Thursday, March 31, 2011

Staking a claim

There has been a territorial coup in the Fibro. Bloodless, but revolutionary nonetheless. Mr7 has staked a claim to the back half of the garage, planted a flag and declared it his Clubhouse. The Builder has rigged up fairylights. He has a rug, a sofa, a fridge (full of beer but we haven't told him that), a non-working television, a lamp and a chest of drawers.

All he needs to make his domain complete, he tells me, is a coffee table. On which to write books. Draw plans. And invent things. In the meantime, he makes do with the floor.

So far he is a Club of one. Mr4 has been deemed too destructive to join. Mr4 seems happy enough with this decision. He would rather follow his Dad around the backyard with a plastic lawnmower and a pair of earmuffs than be stuck in a shed. The Builder and I are associate members.

Much time and effort has been put into thinking of a name for the Club. At present, it is The Book Club. Though it has been, at varying times during the week, The Inventing Club and The Fun Club. There is a password you must know before you're allowed through the door. I'd tell you, but then I might have to hand in my non-existent club badge. Rest assured, it is not 'bokkens'.

Mr7 has been retreating to his Clubhouse every afternoon this week. To draw. To dream. To invent a robot with arms that go up and down and legs that go side to side. So far the robot hasn't made it off the pages of the Official Club Notebook, but it can only be a matter of time.

Come to think of it, a clubhouse would be cool. A Clubhouse of One's Own. Hmmm. I can feel an uprising coming on.

[image: via]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Can you peak too early with comfort?

It was 28 degrees celsius in Fibrotown today. Summer in autumn. Clearly I did not read the weather forecast when, on Sunday, I came up with my meal plan and shopping list for the weekly shop. I do this, you know. It's the only vaguely organised thing I manage.

On Sunday, it was raining and I was wearing a flannel shirt. Comfort clothing. So I planned a whole week of comfort food. I love winter food. I love slow-cooked, succulent stews. Ambrosial casseroles. Pies. Roasts. I love the way they taste. I love the way they make you feel when you eat them. I love the fact that you almost always get leftovers with winter meals, meaning you cook once and eat twice. Especially love that.

Which is how we came to be eating Beef and Red Wine Casserole, on mashed potato, on a balmy autumnal evening. I'm sick of summer food. Sick to death of lettuce and tomato and capsicum and cucumber. Sick of trying to think of a useful protein to put with such ephemeral fare and wondering how to  get some carbs in there to make my boys feels like they've eaten something that touched the sides.

But, as I sat there, sweating, shovelling down mouthfuls of piping hot casserole, I had only one thought in mind:

I peaked too early.

I'm thinking an Asian chicken salad tomorrow night.

[image: by Brett Stevens,]

Are you a winter food aficionado or a summer salad slave?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The more things change

I'm not good with change. I resist it, I ignore it and, when all else fails, I rail long and hard against it. But sometimes change happens. And when it does, I have to remind myself that it's a good thing.

I've written enough 'surviving change' features to understand the basic principles. Change is uncomfortable. It involves unknowns. It involves anxiety (whether it's an invited change or not). But the pay-off (whether it's an invited change or not) can be great.

Chucking out the old allows room for the new. Whatever that may be. It may be better. It may be worse. One thing's for sure, it will be different. And change has a way of expanding. Making a change in one area can create development in unexpected places.

Sometimes we cling to old patterns because they're easy. We know how they work. We know what to expect. Letting them go leaves us with a big, empty vacuum, and a whole lot of wonder about what will (or won't) rush to fill it.

Bread and butter is hard to give up. It's easier, in so many ways, to leave off the jam, knowing that you'll be satisfied, if not scintillated.

But sometimes the rules change, and bread and butter can choke you.

Time to make jam.

[image: I love these jars by]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Be careful what you wish for

If you'd asked me four years ago what day I was looking forward to more than any other, I'd have had only one answer: the day my youngest child goes to school. I had two small children and too many deadlines to think about. I dreamed of the day when I would have enough time to write a novel and not be interrupted halfway through every sentence. Every. Sentence.

I worked late into the night, woke up all night and woke up early. From there, the chance to ship them off to school looked like a ticket to the Promised Land - for me, if not for them.

Today I received a note home from school. Enrollment packs for 2012 are available for collection at the office. It dawned on me, as it has been slowly dawning on me since the beginning of the year, that this is my last year with a small child at home.

My last year of 'I need a snack'. My last year of 'Can I watch this DVD?'. My last year of 'What shall we do today Mummy?'. My last year of 'No, I won't'. My last year of 'I know you're on the phone but I need you to wipe my bottom RIGHT NOW'.

