Monday, June 29, 2015

Afloat (Poem)

Originally published on my closed blog, Zucchinis in Bikinis, on 13 February 2010, but just as relevant now. Maybe even more so.

She looks into the mirror, steadily.
and sees a tired face with weary, sleepy eyes, etched in smudgelines of fatigue;
accentuated with dark puffy pillows of swelling underneath.
a face acquiring a network of lines
a tracery of wear,
reflected also in the specks of darkness in the hazel irises
little inkblots of suffering,
each one a tiny scar of illnesses weathered, injuries repaired.

She sees thick, unruly hair, by nature dun-coloured but now
greying at the temples. henna can cover it, and often does
but not at this moment, now the silvering is visible
unchecked it will soon be a broad ribbon across her forehead.

She sees a thick-bellied, heavy-hipped body
the weight of three births sitting stonily on her abdomen
the fine light marks of stretched skin casting long slim fingers around her belly
She sees heavy, rounded breasts, milk-bearing and full

She sees, still, that her fingers are long and delicate
tapering like those of the pianist that she never did become
musician's fingers, wasted on on a writer's body.

She sees that she is aging. And not with great physical grace
she will be an unlovely crone, that is apparent now
she feels uneasy, regarding this body in the mirror, and
shifts from foot to foot, thinking.

This body that will no longer tolerate the challenges it once overleapt easily.
The spine isn't right, now
and never will be, again, whispers a cool voice inside her head
like the damaged kidney. and the gut, it too.
Yes, she thinks, touching her hands to her face
there is no going back now.
No rebirth for this vessel, I must sail it to the ends of the earth and life without ceasing

and she says, steadily, Please.
just that
Please, I want to be able to live my life
to mother my children
to help and to work and to care and not to falter
Carry me, I need you to.
I have no other ship to sail in.

And the hazel eyes regard her calmly in the mirror, shining
with unshed tears and unspoken fears
as she sighs and turns away
to try to sleep.

- Kathy, 13/2/10

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Oz Comic-Con 2015: Day 2

We headed into Jeff's Shed this morning for day 2 of Oz Comic-Con ... the whole family this time, which was, as anticipated, a very different and vastly more expensive experience than two adults spending most of their day serving customers.

Once again, the superpower known as "the exhibitor's wristband" got us in the door before the hordes and without queueing, which worked extremely well with our kids (especially the youngest, who is not noted for her patience-in-queues skills). We divided forces today, with one adult helping on the stall while the other was out and about with the kids.

The three key questions about today were always going to be:
1. Did the kids enjoy it?
2. Did the adults also have an opportunity to enjoy it? (1 and 2 can be mutually exclusive, although happily not always)
3. Did we have to re-mortgage the house to pay for all the expenditure?

Broadly, I'm going with:
1. Yes
2. Yes
3. No, but it was not cheap

Altogether not a bad result!

The kids were vastly entertained, as I knew they would be, with the cosplayers. I got far more and better photos today, but they are all full-face photos of the kids, so not for here. They got to hug Daleks, pose with Baymax (from Big Hero 6), and get photographed with multiple superheroes and anime characters.

The free kids area at the con also came into its own today, with all three getting faces painted, playing giant chess, and doing some drawing. It's good that a space like this is provided - it gives a welcome break for kids and their carers from the intensity and crowding of the show floor, and lets kids relax in a space designed for them.

However ....

The kids also loved the show itself, and both my husband and I (taking turns) got to see more of the stalls today than yesterday. While interesting, this led, inevitably, to requests to buy ... well, maybe not ALL the things, but let's go with, Quite A Lot of The Things.

We compromised in the end on one item each paid for by us, and they could use their own birthday / Christmas money from relatives for extra items if desired.

My eldest chose a Doctor Who poster and Doctor Who miniatures as her item from us; I also bought her some Mockingjay and Tardis earrings as part of her birthday present for her forthcoming birthday.

Second girl chose a Doctor Who apron from us, and used her own money to buy a Dalek necklace and get a henna tattoo.

The little one chose a Baymax figurine from us, and used her Christmas money to buy a plush Dalek and have a henna tattoo just like big sister's.

I also treated the whole family to an ice cube tray which makes Tardis and Dalek ice cubes.

(If you're thinking there's a theme running through this, well, you'd be right - they practically mobbed the BBC stall, or, as I like to call it, "The Doctor Who Shop With A Small Side Order of Sherlock, What Do You Mean The BBC Has Other Shows?")

Even with the one-item limitation we placed, we also bought lunch and snacks today, so it was not by any means a cheap day. Think quadruple yesterday's effort and you'd be in the right general vicinity. It was almost comparable, price-wise, to the bundle we dropped at the Royal Melbourne Show last year, an event we enjoyed but have agreed will have to be an occasional treat only.

That said, though, the kids did really have a great time. We were there just under 5 hours, and although they were flagging by the end, they remained enthused and good-humoured throughout.

