Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Sevenling for the Inevitability of Death (Poem)

Three things breathe the human pleasures of life:
The warm, damp weight of a sleeping infant, moulded to the shoulder;
The motorised hum of a lap-purring cat; the heart-clenching scent of jasmine, wild and insistent.

Three things cast the bones for the future:
A sky full of ice-bright infinite stars; a cough that will not leave;
The soft intonation of Genesis spoken aloud in a dim room.

For we are dust, oh yes.

- Kathy, 27/3/16

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Term One: Done

So, term one 2016 concluded on Thursday afternoon. For us, picking my eldest up from school following her year 7 camp (at 3:15) was the transitional moment, after which we pottered home to enter an intensive 36-hour hibernation, which has involved reading, watching TV, playing games (both computer and card / board games) and lying around. The kids and I have yet to leave our property since unlocking the door at 3:30pm Thursday, and the two elder kids are yet to leave the *house*. (The youngest did play in the yard for a while yesterday, as my husband and I did some laundry-hanging and gardening).

It was a massive, massive term. My eldest daughter started high school, with all that entailed in terms of adjustment to routine, new commitments (including not insubstantial financial commitments), and letting go. My secondborn found her groove in Grade 6, running a Lost Dogs' Home fundraiser and displaying substantial leadership skills, and also suffered from an ongoing digestive complaint that has finally resolved in us moving her to a gluten-free diet (which does seem to be working). My little one had a good entry to Grade 2, although was upset and shaken by one of her closest friends leaving the school to move to Indonesia with her family.

We had birthdays (both in our family and multiple friends' celebrations), chess, netball, swimming, and music. My husband took up bike riding to add to his distance walking. Husband and I had a wedding anniversary day in the city.

For me, this term has been by far my busiest stretch with my freelance work since I returned to freelancing last June. In the 8.5 weeks it encompassed, I have billed more time than in the 4.5 preceding months, which is great financially, but has not been cost-free in health and family terms. I now have four projects live, with a fifth pending, although the longest-term of these projects (which commenced last November) is gearing down as it approaches its final stage. I will be just as busy for the first half of term two, with Projects A and B continuing until the end of May, and Project D (a smaller editing job) taking place entirely in April. Project C will still be rolling on after May until mid-July, and my pending project may kick in anytime from early May onwards, but I am still hopeful that life will be a little less frantic in work terms after A and B are signed off and handed over, and little D is done.

I have also been fitting in quite a bit of writing, mostly poetry, and am excited to be part of a planned anthology of poetry from my Month of Poetry writing group. It's a long road ahead to publication (we're hoping for January 2017), but we have a tentative title: Limina. I am not-so-secretly tickled at the idea of having some of my poems published.

My health has been reasonable, but with some hiccups. I have had some crashing fatigue issues again and some internal concerns, which have led to my specialist starting me on a test dose of thyroxine (damn you, Hashimoto's Disease!) and scheduling me for an exploratory & maintenance surgical procedure in April. I am not overly thrilled to be needing an operation, but it is minor, and hopefully it will resolve some of the persistent niggling issues that drag me down. (Of course, right now I have a stinking cold, which jaundices me on the whole subject of health and wellbeing, but infection with the common cold is hardly a sign of the coming Apocalypse, even for my over-heated imagination!)

We also have been chipping away at home maintenance tasks - the biggest of these being the replacement of our manky old side fence with a new super-high colourbond structure that we have dubbed the Great Wall of Suburbia. (It's over 8ft high). The neighbours wanted the extra height and I was happy to go along, as I felt like it would be a good thing to help block some of the noise from their occasional night-time shenanigans, and so far so good on that front. The back fence is next in the crosshairs, but will probably not be done until spring due to financial factors for the back neighbours (and I don't want to push, I know how tough it can be).

The kids and husband are on holidays now until term two commences on 11 April. I had hoped to be too, but in fact I have a couple of things I need to finish for various projects before I can down tools. Yesterday I did not touch any work, but I will try to get it squared away by Monday night so I can enjoy a good break with my family. On Tuesday night I am taking my youngest to stay at a fancy hotel in the city and then on Wednesday we are going to see Matilda, which we are both looking forward to immensely, and I definitely want to have purged work from my headspace by then.