My last year.

I never imagined I would feel this sad.

Last Thursday, Mr4 and I walked into town. We had plans. He was going to walk all the way in his new, bouncy, enormous, white sneakers. We were going to have a milkshake. We were going to pick up a new Fireman Sam DVD to rent. Life on the edge with a four year old in tow.

He turned to me as we walked out our front gate. "This is going to be the Best Day, Mum," he said, before bounding off to show me how well he could skip in his brand new, bouncy, enormous, white sneakers.

And it was. We had no chores and nowhere to be. We wandered around, got the DVD, had the milkshake, visited Gran and Pops, and went home. He was thrilled that I'd got all my work done and wouldn't need to spend any time on the phone or the computer. As was I.

That night, as I lay in bed with Mr7, enjoying the 20 minutes of one-on-one time that we get each day in the guise of Reading, I realised that I would soon be doing this with both boys. Squeezing an entire day's closeness into one tiny window.

Unlike now. When I have two whole days of pure, unadulterated Mr4. All to myself.

So, school next year.

I miss him already.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday night

It's been a long time since The Builder and I have had a date in the Big Smoke. Just the two of us. Not meeting friends or family or dragging the children behind us. So when we found ourselves heading to the Opera House on Saturday night to see Tim Minchin, we spent the opening moments of our date in shock. There were moments of silence, and they were not filled by childish chatter, nor by half-cut friends asking if it was our shout. It was just the two of us. Alone. In the City (we say City now that we are Country folk).

Once we got our first beers in at The Australian, there was much discussion about how busy it was, how cool the girls next to us looked in their 1940s frocks (they were enjoying a very late High Tea... at the pub... I know, but somehow it worked), how much traffic there was... etcetera. We wandered down by the Quay, watching the preparations underway at the Earth Hour stage, marvelling that so much electricity was being used up in the preparations for turning off the lights.

We enjoyed a glass of bubbles in the foyer of the Opera House, watching young women totter past us on high, high heels, watching families with young children in the throng (wondering if the parents knew much about Tim Minchin and his propensity for 'adult themes' and F-bombs), watching silver-haired ladies in shawls realise that they were in the wrong place to see The Barber of Seville.

And then we watched Tim Minchin, a whirling dervish of music and comedy and words. So many words. Torrents of words. Walls of words. A battery of words. Funny. So clever. Thought-provoking and managing to offend everyone and no-one at the same time. From our position at the side of the stage, we also had a spectacular view of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in action. Which provoked even more wondering.

What is the role of the harp in that wall of sound? How do you get the Glockenspiel gig? Why can the orchestra be divided almost down the middle into genders - brass and percussion all men, bar two women. Strings, nearly all women, except for the double bass brigade, all men.

The conductor, Ben Northey, was a star in himself, rocking along and clearly having a lovely time. What must it be like to enjoy your work so much? Equally, what must it be like to be the older French horn player, doing your thing as a wild-haired Rock'n'roll Nerd sings about how "only a ginger, can call another ginger, ginger". Do you even hear it as you concentrate on your cues to blow your horn? Or do you go to your Happy Place, where only the classics are played?

After the show, a leisurely stroll back into the city (note lowercase, for we are back in the swing of it by now). Gaggles of girls in high, high heels and short, short skirts teeter past, accompanied by young men in blindingly white shirts, open at the neck. In one case, the girl had clearly chosen her companion for his ability to fit neatly under her armpit and hold her up as she navigated the terrain in 18cm heels. Perfect.

Slow lines of cars, shined and polished for the night and thumping out the owner's execrable musical taste to the world, eased along the road, most full of keen-eyed men, watching, content to spend their night in a traffic jam. Front row seats for the ever-changing show.

The City on Saturday night. Don't you love it? (And, yes, every time I think of it, the Cold Chisel song comes to mind... got it... you're welcome for the earworm.)

[image: Vintage Posters & Prints]

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Despite the fact that the weekend has snuck up on me this week - it still feels like Tuesday, unfortunately - I'm back with the Weekend Rewind. Did you miss me last week? Of course you did.

The drill remains the same, only the links change each week to create a divine mixed tape of bloggy madness. To whit, you follow the Fibro if we are not already BFFs, you link up a vintage post for some new comment love, you visit a few other links to provide said new comment love. Voila!

