Sunday Confessional One #blogvember

Too early for tinsel?

Too early for tinsel

Sunday is here. Following on from last year’s innovation, this Blogvember will feature a Confessional post on Sundays. Without further ado, for ado seems unnecessary, this Sunday I confess I am not ready for it to be December again. I have barely recovered from the last time.

December in our family is not just about Christmas. It is about birthdays. A lot of birthdays.

In our immediate circle of family and friends in the month from 28 November to 27 December there are nine birthdays. And there will be another added this year, when my sister-in-law has her second child. The December birthday honour roll includes two nieces, my brother, my son, and close friends children turning three and four; including one set of twins. I am always wary of adding them up in case I forget someone.

There are also a minimum of four childrens parties. The attempts to do combined parties are thwarted by interstate relatives and grandparents, or other difficult to work around family commitments. This means that we are at birthday parties every weekend for the whole of December, sometimes two in the one day. This is before the Christmas celebrations are taken into account. It makes me tired just thinking about it. This year I thought I had gone out early enough in the planning. I booked the hall. Set the date. Announced. Only to have been too late again. It’s three separate parties for the three kids who are turning four in the space of two days.

The shopping alone is enough to kill me. The present choosing, wrapping, card writing and arranging is a marathon. The cooking, and cleaning and in between it all, the odd bit of Christmas preparation. Last year, I wrote myself a list. It is in my diary. It has a detailed explanation of where I put the birthday accoutrements and in which box the Christmas lights have seen out the year. I glanced at the list the other day. I promptly shut the diary.


The annual treasure hunt

Boxing Day used to be all about cricket, ham rolls and beer. It is now about making the 27th of December special for my beautiful boy. I promise myself every year I will be one of those organised and on-top-of-it people who shop at the mid-year toy sales, who buy in bulk and wrap as they go. Bless me father, for I have sinned.

Oh how I laugh when I get to November and there are no age appropriate gift cards in the box. Tasteful adult cards? I have millions of them. Ones with dinosaurs and fairies and stuff little kids like? Totally absent. My continued lack of preparation and incremental forethought stares me in the face, as I peer into the box hoping that something will appear. Better get shopping. Actually, better have a gin before I start.

Suggestions welcome for birthday presents for girls turning three, four and nine, and for brother who has everything.

Writing time #blogvember

Unplug and write

Unplug and write

I burst into the kitchen just now. Robert is shelling broad beans. I’ve got this idea, I say. I’ve been trying to think of an idea, a kernel for a post, all afternoon. I continue. You know that story about Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan talking about how long it takes to writes songs? Yes, he says in a drawn out way. Well, I press on, I think I’ll write about that, and writing. About how long it takes. Yes, he says again. Not very enthusiastically. I exit the kitchen. Sometimes the ideas sound better in my head than when I say them out loud to you, I say. That’s the role we play for each other, he says. Read More

We are here #blogvember

It’s the first of November. It is not 4 in the morning. Which is just as well as today has been full enough without extending it for another 10 hours. It is the first nice evening for a while and we are sitting outside. It is the start of Blogvember, or as we call it round here, NoNoNaNoWriMo.

I can’t commit to writing 1667 words a day, for every day of November. While I would love to, and I’d love to feel the fantastic sense of achievement of ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo again, I know what is required. I know I am not able to commit the time required. Never mind that I am bursting with story fragments, ideas and characters. I just don’t have the time.

Me? Nerves of steel!

Me? Nerves of steel!

Instead I will blog every day for November. That’s a blog post a day for 30 days. Last year’s blogvember was a whirlwind of working full time and writing every day and the hardest thing was finding and processing images. This year will be no different. I won’t be able to find any more free time.

If you write everyday, you need images for your blog; to promote it. It provides a visual reference for your reader. Something that represents your words. If you’re a writer, you need to conjure those images, but in the minds of your reader, not in the blogosphere. The writing and the blogging I have done, particularly in the last three years has shown me the difference. If you want to write fiction, you need to stop blogging. If you love your blog, it is hard to find the time to write fiction. That is just my experience. This year at least, I have a stock of images ready to go … well sort of. I have taken photos. I have sometimes even processed them into acceptable blog images. I have a few ideas for posts I would like to write. Mostly it will be a ‘pantser’ effort of making it up, just in time, as I go along. My creative processes will be curtailed into snippets of compressed, expedient writing, rushed and hurried, while I should be doing other things. I will spend a bit of time this evening, formulating some ideas and trying to work out how to carve out the hour a day I really need to do Blogvember, or indeed any creative writing process, justice.

