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The World SF Tour comes to Australia

Willow

I just really enjoyed listening to the Skiffy and Fanty Show (Shaun and Julia) talk with Marianne de Pierres and Tansy Roberts about Australian speculative fiction.


Small press gets a really thorough recommendation and they say lovely things about Twelfth Planet Press. Also some really great reading lists for Australian fiction and authors, big press and small.


Well worth a listen – here! Or just check out the Show Notes.


The World SF Tour are also raising money to go to Worldcon.


 






So about that yarn stashing problem

Willow

I’ve been working on writing this blog post for over a week now. But as it turns out, the process of pulling what I wanted to say together, and doing a few other things, ended up bringing me a few understandings that have changed what I wanted to write entirely.


You see, it was worrying me how much I could relate to and understand how people end up on the show Hoarders. On an episode recently, there was a sweet old lady whose house wasn’t dirty or gross but it was jam packing in with plastic boxes stacked to the ceiling filled with perfectly good craft things – books, tools, materials and so on. The probably was that everything was perfectly usable and not able to be thrown out. One of the doctors on the show said that a problem with hoarders in general was the intent, things there were going to get to or do, at some point. So of course, this woman had a problem with cleaning out her house – how could you thrown that stuff out? And in doing so, it would have involved admitted and coming to peace with the fact that she couldn’t possibly *do* all those things she intended to. David Allen describes that emotion as grief – at letting yourself and your commitments to yourself down. He also says that in taking audit and then keeping track of all your projects and commitments, you will suddenly discover the word “No”.


So all of this has had me thinking a lot about my sock yarn stash. It is this major brick wall of both guilt and of scheduled future time. If I’m actually going to knit it all. That means I’ve already decided a whole lot (and I mean a *whole lot*) of crafting I am going to do. At some point in time. And that kinda actually takes some of the fun out of it. It also means I can’t justify buying more yarn when I have so much [1]. The problem though is that your tastes gradually change over time and what you liked 5 or 10 years ago may no longer be your thing. And horrifyingly, I think I have been stashing some of this stuff that long now.


And I’m *still* buying yarn! Despite deciding I need to reduce my stash, I bought this pile in the latest Black Friday sales (of yarn I have be lusting after for years – Lorna Laces in Bittersweet, Claudia Handpainted in Watermelon, Handmaiden sea silk, ooh and a madeleintosh which I’ve only ever heard about never seen and in TPP colour!)



And I signed up for a bimonthly (every other month) subscription to KnitCrate. Here are the yarns in the January stash (Blue Sky Alpaca and Zen Yarn Gardens. Also, miniskeins which I have crocheted up already, see top picture).



I decided that I would spend this year knitting up as many pairs of socks as possible. Just to see how many I could knit. And I’ve got a couple of subprojects relating to that to work on over the year. And to that end, I thought I would cast on during the Opening Ceremony (ala the Ravellenics – the old knitters tradition of picking something ambitious in a tight timeframe and going above and beyond as the Olympic spirit to get it done by the Closing Ceremony. It’s a knitting thing). To that, I needed to figure out the first project and then wind up the skeins into balls to get going.


Easy, right? Wellllll …. I *thought*  I had attachment issues relating to my skein collection. That handpainted yarn looks so gorgeous as skeins that I couldn’t bear to ball it up for use. And that that was my problem with this whole stashing thing. Yeah, I think not so much. I mean, I do enjoy admitting the whole colour play thing but, yarn cakes are also very nice. And so is actually working with the yarn – watching the colour work into a textile.


The first projects selection (shocked how little impact this made on my stash but you gotta start somewhere.


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I went to take before and after shots of some yarn skeins into cakes viz:


 photo(81) photo(80)


 And I discovered a horrible truth! The true reason most of my stash is in skeins is not because I love to admire it in such form, it’s because a long time a go, I cut corners on getting all the tools and I skimped on getting a Swift – this is the thing that you hook the skein onto so it doesn’t get tied into knots as you wind it it into the ball on the ball winder (see photo above). I think I thought I could wing it without this device and have never put it together that I hate winding up the balls because it always takes ages and I spend a lot of time undoing the knots. I really have no idea why I can’t commit to a new hobby or interest and buy all the required tools. I really don’t know why I insist on doing it half-arsed and get annoyed and never really execute things properly. I was worried all this time I was a yarn collector and not a knitter. Turns out I just forgot why I was procrastinating.


So I bought a swift online, which is still coming, and in the meanwhile, I wound these two balls up by hand to cast on during the Opening Ceremony. I’m having a go knitting two socks at the same time:


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And, confession, after lusting after this yarn colourway for literally years, and then admiring it for months in skein form, knitting it up, it doesn’t really look how I thought it would. And I’m a little disappointed. It’s Claudia Handpainted in Watermelon. I thought the striping would be a bit different, more solid.


And in all this process, I had a second revelation. All this time, like seriously, for 15 years or something, I thought I could only monogamously craft – that I could either knit or quilt and would do so obsessively, but that I couldn’t do both at once and that I certainly couldn’t bounce back and forward between them. I thought I could either do one for like 6 months and then switch out. As in, that is how it’s always been. But in all this faffing around with the knitting, I’ve been quietly also progressing my most current quilting project. And the reason for that is because all the pieces have been cut and the blocks I’m working on all have the next pieces pinned in place. So it’s just a matter of picking the next piece off the pile and sewing it. There is no thinking needed about it at all. Which is the GTD philosophy in action – do all your thinking in one go and figure out the next action so that you can just crank the widgets in the moment.


And so my revelation – the reason I usually switch from one craft to the other is that I get stuck on a project and don’t know how to move forward (or I have to unpick whatever it was I had just done) and it all feels too hard so I go and pick up the other craft. And that craft has all these exciting next actions ready to go and away I plunge until I hit a wall there. None of it had anything to do with being in one head space or the other. It just was a matter of never leaving anything without knowing what the next action for progressing it should be.


I feel really weird with all these breakthroughs. Must be time to lie down. Or buy more yarn.


[1] Which is also not necessarily a bad thing given I’m a student again but there are so many yarns out there yet to try and somehow I got stuck at Blue Moon Fibre Arts![2]

[2] Also not necessarily a bad thing.






Cafe Review: Cantina

Willow

photo(79)This cafe visit was purely leisure as I met up with my sister for lunch last week. It was a very hot day and the baby and I had had an *interesting*, shall we say, morning.


Cantina, on Beautfort St, is a lil’ bit fancy and I’m never really sure about it. It’s a bit pricey but the coffee is really good. The service is very attentive and obliging but you can’t alter anything on the menu, which was problematic for me when pregnant as their only vegetarian dishes weren’t pregnancy friendly.


Pros:



  • Good coffee

  • Excellent table service

  • Very clean toilets

  • Nice range of seating options including booths (good for allowing the baby to spread out) and out of the way tables with ramp for access.

  • My pram was technically in the way of traffic but noone really minded

  • We sat for quite a while and the staff were happy to offer more coffee and refills of free water

  • The food is good – I ordered the gnocchi which I both ordered at the cafe I reviewed last week and the last time I was at this cafe. I like gnocchi. Also, vegetarian.


Cons:



  • No Wifi.

  • It’s pricey

  • The coffee is served in itty bitty cups. It felt like 3 mouthfuls of flat white. Delicious but not really enough for if you want to sit over a cup of coffee. Also … expensive for what you get.

  • We sat outside on the warm day which was warm


Overall, the coffee is very good and the service makes the visit enjoyable. It’s a nice spot to catch up with friends, I’m a semi regular there. But I don’t think it will be on our working space list.





2014 – The Year of Organise

Willow

It’s funny how synchronicity works. How you only suddenly notice that different aspects of your life keep throwing up the same lesson to you and that you know, you could acknowledge it now or acknowledge it later but either way, it seems to be the lesson you’re learning right now.


For me, this year, I feel like “organise” is it. When a baby comes along, I think you start to drown without organisation. In the beginning I was all winging it and stuff but the only real way I’m finding I’m able to feel less overwhelmed and get some air is to be organised. The only way I can get out the door remotely close to the planned time in the morning is if I’ve packed the baby bag the night before. And it only takes a couple of times of having to soothe a screaming-the-house-down upset baby whilst the bottles are in the steriliser and then in the freezer to cool down enough before you clue up to the fact that you should be ahead of the game. Now, no matter what happens, I’m making up at least 12 hours worth of bottles before I go to bed. I’ve even leapt out of bed at close to 1am when I realised I didn’t have enough bottles as back up and stayed up boiling kettles and prepping. Because, then, no matter how much hits the wall in the day ahead of you, at least you have bottles. And there have been a day or two when we’ve gone through what I thought would be 12 hours worth of bottles before lunch. I didn’t realise what people meant when they said you need to organise with a baby. I didn’t really get that it meant you have to organise everything else around the baby, not the actual baby herself.


I started the February round of the 12WBT today. And one of the things Michelle really drums into your head is the need to be organised to get this done. The very first round we did (ooh was that 2012 now??) we were organised and it really worked out. And then I found in subsequent rounds, if I hadn’t really worked out how things would go at the beginning of the week, well, it didn’t really happen. Because when all hell breaks loose, you drop the things you haven’t really thought through properly. Thinking just complicates things when you’re in put out the fire mode. This time, I actually sat down and planned out this week  – when we might need to cook things days ahead, when exactly (as in what timeslot) I would do which workouts (she gives you what you will do for the day ahead of time) and I thought through properly what I actually need to do, with mini milestones, towards reaching my goals. I’d like to be running 5km by the end of this gig. That means I need to be running say 2.5 km by the end of 6 weeks etc. We get the shopping lists on a Thursday so you have all the ingredients you need at the beginning of the week. And that really makes such a difference. Today, I was rushing with lots of things on and a very unsettled baby. It would have been easy to eat something less than optimum if I didn’t already have most of it preassembled (thanks to C) in the fridge. Grabbing the healthy option then became as fast as any other.


David Allen really emphasises the need to be organised in GTD, obviously. And one of the elements of the weekly review – the look ahead at the week to come – is becoming more and more glaringly obvious how important that is. Michelle Bridges calls it red flag days, where you know you will have issues either with following your nutrition plan (say you have a lunch or dinner out or your day is filled with appointments that makes getting your exercise in difficult). Allen talks about how you put something near the front door so you don’t forget to leave the house with it as an example of looking for things before they show up and blow up. I’m not always good at getting to this part of the weekly review but damn it’s annoying when I haven’t and hugely gratifying when I have, and have put in place the things I need to have done so things don’t blow up. The other day, we calmly walked out of the house at 8.30, within 5 minutes of deciding to leave because I’d done all the preparation the night before. Because I knew that would be hard for me to do so I did all the hard work ahead of time. Allen calls it the “ick factor” when you do things not because they are good for you – like brushing your teeth – but because you can’t stand the ick. After it not bothering me for ever so long, I now can’t stand leaving the kitchen with mess. I don’t like going to bed without clean benches. It just icks me now, in a way it didn’t before. I wonder what other new habits I might pick up inadvertently due to ick.


I in no way have this “organised” thing sorted. But I’m hyperaware of how it is arising across aspects of my life and how much of a difference it makes when I am organised vs when I am not. I think somehow by the end of this year, I might see myself as a much more organised person than I do now. The thing I don’t yet understand though is how you don’t require more time somewhere in the equation to be able to both do the things you need to do today as well as spend time today preparing things ahead of time for tomorrow. Or, put another way, what was I doing with this time before? It upsets me to think that I might have been doing nothing with it. Or worse, that it might be a bit like how if you put all your things away as soon as you finish using them, you never have to put time aside in the future to tidy up. And you don’t really notice the time you took to say put your shoes back in their spot. I think most likely it all takes the same amount of finite (your whole life allotment) time but one version allows you to live it a lot more stressfree. I think I’m just in the adjustment phase towards that constant state of being. I hope.





Cafe Review: Circa

Willow


This week we tried out Circa on Beautfort St, Mt Lawley (opposite the Astor Theatre, where Diva used to be).


I was a little wary about it because it’s a long and narrow shop and has a bunch of steps into and then through to the back of it. And I wasn’t sure it would have enough room for the pram. But I have to say, access (for a pram) was not really a problem – I did need help getting it up the stairs in but there was enough space to park it next to our booth for a good chunk of the day. Also, the staff were very helpful and understanding and I didn’t feel made to feel bad about leaving the pram there.


Pros:



  • Very comfy booths with large tables to work at. I never got uncomfortable sitting and the table took two electronic devices, a whole heap of baby things, big plates with food and a couple of cups of coffee.

  • Love the decor of dark wood panelling and also the very pretty bar behind the counter. Very swank.

  • The food was outstanding – I had panfried ricotta gnocchi on a pea puree.

  • The coffee was good too.

  • The service was brilliant – helpful, consistent etc.

  • And chocolate mousse ( see above). We tasted the dessert :) As is well known, the one thing that really improves chocolate mousse is of course, chocolate mousse. This is a chocolate mousse layered on a chocolate sponge and topped with chocolate and then a caramel cream. And then a dollop of chocolate mousse on chocolate biscotti. A++


Cons:



  • No Wifi. In theory that should have meant it was a great work space and that would probably be true if I was by myself.

  • No parent room facilities and nothing really that could be repurposed in the Ladies room (let us never speak of how I tried to get around this. I think the baby has forgotten.)


Overall, delicious, well priced food, great service, very pleasant place to hang.


 





Tea review

Willow

I’m the sort of person who likes new things to “settle in” when I get them. I dunno why but I can’t just use up something I just got – I like to admire the yarn skein before it gets knit up, or admire the candles before I burn them etc. The trouble with that though is there’s no clear timeframe on when the settling in is up and the enjoying is on. Luckily for me, I married someone with no such philosophy. C is the kind of person who eats all the goodies out of his Xmas stocking between breakfast and lunch on Xmas day. He has no desire to save nice things for another day.


This, then, is the only reason that we have already broken out the teas from the January Monstrositea and tasted tea number 3. (I should note that I discovered a segment of ginger included in the canister for the peppermint tea and thus the hint that the teas are to be enjoyed now, when fresh and not later when the honeymoon is over.)


I’d baked a cake. I know! I can’t believe it either. I’d just whipped one up for no reason at all. I used to be that kind of person, maybe I’m her again. Anyhow, this was Wednesday night, with Blue Jasmine to watch on the TV:



I enjoyed both the movie and the tea! The tea we had was from Lupicia – a green tea with strawberries and vanilla. It was a subtle, gentle tea, perfect for midweek relaxing and accompanying my chocolate cake. The cake was light and fluffy, not too sweet. I would probably add more milk next time as it was a bit dry. I used The Road to Loving my Thermomix chocolate cake recipe and substituted lactose free chocolate milk for milk since I had one and not the other.





I actually baked for Bake Club

Willow

Well, technically I spose I didn’t actually *bake* for Bake Club since none of the recipes used the oven. Usually, I’m enthusiastic about the concept of Bake Club and might still be so whilst thinking up what I will make but by the time it comes round, I’ve tried to get too pack too many things in to my week and C has to step in and help me make my contribution. Which is lovely of him but not actually the point of Bake Club.


Here’s a revelation, since I’m not currently working full time, I have time to do things like bake. And I find myself in the mood to do so. Who knew holding down a day job and trying to juggle a small business plus all the other things would suck your energy for feeling interested in activities like baking?


I’ve been wanting to make friends with my thermomix and Bake Club was the perfect incentive to actually start. Let me just say this, a refrigerated cheesecake that took maybe 5 minutes to make (plus fiddling with the construction of base etc).


photo(72)


I’ve been inspired by the Road to Loving My Thermomix Facebook page and this Chewy Caramel Tim Tam Cheesecake recipe is from there. Basically cream cheese, sugar, sour cream (I substituted for cream to give it more tang), vanilla (above) and then add chopped Tim Tams:


photo 1(1)


And pour on top of a base of Tim Tams and butter, refridgerate and voila:


photo 2(1)


Since that took no time at all, I also gave these few recipes of various balls  a go. I’d seen them over Xmas and thought they might be fun. Personally, I found them all a bit dry but they were super quick to make and the best bit is you don’t have to clean the thermomix bowl better batches.


First up apricot balls which as basically equal parts dried apricots and dessicated coconut plus a dash of yoghurt and then rolled in coconut:


photo 1(2)


Then I tried choc balls and milo balls (the milo ones are made just like the choc but instead of cocoa you switch for milo and coconut). Basically crushed shortbread, sweetened condensed milk plus whatever the flavouring is. She adds different things for fillings for other varieties like a frozen raspberry or a slice of mars bar etc.


photo 2(2)


The fiddly bit was the construction – rolling pieces of dough into balls and then into the coconut. In the end I was cooking for 3 hours but I didn’t notice the time cause everything was so easy.


Next Bake Club, I volunteered to bring savouries because we had Sugar Overload:


BakeClub





Cafe Review: Waldecks

Willow

photo(71) I’m still disproportionately excited about meeting up with Amanda last week for a study session. We had a really great catch up and then got a couple of decent hours of work in. Maybe not the most productive work session in my life but definitely one of the most productive for me in a while. It saddens me a bit to say that equals to sitting down in one stretch and writing 1000 words for my phd and reading one submission with care. But then, that’s also probably almost all the work I’ve done since then. The bub is pretty good in a cafe, much better than at home where she seems to need a lot more entertaining. She might be a bit more of a socialite than me in that regard!


I figure leaving the house with her is going to be the best bet for me in getting work done over the next little while. So I’m going to keep track of the places that work and those that don’t. What do you look for in a cafe? Any suggestions for places in Perth to get a good cup of coffee AND to work in?


My first suggestion was the Waldecks cafe in Karrinyup, mostly cause it has such a nice setting out on the decking with very cool cane couches and the vista of their plants for sale. We went on that very hot day last week and it did have a light breeze that took the edge off some of the time.


Pros:



  • Large comfy couches and tables outside and large tables inside to spread out and work on.

  • Pretty setting to stare at whilst thinking.

  • Coffee not bad.

  • Reasonable access for a pram.

  • Lots of space to put babies down (see photo).

  • Free Wifi.


Cons:



  • Service is not awesome (twice I’ve been there, twice it’s not been good).

  • Coffee is not great.

  • Inside is pretty noisy.

  • Hot on a really hot day.


Even though the pros outnumber the cons, I’m still a bit meh about this cafe. Free wifi and lots of space are pretty appealling. I’d have drunk more cups of coffee if the staff had offered me or if when I asked to order another, I wasn’t sent to the front counter to do so.


 





Monstrositea

Willow

Despite my well-documented tea stashing problem (see here and here), and the fact that my constant acquisition of tea drives my husband up the wall, for Xmas, he bought me a subscription to Monstrositea. It’s a subscription based tea adventure! Every month you get 4 different teas, enough for a pot each, to try all kinds of varieties both from Australia and around the world. (You might have noticed we have a thing at our place for subscription boxes at the moment!)


The very first parcel arrived on Tuesday and here is my unboxing of it!


It arrived in a gorgeous little tin:



With instructions and descriptions of each of the teas:



And here are this month’s teas:



Since I’m still enjoying my quiet cup of teas last thing at night, I’m looking forward to quietly enjoying these. I’ll report back later!





GTD: Getting the right tools

Willow

I skipped a few posts on how I’m going with GTD. I managed to get my knickers in a knot after that first post. Even though I *wrote* about how it was ok to not be perfect and that it was better to get moving in the direction of getting things done than not, I freaked out because my system was not complete before getting it up and running. I’m still working on knowing things at the emotional level as well as at the intellectual one :)


After a couple of days of realising that I needed a brand new system and freaking out about that because it meant overhauling my then current, and failed, one, I finally had a chat with C about it. Because C already worked out the lifehack to me a long time ago, he pulled out his phone where he’d downloaded the mobile app version of OmniFocus ages ago when Andrew Macrae suggested it to me. We had a play around with it as I explained what I need a system to do for me.  My main problem was trying to get a mindmap brainstorm of each of my large projects (TPP, PhD, Craft etc) into a list management system and also be able to have this system manage both my active Next Actions and also other actions that are sequential and therefore not the Next Action. OmniFocus works perfectly for this. And after having been frustrated for weeks with finding a tool to move to, I decided to finally buy OmniFocus. It’s not cheap at $90 for the Mac and I didn’t want to buy something if I didn’t trust that I would actually use it properly going forward.


It’s been a combination of demoralising to have to start the collection process all over again and also a bit exciting to be setting up my OmniFocus lists whilst doing so. I downloaded the hack to OmniFocus from the GTD website as it needs some configuration to work with GTD (The site says that hack is a public article so hopefully it can be read by non members). It took maybe an hour to st down and read that and get the hang of the software. And then it’s taken me two weeks to get it to where it is now.