This week, our Weekend Rewind has hit October. I confess that this, too, surprised me. I was already wailing Guns'N'Roses 'November Rain' in my mind, but I peaked early. Get set for a great version next week. In the meantime, drag out a post from October 2010 or earlier and let's put a spotlight on it. I tried to come up with an October song for you all, but all I could think of was Oktoberfest Oom-Pah-Pah numbers and I don't think anyone needs one of those to deal with in March.

Anyhoo. Ready, set, Rewind!

This week, I'm sharing a post that brings a smile to my face, all about the drama of reading at school. Can't wait to see what you've got for me!

And, if you're feeling all grateful and stuff just to see the Rewind back, don't forget to visit Maxabella's Grateful - one of the happiest linkys on the internet.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tips for writing features #6: Hide and seek

Last month, I sent a pitch for what I considered to be a fabulous and timely feature to the relevant editor at a major women's mag. One with whom I'd worked successfully before. One that I thought was just the right contact for this particular story.


Two weeks later, I followed up that pitch with a polite, friendly email, repeating the pitch in a polite, friendly manner.


One week later, I sent a polite, friendly email thanking the magazine for considering the pitch and politely letting them know I'd be taking it elsewhere.


I reworked it to new specifications, took it elsewhere and sold the story.

Today, I had a conversation with a friend about the importance of developing a thick skin when it comes to freelance writing. Thick skin, used in the sense of Rhino Hide.

There will always be rejection (and someone not even responding to your email lands squarely in this bracket). No matter who you are, or how long you've been working as a freelancer. People who work regularly as freelancers are the ones who take that rejection and use it to plaster another layer of insulation on their skin. Creating a suit of armour.

It ain't pretty. But you're not looking for pretty. You're looking for work.

[image: a 1955 advertisement for Royal typewriters, available from FrenchFrouFrou/etsy - I am seriously lusting after a Royal typewriter in rose pink or mint green. Just saying.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

About a boy: true love sticks

Mr7 has long been a man of passion. When he was two and discovered The Wiggles, it was Hot Potato city round these parts. He insisted on wearing yellow and would answer to nothing but "Sam".

The Wiggles were replaced by Ben 10. Ben 10 was sideswiped by Star Wars. Star Wars was blindsided by Zac Power and Captain Underpants. And now we have reached the zenith of his affections. If he was stuck on those other loves, he is glued to Harry Potter.

When he was into Ben 10, he wore a big watch. When he was into Star Wars, he tied a baby wrap around his neck and became Luke Skywalker. With Zac Power he made spy cards. As Harry, he draws a zigzag scar on his forehead. With texta. He walks the walk, does our Mr7.

He also talks the talk. Nothing but the talk. Today, the Fibro is full of shouts of "Expelliamus!" "Wingardium Leviosa!" "Accio Nimbus2000!" Etcetera. He ambushes me with questions about whether Harry's wand would be longer than his arm or shorter. He wants to know about the Tri-Wizards tournament and will tell me, in exquisite detail, about how he'd go about getting past a Hungarian Hornback (or whatever type of dragon it was that Harry defeated). He is stymied by the fact that I will not let him read past book three. The themes get too dark. Harry gets too damn grumpy.

Last night, as he was leaping about the back deck trying to levitate his brother with a coathanger, I turned to The Builder.

"Do you reckon he's like this at school? Talking about nothing but Harry Potter."

No pause. "Yep," he answered.

"He does tend to get stuck on one thing. Would you call him obsessive?"

He paused. "Nope. I'd call him male."

Do you have boys? Are they serial stickers as well? Are girls the same?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's your fallback lunch position?

When I first started using Twitter, people who were not fans were aghast. "Why would you want to know what people are eating for lunch?" they asked. Answer: I don't, but there's more going on than that.

Except now I'm about to blog about my lunch. Specifically, my fallback lunch menu. Feel free to look away now.

Being at home a lot, as I am, means that I'm pretty much confined to eating whatever's in the fridge or pantry for lunch. How I well remember the days of working in the city and having to actually make a decision about lunch. Pho? Sandwich? Turkish? Lebanese? Soup? Salad? Sushi?

Oh my.

These days, more often than not, there is no choice. There is only what I like to call the Single Girl Special: a tin of tuna mixed with a can of chickpeas. A sprinkle of pepper. Eat, standing over the kitchen bench.

So named because I basically survived on it during my years in my studio flat and various share accommodation arrangements.

Simple. Nutritious. Boring.

Much like this blog post.

What's your fallback lunch position?

{image: sign from}

Monday, March 21, 2011

How (not) to have a sick day as a work at home mum

It's hard to have a day off when you're a work at home mum. I was out of sorts this morning. Tired, headachey, blah. I decided I'd call in sick, put my feet up and read a book. Of course.

