Monthly Archives

November 2012

Parenthood

Parenting the little girl with the crazy eyes

November 22, 2012

I’m quite introspective at the moment, going through that usual crisis of just your bog standard futility of life. Most nights I go to bed just after eight and sit with my back against the wall and spread out across the huge expanse (I got a king size version for my birthday recently) with laptops and books and notes and pencils. I have pretty good intentions to write, or at least outline, but mostly I end up watching old Red Dwarf episodes. Then I jot down Christmas shopping lists that include things like ‘everything the girls have ever asked for’ and ‘whatever the girls say they want’ because I am caught in a deep mother guilt and am reasonably sure that the reason Georgia doesn’t have any friends is because I didn’t buy her enough things when she was a toddler.

Here she is at her recent school disco. The dress is a fluoro number I bought from Seed, for Lily actually but she cried because she hated it so much, and the rest is Georgia’s creative license in the photo booth. I love this kid so much that the first thing I did when I saw this, before I groaned at her obsession with Gangnam Style (she showed it to me on YouTube) or the fact that she seems to have stolen everyone else’s glow sticks, was cry. A lot. Because all I see in this picture is her aloneness. I see a little girl so excited about being at the disco that she doesn’t know how to push the excitement out and has eyes that are flashing with hysteria. I see a little girl trying to do the things that will make the other kids like her, and I can imagine her asking them to join her in the booth because she knows how cool it is to wear feather hair pieces and them looking at her like they can’t even hear the words she’s saying.

I’ve started taking the time to finish my afternoon’s work early so that I can pick her up from school. Yesterday I saw her walking towards me with another girl, and my heart lurched clean out of my chest because I thought she might have a person to confide in and to feel good about it, and my brain in denial took all that time to realise it was just Lily. While Lily informed me that she had outgrown the nickname she’s had since infancy, Georgia held my hand and said that she thought a girl in her class had invited her to visit their farm, but now it turned out that she didn’t want her to come after all. ‘Maybe she hadn’t checked with her mum, and she’s not allowed to take people to the farm,’ I said, but Georgia told me that she knew it was because this girl didn’t like her anymore and maybe never had liked her.

Now I crumble with every step of my day of parenting this girl, my first born baby so blonde and soft and bleating inside a tiny body like a kidney bean; my mirror and my friend. I don’t know how to punish her when she misbehaves, because what can I take away from her that could be worse than being on her own? and what if this was the day she would meet her new friend at the pool and I stopped her because she hadn’t cleaned her room? and what if she doesn’t know how to talk to other people because she uses her brain spaces to remember how to pack the dishwasher? This morning she read a book of science experiments instead of getting dressed for school, and for a moment I yelled at her to Get Dressed, and You Can’t Take Your Book To School, but later I gave her the book anyway because maybe the other kids would like to do science experiments with her.

I don’t know how to help her make friends because she’s spent 9 years without any, and now when the other kids do show an interest in her she grabs them like a favourite toy and won’t let them go, until they slide out of her grasp like mercury and she says ‘people don’t like me’. I am hard up against a wall that shouts that it’s true, the other kids don’t like her, but it’s not because she’s not clever or funny or pretty or generous or considerate because she is all of those things. How do you look your child in her enormous crazy eyes and try inelegantly to explain that it’s the others who are missing out, not her, when you know from experience that all she wants is to be a normal kid and not give a shit about the needles in her heart and just have one friend – just one – who will cross the road to say hello to her.

On the night of the disco, when she got home, I asked her who she danced with and she said “myself”, but not in the comfortable bohemian way. Just the regular alone way.

Beautiful Things

Taking the long way home

November 19, 2012
country3

We had a location shoot today out on the Yarra Valley fringe, so I used the opportunity to take myself and my bad mood on a bit of a drive. The two of us went out through Warrandyte, where a dozen squat old shops sit proud along part of the Yarra that is quite narrow. We drove along a narrow, winding road out to Kangaroo Ground, and at some point I was overwhelmed by anxiety and turned around so I could pretend I was going home, and after that I was okay again. I find that the anxious brain is easily fooled in to and out of anxiety.

