Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Picture a day: Second month

Here is my second set of Photo a Day collages from Insta! Food features heavily again, as does cat :-)




Saturday, January 12, 2019

Month of Poetry: Emulation Challenge

Today's challenge task in my Month of Poetry group was to write a poem in the style of / emulating a poet whose work you admire.

I toyed with doing an Emily Dickinson piece, but her style is so distant from mine that I felt sure I'd muck it up magnificently. And I wanted to do a 19th or 20th century poet rather than a contemporary - not sure why, but I often write better in more structured forms, so maybe that's it.

I ended up instead writing something in the style of one of the greatest of all twentieth century poets, and in my personal opinion, the greatest Irish poet of the modern era - WB Yeats.

I love most of Yeats' poetry, but my poem today is particularly inspired by one of my absolute favourites: When You Are Old.

As well as keeping the structure and metre of Yeats' poem, I have tried for the wistfulness. Yeats' poem is a to a woman he loved who did not love him back; mine is to the children who will, so soon, be grown and gone.

WHEN YOU ARE GROWN AND GONE

In years to come, when you are grown and gone
Walking the earth in sunshine and in snow
Or flying between worlds; I hope you know
there is one here who you can call upon;

When days are dark, as dark they must become
For every noon the sun-slip shadows fall,
And no human life can all griefs forestall
So when it hurts, or when you just feel numb;

The door is open - so too is my heart
To hold you close, who once I held inside
Love is not proud, yet you are all my pride
My joy, my care, together or apart.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Month of Poetry: Day 1

I'm doing Month of Poetry again this year. It has been my January tradition for 5 years now, and every year I love it more. I won't post all or even most of my poems here, as I save some up for possible further work to submit to journals, but I always like to post my New Year's Day poem ... so here it is.

A Madrigal for the New Year


the suburbs swell with drink and thumping bass
the city, distant, flower-lights the sky
a journey round the sun has passed us by.

we hope, of course, the new year brings us grace
that perhaps there will be less tears now to cry.
the heartbeat pulses in the distant bass
farewelling all the old year has put by.

the night alight with fire-wrought golden lace
while, quietly, the swooping bats' wings sigh
and we tell a story that we hope is not a lie:
that this year will be the treble to our bass,
that there are angels waiting in the sky
that life will not end, nor will it pass us by.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018, welcome 2019

I awoke from a 2-hour nap at 4pm, full of vivid, science-fiction-themed dreams. Partly this was something that just happened, but I won't deny that I strategised a bit to allow it to occur - I'm staying home this New Year's Eve, and I wanted a ballast against feeling besieged if there it lots of party noise in my street that prevents night sleep.

I'm now so rested that I'll certainly be good to see in the New Year regardless of noise, and can be
philosophical if I get no sleep at all, so that makes me feel good.

That slightly pointless little story is, as well as being a thing that happened, a relatively useful analogy for how this year has been for me as an individual, and my family at large.

We haven't magically discovered the capacity to change the world or our circumstances to suit ourselves, and we've had challenges aplenty in all areas of life.

But what we *have* gotten better at, and this is the real growth point of the year, is in finding ways to work with, instead of flailing painfully against, our lives, each other, and ourselves. Part of this has involved understanding ourselves, and each other, more fully.

Regarding the world at large, there is both too much to say and at the same time, nothing I can usefully add to the larger commentaries flooding out everywhere. Suffice it to say that while we live in interesting times globally (in the pejorative sense), we, as a family and a community, remain incredibly lucky and privileged.

Our 2018

As usual, I think the best way to try to summarise the year is in categories, and even then, I won't be including everything, or a lot of detail. In 12 months, with 5 active people, a huge amount happens! Here's a bit of a summary.

Work, Study, Hobbies and Creativity

For my elder two daughters, this has been a fantastic year at school. Completing years 8 and 9 respectively, they both excelled academically, and have also been able to pursue lots of extracurricular activities that they enjoy. 

My 15 year old plays clarinet in a band at school and will next year be doing VCE Japanese early because of her great results, while my 13 year old was in the top 10 academic achievers of her year level, was elected Social Justice Leader for 2019, and continues to be an active part of the school's photography and chess clubs.
Both girls also continued with debating, and both improved a lot this year, which thrilled my crusty old debating heart.

My 9 year old had a much more mixed year at school, for a few reasons, and we have decided in the end to move her to another school for year 5 next year. Academically, she is doing well, but we think the new environment will be a welcome circuit breaker for her. Fingers crossed!

My husband continued in the job he's now marked 15 years with, which is in itself a milestone. My freelance business grew again this year - starting the year with three ongoing clients, I've finished with five that I'll be carrying into 2019, including my Adelaide client. 

I've successfully travelled to Adelaide 8 times for work in 2018, which, combined with the flights undertaken for personal reasons (see Holidays below!) has seen me board a plane without melting down no less than 22 times, which in itself represents a massive personal triumph for me, given how much I dislike and fear air travel.

With five projects to service, I am busy, often a bit too busy, but I've been free to really focus on paying down the mortgage and putting money away against leaner times (because those will come, they always do), and that makes me feel more secure. 

I've relied heavily on my terrific subcontractor this year, and will be again in 2019. And in a great bonus, three out of my five clients sent me expressions of satisfaction with my work that were made at their governing body's final meetings of the year, so that is always very satisfying.