I got home to my quiet house after school drop-off. I readied myself for a sick day. Coffee at hand. Book at hand. I got onto the sofa. I assumed the correct 'sick day' position.

Nothing doing.

I remembered the three emails I needed to send to follow up interviews for later in the week. I got up. I sent my emails.

I assumed the correct 'sick day' position.

Nothing doing.

I remembered a feature story I'd forgotten to begin. I got up. I went through my contact list. I sent emails requesting interviews later in the week.

I assumed the correct 'sick day' position.

Nothing doing.

I noticed the pile of towels at the end of the sofa, remnants from a frantic folding session the night before.  They bothered me. I got up. I put the towels away.

I assumed the correct 'sick day' position.

Nothing doing.

I glanced at the clock. I remembered an interview was scheduled in 10 minutes time (hey, at least I remembered in my pale and wan condition). I got up. I wrote questions. I made a phone call. I made intelligent conversation.

I assumed the correct 'sick day' position.

I won't go on (well, not any more than I already have). You get the picture. I will say this, however. I feel better. And not because of the five minutes an hour I spent in the 'sick day' position. More for the fact that I will get to the end of the day knowing that, while I haven't done much, I've at least done enough to keep things ticking over. That's what it's all about, isn't it? The ticking over.

How do 'sick days' work at your house?

{image: a wall art print by iAlbert/etsy}

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A blog post about blogging

I hope you're noticing my evocative and enticing use of key words in the headline to this post. Blog. Blogging. Oh, whoops, there they are again.

So I missed the SEO session at the Aussie Bloggers Conference. You could hardly tell, could you, given how unobtrusively (blog) my keywords are placed (blogging). I'd had every intention to go. It's an area of internet writing about which I know surprisingly little, given I've been writing online for about five years now. I had professional reasons for being keen.

But, as always, I got seduced by the stories instead.

I confess that the My Blog, My Story session was not one that leapt out at me from the program with a 'pick me' sign on its forehead. I confess that I thought 'Meh'. Just a little.

I was wrong. I learned so much from that session. I learned about the power of community. I learned about the pluses and minuses of blogging raw. I learned about boundaries in blogging - and how they sometimes turn into six-feet-high walls due to circumstances. I learned that one of the greatest things about blogging specifically and the online community in general is its ability to give a voice to those who are often not heard. I learned that a computer can become a lifeline.

So to My Three Ring Circus, Lori at Random Ramblings of a Stay at Home Mum, Magneto Bold Too, Karen at Miscellaneous Mum, Carly at Tune Into Radio Carly, Kim at FrogPondsRock*, a huge thank you.

The story is at the heart of everything. Write the story and the SEO will look after itself. (And blog, blogger, blogging, just in case and because ignoring the experts is foolhardy).

{image: via - please let me know if it is yours}
*if the bloggers name is not mentioned on their blog, I haven't mentioned it here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You've lost that bloggin' feeling

Like the best romances, blogging in the early stages is a heady business. Well, once you get past those awkward first dates where you're not really sure what to say and you're worried you'll put spaghetti all over your face, it is anyway.

A few months in and you're mad about it. Obsessive. Or maybe that was just me. Checking in constantly just to say hello, whispering sweet nothings all over town, public displays of affection on Twitter. The whole shebang.

As you approach your first anniversary, the excitement is palpable. You've made it. One of those blogs that's actually lasted a year. The champagne corks pop, the bubbles fizz.

And then fizzles. Cue: post-party hangover. The honeymoon is over and the real work begins. Nothing has really changed. It's not them, it's you. You've just realised that, like the best marriages, blogging takes work. Things you wrote about with freshness and vibrancy the first time around, come around again.

You're at the point where you're a Cosmo coverline made in heaven: "Put the romance back into your romance." "Love him like it's the first time." "Hot monogamy!" Etcetera.

Your mind starts to wander. Perhaps your energy would be better placed in a new blog! A book! A visit to an ashram in India! Oh wait...

Suddenly, the distraction you've been looking for appears. A dirty weekend. Full of passion and excitement. A little me time. A chance to walk hand in hand with your blog.

Just what you need to rev up your Blojo.

So I'll see you on the flipside of the Aussie Bloggers Conference. Who knows what thrilling new moves I may have to show you. Bet you're quivering in anticipation.

No Weekend Rewind this week. Will miss your mixed tape of fabulousness, but I'll be back, raring to go next week.

[image: mounted print by VelvetImages/Etsy]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Escape artists

There is a reason why sales of romance novels increase during tough times. Why the latest romantic comedy will generally do better at the Box Office than that incredibly worthy, indie release. Why Michael Buble continues to sells CDs by the truckload.

