Word by Word

ANNE LAMOTT – Bird by Bird

“I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.”

Much can be read from this line that comes from the book on writing and life advice by Anne Lamott.

1: Her mention of Jesus makes one think that she is religiously-inclined, that it is a significant part of her life, or that it plays a pivotal role in her daily decisions. From what I have read, that would be correct.

2: The fact that Jesus himself would become an alcoholic based on the things she says, kind of paints the picture of an insanely articulate yet unhinged, hilarious writer whose bark is worse than her bite, and who manages to make the darkest of themes, like even death, humorous.

From what I have read, that would also be correct.

Lamott has a wicked sense of humour. From the outset, I could tell that I would like her. Her witty, sharp, insightful remarks and views on the world, ability to poke fun at herself and allow us to see and hear all her very real insecurities and jealousies about being a human, and about being a writer, made me immediately sympathetic to her story. She’s honest and real about the struggles in a writer’s world, and let’s face it, trying to get into it in the first place, yet despite her stark frankness in the matter, suggesting that only a small number get to go on Letterman, she has put together this book in an effort to encourage and help aspiring writers, as she has often done in her writing workshops.

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish your work, you have something important to pour yourself into.”

This book made me laugh, and it made me cry. It gave me some good hard advice, as well as some awesome little snippets and ideas on what I can do in my writing life to just generally be better at it.

So let’s begin Anne’s writing class. (I usually call writers by their surnames in my reviews but after reading this book I feel like I know her so well).

SET THE MOOD

“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it…”

I got quite a few good tips from Anne on ways to improve my writing environment. Firstly, it seems simple, but using some kind of external trigger, like a candle, and the act of lighting it, when done repeatedly over time it can serve as a kind of switch for your writing conscious to kick in. This excited me because for my birthday I got given this beautiful candle in a glass jar, and the wick actually crackles as it burns (I actually picked the candle for myself and my parents paid, but same thing). As if I didn’t need further reason to get it, the lady behind the counter said “when the house is quiet, light it and listen to it crackle as you read a book.”

Um, what about write a book? God if she knew. So that will be my thing, the candle, in particular this most awesome-nest of awesome candles, the wicker-crackling candle.

And speaking of the conscious mind. The rational mind is probably our worst enemy. Second guessing ourselves, reading over what we’ve written, trying too hard, sticking to plans and not letting things flow – this all obstructs the natural story-telling and writing process. She says that characters are created in our unconscious mind, the area in which we have no control over, so it would come to reason that we should relax a little, try to listen to our intuition more, and just let the unconscious do its thing. She uses the metaphor of broccoli for her intuition, but whatever ‘voice’ it is that you can’t control within, as long as it works for you. I love the metaphor and vision of the butterfly, and it has significance for me on many levels, and with its random yet gentle fluttering, I’ve decided to watch this creature in my mind’s eye and follow where it leads me. Just as a green vegetable will work for Anne, a transformative insect will work for me.

Preparation-wise, Anne has index cards placed pretty much all over the place at her house, in her car, she even takes them with her on walks in case an idea, thought or inspiration strikes her. I have to say, when I’ve had a great thought and not had the necessary pen/paper/mobile to capture it, I whole-heartedly agree with Anne when she says:

“That is one of the worst feelings I can think of, to have had a wonderful moment or insight or vision or phrase, to know you had it, and then to lose it.”

There’s nothing wrong with needing a prompt to remember things. Being a mother herself, she offers a great insight into one reason you may need these cards in your life, something that despite my uber-organisation, I can totally relate with:

“When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand, like those babies born clutching IUDs.”

There will be bad days. You will have writers block, which she says is less about being ‘stuck,’ and more about ‘filling up again.’ She tells her students to try to write at least a page of something, anything, dreams or streams of consciousness or memories, every day, and that on bad days to try and do this just to keep their fingers from becoming arthritic. And in the event of being ‘empty,’ to go out and fill up again.

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.”

HOW TO WRITE

E.L. Doctorow once said “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It was interesting to find this quote in Lamott’s book, because I had just finished reading Loon Lake before getting Bird by Bird, and it was in fact this precise Doctorow quote, reading it literally before his death, that rang very true for me.

I didn’t do a whole lot of research, or any writer’s workshops, or join any online writing groups when I first started on my book. I just went into it, with a handful of characters, some strong themes, and a round-a-bout destination in mind. I knew A, I knew somewhere E was going to come in, but then I didn’t know anything in between, just a rough Y and a hazy Z. It’s always comforting when you read that someone you aspire to, such as a successful writer, does the same thing you do, or confirms something you’ve always thought to be true. I never really thought of a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write, I think we all just do what works for us, but this above metaphor that applies not just to writing, but to life, rang so true to me. Because from my A, B C and D sprang forward, and just by writing scene by scene, character by character, a whole story formed, and I surprised myself on multiple occasions.

You don’t need to see the path to your destination, nor even see your destination at all. Anne talks about ‘Short Assignments,’ and when you struggle in your writing to just think of getting one memory, one scene, one exchange out in front of you, enough that would fill up a one-inch frame. Focusing on one thing at a time is far less overwhelming than worrying about how your protagonist is going to confront the bad guy three chapters away.

“Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other.”

Writing can be a very difficult experience, something she admits for herself and for most writers she knows. Getting by is to write a shitty first draft. In this stage anything goes, even phrases like:

“Well so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?”

You just need to get anything down, no matter what it is. Her friend said:

“the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up….And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

 “Vonnegut said, ‘When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’”

This is so comforting.

You can even liken your writing to your dreams – the way one absurd scene just flows into another, so too must your writing be “vivid and continuous.” In discovering plot, Anne says her characters know where they are going, she just needs to stay with them long enough. She needs to care for them, polish them, and then suddenly they will show her the way. Another way to think of it is this:

“they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

What about me then? I need my characters to do everything for me because my handwriting beats that of a doctors!

In writing, you need to revoke all control you have. You may be focusing on the fence, but the yellow sparkling flower in the corner of your mind-frame starts to sparkle and all of a sudden, it’s stolen the show. You must explore that.

“If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. It is hard to stop controlling, but you can do it.”

Anne says that when she starts writing she wants to fill the page with witty insights so that the world will see how smart she is. Whoops. Where I fall into step with the favourable Doctorow quote, so too do I have to begrudgingly agree that I sing along with this writing flaw. But as you write, you want your characters to act out the drama of humankind, which doesn’t include your witty and ground-breaking life insights.

“…the purpose of most great writing seems to be to reveal in an ethical light who we are.”

FUNNY STORIES

Anne made me LOL so hard, that in my re-reading of notes I was still laughing out loud. Oh geez.

The two below cases in point I think really paint a great picture of the dual character-traits she encompasses. Take the story of when readers were surprised to hear that she didn’t love to garden like one of the characters in her book, that she had in fact been researching it heavily and ‘winging’ it instead:

“’You don’t love to garden?’ they’d ask incredulously, and I’d shake my head and not mention that what I love are cut flowers, because this sounds so violent and decadent, like when Salvador Dali said his favourite animal was fillet of sole.”

Oh my fucking lord. I love it.

(I was on a swearing frenzy following Loon Lake, so screw it let’s go).

(Let’s not make much of the fact that one quote on my calendar once said ‘Swearing exposes weakness not strength.’)

