Taking notes

I can’t really put my finger on why I feel compelled to blog. Just like that option about relationships on Facebook, it’s complicated.

I do like to think of myself as a storyteller and if I can get a few laughs along the way, all the better.

Perhaps Mr Morley, my 6th Grade teacher, is part of it. Even since he kindly but succinctly critiqued my attempt at a retelling of “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” – Michelle, I appreciate your hard work but your writing is verbose – I’ve felt the need to hone my writing skills.

Maybe it’s a way of quieting the voices in my head. I find putting thoughts into words on a page brings clarity and some sense of order.

My love affair with blogging actually started about eight years ago. I was going through (what I hope will be) the most disastrous time in my life. I had the trifecta – career; family; marriage – all in the shitter. There’s no nicer way to put it. Everything was crappy.

I was suffering deep anxiety and depression at the time (of course, had no idea that’s what it was) and I credit taking up writing in a journal for helping me through those really tough days.  I committed to writing one page per day, last thing at night.

At first, it was so very, very trite. My entries read like that nasty classic “What I did in my holidays”. It was just a recount of what I’d done for the day.

At the same time, I discovered you could actually do this on the internet and I started my own blog – The Blah-Blah. Nothing controversial. No deep inner revelations. No dark secrets. It was just like my journal – dull and boring and nothing at all of the real me in there.

Some time later I re-read both the early days of my journal and my blog, knowing full well what was really going on, and I could see how much of a liar I was. There was no hint of any distress at all. They were positively dripping with sweetness and ‘hail-fellow-well-met”.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Then the shit really hit the fan. My dad died. And all the crap came spilling out as life as I knew it exploded around me.

Finally, my journal did what it was supposed to do. It released all the pent-up angst, all the hurt, all the sorrow. Some nights I struggled to condense it all onto just one page.

Unfortunately, my blog took a turn for the worse as well, diving into diatribe. I took a good look at it one day and deleted the whole thing. It had become nothing more than a moan about things that were either out of my control or of my own doing. I felt embarrassed to have all that out for public display.

I kept my journals (there ended up being 5 of them) buried in the back of my cupboard for a few years. I made NIH promise to find them and burn them if I died. He knew everything about me so I wasn’t worried about him reading them (it’s one of the reasons I love him dearly – he knows it all and loves me anyway) but I worried about anyone else finding them.

About three years ago I did a big spring clean. Life was relatively good – there was still that pesky little issue with infertility but apart from that, I loved who I had become and where I was in life.  I pulled the journals out of the cupboard and flicked through them all.

Oh, that me was so sad and lost. Even now, I get a lump in my throat thinking of her. She was a total mess.

So I ripped them apart and burnt all the pages, even those heart-wrenching entries just before and after my dad passed away. The journals had served their purpose and I didn’t need to hold onto all that pain anymore. It was past time to let it all go.

I started “Creative Midlife” as a way of discussing my journey from librarian to graphic designer. It was meant to be a showcase of my work whilst being an amusing little aside at my life – a token diary without too much angst.

I decided to be real but not offensive. I wanted to write stuff that might leave me vulnerable but at least be my truth. I didn’t want to be a liar anymore.

It’s interesting to see how the blog has evolved around my life – first as a foray into a vastly different career, then as an IVF war veteran, then an immigrant to a different country and now as a second-time-around mother. I’m so glad I have kept a written record of the highlights. Sure, it’s not been all wine and roses but still it’s been good.

I don’t think I’ll be deleting it any time soon.

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Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game

I’m struggling to align my mental image of myself with my new role as SAHM in this Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game called ‘Life’.  You may have heard of it – like World of Warcraft only without the healers to come and get you back in the game after you’ve accidentally set yourself on fire.

It’s nothing new. I’ve been here before and asked the same hard-hitting question:

“What the Sam Hill will I do with myself while the baby is sleeping that will make me feel clever and worthwhile and maintain the shreds of sanity I’m barely hanging onto … but doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning or craft?”

In the olden days of my first time around as SAHM,  I discovered study and I really do attribute it to keeping me from going completely ga-ga.  I started my Bachelor of Science (Library Technology) via Virtual Campus and of course, fell pregnant midway through my first semester. Never one to let a mere trifle as children stop me, I carried on for the next 10 years, cutting back to one unit a semester when life got complicated (i.e. had another baby) until I finished.

Once I’d completed that sucker, I was hooked and went on to do a few other courses and diplomas related to teaching, editing, proofreading and graphic design.

The only one I didn’t see through to the end was the teaching grad dip. One round of prac finished me. I had three kids at home already – did I really want a class full of them as well?