While I struggle to find the time, I commit to bringing you insights, small and large into my life and the lives of those around me. The big issues, the tiny and insignificant issues, the issues that matter and the ones that only a tiny handful of people will actually care about. Hope you can join me for the wild ride.

Blogvember post the last … what no one tells you ~ part one

What you must not do, is reach behind you into your past and try to drag parts of it with you.

You are not that person anymore.

Let me tell you a story.

This is a story about ‘everywoman’. She’s you, she’s me, she’s your wife, your sister, you lover, your friend. Let’s call her Stella, although that isn’t her real name. Stella lives in a world where the truly important and transformational aspects about her life are hidden, not discussed, not for public consumption. She lives with a haze of unspoken thoughts and fears hovering just out of her grasp.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

What no one tells Stella is how much of herself she will lose. Or about how much she will lose control of perfectly simple things, like getting in the car and driving away. Or about her bodily functions and how they will betray her while she is trying to get on with life. Or the boredom, or the self loathing, or the sheer frustration of trying all day to something easy and minor and trivial that cannot be achieved while holding a baby that won’t sleep.

No one tells her that everyone, every woman feels like this. In Stella’s mind they are all coping and it is only she who is paralysed standing next to your car for an eternity trying to decide if you should just carry the baby into the bread shop or whether you should get the pram out of the boot. As she stands there a stranger approaches her gently to ask if she is ok because she is concerned that Stella has been standing there for such a long time.

In Stella’s mind everyone else loves making craft and cuddling tiny babies while not reading their book. In her sleep deprivation addled brain, it is only she who is monumentally incompetent and you are the only one you who can’t do all the housework and cook the dinner and look after the babies all day.

What no one tells you is that this is the last bastion of the secret club that you can only enter by having a baby. A secret door that once you pass through it you can never go back. The changes are profound and you can’t know this from the outset. The mechanical details of having a child can be taught and explained but no one will tell you what it feels like. Not often does anyone try to speak honestly about the grind and the isolation, and if they do soft words in rosy colours are applied over the hard messages to soften, to conceal and to temper the blows.

If Stella is lucky she will be well supported. But no amount of support and encouragement is going to silence the noisy voices in her head telling her that she should love this, that it is natural and easy and that if it isn’t, that it is her fault. If she is unlucky she will not be supported. She will be bullied by doctors and nurses and her pain from the birth with never leave her. If her expectations, no matter how unrealistic about her birthing experience are not met, she will feel like she has failed in some way, and no one will want to talk about it. Not her friends, not her partner, not anyone; because after a while someone else cannot hear her tell the story over and over again without wishing it would stop.

Sometimes Stella will feel like she is surfing the wave to the shore and that soon, she will get up on her feet on the wet sand and walk, free from the clinging water. Other times the tide and the gritty irritating sand will trap her, pulling her back under. She will occasionally try to feel herself again. She’ll try to read the New Yorker or the Paris Review but the page will swim beneath her eyes and she will struggle to hold a coherent thought and then the baby will need a feed or comfort or the toddler will pull all the books off the shelf and Stella will leave the page there only to have to try to tidy it up later.

No one will tell her that it will take years before she will successfully drag some part of her past into the light and reconnect with it. If she is lucky she will know women with children older that her own, to give her glimmers of hope that one day she might be able to do these things again. The things that make her feel whole again. But today is not the day this is going happen. Today Stella will start at 5-30 and keep going till she collapses in the evening, only to have to get up during the night over and over.

Sometimes other women will tell Stella about the joy. The sheer bliss of newborn smell or rosy sleeping cheek or smiles. The telling won’t be enough to convey the heartrending and the unraveling of which will go with these. Or forever living with your heart outside of your body.


Welcome. Here is your life changing gift.

