Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RIDIN SOLO






“STOP right there Jack. You need to finish your Pepsi max before you hop into bed. And you are certainly NOT taking those Tim Tams in there with you either!” Those actual words came out of my mouth on a Monday night at 8:30pm. The one just gone actually.  Rock bottom solo parenting, I believe I have just found your definition.   


My only excuse, and it’s not even a valid one, is that I’ve been solo parenting for a week or so due to my husband working interstate.  Now, I myself come from a single parent family, you would think I would be the first to appreciate what’s involved here, but I just had no. freaking. Idea.  Granted my mother didn’t work and didn’t have to fight the logistics of getting three children to three separate learning institutions every morning and then retrieve them each evening, with the very real threat of shitty traffic and the setting sun putting her in the precarious position of being a no show as the lights were being turned off, but she certainly knew what it was to have no one to fall back upon.


So yes, back to Monday night.  I managed to collect all three before they turned the lights off at their respective care and as I barrelled through the hideous traffic, my mind wandered to the mince sitting in the fridge and just knew my kids would be gnawing through my tibia if they had to wait for spaghetti that night.  I made an executive decision; shite night was getting a new timeslot - Mondays.  KFC loomed on the horizon.  


And here’s a stark admission, my husband does a shitload around the house.  This is starting to become startlingly evident the longer the week goes on.  Right now, I can honestly say that as I sit here and type this in my lounge room, it looks as if someone has removed the roof while I’ve been at work today and shat directly in the middle of my house.  And even though I tidied up, it is becoming increasingly apparent, he just has a natural talent to do this better than me.  There are stray jumpers dropped where they were removed, upended empty plastic cups left to languish on the coffee table, Wii games strewn in front of the TV.  I’m guessing these are usually taken care of by him before I return home from work in the evening. Pretty sure he would have found and turfed this mornings porridge before Jack had the chance to polish off the 12 hour old remains  as well.  


Another thing he must be anal fastidious about is returning the DVD’s to the Video store on time. Because right now, the Mean Girls 2 DVD cover is sitting on the Dining table sans disc. We rented this last Friday night.  It is now 4 days overdue and the disc is AWOL.  This is something my husband revels in, finding missing shit.  
He makes it his mission and is ALWAYS successful.  Me, well I have no god damn idea where it is.  I have torn this place apart and it is still MIA.   I fear we about to topple our $98 late fee record of Christmas 2009.


The hardest thing is that there is no one to fob to.  I’m it.  I’m the responsible adult in this family.  The go-to person. And as much as I guess you’d say I’m the stronger personality in our relationship, I’m beginning to realise, he’s the stronger person. He’s just a quiet achiever. 


I do notice a difference in the washing and the food consumption however. That shit is totally under control.  As he changes THREE times a day and eats enough food to feed three armies, there is a definite shift in those areas.


And mine is only a temporary position.  I have massive respect for any parent out there doing the solo parenting thing full time.  Both time wise and financially, it would kick your arse.   I know I joke, but I truly do respect you and your efforts.    


I will be most happy to see his smiling, exhausted face this Thursday.  And then I’ll kiss him goodbye Friday morning and hand over the reins as we tag team and I fly out to Melbourne for 3 days. And it will be his turn to ride solo.  He will find that DVD, that much I can be sure of. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

BOOK BOOK






Maybe everyone has a book inside of them.  Perhaps it’s just sitting there, waiting patiently for the perfect time to emerge.  Alternatively it might be desperately trying to fight its way out of your head where it has been simmering for far too long.


I have always thought I had some kind of story to tell.  In fact, during a particularly boring tax off-season I sat at my desk and wrote a movie script.  The idea, I think, is still relevant, the way in which it was written, not so much.  In hindsight,  it was evident I was 21 and listening to *a lot* of Jeff Buckley at the time.  The dialogue is angsty, flowery and it’s pretty clear I was going a little too Emo on myself. 

And speaking with a lot of writers, it seems the way in which people excise their ideas from their minds and put them into a story on paper (or word document) varies greatly.  Some just write with no real plan, others design each chapter, each plot line and each character flaw down to the last detail.

Karen Andrews, Author and Publisher (@miscmum on Twitter) said she loves this quote from Thomas Keneally “Don’t get it right, get it WRITTEN.”   True statement.