Looking back, I note that I started them all at a time where I was struggling with my identity and self-esteem. Some people drink and take drugs. I get my jollies from assignments. Drugs would probably be cheaper (just ask my accountant about my HECS debt)  but hey, my addiction fills out a CV really well and makes me look smart.

This SAHM do-over, I vowed to take a different path from the norm. I would get involved with mum’s groups and baby play-based education sessions. I would take the baby for long walks in the pram. Leave baby home with Dad occasionally and go out for Friday afternoon drinks with the girls.

I would not sign myself up for more study and would definitely not spend countless hours at the computer with the baby asleep (or waving its arms frantically in hopes of gaining my attention) in a bouncer at my feet.

If I were grading myself on how I’m doing so far, it would look like this:

“Welcome to Stay At Home Motherhood … again.

So far your efforts to get out and socialise are to be commended and you seem to be tracking well for achieving some semblance of regular adult conversation and interaction – even if it is baby-centric. Excellent work. Keep it up.

I see you’ve arranged to get together with former work mates this week. Please remember that whilst your world revolves around your baby’s bowel motions and cute smile that may or may not be related to said bowel motions, not everyone will want to hear about it.

A simple “Baby is still alive. Husband and I still talk to each other with words of more than one syllable. I am a little tired but all is good” will suffice.  Try engaging interest with topics other than your baby such as world politics, the state of Kim and Kanye’s marriage woes or, if desperate, the weather.

However … I see you’re getting into the blogging again and I wonder if this is a wise choice?  That baby is only going to take vigorous bouncing at your feet for so long before she really jacks up. Please arrange an appointment to see me about this before it goes much further.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone is waving their arms at me frantically …

The little things …

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I liked and shared a post on Facebook this morning called “Six reasons why you should read The Princess Bride“.  The original book by William Goldman (not the film adaptation) is so very witty, inventive and massively tongue in cheek.  I was introduced to it by my next door neighbour Helen.

She was the oldest of five kids and about 6-7 years older than me. She babysat us sometimes when we were on school holidays and had a great collection of interesting reads in the small bookcase in the room she shared with her younger sister.  I always think of Helen as my ‘dealer’, fostering a voracious appetite for reading, as well as possibly setting me on the long and winding path to a 20 year career in libraries.

On this particular day, I was sitting on the floor in her room, browsing through the titles when she reached over and pulled out one with a gorgeously hand-drawn picture of a beautiful blonde-haired woman on its cover and said, “Read this. It’s weird but funny. You’ll love it.”

As always, she was right. It was weird but really, really funny (and a little different to the movie – although this is not a movie bashing post!).

In Goldman’s telling, “The Princess Bride” is an epic work by Florinese author S. Morgenstern that Goldman’s father used to read to him as a young child. As an adult, he reads the story himself and discovers his father actually cut out large chunks of the story and only told “the good bits”. Sounds strange but it really does work.

Another literary classic Helen introduced me to was “The Hobbit”.  As usual, she picked it out for me and handed it over with the advice that I might find the language a bit hard going but I really should persevere because one day I will want to read “Lord of the Rings” and this little book with a dragon basking in a sea of gold on the front cover will set up the back story.

Helen also possessed the album Jeff Wayne’s musical version of “War of the Worlds“. Anyone remember that?  My clearest memory of Helen babysitting us consists of making and eating pancakes with lemon and sugar and my brother and I begging her to let us listen to ‘War of the Worlds’. We had to promise her that we wouldn’t have nightmares before she’d give in. Of course, we did have nightmares (I still can’t hear the musical yet creepy call of the martians’ “Ooohhllaaaa” without getting the shivers) but that was all part of the fun.

It’s been years since I last saw Helen. She grew up and left home then Mum and Dad moved house and the two families that had once lived so closely with kids in and out of each place lost touch for years at a time.

Although a couple of books and a musical record that was a little left-of-centre may seem like small things, they struck a chord and have stuck with me throughout my adulthood (I purchased ‘War of the Worlds’ on Google Play and listened to it whilst doing long haul on a bus through Europe last year. It still spooked me.)

And I have Helen to thank for introducing them to me.  I wonder if she knows that, in some small way, she is responsible for the woman I am today?

I guess the point of this whole thing is that every person that comes into your life has something to show you, even if at the time they may seem like such little things.

Signs from the Universe

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courtesy of DK Photography

I woke from a vivid dream yesterday morning that left me slightly troubled and found me questioning where I was headed with all this graphic-design-in-the-comfort-of-shorts-and-tshirt-at-home malarky.

You see, sometimes it feels a little TOO comfortable. Too safe. Lots of time to do things like make bread, make my NIH’s lunch every day, get the washing done, have morning tea catch-ups, grocery shopping and keep the house in some semblance of order. I get interesting jobs but spaced out enough that I’m not having a coronary.  And in this day and age of hustle and bustle and high-octane stress … well, it feels a little wrong somehow.