Blogvember post 29 … the penultimate post

With much fanfare and as much excitement as the finish of NaNoWriMo, I present the penultimate post of blogvember.

A quick recap if you’ll indulge me.

I wrote a blog post a day for the past 29 days.

I will write one more tomorrow and that will be a blog a day for the month of November. I wrote each post on the day they were published. I didn’t prepare in advance. I had a few prompts from my good friends on twitter, but otherwise I made it up as I went along. As with my writing for NaNoWriMo, I am a pantser with these challenges. Hardly any preparation, just a shell of an idea. See what happens.

I managed to write over 9 000 words. Not all of them are great words, some of them are out of order.

I did write over 1200 words about gin, which was a surprise. So few words?

A few posts were totally fantastic and a delight to write. I particularly loved post 28 for the reactions and for the joy of recognising a fantastic person. I also enjoyed writing everyday. Some posts were painful and were affected by tiredness. You can work out which ones those are for yourself, I am sure.

Only one day was I totally unable to write anything at all. The dog ate my homework post on day 17 features, The Kinks and well, sometimes that’s all you need. Well, The Kinks and rosé. I also wrote about a wide range of subjects, many of them close to my heart. And there is still one more post to come. Stay tuned.


Blogvember post 28 … good friends, good life

Not often do you met someone who shares many of your hopes and dreams, who is also different enough from you to keep it genuinely interesting. One such person for me is the reason I wish I lived in Melbourne. There are other people too, and you know who you are, but there is one particular person who I wish I lived nearer to, because then I would live closer to them all!

Melbourne ~ home to many fine people

Yesterday this fabulous person wrote one the most important pieces I’ve read for a long time. Really, it is that important. Learning resilience, she says, has far greater merit than being a winner.

When contemplating this, add to it, the idea of finding balance between supporting, caring for and nurturing your family, while looking after yourself and perhaps even finding something to do that financially contributes without taking away from everything that is important to you. Then add the pressure, to love what you do. There are more threads to this blog post that one of Ruth’s pom-poms and it knots around the core of our well-being and happiness. You can read Ruth’s post Finding balance here.

Sometimes people think our family is unconventional.

 It’s true we do some things differently to others.

While I don’t think Ruth’s family is like everyone elses, for a start it is much bigger than ‘average’ whatever that really means, and it has more boys in it than I can think about without just feeling overwhelmed, I think she has crafted her family in a way that few people can manage. With a deliberate care. With mindfulness. With consideration of her impact on the world and on others.

Ruth has supported me in ways she couldn’t possibly imagine in the first three years of mothering. And in life in general. She’s provided me with inspiration, with recipes and ideas. We’ve talked about the downsides of homework, or the upsides of food markets, of love of music and family and making your own way.

This has been invaluable to me as I balance, work and mothering and all the rest of it. She has very clear views about children and food. These helped me beyond measure when I was getting myself into a lather about weetbix for dinner and worrying about fussing over food. She has written sincerely and in a helpful fashion about her family and what they eat on her blog many times. When up against it, more than once, I’ve just checked the recipes on her blog so at least I know what to make for dinner. It is not all about the food. There is a shared love for and striving for a happy home and a heart full of joy.

@ and that is the key! we don't have to do things the same to be happy. beat your own drum. trust yr heart. live with courage

Ruth has helped me to see what was really important about parenting and living.

Courage. I wish her luck as she thinks about how to prepare for the next phase.

A song. For all the songs we have shared.

Who inspires you? Who helps you to see what’s truly important?

Blogvember post 27 … NoNoNaNoWriMo

One of the reasons for starting blogvember, is to continue writing everyday, even through I couldn’t commit to NaNoWriMo this year.
I have watched with envy the tweets about other writers success and word counts. I’ve focused on blogging and stayed away from writing anything else. But I’ve missed the camaraderie. Part of the excitement of NaNoWriMo is the boost you get from being part of something larger than yourself. NaNo is a movement. It’s not just you and your macbook or your pen and notebook pulling words and placing them down. You are doing it along with everyone else who is undertaking this mad endeavour. There are books to help you out, produced by the wonderfully titled Office of Letters and Light.