David Allen reckons that when they do one on one coaching with people, it takes three full days to get their lives into the GTD system – three full days to mindsweep, collect all your stuff, process and organise into a system. I’ve never really had that kind of time available to me to dedicate to it and now with an infant, I certainly don’t get that many stretches of work time at the moment. I try to do a general mindsweep but my head doesn’t really tend to do a big mind dump like Allen describes in the book. I sit and do that and then I just move on and any subsequent thoughts I have from that point on, I record and throw into my in tray (or the OmniFocus inbox now). It works as a moving mind dump and enables me to at least limit the number of times I have the same thought going forward. Likewise, I’ve done a physical collection of stuff which was in my intray and I’ve noted the various other electronic places where there are collections that need processing. I’ve then just picked up one piece of “stuff” at a time and processed it into OmniFocus as time has permitted. Sometimes I get a couple of hours (I’m working til about 2am at the moment) and sometimes it’s just 1 or 2 pieces in between baby wrangling. Slowly I’ve built up my projects and subprojects and actions lists and I’ve mostly emptied my in tray and inbox and so on.


I found that I needed to also purchase the mobile app for my phone and then enable syncing between it and my laptop. Again, I’m not keen on spending so much money! But, I am often out and about and being able to enter a new thought or idea or to-do straight into the inbox for processing later makes sense in terms of limiting double handling, especially when pressed for time. The other reason I needed it on my phone is because the whole point of GTD is to be able to optimise those odd moments of time that come up in life to allow you to progress a project. You can’t do that if you find yourself unexpectedly in a shop, knowing you had things to get from it but no idea what they were.


I’ve also spent time not only getting my email inbox to zero (yay – finally glimpsed it last night before bed!) but in reconfiguring it. Peter Ball pointed out a pretty cool Gmail hack to me – Don’t Drown in Email -  which I spent 15 minutes getting up and running the other night. I wasn’t sure I’d like it since it brings your two email folders – Waiting and Action – to the front page, making multiple boxes show and you get your inbox empty on the left of the screen by processing and tagging them into boxes on the right (Action, Waiting, Delegated and so on) which means they never actually go away. But it turns out this is great because it’s not out of sight out of mind, which, um ahem, might have been the case previously. After I emptied my inbox, I started reviewing the other folders, starting with the 295 emails sitting in Waiting. Yes. I’d gone numb to them due to the mix of actions and inactions due to lack of reviewage. Anyway, I like this new system even though it too is a work in process.


So in all, I think that’s good progress to report. I feel like I will never get to the end of processing all my stuff. I still have a whole heap of places on my laptop to get stuff from. And I need to go through my physical files in my office. On the other hand, I have a lot less loose paper with lists and ideas on them than I did when I first set up GTD. But the big downside is that it’s taking so long to set up my system that I’ve not yet had a chance to get to the DO stage of getting things done. Which means I don’t yet fully trust my system – things go in, but do they come out?






I have a stashing problem

Willow

Look, I have a stashing problem. And I’m ok with it. But before I post about the actual problem, let me distract you with these miniskeins that just arrived last week in my Knitcrate kit for January.


These are from Zen Yarn Garden – a yarn dyer I’ve had my eye on for probably a decade but never actually bought any of their yarn to look at in person. These miniskeins  (10g of yarn each) are Serenity 20 Hand Dyed Fingering Yarn in 70% Superwash Merino Wool/20% Cashmere/10% Nylon.


This is the first month that I upgraded my subscription to include the miniskein Add On of 10 miniskeins. I LOVE miniskeins – so sweet and cute and a great chance to see a bunch of different colourways. My plan when I upgraded to this option was to crochet squares from each skein to make this blanket called Bear’s Rainbow Blanket. I had started this pattern to use up some stash of mine but I thought it might be nicer in these luxury yarns.


I think I’m right:


photo(70)


This is the first square in the colourway Composition Storm from the Art Walk Series inspired by Kandinsky. This is exactly the purpose of subscribing to a kit like this. I’ve looked at this series for years online and not really liked it. But working with it up close, the colours are subtle and rich and just beautiful as a worked up piece. I don’t think this photo really does it justice.


I’m so excited about this project!


 





Sleeping like a baby

Willow

photo(68)There’s nothing like a sleeping baby – not just because ahhhh, the silence! and the not having to be in action mode for the moment but also the complete peacefulness that sits across their face. It’s pretty hard not to fall in love all over again when gazing at my sleeping baby. But it’s made me realise the truth of the phrase “sleep like a baby”. It’s not hur hur hur, up and down every two hours crying all through the night. It’s the utter peace and innocence, the complete dissipation of any concerns or worries.


I’ve been thinking a lot about the quote by Nelson Mandela that no one is born racist. That’s such a huge responsibility looking into this completely divine face and know that she learns about the world through me. And there is something divine about her face – this lack of awareness of anything else in the world allows her to be happy or sad in the moment, no baggage from before or to take with her (at the moment) forward. She knows only of – hungry, sated, cold, warm, wet, dry, love. And mummy.


photo(69)


I posted before about how it breaks my heart sometimes to look into this, smiling face, and know at some point I’m going to have to explain things to her about the world. But I’ve also been thinking about the converse of Mandela’s quote – that no one is born knowing their place in the world. The baby comes in with just the id – she cries for what she needs and she knows not to be embarassed, ashamed, sorry or unworthy. The baby doesn’t know that in this world we have a hierarchy, that we decide, have decided and continue to decide who is entitled and who is not. Who is worthy and who is not. And what utterly kills me when I look at this face, this unreservedly smiling with her whole body face, is that every baby comes out into the world crying the same – for their needs to be met. And that what we do, individually or as society, is systematically squelch some people, and not others, raising some, and treading others into their place. Because … I don’t really know why.





A Tea Realisation

Willow

Long time readers may recall a confession I made some time ago about my tea buying – not drinking, mind – obsession. It did not improve after that post. In fact, I might have drunk 1 or 2 cups of tea ever after that day. My tea stashing habit is so bad that I can troll my husband  just by suggesting I need more tea as we walk down that aisle at the supermarket.


Since then, I have studiously worked on my coffee snobbery. I’ve scouted out all the coffee shops within a 10 to 15 minute drive from my place. I have found 2 places with actually pretty good coffee that are sort of nearby. Close to Melbourne coffee, even (with Perth prices). Eventually I realised that since I work from home now, I have time to clean an espresso machine after my first coffee in the morning. I pulled out the one we’d inherited and set it all up and it makes a very good cup of coffee too. And then I started working through the blends and single origin beans of my favourite coffee bean roaster. I go through a 250g bag in a fortnight, which I think is pretty reasonable and I’m enjoying fabulous flat whites in the comfort of my own home. And I’m drinking a lot of instant coffee too as is my way when I’m studying. (I checked, more than 5 cups a day is an issue with breastfeeding and the baby doesn’t seem to mind it as long as I keep under that.)


I like coffee. Anyone in my vicinity knows that.


I lied. I LOVE coffee.


So it was the oddest thing last night to find myself actually craving a cup of tea. And then enjoying it. And following it up with a peppermint tea. It was damn weird. Recently I’d had a conversation with my mother about not enjoying drinking tea anymore and she’d suggested I try drinking it a bunch of different ways to see how I like it. That making it like I make coffee might not be appropriate. This made sense given I adjust how I take my coffee depending on the beans and the barista.  I did try a couple of cups but didn’t really have much enjoyment so to then be craving a cup of tea was downright strange.


I’ve been thinking it over all day and realised that whilst most people offer a relaxing cup of tea to calm you down in a stressful situation, I respond to tea as a reward at the end of hard work, to drink *when* relaxed. Kind of like that beer at sunset after a good hardworked day, when you sit back and reward yourself for your achievements. A drink that’s enjoyed because you already feel good about yourself. And I drink coffee when I’m working, to get myself to work, to comfort myself, to amuse myself when bored or procrastinating and to feel decadent. I think it’s the rich, velvetyness of it, like chocolate, which I find comforting. Tea is less viscous and it often goes down scalding. It’s pure and it strips away impurity.


Lately, I’ve carved time out for myself at the end of the day, very late at night (it’s nearly 2am). It’s when I clean up the kitchen, make the baby’s bottles for the next day, catch up and make headway on emails and when I’ve started eating into digging myself out of my sandpit of to do lists. It’s when I finally feel like I’ve made headway on the day. And because now, so many small things are big victories – like going to the toilet, eating lunch, taking a shower – I’ve shifted some of my expectations of myself (possibly getting my organisational systems more up to date is helping me feel optimistic about digging my way out of my work and phd backlogs). I am also seeing slow headway. So I feel like a cup of tea at the end of the day.


I’m well aware of what this says about how I’ve seen myself and my accomplishments for like the last 5 years. But anyhoo … at least I’m in therapy :)


And now, to bed.









What’s that? A cooking post? Srsly?

Willow


Look, it was only a matter of time. No really. I actually have been making it into my kitchen a bit more often of late. For a number of reasons, the first being that when you’re home A LOT and OMG I am home A LOT now, you get bored. And hungry. And baking is excellent for procrastination. I also discovered a little truth about myself – I am far more likely to do things in the kitchen if the kitchen is clean, not just dirty dishes washed, but the benches and sink wiped down, the appliances wiped over, the stovetop cleaned and the pantry stocked in an orderly fashion. Cause of course, yeah, that’s a clean kitchen just ASKING to be dived into and messed up with flour and cocoa thrown about and whatnot.  Turns out, if I do this – the kitchen cleaning – regularly, it’s never that bad or gross. And there’s this sense of satisfaction wandering past such a gleaming room. Oh Gpd, I’m becoming domesticated.


Anyway, that’s all by the by because just before Christmas, my sister sends me this link to a Facebook page that she thinks C would like – The Road to Loving My Thermomix – which has daily posts of delicious things this woman is making to learn to use her Thermomix. I Liked the page and then had her gorgeous photos of delicious things appear in my Timeline each day, quietly inspiring me to think about actually learning how to use our Thermomix to do the same.


I think C nearly had a small MI when he saw me the first day actually attempt to make something myself in the Thermomix. But I’d decided that for our wedding anniversary, I’d make us a cheesecake I’d seen on that FB page. And before I did that, I wanted to try some other things out first. And then, the following day, when I was in the supermarket buying ingredients for the cheesecake, my sister calls me. “The FB page is gone,” she says.


“WHAT?” I try not to yell too panicky in the middle of the flour aisle. “What do you mean *gone*?” Yes. I had not actually taken down the recipe I was planning to make for our anniversary. All I had were the ingredients list. And yes, I had left this all to the very last minute.


“I KNOW! Can you believe it?!!” my sister continues.


“But! I LOVE that page!” I say. “And I wanted to try a whole bunch of her recipes!”


“I know! Me too! There was this note there this morning as the last post. And now the page is gone. I’m on this closed group for this page and we’re all scrabbling to see what recipes we each took down. I’ll see if I can get your cheesecake recipe.”


So the conversation continues. I’m wandering up and down the aisles and gossiping with my sister who is saying that she thinks the reason was that maybe someone did something awful in their TMX that ruined it and now the woman had to pull her page down. It was a hilarious conversation but my favourite bit was that I love my friendship that has truly blossomed with my sister over the last two years. And also that she sent me a screencap of the cheesecake recipe that she hunted down for me later that day.


Anyway. I made the cheesecake. It did not turn out right (it was a non gelatin, non baked one and it never really set til I kept it in the freezer and it wasn’t ready to eat til the next day, frozen). The Facebook page came back up, there was no scandal. One of her kids must have flicked a privacy setting whilst she wasn’t looking. And the likes on the page have steadily increased to somewhere near 20k. And I decided to make a few things regularly, maybe starting out as just one thing a week til I get used to the idea of actually being in the kitchen more often.


And so voila, raspberry filled choc balls. Made from the FB page. Actually she has a bunch of different varieties that I might try. They take exactly one minute to whip up, in one bowl! And then maybe 10 mins to put together – placing a frozen raspberry inside the dough (biscuits, cocoa and condensed milk) and then rolling them in coconut.



 


 





That old chestnut – judgment

Willow

One of the most confronting things for me so far about motherhood is the judgment or the perceived judgment. I feel like I’m constantly being graded, and am likely coming up short. In any new job, as Terri pointed out to me, it takes a good few months to learn the ropes and figure out what you’re doing. But mostly, unless you’re in a medical field, education or emergency services, you tend not to hold someone else’s life in your hands whilst figuring it all out.


Which is all fine. Mostly it’s not an issue – things can be washed, inconsolable crying can go on crying, adults can eat dinner at 10pm and so on.


But mostly I feel very wary of criticism – not advice, mind you, and I think there is a difference. Advice is helpful, criticism is judgey. And for some reason, I’ve become aware that I really seem to care about “what they think”. I don’t know who they hell “they” are nor why I care what they think. Or even if I’d know when they thought that. I’ve found myself very tied up in this concept of them and what they think and how they’ll judge me which is completely removed from what those around me who know and love me think about the decisions I make. I suppose part of it is the really strong lobbies that seem to surround birth and childrearing. And the dichotomies that get set up. I’ve been reluctant to post about a lot of my experiences here for fear of attracting attention from hardliners. Which is balanced by how much that pisses me off – that I feel like I’d rather just be silent than risk having the hate comments thing. I hate the way the art of discussion has been lost in favour of a world that has become right or wrong, black or white, with us or against us. Discussion has been dumbed down and we’ve lost the ability to appreciate complexity and nuance.


I guess I have to put big girl pants on and use a strong moderation hand, if necessary.


Choice is such an interesting thing. It’s not really free if the options are presented to you in such a way that clearly there is a good one and one that makes you a bad person for taking. That’s kinda how I feel about the whole breastfeeding issue. We took our baby classes prior to the bub’s arrival and were very amused at the one on feeding. At the top of the hour, the midwife says there are two options – the breast (breast is best) and bottle feeding (and it’s totally *your* choice and *up to you*). And then she spent the next two hours only talking about breastfeeding. There was a half hour on all the studies proving how breast is best with all the pros of this option and how awesome you are if you go down this road. And then a whole heap of other things about breastfeeding. It wasn’t til I was in the car on the way home that I realised there had been nothing at all, whatsoever, on bottle feeding – not how to do it, not how to find out how to do it, not the reasons why you might do it and what you might need or who to ask for help. C noticed this too and we amused ourselves on the ride home and many times after that how clearly biased the presentation had been: it’s totally your choice (BUT PICK THIS ONE).


Now, I’ll say up front, I was totes convinced on the breastfeeding long before the classes. Apparently (I learned this in that class), girls have decided whether they will breastfeed or not by the time they are 12 years old and very little after that will make them change their mind. I find this “fact” fascinating  – I didn’t read the paper it was quoted from. I’m sure I hadn’t thought about it at all by 12 or 16 or even 18. Anyway, the advantages of breastfeeding certainly sound convincing, and being a germophobe myself, they had me at increased immunity etc.


Cue to several weeks into the whole shebang and the bubs is not losing weight but she’s not fattening up as much as they’d like. OMG do not tell a Jewish mother her kid is not getting enough to eat. Oy Vey, kinderlach! I’m not really sure what to think about our local child health care. They seem to be pretty busy in my suburb and getting appointments was really hard (we couldn’t get our 10 day check til weeks later). We ended up visiting a drop in centre a suburb or two over and were taken under their wing. I did the lactation consultant thing, the weigh bub, feed bub, weigh bub thing. Got advice on latching. Had more people touch and prod my boobs than in my entire life ever. Boobs have become as unsexual to me as my elbows. We upped the number of feeds per day. Tried pumping. Some things worked, some didn’t. Bub gained weight in a step function then plateau way. Never really hit her stride. In the end, we got doctor advice during her 8 week check up. Now I am on meds that might not really be doing anything and top up bottle feeds.


I tried everything I could possibly do before eventually giving in to the formula. “Giving in” is such a loaded way to express this (no pun intended) but that’s how it felt. I did everything else to try and get the breastfeeding thing to work. I’m currently on the top dosage for the meds, and in bed today cause of the stomach cramps side effects, and I’m going to give it the full two weeks run before I decide. But at some point, when you’ve spent 20 mins feeding bub and then she drinks the whole of the “top up” bottle, you gotta admit, you ain’t producing no milk.


I had a long discussion with my doctor about it – OMG finally committed to a new GP for the baby and I LOVE her (another of my awesome sister’s recommendations). She said to me “it depends how important it is to you”. And that’s a funny thing really. I mean, obviously it’s important enough to me that I’ve been persevering with this for 11 weeks now. But I’d never really framed it as a “important to me” decision to make. I sat there as we continued talking thinking, “well how important *is* it to me?” and “is that actually how I get to frame this?” My doctor was of the opinion that a) I need to face the facts that the boobs ain’t really working out for me here and b) I should get to enjoy the baby. What a concept! I do like holistic medicine – placing decisions in a context.


Because that’s the thing really, isn’t it? All things *being equal*, breast is best. But all things are *never* equal. And what I’m really angry about is the way this is all set up as though there is a good choice and a not good choice. Yet, if that were true, wouldn’t we have developed an industry of wet nursing over the baby formula product? If it were so terrible? I’m angry that never, not once, did any of the child health nurses I saw – and I saw probably more than 5 – even *suggest* formula, or a top up bottle. It was so out of the scope that *even* at the last check up when it was really “yeah you need to take action now”, the advice was *still* go to the doctor and get a prescription to increase milk supply. Formula was never ever discussed. Which had the effect of making me feel like the worst mother in the world for even thinking about going that way. It made it a loaded choice. It made me feel like I was failing, or if not failing, choosing an option that “was not best”. And “not best” = bad, right? When really, what is bad is not feeding your kid. And I’m angry now about all those nights of “the witching hour” which were probably a starving baby crying for food. And probably I could have tried all those other options for upping my supply and also topped the baby up with formula.


The subtle judgment over women’s choices is another way of controlling them. And I hate that women play into that as much as men do. I chose to have a c-section. And I’ve felt weird about talking about this. But it’s not a free choice to make as a liberated woman if you feel you can’t choose some of the options. I didn’t want people to think I was “too posh to push”. Ain’t that a nice phrase? I spent a lot of time – probably about 7 weeks or more – agonising over this choice. I spoke to my counsellor several times, and people close to me who love and support me. And then, of course, with my OB who said that I have every right to choose and she would support me in any decision. I had reasons to make this choice but even so, it was still an elected one. Whilst they make perfect sense – my concerns included Crohn’s flare up (which today, with drug side effects triggering it, I am reminded how right that was to troubleshoot) and also to manage my anxiety (which both feeds into the Crohns and also depression). Had these not been critical, I might still have wanted to opt this way and that makes me feel like I “took the easy option” (my words). (Yeah, there’s no actual easy way to get a human out of your body. When they invent the transporter a la Star Trek, I wonder if that will still be the too posh to push option.)


All things being equal there might be preferred options, for certain pros. But things aren’t ever equal – that’s why we also have the saying “life ain’t fair”. When we set up dichotomies loaded in judgment they run the real risk of damaging people for no real benefit. There are so many other things that make for actual bad parenting choices – locking your kids in the car on a hot day whilst you go inside to the casino, for example. Surely we have better things to do than add to the stress by making people feel bad about choosing between two options that both mean a baby gets a full tummy? All options being equal and all that.





Health and Wellbeing Actions in 2014

Willow

This one falls under the New Years Resolution of “Don’t make things harder for myself.”


Last year I set myself the intention to rejoin the 12WBT program in the new year. Hi new year! *waves* I’ll admit I’d not been thinking about this commitment in a positive light. I spent almost all of 2013 in what felt like a zone of deprivation – I was sick with Crohn’s coming into the year so I don’t even think I got to drink a glass of champagne to toast our wedding or on our honeymoon. And then the pregnancy diet, if you follow it to the nth degree, is not that much fun. Well, ok, that’s a lie. I did manage to make my baby out of icecream and chocolate. And I got away with that mostly because I had morning sickness for 8 of the 9 months and barely ate anything else. But even so – brie! authentic chocolate mousse! custard! smoked salmon! sushi! soft poached eggs! almost any vegetarian option anywhere on any menu! green salad! Oh how I missed you all *hugs and holds on for dear life*


There were many many foods I missed during my pregnancy. And I’ve been eating then ALL since then. I’m home by myself and I have no concept of time anymore. Lunch most days is at 4pm, dinner can be at 9 or 10pm. It’s pretty clear if I continue on this track, it’s not gonna go the way I want it to. On top of that, I feel tired and lethargic all the time. Today and yesterday were the first days in three months that I did something other than watch TV. Yes, I have a newborn. But I think I can feel better and I think with a bit more effort, I can be a bit more on top of this. And … I finally have dug myself enough up out of the sand to care enough to find the effort.


And. It’s not our intention that the baby be an only child. When a woman gets to a certain age, she gets to have certain conversations with her doctors. In the risk factors surrounding falling pregnant again and for a healthy pregnancy and birth, health, wellbeing and fitness are the ones I can control. I can’t get younger. But BMI is related to a bunch of these things. I feel I benefited from spending  a year or two prepping my body before the baby and so … we reset the counter. I guess.


Finally, I really like the 12WBT program. You get emailed your meal plan Thursday before the week starts with a full shopping list. You can swap out meals you don’t like. There’s a really varied and balanced vegetarian plan – something I am not good at doing for myself. This alone means I will start to feel better. I’m not really that focussed on losing weight for the sake of losing weight. I have a weightloss goal for this round and for the year but more as a way of keeping track on how I’m going in terms of building fitness and eating better. I want to feel better in terms of energy and nutritionally as well as physically. Basically, if you move more and eat less chocolate, the weightloss is a natural consequence.


