Smoke In Our Eyes.

Two years ago, it was my town threatened by bushfires. It was my community losing homes, livestock, and family farms. Now, it feels as though half the country is burning, or has already burnt down.

The horrific and disastrous bushfires this summer have triggered so many feelings and memories. I remember how gut-wrenchingly awful it was then, and cannot comprehend the exponential scale of the current catastrophe my country is experiencing. 

I took this picture today. Even hundreds of miles from the fires, western Victoria is blanketed by a pall of smoke. 

Like then, I have friends who have lost everything except the few things they managed to take with them as they evacuated. My heart breaks for them, but I am so incredibly thankful they got out when they did. 

I feel so useless. It seems as much as one donates and supports and cries and prays for an end to the fires, it never feels like enough. 

Add a few layers of grief, empathy, and occasional despair, and you get something of an idea about how many Australians are feeling at this point. 

I wrote this poem, and a number of others, in the aftermath of the St Patrick’s Day fires of 2018. It seems an appropriate poem to post at a point where a large proportion  of eastern Australia is either on fire, has burnt, or is blanketed in acrid smoke. 

It is a recollection of an actual conversation among locals in my town back in March 2018, and bears witness to the resilience and the empathy of Australians in the face of adversity. 

This poem is included in ‘Smoke and Shadows’.
All profits from the sale of this book between January 1 and June 30 are being donated to ongoing bushfire relief.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

There are many things I have learned to do again, albeit differently, since my spinal surgery 15 months ago. 

It seems, however, that stairs are still my nemesis. I can manage one or two steps if I go slowly and carefully but, as I discovered tonight, walking up a whole flight of stairs still causes me significant pain. 

We went out for dinner with friends, who had booked at a first floor restaurant that had no elevator. It did, however, have a beautiful circular staircase. 
Beautiful… and an enormous challenge.

I went very slowly, but by the fifth or sixth stair my lower back was screaming. Before I got to the top, I could feel the sciatic pain in my butt and staring to extend down my legs. I couldn’t stay there, so I had to either keep going or go back down. Slower still, and even more carefully, I made it to the top.

The first thing I did was hit my friends up for whatever analgesics they had. One had ibuprofen, the other had paracetamol. I took both, as my doctors have instructed me to do when I need to. I also chose not to sit until my meal was delivered, even though standing up in a large room of diners made me feel very self-conscious.  

It didn’t help that some people were quite obvious about the way they looked at me – and all I was doing was standing up. Once again, it reminded me of how much harder it must be for those whose differences or disabilities are more obviously noticeable.  

Dinner was delicious, but as soon as I had finished, I stood up again. We took the rear door out of the pub, as it opened onto the driveway. Even through it was quite a slope, it was still easier than the stairs. 

It’s disappointing that the establishment had not been more thoughtful about accessibility. An assumption that everyone who visits is able-bodied enough to use the stairs is ignorant at best. Perhaps if there were a “disabled access” sign pointing to the rear of the building, I might have been able to enjoy my meal and the great company without either kind of discomfort. I cannot imagine I am the only person who would benefit from that, 

And, if you’re ever out for dinner and there’s someone standing up for most of the evening, or doing anything else out of the ordinary, just know they have their reasons and be kind enough to pretend you haven’t noticed.

It’s Official: I’m A Book Lover

I didn’t need this quiz to tell me I’m a book lover, and it certainly won’t come as any surprise to seasoned readers of this blog. 

Still, it’s a fun quiz that highlights the fun things about loving great books. 

For the record, there were three things on this list that i didn’t check off. 

I haven’t missed a bus or train stop because I’ve been engrossed in a book in at least 30 years, simply because public transport isn’t really a thing  where I live. 

I haven’t joined, or thought about joining a book club, because my experience tells me that  I like different books than most people. The minute I joined, they’d choose for us all to read some soppy romance or militant women’s fiction, and I’d have to fake my own death to escape. It really is a better choice to just leave them to it. 