Aside from the companionship, the thing I miss the most about NaNoWriMo is the latitude I gave myself, to spend all the Tuesdays last November writing. In the coffee shop. Often accompanied by @eatshootblog, who is an excellent writing companion and writes at EatShootBlog. We were a good team. Good at drinking coffee. Good at sitting side by side madly typing and ignoring each other, for the most part. We did have conversations about what we were writing, sometimes. We also talked about a good many things, but not on the Tuesday in November last year. It was a NaNoWriMo 6000 words a day catch up and talking was a waste of precious writing time.

Over many, many Tuesdays long after NaNo was finished, we had perfected the art of the writing meet up. We met most Tuesdays when I wasn’t working full time, and it was a standing date. We’d write, we’d chat, we’d engage.

When it wasn’t possible anymore, around July when I moved jobs, I missed it. I missed the companionship, the shared goal to write, and to drink coffee.

It was my only tandem writing activity, the rest of the time I wrote alone.

Most writers write alone. It is a solitary activity. Some writers can’t write in noisy places. Some can’t write in quiet places. Some have to write first drafts long hand.

Blogging is solitary and yet immediate. Unlike novelists or philosophers, or writers of other published works that are actually printed, who have to wait months and sometimes years for the final product, bloggers can publish now. And promote and get reviewed. Almost immediately. Not so the NaNo novel. That takes a long long time. At the end of November you are left, if you’ve managed to keep your story under control, with at best a first draft. One that needs a lot of work. And that work is the hardest work of all.

The editing. The re-writing. The killing your darlings. This is the writing you must do alone.

Corrective pencil at the ready


Blogvember post 26 … bits and pieces

There is no coherent theme to what I am about to write, I can’t think of anything pertinent. I am ruminating a major piece on motherhood that will take enormous courage to write, as I will have to profess my early incompetence and total lack of clues about how much it would change me. This will take some time to write, as I struggle to express myself about how I felt nearly three years ago.

Instead, I am giving you this, which will no doubt be a string of random madness.

Campari spritzer ~ just what the hot weather demands

I have a campari spritzer and Lou Reed. We are reaching never ending tired. I have a wading pool and toddler to supervise. The bloody gardener cut the bloody mothering banskia rose back again, in spite of it not needing it and in spite of my express wish that it be left the hell alone to grow huge and unwieldy and screen the house behind that grows daily as it is extended and threatens our peace and sanity. He cut it anyway. He doesn’t work for me, I don’t pay him so he does what he likes. Which drives me totally insane. And there is little I can do.

I have a leaking water meter or pipe or something out the front. I only know because the gardener left a note in the letter box. Dial 1300-SaveMe. I do not want to have to deal with it.

I have to write a lot of stuff for work about stuff that is not clear and no one knows how it will end up. Obfuscatory brilliance is required. It is ok to say you don’t know for a while. Except that it is really, really important to people’s lives. The frustration is mounting that there is such a lack of clarity. And that it won’t end anytime soon. Welcome to working in human services.

I forgot to book the cat into boarding over Christmas and now both our regular places are full. I forgot because I picked her up after we got home from Melbourne and I was exhausted and the vet made me wait and tell me all the things about her teeth cleaning, and then I just wanted to go home and forgot that I needed to book the cattery for Christmas.

A lecturer from the University of Western Sydney just used ‘irregardless’ on national television. It is not a word and now it appears so frequently it will become the newest excrescence on the verbal landscape.

I am to have salt and pepper squid for dinner tonight. I thought I was having my dinner alone, as Robert was taking The Talking Boy to the movies. This fell through and now there is not enough squid nor is there anything else except two boiled eggs which he has to make himself. I am going to attempt to not cut my hand off as I make the accompaniments for my squid. After the huge piece of glass that I managed to embed in my foot and then extract, yesterday, I’ve seen enough blood this week.

I sit outside on the third of the hottest days since December last year and while I am attacked by mosquitoes, I ponder the decision to write a blog post a day for an entire month. This writing gig is both important and difficult as Blogvember has amply demonstrated.

This always happens when I have a big post in the off. I find it impossible to write about anything else, not strictly true as I am actually writing this now, such as it is.

Now, I give you Lou Reed because I have loved this since I first heard it when I was seventeen

Told you it would be madness.


