Taking Stock: July ’17

 

IMG_1290.JPGHey gang! This month, I’m taking stock in Hobart. My man and I have snuck away for a few days before he starts a new job. Gosh, Tassie is lovely. So much to see in such a little space! So whilst we’re kicking back and relaxing a bit, I thought I’d see what’s happening now that July is drawing to a close.

Making: not a lot at the moment. I’ve finished my latest weaving and have brought no supplies with me. I do have my sketchbook so maybe I’ll make time to do a sketch.

Reading: The Handmaid’s Tale. My friend, Isabel, invited me to join her book club and this is the current read. I saw the TV series so I’m interested to see how closely it follows the novel. I have to continually remind myself that it was written thirty or so years ago. Quite prescient.

Watching: whatever crime drama SBS on demand is recommending in my feed! The advantage of having had my man home for a few months means we have been enjoying sitting down and binging on some tv series. Latest two have been Cardinal and Valkyrien.

Cooking: nothing for the next few days. No cooking facilities in our accommodation so pouring muesli and dolloping some yogurt on top is as complex as it’s going to get.

Drinking: water at the moment, some wine with dinner, I imagine.

Listening: to A-ha and my man attempting to do the falsetto 😬

Smelling: the Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm that’s in our bathroom. Nice!

Wondering: how clean the kitchen will be when I get home.

Booking: tickets for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

Wearing: jeans, jumper, cosy socks.

Liking: being on holiday. And alfinding it a strange experience being away when it’s not school holidays. That hasn’t happened for fifteen years!

Hearing: a bird chirping.

Buying: a pack of ephemera from The Maker.

Hoping: my man enjoys his new job.

Wishing: I could be a fly on the wall and see how the kiddies look after themselves this week. It will be a bonding time for them!

Noticing: how pretty Hobart is. The Derwent, the mountains, the old sandstone buildings.

Loving: the comfy bed here.

Feeling: blessed to have a lovely man, two healthy kids. Nawh, a bit soppy! But ’tis true. There’ve been some tricky times over the last few years but I think everyone’s feeling pretty settled at the moment.

How’s your July?

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Tell me a story

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I’ve been thinking about stories a bit in the past few weeks. When I was little I loved reading stories that allowed me to escape my small, conscientious, timid life. I delighted in the rebellious escapades of the naughtiest girl in the school.  I marvelled at what it would be like to be as bold and adventurous as the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Gosh, my mum wouldn’t let me play outside in our unfenced front garden, and I was only permitted to walk home from school via the side streets rather than along the main road (okay, it was the era of some strange child abductions but still…). My anxious, pimply, adolescent self longed to be one of the girls in the Sweet Dreams novels. Imagine being asked to ‘go steady’ and wear a letterman jacket! As a suburban Melbourne girl, I’m not quite sure I actually knew what that meant but it was clearly the pinnacle of teenage boy-girl relationships. Stories were for entertainment and escapism. True stories? Blah! So boring! Where was the fun in reading about other people’s lives? It all seemed way too earnest to my younger self. I did enough ‘learning’ at school. I didn’t need it when I snuggled down under my blankets at night or was wiling away the school holidays.

But, of course, as we add more years to our lives, our tastes can broaden and change. I still love reading novels and short stories for entertainment and escapism but I have come to appreciate the rewards of reading about the lives of others. A few weeks back, I went to the opening night of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. Melanie Cheng, who was the winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, spoke to the audience and she had a great line about writers being the “personal trainers of empathy”. I loved that! It made me think about some of the writers whose stories I have been reading recently, not just in book form but also online, and how they have helped open my eyes and understanding of life experiences different from my own. I have thought about Magda and how societal attitudes contributed to the pain that tortured her as she sought to accept her sexuality, Maxine’s many encounters with racist attitudes in Australia, and why representation of diversity in the media is so important to Carly. I challenge anyone to read the personal stories in They Cannot Take the Sky or to listen to The Messenger podcast and not understand the damage the Australian government is inflicting upon asylum seekers (disclosure: I provide transcribing assistance to Behind the Wire). I have remembered the blog posts Sarah and Amanda have shared about anxiety and MS and how they have reflected experiences in my own life.