It's called escape.

When your brain is full of overwhelming images and dire predictions and doom and disaster and... all the other D words, you look for something else. Something that will allow you to push all of those D thoughts into a small compartment marked 'Do Not Think About', at least for a little while.

Today I spent some time with Maeve Binchy. Warm, funny, easy and accessible. Minding Frankie - not one of her best, I thought, but still a salve in a week where the general awfulness factor has been high on a world-scale. It could just as easily have been Cathy Kelly. Or Monica McInerney. Or Marian Keyes (for added bite). Or any of the other hundreds of stellar female authors writing contemporary women's fiction.

Another world. Where things, generally, work out.

The perfect tonic to this one.

Who's your go-to author when you need to escape?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Too many words

Ever had the feeling you were swimming in words? Long words, short words, words of one syllable, words of three or more syllables. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs (don't shoot me, not often). Hyperbole, onomatopoeia, dictionary. Quotes. Case studies. Fact. Fiction. Faction. Fict. Google (thank you person on high for Google).

That's me right now. Freestyling through the word flow. Trying to keep my head above the many and varied fonts.

So I have only a few left in me for tonight.

Have you donated to an appeal for Japan? They need us.

Save The Children
Red Cross Australia

[image: original art print by FlyingHouseStudios/etsy - simply gorgeous!]

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Red Badge of Courage: Fibrotown edition (an update)

Remember this story about the girl at the supermarket checkout? The one with the dreams of being a police officer and an HSC exam to get through?

It's been nearly six months since that post and I have an update. Our checkout paths crossed again today. Finally. I could hardly wait for her to get through the usual 'How are you today? Do you have a [insert name of loyalty card] card?' before the question came gushing out.

"How did you go?"

She looked at me blankly. "Your HSC," I said. "The police force."

She smiled. "I got the ATAR* I needed," she said.

I cheered. But wait, I thought, she's still here. At the checkout. Not at the Police Academy.

"And the police force?" I asked, crossing my toes, hoping against hope that this wasn't going to be one of those moments where I wished I'd kept my mouth shut.

She looked sad. "I have to wait until July to apply," she said. "You have to be 18 and a half."

So she's waiting. Which, as we all know, is the hardest part.

Stay tuned.

*The primary criterion for entry into most under-graduate university programs in Australia, giving you a rank in relation to the rest of the student body that sits the year 12 exams that year.

[image: This beautiful illustration by SarahJaneStudios/etsy is called 'waiting'.]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In praise of the ironing basket

If you know me well, you know that I would not generally use the word 'praise' in the same sentence as 'ironing basket' without good reason. The iron and I are not friends. I remember getting a steam iron for Christmas the year I moved out of home and... well, let's just say the words 'stony' and 'faced' would have best described my reaction. Almost as good as the year I got a vacuum cleaner... but that's another story.

I have spent much of my life seeking out the words 'anti-wrinkle', and not just in face creams. Those 'throw out your iron' pants that Shane Warne was advertising a few years ago? I tried very hard to get The Builder to invest in an entire wardrobe of them. I had shirts that hung unworn for years simply because they did not fit the work wardrobe criteria: can it be put on right now and look presentable?

But I am a reformed non-ironer. Like a reformed smoker, only less evangelical. Still a little preachy though. So bear with me.

When Mr7 started school two years ago, I stuck with my long-practised Theory of Ironing. That is, do it only when necessary. So, yes, I was ironing a uniform every day, wedged around sandwich-making and general yelling about shoes. It wasn't pretty, but it worked.

Until I realised that it was one of the reasons that, every single day, we screeched into the carpark as the bell rang. And that it was adding to the general yelling about shoes by adding to the general stress levels.

Enter, the ironing basket. It began gradually enough. On Sunday night I would iron two 'normal' uniforms and one 'sports'. We had enough gaps between sports days that we could rotate nicely. The Builder's work blues began appearing on the pile and we would take it in turns to 'do the ironing'.

Slowly but surely, I have become an organised, Sunday night ironer. The Builder and I not only do all the uniforms and the work blues, but the occasional random pair of pants or frock has joined the pile. I have realised the joy of going to the wardrobe and being prepared. The true definition of Ready To Wear. Not everything, of course. A family night out would not be a family night out without last-minute ironing (and yelling about shoes).

Somewhere online last week - a blog? a tweet? facebook? - someone* commented that their mum had come over and had been looking for the ironing basket. "I don't have one," this mystery blogger/tweeter/facebooker replied. "I'm too busy to do ironing like that."