So, Con again with kids? A yes, with reservations. (Mostly financial!)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

OzComic-Com 2015: Day 1

My kids spent today at my parents' house, while my husband and I had a novel experience for us - we went to Oz Comic-Con for the first time ever.

Cons are one of those nerd rites of passage that has somehow managed to pass us by until now. It's been an odd parade of circumstances that has led to this omission, but it is now rectified.

I was a hair's breadth from going to the uber-con - San Diego Comic-Con - back in 1994, when I was in the US researching my Honours thesis, but somehow it just didn't come together. (I think, from memory, that I had to be somewhere else to do some interviews the day after, and I decided it was all too hard).

Then, when we were younger, the Australian cons were just really getting started, and we did not have spare disposable cash for stuff like that (not so much the entry fees, which aren't generally heinous, but the inevitable purchasing of cute but unnecessary pop culture paraphernalia). Then we had babies, and although yes I know people take babies and toddlers to these things, it wasn't something we wanted to do. Then I developed more intense claustrophobia and was concerned about how I'd cope with crowded venues, etc etc etc.

However, today, the non-con streak was finally broken as we ventured to Jeff's Shed (The Melbourne Exhibition Centre) to spend the day assisting a friend run his stall at Oz Comic-Con. Our friend sells a range of pop culture collectibles and toys, and the nerdventions are always big business for him. We volunteered to help out.

It was an extraordinarily busy day - sales were manic and constant, and the number of people surging through was immense and overwhelming. I don't know how well I would've coped if we had come in at 9am with the flood of general admission (badly, probably ... tooooo maaaaaaany peeeeeeeeople) but we got in at 8am with our exhibitor's wristbands while the floor was still sedate and empty, with stallholders pottering around setting up their gear. Being inside the stall and therefore protected from the horde worked pretty well for me psychologically; I recommend it to nerd claustrophobes everywhere :-)

Aside from working pretty hard, we did each get a chance to walk the floor a little, and in my case, I spent $40 on having my photo taken with Jewel Staite of Firefly fame (she played Kaylee Fry). Now, my love for Firefly is deep and enduring, despite its undeniable weaknesses, and Kaylee was my favourite character in the show.

The photo came out really well, Jewel was very nice, and frankly, it was worth the money to me as a once-off experience. That said, some of the punters there were getting photos and autos from multiple guests, and my mind started boggling adding up what it would all be costing. To each their own, I guess, but [instead loud arggggh noise as cash computation completes]

My favourite bit of today was undoubtedly the cosplayers (or, as my 6 year old called them, "the grown ups in dress ups!") There were some terrific costumes - so much effort went into them and they made the whole show floor seem colourful and playful in a way that events that are actually just huge markets rarely do.

I was annoyed not to get a photo of the fantastic Groot (from Guardians of the Galaxy) in costume - on stilts, this person had recreated Groot in such detail that they could've just walked off the set. (At 8 feet tall, they were somewhat hard to miss, too!)

Because I was working on the stall, I didn't get to go to any of the panels or talks today, or look properly at many other stalls. This probably wasn't a bad thing - it meant that other than $15 for a salad, water, and a piece of fudge, the only money we spent today was the $40 photo fee. It also underlined the part of Comic-Con that is less explicable and less comfortable for me - the quite staggering amount of consumption on what are, no exceptions, profoundly discretionary items.

Of course there is no particular moral value or dis-value in spending money on a boxed set of Star Wars figurines rather than high literature or a piece of art - tastes and passions differ, and nerds will be nerds, til the end of the world, amen. And you could well argue that these items represent a democratisation of collecting as a hobby - entry-level pieces for those with a collecting bent can be afforded, and enjoyed, by people on very modest incomes. (One of the bestselling lines was the Pop Vinyl figurines, which go for $17 each - not a king's ransom. Lots of them were bought by kids, using crumpled up Christmas-money notes, or by parents who wanted to give something fun TO their kid, but clearly weren't overburdened with disposable cash).

I guess, for me, it probably comes down to the fact that I don't have a collecting bent or an acquisitive instinct when it comes to objects. I do, however, value experiences, and things that remind me of them - which is why I wanted the photo, and why I enjoyed the cosplayers so much.

We're going back tomorrow, but taking the kids - I expect that to be a very different experience indeed!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Last day

In my now-ex office, on my last day of employment :-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What We're Reading

It's been a busy, bookish month in our house. As per usual, really, but there are a few highlights for everybody.

The almost-12 year old has been revisiting her beloved Percy Jacksons, while also reading quite a lot of non-fiction. She's on a history kick at the moment, which has been interesting to see. She's also finished The Last Thirteen series, and, in common with her younger sister, has been reading Doctor Who books.

The 10-year-old has been reading a beautiful book called Evangeline, about the place where toys go when they are no longer played with (Upstairs, with a capital U). She's also madly into Agatha Christie, especially Hercule Poirot at the moment; she and I have enjoyed many a tea-fuelled snuggle and read session. (I also love me some Agatha!) She's been revisiting her My Australian Girl books too, and supplementing Doctor Who watching with Doctor Who reading.