A second moment, where she is talking about paying attention to the world around you and using religious metaphors in doing so, displays the heavy theme of God in her life, while also reminding us that she doesn’t give a shit:

“There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. Or maybe you are not predisposed to see the world sacramentally, to see everything as an outward and visible sign of inward, invisible grace. This does not mean that you are worthless Philistine scum.”

Her chapter on jealousy is refreshing. If a writing friend of hers is successful with writing, sometimes she wants –

“for him to wake up one morning with a pain in his prostate, because I don’t care how rich and successful someone is, if you wake up having to call your doctor and ask for a finger massage, it’s going to be a long day.”

These images are so clear and paint such a humorous picture, and the fact that she does it all, making it appear so effortless, makes you realise how great of a writer she really is.

I can re-type countless funny moments and stories of hers, but I just need to do one more, I promise. I love the following mental picture. When researching for the name of the ‘wire thing’ used for wines, she called a winery to try and found out its proper name. The receptionist there didn’t know the name of it either so she transferred her to:

“a two-thousand year old monk. Or at least this is how he sounded, faint, reedy, out of breath, like Noah after a brisk walk.

And he was so glad I’d called. He actually said so, and he sounded like he was. I have secretly believed ever since that he had somehow stayed alive just long enough to be there for my phone call, and that after he answered my question, he hung up, smiled, and keeled over.”

Oh God. I love it!

Okay, back to the serious writing stuff (clears throat). Writing can be hard (duh Fred). Even for published professionals such as herself, there is still a lot of staring at clocks, staring at blank screens, and yawning. Making phone calls and distracting oneself with other tasks other than writing, is very normal. Sometimes voices would continuously harp at her, and she’s use a tactic a hypnotist once suggested to her, to imagine all the voices as mice, and to one by one drop them into a jar, turn the volume on the jar up and then down, and watch them claw at her as she then muted them. It’s interesting she mentioned this, since I have a kind of different picture, just something I use for when someone I can’t stand is driving me insane in my head. I imagine them as a ball, and with a baseball bat (for some reason it’s baseball, maybe because the ball appears to go very far during that game) I strike it so hard and so out of view that they are no longer seen, or heard.

Perhaps slightly violent, but it does the trick. You can use that for yourself, tell me how you go.

Anne talks of the publishing fantasy, and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She mentions the early draft process, and when she gets her friends to initially provide her feedback on her work. When she doesn’t hear from them by the next day, she starts to think –

“… about all the things I don’t like about either of them, how much in fact I hate them both, how it is no wonder neither of them has many friends.”

When she gets to sending her writing to her editor and agent, her thoughts are equally as insane and hilarious, if not more so. She convinces herself that they are in cahoots, laughing their arses off over her book, now proclaimed the worst book ever written.

“At one point your editor is laughing so hard that she has to take some digitalis, and your agent ruptures a blood vessel in his throat.”

But it doesn’t stop there. On the date of publication, the blow to the ego comes when your phone ISN’T ringing off the hook, and the 5 people that turn up at your book signings, as well as the review that likens your book to dog poo, just makes it all seem not worth it. Additionally, dealing with people who ask “have you written anything I might have heard of?” while others claim they read everything and yet do not know your name, leaves little to be desired in the world of publication.

She makes the process sound quite shit. She is a great writer after all.

SAD STORIES

Just as I laughed, so too did I cry.

The sad moments made me tear up, quite bad, punching me hard in the heart. Perhaps some of the saddest material came in her section on ‘Letters,’ where she suggested that if you’re stuck in your writing, write an informal letter to someone you know. This has not only been a beautiful present to the person in question in her own life, but has captured a moment of time that will never be forgotten.

The three letters she speaks of are the ones she wrote to her Dad, her best friend, and the couple of a boy who passed. The first two ended up being published books, with both her Dad and best friend getting to read her book dedicated to them, before they passed. It was especially hard for me to read the part of her Dad dying, since I have someone in the immediate family who died from the same thing that struck her Dad. It was shocking, and frightening, to say the least. The fact that she got to write something for her Dad and he read it, and it got published, is heartbreakingly bittersweet.

I was almost crying my eyes out at her third example of an informal letter. A couple she knew had lost their son at 5 months of age. He had been called ‘Cloud Boy’ by his mother’s friends: because he had been resuscitated at birth, he was neither here, nor there. She wrote a piece about him and it was broadcast on radio, and the fact that I had earlier been very cranky with baby girl, just broke my heart. My note on this read:

‘Makes me feel guilty for getting upset earlier at baby girl –big hug later :)’

Page 205, has quite frankly the best story of giving, EVER. It is so painfully moving and inspiring, that I cannot will myself to re-tell it here, in fear of butchering it to death. So just do yourself a favour and get the book and read the damn thing, especially page 205.

Finally, the following poem is one she re-tells, as having thought of it in regards to a student of hers who wasn’t doing so well in his writing. Its fragility is touching.

“Above me, wind does its best

to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the noise

of failure growing beautiful.”

LIFE

The title of Anne’s book Bird by Bird comes from one of the best stories, in my opinion, to come out of the book (apart from page 205). It is so relevant to life, that I’ve found myself quoting and muttering it ever since I finished reading it.

Anne tells of the story of when her older brother had a report due on birds the next day, which he had had 3 months to write. Close to tears, surrounded by bird info, and overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task, his Dad had put his arm around him and said “Bird by bird buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Now I find that I’ll be doing something and I just go ‘bird by bird.’ Some passer-by may think it means I’m collecting the aviary kind, but the significance is just so great, I can’t help but to say it out loud.

She discusses libel, which is one of the most memorable and humorous lessons in the book. If you must make someone horrible from your life a character in one of your books (God help me, I threaten every twerp I meet in my mind with ‘oh you wait ‘til I make the world hate you in my novels, mwa ha ha!’) change all their traits so they can’t sue you, and make them impossible to trace and identify from the people in their life… and of course give them a little penis so they won’t come forward even if they’re suss on you.

It’s Okay. Anne says this every so often, and always with a capital ‘O.’ There is some significance, and I’ve been trying to work out what… suggesting that Okay is a state of being, holding much importance, it all goes back to being alright…. You got me, I’m not sure. But just remember all you writers out there, it will all be Okay.

She talks about all the great things about being a writer, which hey, we all knew already, right? (And if you didn’t, what kind of masochist are you?) Even though she says that publishing is in fact, a fantasy, telling her students that in writing “… devotion and commitment will be their own reward,” she also says:

“But the fact of publication is the acknowledgement from the community that you did your writing right. You acquire a rank that you never lose.”

Writers “get to stay home and still be public.”

Something I’ve always believed: you get the best of both worlds. I did come to question myself, as I have on so many occasions: why do I do it? Why write? Why do I feel the pull, the need, the obsessive urge to get everything down on paper? I journal passionately, having captured my entire pregnancy, the first year of baby girl’s life, and I have since continued, picking up from where I left off years ago and beginning to journal all of my life again.

There are many reasons. First, so we are not lost. One day we will die, and all that will remain of Hubbie and I, which our children will be able to hold onto, are photos, memories, and this. My journals. My journals will give them a view into our worlds like no one else can. Despite our absence, our stories that we’ve passed on to them, and my words, will still be alive.