Part of the preseason tasks ahead of the round (which starts Feb) is to make public your commitment so here is mine:


“My commitment is to give the program my all and be careful and thoughtful about my participation and through this, to meet my goal to lose 10kg.”


So. There it is.







It can be perfect OR finished

Willow

The irony of this post is I have spent all day procrastinating on finishing it because I’m not sure it’s going to say all that I want it to.


This year, I plan to work hard to get my work systems to “cruise control” as David Allen would say. I’ve been trying to claw my way back onto the GTD (Getting Things Done) wagon after falling off, and then getting overwhelmed, when the bub was born. I’m going to hold myself accountable to this goal by posting something weekly about how I’m doing.


When I was in grad school the first time round, I once noticed a little quote one of my friends had up on her computer:


It can be finished or it can be perfect but it can’t be both.


When I read it, I realised this was exactly my problem too. So often, I get paralysed by the knowledge that what I’m working on is not, and will not be, perfect. And I feel that if I can’t make it be perfect, there’s almost no point in doing it. Often I think I don’t even take that thought through that far. I just get stuck like a deer in headlights drowning in quicksand and I’ll do anything else but the task or project I need to finish. I can think of about 8 things just off the top of my head right now that I’m actively paralysed on that fall into this category. (I achieved a lot today including writing about 50 thank you cards, moving some boxes to the shed, sorting through a clothes drawer, filled some book orders, all because I had this post I wanted to finish.) And yet, I told someone just recently who was also suffering greatly from her perfectionism, that 80% is still an A grade. I can help other people draw lines under their work but I have great difficulty doing that with mine.


And it’s not just my work that I’m a perfectionist about, I worry that my systems and my lists are not perfect. That they don’t have all the tasks set out at the beginning and that I might be forgetting something. Or that they’re in the wrong order. My handwriting needs to be perfectly neat. My reference material, brainstorms, notes from meetings all get rewritten for filing. I worry that if I come back later and the notes are messy, I might miss an idea. Or I think that all my reference material should inform my systems right away because I might forget to come back and consult my material later on. I read to memorise, that’s the truth on why I read so slowly, as though I could never come back and reread something again later. I worry I will forget I read the material at all and won’t know to come back and reread it. I do a lot of things more than one time through, I reinvent the wheel often (I am diagnosed OCD so that’s not really a shocker).


But the great thing about life is, it’s within my control to short-circuit this stuff. And something I have learned in the last year is, as much as I prefer to go from point A to point C immediately, it is totally ok to take a pitstop at point B. A lot of the time I get pulled up because it’s impossible to finish a task in one go. I do things like start tidying the pantry but run out of time part way in and will leave everything as is, all over the kitchen if that’s what I was doing, because I’m going to come back later and finish it to make it look perfect. And yet, later could be in 3 weeks or 2 months time. I often look like I’m in a state of chaos. But it’s planned chaos, I promise! So one of the things I’ve been trying to do is learn to take tasks to a midpoint. Say, tidying up one shelf of the pantry at a time, and putting things back in a temporary place, waiting for when I get back later to tidy a different shelf which will have the new permanent place. Or you know, breaking large projects down into subprojects with tasks and being ok with just tackling one tiny task at a time. Something that couldn’t be more crucial to progress for me right now than ever before.


I’m really and truly not used to having whole days (of maybe 15 or 18 hours long) in which I might battle to be able to get time to go to the toilet or make a cup of coffee. Where achievements are far more intangible than items I can check off a to do list – like comforting an upset baby. It’s a struggle for me when ticking things off my to do lists are how I validate how I spent the day. It can now take me a week to get anything substantial done.


I don’t really have the answer yet for how I’m going to make this work and juggle all my things. But I’m having to really take on board what David Allen says about weekly reviews – that if you are unable to complete the whole review, just starting it and doing it partially will make you feel better and more on top of your life than not doing it at all. It makes sense but it’s odd and unsettling to feel very organised in some parts and completely in chaos or in the dark in others. But what I’m trying to practise is learning to take smaller steps. I don’t have time to overhaul my whole system, to conduct a complete review, and to work in the size of work chunks that I’m used to. If I keep chipping away at getting my system up to speed a little at a time, and if I break my tasks down to the smallest of next actions (call Bob, find paperwork, buy stamps, fill book orders) and if I work on keeping my GTD systems going forward from today, in the end, I *have* to inch forward towards cruise control. Right?






Year in Review 2013: Final Honeymoon Post

Willow

We stayed in Saint Germaine for the third part of our trip to Paris. This was the least flashy hotel of our stay and it was ok. The room was a bit pokey and the breakfast was really not good. That though totally justified us wandering down to the bistro on the corner to have an energy boost before the full day ahead.


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Because yes, the deal was … two days at EuroDisney. And C very patiently schlepped along to all the art galleries I wanted to see in exchange for all the rides in the world. Except, I absolutely refuse to go on rollercoasters and my cold turned into a chest infection and I felt AWFUL. I have a couple of complaints about EuroDisney – everyone smokes everywhere, which yes, Europe, but also, place which has a tonne of kids all in one place! And with my asthma already being agitated by the chest infection, I was not a happy camper with all that smoke. The second complaint was there was almost nowhere to wait that was not in the cold and on a cold piece of furniture. It was freezing and sometimes drizzling with rain and pretty much every ride was a one hour wait in the queue. I’m sorry, but to me, the happiest place on earth does not involve a 55 minute wait for 5 minutes of fun. I went on a few tame rides – the Pirates of the Caribbean, its a Small World, the steamboat, the haunted house thing that kinda stuff. And the rest of the time, I read the first two books in Marianne de Pierres’ Tara Sharp series – Sharp Shooter and Sharp Turn – which were a heap of fun to cheer me up in the miserable cold.

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The face of a man who’s realised he has to go on the ride alone, followed by the face of a man who’s realised he still gets to go on the ride.

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We ate lunch in one of the restaurants, which had a very US 80s feel to it. It was overpriced, the service was poor and the food was not good. Pretty much what you’d expect. Here, C is realising there is too much to do and not enough time!

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And of course we stayed for the lights show, both nights.


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Something else I was determined to visit was The Catacombes. I honestly have no idea why this was on my list. I knew it was bones of dead bodies arranged in patterns. I *knew* this. Yet for some reason, it only dawned on me after we’d climbed down the flights of stairs into the under the ground and walked some distance and that the only way out was through (and up) some 2 kms, that this is an actual trigger for me. Yeah. And I got triggered. I had to just look straight ahead and be determined to walk to the end as quickly as possible and not think about it. It was very not fun trying not to have a panic attack and melt down.


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(Get me outta here)


There were some interesting things though – here is the aquifer

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And intricate carvings into the stone walls:


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Much grumpiness ensued as we’d waited for an hour to get in to see them and then I hadn’t even enjoyed it. I took us to Starbucks for a salted caramel hot chocolate and then we finally went to the Marais for falafel. I’d heard it was the best falafel outside of the Middle East and I can confirm it is the best falafel outside of the Middle East.


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I utterly loved our trip to Paris. C had never gone before and didn’t know what he’d think but he pretty much fell in love with the city as soon as we arrived and I’m so glad because I love Paris and can’t wait til we can go back again.





Year in Review 2013: Honeymooning

Willow

The one thing I really do appreciate our travel agent suggesting was taking a really decadent few nights in a chateau “somewhere”. When she first suggested it, I thought I would really want to pack up and move hotels so much but the photos she showed us of Chateau d’Esclimont, I was kinda sold. And in the end, it worked out really well to do a few nights in Montmartre, stay in the chateau for a few nights and then come back and stay in a completely different part of Paris. It meant we saw a lot more, I think.


The problem was, she didn’t actually organise us a way to get there and back. And the chateau was an hour out of Paris and we were booked in there from New Year’s Day. That as a bit interesting. We decided against taking three different trains with all our luggage etc and got a car to drive us there and a taxi back at the end. Neither of us were confident enough to hire a car for that part of the holiday so I’m not sure how much I would recommend it. The plan was to head down there, spend one day out and about on the grounds and in the town, one day at Versailles and one day at Chartres. But both Chartres and Versailles were not exactly close and there was not a way to get anyway from the chateau other than taking a 15 minute taxi ride to the train station and then taking the train to places. I think Versailles was an hour train ride, from memory.


Still. After we finally got ourselves organised out of Paris and arrived, here was the view:


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And the front:


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Our room was the top right hand window. The grounds were gorgeous to wander around in, beautiful manicured topiaries and other more wild woods and lots of other buildings – quarters and I think little cottages for family stays. And a pool, a helicopter pad and tennis court but were closed for the season. It was pretty cold and we headed back inside after a quick sticky beak.


Our room. Or rooms? Chamber?

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And this was the stunning view from the window facing the bed:


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It was a very fancy hotel. We almost didn’t see any of the other patrons. The restaurant was very fancy in one of the rooms downstairs and the food very French, meaning I had a green salad and C tried all kinds of meats that I would never ever eat. I found French food (when I could eat it) very rich and I progressively ate less and less over the holiday. We were limited by food options as there was not really anywhere to go other than the hotel restaurant.


We made it to Versailles on the second day (the first of our proper stay) by accident as when C was inquiring how to get there, they booked him a taxi to come get us so we ended up doing it a day early. Evidence we were there (and Galactic Suburbia in the Hall of Mirrors)


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But, and you know there is a but coming. Versailles was a gorgeous walk from the train station. But it was an hour ride there and back and then hanging around to get a cab back to the hotel (pretty sure we had to call someone who was at home making dinner for her kids and then she popped out to give us a lift back to the hotel). And it was cold. And we stood I don’t know, an hour? Two hours? waiting in the line out the front before we actually went in to the grounds. We wandered around. I yet again lost enthusiasm well before I managed to see everything. We did a bit of the Marie Antoinette stuff – and took the little train thing around the grounds. And we had a delightful lunch. But. I started to get a cold shortly after the photo above and by the time we headed back it was pretty much evident I was sick. I’m not sure if it was all the standing outside in the cold or if the jetlag combined with all the wedding stuff that finally ended up in the usual burnout cold thing. I got a bit miserable.


And really, you book yourself the kind of holiday staying in the middle of nowhere, with almost no internet (no wifi but they had a cable that we had to share), nothing much to do, in order to just spend time with each other and chill the hell out. So that’s what we decided to do for the rest of our stay here. We did a bit of a food shop in Versailles at a supermarket and that kept us in snacks and a few light meals. We ordered room service a bit. I took to my bed in a very Jane Bennett fashion, with that glorious view and the whole series of The Closer on DVDs to watch and I finished knitting these two scarves and it as utterly relaxing and divine. We just hung out and it was really great.

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The cowl on the left is the Sartorial Cowl made from Blue Moon Fibre Arts De-Vine in the colourway Kraken.  The scarf on the right is the Barbara Cowl made from a prized skein of Handmaiden Sea Silk which I bought in Toronto when I was there for World Fantasy Con at Lettuce Knits which Jonathan very kindly schlepped to with me.


Final picture of the view from breakfast:


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If you have to be somewhere feeling miserable with a cold, it really was a good option :)





New Years in Paris 2013

Willow

I figure I have like one week into January to wrap up the rest of my year in review/ highlights posts from 2013? Plus I have some plans to spruce up this place and I’m keen to get stuck into those. So maybe some pretty pics from my honeymoon in Paris then? I’ve definitely been thinking about how this time last year, we were wandering around in Paris and seeing out the old year and in with the new one, the first of our married lives.


Some stuff we did before NYE:


photo(8)We were staying within walking distance of the Moulin Rouge so I grabbed tickets to a nighttime show before we left Perth. I’d heard that the dinner was not really worth the price so I booked for the after dinner show which included a bottle of champagne. Seemed like fun!


It was definitely good that the theatre was within walking distance of our hotel and that I had prepaid for tickets cause we were still so jetlagged, I’m not sure we would have definitely gone otherwise. It was also VERY cold and we had to queue outside with everybody for what felt like hours. It was probably at least an hour and I hate queuing, I feel like the longer you have to queue and wait for something, the less you will enjoy whatever it is you are waiting for. Just too much expectation to wait time ratio. Suddenly, after waiting FOREVER, we were ushered in and the ushers seated the whole crowd in record time. You sat at tables seating about 6 people, so we sat with strangers. Our bottle of champagne was thrust on us, glasses filled and away we went. (It felt like A LOT of champagne but I think that’s because I couldn’t really drink due to my Crohn’s and so C drank pretty much the whole bottle and got quite merry.)


What to say about the performance? Hmm … there was a giant pool with snakes with a woman doing some kind of synchronised swimming. There was the traditional cancan dancing, which was my favourite part of the whole show. There was a lot of bare breasts. There were a couple of fabulous male dancers who did not really have to nude up. And then there was the second half of the show which I will describe merely this way – Eurovision meets Macy and Thorn from the 80s (Bold and the Beautiful).


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I did enjoy the show. But more than that, I enjoyed a couple of the smaller museums which we visited nearby which documented a lot of the history of the arts, politics, music and performances of the area and placed the Moulin Rouge within that greater context. I loved learning about the Le Chat Noir, which was in a museum in Renoir’s house.


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We wandered around in Montmartre on a glorious winter’s day, drinking lots of hot chocolates and eating pastries when we got hungry. We ended up at Sacre Coeur which had a market day on with lots of stalls – I bought earmuffs! (it was cold) and I also bought a few of these confections. I don’t know what they were but they were not what I was expecting them to be which was chocolate covered marshmallows.


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I really enjoyed travelling with C. Even though we’d lived together for a few years, travelling together felt a bit like a “what will we be like as team in life?” I discovered that he listens to all my crazybaked ideas and that I should be careful when I shoot my mouth off because C will have googled whatever it was to see how we can do it. We joked a lot about me being the ideas and him being the execution. I got to see a lot of things I might not otherwise have if left to me to figure out how to get there or do it. Not that Paris is all that hard to get around. But having C to stand around  in long lines joking made the time go quicker and the prospect of tackling more popular sites more inviting. We did a bunch of the galleries I wanted to visit. I got to see all the Dali my heart could desire. And the Pompidou and the Musee D’Orsay, both of which were closed last time I was there.


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And I schlepped C to the Louvre. We ended up getting to jump the huge queue and go straight in (with the museum passes, this did not help us in the same way when queuing for the D’Orsay which we must have done for over an hour). I still hate the Louvre and I’m not sure why I still feel the need to go there to check (that’s three for three now) but it was so easy to get in that I thought C should at least experience the Mona Lisa (ie the pushing and shoving and not really enjoying the painting bit). A lovely wander down the Champs Elysee afterwards brought nutella crepes for some and (French) onion soup for others. (Don’t you think felafels, cheesecake and mint tea go perfectly together? No, me neither.)

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One of the things C really wanted to do was see a rugby match. I was a lot more wary about catching a train out into the suburbs, a part of Paris I know nothing about and a lot less likely to accidentally stumble my way home from. But C was determined, and he put up with a very complaining me who wore the wrong shoes and didn’t like walking (the fifteen minutes!) to somewhere I’d not been before. But I’ll admit, when we got there, I had a fabulous time. It was cold (yay the earmuffs!) but it was a lot of fun. And the theme song for the home side – Agen – was to an ACDC track which made it all the more amusing. Here’s the view from our seats. C couldn’t resist getting an Agen supporters jersey (that’s him wearing it at breakfast the next day).


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And then there was New Years Eve.


One of the disappointing things about our trip related to my travel agent. Normally I would have booked the whole thing online myself but my Mum had used a really great travel agent previously and the idea of someone planning some parts of the trip considering all the other stuff I was doing with the wedding seemed really appealling. In the end, I was given a different agent to the one my mother had used and the one thing I regret is either not being more of a pain about getting her to do the stuff I wanted, or just doing it myself. She was going to book us this really lovely NYE – drinks at the George and then dinner somewhere near the Eiffel Tower etc etc. In the end I think she booked, or we booked, a degustation dinner for the evening but then realised at the last minute that there was nothing on the menu I could eat and the chef refused to do a vegetarian option for me (the French didn’t really seem all that into vegetarians and that was something that was an issue for the whole trip). We ended up cancelling those plans and our concierge at the hotel booked us a river cruise vegan dinner.


It sounded awesome and we were really looking forward to it.


However it had rained the days before NYE and when we headed down to the Seine it was cold and wintry. When we arrived at the correct berth we discovered that the river was too high for the boat to be able to cruise (too high for it to pass under the bridges) and so it was going to stay docked for the event. That seemed ok. But the evening was not quite what we had imagined. I guess we had in mind something similar to the original plan but on a river cruise. And I can’t quite remember how much it cost but it didn’t really seem cheap. I think though what we had stumbled across was a club or a vegan group who were having their end of year/new years eve celebration. Most people seemed to know each other and the diners also seemed to know the waitstaff and kitchen crew. Seating was at large round tables and there was a band set up in a corner. Like we were at a wedding or 21st on a cruise ship. We took a tiny table in one corner near the exit and tried to melt into the scenery. Slowly people asked to take the remaining chairs at our table for sitting at others and we were good with that. We were hoping for a romantic, intimate dinner to see in the new year.

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(I have no idea about my hair other than we stood in the wind on the dock for quite some time before dinner.)


We got adopted by a somewhat eccentric woman who seemed to know a lot of the people in the room but didn’t actually want to sit with any of them. Instead she sat with us and provided lively conversation. She gave us some suggestions of what we should see when in town (we took none of the suggestions), told us how she’d been on a diet for several days because she was auditioning for some dancing show the day after (and then shovelled a loooot of food into her face, whilst continuing her stories unabated and sometimes spitting food in my direction) and was very generous in hunting down lashings of food from the buffet and insisting we share from her plate.


The food. I think really what we learned is that C has no desire to become a vegan any time soon. I didn’t really mind the food as much, being a vegetarian and having almost no appetite due to the Crohn’s. We had to keep going to the bar which was hidden behind the entrance, for tiny cups of drinks. The cups seemed to be in limited supply and got more and more assorted as the night wore on. The food was a buffet spread out on a trestle and was a lot like if we went and cooked up a storm for our friends. It was not quite the evening of decadent, French fine foods I’d been planning. And I felt very self conscious and out of place for most of it. At some point we both realised we were more than happy to bail and whilst our friend was off saying hi, finally, to someone, we ducked out the door and off the boat. But not before grabbing our goodie bag of vegan delights, most of which we couldn’t bring home to Australia. Though we did enjoy the vegan chocolate and the eucalyptus bubble bath.


Not quite the night I had hoped for but still a story that brings a good laugh. In the end, all I wanted was to spend the night in Paris, with C, and see the Eiffel Tower lit up. And we did. And then we headed back to our hotel well before midnight. The staff had left us a new year’s gift to wish us a sweet new year:


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Tasting Pierre Herme’s macarons was on my Paris to do list and I don’t think we would have got there on our own. I can quite happily say that our Adriano Zumbo’s are still the best I’ve ever tried.


We kept our eyes open to see the new year in and then fell fast asleep, jetlag still prevailing.


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New Years Resolutions for 2014

Willow

JigsawLast year I sat down and wrote a pretty extensive list of resolutions for 2013. It was pretty intensive and would have been pretty gruelling to stick to if I had. Instead, I fell pregnant and got slowed down quite a bit. I left my government job, took up my PhD studies, published a couple of new books, wrote, submitted and passed my PhD candidacy application and had a beautiful baby girl. Basically, life happened. And whilst I’m still going to audit my New Years Resolutions for 2013 (which was really a pretty large to do list) I don’t actually feel too bad about not having ticked off most of that list. I feel like I learned some pretty large lessons this year, the most important being, you can’t control the fact that life happens, all you can control is how you respond to it. So my resolutions for 2014 are going to be a bit different to my usual.


1. Don’t save things for “special occasions”


I used to be one of those kids who saved everything up for special occasions. I had a pretty cool rubber/eraser collection which I never used or enjoyed, I just had them in a jar to take out and look at on occasions. I now think that’s kinda weird. I was also one of those kids who saved the pretty shaped soaps and candles for … I have no idea when cause they ended up all soggy and moldy and had to get thrown out unused in the end.


This year I decided not to do that anymore. My mum told me a great story that my nanna had told her about a young woman she knew once who had put all her beautiful wedding gifts away to be used on special occasions but then died a year or two into her marriage. Her husband remarried quite quickly and that woman used all the first wife’s special crockery and manchester that she’d been saving, and had never gotten to use, for every day. The moral of the story being use it now and enjoy it because life happens. So I’ve pulled out my pretty Kimono tea set that were wedding gifts for every bake club I’ve hosted this year and for whenever someone came over to visit. I’ve even used the teacups for just a peaceful afternoon cuppa or when I’ve overdosed on Downton Abbey. And I’ve felt quite the well to do, I must say. I’ve also used the pretty soap and <whisper> I already ate the chocolates I got for Christmas </whisper> and I don’t regret it at all! Better to be enjoyed now than never enjoyed at all. When will a special occasion be special enough, otherwise?