The 6-year-old, whose reading has really turned a corner in the pas three months, is reading - literally - ALL the things. In particular, she's enjoying reading my huge stack of Golden Books aloud to herself, along with our little library of science / animal facts books. She still loves being read to, and we do bedtime reading every night, but having cracked the code, she's enchanted with the wordy world now available to her.

Read-aloud books have been the inimitable, wonderful The Princess Bride (how I love that book, and what a pure pleasure it has been to share it with my girls!) and Terry Pratchett's hilarious and thought-provoking The Wee Free Men. Night-time reading happens most nights, and it's a wonderful constant in our lives.

For me, I have been re-reading books I loved years ago - Thomas Keneally's The Place Where Souls Are Born, the first three Discworld  novels, and Isabel Allende's heartbeaking Paula. With one exception, it hasn't been the month for new books - but that exception, Sofie Laguna's The Eye of the Sheep, blew my mind. (Review coming!) I am gearing up for what will be a major new-book push when the Booker longlist comes out in early August, so I'm cutting myself a bit of slack now.

So that's our literary month ... what was yours like?

Monday, June 22, 2015

A haiku for a 5-months' child

This haiku was inspired by the news story today of the discovery of the corpse of a premature infant curled at the feet of the corpse of 17th century Swedish bishop, Peder Winstrup.

under his old bones
taking shelter for heaven
a tiny person

- Kathy, 22/6/15

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Coming to the end

And so, tomorrow, I commence my final week (in fact, 4 days) in salaried employment - at least for the time being.

It's going to be a very busy week - I have real work to finish, especially handover documentation, and I've also got two lunches, an afternoon tea, and a few coffee catch-ups with colleagues. I have all the usual life commitments as well - it's not like you can just take a week off parenting because you're busy with other things. Friday, my first day of official unemployment, I'll be spending at two different doctor's appointments, which then rolls straight into a fun but action-packed weekend at ComiCon. I think this is good in a way - there will be no time for me to sit around and overthink myself into a funk.

When I first got this job, two years ago, I wrote:

This is kind of a high-powered job. If I am honest, I don’t think I really expected to get a job at this level of seniority ever again; not after 10 years of career taking a backseat to parenting. (A choice I have never regretted, and feel thankful for every day). I am going to need to really put my back into it, and there will be a lot of late nights and a lot of learning in my future as I get a grip on what’s required. I’m sure the delicate ecosystem that is our family life will need to adapt, and that might not always be comfortable.

My prediction was bang-on in most ways - the adaptation of family life has been replete with challenges and roadblocks over these two years, and the workload has been intense, exhausting and often overwhelming. Logistics juggling has never ceased to be a nightmare. Carrying the weight of a major and massive redevelopment project created pressures that were in excess of what I'd mentally budgeted for.

One thing I didn't predict was the level to which the organisational climate has been difficult - in my 2-year tenure, there have been several restructures and redundancy programs, with more to come. This creates its own kind of stress when you are dealing with it on a daily basis, and I think I dealt with it patchily, and that it's probable that it didn't assist my health crisis last year.

I also didn't factor in how much I would miss the variety I'd been lucky enough to get as a freelancer - the stimulus and interest of working on new and different projects, in lots of different contexts. I *have* missed that a great deal, and it's one of the things I'm most looking forward to in heading back to freelancing.

All of that, however, has to be juxtaposed with the reality that the job has also been very interesting intellectually, and I've learned a lot, both in terms of skills and in terms of knowledge, from doing it. I've also met some really lovely people who I am genuinely sad to no longer be working with - the having of colleagues has been an unmixed blessing. Steady money has also been a boon, as has the generous superannuation provisions of my employment.

The yin and yang of it has pivoted across the two years, to the point where I find it hard to say, on balance, whether this was a "good" job overall for me. I do know that I don't regret my decision to give it a try; that I've done the best work I could do for them while I've been there; and that, come what may after 5pm on Thursday, leaving now is the right move for me, and at the right time.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Goal-setting: July

I have a complicated relationship with the ubiquitous self- and work-management tool of goal-setting.

On the one hand, I know *how* to do it - I've been indoctrinated in the whole S.M.A.R.T methodology, and I even know how to do a passable Gantt chart (unhelpful as I personally find them, lots of employers seem to have mad love for them).

Beyond buzzword bingo, though, I do appreciate the practical value of setting goals and making plans, both as a way of providing motivation and clarity about what it is you are trying to achieve in any given area, and to give a solid basis for assessing your progress. This is perhaps truest in employment scenarios, but it has value (if a more subtle one) in personal / life situations too.

There is a downside, though. It may just be that my goal-setting outside of work has always tended to the over-ambitious, but I have ended up, many a time, resentful and deliberately obstructionist of my own stated goals, especially when I have set so many, or such ridiculously unachievable ones, that they are functionally impossible. If I try to plan all the things, it doesn't work out for me - I need unassigned, unplanned time and space as well, or all the goodwill in the word will die a-borning on the shoal of my basic laziness. I am not lazy *all* the time, mind, but I do have an indolent streak a mile wide in my make-up, and it's quite useless to pretend I can thrash this out of myself.