I thought of my ironing basket. And how much time it saves me. It's like reading your emails - a major time-suck if you do it piecemeal, but chunk it down and you can get really efficient at it.

Or at least that's what I'm telling myself as I try to come to terms with my new position in life as an Ironing Basket Disciple.

Are you an ironing-basket disciple, or a devotee of the Iron As You Go principle? Is this just another sign of my impending old age?

*Let me know if it was you - I often find myself wandering down unfamiliar paths on the internet and can never remember where I was or how to get back there.

And yes, in case you were wondering, the above image from GraphiteGirl/etsy is exactly what I look like when I iron. Right down to the high heels.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Rewind

I am sitting here with a glass of wine, having survived the annual school disco. All I can say is I'm glad they come but once a year. And even happier that The Builder had a chilled glass of white awaiting our return home, resplendent in our glowsticks and our flashing starfish necklaces.

But enough about my thrilling social life. It's time for the Weekend Rewind. All you have to do to take your place in the moshpit is to follow the Fibro if we're not already friends, link up a classic old post from your well-padded archives, and then visit a few other links to share the comment love. So simple. Just how we like things on Friday night... particularly after enforced viewing of the complex nature of primary school society.

This week's theme for our mixed tape of hot hits is September. And it is a hot month - so many inspiring musical choices to choose from - Green Day 'Wake Me Up When September Ends'... oh, not so positive. Okay, let's look to a standard then. Frank Sinatra was just one of the many who recorded 'September Song'..."It's a long, long time from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September"... Hmmm. Part of the problem, of course, is that September in the Northern Hemisphere heralds the dark, cold months. Here, of course, it's all 'spring is sprung, the grass is riz..."

I don't mind if you choose perky September or sombre September, just post a link from September 2010 or earlier - if you don't have one, feel free to put up something about spring. Or grass. Whatever.

Okay, that's the spiel done. All that's left now is to Rewind!

(Don't forget to visit my other fave weekend linkys - Maxabella's Grateful, and Blog Gems at The King and Eye (Sunday)).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Progress report

Thanks to all your enthusiastic - very enthusiastic, I must say - whip cracking, my non-fiction book is beginning to take shape. Using 'take shape' in the sense of 'has begun by doing lots of research and hope to have another completed chapter by early next week'. That's a shape, right?

Which is my way of saying, I'm not posting (much) today because I am writing.

No complaints. After all, it's all your fault. There was that much whip-cracking going on, both on this blog and on Twitter, that I felt as though I'd fallen through the looking glass into an Annie Oakley show.

Thank you. No, really.

PS: I'm guest posting today over at We Heart Life - it's a timely post.

{image: via}

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The magic of childhood

Mr7 has a new book. The Great Big Book of Magic Tricks. It arrived this afternoon. Cue: concert.

The joy.

To his credit, he pulled off three tricks. Including the Great Disappearing Coin trick. And the Let Me Guess Which Coin You Chose trick. The third, which he made up himself, involved inviting me to pick a card, putting that card back into the pack and then pulling out a completely different card.

"Where's the magic?" I asked. Naive, that's me.

"I turned your card into a different card," he said, with great Magician-like confidence.


Mr4, as the Magical Assistant Guy, capered about in a pirate hat, witch's robe and fireman's pants. He managed to make a coin disappear too, but was roundly told off (by Mr7) for ruining the trick by dropping said coin from his 'disappearing cloth' to the ground. He then disappeared the $2 coin, which was from Mr7's money box, into his own money box, right under Mr7's nose.


{image: corelladesign/etsy}

I'm guest posting today over at Lisa Heidke's blog, asking the big question: Does a writer need a blog? Come and say hi!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ever wish you were different?

Parenting is the last bastion of horror for the chronic overthinker. You not only have your own stuff to overthink, but now you have the lives for one, two, three [insert number of children] others.

The worst part about it is that your overthinking can take on a life of its own. Your child has a glitch. They tell you about it. You immediately start wondering how this might affect them next week/next year/next decade. I am an expert at this. One small 'nobody wants to play with me' becomes a giant leap into a bleak and friendless future.

Three weeks after the fact, I'll be the one still overthinking, reading up, looking for information, considering strategies. The child in question? He's moved on. Probably five minutes after he mentioned it. Too busy playing with his friends to discuss it further.

Worry wart? Moi?

Given the choice to delete any part of my personality, it would be this. Not the complete and total inability to 'get' trigonometry. Not the underwhelming sense of fashion and style. Not even the deluded desire to try stand-up comedy.


