Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I'm a bit miffed at myself...

Something like three years ago I started the process of learning braille. It was a slow and arduous process. I was one of those people whose fingers weren't really that sensitive at first. Then they got too sensitive and because of my synesthesia, I started to feel sea sick every time I read. So, I didn't practice a lot - which was the wrong thing to do because with practice I eventually stopped getting sea sick. Because I didn't practice a lot, I often turned up to the private tutoring sessions without having done my homework.

After a while, I started to feel a bit embarrassed about not getting the homework done, so I cited my degree as putting me under a lot of pressure (which it was) and took a break. About nine months later I picked up the game again. I did do more homework, though not enough still - let's face it, I tend to switch off at home, no one can accuse me of not having a work-life balance.

Slowly, slowly though I worked my way through the readings and work books and finally in February or March this year I finished the course. As soon as I got this job, I planned to use my job access money to get a BrailleSense refreshable brailler. I knew I needed to get one to keep my braille literacy going. As well as this I also knew that one day I'll need this just to work more effectively. I have to admit though that I haven't done a lot of brailling since I got the digital brailler.

It's showing. I am supposed to be using the brailler to take notes when out and about, but I'm not nearly fast enough to do that at the moment. I also seem to have forgotten a lot of the abbreviations and word signs. I'm pretty annoyed at myself right now. I keep taking the machine home, but as I said, I'm not good at bringing work home, and I'm usually wiped by the time I get home. Honestly, I get home, have a coffee and then go to bed. At about 9pm I get up, cook myself some dinner, watch a bit of TV and then go back to bed. There isn't a lot of time in there for practicing braille and besides I just want to wind down.

This is one of the things about having a disability and working full time (or part time for that matter). So much energy throughout the day goes to all the extra attention used in working around the disability to get the work done in a timely fashion, to get around on public transport, to not fall down because of divots in the footpath, etc. We use twice the energy of an able-bodied person. We're exhausted by the time we get home. On top of that, I'm an introvert, so a whole day of chatting with people, being in a busy office, and traveling on public transport is exhausting enough on it's own.

Anyway, I think I'm going to have to book in with our local braille expert, if she has time, and do some refresher work.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Problem Solving Therapy...

I am currently undertaking training for the role of problem solving therapist in our office - along with another staff member, thank goodness! I started with a week long intensive, and am now doing some on-the-ground group sessions with clients. Next up will be four or five one-on-one therapy sessions each with two different clients (possibly more, but they're trying to limit time impact on our main roles as we spend one hour a week with each client), and after that I'll be a professional problem solving therapist. It's a thing, apparently.

It's another notch on my belt, another item for the resume. It all contributes. I'm now on a leadership steering committee, I'm a co-vice chair for a disability employment network, I've received a certificate for training in recognising dementia and working with people with dementia. I'm about to start supervising and supporting a group of volunteers at the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital. It is all experience that can go on the resume.

The problem solving therapist gig is the interesting one for me, though. It is all so much common sense, steps I've been applying all my adult life. In fact, I often day-dreamed about running seminars on problem solving strategies. Strange that I now have training and a formal role as just such a therapist.

I'm still keeping up the writing and research though. I'm currently waiting to hear back about a proposal I submitted about ten days ago. I have the first round of articles ready to go. I'm thinking I'll just start the paper anyway. If it isn't accepted for this call-out, then there is another coming up next month it would also be suitable for.

I feel that I'm moving forward now instead of treading water. I guess that is the benefit of having problem solving skills. It took me a while but then when I made a move, everything just seemed to fall into place.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The difference one year makes...

It's that time of year when the house is under siege from the influx of forms from school. There's City Experience for Luey, Camp for Ari (his first, Lord help the teachers), and swimming of course.

And then there are the forms for next year from the high school. Registering for VET for Luey, and enrolling into high school for Bryn (my baby!!!). Bryn is absolutely chaffing at the bit to get into high school. He has enjoyed this year at school, enjoyed his friends, but now he's ready to move onto the next stage. One of his friends is going to the same high school which will be great for both of them.