Many admitted to half finished manuscripts languishing in their bedside table.  Abandoned half way through due to a number of reasons.  They got bored, it was too hard, life got too busy.



Like any world class procrastinator, I have a million excuses as to why I haven’t finished anything.  My big one is finding time.  Although any of you who know me through Twitter could argue that if I stopped dicking around on there so much, I’d have plenty of time.  I do wonder though how other writers with small children that presumably reside in the same house as them, get a book written.  Do they tie them down and force feed them Nanny McPhee on high rotation?  

For mine, I'm usually breaking up UFC matches on the lounge room floor or feeding my continuously hungry children (note to self, worm them).   I no sooner sit down, open a document and I have to get up again and the moment is lost.  Although: admission, for the first six months of this year, I have had every Wednesday off from work and completely child free.  Alone. Free to do with as I pleased.  Ideally this was when I was going to write a substantial chunk of something.  So how much writing did I do?  Oh, none.  How many Wednesdays did I spend meeting my friends and catching up?  Oh, loads, in fact, the entire amount.  


I also get caught up in the fact that my grammar needs a lot of work.  That I don't know the process. Query letters, Agents, Publishers, editing, re-writes.  Stupid really when you need to have written a book to be worried about the above in the first place.


Another excuse hurdle I find that personally slows me down is that I become overwhelmed.  I walk into a book store and am immediately in awe of the talent on display. So many amazing books and writers.  That have probably already told my story.  And have done a better job.  Not being self deprecating, just being real.  And of course I’m well aware of the shitty statistics for manuscripts written vs. books published.  That a great deal of super talented writers will never be published.  It’s really easy to be self defeating before you even start.


I have started a book.  It’s been on the go since I came back from a brief trip to Melbourne about 5 years ago.  I woke up one morning not long after I returned, hopped onto my computer and just started punching out words.  In hindsight, most of it was complete shit but it was a jumping off point.   A start.   And I’ll just keep building around it. Write what you know huh?


Write what you know.  This poor Dinosaur sure did.


So, if you’ve got any advice I’d love to hear it. 

Should I set myself a word count each day, each week?  Should I plan it out more or just go with where ever my imagination takes me.   Should I be realistic and just do some goddamn housework? (Husband nodding furiously in the background).   Should others read what I have written early on in, just to make sure I am on the right track and it’s not complete horseshit?   

Thursday, July 14, 2011

MINIMISE ME









I have finally found out what I was put on this earth to do. Chuck shit out. No, really, I am exceptionally good at it. Nearly as good as obtaining and hoarding copious amounts of shit in the first place.




See, more than 3 years after we intended, we are actually going to blow this pop stand. Well, that’s the plan. So, we have started to cull in anticipation of the big move. 




And minimalism is my new mantra.  I have been ruthless. What?  You want to take pots and pans? You know that can only lead to cooking right? Because that’s what starts to happen when you start on the chuckingoutpalooza, you lose your shit and reasoning. What's that? Kids summer clothes? No, it’s freaking freezing, ditch.  Doona covers? Nope, only need one at a time now don’t we? Oh and a dining table? Since when was that a necessity? Whatever wasn’t nailed down last weekend got turfed in the great cull of 2011.




But then I came across our kitchen drawers. The first two drawers were standard fare of course.  Cutlery top drawer, bigger stuff like melon ballers* and potato mashers in the second.  But what about the third drawer down of shit?  This is where everyone, regardless of nature, will keep some truly inexplicable stuff.




EXHIBIT A






Yeah, we haven’t owned this Printer for over 2 years.  Pretty good chance we won’t need to reinstall it anytime soon.




EXHIBIT B 






Both Phil and I seem to have access to both of our cars, workplaces and every lock in the house without ever touching any of one of these keys.  So what are they doing in the third drawer in my kitchen?  Do you see the one that looks like it belongs in Alice in Wonderland?  What kind of old timer door does that belong to?




EXHIBIT C






Heaven FORBID I just chuck out the last two remaining blank Christmas cards when it’s all over for another year.  I mean, it’s not like they cost about two bucks for an entire pack nowadays.  Plus, I’m pretty sure I haven’t sent Christmas Cards in over 2 years, so these has been wallowing in that drawer FOR. EVER.  