This is something that I find so magical. That I can be reading ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ written by Shakespeare, and laughing out loud over the lines he wrote hundreds of years ago. That is amazing, that is inspiring, that kind of life-transcendence, for a story to be living and making people feel long after you’re gone.

Of course, I love to write. It is almost an obsessive urge in me, where I need to get stuff down. Additionally, I have a tremendous story in me that just needs to be told. I believe so whole-heartedly that it will resonate with people out there, that I simply must do whatever it takes to get it heard. I will try.

I don’t always love to write. But I always have to do it.

“But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion…”

The world will always need writers. Stories have existed from the beginning of time, and will always be a necessity. You don’t have to write just for yourself: “Risk freeing someone else.” Make someone else’s day, help someone going through the troubles in their life, by telling them your story.

One of the greatest things her father taught her was to pay attention. And that in itself is beautiful. Going somewhere with a sense of purpose, noting things down, whether because you’re going to review it later (a restaurant you’ve been to, or a book you’re reading) or simply to capture the details for a written piece, either fictional or personal.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

In closing, this is a tremendously inspiring and informative book, one all writers should read, published or not. I’m not sure whether it is better than Stephen King’s ‘On Writing:” that I would need to read again, since his I read during my writing book process, and Anne’s one came much later in the game. But both are equally entertaining in their own way, and really, we should be grabbing ALL the advice that successful writers send out to us, and not question it! Take it, absorb it, memorise it, and then with your arms full run for the hills.

I want you all to take these two quotes I present from Anne’s book, and use it to fuel your story, your passion, and your purpose.

“All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.”

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

And now run.

Please let me know your thoughts on Bird by Bird in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 😊

A sign of Tassie times

Signal Station Brasserie
700 Nelson Road, Mount Nelson TAS

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last, FULL day in Hobart. The days were still sunny and calm (did we get lucky or what?) and after we discovered that traveling to the top of Mount Wellington from our accommodation would take us 40 minutes, one way, we decided to opt for the much shorter distance to Mount Nelson… we had driven to Port Arthur the day before and were getting seriously over driving. This was a holiday after all.

Mount Wellington would have to wait until next time.

We drove under 20 minutes instead, along winding roads with scenery that continued to grow and expand and show us snippets of what we were coming to see… far off mountains and valleys and endless greenery. After a couple of wrong turns we finally made our way up a residential looking street, and came to a dead end at what was the summit.

Not only did we find views… but we found a café (heart).

The signal station brasserie.

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Now those are my kind of views. 180 degree views along Southern Tasmania, thank you very much.

First, we had to take in some splendid scenery.

Breathe in with me…

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And breathe out.

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Ahhh.

The signal station was the first to be built in Tasmania, back in 1811… holey moley. Used back then for signalling and the reporting of shipping to the Port of Hobart and eventually to Port Arthur, it is now a place of rich history and fascination as tourists and locals alike come to feast their eyes on outlooks that were once used for very different means.

And to have a spot of afternoon tea, of course 😉

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Back then it would have been in operation every day as the café was now… 7 days a week. We turned our attentions to the few tables that were getting baked in the Winter sun, and grabbed one before anyone else beat us. Soon, an interesting looking chap walked over and gave us some menus before walking away and talking to himself as he had been talking to us – like he had known us forever.

 

There was both himself, and a woman making the inner and outer café rounds, and it was with the latter that we made our afternoon orders, before proceeding to sit back and enjoy the fresh and beautiful surrounds.

It is a most magical spot. There is also inside seating within a small building that would have most likely been a house, sitting opposite the signal station tower on the other side…

But on the day that we had, you would have been crazy to wanna miss those views, and that sunshine.

Soon we were very happily being attended to.

Hubbie was happy to receive his short black with James Boags

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Baby girl got a very colourful babycino

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And I got a cap, while she and I shared some Signal Station Lemon Scones – with housemade jam and freshly whipped cream (2 per serve. $11.50)

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Those scones were just sky high. They were a very decent serving, even for two, and baby girl enjoyed them as much as I did, applying lashings of cream… licking it off the scone… then applying more cream.

Ahh. Kid life.

Her marshmallows were forgotten but had been promised, so the man promptly called her into the café so she could pick up her never-ever-forgotten cushions of pillowy goodness from out of the jar. She was in heaven.

My coffee was great as was Hubbie’s short black, and he enjoyed it alongside his Sunday arvo beer, classic Aussie style. It was a lovely afternoon out in the sun and we felt particularly lucky to have been granted such pristine weather on our stay in Hobart, since we had definitely not expected it being Winter… being Tasmania.

When it was time to pay and go, I ventured inside to see the interior, and passed the most fantastic sign, that I was immediately compelled to capture:

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What a beautiful sentiment. It gave me ALL the feels, and had me in such a happy state, that when what happened later inside, happened, I guess it was fortunate for them, as I had already been buttered up like a sky-high scone before my massive letdown…

Like a pancake.

Because you see, I went inside to pay, and was standing in front of the register/coffee making counter, waiting to pay. The man who had tended to us earlier was busy making coffees and playing catch up, and there was a father and daughter duo who were ordering a specific drink for the girl… it could have been lactose, gluten free, almond milk perhaps, who knows. But the discussion as the man behind the counter made the drinks, was that she had a difficult order, the man had successfully made it, and they were now telling the man that they were appreciative of his efforts. The father and daughter walked off, the girl with her takeaway drink in hand.

Stay with me.

Meanwhile, as eccentric man as we’ll call him, was behind the counter playing catch up on drink-making, having his last of the conversation with the father and daughter duo, another couple walked up and were to the side, also appearing to want to pay. At this stage I did that thing where you move a bit closer to the counter, in an effort to say ‘I was here first,’ hopeful that surely, eccentric man would realise I had been waiting longer.

But then as the father and daughter duo exited, eccentric man started talking to the couple – they knew each other. Jokes were shared, inside convo, local lingo, things about the café, upcoming events… they mucked about and laughed and meanwhile I smiled profusely in the background as eccentric man made these drinks, thinking ‘any time now. Any time.’

Any time now, he will finish his drink making, turn to this couple and say “sorry I’ll just serve this young lady, she was here first.”

This young lady, tourist from Melbourne.

This young lady, first timer to Signal Station Brasserie.

This young lady, patiently standing and waiting.

This young lady, whose alias is SmikG and is a food blogger.

!!!

Then the UNTHINKABLE.

(Or perhaps, thinkable by now because I have been leading there).

He started to put through their order first.

(Mouth gaping open emoji.)

More unthinkable… the couple let him.

Sure, they kind of may not have known what I wanted… I was simply WAITING THERE TO PAY NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE.

I enjoy just standing around doing nothing on sunny Sundays.

Majority blame, goes entirely to eccentric man. Making the drinks, ignoring me the entire time, and going ahead to let someone else pay before me.

In horror I watched as he unapologetically put through the other couple’s order, and as he did, and they paid, they continued chatting, and laughing, and taking their GOD DAMN TIME.

By the time they decided they had been there long enough, the couple walked off SLOWLY, talking to him over their shoulder, and I, feeling like a volcano about to erupt, walked hastily RIGHT UP to the counter and waited to pay. He made no apology, made small talk, I paid and was OFF.