2. Don’t procrastinate, rip off the band aid already /JFDI


I’ve spent another year practicing David Allen’s GTD methodology. I’ve had some great runs where it was all working perfectly and I had great productivity and I’ve also fallen off the bandwagon a few times and had to slowly climb back on. I’m currently slowly climbing back on after the baby etc. But in either state, I’ve managed to have things that I’ve been procrastinating on due to bad feelings – like, not getting back to someone fast enough about something and then the longer I leave it the worse it is that I haven’t responded and the worse I feel about it so I leave it to repeat and the bad feeling to grow. Or there is something I know I have to do about something or there’s nine things I have to do and I have to sit down and think about them or something I have to do but I don’t know how and so … I just leave it. Unknown but still to do and sitting there making me feel bad cause I’m not doing it.


Turns out, it’s actually not that horrible just to cop to having been lax on something, apologise and move on. Actually, it makes you feel better. And you can stop avoiding a person or a thing. And most of the time, the thing you’re avoiding actually takes less than 3 minutes to do. And you wonder why you waited 8 months to damn well do it. You could have not been feeling bad all this time if you’d just done it in the first place. I’ve been working on doing that – instead of avoiding the bad feeling, zoning in on it, interrogating and seeing just what it is that I feel bad about. It’s not always obvious and it can take a good while to pinpoint it but much like anything, naming the Big Bad Thing weakens it’s power. And fixing the thing that needs to be fixed is often really not that hard, in the end.


So for 2014, I’m aiming to uncover all the sore points, expose them to the light and rid myself of them. And focus on doing so when I notice the “bad feeling” the first time. Kinda long the GTD lines of write the thought down the first time so you don’t have to keep rethinking or remembering it.


3. Don’t make things harder for myself


Just after I took the picture above – the 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle C gave to me for our one year, paper anniversary – I started sorting through the pile to start working on it. I picked up two pieces that were still together from manufacture and pulled them apart and said to C, “it’s cheating otherwise.” He wandered off and I sifted and sorted through all the pieces looking for edges and bits of yellow and red etc. As I found more pieces still stuck together, I pulled them apart and mixed them up in the pile. After I did it like three or four times, I suddenly wondered what the hell I was doing? I was deliberately making it harder for myself for no discernible reason other than to make it harder for myself. There’s no overseeing body judging my performance at assembling a jigsaw puzzle who will take points off cause 8 pieces were preassembled in the factory. It’s a 3000 piece puzzle, finishing it will be cool whether or not I assembled 3000 pieces or just 2992. And it occurred to me that I do this kind of stuff a lot to myself – for no reason. As a friend said to me the other day, life is hard enough and throwing enough curve balls at you that you don’t have to deliberately make it harder for yourself.


This year I had a few examples of where I did choose to make things easier or better for myself and the sky didn’t fall in. Noone appeared behind me to strip me of my blue ribbons. And no points were deducted.


I’m gonna work on not making things harder for myself a lot more in 2014.


4. Be more compassionate and forgiving and less judgmental


I was very sad to see the passing of Nelson Mandela this year. I feel so despondent about the lack of leadership we have in the world right now. I feel so very sad and depressed about a lot of what’s happening here in Australia with our new government. I feel like the best way to respect the passing of Mandela is to live some of his principles rather than spout hollow soundbytes. So I’m going to do that – concentrate in 2014 on being more compassionate, more forgiving and less judgmental of others.


2014 will be a year of focus on my various projects and I’m hoping to post a lot about all of those as the year progresses.





Lessons 2 and 3: 2013

Willow

So lessons 2 and 3 go hand in hand. They’re lessons I’ve been working on learning for some time now but they really hit home and gosh I hope they stuck after this year.


Way back in the dark days, when I was at my very worst, I really thought, had decided actually, that I would never travel again. And that was ok because I’d done a lot of travelling and seen a bit of the world. And even though I *love* travelling, it was ok that I just wasn’t going to do that anymore. Except that a) that was my anxiety, OCD and depression talking and b) I LOVE travelling. And I wanted to go to World Fantasy Con in Saratoga Springs. I was just starting to fall into the scene, starting up Twelfth Planet Press. And a lot of Aussies were going that year. And Tansy said to me, instead of deciding that you can’t go, why don’t you figure out *how* you could go – figure out what you’d need or how you can navigate (the OCD). In other words, if you need to take a bunch of antibacterial handgel and use it every five minutes but it enables you to go and have the experience, then Do That. (And I’ll add that that was before the world freaked out about Swine Flu. Now it’s not weird at all to use hand gel and wipe down your tray or whatever. At the time, I had to be in therapy. But whatevs.)


Firstly, how lucky am I to have such awesome friends? Secondly, I went. I fell in love with WFC, I found my home. It grew my friendship with Jonathan. Going freed me – in more ways than one. It broke my mindset about not doing things that might scare me or put me out of my comfort zone. It opened my publishing world. And it ended my relationship with my ex – I always had this feeling that if I went to WFC, I’d come home single. And I did. And it was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time. And the funniest thing was getting on that plane to Sydney? The OCD melted away and I didn’t even really need a whole bunch of the management tools I’d put in place to deal with myself.


In some ways, looking at the world like that – what do I need to be ok with this [whatever "this" is in the moment] was a great tactic. In others, I guess it might have fuelled my OCD. I think C just works around what’s left of that. At least it’s nowhere near as unhinged as it was.


This year I’ve had a lot on to confront in terms of wanting to push forward and do things and having to fight off the darkness in my head. And I’ve had to work a lot to find management tools to make it ok. Or as Tansy now says, I’ve had to figure out how to hack my own brain. Lots of this year was about taking it a day at a time and there’s something nicely zen about that, or there would be if being in the moment wasn’t about how sick I felt. I had some really big, confronting decisions to make. They required being honest with myself and my work arounds. I was lucky to have so many people around me to discuss them with and to feel like I was in a safe, nonjudgmental place. And standing now on the other side of that, I realised that in troubleshooting ahead of time and making choices that were the best ones for me, meant that I could have positive experiences. That I don’t always need to push myself over the edge to prove some point to myself about … I dunno? I can actually be kind and understanding of how I tick and work with, not against, that. And that by doing so, I ensure that I am mentally robust.


And this lesson leads into the third, and possibly most profound lesson I learned this year. This lesson was to learn to tune out the white noise. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has advice. But the most important thing to remember about that is unless they are privy, they most likely are not giving that opinion or advice within the context that is relevant *to you*. Something can be true and not applicable to you at the same time. Something can be “the best choice” in a level playing field but if that’s not where you are playing your game, it may no longer be best. And what I hope I learned this year is how to reduce the value I have previously placed on white noise. To not care so much what other people, out there, think about the choices that I make or who I am or what I choose to do or how I live my life. But also, to be less judgmental of others and their choices, since no doubt I am not privy to the context within which they made theirs.


 


 


 


 





Willow

Looking back on this year, it very much felt like a year where I came full circle. Or that  lot of things got put to bed as I look out from a new beginning. Or that I’ve worked hard all this time just to get to the starting line. A bunch of realisations felt very pointed this year in the way they kept/keep surfacing across a whole lot of parts of my life and various interactions.


The first of which is something that I wish I could tell my 14/15 and 25 year old selves – that life will never cease to surprise you, you just have to live long enough and let enough time pass. Kind of a riff on “this too shall pass” but not just that you won’t be stuck in the one moment or situation or emotion forever but that life really will surprise you. And it’s worth sticking around to find out how. Or as my mother says, “it’s not the end of the story til the end of the story.”


This hit me yet again yesterday. We were at my in-laws for lunch and I wandered in to one of the bedrooms to grab my phone from the baby bag. As I walked in, I saw one of the beds from my childhood (my sister and I had the same kind of beds growing up. My parents recently moved and ended up giving one of the beds to C’s parents who were looking for an extra bed for the spare room). On the bed was some of the stuff C had unpacked to change a nappy earlier. And I just had this moment of coming full circle. Standing in my in-laws’ house, my bed all made up in one of the rooms, my husband amusing our baby in the other room. Being completely happy in the moment and having what I had always hoped to have. And yet it looking nothing like what I thought it would look like. Feeling nothing like I thought it would. And yet being exactly what I always wanted.


The thing about life never ceasing to surprise you? I feel like a lot of times this year I’ve realised that all I needed to do was to give in and give away all my preconceptions about what I wanted (how it would look or feel or how to go about getting it) to get exactly what I wanted. And that chasing after what you want isn’t necessarily the way to get it. In my case, I couldn’t have met C earlier or in any other circumstance. And I spent such a long time being sad, lonely, feeling like I was not good enough or being punished or unlovable when really all it was was timing, and the right person. And I had an idea of what the right person would look like and who they would be and that was nothing like C and yet, how could I be with anyone else? How could I have thought anyone else even came close?


And this isn’t the only part of my life where I’ve had this kind of moment with. My PhD and the topic is another example – it seems I’ve spent the last 7 years collecting reference material for this exact topic, completely unthinkingly. Helen only talked me into this gig late last year. Before that, I could never have even entertained the idea of giving up working for the environment.


And lots of other smaller examples where things have taken a long time to fruition and have been surprising. And I guess that’s one of the pluses of getting older – the living longer so that you do see the full turning of things. It’s interesting. I thought I wouldn’t like approaching 40 and yet the closer I get to it, the more I realise that Life Just Beginning at 40, is really true. And it’s kind of exciting.







2013 – New Years in Paris (ii), a Quest

Willow

Towards the end of our wedding reception, my work friends J&S came up to us in a bit of a panic as they wanted us to open their wedding gift. Unfortunately, all the gifts had been packed off to my parents’ place until we got back from our honeymoon. This turned out to be a bit of a problem. J&S wanted us to open their gift before we left as it wouldn’t work after we got back. Intrigued, I got my mum to fossick around for a gift of the description we were given and to bring it to us at Christmas lunch. All was quickly revealed – J&S’s gift was a quest. The creation of a memory.



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We were of course to go off in search of the Love Bridge and place our own lock on it for our love. I was floored by such a gift – what a really great idea! We headed off and I think (as judging by how tired I look in the photo below) on the first day to make sure that we definitely got this done.


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I’d brought more than a few guide books with me on our trip. I might have been a bit excited to be returning to Paris. But what turned out to be the best buy was  a set of cards of walking tours of Paris. There were 50 in the pack and you could just pick one out at random or one with something you wanted to definitely see on the route or in the area you were interested in. C took to these, which in retrospect I should have realised would be right up his alley. He really enjoyed making sure we followed the tour and did all the stops etc. I really enjoyed the extra little things you ended up seeing on the way – stopping for the best hot chocolate in Paris, seeing significant landmarks or points of interest that are off the standard tourist grid. I ended up seeing a lot more of Paris than I would have on my own and I also saw a lot more cool stuff than I would have thought of looking for. And … bonus was lots less crowds most of the time.


Here’s C checking we’re still on route:

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And here we’ve just added our lock to the bridge – and thrown the key into the Seine, which the greenie in me cringed at but the superstitious OCD side did anyway – and C is taking data point photos so we can come back and look for it another trip.


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2013 – New Years in Paris (i)

Willow

photo 2My year started in Paris, and that is a pretty darn fine way to start a year. To back up a smidge, we got married and then stayed around at home a couple of days for Christmas. Some of C’s family had come over for our wedding and were staying for Christmas so we did too. We moved up to the CBD and stayed an extra night or two at a hotel, bumming around the city and generally trying to destress after the excitement of getting married and also you know, process the whole WE GOT MARRIED concept. Christmas lunch was pretty laid back but it was really nice to hang out with our parents and some family and do that all post the whole wedding thing. Jewish tradition has people entertain a married couple for 7 nights after their wedding and welcome them into the community as a couple/family and this felt like a nice nod to that.


And then we headed off to Paris. It was my second trip to this city I love and last time I was there, I’d really wanted to share it with someone, and to be there in love. That’s the cliche after all. I’d read all the stupid bridal mags while planning our wedding, cause again, cliche, and gleaned that the Maldives is where everyone is honeymooning at the moment. I spent a day or two drooling over the beautiful white beaches and blue blue ocean and sky and thought about the lazying about by the pool and hang gliding and then I remembered this was US I was planning a trip for and unless there was wifi by those palm trees, we were gonna be dead bored. I knew I was quitting my day job in 2013 and that this could be the last holiday hurrah for me for some time and I’m not sure when C had last had a proper holiday so … Paris it was! I managed to get a great deal on Singapore Airlines via a travel agent and the flights to Paris were really very pleasant (not so much on the way home but oh well). I sort of had the travel agent plan the trip for us cause I had a lot of other things on. Some things worked great, others not. But she convinced me to book in three different hotels in two different quarters and a decadent couple of nights out of Paris. And I think that was definitely a fab idea I wasn’t sure how it would go moving so many times in about 10 days but it worked out fine.


photo 1We arrived at about 6.30am on a very dreary morning and headed to our hotel in Montmartre (or thereabouts). This hotel was a lot of fun – Secret de Paris – on a corner of the street and lit up in purple lights, each room was themed to make you feel like you were sleeping in an iconic structure of Paris. It sounds cheesy but it’s French and they pulled it off! We got the Eiffel Tower room (that’s my pillow marring the decor of the room. And the speccy lighting which again, was more atmospheric and less cheesy in real life) and were told we could request to move to any of the other rooms at any time if we wanted to try out a different room. At the time, we were so jetlagged and coming down off the wedding high that we couldn’t be bothered – we did a quick touristing the first morning we arrived and then slept for most of the rest of the day. And after that, we were either sleeping or out and about and packing up to move just seemed like too much effort. Now, I wish we had tried other rooms out, especially cause ours didn’t have a spa bath. Also, a nicely confronting moment after you just got married, our bathroom was encased in glass. So – bedroom, and then the toilet, basin and shower to the side and sectioned off with see through glass. Bit personal.


photo 4We did a lot of recuperation – a lot of napping, I watched a lot of TV (I watched the entire series of The Closer whilst away, cause I don’t nap!). We also ate a lot of croissants – a delicious bakery was on the corner diagonal to our hotel. I think I might have rushed out there as soon as we’d checked and taken our bags to the room to get an escargot and OMG, baked goods are never as good as they are in France. I’m ruined for croissants now because they just don’t come anywhere close to as delicious. Also the Hot Chocolate – I drank a lot of it cause I had a Crohn’s flare up the whole time trip  (started in the lead up to the wedding in about November and went through into my pregnancy). I dunno how they make hot chocolate in France but OMG it’s fabulous.


Here’s a pic from the breakfast room. Sumptuous chairs, they also had a lot of loveseats so you could sit next to your lover and whisper secrets (of course!) in their ear. We though that was a bit too corny for us!


 


 





The perfect moment

Willow

I had this bittersweet moment today – staring into my daughter’s face and listening to her tiny contented sighs as she lay there next to me with a clean nappy and a full belly, wanting for nothing. I was a little envious of her, watching her have everything she needed in the world and not really knowing yet about wanting.


Nobody’s told her yet that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. That girls can’t do maths or write science fiction or play football. She doesn’t know about war and famine. Of hating someone just because they are different to you. No one’s told her to be quiet, to not be so demanding just for speaking up and voicing her needs. No one’s told her to feel embarrassed for farting loudly, or wanting to hug her mummy or that she should be a size 8. She isn’t on a bell curve yet or measured against the population to see if she’s too smart or not smart enough. Right now, she has no labels at all. No performance reviews. No deadlines. No expectations placed upon her (well almost none!)


And I’m really sad that one day I’m going to explain all that shit to her.


 


 


 





2013

Willow

I had some unexpected good news this morning. It had me reflecting back on this year which really was full of awesome for me. I have this weird/screwed up mindset where I think that if it wasn’t hard work, then it’s not something I value having and yet pretty much all my life, the things that have really worked out for me have been the things that I fell into or just happened along and the things I refused to quit on and kept trying to push into making work out, never really did. (Maybe one of my lessons was learning when to quit).


Anyway – I had good news today! And it made me realise that this year has been an exceptionally good one for me. And that my year in review would be a pretty happy one. Which reminded me that I’ve not posted very much this year – unusual for me. What happened was we didn’t get our wedding photos until last week. It’s been this long, drawn out, upsetting and disappointing thing that I didn’t really want to talk much about. Not having them hung above my head like a dark cloud and I didn’t want to talk about the rest of the stuff around our wedding and our honeymoon. Then it felt weird to talk about other things out of step with that. I guess I’m pretty chronological. At the same time, I felt bad for feeling bad because the photos were the only dark, negative thing associated with our wedding, and really, if that was the only disappointing aspect, that’s not really so bad, in the scheme of things. But we finally got out proofs last week and whilst I haven’t had the headspace to sit down and work through the next steps for that (picking the photos for the album etc), I do feel a sense of close to closure on it.


Like I might be able to start blogging about my year in review, maybe.


Especially since my year started in Paris – not a bad place to start! Maybe tomorrow. With photos.





Letting go for the potentiality

Willow

photo(87)I’m watching a LOT of TV right now. Since I brought this little person home two weeks ago now.


 


Soooo much TV. I kinda hate it in that, I still can’t craft as my carpal tunnel has not gone – it’s eased a lot but my right hand is still half numb. Typing is still a pain in the arse but at least I can hack away at that and correct as I go. Other than that, it turns out baby’s take a LOT OF TIME. I didn’t realise! I’m on that feed, change nappy, sleep cycle until we hit the witching hour (which bullshit about it being only one hour, one hour would be freaking doable!) which can end up taking a whole work day of time. It turns out that bubby likes to be held, by me. She will at a pinch, when whinging, go to her dad but mostly he does the shift when I’m like totally done for the day and he has more patience with crying at the top of her lungs baby than I do (as long as he takes her down the other end of the house because OMG that crying is like a stab through my heart!).


Which all means, I spend a lot of time with a baby koala curled up on my chest sleeping. I have managed to perfect the art of balancing a laptop below said koala to get a bit of work done but mostly we are watching a lot of Foxtel. Luckily I seem to have prerecorded a whole heap of stuff.


So it might be that, for a while, this blog is filled with TV reviews. I want to post a bit about, you know, all the stuff that came before we brought this little being home with us. But wow – when you finally get some free time, it’s amazing how much more appealling sleep is! (I should note, I’m getting more sleep than I was in the third trimester so mostly I am not complaining, just the tiredness it is ongoing.) or trying to catch up on emails and other bits and pieces.


So.


I found the Oprah channel, or at least the channel that streams a good deal of her content from the OWN network (Oprah Winfrey Network in the US). I’ve been watching her Master Class series and also the Behind the Scenes of Season 25 of the Oprah Winfrey Show which was her final season. Both are really interesting to me – the behind the scenes stuff shows you bits and pieces of planning and producing some of the episodes that made up that final season. I really love watching production – I think it’s what appealled to me about Smash (especially after season 1). I love watching how successful people pull off their work and also how they go about problem solving, troubleshooting and navigating towards success. What’s particularly interesting about Oprah’s producers is almost all of them appear to be (white) women. And it’s quite interesting watching their interactions with Oprah. I really enjoyed one scene where one of the producers totally fucked up (ended up over booking her episode by 20 mins) and when Oprah sat down with her afterwards to discuss it (because at Harpo they say “feedback is your Friend”) she told her that this was a learning moment for her (the producer) that offered her the “opportunity to learn and grow”. And then she was harsh but fair with the feedback.


The Master Class episodes are pretty interesting too. So far they’ve been given by successful women in Hollywood – Jane Fonda and Goldie Hawn – and Oprah herself. And they are pretty simple, the interviewee speaking for about an hour, reflecting on their life and what they’ve learned, the paths they ended up on that took them to success, and failures, and really grounded in a sense of deep reflection and reconciled peace with their lives and how they turned out. The kind of soundbytes of “advice” or “lessons” are not that groundbreaking – preserve your integrity, be a good person, seize opportunities, don’t try and be perfect or someone else but rather be the best you etc. But it’s pretty fascinating to hear successful people talk about the key moments of their lives that led them to their success and to hear about their own learning moments. And cause all so far have been women, hearing about the different incidents of sexual harassment, racism and sexism that they encountered and had to overcome. All pretty interesting and empowering stuff.


But something that Goldie Hawn said in last week’s episode really struck a chord with me. Just after she had her break out moment and her career was taking off, she was hit by depression because even though she was getting success, her life was suddenly heading off in a direction she had not planned. And in her reflection of that period of her life, she said that she had been so concretised (not sure that’s an actual word) in her life and what it would look like (what her job would be, who she would marry, how many children she’d have etc) that she left no room in her life for chance and for potentiality. That you can’t preplan and script out your life because then you have no room for serendipity and letting that take you to whatever. And I was sitting there, in Rockingham, nursing my baby and processing book orders for my small press and I just thought “Wow – she’s right”. Because this was never what I imagined my life to be. And yet here I am, happier than I think I’ve ever been in my life. Your imagination might just not be able to dream big enough for what you truly need and what may in fact be possible.


 





The waiting game

Willow

We’re about to head off and see a movie for maybe the last time at a cinema in a while. Maybe not, who can say? But also it’s going to be a great way to spend some Sunday time.