Nonetheless, as I am about to exit the structure-giving framework of salaried employment in favour of the self-directed world of freelance work, I have accepted that part of this is going to necessitate both personal and professional goal-setting, or there is a real risk I will squander my time entirely.

I've decided that the best compromise between over- and under-planning is going to to set  broad-brush monthly goals, ONLY TWO EACH in the 5 areas that I need to pay the most attention to. The goals need to be relatively modest and achievable or else I will get quickly frustrated with them and abandon the project altogether.  They need to build in the fact that there are a plethora of things I have to do every day / week / month that are not optional, that take time, and that aren't so much goals as necessities of life (to wit: parenting, house management, and all they involve!) and that there are plenty of social / community / family things that aren't goals as such but are stuff that happens and takes time.

I'll try this for a few months, and if it's proving too restrictive (or not structured enough), I'll re-evaluate the approach. One thing I can say for sure - there are going to be exactly zero Gantt charts in my personal planning environs :-D

So, to get started: here are July's goals.


- Have a memorable family holiday in Marysville and family fun at ComiCon.
- Get to Gold Class movie (using vouchers received for Christmas) with my partner.


- Write 5,000 more words on my novel.
- Write, and deliver, 2x review pieces.


- Perform at least 2 days of paid freelance work, and book at least 5 more for August.
- Develop and publish a simple website listing my services.


- Host a dinner party for friends.
- Contact the local community centre (crisis relief) to offer volunteering support commencing August.


- Consolidate my superannuation into one fund.
- Clean out my bedroom cupboard.

I'll have a look in the first week of August and see how I went against these goals. Inevitably, some will be missed, that's life. If I hit 6 or 7 out of 10, though, I'll call that a win on balance.

Friday, June 19, 2015


I turn 42 today, which pretty much makes me the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. (For a year, anyway!)

It's just a pity that no-one has worked out what the question is yet :-D

I'm off to watch Murder, She Wrote and eat fancy nougat til it's time to get the kids from school. Hope your day's as frivolous as mine.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

On facing the thing

If there is a thing that you are afraid of ... No, wait. First principles.

If you an anxious person, there is always at least one, and usually many more than one, thing that you are worried about, or actively afraid of, at any given time.

How dominant this worry or fear is depends on a lot of things, including, but not limited to, your state of physical health, the presence or absence of other life stressors, how much sleep you are getting, how diligently you are practising whatever combination of CBT / mindfulness / distraction / medication management bundle you have found works for you. There are lots of times - maybe even a majority of the time - that I, anxious person though I am, feel happy, feel carefree, feel brave and confident and optimistic. I do not spend all or most of my time in a state of funk. 

But one thing that having anxiety means is, the exertion of pressure on a weak spot will always produce a disproportionate emotional response. Essentially, when a peak fear / worry event approaches, the anxiety will start to rise, slowly at first, gaining strength as the day, then the hour, draws nearer, until eventually it blots out the sun. Proportionality and rationality have no dog in this race - it doesn't matter how vigorously you intellectualise the absurdity of the anxious feelings, they persist and persist and grow and grow and grow.

There is, always, a moment when such an event / trigger is inescapably imminent - sitting in the depature lounge waiting to board a plane; sitting in a hospital or clinic waiting room waiting to be called through for a medical procedure; waiting in the corridor for a job interview - when the thought presents itself in the anxious brain: I don't actually have to do this. I could just, in fact, leave. I could just go, and then it would all be fine.

Of course this notion is immediately ridiculously seductive, and resisting it will then take a lot of mental energy. For me, I have found the best thing I can do is to play a game of "If so, then what?" with myself. "I could just not get on the plane..." Me, to self: "You could, but then what?" Jerkbrain: "Well, I wouldn't get to Queensland with my family..." Me: "And then what?" Jerkbrain: "I wouldn't get to be with my kids for their first plane flight, and I'd spoil everyone's holiday, including my own." Me: "So...?" Jerkbrain: "Oh SHUT UP." *gets on plane*

It's not a perfect technique and I won't lie - it is supported with tears and ritualistic behaviour in most cases. But it's got me onto a plane. It's got me through a resignation conversation. It's helped me address issues that were difficult and painful to broach. It helped me, today, to go through with a diagnostic procedure under anesthetic which I seriously do not like. (And the procedure was a success, hurray).

And on the other side of facing the thing, and staring down that beast? Yeah, that's when I could take on a mountain lion for breakfast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Foods that I miss (A Coeliac's lament)

In no particular order:

- Really fresh, soft wholemeal bread, and in particular, sandwiches made with above.
- Angel food cake
- Chinese takeaway
- Egg noodles
- Chocolate eclairs
- Fillet O Fishes from Maccers
- Croutons
- Chicken schnitzel

Yeah, I know I can make gluten free versions of (some) of these, but I miss, so much, the ease and convenience of just being able to eat whatever, to buy it if I don't have time or interest to make it.