I was gob-smacked.

Hubbie looked at me like ‘where the hell have you been?’

I said “don’t – I can’t talk about it now. I’ll fill you in in the car.”

And then we proceeded to verbally bash the unhospitable event for the next 30 minutes. Oh the story has even made its way to people back home, don’t worry. More in the below notes…

Food: I can only score on the scones, so a 7.5/10. Generous servings make for happy customers.

Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and adequate.

Ambience: Unmistakably serene and chilled… a beautiful place to enjoy on a sunny day, with uninterrupted mountain and coastal views, and the cafe building a quaint interior, cottage-feel type place where you could easily hide away in and feel like you have stepped into someplace special.

Staff: Away from my comical exclamation marks and open-mouthed emojis, is this cold, hard FACT:

In Melbourne, this kind of queue jumping would not stand up.

Would not hold court.

Would not be acceptable.

The ignorance and blatant disregard would be dealt with, like a lion taking prey upon a stray zebra.

It is just not on. To be standing there waiting to pay, (busy or not busy) and then someone jumps in front you (their friend or no friend) is just so unprofessional and so unhospitable, it speaks volumes.

Hubbie told a workmate about this story, and his work mate said ‘that is not unlike Tasmania.’

No where else did anything like this happen. Everyone was wonderful in fact. So I don’t know how isolated this incident is, but if there are fellow travellers or Tasmanian locals who know of this kind of disregard for decency and order, please by all means enlighten me on what THE RULES ARE.

But, if I am waiting to pay, anywhere in the world, and someone else comes along and then jumps in front, the wait staff allows it and then proceeds to not even apologise or make any mention of it and there is no emergency to justify the queue-jumping?

Well in the matter of common global human decency, that is not on. In no language or country is that ON.

It just makes no sense. I am actually a very fair and understanding person, and I try to see both sides, but in this one I see only ONE.

Massive rant over.

People: Older couples (grrr) as mentioned, families, and kids. Tourists are onto this place equally as much as the locals are, yet it still remains quite secluded, private and unique.

Price: I paid, but got no receipt, or else I misplaced it in my overwhelming confusion and frustration. I have it on strong suspicion it was in the low $30s, which would make sense as we had predominantly drinks.

Advice: Despite everything said above, I urge you to visit this place… there’s nothing quite like enjoying a drink or a snack, and being able to see amazing vistas with your butt still firmly planted on a bench. Go early on a sunny day and enjoy the outdoors.

In a nutshell: Again, despite all I have vented about, I would come here again… and to eat, and coffee… I don’t know how I would be come face-to-face with eccentric man… but I would just turn my gaze towards the mountains, and Signal to myself –

‘something good will happen to me today.’

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Signal Station Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The dark side of Christmas

Christmas has always been one of my most favourite times of the year. There are carols, festive movies, everything is red, green, gold and sparkly, and let’s face it, by December Melbourne weather is starting to show us some decent warmth.

Holidays are near, and LOVE IS ALL AROUND.

I know and I feel that to be true. But I’ve been thinking a lot about another group of people.

It’s the time of year where people start talking about a fresh start, a new beginning. More so now because we’re not just entering a new year next year, but we’re entering a new DECADE.

People don’t just get together and celebrate Christmas work parties and KK catch ups with friends… celebrations occur. The end of the year brings good news in work and school results, people use the timing of festive happiness to celebrate and bring forth happy news from other areas in their life…

All in all, this December I am seeing a lot of good news stories.

And I LOVE it.

But there are not all who love it.

And by that I mean that they are not loving anything, nothing at all.

I feel particularly this year for the people who are struggling.

There are people in hospital who don’t know how they are going to get through the month, relying on machines to help them live… let alone wasting time thinking of what New Year goals they are going to break in the second week of January.

There are people who are missing loved ones that have departed. This Christmas may be the first for them without someone they love, and seeing Christmas cards in stores and Hallmark moments being broadcast all around as the ideal Christmas with the perfect family, would make this such a hard time.

Then there are those that are estranged from family, and that all too common question “Where do you celebrate Christmas?” makes it almost a disappointment to speak that they aren’t spending it with family. Having people nosy into your personal business, isn’t the merriest of feelings.

The approaching new year also makes you reflect, and often people don’t like what they discover. Looking back at the year that has passed can make one feel like a disappointment if they feel they haven’t achieved what they set out to… the absence of a goal or achievement can be hard to swallow, and a bitter reminder that a year has been lost. Looking forward to a new year then can be overwhelming, and a fresh start mentality is difficult to focus on and is far from their mind.

This year, I am really feeling for all those who are struggling.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

I am not a professional, and I don’t know what to do in every difficult situation… but as a person who has gone through hard times, I can offer some personal advice…

Take every moment at a time. Don’t look too much into the future and worry about what’s to come. Just focus on doing the best you can at this point in time with what you have.

Focus simply, on gratitude. Focus on the little things, and on what you DO have. Think about the roof over your head, the comfortable bed that you sleep in, and that person who calls you because they love you. These are the things worth thinking about. These are the things that matter.

Stay off social media. Reading other people’s ‘highlight’ reels is not going to help. A word of caution: if you find yourself comparing your life against someone else’s, remember that what someone posts is just one moment in time, and it provides absolutely no backstory or context of actual reality. Most of the time these repetitive highlight reels come from serial posters, who require self-gratification in the form of constant likes and comments… that is, they are suffering for some reason and need their ego inadvertently stroked to make themselves feel better… They need the attention constantly on them or else they risk suffering a meltdown.

Feel proud that you have beautiful things that you could share, but you don’t. It’s called self-command and privacy.

And as much as I do love this festive season… this too shall pass. It all does. Just hold on. Hold on knowing that like one of my favourite quotes:

“Good times and bad times have one thing in common, they never last forever.”

Don’t be disheartened by this quote. Feel humbled you are able to grace this earth.

I hope you have a great festive season, and just remember… moment by moment.

I believe in you.

You can do it. ♥

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Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

 

 

Strong Arms in old Richmond town

The Richmond Arms
42 Bridge Street Richmond TAS

(Visited August ’18)

This was the first place we dined out for a meal, properly (bar takeaway), when we holidayed in Tasmania in late August of 2018.

Firstly, they had said it would be cold. So cold. I was preparing, you know, for the worst.

We brought our jackets. For sure. We were from Melbourne after all. If anyone knew, it was US.

But instead, sunshine shone so much that day, we left our jackets in our car.

In Tasmania! True story.

Secondly. We had heard a bit about this old-fashioned Richmond town. It was nothing like the inner-city suburb that Melbourne knows so well, home of the yellow and black footy supporters. No.

This was something else entirely. Sure it held a lot history much like it’s sister city back in Melbs…

But unlike Melbourne’s Richmond, Tassie’s Richmond still looked like it was in the 1800s.

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After a wander up and down, into Sweets and Treats, Richmond’s lolly shop, for coffee and what else, lollies, we really needed a bite to eat. It was our second day in Tasmania having arrived the day before, and really, our first proper spot of sight-seeing.

What a place to start on.

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We had travelled approximately 30 minutes from Lutana where our accommodation resided. The scenery was striking and beautiful. What immediately struck me was the constant views. They were all the same, yet so different and continuously beautiful. That’s because largely, there were hills, and water.