EXHIBIT D






Hey, clearly I never knew when we’d be called up to some kind of exercise situation that may require not only a sweatband, but one that also had a handy zipper to keep my Panadol in.




EXHIBIT E






What in the actual fuck is this?  I do not know.  It lives in my drawer, I did not buy it, yet it made it there somehow.  Explanations welcomed.




EXHIBIT F






I think I’ve only discovered the tip of the Iceberg in the Allen Key swag in this house.  I’m sure there are a bazillion in his trailer or shed or beside him when he sleeps at night. Seriously, you want a flat pack assembled, my husband is your man.




So without any consultation, I am going to go crazy on the third drawer down of shit on the weekend.  Batteries will be saved.  All the half melted candles, screws, balloons, wrapping paper and out of date Warranties are gone.  Gone I tells ya.




How do you keep the crap at bay? Mindset?  An obsession with order?  Please do tell.


*We've never owned a melon baller in our lives.  But I do like the thought of one.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

THIS I KNOW

  













It’s kind of universally acknowledged that a children’s play centre is one of the biggest misnomers out there.   I mean, how much time do the kids spend actually playing as opposed to chucking tantrums or bleeding from an orifice?
  


We had the pleasure of children’s party number 1506 on the weekend for Jack, the four year old.   At the very same time, Maddison, 11, had also been invited to a party that started 30 minutes later, 30 minutes away.  At the very same time as this, Phil was up in Brisbane, helping my brother do stuff to his house.  So I was the parent who left her four year old at the party unattended and arrived back, 30 minutes before the party finished.  Daggers. Oh yeah, I saw a few aimed my way.  Luckily, one of his kindy teachers was there and was more than happy to keep an eye on him for me.  She also informed me she'd only call if there was blood or a concussion. 
  


I have written about kid’s parties and ants in my undies HERE.  I guess they say write what you know and this is what I know:




I know there will be at least one musical instrument planted inside a party bag that will make you want to shove said musical instrument so far  dispose of the mini piccolo/mini xylophone/ear piercing whistle the minute you get home.   Basically this is an inside parent joke that passive aggressively tells you, the attendees parent, to go and get fucked.  I am trying to source mini bagpipes for Jacks 5th.


I also know that more often than not your child will have their face painted in such a way that you will require sugar soap and a wire brush to remove it later on that night.  Exhibit A




Jack. Making some lovely music.  Binned 30 minutes later.






I know that at least one parent will tell you a not so funny anecdote about your own child.  Like how they found your son in the bushes at kindy comparing “doodle sizes” and how he may or may not have tackled their child to the ground when said child stole and ran off with the communal drumsticks.     


I know that one child will almost break a bone.  Or actually break one.  It’s a given. These kids are going freaking nuts.  They are hopped up on kiddie crack, aka, red slushies, terrorising old women and young babies and are one step for shitting in a hotel hallway Nate Myles style by the time the party comes to an end.  It’s a madhouse. 




Lastly, from my experience I know that ironically, nearly every child leaving the Play centre called Smileez will exit crying.  As my friend Sarah pointed out, this may well be because “they are obviously very distressed at the barstardisation of the English language”, and even though this is a good point, I reckon it’s because these gin joints aren’t play centres at all.  No, I think they are were cooked up by some sadist who likes seeing tiny children, a UFC smack down and too many tiny teddies combined in a confined space.


So that’s me on the Play centre topic.  Got a story to share?  




Wednesday, July 6, 2011

LET ME JUST CONSULT MY CRYSTAL BALL







It’s that time of year again.  The one you either love or loathe, TAX TIME!




And let’s face it the only reason you'd love it is because you are getting a big fat refund.


And see, for the last, oh ten or so years, this has been my day job.  Doing tax returns.  Riveting I know.  But the thing is, it is often not about the actual work you are doing, but the people you are working with. I’m sure even if you were doing the best job in the world, i.e. Bradley Cooper's Personal Assistant, you would still detest going into work each day if everyone around you acted like an arsehole. While granted, the lovely ladies I work with do not resemble Bradley Cooper (probably for the best), they are wonderful and funny and I love spending my day shooting the shit with them. 




So back to tax, here are a few pointers from someone who has probably seen it all.  A heads up as it were.