Creatively, it has been a good year, with one major disappointment. I won a poetry prize in May (the Ada Cambridge Commended) and my poems, Saudade and After an Ocular Migraine, were published in an anthology, so that was nice. 

My 15 year old had three poems published in an anthology put together by her online poetry group, which was also great. 

My 13 year old's creativity was largely expressed physically / visually, with her burgeoning interest in cosplay and particularly cosplay dance. She is now in two separate cosplay dance groups, which she is loving.

My 9 year old discovered both writing creatively and music this year, and is keen to do more of both next year. She and I are currently writing a story together, which is great fun.

The only thing I'm disappointed about on this front is that I did not, in the end, manage to get my planned poetry collection published. I just did not have the time or headspace in the end, and wound up being scared off from self-publishing by the horror stories and complications that I heard about from others. I'd like to try again in 2019, but might limit myself to an ebook release.

Health, Family and Activity

The biggest health news of the year for us was my 9 year old's diagnosis in November with Coeliac Disease. We had suspected for some time that this might be the case, but found out for sure then. 

It is not the end of the world, especially with myself and the 13 year old already diagnosed, but it has definitely been a transitional adjustment period.

My 15 year old has stuck with jujitsu all year and is really enjoying it, and will continue it into 2019. Both 9 and 13 year olds did weekly ice skating, but both have decided to not continue with it next year. The 13 year old will substitute dance (with her groups), while the 9 year old is probably going to return to weekly swimming.

We had, on the whole, a healthy year, with the odd cold or tummy bug here and there, but other than the lead-up to 9 year old's Coeliac diagnosis, no really sustained periods of ill health for anyone.

The saddest news of the year was my mother-in-law's death, aged 81, in March, which occurred the day before mine and my husband's 20th wedding anniversary. March was therefore a month of extremely mixed, and intense, emotions.

Holidays, Special Days and Keynote Events

What a year it was under this heading! If I started going into detail about everything, I'd never stop, so let's go dot points.

- We went on holidays as a family twice: to Japan in April, and to Sea Lake in September. Both were, in very different ways, terrific. Japan was honestly one of the best experiences of my life to date.

- We hosted an exchange student from Japan in July, which was marvellous.

- My 15 year old daughter went on a science trip to the USA, including a 5-day visit to NASA Space Camp, with a group of STEM kids in October. To say she loved it would be an epic understatement.


- We did the birthday thing - a party at home for youngest in February, we went with a group to Box Hill JapanFest for the middle kid in May, and the 15 year old got exactly what she wanted by being given the house to herself for an entire day in August to have friends over to hang out.

- My Dad's 70th in November was a blast.

- We did the convention thing in spades this year, mostly for the kids. As usual, we worked at OzComicCon in June, and also attended Japanese Summer Festival (February), JapanFest Box Hill (May), Animaga (August), and Madman Anime (November).

- Mother's Day and Father's Day were celebrated.

- We kind of skipped Easter this year, as we were in Japan, but Halloween and Christmas both got the full treatment.

- We went to some concerts and shows - stand outs were Roger Waters, which husband and I saw as our 20th anniversary thing, and for eldest kid, Evanescence.


Looking forward

The year ahead looks promising, if a little daunting, at this stage. Work and school will remain busy, and integrating my youngest into her new school  will no doubt have its challenges.

 My elder two are off to Japan again in April, this time for 2.5 weeks with a school group, while husband, youngest and myself are off to Far North Queensland for 12 days while they are overseas.

We're also going to Sydney in September for 10-12 days as a driving holiday, which will incorporate Sydney OzComicCon.

I have a 5-year plan now for my business (well, 4.5 from now - it is a plan from July 2018 - June 2023). I am hoping this will be a period of modest growth, or at least no decline.

I have decided that my goal I am setting myself is to be in a position to close down my business in December 2035, when I will be 62 years old.

My husband is 4 years older than me, so in the most ideal of worlds, we'd retire together at that time (he'll be 66). If we are very careful and very strategic, we should be able to do this. Then, I see myself putting more and more effort and energy into both poetry and volunteering. We shall see!

So, as the year draws to a close, I hope that 2019 holds good things for each and every one of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbours. No doubt it will be a mixed bag, because that is what life is - but let it be a time where light reaches into dark corners too. That is a small hope, but it is what I wish, for me, for you, and for all of us.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Card in a Poem

Christmas Day tomorrow, so herewith is my usual greeting of the season.

I hope 25 December is a good day, the best day it can be.

This is what I wish for those who will be doing big family events, and those having a quiet one at home with the teev.

This is what I wish for those for whom Christmas is easy and fun and joyous, and for those for whom it is hard and awful and terribly sad.

This is what I wish for those who don't celebrate Christmas at all, and those who used to, and don't anymore, and those who want to, but can't.

I don't do Christmas cards anymore, but instead I write a Christmas sevenling poem, as my card to you all. Please to accept it as my sincere wish for you all as 2018 draws to its end.

A Christmas Sevenling for 2018

Three colours dominate the season:
Red for the holly we do not grow; green for the pine trees brought to these shores;
white for the snow that never falls on us in the summered south.

Another way to look at it is this:
Red for all the blood of the ages; green for the promise of new things;
white for sadness, and also for purity, and also, hope.

The colours promise: the year, again, dies to be reborn, as shall we all.