It turns out that hanging around at 38 weeks is a lot like showing up to an exam an hour early (in case your car got a flat tyre). Those who went to UWA, it feels like showing up for one of those big exams at the Undercroft – there’s all that lush grass and flowering trees and a cool breeze but all you can do is worry about sighting your friends so you know you’re at the right place at the right time, but not wanting to talk to them cause they’re just going to be running through some equation or other that you don’t want knocked out of your brain and you’re wondering if you should use the bathroom now or in 45 minutes and whether you should eat something even though you feel a bit sick. And the knowledge that in 4 hours, it will all be over and you’ll feel relieved, but worried how you went, and then moving on to the next thing.


The waiting game. I’m frustrated and bored and sore and uncomfortable and irritated and over it but also really aware that when this is done, I’m only at the starting line. People say you should rest up and sleep now – if fucking only I could! I’m not tired most of the time until I’m keel over and sleep where I’m standing tired. And there are NO SLEEP POSITIONS LEFT! I actually dread going to bed now cause I know I’m in for 4 to 6 hours of tossing and turning and pulling a muscle or feeling sick cause I’m on my back and checking the clock to see how much I just slept. I had two positions left – sleeping on my left side and sleeping on my right side but my right side has almost filed a complaint. My shoulder and arm hurt. And now my right hip has started crying out in pain after just one hour of “sleep”. I’ve moved to using a pillow under it but even so, my thigh cramps pretty badly. For all the bullshit people tell you about “you wait til the baby comes and you get no sleep” I say Whatever Man, I’m running on, as Jonathan said the other day, Jetlag state anyway. I’ve not slept a good night since March. And I rarely get more than 2 hours in a stint anyway. At least my body won’t hurt so much in the act of trying to sleep.


My hands are so bad now that I am really limited by what I can do. Today they are so swollen I can’t really bend some of my fingers and  I look like I have man hands. I never realised how much like my dad’s dad’s hands I have. Maybe it’s just the knuckles. I used to think I had my mother’s hands. This week has been a bad one for them anyway. They were so bad Wednesday that I was in a very very bad place – not just with the swelling and numbness and pins and needles (it feels a bit like constantly knocking your funny bone) but with shooting pain through my middle fingers and through my wrists. C stayed home cause he didn’t think I was coping. It was a tad pathetic, I guess. But not being able to take care of your basic needs is never a nice place to be (luckily I wasn’t quite there but it was close). I have no real grip, I can’t open a jar or a bottle, I can’t shut the front door, I can’t really drive. A couple of days I couldn’t even type – on a good day I can use my fingernails to poke at the keyboard, all my fingertips have been numb for weeks. If I think about that too much, I get a panic attack at the claustrophobia.


Actually, something that has surprised me about this journey has been how much I’ve had to deal with claustrophobia. It’s not really something I thought I had an issue with but it’s been something I’ve really had to manage the last few months. And especially in the dark, small hours of the night.


But now, there is really very little left to do. I’m mostly packed for the hospital. The baby’s room and crib are set up. I can’t craft, I can’t write. I can do very little at all that requires hands, which is pretty much everything. And I hate everything that I have recorded on my Foxtel IQ. There are no movies I want to watch and holding a book is nigh impossible. I am ready to be done with this now. Which is of course how nature talks you into the next thing, which sounds completely unpleasant.





Why Kaleidoscope is important to me

Willow

(Apologies for crossposting from our Kaleidoscope blog)


We’re about halfway through our fundraising period now. We want to say a really GIANT THANKS to all our lovely backers!, we’ve really been so blown away by the support and the signal boosting for this campaign. Many people have asked how this project came to be.


We started working on the Kaleidoscope project over a year ago now. I remember driving around on a Saturday afternoon, running my errands and listening to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts – The Outer Alliance. This particular episode was recorded live at WisCon and was a panel Heteronormativity in YA Dystopian Novels featuring Malinda Lo, Neesha Meminger, Katharine Beutner and Julia Rios. The discussion of this panel gave me a bit of a lightbulb moment.


I’d been struggling to read a few YA novels myself around that time – I’d recently finished the Hunger Games trilogy and had gone on to explore a few other books marketed in the same vein but I had been really struggling to finish them, let alone bond with or even like them. I was also reading Russ’ We Who Are About to… at about the same time. And listening to this panel discuss some of the books I was reading, as well as many others, really nailed down my thoughts and feelings on a lot of this recently published YA dystopian fiction. It makes absolutely no logical sense that in a postapocalyptic world, after some catastrophic event that wipes out most of the world’s population and requires a complete social reboot to jumpstart the human race’s viability, that only white, able bodied heteronormative people would survive. Even at the most basic level, what kind of catastrophe could wipe out most people, completely alter the way our reproductive systems work so that only 16 year old girls can have the babies, yet leaves everyone (who is white, straight and able bodied) otherwise completely unchanged? From an evolutionary viewpoint, why would that be the strongest pool of humanity to move forward from? Wouldn’t that leave it completely exposed to the next great catastrophe? With very little variation in the population to be robust enough to survive?


And most disturbingly, what kinds of messages are these books romanticising? How are we empowering young adult readers with books about girls at close to the age of consent being paired up to reproduce, governments choosing and match making teenagers with their marriage partners, placing youth in situations where because there is only one other person (of the opposite sex, of course) their age, they will of course fall in love and get married and make those babies. The obsession with the making of the babies, I think, got to me the most. And to some extent, I understand the appeal of these books to the intended age group, I was a 13 – 15 year old girl once upon a time, after all.


I just … I want more for the young adult reader. I want this reader to be able to see themselves as the protagonist of the stories they read. To find real escapism from reality in their fiction, where they aren’t also excluded or ostracised there too. I want young adults to be inspired, encouraged and captivated to reach for their potential, to be any one they want to be and to feel confident to be who they are and not who or what society says they should be.


And then I remembered that I’m a publisher and that means that I can do something about that. And that by not doing something, I was endorsing the status quo. I’d also been really wanting to work on a project with Julia Rios because I thought that would be fun. I reached out to her, and pitched her the beginning of an idea that evolved into Kaleidoscope. We met up at World Fantasy Con in Toronto and fleshed it out further and began working on this book.


Our main goals are to try as best we can to make this book truly diverse – both in the inclusion of writers and of the stories they tell. It’s important to us that the diverse characters within each story we publish are the heroes of their own journeys and not the support crew, ensemble cast or exoticised other in the background. We want any young adult reader to pick this book up and find a rapport with a character within the pages. And we also want to depict the world as we know it – filled with diversity, and colour and a range of life experiences, that challenge our own view points and perspectives. And most of all, this is a book intended for young adult readers. We want to get this book out and into the hands of as many young adult readers as we can – that’s a final part of this project that extends beyond the funding raising, editing and production stages.


_____________________


We are edging up on the halfway mark in our fundraising campaign. We have about two weeks left to go, and we hope to have a lot of wonderfully diverse stories to share, but we can’t do that without you! Please back Kaleidoscope on Pozible, and if you want to see this book in the world, please help us to spread the word!






Kaleidoscope Pozible Campaign

Willow

Quick! I must get in all the writing before my hands seize up again! (On the upside, I am catching up on things like proofing, slushing and reading, all of which only require the downwards arrow or the odd tweaked word here and there.)


I knew running a crowdfunding campaign would be interesting and to tell the truth, I’ve been wanting to do one for quite some time. I wanted to pick just the right project and the right timing (babies don’t actually care about such things, turns out) and I spent a lot of time observing other similar projects. After our campaign is finished, I’m planning on writing a series of blog posts talking about what we learned – it’s so much already. And also about the publishing business model and being a small press in Australia. One of the most important things that this campaign will enable me to do, is pay at the 5c per word pay rate, something that has been really out of my reach but that I have been aiming to be able to do.


In the meantime, over the weekend we reached the $4000 mark. We were so excited to reach it that we’ve offered all our early backers an extra reward. If you’re interested in claiming yours and were an early backer, give us a shout via the Pozible messages we sent out and we’ll be able to fulfill that straight away.


With just 16 days left to go, we’re hoping to reach our next milestone of $7000 soon and open to general submissions for the anthology. I just wanted to thank everyone who has pledged so far and has helped us boost the signal. We’re so excited about the stories we’ve already acquired for this book, those that we are still considering, and are looking forward to those we are yet to see or are yet to be written! Encouraging more diversity in YA fantasy offers even more scope for exciting stories to be told and read in the genre. We hope to be able to share one more book that does that with YA readers.


We’re blogging over at our Kaleidoscope blog all this month about why this project is important to us, why diversity in fiction is important to us and sharing a little bit of a sneak peek at some of the stories that will be in the book.


 


 






Willow

I always thought women referred to this stage of pregnancy as being like a beached whale because of their size. Turns out there’s a lot more aimless, listless lolling about than I expected. Which is to say, I’ve started taking *more than one* nap a day! And I HATE napping! Course, I’m also only sleeping between 3 and 5 hours during the night night so the napping is less optional and more just falling over asleep for periods of time. Earlier in my pregnancy, if I fought the nap, I got morning sickness. Now, if I fight the urge to nap, I just find that time passed and I was not conscious during it. The other day, I was sitting, working at my laptop and then I woke up 2 hours later.


And this whole moving slower thing? I really hate it. I’m used to a brisk walk when I know where I’m going, sure my husband thinks I walk slowly but his legs are twice as long as mine. But now, I miss pretty much any conversation he’s trying to have with me when we’re out and about because he’s up ahead talking into the wind 5 paces in front of me. I’m really annoyed by people who get annoyed behind me on the street cause I’m walking too slowly. It’s not like I can waddle any faster, what do they want? A gold star? And old people! Who think they own walking in whatever direction they want cause their old? I don’t really have a tight turning circle these days. Last night, I totally walked straight into the doorjamb as I turned to leave a room – you’d think you’d get used to being this size eventually. But you don’t.


But I think the hardest thing I’m trying to accept, is my waning energy levels. Everything takes me about three times as long now. Which means if I try and put a hard day in, I pay for it by not being able to do anything for the next two days. I never really realised how much I took for granted my ability to just dig deep, pull an allnighter, whatever and deliver to a deadline. My business model, as Tansy calls it. I work well under the pressure of a timeline and I might have got lazy relying on my ability to just pull it out of the hat when I needed to. So it’s not really surprising that I kinda thought I’d have all the time right down to the wire to get things done before the baby comes. I didn’t really plan on actually being less effectual. Normally, I really would have had enough time to complete my to do list in this last month. And I gotta say, I do not like that I’m struggling to do so – and not because I don’t want to do the work but because I physically can’t. I’m used to being able to force or command attention and concentration when I had to. Falling asleep or just not being able to have a clear mind are not things I can accept! I’m definitely struggling with the having to relinquish that control. And of course everyone is so quick to tell me that I should get used to it cause that’s how it’s going to be come next month. But that’s fine – for next month. I’d scheduled that into my planning. *After* I’d finished this to do list.


And on top of that, my carpal tunnel has worsened. I have been unable to sew for a week and there have been days where I have been unable to type as well. I’d planned at least some of the last days of my maternity leave (ha!) for hanging out on the couch and crafting. Sadly for me, I’ve been banned from any crafting until after the baby arrives now. Which also leaves me wondering what the heck am I supposed to be doing, other than napping?


I still have a bunch of things to finish off:



  • Trucksong

  • Rosaleen Love’s Twelve Planet Volume

  • Kaleidoscope Pozible campaign

  • Phd Proposal to submit (even though I am now on leave)

  • setting up the baby’s room (it’s sort of started and it’s fine for when the baby comes but it’s not like in the movies)

  • spring cleaning my house (yeah, even I can admit this one is now in the land of the never never)

  • slush reading/general admin/tax stuff/finances etc


And since today and yesterday were highly productive, by late pregnancy me standards, I’m hoping I’m not in beached whale mode again tomorrow :(


I do have some good news. It mostly looks like I did not have anaphylaxis. I ended up in the ED last Monday morning – as per the instructions of my doctor, and Twitter. I don’t recommend showing up at 6.15am – it’s right before they switch shifts and it meant that I ended up hanging around for 3 hours (sure they could also have been checking I wasn’t dropping dead) and for peeps with anxiety, it was not a fun time. I think I also managed to get checked for preeclampsia about 3 times last week. Anyway, I eventually got cleared and sent home. I did have a few more instances of the claustrophobia + panic + not being able to breathe thing. And I started to get a rash (not having one when I went to ED was one of the reasons they eliminated the allergic reaction) and I’m still not overly convinced I’ve not had heightened sensitivity to salicylates lately.  I started to try and pull them out of my diet, which has been hard cause I’m almost left with nothing to eat. But thought this might also help with the pain in my hands which has been unbearable some days. Anyway, today my doctor’s visit has it leaning towards being rhinitis and I’m trying some over the counter stuff for that.


I’m on the countdown now – both for meeting my deadlines and to meet The Deadline and very aware that the end of this brings me merely to the beginning.





Pregnancy update – week 35

Willow

I feel a strong need to record things here about my pregnancy so I have a place to go back to when biology conveniently does its mind wipe erase. I’m really indignant about that.


Yesterday was a bit of a rough day. No husband to provide access to rational thought and to give me a hug. Just me and my body that was somehow trying to play the enemy. I’m still struggling with getting enough sleep. I’m now at the point where I celebrate getting 6 hours in two blocks of sleep as a huge win. Often I have to settle for 3 to 4 hours. But I’d started to get a bit of momentum and the night before last I was having a really great sleep when I woke up at 3.15 with my throat completely swollen shut. I’d had a bit of what I can only describe as pregnancy induced sleep apnea. I’ve had sinus issues since I hit 5 weeks along. So I figured it was that. And every now and then I get jolted awake as I struggle to take a breath, I guess. But this was different. I woke up and my throat was closed and it didn’t dissipate instantly – I could still breathe through my nose though. Being alone in the house, I got quite scared and wasn’t really sure what to do.


It’s quite funny in that in the cold harsh light of day, you’d call an ambulance or you’d go to ED. But at 3am, and when you’re pregnant, you get quite irrational. And you second guess yourself – I didn’t want to disturb anyone at that hour. And I didn’t want to drive to the hospital by myself. And I was worried that maybe I was overreacting and would look silly for making an issue out of it (hysterical, emotional pregnant lady etc). And by the time I’d got as far as looking to see what the wait time would be like at the hospital, I figured I’d be dead if I was going to die, right? And so I’d wait it out. Where wait it out meant wait for husband to wake up in Sydney and call him and cry on the phone. (Aside: I do have a nasty habit of doing that to people, I remember doing that to my mother when I went to live in Israel for a year and got lost on my first day in Haifa and almost ended up in Tel Aviv, so I sobbed on the phone to her about how much I hated it – culture shock, it passed – and she was like “I’m 27 hours away, I wish I could do something!!!”) Poor husband does very well at going from asleep to being cried at in 5 secs. I think that’s his training kicking in. And we agreed I’d not go back to sleep and would go see a doctor first thing. I ended up taking a Polaramine (sanctioned by doctor previously) and did get a bit of sleep at about 6am.


And? Well. When I saw the doctor yesterday, he thought the most likely thing was that it was anaphylactic shock. Which was a bit left field. I’m still not overly convinced since it feels like I’ve had milder symptoms for a couple of months. But, I’m happy to go with the “let’s just avoid nuts for now” recommendation – I’d had pistachio nuts before bed. Not a nut I have ever had a problem with before. And up til now, my allergy to nuts did not give rise to anaphylaxis. He pointed out that your reactions to an allergy scale up with exposure. And you know, pregnancy does weird shit to you. And in retrospect, I forgot about it at the time, but I had my second AntiD injection this week and it’s possible that has interfered (they monitor you straight after in case you react to that). So. That was fun. If it happens again I’m supposed to call an ambulance. And I might need to carry an epipen.


So there was that. But you know, that’s only partially how I roll. And why I was amused when people were warning me with “you wait til”s when pregnant – cause I ain’t the run of the mill. My Crohn’s is of course gearing up. Course it is. And that’s no surprise. I had that flare up caused by anxiety for my *hen’s night* for heaven’s sake. And that is NOTHING compared to November for me, right? So I was expecting this wouldn’t be a happy horse and cart ride in the park. The next part of this story is cut for TMI but to say that pregnancy and Crohn’s flare ups do not mesh well together. And I was quite miserable yesterday.


On the upsides, I’m still low in iron so my midwife has prescribed B12 to take as well (that’s a no brainer, cause, Crohn’s) so I’m hoping to feel awesome by like tomorrow. That’s how it works, right? And at this point, I am popping so many pills that it’s almost equivalent to the futuristic not having to eat anything, just take a pill, where the pill is actually about 12 different things. And much as I was terrified to go to sleep last night (even though the doctor reassured me your body wakes you up if you can’t breathe, as it had done the night before), it didn’t reoccur. So yay. And also, I think I’m quite happy with that medical practice – I’ve yet to actually move to a GP down here and I kinda need to decide that before the baby comes.


So, you know. This is me. I don’t do things by the book. It’s just how I am. The baby on the other hand has been fantastic – doing all the right things, growing well, very active. All good.


 





First up: Kaleidoscope!

Willow

The exciting news for today is that Julia Rios and I launched our Pozible campaign to fundraise for our anthology project Kaleidscope – an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy. We’ve been working behind the scenes on the Pozible campaign for ages but on the project for even longer – we had a meeting in person about it in Toronto at last World Fantasy Con but we’d been working on it even before then. It’s exciting to finally see it start to go live. I’m looking forward to working on this project – we’ve already bought 4 stories for it and we’re looking forward to reading for it. We’ll be open to submissions for the project as well, and there will be more on that later in the campaign. We’ve also got a whole bunch of content lined up for October to discuss the project and what diversity means to us.






Maternity Leave

Willow

So my plan was that I would work my six months on my PhD, turn in my candidacy proposal (at my uni you get accepted into the program and then you have 6 months to write your project proposal which needs to be accepted for you to gain candidacy) and then go on my mat leave Oct 1. And that meant from Twelfth Planet Press as well as my Phd. Go on leave. Hiatus. Do not work. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.


And then somewhere along the line this plan became, hand in PhD proposal, go on mat leave from PhD and then finish up a whole bunch of TPP projects, have baby. I don’t really know why I haven’t accomplished more in the last 6 months, especially since I’ve been working full time on all this stuff. Which is to say, I don’t give myself slack for the fact that I felt sick for a large chunk of my pregnancy and tired for the rest of it. There was a lot of napping (!) in the beginning and now there is a lot of not sleeping and walking around in a zombified state.


(Seriously, WTF biology? In what universe does it make sense to prepare a woman to go in to a year of not sleeping with … not sleeping? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make her sleep lots?? I can’t stand it when people keep telling me to rest up and sleep now cause you won’t sleep later. Can’t fucking sleep more than 4 hours in a block of time. And OMG the discomfort. Let me tell you, 1 crying baby waking me up at night versus peeing every 3 minutes, hormones that keep me WIDE AWAKE for 19 hours a day, pain in my hands and elbows, numb fingers, not being able to sleep in any of my preferred sleeping positions, pulling muscles when trying to roll over? Yeah, uhuh. I’ll take the baby.)


Anyway, suffice to say, I got a lot less done than I thought I would. I didn’t factor in my moving more slowly. That never really occurred to me. And I still have at least 5 major projects to deliver before I deliver. And I’ve been stressed out a bit about this in the last couple of weeks. Especially since my PhD proposal is still not really in any good shape – I have 7 days left to finish it. I’m not sure if it can be done. And I have at least 3 books I’m hoping to get to print as well. Ahem. And some other stuff. And then stuff I wanted to get ahead on before I do have the sleeping in one hour blocks thing going on.


And then Thursday night happened. And as we’re driving up the freeway at 10pm, I’m thinking about what an idiot I am. And what really would be the worst case scenario if I don’t meet my deadlines. And really WTF was I thinking about not taking 6 weeks maternity leave, let alone 4? And the whole, “what would I do anyway if  I wasn’t working?” is not the real question – the question I should be asking is, what am I doing to myself, and my body by pushing so hard? And why?


So in theory, I’ve slowed down. Slowed my brain down, anyhow. I’m not going to panic about not meeting deadlines. I’m going to work when I can and do what I can and see what happens. And I’m remembering that I have people I can delegate things to and I’m working on handing that over. But you know the most annoying thing? The hardest thing to get myself to do (and this is the real reason my PhD work is behind) is to read. I avoid to do items that are “Read X” like the plague. I’m a publisher and I procrastinate on reading. Sigh. And then of course today, after only getting to bed (not sleep, but at least into bed) by 4am, I was reading cause that’s kinda low energy stuff and geez the reading for my Phd is really fascinating. Sigh. What am I going to do with myself, huh?





Adventures in babyland

Willow

I’m guessing this will be the first of many in this series.


Up front I’ll say that there is a happy ending to this story.


Thursday night, we had a bit of a bub scare. I’ve pretty much clued on so far that this whole gig is rigged so you lose. And when you embrace that, you can kinda let it all just roll off you. I guess that’s the expression I’ve seen a lot on the many mothers I have known. (it could be the same expression for: yeah I’m too tired to fight the power of oppression but I did spit in your sandwich and use two day old tuna).


