then it's not easy to do all that when you also have to be at work outside the home. Sure the Grumpy Old Man could do these things, but he won't, and often times he can't really because accounts are in my name and so on.
  • I'm actually pretty good at making cut lunches - and eating them. Who woulda thunk it?
  • The walk to the main campus takes about 10-15 minutes (so, um, not five minutes as people kept reassuring me). I'm really looking forward to moving into the new building next year and being in the middle of things - and near real coffee.
  • Long skirts and pants do not mix well with roller chairs; one must develop a 'scoop and roll' habit if one insists on wearing flowy garments!
  • I feel all grown up and stuff... Actually, I feel like a four year old wearing mummy's high heeled shoes and nightie with a string of plastic beads around my neck, but as they say 'Fake it, 'til you make it!' (no, really, that is actually what they told us in our induction seminar)



Monday, July 15, 2013

Term Three...

Term three!

I cannot believe how quickly the holidays passed this time around.

I also cannot believe that we still haven't managed to have MIL come around for a visit. By now she is probably thinking we have no intention of ever inviting her over. We will definitely have to remedy that this week. We have been discussing having a time each week when we visit her for no specific reason - that is, not for running errands, unless they happen to need running at that time, just visiting for a chat and some tea, very low key.

That would be the only low key part of our lives at the moment.

Today Lukas and Bryn went back to school for term three. Ari went back to kinder. Erik doesn't go back to high school until tomorrow, but will spend today finally finishing the painting for the 'Brushes with Life' table top book.

I was given a reprieve on the work I had due for last night because my supervisor needed to reschedule our appointment for next week instead of this week due to a tooth problem - yay! That is, yay for rescheduling, not yay for the tooth, it's totally awwww for the tooth, don't get me wrong.

Today, though, instead of getting on with the reading and reviewing of literature, I'm going to write my piece for the Brushes with Life book. I've decided to write a parable. It has been worming its way through my head for the past three weeks or so. Now I've just got to get it down on paper. I also need to come up with some sort of image to accompany the parable. I really need to think about that one.

This term Ari starts school orientation, I'm excited and nervous! He is so very ready for the academic challenges of school, but I'm just not sure how he will fair with the social demands. I was advised a few days ago - by parents of children with autism - to have him assessed now that we have a diagnosis for Erik, but while I can see he is feisty and loud and boisterous, I just don't know that he has anything else going on. Maybe I just don't want to see it. Or maybe there really isn't anything to see.

And by the end of this term, it'll be spring - woot!

So, time to get my skates on and get into work mode because term three is upon us!

 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Christmas in July...

I totally forgot to post about having Christmas in July last weekend!

It was all kinds of awesome!

There was Chrissy decoration making for the kids.


There was jumping on the jumping pillow.


There was three generations of men just chilling in the winter sun.


Spit roast arriving.


Chrissy in July showbags...


...including the annual treasure hunt.


Hanging of the children's handmade decorations. 






 Roast a-roasting on the spit.


A birthday selfie from Mr 'Turned 14 on the day'.


Table hockey!



And what is a celebration without face painting? 





Candy guess is serious business - formula were formulated and estimates estimated...


Pensive - it is crucial to get this right - a lot of lollies are at stake!


 So sweet!


 Then a thought crosses his mind...


RAWRRRRRRRR! 


Flashing lights and sirens...


It's SANTA!


When Santa asks if anyone has been good this year, Ari's hand shoots into the air - he knows the deal! 


Notice Mr 14 trying hard to be really cool in the presence of Santa...


A present for Ari!


A present and a hug for Bryn (who was certain he recognised Santa)...


Lukas isn't too cool for presents!


Bryn's solar operated robot.


Ari's military lego (Ari must have wished really, really hard!).


Erik also got a present, but was too '14' to pose with it, or show any kind of excitement. So I decided to torture him further by making him pose with his brothers with Santa, ha!


We finally got a smile out of the lad the following morning when he found out he had guessed the number of lollies EXACTLY. He generously shared with the rest of us.


 It was a lot of fun! The food was marvellous with soup, roast and several desserts to choose from (though for me there was nothing as good as the choc-mint pavlova, yum!). The boys behaved themselves (mostly) and Ari held himself together for the long 8 hour celebration (he had a lot of distractions). I hope we get to do it again next year!


Teenagers and the failing parent...