Thursday, April 17, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 3

Today's one word prompt is:


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

You are warmly invited to share your response by adding your URL in the linky below:

This post is part of the April Moon reflective writing challenge. It’s never too late to join in!

Sign up by 8pm AEST on Friday 18 April 2014 (tomorrow!) to go into the draw to win one of two copies of Melody Ross’ book You are Going to Be OK.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 2

Today's one word prompt is:


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

You are warmly invited to share your response by adding your URL in the linky below:

This post is part of the April Moon reflective writing challenge. It’s never too late to join in!

Sign up by 8pm AEST on Friday 18 April 2014 to go into the draw to win one of two copies of Melody Ross’ book You are Going to Be OK.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 1

Today's one word prompt is:


What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

You are warmly invited to share your response by adding your URL in the linky below:

This post is part of the April Moon reflective writing challenge. It’s never too late to join in!

Sign up by 8pm AEST on Friday 18 April 2014 to go into the draw to win one of two copies of Melody Ross’ book You are Going to Be OK.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April Moon (in all its splendid imperfection)

So you know how I mentioned on Friday how I'd been working on a little something (whose progress was stymied by a power outage)? Well, I can finally share it with you here.

I'm calling it April Moon. It's a reflective writing challenge in the vein of Reverb (and August Moon) and it kicks off in two days' time, on Tuesday 15 April 2014.

You can find everything you need to know HERE.

And why do I mention splendid imperfection?

Because I am not a last minuter and yet here I am, launching two days before starting.

Because my dear friend Cam (aka CurlyPops) is, as I write, battling computer troubles to create her trademark gorgeous blog button designs and it's not yet clear when they will be ready.

Because I have more than a little trepidation contacting people who participated in Reverb13 to let them know I will be using the same email list for April Moon (what if they get put off by the presumption... and the spam?).

Because life with an almost-six-week-old baby is somewhat unpredictable and I am not sure exactly when I am going to have the chance to read/comment on/tweet/retweet everyone's posts, like I usually do.

Because I am also secretly wondering -- as, let's face it, I always do -- whether anyone will actually participate.

But HEY.

When are circumstances every perfect? And if I waited for a time when I felt completely confident in what I was doing, well, I'd likely never start anything at all.

So here it is. I'm offering up a piece of my self to you. It's splendidly imperfect. And I think, regardless of the traffic, I will be very proud of it.

And I really hope I'll see you there, in the light of that moon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Letting the light in

Yesterday morning, my husband and I awoke at 6.30am to the sound of "ZZZT ZZZT". We groggily stared in the direction of the noise to witness a blazing light outside our window. And then our power went out.

Turns out, the power line connected to our fuse box had become exposed and it was sending out sparks like fireworks in the pouring rain. Thank goodness we had a safely switch.

I had big plans for yesterday. My daughter was spending the say with my Mother-in-Law. When my baby son napped, I planned to spend the day online, ticking off items from the To Do list, catching up on emails and getting ready for a wee something I am planning to launch here next week.

I also wanted to post some words that had been niggling at me all week. I had a couple of posts pretty much teed up word-for-word in my head. One about how I managed to turn "arsenic hour" into "magic hour" one evening by putting my unsettled baby in a sling and going for a walk around the neighbourhood with my camera. Another about how my son's arrival had multiplied the love in our house, including self-love.

The truth is, none of these words felt right. It had been a tough week, with my baby displaying much more unsettled behaviour than usual and me feeling flat and dispirited. It somehow felt untrue to be waxing lyrical about motherhood when I'd had some less-than-stellar moments and some super-cranky days. Which is partly why I hadn't posted them. (The other reason being, I was knackered and tended to crash out at around 8pm!)

But I planned to unravel all of this yesterday.

And then, it seemed, the universe had other plans.

I won't bore you with the details other than to say that the power was restored at 4.30pm and it was, in the end, a relatively simple fix. None of our food spoiled in the fridge and none of our appliances were damaged in the surge. And, most importantly, nothing caught fire and no one was hurt.

In the meantime, I was not quite sure what to do with myself. Once I convinced the little dude to nap, made the beds, washed the dishes... what were my options? Everything I had planned required electricity. Even my iPhone battery was below 20 per cent.

When my son woke up, I decided to make the best of it. I had a hot shower (thank goodness we have a gas hot water system!) and took us around the corner to our favourite cafe for lunch.

Then, when I got home and he finally settled again, I got out my long-neglected journal. I put a new cartridge in my also-neglected fountain pen. And I wrote. Just spewed out everything that was bugging me. From the power outage, to the frustrations of not being able to settle my baby, to the mean-spirited behaviour of someone in particular, the whole boring whiny lot.

And after the purge, I started to get a sense of when that flat, dispirited feeling started to descend. I wrote some more about that. I realised that a number of small things had seeped in under my skin. I hand' really given any of them much thought as, individually, they didn't seem all that significant. And I was rather hoping I was more robust than that by now.

I also saw how I felt like, after the feeding and the settling and washing and the tending to everyone else's needs, there was very little of me left.

It's funny, isn't it? How little things start to chip away, compounded by disrupted sleep and the constant demands of life with a tiny person. How I think I should be more on top of things than I am, and how that serves to compound the situation.

How it takes a moment of forced self-reflection to see what's actually happening. How robustness is not so much about not letting little things get under your skin but about acknowledging that they do and working out how you're going to deal with it.

It was not the day I had planned. But it ended up being perfect.