Reading – or listening – to the stories of other people’s lives is not about escapism. It is about staring life in the face. Sometimes that can be confronting. At other times, it can be comforting.

There have been times when I have wondered about blogging. What is the point of it all? What am I writing about? For what purpose? Perhaps you have felt that too. Maybe we should reassure ourselves that whenever we write, we are telling a story about part of our life. It is a way to connect with others – and even if that is only with one reader – in sharing our stories we are opening the door to understanding and empathy.

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Taking Stock: June ’17

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Here we are! Middle of the year! 2017 has so far been exciting, disappointing, relaxing, busy, liberating but on the whole MUCH more pleasant than 2016! Phew! So…drawing inspiration from Meet Me At Mikes, this is how the mid point of the year finds me.

Making: chocolate hedgehog slice, collages, a weaving. Busy hands!

Eating: chocolate hedgehog!

Drinking: peppermint tea

Cooking: lots of soup! Broccoli and zucchini, pumpkin, cauliflower. Excellent for lunches and for filling tummies that may be needing meals early, late, whenever!

Hearing: the radio in the background

Listening: to Trace after seeing Rachael Brown interviewed on The Project. We used to live in Thornbury so I have a clear picture of where these events took place. I hope the airing of the podcast will help solve the mystery of Maria’s brutal murder.

Reading: The Good People

Watching: Broadchurch season 3. Gosh, I love Olivia Colman! She’s in the Emma Thompson class for me. She always produces such authentic performances.

Wishing: the tradesmen we’ve had hanging around the house for the last few months would finally finish their jobs. They’re all lovely and I greatly appreciate their efforts to return our home to ship shape condition, but you know when you just want to have the house quiet and to yourself?

Wondering: lots of things! Why do I have so much milk left over this week? Why have so many apparently-sturdy teabags been spilling their contents whilst steeping in boiling water lately? How long will the queue for the Van Gogh exhibition  be today? Would I like Grantchester? Why is marriage equality still an issue in this country?

Pondering: a blog post that has been running around in my head but hasn’t made it to the page yet

Buying; wool for weaving – online and in person

Enjoying: a mid-week dinner and movie date with my man!

Pretending: we are back in New York! Cold weather, a visit to the NGV planned, and tickets to three shows in five days booked!

Looking: forward to seeing Kat Stewart in White Rabbit Red Rabbit tonight

Thinking: about ‘career’ plans

Knowing: I should go for a walk soon – and empty the rubbish bins…

Noticing: I’ve had less hot flushes lately. Happy dance!

Enjoying: going to a yoga class with my boy!

Bookmarking: lots of different colour palettes

Liking: cold weather and cosy scarves

Loving: these cakes. Oh my!

Is your year progressing nicely?

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Taking Stock: May ’17

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Brr! It is a chilly ol’ day in Melbourne! The sky is blue at the moment but the air is chill and there are predictions of hail later in the day. That’s okay by me because I can stay tucked up inside for the rest of the day. I am going to sit inside with my cup of tea, pop something to slow cook on the stove, and continue with a bit of crochet… and laundry duties! But before that, a ‘take stock’ of what has been a bit of an up and down month for us.

Making: this blanket. So many colours! I made up my own colour combo so it’s taken a few trips to the wool shop to pick up the colours that I think work together

Eating: left over cauliflower, potato, leek and bacon soup

Drinking: chilli hot chocolate. Love that hint of a spicy finish!

Cooking: beef casserole for dinner with math and peas

Listening; to Lindy West on This American Life and Nettie Wakefield on The Jealous Curator. Have you seen her gorgeous pencil drawings? You should check them out here

Watching: Masterchef – yep, sucked in again for another year! – and Thicker than Water

Smelling: a combo of the peanut butter and choc chip cookies I baked this morning and my boy’s pesto pasta

Hearing: keyboards clacking from all members of the family

Cringing: at the clip of Trump shoving the PM of Montenegro. It’s the smug look on his face and the jacket buttoning. Can’t stop myself from repeat viewing!