Do not try and pass off your new pec implants as a medical expense.    It wasn't a ripped muscle due to excessive exercise. I can read the terminology on an invoice.  




No, actually, I can't work out what you will be getting as a refund when you haven't given me all the information because I seem to have failed to activate my crystal ball.  Give me a sec. 




Do not give me all of your shit in manual and written form and then claim to use your computer 100% for work.    I am not mentally challenged.




No. Your alcohol is not deductible.  OK, once upon a time, I believe in the eighties, you could get away with a fair bit of stuff, boozy lunches being one of them.  Now, no.  OK. Just no.  And hey, I’m as disappointed with this as you are.




If you don’t actually own a vehicle, please don’t try and tell me you take your heavy tools to and from work each day.  I know you can’t and you don’t.  Again, I may not look like it, but I actually possess a functioning brain.




No. I do not need to see pictures of your colonoscopy. Not necessary.  A simple invoice will suffice.




Ditto love letters left inside your copious amounts of irrelevant paper work.  Especially the ones that delve a little deeper into your personal lives than I necessarily need to know about.




Yes, yes you do have to tell me about the income you received from Dazza when you were labouring for him for 6 months.  Especially when you tell me about it fuckstick.  You have no idea how many times people say to me “Oh I got cash for about six months, but no one needs to know about that do they?”  Well hey; no one would have until you opened your massive mouth.  I prepare your tax return, I am not a priest. 




It’s really nice talking to you but it is not necessary to hand me EVERY INDIVIDUAL PIECE OF INFORMATION.  Believe it or not, I know what I’m looking at and get this; I’m not going to steal it.  Hand it over.




OK.  So there are a few tips. Quite disturbing that I already have such passive aggressive thoughts and tax season is not even a week old.


Any questions?  I’ll do my best to answer them. Remember there are not stupid questions.  Just ones I’ll use in next year’s Tax Time Blog post.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

IT'S TWIT TO BE SQUARE











Whenever I mention Twitter in conversation to my friends or husband, they all kind of look at me a little blankly.  It’s like I’ve chosen Swahili on the DVD language selection and they can’t quite work out  what in the fuck I am talking about.   As an aside, I wonder if anyone actually does choose a language other than English to watch a DVD in.  You know, just for shits and giggles.  Or just so they can hear Hayley Joel Osment tell Bruce Willis that he sér dautt fólk in Icelandic.  Once again, I digress....




I don’t really talk about Twitter with my husband.  Mainly because I think he perceives it to be a giant pickup joint. This of course is coming from the guy whose sole use of the internet is to Google tits, but if we do discuss it, the conversation goes something like this;  “So, you are talking to strangers?”  Um yeah, I guess I am.  “And they are just there like right now, waiting to talk to you?”  No, not waiting for me per se, they are just on line at the same time. “How do you know they aren’t serial killers?” Well, that I don’t. But I’m not entirely sure the mad woman next door doesn’t have a sharp axe with my name on it either, so we are taking chances everyday. “What do you even talk about?” Well everything. And nothing.  




And  granted, twitter is really hard to explain.  The best I can come up with  is that it’s the Watercooler of the here and now.  It’s where everything and nothing happens.  It is used to discuss issues that are happening right now. The television program that is on, right that very minute, can be dissected and debated.  It is  used to ask for advice and recommendations.  It is the place I find out about breaking news, in fact, often before most of news organisations on TV.   




It is also the best way to find your tribe, the people you have stuff in common with, whatever that may be.  Writers, readers, scientists, people who knit, sports enthusiasts, atheists, mothers, labor/liberal/green/independant voters,  people who live close by, you name it, you will find your like minded kin on Twitter in a way you never could have before.  Twitter is always on.  Something is always happening. And basically there is always someone there to make contact with no matter where in the world you are, or how alone you physically may be.   




I have seen firsthand how it promotes authors and their work.  How when they immerse themselves and actually get involved with their readers, it increases sales, respect and immediate feedback.  Kylie Ladd (@kylie_ladd)  made the comment today that when she released her first fiction novel, After The Fall, the silence was deafening.  This time around, with her new novel, Last Summer she has had immediate feedback from buyers and readers.   Kerri Sackville (@kerrisackville) is another Twitter success story.  Kerri, a writer who started with a popular blog, wrote a book and through her on line presence, has used twitter to both connect with her readers and gain new ones.