What about you? Anything you'd change or delete?

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to gain instant music credibility

This post was all set to be about how the Genius at iTunes seems to be under the illusion that I am a complete dag. For those not familiar with the word dag, think of everything cool and hip and sohotrightnow - and then picture the opposite. That's a dag.

For some reason, I opened it up on Sunday and it was suggesting I buy singles by Jason Donovan, Ricky Martin, Take That and Guy Sebastian*. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Yep, a trip to the iTunes store can be one simple way for those over a certain age to see that they're really not, um, with it anymore.

Today's a different story. Today Genius is suggesting I purchase Sufjan Stevens, Little Birdy, and Happy Mondays.

There can be only one explanation for this.

Genius has found The Builder's playlists.

Music cred by association.

You've got to love marriage.

So tell me, what does your iTunes Genius say about you?

*Please let it be noted that I have never purchased anything by these artists. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

{image: via}

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Did your Glory Days involve a backpack?

I have days when I wonder if I should have had my children earlier. These days usually happen when I am tired, depressed by the sight of another grey hair, and coming to terms with the fact that I will never understand the Justin Bieber phenomenon.

Then there are the days when I actually sit down and remember my twenties. The time I spent working on magazines such as Vogue Australia and CLEO. And the several years I spent based in London, working at Homes & Gardens magazine, and squeezing in as much travelling time as possible.

I had a flurry of those days this weekend when The Builder and I welcomed one of his Dutch relatives into the Fibro. K is 20 years old, spending six months in Australia, and deciding which university course he will take up when he gets back home. Remember those days?

It was a joy to have him here. An excuse for The Builder (who, in true Australian fashion, left home one year in his twenties and came back five years later) and I to relive our travels. To talk about London and Amsterdam and Berlin and Prague. To warn K about the dangers of Full Moon Parties in Thailand - and then suggest that if he must go (and, really, what 20-year-old boy thinks he shouldn't?) to be very, very careful - and not tell his Mum until after it's all over.

We talked about our worst experiences in backpacker hostels (The Builder always wins these contests). I remembered, though did not share, the time a man pulled a gun out at a campfire at Anzac Cove (he fired it into the air, looked around wildly, and disappeared... what a shame). We both agreed that we did not appreciate the amazing places we went and the incredible sights we saw until it was all much, much too late.

K's eyes were probably glazed over at this stage, watching us relive our Glory Days (which occurred approximately as he was being born). But he is very polite and pretended to listen. Fortunately, I managed to withhold the story about the time I went to Scotland with a group of girlfriends and we spent much time and energy searching for the Mull Of Kintyre, simply so we could sit on a rock and sing the song. I'm thinking he probably wouldn't have appreciated that one. At all.

But now that it's front of mind, I'm sure it will give me the wings (sorry) to get me through my next Way-Too-Old Mum day. I might even teach the boys the song, just to be sure.

Did you spend your 20s with a backpack? Do the memories keep you sane on bad days?

{image: via}

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend Rewind

I am full of Chinese food and beer and pretty much empty of inspiration tonight, so we'll cut to the chase. Welcome to the Weekend Rewind, the web's easiest linky. All you have to do to participate is to follow the Fibro if we're not already friends, drag one of your old posts out into the air (kicking and screaming, if necessary) and link it up for some new comment love.

Got it? Fablious.

Today's prompt is, in keeping with our months of the year trend, August. All I can think of is the seminal Neil Diamond album Hot August Night, but I blame my parents and too many hours in the Kingswood for this. 'Sweet Caroline' anyone? (Bah, Bah, Bah.)

I'm open to better August tunes. But more open to August posts (from 2010 or earlier). If you'd can't do August, give me something cool. Neil Diamond is cool. Apparently.

Okay. Everyone set? Rewind!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Irrational crushes

Tonight I shared with The Builder the identity of the man who has had me all-aquiver for the past six weeks or so. A crush of huge proportions. Tremulously, I turned to my husband and said: "That man does things for me."

He looked. He looked again.

"Him?" he asked. There may have been some incredulity involved. Okay, there was quite a bit.

Admittedly, DCI Gene Hunt (aka actor Philip Glenister) from the ABC series Ashes to Ashes, is not everyone's cup of tea. But some reason he is mine. A smoking hot cup of tea.


It's not the first time I've succumbed to the irrational crush. I remember having a thing for Dennis Waterman 150 years ago when he was Terry McCann in Minder and I was about 12. (Come to think of it, Dennis and Philip share a certain... hairline or something.) I also liked Bodie from The Professionals (the dark one, incidentally, not the one with the springy hair). Prior to these crushes, I'd been into Leif Garrett and the guy who played Bo on the tv version of The Dukes of Hazzard. Hormones have a lot to answer for.