Don't mind me. I'm just fractious because HUNGREH. (I'm fasting for a medical procedure in the morning).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A sevenling for my brother on his birthday

Three things call to mind a long-gone child:
A fibreglass cast, inked over; a freize of cartoon men, coloured brightly;
An old Kodak photograph, the greens fading away.

Three things he was to me:
A beloved baby brother; a cipher, in his speechless world;
An anchor to eternity in his sightless eyes.

His dying the wellspring of the numinous, the holt of every fear.

- Kathy, 16/6/15

(My brother Andy died almost 32 years ago, when he was 8 and I was 10).

Monday, June 15, 2015

This and that

So on day 15, I've hit a day with nothing in particular to say in this Post-A-Day Month. This always happens, usually around the middle.

Maybe a bit of a ramble ...

  • I'm tired, really tired. I haven't been sleeping well (last night I was awake from 1am til nearly 5am with gut pain) and I have weird abdominal symptoms that keep coming and going. Colonoscopy on Thursday yaaaaaaaay (but it will be good to get it done, and my mind relieved) and I see the gynae next Friday, to look at the other potential culprit area. I have a sense that reasons might prove elusive, but ruling out nasties is a benefit in and of itself. My anxiety goes up and down in rhythm with my symptoms, but hey, it is what it is - I will ever be thus, all I can do is ride it as gently as I can.
  • It's only 6 working days (10 actual days) now til I finish up in my job, and I am feeling the range of emotions I expected to feel, and a few I didn't. I feel some sadness for the really lovely people I'm saying goodbye to (expected), a sense of responsibility for work unfinished (expected), and occasional twinges of concern about what the future will bring financially (very much expected). I also feel relieved, to a much more profound level than I had expected, and hopeful / positive about what I will be freed up to do. Just today, for the first time, I sat in a meeting and realised that the problems it was grappling with are genuinely now none of my concern. That felt wonderful.
  • We've been dealing with a bit of fractiousness in the house - I'm not the only one who's tired, the term has taken a lot out of the kids and my husband has been working very hard. Everyone is a bit shorter-fused and shoutier than the ideal, and standing in the middle of sibling conflicts is getting a bit wearing. I'm hopeful that school holidays, and my changed availability even in term 3, is going to help somewhat with this.
  • Some things have been really good lately. My novel itself is going slowly (although it is still going!) but I have been so enjoying my novel class. The last couple of classes in particular have been so useful and interesting, and what's best, the group is coming together now as a supportive critiquing group, which is going to be invaluable to us all.
  • Similarly, the poetry has been flowing; the cork that was sealing my creativity away seems to have been popped, and although I don't have enough time or energy to do as much as I'd like, I'm not blocked anymore, not lacking in ideas or will. This is a welcome gear shift after what has been quite an arid few months in writing terms.
  • I got new blinds! My very manky old bedroom curtains, the greasy and dusty light-trapping 80s blind in the kitchen, and the pretty but non-functional curtains in the shared kids' room have all been replaced with cream vertical blinds, matching the ones I had put into the lounge, dining and door panel windows about 3 years ago. It's so nice to have something fresh and new in the house; makes everything feel a bit cheerier.

  • The world outside continues to appall and shame me; the things my government does in my name, especially vis asylum seekers, grow more horrific and outrageous day by day. One of the things I need to do when I am finished at work is look into what I can do to replace the financial contributions to refugee charities that we currently make (these will need to be scaled back in the short term, to ensure bills can be paid, until my business gets going). Maybe I can give with my labour or my skills instead? I hope so.
There is lots more, and at the same time, not much more I could say. My friends are lovely, my family are loved, my body is peculiar, my brain is a law unto itself. I will sail this ship through winter as well as I can, and hope to beach on the shores of spring renewed, or at least renewing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A sevenling for Susan

Three things emerging from a small pink bag -
A butterfly, a football hat,
A microscopic Bible, infant-finger-sized, mysterious.

Three things promised on this cool and golden day -
To serve; to share in darkest nights and brightest dawns;
Cradling all, to love with a whole heart.

As one, the congregation stands, made lighter in this blessing.

- Kathy, 14/6/15

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why I'm hoping for a slow start to business

It's just 12 days now until my final day with my employer, and the 10 days following that somewhat momentous day are jam-packed. The very day after, I've a medical specialist appointment, then early school collection for the kids for the end of term. A weekend at ComiCon, a few days in Marysville, home for a day, then a dinner party. Breath is expected to be drawn sometime around 6 July, although, even then, it is still school holidays, so the kids will be with me. (Not that this is either a bad thing or a drain - it's actually going to be great - but it will change the discretion available in my time, for sure).

Officially, I'm back in business (as a freelancer) from 10 July. So far, although I have had some interest, I haven't got much work actually booked in - and it turns out, I'm really happy about that.