Hills and water.

Hills and water.

HILLS AND WATER.

It was very picturesque. We started to understand quite quickly why people said Tassie was such a beautiful place. We went up Grasstree Hill Road and then back down it, winding around and around to finally reach our destination at Georgian-style Richmond town.

And of course when lunch time came, we really had to go old-school too.

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At The Richmond Arms.

The interior certainly matches the exterior. Where the outside shows the age of the building and the time it came from, we found not much was changed inside. Though perhaps slightly updated, the rooms are definitely of another time and place, so don’t go expecting anything life-changing here. The room we sat in was away from the area that housed the bar where Hubbie went up to order and pay at, and in one way it felt like we were sectioned off into a room that may have very long ago been a lounge room.

The Richmond Arms Hotel also has accommodation, something to consider if you want to spend more than a day in Richmond. There is plenty to do and see, and considering the history and beauty of the town, why wouldn’t you?

Despite the age of the tables and chairs, I really was quite taken aback by one feature wall within… it had a quote so beautiful, so treasured and meaningful, and also so close to my heart, as it was a sentiment confirmed to me as the years have gone by, a written manifestation of what I had known all along, but never really verbalised… that I had to photograph it:

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‘An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land,

All you who have not loved her,

You will not understand

though Earth holds many splendours,

Wherever I may die,

I know to what brown country,

My homing thoughts will fly.’

– Dorothea Mackellar “My Country.”

WOW.

After ordering Hubbie brought over our drinks, a beer for him, and of course a local for me – the Richmond Arms Sauvignon Blanc

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Considering it wasn’t awfully busy it still took some time to receive our meals… I used this time to run around the old-fashioned shops within the street, to find out of all things, a mobile phone car charger! It appeared that my phone was just not coping with all the photos I was snapping, and I couldn’t bare to waste all my battery and go home having not photographed all of Richmond-town. Oh, the horror! My prayers were answered at the large convenience corner store kinda opposite the Richmond Arms.

Exhale.

When the food did arrive, we were very hungry, and it looked delish. Well worth the wait.

I had the Asian vegetable and Hokkien noodle stir fry

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Hubbie had the Chicken schnitzel – served with chips/salad or vegetables and your choice of sauce (no salad, with sauce)

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And baby girl had the Macaroni cheese

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Firstly, Hubbie was so jealous when he saw my meal! I guess the thing with being married to someone is you have to give each other bites of your meal… for better, or for worse. I for one know Hubbie is hanging to have a bite of whatever I order when he starts offering me bits of his… in an attempt to subtly hint “hey, I want some.”

Ha ha.

The sauce was very flavoursome and the noodles and vegetables all combined well to make a delicious dish. There were bits of all kinds of veggies, and the presentation really was up there, not what I expected from the kitchen of that hotel… I was surprised. Pleasantly so.

Hubbie enjoyed what he had ordered. He was happy in that it was a hearty pub-style meal, and to be honest, simply what he had expected… it was chicken with vegetables after all. He was full, let’s just say.

Baby girl’s macaroni was overwhelmingly cheesy – hence the mac and cheese – so she struggled with it. She was not hating it, but wasn’t so much a fan as that was during her ‘plain’ phase. And this cheese-dripping-over-every-inch-of-macaroni meal was as far from plain as you could get. We fed her that, and chips and vegies from Hubbie’s plate to satisfy her lunchtime requests.

No fault of the meal’s… it was all her tastebuds that decided for her. It was an especially cheesy meal, not for the faint-cheese-hearted.

When it was time to go, we left happy and satisfied. We had been venturing through Bridge Street, and next… to Zoodoo Zoo it was!

It ended up being a most wonderful day 🙂

Food: 8/10. It was hearty, tasty, presentation was great… it ticked many of our boxes for good old-fashioned fare.

Coffee: N/A. We can’t put all our food and coffee eggs in one basket can we? We like to try out as many places as we can when we’re someplace new, meaning food and coffee don’t tend to happen at the same place. That happened over at Sweets and Treats earlier! I hope to one day be back at the Arms, and then I will know.

Ambience: Quiet. Lunchtime in Richmond tends to be a calm affair, even with the fact that it is a destination… it may pick up on weekends?

Staff: Almost non-existent, other than to bring our food over. If you need them, you know where to find them… up at the bar.

People: Pensioners pensioners pensioners. You know there were a lot of older people wandering around the street, clearly tourist-minded, however considering what there is to see, do and appreciate, I am surprised there were not a lot of younger families? Perhaps we came during off-peak season, which come to think of it, is not a bad thing.

Price: $69.00. Is that it? For food and drinks? Crap I am moving to Tasmania now…

Advice: Go when you’re not yet overly hungry, so you don’t mind waiting that extra bit for that steaming plate of love that comes out of the kitchen some time later.

In a nutshell: A really authentic and memorable lunch experience. The food is not average or out of date in any respects, despite what the interior and exterior may look like. The surrounds are interesting and reflect the nature of the street and town as a whole, which make the whole experience that much more pure and relevant. In my mind, legs and ARMS, it’s the only place to go.

The Richmond Arms Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Number 9

Vela 9
9 A’Beckett Street Inverloch

(Visited July ’18)

It was during our little mid-Winter getaway to the Bass Coast region in Victoria, in particular the Inverloch RACV Resort to take advantage of some cheap July stay options, that we ventured onto the main street in town and found this little café, an unassuming place that was hidden off the street (even being the main street!) but literally showed its depth and width once inside.

It was so windy that Tuesday, but surprisingly sunny. We had been up and down A’Beckett Street, venturing into cute little gift, homeware and clothes shops, and if we didn’t eat soon and get some much-needed respite from that wind, we might have just blown away.

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The exterior was dark not allowing much to be seen from the outside, and we came across a sign on the door, saying they were going to be closed for renovations… from the next day. Talk about timing. We were there literally on their last day of trading for a while. We opened the doors and headed on inside, and despite the very dark exterior saw it was your typical nice local café. There were spots of people situated about, eating some lunch while reading the newspaper, and your local man having his coffee by the counter, chatting to the lady behind it.

We would surely stick out like tourists in this place.

We sat down in the middle of the room on a large communal table, and I set about getting baby girl amused while we perused the menu.

They had drinks behind the bar! Score for Hubbie as he quickly got a Fat Yak, and straight scotch.

Well not just him, I was on a mini break too… a wine for me as well please.

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The insides were quirky and provided points of interests, with funny signs up on the wall that baby girl and I observed, which I then made doubly sure to keep her well-behaved (didn’t want her having no coffee!)

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After having a bit of a discussion with the main lady (it was only her and the chef out the back) she told us they were running a bit low on some menu options, what with their end-of-shop transformation starting the next day. We still found something to eat, and they were very flexible as we chopped and changed options and sides.

I ended up getting a kind of bacon and vegie chowder, with toasted bread on the side

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Hubbie got a steak pie with chips, salad and of course you cannot forget the good ol’ dead horse (that’s ‘sauce’ to my International readers, apologies, Aussie slang)

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And baby girl got a simple cheese toasted sandwich

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Now, I have been eating more bacon over the past few years. I am very fussy about what type of bacon it is, as I like mine just with the clean meat, no fat, and therefore Hubbie often ends up with most of it on his plate when I get too many streaky bits.