I don't even want to think about psycho-analysing the origins of my 'thing' for, ahem, mature actors with Northern accents in police dramas.

But I do want you to share in my humiliation. Tell me your irrational crush. Please.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Finding the right approach for writing

I'm going to answer a question today. I'm not usually one for doing that, preferring, as we all know, to ask them. But it's a slow news day in the Fibro and I'm scratching around for a post. So...

When I ran my interview with Mia Freedman on Monday, Gill from Alice Becomes (great blog incidentally by Gill and Nic from Our Park Life) asked the following question in the comments:

"I would love to know your thoughts and how you balance and differentiate between separate styles of writing? Similar to Mia's point of view?"

Mia's point of view, just to refresh your memory, was this:

"Every type of writing I do - from Twitter to books - is different. It requires a slightly different approach and, often, a different tone. Since I'm constantly flitting between social media, Mamamia, my column and books, I barely even have to think about it now. Although, books can be a bit of a gear shift. You need to lengthen your concentration span, which is reduced constantly by tweeting and blogging."

I do agree. Magazine writing requires voice + objectivity. You are writing for a large, faceless audience who have certain expectations about what they will see in that particular publication. There will be a certain vocabulary that will resonate with that demographic (and you must never forget that each magazine has a specific demographic) and you may find yourself using such terms as 'BFF' and 'vajazzle', which you would not generally use. You must also in feature writing make room for expert voices, weaving them in and out, providing a balanced view of whatever your subject may be. Having said that, the essential tenor of the article must remain true to your own style and voice. Easy, huh?

Writing for a personal blog, on the other hand, requires intimacy. Here, it is all about your voice. This is what I love about it. You can truly give voice to your own voice in a way that you can't when you have an editor, a specified readership and others to please.

Twitter and other social media has been very good for my writing in a strange way. While it is not good for the attention span (I agree 100 per cent with Mia on that), it is superb for clarity. Getting a cohesive message into 140 characters can be a challenge and is a simple way to spot waffle at 20 paces. As for Facebook, there is an art to an excellent status update... one which I'm still learning.

Now for books. Ah yes. So many words. With non-fiction books, I usually break it down into chapters, write each as I would approach a long magazine feature and then work out where I've repeated myself so that I can cross-reference and double check. Fun.

Fiction, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. It comes back to voice - presenting your story in your own words - but also creating characters with their own voices. Not easy. There's also a lot of persistence involved. As discussed, I am not a plotter (though I am rapidly appreciating the value of having a map through a story), so I tend to just start and see what will happen. I find that fiction requires long periods of thinking followed by short bursts of activity. I put down 1000 words here and 500 words there, and then ruminate for a while before banging out another couple of thousand words. I know that many experts say that the best advice is to write every day, but my thinking on that is that I do - just not always on the same project. Perhaps this is why my fiction remains unpublished...

I also write for other websites, do corporate work (including newsletters and media releases), and write advertising copy. All of which require different approaches again (which we might go into a different day as I'm getting sick of the sound of my own voice here...).

So, yes, I am constantly switching between forms, but each has a quite specific approach. Sometimes I do find myself wishing that my next magazine feature was 140 characters long - but I have to say that writing short can be a lot more difficult than writing long. Less room to cover up if you get it wrong.

The one thing that carries over in every form of writing is discipline. Mostly, the discipline to do it.

{image: Natashanb/Tumblr}

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The chocolate yoyo

I am officially deluded.

Last night, I had only one Tim Tam for dessert (rather than the regulation two) because I did not wish to undo all the good work that I had done that morning at the gym. I felt good and virtuous and immediately three kilograms lighter.

Today, I ate a small chocolate bar and justified it to myself with the thought that I would be going to the gym tomorrow morning so it wouldn't matter. I now, of course, feel bad and guilty and immediately three kilograms heavier.

Generally speaking, I am not too weird in the area of food. Weird in other areas, tis true, but not in this area. I am an all things in moderation girl and if sometimes the moderation looks more like 'moderately less than the entire packet', well, so be it. But, yes, I am back at the gym, and, yes, I am even going twice a week, with plans to add an extra day. Why? Because it's true what your mum told you - you hit 40 and it all changes. The weight goes on easier and it comes off a whole lot harder.

And so, here I am with my chocolate yoyo thing going on.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Do you?

{image: via - please let me know if it's yours}

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