I was thinking about all of this the other day and thinking about how much things have changed in the past year. Ari has been on ADHD medication for a year now, and there have been absolutely no messages from his teachers about his behaviour. He is concentrating so well in class now that he's actually been taken off homework because it would be far to boring and useless to him. I'm hoping he'll be okay next year when he's the only Bird boy left in primary school. He is the only one of ours to be in primary school on his own, and he'll be doing it for the next three years. He doesn't hang out with Bryn and his friends a fair bit - on the periphery - so, I do worry that he'll be lost without them. Maybe he'll establish some stronger bonds with kids his age in the more intensive environment of the 3/4 camp.

Every year we've struggled to make ends meet in the last quarter of the year. Last year, we had to curtail Luey's enthusiasm for the City Experience a bit because while the groups who spend three days going into the city together doing activities, we just couldn't afford for him to do expensive stuff like the Aquarium.

This year there will be no worries, he can enjoy the days with his friends without the underlying knowledge that it is stretching up to our max.

Also, after years and years of not sending the boys to school swimming because we couldn't justify the cost - taking into account that the boys never learned any swimming skills in the years they participated. This year we can send them 'just because'.

A year ago, I was looking at a couple more years doing with the PhD. I was frustrated that I still hadn't had any work. Struggling with anxiety to the point of repeated illness. Struggling with my ever diminishing vision. It was bad.

The thing is, when things are terrible, it is hard to see that they won't stay that way. Money has been extremely tight at our house for over a decade with neither of us working more than casually for short periods of time. Money has been a source of tension for what seems like forever. I couldn't see a time when it would be different. But here we are a year later and things are different, very, very different.

And it is good!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Weighing in on the Equal Marriage Plebiscite...

Now, aside from the argument that this plebiscite is a colossal waste of money that could be directed at far more worthy issues - it is happening, by high court order, and so the debate has raged for a number of days now.

I heard this morning that there is an increased demand of mental health helplines. An increase of demand to the point of having to put on more staff. I'm sure the Government will now claim they have created more jobs *massive eye roll*.

I fall on the side of the 'yes' vote. I believe in equal rights that do not harm other people. As far as I can see, enshrining same-sex marriage in the law will not harm other people. It will not take away the right of heterosexual couples to get married. It will not affect freedom of expression of religious bodies, and as long as businesses can prove a direct link to religious bodies, it will not affect their choice to provide service to same-sex couples.

Having a personal opinion about same-sex couples will not change the status quo - if your personal opinion is that you should be allow to kill people who offend you, the law says you aren't allowed to do that either. So, no treating other people with respect, you know, because they are people, is no more allowable in society now than would be if same-sex couples were allowed to marry.

The argument that this is somehow going to support gay people in abusing children is preposterous, but let's go there for a moment. If gay people will be pedophiles after equal marriage becomes law, then what is stopping them now? And more to the point, have heterosexual people - who are allowed to marry - abstained from pedophilia because they didn't marry their defacto partners.

Gay couples can, and do, adopt or create children now - without marriage. How is legalising same-sex marriage going to change that? Single people are also allowed to adopt or have babies out of wedlock, who is publicly campaigning for the rights of those children to have a mother AND a father?

Then there is the argument that people are being bullied into voting 'yes'. Denying someone's right to equality isn't bullying?

So, here I come with my final point. One of the main arguments I've heard for voting 'no' is that it will create a slippery slope, of a range of things including, but not limited to, the undermining of the rights of people who disagree (???). It will also support the attach on the Church - because, you know, the Church has never attacked any population who doesn't support them.

People said the same thing about the indigenous people having the right vote, allowing them to keep their own children, allowing them use the same bathrooms, and have basic respect on the streets. Has society fallen apart in the wake of this? What about women being allowed to vote? The collapse of society? These changes have been about people being treated with respect and having their basic rights acknowledged. Defacto relationship didn't use to have the same rights married relationships, that also changed, with not even a ripple of public debate.

As far as I can see, voting 'no' is voting against people's right to equal respect in society and people who vote 'no' should really ask themselves if that sits well with their conscience.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Public transport and common courtesy...

My main source of transport is public transport. Sure, Dave has a license now, and we have a relatively new and reliable car, but Dave can't drive me to work or home again.

So, I take two trains and a bus twice a day. Some days I also travel elsewhere for work and then it is more trains and more buses, and what I simply cannot wrap my brain around is the lack of courtesy of some commuters.

For the most part public transport commuters tend to cooperate with each other, understanding that the smooth flow of travel requires people to be considerate and courteous. Others either don't travel by public transport very often or simply don't give a shit.