I thought I'd be a lot more stressed than I am about the prospect of slim pickings in my first months back in self-employment. Thanks to a combination of rebudgeting and rearranging expenses, though, the immediate financial pressure to be remunerated is much less intense than I had feared. (This doesn't mean this situation can drag on indefinitely, mind you - but one thing at a time).

More importantly than this easing of direct monetary constraint, though - much more importantly, in fact - is that I am starting to feel that I need a slow start to business in order to collect myself and come back to myself. I am beginning to value, highly, the notion of a July and August, and even a September and October, with relatively little paid work arriving in my Inbox. So much am I feeling that this would be optimal that I am choosing not to promote my services any further than I have already done at this stage. (I will, in the fullness of time - there are a couple of good avenues I haven't explored yet).

Some of this is just pragmatism: the pile-up of life jobs, of administrivia, of clutter-mess, is sufficiently profound that getting it in order is going to be a part-time job all by itself for a while. Some of it is related to my health, which is giving me grief again, although in a charmingly new way than last year (hurray!) and will necessitate further investigations, one of them surgical. Some of it has to do with personal goals, things I'd really love to have some time to spend on - reconnecting with my children; writing my novel, my poetry, and the verse novella I am planning; designing the family photobooks I am making; the volunteering I want to do at the local community centre.

I know - oh how I know - what kind of privilege I have that allows me to say, Hey, if I don't make much for 4 or 5 months, that's OK. I know many other people just as sick as I, just as bone-tired as I, with just as many responsibilities and dreams, don't have this privilege, and that really does suck.

I'm going to try not to squander this opportunity. That's really the best way I can do honour to the circumstances and people who've made it possible - to make the best use of a slow start that I can, in building my health and my creativity and my family.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The other side of the mountain

I went to the kids' Friday assembly today. I always try to get there, but today was particularly important;  my eldest was doing a presentation about the food drive she's organizing in support of the local poverty relief centre.

Standing by the sand pit, I exchanged greetings with another parent, one I knew quite well when the kids were younger, but who I haven't seen much of for the past couple of years.

"It's good to be able to get to assembly," she said,  shifting comfortably from boot to boot. "I've missed a lot, feels like."

"Do you not work Fridays anymore?" I asked, zipping my jumper against the cold wind.

"Mate, I don't work at all anymore," she replied. "Finished up on 15 May. Best thing I ever did."

"Yeah? Wow, must be the season for it!" I replied. "I finish up on 25 June in my job."

"What's next for you? " she asked. "Having  a break, or what?"

"A bit," I said. "Can't go too long without working though..."

"Not being Gina," my friend agreed drily.

"I am going to try to get back into freelancing," I said as she nodded.  "You?"

"Temping, I reckon, " she said.  She is in an allied health field: temp shifts should be easy to get, as demand outstrips supply.

"It takes too much away, doing a big job, doesn't it? From the kids.  From your life."

I nodded. "It really does,  yeah."

We stood together as the kids sung the national anthem,  contemplating the other side of the mountain.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A sevenling for a winter night

Old Crow Medicine Show is singing about a girl called Caroline,
A small child dances in pyjamas, arms swaying;
Spice tea steams, warm and damp, on desktops.

The dark snarls and prowls at the margins,
A small puddle of lights sits like warm honey at our feet;
Outside, the dog gathers voice to protest the trespass of cats.

Floating in warm detachment, we pretend there is not winter.

- Kathy, 10/6/15

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jungian Asthma Attack (A poem)

Last night I had a dream and in my dream I was
running away from something, like you do, some unknown and unknowable Big Bad,
except I did know, really, it's just that I couldn't tell myself or everything would end

in my dream, I ran and ran, and I ran into an empty and broken building
a real wreck, broken glass everywhere, pigeon dung on the metal struts, smelling like cold and rust
some kind of industrial building, maybe, but it was dark
God, how dark it was -
like the inkpot of hell, the output of some demon squid
and I ran and ran and I could see nothing at all

I knew where I was going though, somewhere I could hide
make myself small and inconsequential, so that thing that was chasing me would be fooled
and go away, snorting
while I curled into the shape of a slater bug and held myself tight side-to-side

I was climbing a ladder in the dark, it was missing rungs and it creaked and I
panicked, the sour metallic taste in my mouth as I keened silently
it's gonna hear it's gonna hear it's gonna hear me -

Then, suddenly, like an otter breaking water, I was up above
I was in a dusty, run-down but light-filled apartment
up above the world so high like a tea-tray in the sky
there was a bed piled high with rough blankets, a toilet that looked like it flushed maybe
a gas-ring, a heavy kettle, a moth-eaten rug on the floor

In my dream I fell on my knees and sobbed into the dirt and the dust
and my tears made dark tracks in the cobwebs on the floor

Then, suddenly, I knew I had to hide again
and the light was going, I was gasping, I was choking, and I -

You were wheezing hard, he said, as he woke me and handed me my puffer
Like you couldn't breathe well. You have to remember to take it...

Yes, I said, inhaling. Oh yes.