Without giving any storyline away, because I know you are all avid Neighbours watchers and would be devastated, I spent the morning in a tiny country chapel that was exactly the way you would imagine a tiny country chapel might be, with creeping roses that fell about the front doors in a sullen fringe. Inside, rows of ancient pews with wood polished by years of sitting and standing and kneeling and sitting again, and knots that told stories about the trees from which they came.

Once I’d done some real work, I drove back the long way, and by the long way I mean about 45km in the wrong direction. I drove through all the outer Melbourne landscapes – wineries, hills, farmland – and each time I thought I might turn right and head toward my house, I turned left and headed somewhere else. I saw gum trees on hilltops as though painted into the sky and marching lines of young vines and black cows asleep in the shade.

Everywhere I turned, something else reminded me of home, which is to say Adelaide. The Barossa. McLaren Vale. Happy Valley. Norton Summit, where everything is always blackened by fire in one way or another. The sad part of my brain said, “This is all so much like home. I’m so homesick.” but then the rational part said, “It reminds you of home because ‘home’ is not that different or special. It’s all part of the same landscape.” So although there are things about home that cannot be replicated – like nannas and favourite old Italian restaurants – sometimes you can find them again somewhere else.

I came home and wrote some emails and put some organic beef and local red wine on the stove to make a pie.

Actual Work, NaNoWriMo, Parenthood, Womanhood, Writing

So in summary …

November 18, 2012

Sometimes life calls for a summary post. It’s not always easy to make the words come out in the right order, especially if you’ve been giving them to NaNoWriMo instead.

Georgia

Six months ago we went to Georgia’s teacher in desperation, to have a go at figuring out why she’s lonely and sad. Last week we got the results of the school’s monitoring and subsequent assessment. Now we have a list of new people to go and see and ask the same questions to. In the meantime, Lily outstrips her in all social and creative endeavours, whilst Georgia’s various neuroses seem to be overwhelming her (and me).

Lady troubles

I have some. Now I’m going through the rigmarole of specialists and blood tests and ultrasounds and I don’t recommend it very much at all.

Writing

I’ve slowed to a halt on NaNo, but I have 18,000 words I didn’t have before, and now I’m investing that energy into a 10 month intensive first drafting course. Hopefully this time next year I will have something of substance. I think you’ll like my main character. She’s insane.

Sam Simmons on Ramsay Street

I finally launched this! It took a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, and this is the first episode in a series of ten. They get more hilarious and absurd as they go on. I think you’ll like* it.

Now that you’re up to date, go and see what amazing things Eden is doing in India and then make this creme brulee cheesecake because I did and it is like a spiritual awakening disguised as a cake.

NaNoWriMo, Writing

Tenses

November 7, 2012

I struggle with tenses. I like the way past tense reads, but I feel like I can represent emotions better in present tense. So the idea I’m kind of working on is to have the first part of the book (about 50,000 words) in past tense, with the story unfolding in a narrative way (though a little fantastical), and then have the second part of the book (about 20,000 words) more like a stream of consciousness.

Clear as mud, right? If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them (on the tenses, not on how bollocks I am at first drafts!).

Continue Reading…

Writing

5 Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

November 6, 2012
5-tips-for-winning-nanowrimo

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I say “doing”, but what I mean is “registered for”. Last year I wrote about 54,000 words, which officially made me a winner but in actuality made me very tired. Also, none of the words were salvageable. Well, maybe six words. But as a winner, I feel it is my duty to impart my tips for winning.

1. Give your children to someone else

I got up at 7am this morning – a public holiday – to write. I was so pumped. I took my laptop outside and sat under the pergola while it poured with rain and there was the kind of cool breeze that feels like angel fingers stroking your face and then bam, my kids were there. Under normal circumstances I would have enjoyed the way they set up paper and textas and glitter glue around me, demanding that I pose in particular ways so they could sketch my portrait. But the resulting writing was “GO AWAY PLEASE JUST FOR TEN MINUTES OR EVEN FIVE JUST FIVE MINUTES OKAY ONE MINUTE” which was poetic, I’ll admit, but not in keeping with my plot.