Only short cuts here peeps.

I don’t know why I went for this chowder. It was a risk, but the holiday spirit must have gotten to me.

I looked at the soup and went wow… lots of little fatty bits.

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots.

I started to question whether or not I should have gone for something with so much predominant bacon that there was really nowhere to hide.

It’s not that I am scared of the fat… I don’t like the bacon fat texture.

Despite all the fat in the bacon and the fact that I would usually balk at this, I pushed forward and very tentatively, took a spoonful.

And then another. And then another.

It was actually really good.

Because it was chopped into so many tiny pieces, the texture was softer and in amongst the soup, it blended into one. It was a big bowl, but alongside the beautifully warm bread, I actually ate most of it.

It was tasty, and the texture of the bacon I enjoyed! Why I never.

I had surprised myself.

Hubbie’s verdict was that it was a gourmet pie. It was a nice lunch for him, nothing to write home about, but nevertheless his only concern is that a café stocks alcohol, especially when he is on holiday, so do not be concerned over my too-fussy butcher-Hubbie. He was fine.

Baby girl was kept amused watching girls play with dolls on my phone while eating bit after bit of cheese sandwich. She was happy, and it became our side accompaniment when she could have no more, but by this stage our meals were also gone and we were already bursting at the seams. We paid for our meals up at the counter, had a brief chat to counter lady as only locals know how and headed back into the sunny, Wintery wind.

Food: 7/10. It was good hearty café fare that reflected the time of year well.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Quiet and low-key, but it was Winter, mid-week, and remember, we ain’t in the built-up parts anymore Toto…

Staff: Well, the two people there were both attentive and nice, as the waiter came out and had to readjust an order, and there was smiling… 😉

People: Locals dining on their own mostly, older generation.

Price: A very respectable $67.20 considering there were 3 alcoholic drinks involved. If you like your alcohol you might want to consider moving out of the city as it’s so much more affordable!

Advice: A great place to while away the day and escape the elements.

In a nutshell: It was hard to write a review as they were on the cusp of a renovation that would see them close shop for weeks, the day after we visited!

And giving out advice considering the above felt a bit unfair, but also surely, anything I could write or ponder over would surely be made better by them, by the time my words landed on the world wide web, right?

Safe to say, there has been nothing unfavourable to speak of. I’ve spoken of my experience which is still tied to the café, and the people there, which I believe and hope for their sakes are still running the joint. All was great and it is definitely a place I would like to go back to, to see how their renovation came along, and see what other fare they have on offer.

Definitely my go to when we head into A’Beckett street again.

Coast on down, to number 9…

Vela 9 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The difficult pursuit of Happiness

How do inspirational quotes make you feel? Happy? Elated? Like you can take on the world?

Our modern world is consumed with the notion of happiness – obtaining it, being it, and revelling in it. Often the pursuit of it however, becomes a journey littered with insecurity, frustration, and disappointment.

That is because of this very real and true fact: a full, adventurous and passionate life, will also undoubtedly come with its fair share of trouble and difficulty, challenge and sadness. In many cases, equal to any experiences of ‘happiness.’

We spend so much of our time trying to be happy, that this can often make us more depressed. Suppressing our normal day-to-day feelings and ignoring the root of our dis-ease, can cause us more harm than good, delaying the emotions that will inevitably surface at a later point in time.

I am not saying that trying to be of an optimistic disposition is a quality you shouldn’t try to adhere to and live by. It is certainly a better headspace to be in, and learning to be happy in a very consumeristic world riddled with technological issues and social media problems, old-age tests of character and identity involving family and friends, petty fights, injustices of race and class and sexual orientation and gender… well, finding a simple thing to be grateful for, such as something beautiful your daughter said to you, it can be the one thing that saves you in an otherwise upsetting and disappointing day.

I keep an online gratitude blog. Not to promote my profile, send a false image of myself out into the world, or even to pretend all is right in my life. It is not.

And even though I practice gratitude every day, I am by no means exceptionally skilled or a master of my craft. In the words of Dicky Fox in one of my most favourite of movies, Jerry Maguire…

“I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded.”

On that note, back to inspiring quotes. I love to read them, see them, put them up on my walls… hell, I even have a daily calendar that gives me a new quote to ponder every day.

Sometimes they speak to me, and other times they don’t. Today’s one jumped out at me in a very real way:

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And then later on social media, I saw another that triggered some sad tags of my heart.

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Translated from Croatian, it reads

“Don’t give up if it’s hard. Give up if it’s not important.”

Both of these quotes, though uplifting, have a certain degree of realism and ‘life is scary’ knocked into them, enough to keep you humble, yet also lift your head towards the clouds and give you Hope.

Well then, how do those quotes compare to this more positive one?

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How did you feel reading each? Did you feel better reading the cheerier, latter quote? Or did the ones with a real sense of everyday life grab you more? Is it purely based upon experiences and life circumstance, or do you think we are bound to feel better about ourselves when reading a more realistic quote, as opposed to a super-happy one that we feel forced to be like? Something that we are meant to aspire to, even if on that particular day, we may be better off just staring off into the sunset with sadness in our eyes?

Something to consider.

Oh, and because I can…

And that my friends, is a quote that makes me feel GREAT.

Thanks be to Burgers

Thanks Albert
32 Main Street Mornington

(Visited June ’17)

Burgers. That was the request on that Wintery day in mid-June. All Hubbie wanted was a burger. It wasn’t to be a fancy restaurant, a tapas-style menu, or zujjed up Italian-American style comfort food  –

Just, Burgers.

We had already been to YOMG a while back. We had eaten it – takeaway at home – and since the experience had not been IN the restaurant, is why I didn’t write a blog post about it.

When I was done eating it, I didn’t wanna waste my time writing. I mean, I couldn’t write about the entire dining experience anyway, since I hadn’t really had it within its defined doors… but all in all, all I could say was – oily. Salty. Too much of both. The first few bites tasted good, and then I was full.

Maccas tasted better. (Woah food blogger, don’t admit to eating Maccas).

Somehow, we remembered there was a burger joint, at some point down Main street, past YOMG, and across from the Mexican joint – the location was so clear in my mind, because I had walked that strip with baby girl only that day.

So we went. In search, of THE burger.

Upon entering Thanks Albert the contrast was apparent. Where YOMGs had been loud, music thumping, full of people and inhabiting a very LONG space, this eatery was smaller. Quieter. Only two small groups of other people were there at the time, and even with slight background music playing throughout the premises, I still could hear myself think.

And I heard the friendly greeting from the guy up front as we walked in.

I immediately loved it.

The guy asked us if we had a booking – er, no. That was ok, since presently the place was pretty quiet, and honestly if he had turned us down with that many empty seats, I would have been surprised. But with the small size of the joint, I could totally see why it would be a prerequisite on busy nights.

We were seated to our liking in a corner booth, which made us feel so at home, and also especially comfortable and happy with a squirmy, jumpy, can’t-sit-still baby girl. As we perused the drinks and food menu, looked around, settled in, and Hubbie got some beer samples because for the life of him couldn’t decide what beer to try (liar! – he just wanted to taste-test) I was staring straight ahead at me at the circular frames containing quotes on the wall.