Ambitions for term two? I think I'll settle for holding the line - keeping everyone reasonably healthy and functional, discharging all our obligations as well as we can, and keeping on writing. I am hoping that my surgery goes smoothly and that the thyroxine helps stabilise my energy levels. I want to make sure I carve out time for family things, regardless of how busy I am with work. And I hope to arrive at the winter school holidays in a good state to enjoy the next term break.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Morning (Poem)

Sunday morning, cloudy:
the chatter of the television a background hum
tea cooling slowly on the bedside table.

Outside, the neighbour's cat mews plaintively
further away, the local sad hound howls despair
crying abandonment to the autumn sky.

Inside, the body stutters and falters
head and nerves on fire, gut uneasy
rising from the bed like climbing a precipice.

One day soon it will all be over:
this little cocoon with its grey mournful animals
this daily awakening to pain.

One day:
the suburbs will be a faint, puzzling memory
and the spirit, released, will flee this flesh
flee into the pearly sky or the good black earth
leaving sadness behind, and fear, and pain,
whether to paradise or oblivion, it doesn't matter

Today, though, it is time to sip tea
move as part of the world, and be present,
stroke the importunate tabby cat behind the ears

Sunday morning,  cloudy
but promising sun later; here
in this ordinary sanctuary.

- Kathy, 20/3/16

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Proof (Poem)

(This poem is inspired by the Leonard Cohen quotation: "Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.")


The words:
dove-grey and fleeting as detritus from a bonfire
spiralling upwards to oblivion.
They say this -

Look, here is a person.
Here is breath and vinegar, water and dust;
here is surface glitter and sump oil in the crevasses,
diamonds shining like bloody ice in the sun,
the creeping shade of the moon's dark side.

Here is a life.

This is the proof:
these flecks, these cremains
offered to the incurious world, with both hands flinging
the dust of the heart in the face of the stars.

- Kathy, 3/03/2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A day in the life of a freelancer

I read with some amusement the Guardian's Secret Office Worker column when it gets published. I rather enjoyed this darkly funny portrait by five office workers - a Project Manager, a charity worker, a PR writer, a magazine editor, and a tech director - of their days at work.

It's been quite a while since I did A Day in the Life, so I thought, now that I am established back in my contracting / freelancing life, it would be a good time to have a look at it. Here is my day yesterday, at a time when I have three projects for three different clients (A, B and C) in progress.

7am       Get up, get children up.
              Do the whole breakfast / school lunch / finding clothing / hair & tooth brushing dance.

8am       Husband and eldest leave house for school and work. Time to chivvy younger two along.

8:35am  Take youngest to primary school. Middle child rides her bike and meets us there.

8:45am  Home. Kettle on, set load of washing going while computer boots.

9am       Drink morning cuppa while reading & responding to work email / flicking over online news.

9:30am   Commence work on project plan for Project B. Spend time gathering data and formulating
               the always-tricky purpose statements.

11:30am  Phone meeting with Client B to discuss scope questions with their project.

12pm       Lunch break - hang wet washing, do dishes, and eat.

12:30pm  Back to the project plan - two more sections completed and two follow-up emails sent.

2pm         New content to review arrives for Project A. Read through it and formulate / send email
                questions for clarification on several points.

3pm         Go to collect younger children from school. Once home, facilitate snacking needs.

4pm          Off to the doctors with all three kids (two of whom need medical attention).

5pm          Home from doctors. Swing directly into making dinner.

6pm          Dinner done. Kids read / watch TV while I spend an hour on reviewing the first third of
                 the material for Project A.

7pm          Swing into showering / bedtime stories / bedtime routines.
                 While this is occurring, wash dishes.

8:30pm     Another hour on the Project A document review.

9:30pm     Computer off; to bed to read and fall asleep.

My days, of which this is fairly typical, tend to be an ebb and flow of work and family duties. I usually do between 6 and 9 hours work on any given day (yesterday it was 7 hours, which is well within my norm), but a relatively small percentage of this is meetings, which is very good, and I rarely do paid work between school pick-up and dinner, which is taken up with family matters.

I don't work all my hours within the standard work day, and I don't work extreme chunks of time - a two-hour block is usually the maximum I'll do without interspersion of some other activity, which suits me (I find I am really losing focus by the 2-hour mark anyway).

Some days are more crowded than others, but what I tend not to have is much truly "dead" time - if I have hit a wall with one project or client, I switch over to another or to a household or writing activity, because there is no value in simply warming a seat while I wait for things to ungum or answers to arrive.

Freelancing from my home suits me much better than being in an office. I know now that it does. Assuming I can keep getting a reasonable flow of work, I think this is what I'll be doing for the medium- to long-term.