Two things, in particular, annoy me - 'annoy' is likely an understatement as I far too often consider homicide. The first is people who choose to stand right at the card scanner before retrieving their card from their bag - mostly this is women, but sometimes men.

Seriously? You can't think ahead? I know 7.20am is not a great time for clear thinking but one would at least consider sheer self-preservation would motivate you to not create a traffic jam at the turnstalls. If I thought Harlem would do it, I'd sick him on these public transport transgressors. Can't they tell people running for a train do not appreciate being made to come to a screeching halt as they are trying to get through the gate? I'm about ready to start screaming, 'MOVE!' at them, but I'm too courteous.

In a similar strain, people who stand on the wrong side of the escalator - particularly when they have NO ONE to the left of them. This is how it works people; if you aren't walking or, even better, running up or down the stairs, then stand on the left hand side and let other commuters pass you! If I can line up behind my dog so other commuters can pass us, then you can move your lazy arse into that empty space next to you. And if there isn't an empty spot next to you, then move up the escalator until you find an empty spot you inconsiderate, self-important nut-job!

Honestly, people need to watch out when I'm going up or down those escalators because I'm legally blind and I'm likely to walk right into you and either ram your arse with the top of my head (thank goodness for headscarves!), or push you down the stairs ahead of me.

So, if you travel on public transport, either occasionally, or all the time, watch the majority of the people around you and mimic their considerate behaviour, it really isn't that hard and it could save your life!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I'm being published in TEXT!

The paper my colleague and I submitted to the call-out for the special edition on poetry for TEXT (an A-ranked writing journal) has been accepted! The process has taken quite a while with us submitting a proposal ten or eleven months ago, and then submitting the paper in April (or was it May, I forget). Finally, tho, the word came through yesterday that our paper will be published, and with that the seminal peer reviewed article in English (possibly in any language, I don't know) addressing the difference between prose poetry and flash fiction. I'm proud as punch as there are very few journal articles about flash fiction in the English speaking world, this one being one of a very, very small number doing something other than defining the form. Of the papers I have been able to find (and I've done a lot of hunting, a lot!), I'm the first to have my name on more than one paper. Perhaps other researchers aren't interested enough in the form to do more than one paper, I don't know. They may specialise in other areas and Flash just came along related to whatever else they were researching?

I need to follow up on the proposal I submitted last Friday. I really hope it was added to the pool of proposals but I haven't heard anything. I have another journal call-out I can submit the proposal to if this one falls through, so that's okay.

With the book publication, the new job, the peer review job, and the being published in TEXT, I'm having the best year I've had in over a decade.

I can't help but run over the conversations I had at the beginning of the year with the head of school about withdrawing from the degree. He'd said I was giving up on a great opportunity. That potential employers would be impressed by a PhD - to which I'd said that outside the academy no one really cared about PhDs. He'd said publishing wasn't that important, finishing the PhD was important. He simply not taken my issues with my supervisor, and my concerns over being denied opportunities seriously. I guess they thought I was bluffing, or maybe worse than that, that I just didn't have the goods to produce work that would be quality enough. Maybe that I couldn't do the thesis and write a paper at the same time.

Well, I'm working a full time job (which isn't just walking in, shuffling papers, and leaving - I'm project managing, liaising with councils, and working on panels and network committees, and learning a whole range of new tech at the same time) and still managing to write creatively and professionally. They should have had just a little more respect for my abilities and dedication. In any case, I feel quite vindicated now.

On-wards and ever upwards!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Did I tell you I've finally finished decluttering?

That is to say, as much as I'm going to for the time being.

At this very point in time, there isn't anything in our house that we don't either need or absolutely love - and even the things we love have been kept to a minimum, to the OMG! I cannot get rid of this, kind of level.

There is always, obviously, more that can be done, in that it is now in a state of maintenance, but the big bits, the 'mission' is done. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with my weekends now. Here are a few photos.

Bryn isn't wholly impressed. He said, in absolute disgust, the other night, 'This room is too empty!' He was referring to the lounge room/dining room area where we've purged the room of four large pieces of furniture, and a long rubber runner we'd put down so Harlem wouldn't slip on the floor when he was recovering from surgery on his leg.

There is a big open space in the room. A great swath of floor is visible now, but it is refreshing and freeing, and spacious. The rest of us are happy with it and I now fear Bryn might have hoarder tendencies...