- Kathy, 8/6/15

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How I became a single-issue voter

I follow Australian politics reasonably closely, USian politics to a moderate degree, and other world politics to a more desultory level. Major elections rarely completely pass me by, provided they get at least minimal media coverage (I'm sure elections occur in some parts of the world that never see the light of day even in independent media available in Australia, let alone mainstream media).

One thing that's always puzzled me a bit, in all these contexts, is the notion of single-issue voters. In US politics in particular, there's always a lot of talk about single-issue voting, especially (in my perception, anyway) on conservative hot button topics. Right-to-lifers will vote solely and only on a candidate's abortion stance; gun advocates will vote solely on the right to bear arms, and so forth.

This has always seemed peculiar to me. How can people disregard all the myriad of other issues, I've asked myself? How can they not evaluate the whole picture? How can they elevate one single issue above all other considerations, and just ask, what does the party / candidate think about this, never mind everything else?

Over the last six months, I've come to understand. Over the last six months, I've swung around to basically being a single-issue voter myself.

What it comes down to is this.

I cannot vote for a party, or a candidate, who supports offshore "processing" (torture) of asylum seekers. I feel sickened and disgusted even thinking about the bipartisan support this inhumane, small-souled, and internationally illegal practice has from both the ALP and the Coalition. It actually makes my heart and body rebel viscerally at the idea of supporting this, even by implication, with my vote.

It doesn't matter what they say about economics, or domestic social policy, or education, or infrastructure, or taxation or health or the environment or defence or science. I have various views about all those things, of course, and I can see (some) differences between the two on some of these points, although, frankly, not nearly as much as there should be.

As long as there is only one party in Australia that categorically opposes offshore detention and the torture of asylum seekers, I cannot choose to vote any other way. I don't get past that first gate to even evaluate other issues, because this IS my threshhold issue, and it's never going to change.

Thus, it's the Australian Greens for me. I think their policy positions in most areas are admirable, and I might well align with them anyway on the balance, but there is no argument to even be had, because the Greens are the only ones standing up against this atrocity and calling it out for what it is, so they are the only party I CAN vote for.

So that's the story of how I became a single-issue voter, and developed some insight into why others can be so committed to their One True Thing that it shapes their voting each and every time.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The ghost of holidays past

Brunching with friends today, we spent a bit of time waxing lyrical about the majesty that is the annual snow sale at Aldi.

"But $300 ..." sighed one. "It's not a small amount of money -"

"No, no," interspersed my husband, "you don't want to think of it like that. When we went to Hotham in 2012, we spent that much just HIRING all the gear! Now we've got it and we can reuse it whenever."

"For our oh so frequent snow trips," remarked the friend drily, and with justice. We're not exactly the Aspen jet set here; the snow preparations are for a 3-day trip to Marysville to visit the snowplay areas at Lake Mountain, where we'll all be staying in a large shared cabin at the caravan park.

"I'll wear my boots elsewhere," I volunteered, and there was general agreement that a Melbourne winter would provide more than a few opportunities to truly appreciate extremely warm, lined boots.

"And M wore her stuff to camp! It was freezing, kept her warm," added the first speaker's partner.

As we were all nodding sagely at the wisdom of preparing for a snowy holiday, my mind wandered a little wistfully back to the preparations, both mental and physical, we were making this time last year for our mid-year break. This year it was the snow sale at Aldi; last year was swimwear shopping online and choosing new sunhats for everyone.

That's because last year was the year of the really BIG holiday - the kind that we only did once every 5 years or so pre-kids, and in fact the only one we've done since First Kid was born in 2003. Two weeks in Port Douglas - it was magic, we had a wonderful time, and it was warm and beautiful and a blessed escape from Melbourne winter - or so it seemed at the time, although I now think it had its downsides, as we all got quickly sick when thrust back into the ice of July at home.

I have so many fond memories of that holiday, and I'd love to go back one day, but it's important not to let the warmth and beauty of the tropical north hover like a spectre over the littler, colder holidays we'll be taking for the next while.

After all, we've had great and memorable holidays in all sorts of places closer to home. One of my three kids still swears our Warrnambool trip in 2013 is her best and favourite, while the youngest, for whom recency is king, is besotted by Phillip Island after our January break there. I myself have strong, nostalgic fond memories of our Walkerville South (Gippsland) farmstay in 2011, and our first holiday as a family of five in Echuca in 2010. None of these trips were expensive or exotic, but all were very lovely, and I am sure that, cold aside, Marysville is going to be too.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Don't do it if it hurts inside

Here's what I find about compromise -
Don't do it if it hurts inside,
Cause either way you're screwed,
And eventually you'll find
You may as well feel good;
You may as well have some pride...

- Indigo Girls, Second Time Around

Compromise is, in many ways, a wonderful and necessary thing that enables people to live with each other without resorting to an exhausting non-stop dominance war. (Although, that happens, too). Being able to give a little to get a little, being able to seek for and find a middle ground, is a vital skill  to have, living in the world. Understanding that you can't always get your own way, and that this is actually OK, is an important part of adulting, and I am all for it.