By the time my husband and daughter made it home, I'd lit the fire, got a heap of candles ready, was bathing the baby, and had plans to order pizza.

Then the lights came back on.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don't ask me how I am

Well, actually, feel free to ask me. If you have the urge, it suggests you are a kind and concerned person. So I won't hold it against you.

But I might not be able to answer.

Right now, I am sitting here wondering how March managed to evaporate without my noticing. My son is four weeks old today. And that just seems impossible too, even though he seems to be growing before my very eyes.

I feel like I am starting to emerge from the fog of those first four weeks. Between the painkillers and the hormones and the sleep deprivation and the worry... and the love and the heart-searing joy and the cuddles and that unmistakable newborn smell... and the constant constant feeding... it's been a bit of blur up until now.

I've been dropping my daughter off at school and collecting her each day for just over two weeks now. All outward appearances seem to be that I am doing fantastically well: we're on time each day, my littlie naps or takes it all in quietly from his pram, I smile and chat and make some glib comment about sleep. I'm told I "look amazing" and am "doing so well" and that I "hardly look tired".

I've been getting my clothes ready and preparing my daughter's lunchbox the night before. The washing machine has been going constantly. I've ordered a set of business cards; organised my daughter's craft supplies into neat, labelled drawers; ironed three weeks' worth of business shirts; booked concert tickets; taken my baby to the doctor twice; changed the bed linen; made plans for the school holidays.

The truth is, I've hardly sat down.

I have the feeling I am avoiding sitting down. I know I have been avoiding writing. And reading, other than dipping in and out of my twitter feed and catching up on the weekend papers on a Monday.

It's true: there's always something To Do.

But the fact that I'm marching through the days makes me curious.

I guess all the feelings around my son's arrival, his delivery and my recovery will come flooding through when I'm ready to face them. They're overwhelmingly positive but they do feel enormous.

So maybe that's why I'm hiding out from the question.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Taking risks with the rules

In an interview for The Victorian Writer (the newsletter for Writers Victoria), acclaimed Australian author Christos Tsiolkas said:

"I write in English, that's my language but I do have the blessing, I think, of having also grown up with a second language, and maybe that gives you an outsider [position] or an observation of language that with only one language you don't have. You realise that you can communicate between languages.

What it allows you to do, [...] is take risks with the rules."

I was reminded of this -- and how much it resonated with me -- when my dear friend and sister cosmopolitan Mehnaz pondered the benefits of bilingualism in relation to music on twitter.

Bullseye! I love having these sorts of conversations and was reminded that, although the people who understand my feelings about this are few and far between in my real life, the ones who do are my true kindreds.

I grew up bilingual because my dad made an effort to speak Greek to me when I was a toddler. Unfortunately, not having any other family here in Australia and not growing up in a Greek community (or attending church or Greek school or Greek dancing or wotnot), I lost most of my day-to-day conversational skills.

Then I enrolled as a continuing education student a couple of years after I graduated and found that things would come flooding back to me that I could not explain. The lecturer would ask a question and I'd respond instinctively, not really knowing how I knew the answer. All I could think was that the skills and knowledge my dad instilled in me so young were deeply embedded and just needed a bit of encouragement to emerge. By the time I'd spent three weeks on a Greek island studying language every day, followed by two weeks in Cyprus with family, I could converse easily and understand almost everything that was said to me.

It's been ages since I've spoken or written any Greek but I know if I had the opportunity to spend some time in a Greek speaking community again, it would come flooding back.

But the lure of this story is even more powerful than that. Anyone who has learnt another language knows that it's not just a question of acquiring a new vocabulary and set of grammar rules. It's about learning how other cultures chosen to describe and structure their world, how they prefer to communicate, the ways they want to represent themselves.

I agree with Tsiolkas. Once you have a feeling for this, and once you have fluency, you can slip between the two understandings. And you can really test everything you've been taught about the world. And you can also have a lot of fun with it.

This is one of the main reasons my husband and I have decided to send our daughter (and, eventually our son) to a bilingual/immersion school. It's a choice that has raised a few eyebrows in some quarters, given that the language she will be learning is not one that reflects either of our lineage.

There are several practical factors supporting our choice. The school is walking distance from our home. It's only one of only two immersion schools in our State, and the only one that requires students to learn 100 per cent in the other language in Grade Prep (each year it reduces so that by Grade Six it's 50/50). The school is small and academically rigorous, has excellent student support systems and is highly regarded.

And we do have friends and business connections that speak this language and live in countries where it is spoken.

But, frankly, the language itself seems almost immaterial. It's the immersion experience which is so unique and valuable. And, most importantly, we feel it will be a great fit for our clever, curious, cheeky, creative, cosmopolitan little girl!

It seems to me that folk who get hung up on which language it is don't truly understand the value of bilingualism. Sure, it's probably not the world's leading business language. And knowing this language mightn't necessarily help learn others (although there are some connections with certain musical terminology).

But seriously: whatever.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I do have some fears in relation to this brave new frontier. What if she finds the immersion environment completely overwhelming? What if being one of the few students to have no experience of this language is a burden too heavy for a little person to bear? I am already working up strategies to prepare her; scoping out the school's capacity to deal with these eventualities; keeping sweet with her current school in the event we need to return after a couple of terms.

Dammit, I hope it all works out.

All going well, this experience is going to expose my daughter to the richness and beauty of understanding the world in different ways. And it is going to open doors for her that I cannot begin to imagine.

Long may she take risks with the rules.

Of language, anyway.