And if Television networks are in any way smart, they will be paying attention to Twitter.  The appraisal of a television show has never been more accurate.  The reviews are immediate and honest.  Q and A (ABC) and Masterchef (Ch 10) are two perfect examples of the media crossover. 




The same applies to advertising.   For instance,  Coles, here’s an idea, check out the opinions on Twitter to see how you new  Down, down campaign is coming along.  Heads up, people freaking  hate it with a passion and some are actively boycotting your stores as a result.



Politics are constantly being discussed on on Twitter and even though I dream of world where we can all just get along, I know by watching my twitter stream that is just me living in fantasyland.  From what I can make out, right now in Australian Politics we have two major political parties governing by self-preservation.  Changing and tweaking their policies to popularity and Polls and forgetting to actually just get along with oh, you know, running the fucking country. 




And the mood of the voters is so easy to access on Twitter.  In fact I know this works.  I know when I wrote THIS,  and it was tweeted, the Premier of QLD read my Open Letter and we corresponded directly by phone and email soon after. That would never had happened pre-Twitter.  It just would not have.  




Twitter has been the reason anyone has paid me for my writing. But, I guess more importantly than any of that, it has led me into legitimate friendships.   Ones I truly count as very special.  Which I know, if you are not someone who uses the internet,  sounds naff, but it is incredibly true.  




To be honest, if you are reading this blog, upselling Twitter is preaching to converted.  I have found they go hand in hand.  I started my blog very soon after I found Twitter.  Some find it the opposite way around, but they certainly find that one compliments the other.  And if I’m being completely honest I should tell you I signed up to Twitter and didn’t touch it for 12 months.  I had no freaking idea how it worked.  I looked at the blinking cursor and the empty box and wondered what on earth I was supposed to do.  So I did nothing .




I’m guessing boredom is what brought me back.  Or perhaps I heard someone talking about it. Either way, I signed back up, followed a whole heap of celebrities (you do this at first, but I’ve got to say, I much prefer the everyday people in general) and local radio/television personalities.  Then I simply waited for people to follow me back.  I “tweeted” funny observations.  I “tweeted” people back when they asked questions or said something I could relate to.  And just over 2 years later, I am unequivocally  hooked.  In fact, I recently appeared in this publication as one of the 500 people you should follow on Twitter.  As an “everyday” person.  That’s either really cool or really sad.  


I'iiiii am everyday people





Best advice, give it a go.  Don’t use it solely as a place to promote yourself  as a business if you’re not willing to get a little bit personal and have some fun.   Use hashtags.  Hashtags, ideally are used  for topical reasons.  For instance #qanda at the end of a tweet will direct others watching this to find you and your tweets.  The other way is to use them in a smartarse or comical way. Like this:


@Bern_Morley Text from husband: "Hey, want me to grab some shite for dinner?" Well, when you make it sound so appealing. #sure




I asked on Twitter tonight for some advice for newbies.  Here are a few of their answers. 




@RobertHoge Jump right in. It's easier to understand once you start having conversations.


@gilfer Don't believe anything you read. Swear copiously. Don't talk about work, your clients, or your employer.


@zoomosis 1. find funny people to follow, 2. celebrities are (mostly) boring, 3. don't expect to learn how to use it quickly




@YogaJG get tweet deck or some app that allows you to see everything happening on one screen...So the conversation makes sense 


@Skip91 jump right in, it's the only way :)




@KerriSackville Don't tweet drunk. Except if you want people to follow you #loveadrunktweep


@nicmclachlan  bio is more important than avi #ireckon


@MsPraxis  learn what a hashtag is, how to shorten links and post pics


@Lisa_lintern and don't try too hard...just be yourself


@LovelyWife  Talk to people!!


@TheaTweets  Do some searches of your interests...follow HEAPS of people...follow the tweeps of your favourite tweeps! And, tweet a LOT! :)




@melkettle I wrote a blog post about using twitter for biz recently. Happy for you to use or quote or just get ideas! www.melkettle.com.au


And finally:






@LozVox FUCK YOU COLES. HONESTLY




Any advice on Twitter?  Need some advice?