Anyway. The info I’ve been given is that even at this stage of the pregnancy a baby is supposed to move a certain number of times an hour and a day. And that if I notice the movement slowing, I should follow a series of steps ending in giving the midwives a ring. So we record Galactic Suburbia on Thursday night and I’m drinking lemonade during that two hours. After the episode, I go and hang out on the couch and watch TV and then I’m sewing and whatnot. And after a while, I realise that I don’t remember the baby moving. I think about it, and the last time I remember was with my morning fake coffee. Which is weird cause I’d had that sugary drink and  didn’t remember the baby moving at all during the podcast. So I mention this to C and he says, “have some ice cream.” Aside: seriously, it IS pretty cool that a solution to a problem is icecream. Normally, that solution would be inappropriate to apply.


I have a bowl of ice cream. Nothing. *THAT* is really weird. So I say to C, “Nothing!” And he says, “You’re supposed to wait 30 minutes. Have another bowl and wait 30 minutes.” By now, I’m starting to feel a bit ill. And panicky. But I have the second bowl of ice cream. And no movement. After 30 minutes, C comes in and checks on me and then hands me his phone with the number already dialled. I called and had a chat and the lovely midwife, after asking me questions said I should come in because I probably wouldn’t sleep well if they didn’t check it out.


I felt a bit silly about it. But the longer it went with the baby not moving, the more worried I felt. But I felt really bad about dragging C all the way up to the hospital at 10pm when it was probably going to be nothing. Not for the first time was I glad I’d married the right man – I’d gone to the bathroom and put shoes on and when I came out, he’d packed a bag (workstuff and toiletries for him and my laptop for me) and when I apologised about the whole thing he reminded me of a recent example where he had followed the SOP for an incident even though he was mostly sure it was a false alarm and that I didn’t need to explain such things to him.


And so the reality of choosing a hospital an hour drive from home kicked in – 45 mins at that time of night but 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs in peak hour. I began to think I would not like to be in labour and having to make that drive in a hurry. Or on my own. And I got maybe 1, maybe 2, kicks that whole drive in. I felt sick that whole drive up. I tried to make idle chatter but I just felt ill. What if something was wrong? What if we weren’t going to be in, monitored and sent home in an hour turnaround?


We showed up and it’s quite odd to go to a hospital late at night. I think ER makes it look much more exciting than it is. We headed to maternity and the lovely midwife whom I’d spoken to on the phone took me under her wing, busied me into a room and set me up. This is the second time we’ve been there at night (the tour for the birthing class being the other time) and I just kinda expected more noise/activity. C said I meant screaming. And um, yeah. It was basically silent. And it’s not like there weren’t other women there – the midwife said my doctor had been in about 30 minutes earlier to do a c-section so had been informed I was coming in. But we didn’t see anyone other than the three nurses who fussed over me.


They attached monitors to my belly – one to monitor for any contractions and one for the heartbeat – and took my vitals etc. It was a real relief when the heartbeat was located. It wasn’t instantly and I suspect actually the baby was facing inwards and that was the problem. They tracked the heartbeat and baby movements for about 15 minutes or so and whilst I couldn’t feel those movements at all (weird), it was really reassuring to hear that steady heartbeat. I was really glad that they didn’t make me feel silly about coming in – they reassured me that they thought I would feel better if I just came in and got checked out. It seemed like they had never thought there was an issue and maybe I’m not the only person who freaks out about what a friend called later “baby having a lazy day”. And for the 15 or 30 minutes of their time to just put a monitor on and make me feel better, with some kind bedside manner, well I felt much more reassured about coming back for the real deal and also about that long drive.


And then they sent us home.


And we got home at about midnight. And the baby held a jamboree in my uterus for about an hour and a half after that. Course it did.


I did though, nearly get my purple book two weeks early. Though on debate, they decided it better I wait til the pre admission appointment week after next.


(Thank you to everyone who was talking to me on Twitter during that experience. I really appreciated your support.)





On reflection

Willow

I’ve just come home from breaking the fast with my family – the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast. Which I did not do, obviously, because pregnant. But Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur are a time of reflection – for the year that you just had, the kind of person you think you are and the year you would like to come, and who you want to be in that time ahead. I’m also in reflection mode because my time as a pregnant lady is rapidly running out. It’s both taken an age and also gone by in the blink of an eye. I’ve had moments of real personal struggle – of feeling so unrelentingly unwell, of massive energy drains and now the pain is starting to kick in. I’ve also become completely captivated  by watching and feeling a living being inside me. What was at first quite confronting and weird, and uncomfortable, has become fascinating, and I guess magical. And I am starting to really look forward to meeting my kid. Weird as that sentence is to actually write.


I’ve been thinking a lot though about how this has also been our first year of marriage. Not long after the baby comes, we will celebrate our first wedding anniversary. And in some ways, I’ve been a bit regretful that I spent this first year, our newlywed year, pregnant. I didn’t know how I would be when pregnant, but I’ve spent a lot of it tired, sick, sleeping (I’ve slept way more this year than I usually do, even if I now can’t remember sleep) and a bit grumpy and short tempered. I’ve felt awful for a lot of it. And I guess I did always think your first year of marriage would be a bit more swoony than this.


On the other hand, there isn’t a day where I don’t think to myself, “I married the right man”. And I am so so grateful that we ever met. For such a long time I thought maybe that I would never meet the right person for me or that I was just destined to be alone. Or that I was too difficult or was being punished for some long forgotten heinous crime. And it took a long time to get over that wanting to not be single thing, to be ok being just me. And of course, when I did finally do that, C came along. C, who demands and expects me to be authentically me, and calls me out when I wander off that track. C, who has been patient and loving and supportive since the first day I met him, but especially so this year. C, who listens to me and hears and remembers what I say, who finishes my sentences and knows what I’m thinking. And who sits next to me and gently squeezes my hand when a conversation veers out into territory that upsets me, a squeeze that says, “I know this is offensive to you but it’s ok to let it slide this time.” Who helps me pick my battles and stay focussed on what’s really important. And who never ever makes me feel bad or need to be apologetic about who and what I am. And who challenges me intellectually and morally to be better and more.


It’s impossible to be superwoman – to have it all, at once. And this year it’s been rather quite confronting for me to actually have to face up that truth. I can’t both be in the labour ward AND at World Fantasy Con. Much as I would like to. The reality of having to make choices, of having to choose between things, and that it’s something that I as a woman am forced to do in ways that my husband is not. It’s been upsetting to finally have that moment come. (And to counterbalance that with being so very lucky, that at 37, I was still able to be in this position.) It would be extra hard for me to not be in Brighton, were I not going to be very busy right around that time. But it’s really made me have to think through what this means for me going forward. I am lucky to have other mentors around me – women who have done it before me, and have much to offer in advice and support. And I have a very loving husband who is prepared and capable who pulls his fair weight on this team. But there are some things he cannot do for me, or instead of me. And … that’s the really confronting bit. But when I bring him my dilemmas – what, for example, does this mean for next year, when I might still be breastfeeding? – he offers options and solutions. I’m very lucky and so very glad to have married this man. To finally feel like I am in the right place, with the right person.


I’m not really sure what I thought our first year of marriage would be like. We already lived together. We’ve already done the long distance thing when he’s been at sea. We are the very best of friends. It’s been in some ways no different to what it was before. And yet, this year has brought me all sorts of challenges – we travelled overseas together for the first time (and it was awesome), I finally came to the decision to quit my job and try this publishing thing for serious (something he’d told me a long time ago that he was prepared to support me when, and there would be a when, he said, I decided to leap) and when I needed to quit my job early due to morning sickness. And for all these things, C has been there as a sounding board, a support, never a judge, and never ever anything but my cheering squad. He gives me the confidence to believe in myself. And that I’m not in this alone.


We have this next big thing on our journey together coming up to round off this first year. And there is noone else in the world I would want here with me other than him. I don’t think I could do this without him. I’m scared – terrified to tell the truth – but knowing he’ll be standing beside me, squeezing my hand, it will be ok.





Twelfth Planet Press at crimeScene 2013

Willow

I have been remiss in not posting this here so for anyone who is going to be in Perth and is interested in a con stream for writers, consider checking this out. Also of important note is that Friday is the closing date to register interest in submitting work to be critted by Juliet Marillier and Lee Battersby. We’re interested in fostering a sf writers crit group in Perth and are hoping this friendly crit session might kickstart some interest in a repeat event.


 


 


crimescene2013-banner21


Twelfth Planet Press CrimeScene Writing Stream


Saturday, 12 October, 2013


http://www.crimescenewa.org.au/


 


Pitch Twelfth Planet Press


Take an opportunity to pitch your completed manuscript to editor and publisher Alisa Krasnostein in a one on one pitch appointment. You will be given 5 to 8 minutes to provide a brief synopsis of your story, how it fits in with Twelfth Planet Press’ publishing line and how it stands out from the slushpile.


Twelfth Planet Press novels push boundaries to question, inspire, engage and challenge. We are specifically looking to acquire dynamic, original genre material outside that typically considered by mainstream publishers. We are reading for science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime. We will consider borderline literary, new weird, steampunk, space opera, hard science fiction, soft science fiction, urban fantasy, cyberpunk, military science fiction, young adult, paranormal romance and everything in between. We will also consider novellas in this pitch session.


Pitch appointment slots are limited. To register for your slot, email Linda: Linda@spiralarmevents.com


Critique session with Juliet Marillier, Lee Battersby and Alisa Krasnostein


Join writers Juliet Marillier and Lee Battersby and editor Alisa Krasnostein for a critique session. Selected manuscripts from participants will be critiqued individually by the panellists to an open audience session.


It is our intention to provide a friendly, open and supportive environment that will allow Perth writers to meet, network and develop group critiquing skills. Stay around for drinks after the writers’ stream and meet fellow Perth writers.


What you need to do:

1. Register your interest in participating by emailing Linda: Linda@spiralarmevents.com by 13 Sept 2013. Please provide a brief (one paragraph) description of your writing experience and a brief description of the piece you would be submitting for critique.


2. You will be advised by 18 Sept 2013 whether you have been selected to participate. If selected, you must submit your work by 20 Sept 2013. Manuscripts must comply with the following requirements:

Novel: a one page synopsis and the first 10 to 15 pages.

Short story: Up to 7000 words. Full manuscripts should be submitted.


All submissions should be sent as Word documents attached to a covering email. Documents should be double-spaced ie 15 pages means 15 double-spaced pages.


Juliet Marillier was born and brought up in Dunedin, New Zealand, and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels for adults and young adults have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards including the Aurealis, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Sir Julius Vogel Award and the Prix Imaginales. Among Juliet’s works are the Sevenwaters novels, the Bridei Chronicles and the Shadowfell series, of which the second novel, Raven Flight, was published in July 2013.


Juliet’s lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. When not busy writing, Juliet tends to a small pack of waifs and strays. Find out more at http://www.julietmarillier.com.


Lee Battersby is the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Writers of the Future-winning author of the novels “The Corpse-Rat King” (Angry Robot Books, 2012) and “The Marching Dead” (Angry Robot, 2013) as well as the collection “Through Soft Air” (Prime Books, 2006) and over 70 stories in the US, Europe and Australia. His writing has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle. He lives online at www.leebattersby.com and blogs at http://battersblog.blogspot.com.


Alisa Krasnostein is editor and publisher at independent Twelfth Planet Press, a freshly minted creative publishing PhD student and recently retired environmental engineer. She part of the twice Hugo nominated and Peter McNamara Award winning Galactic Suburbia Podcast team. In 2011, she won the World Fantasy Award for her work at Twelfth Planet Press. In her spare time she is a critic, reader, reviewer, podcaster, runner, environmentalist, knitter, quilter and puppy lover.


The Invisibility of Elmore Leonard: Writing Workshop with Matthew Chrulew


When Elmore Leonard died in August this year, tributes flowed, and his ten rules for writing were cited all over the net. The influence of his gritty and humorous short stories and novels, many of which were made into films and television series (such as 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty and Justified), can be found throughout crime fiction and beyond. Alongside his enticing villains and outlaws, Leonard was famous for bringing a Hemingwayesque restraint to genre fiction: distracting description was minimised and tight dialogue carried the drama. His was the art of getting out of the way. His ten rules advised writers to avoid weather, prologues, said-bookisms, adverbs, exclamation points, dialect, description, and “hooptedoodle”—that is, “obvious writing” that readers might notice or skip. Yet their repetition often ignores the qualifications and exceptions in his original article, his awareness of the singularity of his style. We will take a look at his writing and his rules, ask about their value and place, and attempt to write some Elmore Leonard dialogue of our own.


Matthew Chrulew’s stories have appeared in Aurealis, Antennae, ASIM, Pseudopod, Canterbury 2100 and Macabre: A Journey Through Australian Horror. They have been reprinted in Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror vol 3. (2008) and The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010. His novella The Angælien Apocalypse (Twelfth Planet Press) was a finalist in the 2010 Aurealis Awards. He teaches creative writing at Curtin University and blogs at matthewchrulew.wordpress.com


How to be a Professional Writer


In this seminar, author Marianne Delacourt/de Pierres discusses how to make the transition from hobbyist/emerging writer to professional. Some of the topics she will discuss are branding, when to give up the day job, work habits and networking. As a full time writer with twenty years of experience and (soon to be) seventeen published novels, Marianne will share her insights and help you avoid her mistakes.


Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis and award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She’s also the author of a teen dark fantasy series.


Marianne writes award-winning crime under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt. Visit her websites: at www.mariannedepierres.com, www.tarasharp.com and www.burnbright.com.au


 


 





Week 31

Willow

This week is a bit of a countdown for me as by Saturday, the baby is deemed cooked enough to be able to be delivered at the hospital I have chosen rather than at the women’s hospital specialising in preterm and emergency type deliveries. It is a big milestone because it says the baby is able to survive outside the womb etc.


I had my doctor’s appointment yesterday and started working on my birth plan. I have to say that choosing a doctor is one of the most important things (and privileges) to me. With my various and unrelated medical issues coupled with some mental health concerns, I chose a doctor that my sister recommended since a friend of hers with complications had seen her and  my sister had seen once or twice during her own pregnancy. I prefer to see women doctors. Something that became obvious to me when I was first sick with Crohn’s disease is that women’s parts and women’s hormones can affect progression and symptoms of diseases differently to men and if you don’t experience those quirks, you may not instantly account for them. Or understand them. Which was the case for me describing issues with exacerbation of my Crohn’s symptoms at certain times of the month to my first few (male) doctors.


I instantly liked my doctor on the first appointment when I asked her if it was true I was having a “geriatric pregnancy” – a term, by the way, I have only heard male doctors use. She scoffed at the term, rolled her eyes and said, “oh yes, cause you’re *so* ancient”. My GP had given me the same response. Instant bond.


Yesterday, I had a frank and open discussion with her about things and my concerns. I’m so happy with how supportive she is – she’s very professional and calm and cool but also very funny and concerned that I have the experience I want. I haven’t yet asked if there is a teleportation option though, which is really the experience I want.


What strikes me most about pregnancy so far is how much difference there is for me in knowing something intellectually versus experiencing it emotionally. For me, I guess a lot of my feminism was intellectual. I’ve argued for and believed in it vehemently since I was very young. And my views have not changed. But I’ve come to understand a lot of issues at a deeper level, having not really thought a lot of them through at more than an intellectual level. This is something my friends had warned me about. But it’s still quite something to actually live through.


Obviously there is all the judgment stuff that you experience. You can’t walk five steps without people having to tell you how to do something, based on how they did it. As though all experiences are the same. That’s been my first lesson – my pregnancy experience is mine, and unlike anyone else’s. For a start, I have Crohn’s disease. I went in with a few symptoms which pregnancy heightened. I have food allergies and intolerances and am vegetarian. All of which means that the ways in which I can deal with different symptoms and issues is going to be complicated. So many people told me “you wait til [insert horrible symptom or craving] happens” and you know? Most of that shit didn’t. I didn’t have heightened sense of smell (my smell is already pretty heightened normally), almost no smells turned my stomach (maybe I couldn’t stand peppermint for a bit?), I haven’t had any real cravings (like, maybe strawberries? And I would have eaten maybe 3 or 4 punnets in the last 8 months?), in fact I’ve had almost no appetite for most of it, I felt nauseous constantly til 22 weeks. I felt very tired for a lot of it. In fact, I’ve only really started to feel *good* in the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, the midwife said she thought that was the first time I’d said and sounded that I felt well the whole time. I haven’t had much swelling though I have had carpal tunnel. And I can’t much sleep. And so it goes.


But this whole thing has taught me that experience is individual. And whilst advice is helpful, it’s not always useful or applicable. I think also there is a difference between people who are genuinely listening to what you’re going through and providing a supportive ear and some suggestions versus the people who just want another chance to work through their own horror story by downloading it on you or by trying to one-up your experience. With the latter, I am developing a technique whereby I smile and nod and flick elevator music on in my head. That’s the *polite* and *feminine* way to deal with the driveby when really I want to be able to just tell em to piss off. But you know, that would be “aggressive*.


I have a new respect for women who try many times for a successful pregnancy. I always understood the emotional turmoil of losing a baby. But I never really thought about the physical aspects of that. After going through my first trimester, and being aware that mine was not even the most extreme of experiences, I began to think about women who try and miscarry multiple times. I do not think I could go through that 5 or 6 times and feel so unwell each time only to then have such a devastating outcome (on the other hand, I was lucky in my pregnancy so how can I really understand the flipside? Of really wanting a baby, of carrying it inside you to term and not being able to?). And the physical strain as well of being pregnant – I now look at women who have 5 or 6 babies and I just marvel at how much toll that takes out of you physically – the pregnancy, the birth and the feeding afterwards. (And bearing in mind that not everyone has the same experience as me, I guess if you have relatively few symptoms and easy births, this whole thing would be a lot less taxing and a lot more enjoyable).


The freedom of choice is something that is at the forefront of my mind right now. There are a lot of choices. A lot of ways of doing things. A lot of things to prioritise. And a lot of options and methods which will only become apparent as to which one is right for you and your baby when your baby arrives. We took our parenting classes and we listened to a lot of things. I was most interested to note that whilst last week’s class on feeding stressed that it’s everyone’s choice whether to breastfeed or formula feed, no time in the class was allocated to going through the formula feeding option. We throw the word “choice” around a lot but we attach the act of judging to it in the subtext. I’m already aware of how much judgment others like to place on the choices you make. And I know this is only the beginning. Something I’ve been working on in this pregnancy is learning to set my own boundaries and enforce them. But the thing I’m realising I really need to work on is giving myself permission to feel the freedom in my freedom to choose. To make my choices and not be weighed down with the imagined judgment from others about that choice. Because if I can’t do that, I am not truly free. And I’m learning, that in this game, I will always lose.







Finished project!

Willow

PillowAn actual finished object!


Today I uncovered a thing – a thing where I discovered I had screwed something up. For long time readers, it’s no real surprise that I tend to procrastinate on things. I am excellent at distraction productivity to cover up said procrastination but I tend to avoid things that might be unpleasant. Course, that avoidance creates guilt. And the occasional panic sweats and sick feeling when you recall the guilt. But for the most part, avoidance.


The thing is though, avoidance (and guilt) is bullshit. Another one of those white background noise stresses weighing down your psyche. And as I embrace the GTD lifestyle in preparation for baby boot camp (8-9 weeks to go) I’m discovering that there is no room for avoidance in this way of living and in the end, the only way to feel truly free is to face the thing you are avoiding. So, whilst I continue this last gasp of avoidance on today’s discovery, let me write this post as a sermon to myself on avoiding avoidance.


FINISHED OBJECT!


I actually finished this during the recording of the last Galactic Suburbia episode but then had to get the cushion insert from Ikea before it counted as completed. It’s a cushion cover. And it’s a big deal because I bought this pattern kit possibly at the first Quilt and Craft Fair I attended something like 5 or 6 years or more ago. And procrastinated on it. Why? I have a fear of cutting beautiful fabric – what if  I screw it up? And also, the instructions looked hard. And I needed to translate them from sewing machine to hand sewing. And that all seemed too hard and too scary. So it sat there. In my stash pile. Moving house with me however many times. If you don’t actually sew the project, did you waste your money?


Anyway. I finally cut the material when I was doing some cutting of fabrics for a different project. Now that my work desk is always left as a clear space, it makes pulling out my cutting board to cut fabric whenever I feel like it much easier. And when I was trying to work out how to cut strips for my Jinny Beyer block of the month quilt (more on that later), I figured I may as well do the same for this one. And then I took the cut pieces with me to Conflux (and then on to Tassie) to sew. I didn’t actually get round to it but it was a major step forward out of avoidance.


Then it sat in the ziplock bag for a couple more months as the instructions for piecing still looked scary.


But as part of getting to cruise control on GTD, I audited my craft room, and every nook and cranny round the house and under the beds (I’m still sorting through random garbage bags from moves of just stuff shoved in) and created a Crafts Project list and a Next Craft Actions list. And this project of course was on the list. With Next Actions, all you have to do is answer the question “What’s next?” You don’t have to know the whole plan of a project of A -> B -> C -> D -> Finished. You just need to know A. And then when you’ve finished A you figure out What’s Next? etc. So in answering that, I only had to understand the very first step of the instructions and execute that. And so on. There was some winging it required. The fabric in the original kit was never straight cut or the right size to start with. But then, when I thought about it, I realised, finished is better than perfect so never started. And it’s a pillow. It’s not the Sistine Chapel. Who is going to come along and measure the finished product and check it’s what the instructions said anyhow?