Compromise has another connotation, one that I think is a lot more insidious and damaging than  "let's find a solution we can all live with" pragmatism. Compromise can also be about making choices that you know are wrong, or at least suboptimal, in order to gain something, or fit in, or keep the peace, or not feel awkward feelings, or not have hard conversations. It's no coincidence that describing someone as "hopelessly compromised" is not a compliment, or that personal corruption often begins with seemingly small compromises.

Those are the kinds of compromises that hurt inside, because they damage something very real in a person's ethical sense. Make enough of them, and empathy and self-esteem start to decay. I have met people throughout my life who are so compromised in themselves that they seem to have lost all sense of not just who they are, but who anyone else is either, and why decency even matters in how they behave to others.

Look, it's true - not compromising on your ethics and beliefs will have consequences too, and some of them really hard ones. Either way you're screwed, indeed. But if I'm going to pick a side to get whipped on, I will try as much as I can to pick being attacked for positions, actions or speech consistent with my ethics and my beliefs, rather than deal with the moral rot that follows suppressing, hiding or lying about them in order to keep an even keel.

So, no, I won't stop posting on Facebook and Twitter about asylum seeker torture. Actually, I'm not inclined to let homophobia and transphobia pass quietly when I hear it. As it happens, I won't go along when people make racist and classist chitchat, even when it's hella awkward to call it out.

I may as well have some pride, y'know. That's what it comes down to, in the end.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Excerpt: Novel in progress - Tuy inside the Eye

I have mentioned that I am writing - or attempting to write - a novel at the moment. The working title is The True Size of the Universe, and it's a sort-of sci fi. It's set on a spaceship, anyway - the Queen Parysatis, which is a cargo ship, freighting commercial loads around the stars. In my version, the distances between stars are traversed via "charting", which is sort of like hyperspace jumps but not quite. I'm not a physicist, so there is a fair bit of mumble-mumble-LOOK-A-BIG-SPACEY-THING going on :-)

This scene is one I am having trouble with. It's a dream / coma / altered state sequence, told in the intimate third person with the focus on the dreamer, who is the astrogator Tuy (one of the three main characters). It's meant to be suggestive and somewhat opaque, but I don't think it's quite working though and I'm not sure why.

Anyway, see what you think...


it is dark
                        where where where
                                    where are my feet
                                                where is my inner eye I am blind blind
Tuy felt, rather than heard, amusement rippling through the air towards her. She grasped at it with fingers that weren’t there.
- you ask where is your inner eye the lady tuy asks this –
Who are you? I cannot see –
- don’t you know lady oh lady of the starstream oh charter of worlds piercer of voids -
Where is my crew? Where is the Parysatis? I can’t, I don’t know –
            - the queen floats placid in the void she is safe she is safe –
Tuy gasped in pain as memory flashed through her.
Where have I sent my crew? I charted blind, I charted into the stream and I didn’t – Did I put us in the heart of a sun? Is this what death is, am I, are we
            - you are not dead lady though you will be soon enough –
            - the crew of the queen lives insofar as you seem to grasp the term –
            - the queen swims gently in space between stars not exploded not in a sun -
Tuy drew a shaking breath. Testing her voice, in a rusty whisper, she said, “But where? Where am I, and where is the Parysatis?”
            - the silver-tailed queen flicks her fins at the pillars of creation –
“We’re at the Eagle Nebula?”
            - indeed yes lady oh lady of the bright and brittle mind oh lady of the night –
“Am I on board, still? Or did I – have I been –“
The sense of amusement was strong.
            - you lie in state attended by your myrmidon your face is pale as milk –
“I’m in sick bay?”
- lady –
Tuy tried to collect her thoughts. It was difficult; they were scattering away as fast as cockroaches with a light shined on them. Where was her inner eye? Why couldn’t she find the starstream? The familiar sick panic started to rise. It is dark it is dark I cannot see a way out a way forward the whole world is the ship and the ship is too small
            - peace lady the world is wide the world is infinite there are no walls –
Will I wake?
            - you will wake lady tuy you shall wake to chaos soon enough –
            - when it is time star diver when it is time –
“And until then, I am…?”
            - do you not know –
Tuy slowed her breathing with an effort of will, and allowed the muted sense impressions, trickling around her like coloured sand, to penetrate. Dark, yes, but not black; dim, and out of focus, like a myopic’s early dawn. Cold, but with the sharpness of a raw second-phase Demoae morning, not with the absolute zero of space. No odours at all. No light, but not total absence of light. She could not feel the existence of her feet, but she stood on something, and it was soft, feathered. Like – it was like being –
“I am inside the inner eye.”
The amusement was tinged with approval now.
            - you are held within the eye safely held cradled within –
“That’s why I can’t sense it! Because I’m within it…”
            - but you can lady open the gates and you will feel where you stand you will see –
I will see
Tuy unclenched her mind, and let it all rush in.