2. Break up with your friends

It’s nice when your friends want to hang out with you, truly. But here’s the thing: they won’t understand NaNoWriMo. a) they don’t understand how long 50,000 words is (it’s about 200 pages); b) they don’t understand why anyone would feel the need to create a false deadline that nearly kills them just to say that they did; c) they want you to come to the pub. FINE. GO TO THE PUB. But you’ll come home afterward and stare at that blank screen and wish with all your soul that you’d skipped the pub and written 1000 words instead because now you have zero.

3. Gouge out your eyes

NaNo has this hilarious graph on its website that tells you how far behind you are. “At this rate,” it says, “you won’t finish until February 15th 2014.” It gives you an illustrated overview of how many words you haven’t written today and how many you have to write every day from now on just to finish on time and not have to kill yourself. And if that didn’t make you feel sufficiently dreadful about every achievement you’ve never had, it also gives you a bar chart of just how far ahead of you everyone in your local area is. Without eyes, you won’t have to see it! Get some voice recognition software. One that won’t tell you how far behind you are.

4. Forget all your hopes and dreams

Having hopes and dreams – especially ones about writing – is a waste of time and energy. The space your hopes and dreams occupy in your mind should be producing meaningless tripe to put down on a page in order to meet an arbitrary word count. Ditch “I would love to have my book published” and replace it with a scene about the time he took her to the shops and there was no bread left. Abolish “Writing brings me the greatest joy I’ve ever known” and instead try cramming extra adjectives into every sentence. “At the stark, grey supermarket, Allie took Jeremiah’s cold, wrinkled hand and slowly walked the empty corridors in search of a wheaty, soft loaf. But there were none.” There, doesn’t that feel better?

5. Give up

If you don’t have access to a full frontal lobotomy, an alternative might be your local Thirsty Camel or corrupt doctor friend. Take your manuscript, set fire to it, find a good blanket and try to remember what it was like before NaNoWriMo, when you really thought you could be something.

What I know about ...

What I know about … remembering

November 5, 2012

I am the kind of person who remembers everything. This is not a good or bad thing and it’s not a competition, it’s just something that I do.

I remember the trivial things. One day I decided to see if I could remember my childhood best friend’s phone number, and ten years later I could (but I didn’t dial it in case someone weird answered). I have actively tried not to remember my own credit card number, because the only thing stopping me from spending every dollar I have is sheer laziness in reaching for my purse (I have now memorised it by accident, so there is no hope for me). I remember things like my first boyfriend’s birthday (January 7th 1981) and my year 1 teacher’s first name (Brenton) and the number of the bus I had to catch to the city when I was ten (703).

One day when I was about 15 my mum said to me, Anna, do you remember this family called the Edmonsons, and I said, Yes, their backyard had a paved area with a Hills Hoist to the right and a black table with five chairs and the house was a kind of cream stucco with four windows. And she said, We haven’t been there since you were ten months old and I shrugged like it was nothing but that’s a pretty long memory.

I don’t remember names. Just this morning I forgot the name of a friend’s girlfriend – a person I’ve known for at least five years. It just clean ducked out of my memory and was quite insistent about not coming back. I had to call my friend and ask him, it was so embarrassing. If you show me a photo of someone, I’ll remember their favourite food, how they take their coffee, what they smell like, where they live, what car they drive and their past three places of employment. But I will balk at their name, and just start shouting random names until I come up with one that’s close enough to spark my memory.

I remember the less trivial things too. I remember the way my first cat smelt like tuna and dandelion flowers because we used to roll in them together. I remember the recipe for my nanna’s very best scones (use wholemeal flour and brown sugar). I remember my dad’s credit card number in case I run out of my own money and urgently need to register a domain. I’ve actively tried not to remember how I felt when my favourite boyfriend left me on a train station platform to smoke on my own, forever, but that one is lodged in there too. I remember what we had for dessert on the last day of the camp I went on in year six (thin French waffles, rolled up and filled with hot caramel fudge, with whipped cream on both ends). I remembered the chef’s face many years later when I read a story about him in the paper after he’d molested fifteen schoolboys.

Sometimes I feel the memories forming at the time, and think to myself that one day I’ll tell someone else about this and remember when I started remembering it.