I worked step by step. The final bit is the back where you end up with a pillow slip by laying two pieces, cut of different sizes, on top of each other and sewing round the four outer edges, ending up with an inside pouch to hold the pillow. That bit was a bit boring but the great thing is, I save that kind of no brain sewing (once you figure out the step) to during things like recording a podcast. I can pick it up and put it down without needing to track anything and I can’t go anywhere for an hour or two so it’s the only thing I can do in that time! And voila! I have a finished project that took me maybe 2 hours to sew by hand after 5 or 6 years of being scared of the project!


Now to protect it from the destructive forces of the puppy! And to remember when tackling other long procrastinated and avoided projects that the most important thing is figuring out what the next step is, not needing to have the entire thing planned before you start thereby never actually starting.





Galactic Suburbia Episode 88

Willow

chrome_rollerIn which, Hugos.


Tansy, Alisa and Alex gather only minutes after the Hugo ceremony to discuss the results!


Hugo winners The Stats, Statbadgers! Tansy’s Hugo Post



The Silent Producer apologises for the sound quality on this issue due to recording difficulties.</p>
 

Culture Consumed:

Alex: The Adventures of Alyx, Joanna Russ; BSG rewatch yet again; The Memcordist, Lavie Tidhar; Firebugs, Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Alisa: KickAss 2; Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones; Ugly, Robert Hoge

Tansy: Fringe Season 1, Dorian Gray Season 2, Ugly, Robert Hoge


Plugs: Splendid Chaps Nine/Women, featuring Tansy: September 15

Glitter & Mayhem released and partying, glitter skate style.


Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!






More on Getting Things Done

Willow

It’s been another full on week. I’m really not sure what I was thinking earlier this year when I agreed to a bunch of stuff for Aug-Oct. Yesterday, I hit Week 29 which means next week I’ll be into my last 10 weeks. True to everyone’s word, it’s gone both ridiculously quickly and agonisingly slowly. And it’s really starting to panic me how much I still have to get done before the baby arrives.


At Week 28, they do the glucose tolerance test and a bunch of blood tests – mainly for iron levels. Because of my blood type, I also had to get a shot of AntiD. AntiD is pretty short in supply so you have to book that ahead of time to make sure they have it available. I did all of these last Monday. I’d been having dizziness and funny turns during my pregnancy so I was a bit worried I was going to fail the glucose tolerance test. In the end, the entire thing was uneventful. Apart from the grossness of the liquid sugar, slightly fizzy drink, and the morning sickness due to fasting, I was just tired – too tired to do the work I’d brought for the two hour sit. They gave me the AntiD about an hour in to the stint. And took bloods at the beginning. The day after I found out I was pretty anemic and have gone on some extra iron. So far, I think I’m starting to feel a bit more energetic since taking it. And I’m hoping it will bring that spurt of energy before the much promised slide into the final weeks.


I’ve been relying on GTD to help me get organised, ready and start to get on top of things. In the last post-Galactic Suburbia recording chat, we were discussing those who like to do things down to the wire and under pressure of deadline (me) and other people, who do things ahead of time (you know who you are people who wrote your Lit essays the week you got the assignment). I was saying that I think I like doing things so close to deadline because it forces me to be succinct, and allows me to hand it in without having to give the work more thought. That if I did it ahead of time, it would mean I could and therefore *should* think over what I’d done, maybe tweak it, rework it etc. That done wouldn’t feel like “done” if I completed it a week or two before it was due. Course, there have been the odd times in my life where I’ve rethought what I wanted to hand in *after* I’d handed it in, and doing the work ahead of time would have enabled me to improve my response. But I guess that hasn’t happened all that many times in life to justify a change in habit.


Anyway, directly after that conversation, I had a really busy week. I’d completed my Weekly Review on the Monday, which involves scoping out up coming deadlines and what you need to do to manage them etc. In that week, I had a couple of days of solid doctor appointments (I try and book up whole days for this stuff as I have the two hour commute, may as well not do that too many times if I don’t have to.) and then a couple of days of things like presentations etc (the Romance Writers conference, a MasterClass at Curtin etc). As I did my plan for the week and worked out what I wanted to prepare for each of my commitments, I soon realised that to get something done that was needed on Thursday, I needed to do it Tuesday and could only do it Monday afternoon or Tuesday due to other commitments. And similarly for the weekend commitments, could only do them Tuesday or Friday. But if I did them Tuesday, I could spend Friday on PhD research which would otherwise fall by the wayside for the week due to everything else.


Armed with this knowledge, that is how I managed the week. And then the clouds parted, angles sang and I experience a revelation! When you do things earlier than 5 minutes before deadline, it’s completely possible to forget about them and let them be “done”. And to in fact feel good about the fact that you are prepared for the next thing in your schedule and thus be working on the thing ahead of that. It was … dare I say it? Fantastically liberating! I didn’t have to rush around, didn’t need to flail and panic, as per my usual way of coping. I calmly went about my business. Got enough sleep. Had things packed and ready to go for each of my commitments. Had everything I needed on me for each commitment when I got there. And I calmly moved through life. That’s what happens, apparently, when you work this way. And I have to say, I really really like it. It’s a very effective way of managing pregnancy brain which renders me useless sometimes. And I suspect, it could be very useful for someone working on little sleep and holding a screaming baby. And on the Friday, instead of feeling bad and anxious about the presentations and public speaking I had to do on the Saturday, I actually worked on PhD stuff calm in the knowledge that I was as prepared as I could be for the next day’s gigs.


So now I’m quite addicted to the Weekly Review.





On experimenting with business models

Willow

Pretty much every other day, I take a moment to check whether the other shoe is starting to drop. I really can’t believe how lucky I am to be being given the opportunity to not only work on Twelfth Planet Press all day every day but also to be expected to be exploring new ideas, try new initiatives and to study practices around me. That the point of this whole exercise is to learn things about publishing in a time of great flux in the industry, and to hopefully, take out the other end of this study, a more viable and tangible business. Seriously. How did I get here? (The answer is always: Helen). It’s seriously try that if you find something you truly love, you never have to work a day in your life.


And the other great thing is getting to talk a lot about it as  I go along. Documenting it as I go so I can pull it together into some kind of exegesis at the end.


After spending last week immersed in talking and listening to other people talk about the industry, I’ve been mulling over our novella line. I love novellas – I love the format. I love the fact that they are meaty enough to really tell a deep, expansive story but aren’t as big a reading commitment as a novel. We’ve had a lot of critical success at Twelfth Planet Press with this format. There is no shortage of really great novellas being written. The problem has been that the format in print is just not a viable product. As of this date, the only one that’s ever broken even is Horn by Peter M Ball. At some point, I had to make the decision that I couldn’t keep buying and publishing novellas when they weren’t breaking even. As much as I love the form, and as much as I believe that indie press exists to publish and bring to the reader works that are outside of the scope of commercial publishers, I couldn’t justify the drain on the cash flow. Especially when eventually that comes at the expense of being able to afford other projects that might be more financially viable.


Last week I participated in a panel with Joel Naoum from Momentum discussing all things publishing for a postgrad MasterClass at Curtin. One of the points that struck me about what they are doing at Momentum, is being able to pursue projects that are not viable in print form by going solely digital. Without a doubt, with the democratising of publishing via self publishing and with the merging of big publishers, we have two new and very strong factors at play. The first is that there are more titles being published every year than the year before. And I don’t really see that changing in the near future. Readers are still reading but I suspect the readers for every title is probably less, as the readers spread across more and more titles. I believe this means that the potential to earn for a writer (and publisher) is going to be less per title. Similarly, as the big publishers merge and try to compete against Amazon, they are looking to concentrate on high performing bestsellers. And we’ve seen that result in the loss of the midlist for some time. This, I still think is good news for a publisher like TPP, but not for authors who are still capable of earning reasonably but that “reasonably” is being redefined. And this is where we are seeing a lot of changes in publishing business models as savvy midlisters experiment with new ways to make a career.


A third, and no less important, factor is distribution. Bookstores are closing. Book distributors are folding. And it’s getting harder and easier to get stocked in bookstores. I’m finding that TPP is being picked up by a lot more franchised outlets of the big bookstores in Oz but that’s happening as I work harder to do distribution myself ie dealing with each bookstore one by one. At the same time, I’m also finding other bookstores becoming less open to stocking indie press. Responses like we only stock books by publishers like [named big five publisher] are also coming in.


What’s going to happen to traditional publishing? We don’t know yet but if publishers want to still be around, we’re going to have to adapt and change our models. What used to be is no longer. And what worked before may not in the future. What is clear is that we need to be flexible and open to new things. As I posted the other day, it is really clear that the stigma of digital only publishing or digital first publishing has long been lost in the romance genre. A genre which is alive and kicking and very financially successful.


The sum of all these thoughts: I love novellas and I’ve been looking for a way to be able to publish them again. And I’m keen to experiment with publishing models to see what and how to be successful going forward. And so, finally we are open to novella submissions again! http://www.twelfthplanetpress.com/submissions And hopefully, I’ll be able to use this in my thesis somewhere :) I do quite like the double credit points of working on my press AND my PhD at the same time!


 





Riding the Waves

Willow

Over the weekend I attended the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference which was held in Fremantle, WA this year and titled Riding the Waves. It was my first time at a non SF (and non science) conference and I have to say, my mind was totally blown. It was a completely new and entirely fantastic experience and I think I might be hooked (as I was promised by Peter Ball who also attended).


I’d had a few engagements prior to the weekend that were related to this event as Curtin organised an academic programme on the Friday, related to the conference, and Helen was here. I was part of a MasterClass for Curtin postgrads looking at publishing opportunities post submitting (that was weird, being probably the earliest on the PhD path in the room). We also went to Helen’s book launch for her new book, Beyond the Cyborg, which was a lot of fun. So by the time Saturday morning came around, I was really glad that my husband had kindly agreed to both wake me up in time to leave and to actually drive me to Freo for my 9am panel. I wouldn’t have got there otherwise. He also hunted around trying to get me something to be able to eat to stave off morning sickness, sadly to no avail. And I entered the conference.


First up. The conference swag bag. It rivalled the World Fantasy bag but even though it had maybe a third of the books, it beat the WFC one hands down by having a pen, a keep cup AND a BOX OF CHOCOLATES. Hey, I’m easily won over. This was a conference that had a lot of chocolate just lying around for you to snag. You gotta love that.


The programme was already running behind schedule when I headed in to the plenary session and I stood at the back to listen to most of the keynote speech by Julia Quinn. She spoke a lot about what it takes to be a writer and a lot about the journey of being a writer. She was funny and smart and a pleasure to listen to. But one thing in particular she said really stood out for me – “you will never hurt your career by helping another author”. She elaborated by saying you will never lose a sale by promoting someone else’s book. That the only way you can lose sales is through the quality of your own books. And it was the beginning of a bit of a revelation for me. Not the sentiment, but that someone said it out loud. That it’s not a zero sum game – readers will read your book and someone else’s. And reading someone else’s doesn’t mean they won’t read and like yours. Or better yet, someone else having success doesn’t preclude you from having your own success.


After the keynote, I realised the segment before our panel was to happen so I grabbed a seat – the room was set up like a big banquet hall, with large round tables rather than rows of chairs. It was the main session room and I think the only programming until break out sessions later on. So everyone at the conference was in this session. The segment that followed the keynote was a small presentation by two head honchos from Harlequin. I’m not sure I can even express what this experience was. They basically ran through all their imprints and lines and talked about upcoming initiatives at their publishing houses(s). Which sounds simple enough, like an advert. But the advert was to woo writers. It was about selling themselves as a market that *wanted* the writers in the room to want to be a part of them. And what was exceedingly clear was that they have a really clear and thorough understanding of their readership and how to sell their books to them. They understand the business and the market.


After this, I was on a panel discussing pathways to publishing, moderated by Alex Adsett. Because the session was running behind, our panel was cut short but we discussed the different expectations and processes for a range of presses on submissions and rights and so on. It was interesting to see how much more digital only publishing is accepted and being adopted in the romance genre.


We broke for morning tea then, which was fully catered. And I was able to appease my growing morning sickness. I also caught up with both Peter and Donna. Peter made a comment to me about how every writer knows what exact genre niche it is that they write in and for the rest of the day, I asked every person I met what it is that they write just to see. And every single writer I asked knew *exactly* what their niche is (like out of 27 or something different sub genres). It was deeply fascinating.  Someone came up to me at morning tea to speak to me about TPP and a book they had and we had a nice chat. After that I headed into a breakout session.


I had intended to work or read in between my two commitments which were hours apart. I’m not one for attending panels and I’m a natural introvert. This would be the kind of thing I would do at a SF convention if none of my friends were there – I’d just take off to the cafe and have a coffee and work and be quite happy. Except at this conference that didn’t happen. Because people didn’t just walk past you and ignore you or look you up and down and judge you and walk on. They introduced themselves to you and started a conversation with you. And before you knew it, you’d met a new person. This, I discovered, is what it’s like to go to an actually friendly convention. And to be in an authentic safe space. Everyone there was there for the conference. They were dressed professionally. And they were there for the same, specific purpose, to network, to learn and to share what they knew.


I chose the “Buy This Book!” breakout session after morning tea. It was a workshop run by Abby Zidle, an editor at Simon and Schuster (NY). A writer from the audience was invited to present her novel as though she was an acquiring editor advocating the publisher buy the book. And the rest of the panel was made up of other members of the audience, each representing the different department heads that would sit in an acquisition meeting. And Abby, as the mock publisher, led the mock discussion that would happen in a press house meeting to consider whether or not they buy a manuscript. I learned a lot in this session, more than I expected to. I knew how this process works – that your editor has to convince all kinds of people that the book will sell, beyond just “but it’s a *really* good book”. What I really liked is the idea that almost noone other than the acquisition editor will have read the manuscript for a meeting like this. It’s both weird and obvious. I like the idea that all the way along the process of selling a manuscript to a book, you are constantly in discussion with people about how good it is where the person buying it will be buying it on the say so of the editor and then the bookseller. People hand over the cash, to produce the book, and then to buy it as a reader, without knowing how good the book actually is. There aren’t many other products out there that anyone buys without really knowing just exactly what it is. I guess movies are the same. I learned a lot of things in this session. Abby was very generous in sharing and explaining all sorts of aspects of publishing including print runs and profit margins and why publishers invest in what things and so on. I took a lot of notes. *I* took a lot of notes in a con panel.


Lunch happened after this session. Catered lunch. I headed over to the restaurant and grabbed some food and then was ushered over to the special seating area for the conference.  I thought this was a bit odd. I got sent down to the end of a very long empty table and by the time I had put all my things down and sat, more writers had been similarly sent my way, had introduced themselves to me and we got involved in a long and fascinating conversation. I think I met more published novellists that day than I’ve met in my whole life. And most of them were multiple times published authors. We talked about feminism, we talked about the romance genre, its being snubbed by most on the outside, and on writing and so on.


The thing that really struck me being in and amongst the attendees at this conference was how savvy everyone was. Being able to write a novel and sell it seemed kind of a given – and I guess seeing as most of the people I met had successfully done that, perhaps it was? But that what they really knew was their business – they know what their audience wants and how to give it to them. And they know how (and want) to mentor upcoming writers so that they may know what their audience wants and how to give it to them. There was a genuine air of sharing – of knowledge and support and know how. That information and experience isn’t for guarding and protecting lest someone else also find out your secret to success but rather that by sharing and helping others to also be successful, everyone benefits by greater success. Rather than spending time fighting and competing with each other, and tearing each other down so noone really achieves greatness due to being so busy fighting and fending off (jealous) attacks, they spend the time teaching each other how to be great. Kind of sounds like a utopia doesn’t it? When I asked a few people about it – that there didn’t seem to be much ego or pissing contests going on in the room – they said that there was a little of it here and there if you scraped beneath the surface but that no, by and large, it wasn’t really that kind of scene.


I met many women, of different ages and walks of life, who totally got what I’m doing at TPP, what the point of my thesis was and a bunch of other things that are true in my world, like getting ready for a baby and balancing career and motherhood etc. It seemed to me that romance is a genre that has been snubbed by the rest of the “literati” and it has sort of shrugged its shoulders, thought “well that’s your loss” and just moved on to do what it does – nurture writer and readers and sell a HECK of a lot of books. And, you know, make a lot of money. And not care what anyone else thinks about what it’s doing. It reminds me a lot of when I talk about sexism with women who’ve been fighting and around the issue for a lot longer than me and tend to just say – yeah, I just don’t listen to that shit anymore and don’t hang out with people like that, it’s not a fight I’m gonna win and I’m done wasting my energy and time on it. It always seems so relaxing and liberating, really.


After lunch I headed to a craft panel with one of the writers I’d had lunch with and brushed up on all things writing dialogue. Then I headed off to my pitch session. It was the first one I’ve ever done in person and I was really nervous about it. How would I facilitate nervous people through 8 minutes of them trying to sell their manuscript to me? I prepped myself a bunch of questions as prompts and met a lot of really enthusiastic people. It was pretty nerve wracking but I guess enjoyable. I asked to see some manuscripts and I’m interested to see what comes in. I finished off with a lovely debrief with Alex and Peter before my husband came back to pick me up.


And, I have to say, SF, we’re doing it wrong. There was so much about how this conference was organised, including the emails that came out before the event (which had information for people who had never attended before on what to expect and how they could fill the time so as not to feel nervous or anxious), that it was advertised as a perfume free event ahead of time was of interest to me (both because it was considerate of others but also, the opposite of the ones I’m used to which need to remind people to shower!). But also, I am so interested in the active community building that was on display and evident by the friendships and by the friendliness. Other people’s success was not sneered at or envied, it was applauded and encouraged. After all, when everyone else looks at you as a group to sneer at, you don’t really need to spend time and energy doing that inside the group, do you? SF has much to learn from this genre – they are on the cutting edge of the digital revolution, they know how to market and sell their work, they know how to take a one book deal into a long spanning career. And I can’t help but think it has a lot to do with the positivity and encouragement within the community.


I took a lot away from this conference. And I also want to be part of this community. I’m considering joining the RWA and going to  next year’s conference in Sydney. I think there is a lot more I can learn about the publishing business here. And I really really liked the people I met.






Design Wall of Awesome

Willow

Design Wall Aug 11 2013I am really liking my design wall. My charm quilt is almost finished – all the hexagons have been pieced together and now I am sewing the final panels together. I almost think I might miss all those teeny tiny triangles, now that I’m done.


All the while I’ve been working on this quilt, I’ve been looking forward to pulling it down and using the design wall to get a good look at my WiPs. And today was finally the day. I’ve only just begun pulling out everything from my craft cupboard and all the other nooks and crannies I’ve been stashing projects in progress. It would appear that either my design wall is not big enough, or I might have too many projects. My husband and I disagree about which it is :)


As I was pinning up projects, I began to see the real benefit of a permanent design wall. I liked it for the charm quilt to be able to piece it and then rearrange and try out different layouts til I was happy with the overall look. The same will be for each of the quilts shown here but I also like it for being able to find all the bits and pieces of partially cut out and sewn blocks and keeping them in a place where they don’t get lost. It reinforced my long held desire to have my own studio. I really really want a proper workspace where you can keep things up and together and not spread all over the house.


I think one of the reasons why I am so bad at finishing projects is because I lose where I’m up to and it feels too difficult to sit back down and re-figure it out. That was partly why I was excited about bringing my craft into my GTD system. In theory, that shouldn’t happen anymore. And I can see that using a design wall for projects in progress will also help that. And I think both will help me keep my momentum and interest alive enough to focus on finishing projects before moving on. It will be interesting to see whether my overall WiP project count changes over time. I’m thinking of tracking that :)


Currently up on the design wall are 7 quilts. Though the cameo with log cabins (lower right hand corner) was actually going to be 1 of 3 and probably now just needs to be quilted and bound. I also found 1 additonal finished quilt top and another that I’m going to completely pull apart and redo cause I hate it. And I still haven’t finished auditing my craft room yet. (Let’s not even discuss the knitting WiPs!)


I think another reason why I am so bad at finishing projects is because I fear not having anything left to do. I fear final completion. When dissected, it’s really quite ridiculous. Firstly, actually using all your stash and doing all your queued projects gives you permission to buy or start new ones. And WiPs are a debt on future time. Claustrophobic if I think about it too hard. Secondly, my actual list of dream / intended projects is going to be, when I sit down and make it, based on my current stashing alone, already probably another decade’s worth of work. Thirdly, the problem with finishing quilt tops is the having to buy wadding and backing which is expensive and then having to quilt them. I do hate the additional expense that finish garners. And also, I have come to admit, that I don’t actually like quilting. Not by hand anyway. And right now, I don’t have a sewing machine so I don’t have the option to do it that way. I’ve decided to pay someone else to quilt my quilts. And that’s also going to be something I have to balance against the fact that we have a baby coming and I have become a full time student. But … otherwise, what exactly is it that I am doing here? I might have to save up to get them quilted slowly over time. But at least now I have a plan and a way forward, so that feels good.