If you want to know what books I enjoy, follow my Book Squirrel blog for reviews and recommendations! 

Book Squirrel is also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

New Year… Same Old Me

Yesterday I mentioned that I was not at all sorry to see the end of the year.

Still, I admit to feeling uncomfortable with the number of “new year, new me” posts on social media in the past 24 hours. 

New year? Undoubtedly. New beginnings? Sure. 

But I am not a “new me”. 
I am the same old me: the one who survived the trauma, grew stronger through it, and resolved to keep going. 
I am the me who worked hard for every one of my achievements: nobody else was ever going to do it for me. 
I am the me who stood tall in the face of false friends and two-faced people, and then walked away and slammed the door on them for good.
I am the me who refused to be intimidated by those who don’t understand me… the me who will not be ashamed of who and what I am.
I am the me who embraces creativity, individuality, and difference… and encourages others to do the same. 
I am the me who encourages young people to choose kindness and reject hate. 

Those are all good things. Powerful things. Brave things. 
I have earned them, and I will own them. 

I’m not perfect. I still have things to learn and growth to accomplish. 
But those who would prefer a different, more comfortable, easier-to-live-with me? They can go and boil their heads, because that’s not going to happen. 

As The Year Ends

Like any year, 2019 had some great moments and some wonderful memorable have been made. 

Among my favourite memories are performing in Monty Python’s Spamalot! with the amazing Camperdown Theatre Company, weekend escapes camping by the beach with our closest friends, my bestie and I kidnapping each other and running away for a day or two at a time, and my own production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor TM Dreamcoat. I had three new books published, and am very proud of each of them. 


I am incredibly thankful for good friends, for those who believe in me, and for the encouragement I have received from both friends and strangers. I am blessed to be loved as fully and enthusiastically as I am. 

The past year has also left some scars that, while they may fade with time, will never truly heal. I do not wish to dwell on those, especially here. Even so, I will say in no uncertain terms — and not for the first time — that cancer, chronic illness, liars, backstabbers, and two-faced people can all improve the world by disappearing and not coming back. 

Here’s to closing the door on what has passed, and welcoming new beginnings and opportunities in the year ahead! 



Appreciate the Gifts and Differences

I can relate to the feelings of inadequacy expressed by this blogger on so many levels: as a teacher, a writer, and as someone who has had to adjust to living with chronic pain and illness.

I can’t do all the things I used to do so easily. My motivation to make things perfect creates perpetual conflict with my physical inability to achieve that.

And yet, thankfully, there is still much that I can do.

This post is a great reminder of the importance of doing things, rather than doing them perfectly, and of being present and engaged in the lives ofour family and friends. Thus, I repost it with heartfelt thanks to C.J. Langer for the very timely thoughts.

c.j. langer

IMG_20191127_0553Perfectionism rears its ugly head at the weirdest times. At least for me. I have tried very hard for the last 15 years or so to let that part of me go. I know striving for perfection can only lead to frustration and, in severe cases, depression. At the very least it can lead to an increase of anxiety and stress.

But as hard as I try, I find myself thinking bad about what I do when something doesn’t turn out the way I think it should. You know, perfect. I tend to compare my work to what others do and become embarrassed about giving others sub par work.

In this instance, it was my wrapping skills. I’ve known how to wrap a present since I was a kid. It was something my mother knew how to do exceptionally well so she taught me how to do it too. It’s…

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What do you want for Christmas?

<a href="Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/congerdesign-509903/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2991174">congerdesign</a&gt; from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2991174">Pixabay
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

This post caught my attention today because it echoes many of my own thoughts and feelings about the gifts I’ll be giving – and receiving – at Christmas.

I’m keen to give people what they want and what they need for Christmas, rather than spending money on something they won’t value. I’m also increasingly aware of the level of waste and discarded goods that are piling up on our planet.

So, this year, I have gone a little green in my requests and in my shopping.