Blogvember post 25 … working and mothering

I went back to working full time in July.

After a reasonable period of part-time with an unencumbered day off to clean, shop, drink coffee, run errands, write, it was something of a shock to go to work every day. In the beginning this was only to be a six week stint, and then back to the previous arrangement. Of course, life doesn’t always work like that, and I found myself negotiating to move to full time and to move jobs.

Lots of people have asked me how I manage. I am always reticent to talk about the difficulties because they are wholly middle class problems. I chose to work full time, and if I were really unhappy with the arrangements I could change them. It is not a necessity for our survival.

I do think that there are compromises, cut corners, sacrifices and bargains. There is also outsourcing and a slackening of standards. What bothers me the most is the enrichment activities that I can’t do with Benedict. In Canberra there are so many activities, lots of them free, it’s easy to get to most of them; the only issue is making time.

I try to take him to the monthly Art and Me program at the National Gallery of Australia. It is a fantastic program with excellent early childhood educators and art is a gap in my knowledge and I always learn something.

NGA Fountain ~ so much joy ~ so little time

Art and Me at NGA for 2 and 3 year olds

I would like to participate more in Libraries ACT’s excellent activities for young children. Watch the excellent Vanessa Little talking on 7:30 ACT last Friday about her plans for the libraries of Canberra and their transformation. These programs in the libraries are vital for all kids, particularly kids with parents with low literacy. The library is a gateway to reading, to experiences, to other people who are not like you, to life long habits and patterns where reading holds a primary place in a life.

There are other experiences that I wish I could do with Benedict during the week. Paint and Play, a weekly outdoor riot of kids activities in local parks around Canberra. Swimming. Kids music programs. Bike riding in the park in the afternoon. These are the activities that I wish I could do. These are the sacrifices.

Of course this choice to work means that we have great financial stability and it means I can buy lots and lots of book to make up for the lack of trips to the library, but it isn’t the same as engagement with the community. It is no substitute for a broad range of experiences with a broad range of other kids and in quality early childhood programs.

My challenge for the new year is how to make sure we participate in more of these kinds of activities that bring joy.


Blogvember post 22 … the beginning of the end

The makings for beautiful wrapping and gifting

This evening in the glow of the western setting sun, I went to my first ‘end of year’ event for the year.

The National Gallery end of year shopping night for members. It was a refined beginning of the end of the year mayhem.

A little treat for everyone. A bit of browsing. A live choir that mesmerised the toddler. The fantastic fountain at the new front entrance and the pears for a diversion, while some chilling out and chatting occured. The shopping itself was just an add on. I would have gone just to hear the music and drink the sparkling wine.

I got a few bits and pieces to add to the gifts pile. Plus a few more goodies arrived this morning in the post including yet more MT tape! I am seriously addicted to that stuff now. Pretty. So pretty. I have enough stuff now to start wrapping and list making and packing some things ready for posting. This weekend marks the start of one of the two busiest periods in our family calendar. December is second only to May for birthdays and celebrations. Not only do we have end of year, Christmas, Boxing Day, and cricket, we have birthdays. Lots and lots of them.

The birthdays this year include littlest niece, favourite twins, big niece, my brother, my two best friends’ three year olds, both of them on the same day, and of course, last but not least toddler will turn three on the 27th. Time will tell if this birth date is a burden or not. What is clear, is that a special birthday needs planning, a beach and a bucket and spade. And an umbrella and a big esky for the darling boy’s exhausted parents.



Blogvember Sunday Confessional

Blogvember has thrown up challenges in a way that I didn’t expect.

Unexpected interchanges about blogging, with other bloggers. Rivalrous thoughts about other bloggers writing. How I wish my blog could be more voice and less blah blah blah. Challenges too about writing every day. The discipline, the highs and lows – like yesterday where I didn’t write at all. A post appeared but it had no text. The posts I wrote thinking I really thought it was good, but no one read it! Read More

Blogvember post 17 … I’m not here

The dog ate my homework post!

We all knew it was coming today, but yes it actually happened

I should be here











But I am actually here!

Sun and rosé









Listening to this classic. Enjoy your Saturday and join me tomorrow for another Sunday Confession.