With so much big furniture gone, I've found there are not a lot of options for displaying stuff items (Ari has informed us the word 'stuff' is henceforth banned as it doesn't really mean anything). In fact, there really only is that place in the hallway. We can put things on the coffee table, but we like to keep that clear so Dave can see the TV at its new, lower position when he is laying on the couch - which he does most nights, and he doesn't actually watch TV so much as snooze.

This means I'm less inclined to keep much in the way of nic-nacs. In fact, I can think of more I could be donating.

So, there you go, all done (the big part, the pre-maintenance phase). It has been an epic quest, but so worth it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

All things publishing...

So, my book is now all official-like and everything. The launch went well, we filled the shop - okay, the shop wasn't particularly big, but still. Besides Dave and the boys, I had a bunch of friends from work and life. I made a speech - of which I remember very little. I answered a few questions, which I remember even less of, and of course, I signed books. I think signing a queue of books was probably the most fun. I tried to write something a bit meaningful. I really hate receiving a signature which just says something like, 'To Sif, X'. It's so perfunctory and leaves me a little cold considering I bought the book and stood in line for however long. Mind you, I realise if you're somewhat more famous than me - which would really take nothing at all - and have to sign a hundred or more books, you might get a bit bored by it all.

In other news. I submitted a paper proposal for a peer reviewed paper on Friday. If that is accepted and the paper reviews well and is published, I might potentially have had two papers published this year. That would be more than I ever had published in any year of my degree - in fact, it would be more than I had published in the three and a half years I put into the degree. These submissions are basically to get some practice and experience. They are warm up papers, so to speak.

I have plans. I'm hoping to get a few papers published in respected international journals, and approach a university to see if I might possibly have a go at getting a PhD by publication. Now, we might be talking a long time here, but it would be all real-life work. If I can pull this off, I will have properly proven myself as a researcher, and I will have much more than just a thesis to show for my degree.

Eight months out from withdrawing, the trauma and numbness is subsiding and in its place is a rising, red-hot determination. I know I have what it takes to be a researcher and to contribute to the research of Flash Fiction as a form. I know the area needs far more publication in English than is currently available, and I know I have the passion for the format to drive filling that gap.

My next book is also underway and will incorporate Flash with an overarching narrative - this will be the basis of one of my papers. I started paving the way for publication of that book on Thursday. Having met the publishers face-to-face, and having gotten along famously with the publisher's wife, who shares my passion for short forms and all they have to offer both children and adults, I feel the networking on the night was very beneficial. Who knows, I may have happened on a new comradeship as well, maybe.

I'm feeling quite a buzz for what I'm doing, right now, on the writing front. I feel like I haven't had to give up on my plans just because I walked away from the PhD. Oh, by the way... In the end, it turned out there was no problem with me peer reviewing that paper submission last week, so I handed that in on Tuesday. Another little piece of experience under my belt.

It is amazing to me how many doors have opened up since I decided to withdraw from the PhD.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Book launch tonight!

It's here!

The day my book is going to be launched!

Man, it's been a long time coming. I've been published several times before in anthologies, and have been to launches of those books, but this is different.

This is MY BOOK. All mine with my name (and photo) on the cover.

As the battery on my laptop is about to die and I don't have my charger on me, I'm going to keep this brief.

The details (again):

6.30pm at Readings Kids, at 315 Lygon Street, in Carlton - TONIGHT.

Be there or be square peoples!

Friday, September 01, 2017

Such an honour...

This morning I'm feeling so happy and a little sad, as well.

I received an email late last night asking if I would be able to peer review an article for an A-list journal in my field. When I read this, I was like, 'Wow!' and then the realization that I couldn't accept the offer dawned on me.  You see, I have submitted to the same journal call-out, so there would be a conflict of interest. Ah well, it's still nice to have been considered - even if it was last minute.

I have to wonder though, given my specialty being so small, perhaps I was asked because I am one of the leading researchers in this very small field. And then I have to wonder if, perhaps, I was being asked to review my own paper!

That would have been hilarious. I can see it now...

'This article is pure genius. The references are superb. The insight, oh, the insight is astounding. I would worship at this researcher's feet if I knew them!'

Hilarious! I haven't been able to get the grin off my face all morning.

Good Job!