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I had already looked and observed the colour red, abundant around me, the suspended light bulbs – hanging a fair distance from the ceiling, further adding to the ‘I have an idea!’ moment – wondering why the place was thanking some dude called Albert, and reading all the signs up on the wall, one by one, in between trying to work out what I was going to order, when I read a quote, that literally had me at a lightbulb moment.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

!

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Why, that was an Albert Einstein quote…. They ALL were!

And his face was on the glasses! Everywhere! (A delayed comprehension I know).

Hence the birth of Thanks Albert.

Sheesh. Now I loved it more. Gratitude and profound thanks to a world-changing game-changer and inventor, someone who would affect the world for centuries to come, an absolute legend in his own right? A restaurant dedicated to him? (Did he like burgers? Doesn’t matter).

Wow.

Maybe he invented that, too. That’s not for us to life amateurs speculate. All we need to know about is the food that night.

After Hubbie finally decided on a pot of Mountain Goat, and I got a glass of Pinot Noir
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(Loved the wine glasses by the way) we ordered some food, and soon after received

A Thanks Albert burger –Angus beef patty, double cheese, Thanks Albert mustard, dill pickle, red onion, tomato, butter lettuce, aioli, with fries for Hubbie

A Simply the Breast burger – Southern fried buttermilk chicken, bacon, smokey BBQ sauce, caramelised onion, tomato, butter lettuce, for me

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And a Kids chicken and chips meal, with free OJ drink, for baby girl

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I had actually wanted to try the house burger like Hubbie, but in Food Review blogging style, there was no chance in hell we were going to have the same meal. So I went for the chicken one, as I eat it so much, I might one day grow wings and fly as my Dad liked to tell me growing up.

Hubbie enjoyed his burger, and yes, it was more to his liking than their competitor down the road. I also enjoyed mine, but with all burgers, was feeling overfull about half-way through.

Thank God I didn’t get any chips. I pecked on baby girl’s, as hers was a decent meal for a 3 year-old, of chicken pieces and chips. We also decided early on, that her chips were better than Hubbie’s.

His contained, and I assume maybe all adult meals, the secret seasoning, making it a tasty yet also very salty combination. With the already overload of burger, bun, salt and oil, it was a bit too over-the-top for me, and US. I guess next time, we would hold the seasoning, and go for the plain ones like baby girl had.

We were definitely full by the end of it all. I had been keeping a cheeky monkey out of trouble by controlling her inate desire to blow bubbles into her OJ glass (it overflowed at least twice and had us grabbing at bar napkins), and as the burgers were soon devoured, we slowly pecked at chips, peck peck peck, ‘til it was time to go.

Food: 7.5/10. Comforting, salty, and inventive. Really filling.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Chilled, cosy yet uplifting, what with all those lightbulbs at almost eye-level.

Staff: The guy who greeted us, who was behind-the-bar and also EVERYTHING guy, was fabulous, and the one who brought out our food was super-friendly too… more on him below.

People: A few couples were floating around, and then a group of high-teens sat next to us. The burger place is definitely the flame to all the teenage moths around (or in this case, the lightbulb to all the teens), as this place showed us that night, even more so YOMG a while back, which was practically a nightclub on a weeknight.

Price: $60.50. For a dine-out, takeaway style meal on the ‘up’ side, with alcohol… that sounds about right.

Advice: If you aren’t keen on too much salt or seasoning, skip their special one and opt for the normal kind. Maybe you, like me, only need a burger to satisfy you (especially if you can peck on the nearby chips of a loved one). And thirdly, if you have a child (or husband) who makes too much mess, sit yourself near the bar for easy napkin access. You won’t be sorry.

In a nutshell: This place was far superior to me than YOMG, and the little extra attention near the end of our experience won me over…

Once we had received our meals, the guy out the back (chef/owner, both?) came out and checked on our meals as we were eating, to see if all was good. Considering by this stage there were a few groups out, and he went over to them too as well as us, in my books, he got massive brownie points for.

That’s the kind of thing I give Thanks for. 😉

Thanks Albert Burger Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s the Big Deal about 2016 anyway?

It first started as a few funny online photos and memes.

‘2016, bleh,’

‘This is how my 2016 has been,’ – a man getting run over by a getaway trolley,

and then there was the one that showed Buffy sucking a lollypop that said ‘me at the beginning of 2016,’ next to an image of her post – demon fighting with hair dishevelled and looking insanely disrupted, with the caption ‘me at the end of 2016.’

I got a bit mad there. Not because they used Buffy – that was cool. I was shitty that people were treating the past year as if it was an other-worldly force, and they were the slayer, and they had battled demons from an open hellmouth and almost, just survived to tell the tale.

Let’s be honest. I’m sure there are people who have battled their figurative demons in 2016. In terms of world percentages, they are probably a small portion compared to those who bitch and whinge and moan that it was a bad year, when all that really happened was that guy dumped them, and they found out the other guy they’d been going after was actually gay.

Or that guy lost out his promotion to that arrogant arse-sucking snivelling tie-wearing suit, or he had to move back in with his parents, or he had to eat rice and tuna for one month of the year to make ends meet.

I’m sure, shit has happened to EVERYONE this past year. Because guess what? Life goes UP…

…And life goes DOWN.

And to think that it can go in any other direction than those, or that it will continue to stay up, and will never get dark, is just not very conducive or responsible, mature or wise, to anyone’s way of living.

What I’m getting at is this: There are too many people out there focusing on the bad that happened in the last year, when guess what? Bad things happen EVERY YEAR.

They can happen every month.

They can happen every week.

They can happen every day.

And they can happen every moment.

Sometimes luck is involved, and you may not come across a bad incident, scenario or situation for quite a while…

And at other times, your attitude determines everything.

Backtrack a bit. Your attitude ALWAYS determines everything.

Its not to say that horrible, terrible, life and death and sickly things happen all the time. They do. They really truly do, and that is scary stuff. One can be completely forgiven for breaking down and curling into a ball when it actually does. And you can call out 2016 for being the worst year of your life, and shout and scream at it until the clock strikes midnight at 2017.

But, having a bad month?

Your child shitting you up the wall?

Depressed because you can’t find a house?

Oh, you drive too far to work?

What’s that, the broccoli from the supermarket is smelly?

It’s been cold the first 3 weeks of summer?

Oh damn, your morning coffee just got burnt.

And what about not having your heating working in the coldest part of the year?

Poor, poor you.

I’ve used many examples above of things that Hubbie and I have expressly been subject to over the last few months. And although many of these things were annoyances, and setbacks, through the hardship and whinging, we still got up, we still moved on, we still put our chins up, and learnt to look at and focus on the things that were really good in our lives.

And they were really good.

You have to know the difference between life-changing, or plot twist. One of my favourite quotes is the below one, as it really puts things in perspective:

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Shit happens every year guys. It happens all the time. Think of that next time they stuff up your order at the posh restaurant, or your friend backstabs you to the girl-group.

Go to a different restaurant next time.

Tell that friend to go jump.

Just MOVE ON.

Because this is YOUR life, and you should live it fully, focusing on what’s best, fantastic, and joyful around you… and if you do, your good fortune, favourable days and happy circumstances, will genuinely multiply.

And if you don’t… well then every one of your days, weeks, months and years on earth, will be just… bleh.