Next up, after auditing just what exactly all my craft projects are is to make a next actions list. Stay tuned for more finish-it-up-itis around these parts.






Shifting Perspectives 3

Willow

Charm Quilt ProgressI’m unlearning everything I thought I knew.


I guess somewhere along the line I joined the cult of David Allen’s GTD. And it involves rolling out management systems to increase your productivity across all of your life. The goal is to have a mind like water and in order to do that, you need to feel like you’re on top of all aspects of your life – all the projects you’re working on, the ones you want to be working on at some point in the future and be able to take a step back and see it all at a glance whilst also being able to view your life’s goals and dreams all in the one go.


It’s taken me a while to get all those systems into place but I can see how once they are, and reassessed regularly, how your mind gets calmer and you feel less stressed. Even though, you don’t have any less work to do or are any less busy. You just get to stop thinking thoughts over again, having to remember things or having to figure out what you have to do when or what your priorities are.


One of the techniques I’ve used in the past to remind myself of things I have to do or to get myself to do things is to leave them out in front of my face – piles of paperwork on my desk when I really prefer  clear desks, things out on countertops and tables, craft projects in progress out on chairs and by my bed and all over the place. My thinking was if I put them away, I’ll forget that I was working on them. Or because I prefer clear, clutter free space, I’ll work on or do whatever is in the way so as to get the reward of clear spaces. Thing is? Your mind desensitises itself to the clutter so you get numb to it. But only numb enough so that you don’t notice it at a glance but not so numb that it doesn’t create background white noise stress.


It never occurred to me that there could be another way of keeping track of what I wanted to get done. Or that living in organised, clear spaces would energise and motivate me. I thought that was the goal rather than the means to the end.


Allen says that everything should have a place and that everything should be in its place. And the process of working towards that requires an assessment of just what exactly each and every “everything” is and a decision about what should happen to it – does it need something done? What’s the next action required for it to be done? Do you need it? Is it to be filed? Trashed? Does it need to be found a place. And then you put the next action on your list of actions and you put it somewhere, maybe away, cause you already have a stake in the ground so you no longer need the item itself to trigger a reminder for you. You have a system now.


I always thought that order and organisation and systems ruined/prevented creativity. I’m not really sure why I thought that. Considering I actually really love to feel organised and I thrive better on routine, or rather am a person of habit (just usually bad habits). I suppose I thought that my natural tendency is to want to *create* order through *doing* and that if there was already order, I wouldn’t be motivated to *do*. It never occurred to me that order and feeling organised and on top of things would actually energise and motivate.


It turns out, it feels fantastic to be able to put things out of way and know they aren’t out of sight and won’t be forgotten. A huge relief. A massive weight gone. And I can’t describe how it feels to start to see my house begin to look how I always imagined a grown up person’s house to look.


And the bit about creativity? I don’t think my brain has been so clear and able to work, effectively and productively, in a very very long time. I find myself writing paragraphs for my PhD randomly and with ease. And I’ve been working solidly on the quilt in the picture here.


In May, I took apart the whole quilt top that I’d assembled on this project so far as well as well as all the rest of the hexagons I’d pieced (which was enough for the rest of the quilt top, except I hadn’t decided that yet). It took me nearly a week to unpick all the hand sewing which I’d done over the course of maybe two years. And then I picked a new pattern. The original pattern, you see, didn’t work out – I had wanted to work with more colour play – light, dark and mediums to create a sense of shadows and movement. Except, I’d pieced the hexagons with related materials rather than in true charm square style – randomly – and it just didn’t work. I decided to abandon the original plan and just go with something else.


I pieced all the new hexagons first because I knew that what I needed to do was lay them all out and work out how I wanted to piece them together for the quilt top, rather than do it ad hoc as I went along. As I normally would have done, eager to see “progress” as I worked. But I stuck with it and I really did piece all the hexagons first. And then I got my husband to help me rig up a design wall. My very first design wall. And I’m addicted to it now! The freedom it’s given me to be creative has been amazing. I threw all the hexagons up, in a rainbowish layout. And then I spent a few days rearranging them all til I got the quilt to look balanced. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never worked on the overview as well as the fine scale at the same time, knowing where I was going as I was going. I thought working like that, on craft, would reduce the feeling of creativity – the knowing how it was going to look by the end at the very beginning. I thought it would take all the fun out of it. But actually, it’s given me focus and direction because at each step, I’ve known what the next action was. There’s no need for procrastination because I don’t need to think or improvise what happens next. I don’t need to put it away for a year to think about how I’m going to make it work.


And before the end of August, I’m going to have finished this quilt top. I’ve never worked on a project this way before. I’ve never finished a project this quickly before. And I ended up with colour play in the end after all. Adding the white triangles to create a star around each hexagon has added a sense of movement. The rainbow (a layout I have formally always detested as I felt it was pedestrian) actually gives the unmatched pieces a sense of uniformity and pattern. And the dark and light layout for each hexagon actually gives some shadow affects too.


The process has been really enlightening. Both for how I will approach crafting going forwards but also for much bigger life projects.


And normally, I panic when I am so focussed on one craft because I feel like it means I’m never going to be obsessed with the other one again. My old knitting versus quilting war. And I have a lot of knitting WIP projects there to be done. And also a lot of quilting ones. But now I have a “Craft Projects I Want to Make” list. Which I am still building. And now I have a management system that I am looking forward to trying out, once I’ve finished the Charm Quilt, to see if it will ease my distress over choosing my craft obsession :) We shall see! I suspect there will be some serious finishitupitis going on around these parts in the next few months.





Willow

Turns out I have a lot to say under this post’s subject heading. I’ve been working on part 1 for a few days now and I think the problem is too many competing thoughts. So here’s part 2 first, instead.

I guess in some ways I feel very much against the clock at the moment. Some things, you just can’t apply for extensions on – tenders, grant applications and babies. I have a lot I want to get done before the baby comes. A lot of things I want to get sorted or just dealt with so that I don’t need to deal with them afterwards. Right now, I have time, and mostly good headspace. Later, maybe not so much.

And in the process of working through stuff and how to set systems up to cope when I have more on my plate I’ve been able to come much more ruthless and decisive. I spose it’s a momentum you develop and the hard bit about saying no or culling things from your life is the starting. Once you’re used to be able to say no, once no isn’t so terrible anymore, once you experience the freedom that no brings, it’s a lot less scary and a lot easier to say.

I’ve been weeding my book collection. The truth is, it’s not really a well thought out collection anyhow. It’s a bunch of gonnas, maybes, one days and shoulds. When you move that clutter out the way though, it’s left with OOh! and Hey! and I really have been meaning to! I’m weeding my shelves a couple of books at a time. Sometimes I have to think about it for a few days – if I like that writer’s whole body of work except this one book, do I have to keep that book? Turns out, I’m not a library and I am under no obligation to have a complete archive – I’m only ever going to lend a book like that with, “I personally thought this one was shit, but hey…” I’m slowly pruning it to bookshelves where every book on them means something positive or uplifting (in experience/memory) to me. And I’m removing books that I feel I need to have because someone else will be impressed by my owning it. Or books I have there for guilt reasons – gifted to me, or struggling to enjoy or feel I should have to read or maybe if I try reading in a couple of years time I’ll make it past the first 40 pages.

I don’t really have much time for leisure reading. It’s not like that fact is going to substantially change in say the next five years. Any book I have in my TBR queue is taking the place of a book that’s yet to be published that I might want to read. Or will become a feeling of guilt when I do buy that 2015 book and I haven’t read the TBR pile yet. Cause I have books still sitting in my TBR from more than 5 (10 and even 15) years ago now.

I’ve started trialling turning off backlit electronic devices before bed and reading paper books in an attempt to combat some of my insomnia/trouble getting to sleep. It’s helping. But I’m also discovering that a lot of books I have in my TBR are not fun/enjoyable to read. If that hour before bed is my only time in the day for complete relaxation reading and might be the only time for the foreseeable future, why should that hour be a struggle, or be me forcing myself to push on with a book because I feel guilty about not reading it or feeling I should read it or because I bought it therefore must read it? I’ve stopped reading a lot of books in the last three weeks and culled them – mostly pulp crime or chic lit – because those books should be easy, page turners, and if they’re not, why am I reading them? Being able to start making that decision that if I’m not enjoying a book after 40 pages, it’s wasting the time I have for enjoyable reading, is helping me work through a bigger issue.

What do I think will be so different in 5 years time in terms of enjoying this book more than I am now? I often put a book down that I’m not getting into with the thinking that maybe in a different mood, or a different place in my life, I might enjoy the book more. I can’t really think of one example that that’s actually ever been true or happened.

I saw a great pic on Facebook the other day that said “If you don’t enjoy reading, you’re doing it wrong” – you know how sometimes some random placard just hits a chord with you? I’ve been thinking a lot about how some people like to say that if you haven’t read X you’re not entitled to an opinion about Y genre or you can’t consider yourself a “real” fan or you’re not as worthy of participating in discussions, you haven’t “earned” your cred. I came to SF in my own way and in my own time and on my own terms. But for a large portion of the last decade or so I’ve been feeling obliged/guilty/required to get certain books read. So that I can consider myself a proper legitimate person entitled to an opinion. The thing is, I find a lot of those books boring. And I felt bad about that. I felt inadequate. Like, maybe I didn’t really enjoy the genre if I didn’t enjoy X or Y. Or didn’t get why other people did.

And that made me stop enjoying reading. It’s given me a reading block for the last 5 to 7 years. Certainly for novels. It makes the culture consumed section of Galactic Suburbia hard, a struggle, and sometimes embarrassing for me.

Then I started culling books I wasn’t enjoying. I started looking at each book I was picking up to read from my TBR at night and asking myself if, given I have a limited number of books I can read over the rest of my lifetime, did I really want this book to be one of them? It’s amazing how, with that perspective, it’s easy to ditch a book you’re not enjoying. Especially when you read slowly and carefully. Especially when the choice is between forcing yourself to read something you don’t like versus zipping through something you’re really engrossed in. Ahhh … being engrossed in a world and a story. Wasn’t that the point of this whole hobby in the first place?

And then I came across this a week or so ago:

It sums up exactly where my head is at right now. I don’t need anyone else’s approval to sanction my fan activity as legitimate. I don’t need to sit anyone else’s test or read their curriculum to get a pass. I don’t need to like what other people like in order to prove my worth. I’m me. And I like what I like, because *I* like it. Because my experience is unique and personal. And my interests, and what interests me, are mine. And lots and lots of the books that I’m “supposed to like” are books that I probably will never be able to relate to no matter how many times I try and no matter how many decades I try to read them in. Luckily for me, the genre I love is diverse and broad and has lots of different niches and books within it. And there *are* lots of books that *I do* enjoy reading. And forcing myself to read books I don’t to win some other person’s approval or permission is a complete waste of *my* time. And in fact, was working to make me kinda hate my so defined genre.

Who cares if person over there thinks I don’t get to have an opinion? Last time I checked, no one has been awarded the policing-the-genre badge. What if I have my own opinions anyway? It’s kinda been working out ok for me so far. And … this is supposed to *fun* after all, right? Right? Deciding who gets to have an opinion and who doesn’t, based on your own contrived approved list of books, is just another subtle act of excluding people. And I finished highschool a looooooong time ago now.

Ah… the freedom! I don’t need your approval. I don’t need your permission. I don’t need you to like me.

Mirrored from Champagne and Socks.

Tags:


Willow

Turns out I have a lot to say under this post’s subject heading. I’ve been working on part 1 for a few days now and I think the problem is too many competing thoughts. So here’s part 2 first, instead.


I guess in some ways I feel very much against the clock at the moment. Some things, you just can’t apply for extensions on – tenders, grant applications and babies. I have a lot I want to get done before the baby comes. A lot of things I want to get sorted or just dealt with so that I don’t need to deal with them afterwards. Right now, I have time, and mostly good headspace. Later, maybe not so much.


And in the process of working through stuff and how to set systems up to cope when I have more on my plate I’ve been able to come much more ruthless and decisive. I spose it’s a momentum you develop and the hard bit about saying no or culling things from your life is the starting. Once you’re used to be able to say no, once no isn’t so terrible anymore, once you experience the freedom that no brings, it’s a lot less scary and a lot easier to say.


I’ve been weeding my book collection. The truth is, it’s not really a well thought out collection anyhow. It’s a bunch of gonnas, maybes, one days and shoulds. When you move that clutter out the way though, it’s left with OOh! and Hey! and I really have been meaning to! I’m weeding my shelves a couple of books at a time. Sometimes I have to think about it for a few days – if I like that writer’s whole body of work except this one book, do I have to keep that book? Turns out, I’m not a library and I am under no obligation to have a complete archive – I’m only ever going to lend a book like that with, “I personally thought this one was shit, but hey…” I’m slowly pruning it to bookshelves where every book on them means something positive or uplifting (in experience/memory) to me. And I’m removing books that I feel I need to have because someone else will be impressed by my owning it. Or books I have there for guilt reasons – gifted to me, or struggling to enjoy or feel I should have to read or maybe if I try reading in a couple of years time I’ll make it past the first 40 pages.


I don’t really have much time for leisure reading. It’s not like that fact is going to substantially change in say the next five years. Any book I have in my TBR queue is taking the place of a book that’s yet to be published that I might want to read. Or will become a feeling of guilt when I do buy that 2015 book and I haven’t read the TBR pile yet. Cause I have books still sitting in my TBR from more than 5 (10 and even 15) years ago now.


I’ve started trialling turning off backlit electronic devices before bed and reading paper books in an attempt to combat some of my insomnia/trouble getting to sleep. It’s helping. But I’m also discovering that a lot of books I have in my TBR are not fun/enjoyable to read. If that hour before bed is my only time in the day for complete relaxation reading and might be the only time for the foreseeable future, why should that hour be a struggle, or be me forcing myself to push on with a book because I feel guilty about not reading it or feeling I should read it or because I bought it therefore must read it? I’ve stopped reading a lot of books in the last three weeks and culled them – mostly pulp crime or chic lit – because those books should be easy, page turners, and if they’re not, why am I reading them? Being able to start making that decision that if I’m not enjoying a book after 40 pages, it’s wasting the time I have for enjoyable reading, is helping me work through a bigger issue.


What do I think will be so different in 5 years time in terms of enjoying this book more than I am now? I often put a book down that I’m not getting into with the thinking that maybe in a different mood, or a different place in my life, I might enjoy the book more. I can’t really think of one example that that’s actually ever been true or happened.


I saw a great pic on Facebook the other day that said “If you don’t enjoy reading, you’re doing it wrong” – you know how sometimes some random placard just hits a chord with you? I’ve been thinking a lot about how some people like to say that if you haven’t read X you’re not entitled to an opinion about Y genre or you can’t consider yourself a “real” fan or you’re not as worthy of participating in discussions, you haven’t “earned” your cred. I came to SF in my own way and in my own time and on my own terms. But for a large portion of the last decade or so I’ve been feeling obliged/guilty/required to get certain books read. So that I can consider myself a proper legitimate person entitled to an opinion. The thing is, I find a lot of those books boring. And I felt bad about that. I felt inadequate. Like, maybe I didn’t really enjoy the genre if I didn’t enjoy X or Y. Or didn’t get why other people did.


And that made me stop enjoying reading. It’s given me a reading block for the last 5 to 7 years. Certainly for novels. It makes the culture consumed section of Galactic Suburbia hard, a struggle, and sometimes embarrassing for me.


Then I started culling books I wasn’t enjoying. I started looking at each book I was picking up to read from my TBR at night and asking myself if, given I have a limited number of books I can read over the rest of my lifetime, did I really want this book to be one of them? It’s amazing how, with that perspective, it’s easy to ditch a book you’re not enjoying. Especially when you read slowly and carefully. Especially when the choice is between forcing yourself to read something you don’t like versus zipping through something you’re really engrossed in. Ahhh … being engrossed in a world and a story. Wasn’t that the point of this whole hobby in the first place?


And then I came across this a week or so ago:



It sums up exactly where my head is at right now. I don’t need anyone else’s approval to sanction my fan activity as legitimate. I don’t need to sit anyone else’s test or read their curriculum to get a pass. I don’t need to like what other people like in order to prove my worth. I’m me. And I like what I like, because *I* like it. Because my experience is unique and personal. And my interests, and what interests me, are mine. And lots and lots of the books that I’m “supposed to like” are books that I probably will never be able to relate to no matter how many times I try and no matter how many decades I try to read them in. Luckily for me, the genre I love is diverse and broad and has lots of different niches and books within it. And there *are* lots of books that *I do* enjoy reading. And forcing myself to read books I don’t to win some other person’s approval or permission is a complete waste of *my* time. And in fact, was working to make me kinda hate my so defined genre.


Who cares if person over there thinks I don’t get to have an opinion? Last time I checked, no one has been awarded the policing-the-genre badge. What if I have my own opinions anyway? It’s kinda been working out ok for me so far. And … this is supposed to *fun* after all, right? Right? Deciding who gets to have an opinion and who doesn’t, based on your own contrived approved list of books, is just another subtle act of excluding people. And I finished highschool a looooooong time ago now.


Ah… the freedom! I don’t need your approval. I don’t need your permission. I don’t need you to like me.




Originally published at Champagne and Socks


So, that whole Zero Inbox thing?

Willow

It’s AWESOME!

I completely underestimated this whole zero inbox thing. I was promised great things but I admit I was a bit skeptical. I’d been slowly chipping away at my inbox for months. You know you have a number of emails pending that you get comfortable with, that you feel like you are in reasonable control of it all. It used to be 100 for me. And then I managed to get it down to 50. Lately it’s been between 20 and 40. But this last week, I’d been hovering at around 8. I was listening to one of the David Allen CDs yesterday and he said something about coaching an exec who had got theirs down to 5 and was getting ready to leave for the day. David encouraged him to go all the way to “see what it would feel like”. And as I stared at my final 5 emails late yesterday, I thought, “hey, let’s just see what it feels like.”

And what did it feel like? I’d been feeling bad all day that I hadn’t really done “enough” work for the day. I’d been doing small tasks and more backlog type things. And then at about 6pm, after I reached zero inbox, I suddenly found myself at my desk, typing solidly for a full hour, working on my PhD Candidacy application (it’s the first step you need to do as a phd student and basically outlines in 10 pages your thesis), I wrote 2700 words into what had previously been a blank, named document. I outlined the basic methodology and objectives, some of the background, some issues that I think need investigating to nail other bits down, even referred to material I’d been reading as part of my lit review. I wrote 7 pages. They aren’t great. But it’s a 10 page document. It’s too big a project for a PhD. Which is a great start – I have a lot of material to pare down. Lots of opened loops to go off and investigate to nail this down. I have a way forward. In one hour. I haven’t felt so clear headed in a very long time. Didn’t even know I could still think that clearly.

It was amazing.

That’s the promise of this whole management system – that by setting it up and maintaining it properly, you free your head from the day to day minutia, from thinking the same thoughts more than once, from being stressed about things you need to remember or need to do and you can move on to being creative. This was the first glimpse of this for me. And I’m addicted!

Mirrored from Champagne and Socks.

Tags:


So, that whole Zero Inbox thing?

Willow

It’s AWESOME!


I completely underestimated this whole zero inbox thing. I was promised great things but I admit I was a bit skeptical. I’d been slowly chipping away at my inbox for months. You know you have a number of emails pending that you get comfortable with, that you feel like you are in reasonable control of it all. It used to be 100 for me. And then I managed to get it down to 50. Lately it’s been between 20 and 40. But this last week, I’d been hovering at around 8. I was listening to one of the David Allen CDs yesterday and he said something about coaching an exec who had got theirs down to 5 and was getting ready to leave for the day. David encouraged him to go all the way to “see what it would feel like”. And as I stared at my final 5 emails late yesterday, I thought, “hey, let’s just see what it feels like.”


And what did it feel like? I’d been feeling bad all day that I hadn’t really done “enough” work for the day. I’d been doing small tasks and more backlog type things. And then at about 6pm, after I reached zero inbox, I suddenly found myself at my desk, typing solidly for a full hour, working on my PhD Candidacy application (it’s the first step you need to do as a phd student and basically outlines in 10 pages your thesis), I wrote 2700 words into what had previously been a blank, named document. I outlined the basic methodology and objectives, some of the background, some issues that I think need investigating to nail other bits down, even referred to material I’d been reading as part of my lit review. I wrote 7 pages. They aren’t great. But it’s a 10 page document. It’s too big a project for a PhD. Which is a great start – I have a lot of material to pare down. Lots of opened loops to go off and investigate to nail this down. I have a way forward. In one hour. I haven’t felt so clear headed in a very long time. Didn’t even know I could still think that clearly.


It was amazing.


That’s the promise of this whole management system – that by setting it up and maintaining it properly, you free your head from the day to day minutia, from thinking the same thoughts more than once, from being stressed about things you need to remember or need to do and you can move on to being creative. This was the first glimpse of this for me. And I’m addicted!





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