So my dream had me sitting in a caravan talking to a guy I went to school with about living life to your fullest potential. I had sat next to this guy in our school’s version of “Home Room” for 5 years and, let’s be honest, had a major crush on him for roughly the same amount of time. Sadly, he died last year – far too early and from last photos, looking far too much like my dad’s last days when cancer had found it’s mark. A cruel and untimely death that seems unfair, especially since he was only my age.

In the dream, he was questioning me on whether I was really pushing myself to achieve. Was I growing and developing my skills? Was I reaching my full potential? Would I still be pottering (my brain coughs politely and inserts ‘pretending’ there) with being a graphic designer?  Should I be looking for a ‘traditional’ job with a company or organisation in a design-related area that would improve my skills/develop my experience/pay me more money?

Now, graphic designer jobs are few and far between where I live in rural Central Queensland. But I do know that there are a couple of jobs I know I could do and have a pretty good chance of scoring with a previous employer. However …

  • I work on contract for an association that requires me to travel to Brisbane once every 2-3 months and I’d have to ask permission for time off
  • I would have to ask permission to take holidays and we’ve already planned one biggish one and a couple of mini’s (can you tell I hate having to ask for permission?)
  • I still have 3 units to finish of my Diploma and trying to do that with full time work and still doing jobs on the side would be crazy
  • I know the current situation at this particular workplace and let’s just say it’s a rather noxious environment at the moment with nil morale and leave it at that
  • What about my morning tea catch-ups and card games?
  • I’d have to get dressed every day
  • And be on time to work

As you can see, the list is a little on the weak side …

I’d more or less convinced myself by yesterday afternoon that all I needed to do was pull my finger out, start being a grown up and actually print some business cards and start a Facebook page to advertise locally.  And that’s about the time that the Universe decided to cement the deal and drop me a very clear and concise message.

I received an emailed remittance advice for an invoice I’d resent to this particular workplace because it was way overdue. Great … except that they’d paid it to another person with the same name as me. I mean, I can understand initial confusion with the name but my address and bank details are on the invoice. You would think that would be checked – I certainly used to when I did it – but no.

So after my expletives were spent, I took a deep breath and thanked the Universe for letting me know that I am on the right path, old ground and past workplaces should be left where they lie and as long as you’re managing to pay the bills, there’s nothing wrong with having time to perfect the art of baking bread.

Life journeys

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James Jean – Batgirl

My beautiful, strong-willed (and just a tad judgmental) daughter is heading south to a close school friends’ wedding tomorrow and she’s not happy about it.

Not happy because she really doesn’t like the groom. At all. And to be  honest, I can’t say I blame her. He is mean to his future wife, knocking her down with cruel words in front of others and blatantly attempting to flirt with all her girlfriends. Not a nice character, really. Being older and wiser in these matters, I can see that trouble will most definitely find her down the track and whilst my daughter most vehemently agrees, she can’t understand why her friend seems to be oblivious to the danger.

I can, though.

But even though I’ve tried to explain the whole concept of life journeys to her, it’s not the same as actually living through them.  It wasn’t until I was 40 that I feel like I ‘woke up’ and that was only after incredible trauma stemming from a marriage breakdown and my dad dying at the same time. Some people wake up earlier; some never do. Either way, your journey is completely your own. You may share the path with others for a short or extended time, but what you go through is entirely your own experience. Of course, we all know this to some extent but often it’s only in the theoretical sense, not the ‘feeling in your bones’ knowing.

So whilst I may give the speech of “It’s her life to do as she chooses, honey, even if you think he is a dick and most who has come into contact with him agrees with you. She has to walk this path on her own. “, my lovely, strong-willed and slightly judgie daughter won’t feel this in her bones until she’s got a few more years under her belt.

My dad always said it but the adage that ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ has never been more true to me. 

The cycle begins

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Suck it up, sunshine

And not to put too fine a point on it, I’m a little bit crazy this morning … and the drugs haven’t even started yet.

One word of advice to any would-be IVF’s, especially over the age of 40. Don’t look at the internet. Don’t read the forums. Don’t look at the statistics (although you actually do have a far greater chance of getting pregnant than winning the Powerball jackpot tomorrow night, so that’s comforting to know).

The thing you have to remember is that someone usually does win. They do get lucky and for them, all the statistics are proven wrong.  I have personally known three much younger women who have tried IVF – two got lucky with their first round. The third struggled and proved to be hyperstimulated by the drugs and gained an incredible amount of weight in a very short time and was generally miserable for over a year, constantly beating her body into submission until finally – FINALLY – she got lucky.  I’d say there was a helluva lot of hard work and determination behind that particular ‘lucky’.