My gift request of my husband was to buy me a couple of trees for our yard. The first one I chose is a maple, as anyone who knows me would assume,- and the other is a spruce that we can use as a real-life Christmas tree each year, and dress it up in the garden. Both hearken to my love for Canada and the very happy memories I have made there. I am unable to travel there at the moment, so why not add a little more Canada to my home? While some might say that I should only be planting Australian species, I would argue that tree is a tree, and any tree is better for the planet than having none. And in this case, two trees are better than one!

Without disclosing any secrets about gifts I have bought for others, I have rejected anything plastic, disposable or wasteful. I’m using recycled paper giftwrap and cloth ribbons rather than the curly plastic foil variety. I’m buying from local small businesses, and hopefully helping them provide their families and workers with a good Christmas too.

My contributions might be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but making a difference even on a local scale is still worthwhile.

#MILLENNIALLIFECRISIS

Photo Credit: earth.com

I find this question really interesting to ask people because there are so many different ways a person can approach this question.

There’s people who’ll say “a million dollars” and people who’ll say “I don’t want a thing”. There’s people who’ll say items that they really know and love, and people who’ll provide practical options they know that person can afford. Some people even ask for donations to be made in lieu of gifts.

Honestly, to me, what people provide as an answer tells me a lot about who they are. Not that any one answer is better than another. Well, perhaps some answers are better than other’s. If you told me you wanted to kick a puppy for Christmas then I’d think you’re a bad person But, that was a huge tangent and I should get back on track. For the most part, when people answer…

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A Gory Little Story.

It’s when you’re tired that the boundaries that divide the different “parts” of life from one another tend to get a little blurry.

This was evident yesterday when I was working through the online First Aid refresher course that I have to complete before attending the in-person training and re-qualifying on Tuesday. 

When I got to the section dealing with ‘Shock, Wounds and Bleeding’, the introductory notes featured an image of a wound that was bleeding freely. My immediate response was to exclaim, “Must be fresh… must be blood!” And then I  started singing, “Feed me, Seymour….feed me all night long.”

This is evidence of: 

  1. Full and complete engagement in my First Aid training… naturally
  2. Total and complete immersion in the show I’m directing next year
  3. Extreme tiredness at the end of term 4
  4. Consequent failure to observe the boundaries that exist between my different “lives”

And in case what I was singing makes no sense to you, here’s a clip of that scene from the film.

The Myth of Writing Every Day: Realistic Tips for Increasing Your Productivity

Everything Jodi Herlick has written here is true: the snark, the realism, and especially the advice about self-care. Her words provide a very real reflection of my own writing experience.

Whatever your experience is, whatever your writing pace, and whatever the other demands on your time, each of us can only do what is achievable within our individual limits.

The takeaway is this: You do what you need to do, and write your own way when you’re ready. None of that is for anyone else to judge.

Jodi Herlick

We’ve all heard the well-intentioned advice: Write every day. It always seems to be spewed by privileged people who have a flexible schedule or a stable income without a day job or who have somehow managed to eschew all other commitments. And while there’s truth to the advice–I certainly find that writing is easier when I’m doing it consistently–for most of us, the pressure only leads to a cycle of despair that actually reduces our creative output.

Image result for crushing despair gif

So if you’re not one of the privileged few, here are some tips for getting all that daily writing in:

  1. Find yourself a wealthy significant other/sugar daddy/sugar mama/patron who will support your daily writing habit, and maybe buy you bonbons to munch on too.
  2. Wake up three hours early and get your writing in before your day job. Then hope that no one notices that you’re sleeping at your desk or in front…

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On Top Of The Mountain

Today, I reached the top of Mt Marking

Assignments finished.
Essays graded. 
Exams done. 
Results entered. 
Reports written. 
Proofreading completed.
Boxes ticked. 

And it feels like a huge achievement. 

Sure, there is always more work to be done. 
But tonight, I can relax knowing I have done my job well.