Your choice.

Really.

 

 

 

Things that shit me… #11

Hate is a strong word. I try to avoid using it.

So instead I will begin with this:

“How do I intensely dislike thee July? Let me count the ways.”

  1. My Mum was told she would have to have an operation.
  2. Then she was told she doesn’t have to have an operation, but she was nonetheless stressed beyond belief with the recognition that her life had to change.
  3. Because of her health and this life change, everyone’s lives have now been impacted, including mine, Hubbie’s and baby girl’s, and she and my Dad cannot babysit baby girl when I go to work.
  4. Because they cannot babysit anymore, my babysitting arrangements have had to drastically change and now I am stressed beyond belief over how she will cope.
  5. I feel like I have lost a part of my parents.
  6. On another note, I had a major repair to my new car! Hooray!
  7. It’s still not 100%.
  8. I have been sick.
  9. Baby girl has been sick.
  10. Hubbie is still sick.
  11. Baby girl has developed some kind of ear ache that flairs up whenever it wants to, as a side effect of her cold.
  12. It has been really cold.
  13. I am cramping at this moment at 10:17pm July 31st mother f*&ker.
  14. I have had many decent cries and sobs this month, including tonight.
  15. I have heard of two relationships ending this month, both long-term serious ones, and one of them involved children.
  16. Other people I know have had issues with personal stuff and their family life, so its not just me folks. I think the planets were screwing with us all this month.

I actually think I’ve forgotten stuff, but this is just the initial list that springs to mind. By highlighting all this July-crap, I have in effect reversed the efforts of my carcrashgratitude blog, where I have also written about the crapola month that has been July.

Funny writing about something that’s annoying you as an item of gratitude, right?

It’s called Balance.

GOODBYE JULY. You shit me.

Cancelling Plans

You’re either a person who cancels, or a person who commits and comes through with your pre-spoken words… right? Well, that’s how I saw it for a LONG time. People who cancelled plans, cancelled appointments, made last-minute changes, and didn’t come through on what they had promised were all part of one big category for me – the unreliable and scatterbrained ones were the ‘cancellers.’

It was awfully inefficient to cancel on someone. I didn’t really notice how much it bugged me, but every so often when a fellow friend would say “sorry, my kid is sick,” or a meeting was stuffed up on the other end, or someone arrived at my house an hour past the expected time while I twiddled my thumbs staring at the clock, it kind of grated on my nerves. I mean, I was a Mum. I had a child. I worked, I kept the house (somewhat) clean and in a state of organised mess. I cooked. I saw my parents. I wrote as much as I damn well could. I shopped a fair bit, with caffeine inserted in the blank spaces in-between. So if I could get my shit together and not cancel on someone, and always come through on what I had promised somebody, well what was their excuse?

I wouldn’t get upset or anything. You know the normal “no, that’s ok!” response you do when someone is profusely apologising to you, smiling through your teeth. That’s ok, I love my plans being turned upside down. Mums LOVE unpredictability, it reminds them of how fun it is to have a toddler. (No really, I’m being sarcastic). I’d move on, a bit peeved, but I’d move on. I was not a canceller. I was efficient, and despite some of the hardest of times, I tried my damn-dest to succeed at following through on my plans. You know that quote from Jerry Maguire, where the father of the sports kid that Jerry is chasing to represent, says to Jerry “My word is stronger than oak!” (Before completely doing a 180 on him in a following scene and proving that his word was actually more flimsy like tissue paper). Well that was me. My word was oak. Strong and solid, like the first scene, not the second.

Cancelling isn’t only annoying when plans don’t go ahead… it’s an inconvenience. I am so busy, and not only that, I’m in a regular routine especially with a toddler in tow who also depends heavily on it, that it takes much effort and faith to just schedule time in for someone, and then to have that person go ahead and make other plans last second. Even if they are sick, a little part of me is thinking ‘hypochondriac… toughen up.’

A little while back, (not my last cold but a previous cold) all of a sudden, out of the blue, I got sick. Not runny nose, sore throat, sneezing like Snow White’s dwarf sick. I woke up and vomited. And then vomited. And vomited. And not much was being kept down. I had camomile tea, I had black coffee, and I had plain bread. And I still vomited. It was like the deepest depths of my stomach were being unearthed to unseen archaeologists digging away at it, throwing up bits of food as they went.

And what happened? I became the ‘canceller.’

I hated it. I called one person to cancel an appointment I’d had for baby girl. It was literally an hour before I had to go, and I cancelled on her, practically last second. Then the following day, when I was still getting over my stomach heaving, and getting used to that constant feeling of intense nausea, I had a friend message me:

“Still good for lunch today?”

Crap. We were meant to be meeting for lunch at work, and here I was at home, feeling sorry for myself on the couch.

Toughen up, hypochondriac.

Oh God, not another one. With remorse I messaged her back telling her I was sick and was actually at home. She replied this:

“Oh sweetheart. That’s terrible. Hope you feel better soon.”

She went on to say what other days suited her for a lunch date, but those first few lines stayed in my head. What she had written had shocked me. They shocked me, because I had felt them to be genuine. For all I know she could have been doing the typical “oh no! That’s ok!” line I used to do, but I didn’t believe it to be so. This felt real, and all I remember thinking is ‘She cares about me, more than our plans.’

That realisation really hit me. I had been so concerned about life and things running to schedule, that I’d forgotten that life often throws us things and puts us off track. It can sometimes take a while to jump back on. But with the help and support of loved ones, it’s often done faster than if you have people jeering you from the sidelines calling you a hypochondriac. I was also touched by how Hubbie took over and did everything for baby girl and I in those days that I was incapacitated. Hypochondriac, I know. But I’m always doing EVERYTHING, so for me to just lie there and whisper repeatedly “I can’t,” he knew something serious was up. He came through for us all and had me saying “thank you” like a very broken record.

I had a great opportunity to test my new found realisation of ‘shit happens, people matter more than plans’ discovery very soon after. The following night, Hubbie grew increasingly ill and took to the couch complaining of nausea, 3 hours before we were meant to go out for my bestie’s birthday. He had caught what I’d had.

Now the old me, would have been a little shitty. The old me would have been like ‘are you sure you’re sick? Come on, put on this shirt.’ The old me would have been upset at the sight of Hubbie lying on the couch while I imagined all my friends together at a rooftop bar. The old me would have been, slightly resentful, just at the situation, and how shit the timing was.

Bu I’d had a few days to think. Going through my head were these thoughts:

1. Remember, people are more important than plans.

2. Hubbie looked after me days ago.

3. He’s only sick because he caught what I had.

I was soon running off to the pharmacy for late night medications and messaging bestie a ‘sorry’ message on the way.

Being sick had taught me many things.

We’re all human.

Shit happens.

People are more important.

Don’t lose sight of that.

I used to fight against reality, pretend to be superhuman, and get upset when other people didn’t try to be a superhero too. But, we aren’t in an episode of Angel (unfortunately). I can’t stay up fighting demons all night and then expect to be cheery the next day and ready to tackle my Mum duties with a hop, skip and a jump.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t become a ‘canceller’ over this, and I will be slightly wary whenever anyone changes plans on me… but I will be softer about it, and when I say “no, that’s ok,” I might just half mean it.