I’ve had one go. It really wasn’t that bad regarding the whole drug thing. I didn’t turn into a crazy woman because of them – felt quite normal, in fact. Normal, at that point, being stressed beyond your wildest dreams. I rather stupidly suffered freezer burn on my stomach because of a wayward icepack and the fact I’m not all that keen on feeling that goddamn needle piercing my skin. But physically, I’d have to say it was a breeze.

Mentally and emotionally … not so much.

My gorgeous NIH (the only person I would ever willingly jab myself with a needle twice a day for) and I recently went on our long and extravagant and totally fantastic honeymoon to Japan and Europe and on the tours, we met some truly lovely people … and a few stupid ones.

Now, I know people mean well and they’re trying to be helpful and positive but being told I just have to ‘relax’ and that will fix everything just makes me want to punch people in the mouth.

“Oh, really? That’s it? Gosh, I’m such a silly billy. I never realised.” :/

The truth is you meditate and do visualisations and work hard to just think that it all will fall into place and everything will happen the way you want and you’ll get that damn baby because goddamn it you’re so goddamn relaxed you’re almost comatose but then you go through the motions and everything looks ok and you only get 5 eggs harvested but hey it only takes one right so you hold onto that and remain positive and then they phone you on day 3 and say that one failed to launch altogether and two have since stopped cell dividing and one looks a little dodgy but there’s one, still one there and hey, you only need one, right? Right? And then you get the phone call on the afternoon of Day 4, the eve of the big Day, Day 5, where your one little egg is due to be put back in your basket and hopefully blooms and grows into a goddamn baby that will give you and the NIH who deserves a baby, who deserves a 6 a side soccer team of babies because he’s so fucking awesome with kids big and small and even your teenagers liked him when they were young and snotty and you love him so much it scares the crap out of control freak little you and  oh no oh kay that last egg you’d pinned all your hopes and dreams on has fallen over. *cue sobbing and promising each other you’ll never do this again*

And yet … a year later … here we are again.

But you know? I feel like I’m in a better place. As a couple, we are so much more stable and settled (possibly because I’m not so psycho and he’s not living WITH a psycho). Maybe, even though at my age the odds are against us, we’ll win the lotto.  At least I don’t feel like it’s the end of the world if I don’t win and I’m a little bit proud of myself for actually having another go, knowing now what I will go through.

Possibly that last paragraph was my false positives starting …Wish us luck 🙂

Turning points

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Turning points … almost like a rebirth

It’s always easier looking back and seeing the turning points in our lives. We rarely see the corner coming and odds are we never accurately predict what that corner will bring.

The big ones are pretty easy to recognise and semi-prepare for – leaving home; getting married; having children.

I never saw the dissolution of my first marriage coming … although looking back, it seems pretty goddamn clear that it was years in the making.  Likewise, my second marriage was a bit of a surprise but a really good one.

However, it’s the almost inconsequential happenings in our lives that often bring the most surprising results. Take as an example the story of how a dedicated librarian turned into a graphic designer …

We moved often in my first marriage – partly because he was in the Army for the first 7 years of it, partly because the man could not sit still to save his life. And library jobs are hard to come by. As any good librarian knows, you have to wait for someone to die or leave town before an opening comes up (preferably the latter … otherwise it’s just awkward).

Hence, in my not so huge working career (three kids are a handful on their own without a work schedule demanding your attention as well) I have completed a Bachelor of Library Science and a Graduate Diploma of Info/Library Science plus worked as: weekend Cash Office for Woolies; Learning Centre coordinator; Barmaid; Canteen convenor and Casual Typesetter/Graphic Designer for two local newspapers (not at the same time) in between the rare and precious library jobs in a primary school, private high school, TAFE college and public library.

I think the varied experiences and different locations made me a better librarian – at least, I was able to relate to people from many walks of life!  But who would have known that the first stint in a newspaper doing Graphic Design (which I got because I’d done Colour Theory and basic brochure design as part of my library technicians course) would, 12 years down the track, put me on the path to being a qualified Graphic Designer?

And the second step in that road would be feeling trapped in a library management position plus the misery of multiple miscarriages forcing me to find something to distract myself with and looking into online study courses.  Initially I was going to do Bookkeeping (methodical, controlled, useful) but Graphic Design popped up … and that was that.

I’m struggling to finish the Diploma in time as I’ve had a wedding and a long honeymoon in the middle of it to totally distract me, but there’s the option of extension and I already have clients that are happy with my work. How awesome is that?

If someone had told me 18 months ago that I would be happily married, out of the management role, working freelance and enjoying all aspects of my life, I would not have believed them. But looking back … well, it seems inevitable.