Waiting: to read an email from my parents. They’re on their first day of a four week trip to Canada.

Reading: Nine Parts of Desire and They Cannot Take the Sky

Loving: that my girl now has her licence! No more ferrying her to Pilates and singing lessons!

Worrying: that my girl now has her licence! Now my ears are pricked up waiting for two people to drive in the driveway!

Coveting: this coat

Knowing: my man is gong to get rained on when he goes out for a run

Laughing: at my thirty year school reunion. Thirty years! Can you believe that? I’m sure when I used to look at the photos of the old girls at the reunions in our school newsletter they looked SO OLD! Not like us groovy bunch.

Trying: to cut back on my food waste. Mushing up lots of vegies for soup, buying in smaller quantities, and putting together leftovers for lunches

Buying: tickets to this with Kat Stewart and this

Enjoying: a new volunteer role with Behind the Wire

Hoping; my man will find a less stressful job soon

Looking: forward to a long weekend away with my man

And that’s May almost done and dusted! How’s the last month been for you?

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Have you read…? Some autumn reading

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How has your reading been going the last few months? I’ve been a little slow. Not sure why. That just happens sometimes, doesn’t it? I did feel a little red-faced after doing a book swap with one of my friends and she returned all those I had lent her before I had even had a chance to start reading hers! Happily, I am now halfway through one of them!  So what was I reading in the meantime?  Here’s a selection.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout This is a little gem of a book, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it after it has done the rounds of some reading buddies! The book is set in New York and tells the story of Lucy Barton, a writer, who is in hospital recovering from complications after an appendectomy. By her side is her mother, whom Lucy hasn’t seen for a number of years, but in her time of ill health, it is this maternal that voice she needs to hear. Through their bedside exchanges we learn of Lucy’s dirt poor upbringing in Amgash, Illinois.  A bookish child, she felt isolated from her family on an intellectual level, and there are hints that there was abuse perpetrated in the family home at the hands of her father, a WWII veteran who suffered from PTSD. We learn of how she came to physically distance herself from her family as she moved away to college, and then her early experiences in New York, meeting her husband and becoming a mother to her daughters. As the story progresses, we understand that the hospital stay is not present day but in the past, and an older Lucy is reflecting upon this event in her life. For me, this story showed how families are bound together even where there is distance and strain in that relationship; it was about what lies unspoken yet defines our lives; it illuminated how our lives are made up of many episodes, many little stories, but, in the end, we have only one overarching story. Having recently read Hillbilly Elegy and listened to S-Town, I felt that this sat as a companion piece, albeit fictional, to the two stories of JD Vance and John B McLemore who both grew up in disadvantaged rural communities but possessed an intellect that separated them from their peers. Lucy’s story, and those who featured in her life, are explored further in Elizabeth Strout’s new work, Anything is Possible. It’s on my list of ‘to-reads’!

The Sellout by Paul Beatty This won the Man Booker Prize in 2016 and I was keen to read it.  The premise of the novel as set out on the blurb is how one black man, nicknamed Bonbon, attempts to save his town, Dickens, from being wiped off the map by reintroducing segregation. As a consequence, he lands before the Supreme Court for breaching the Constitution. The idea for resegregation came about by accident. Bonbon’s friend, Hominy Jenkins, was a long time ago child actor in the television show Little Rascals, where he was the sop made fun of through racist humour.  Hominy hankers for the days of segregation where he knew his place in the world and urges Bonbon to take him on as his slave. Bonbon humours Hominy, and as a birthday present makes him a sign to be erected on buses requiring blacks to give up seats for whites. As social behaviour amongst black residents improves, Bonbon has the idea of introducing segregation to other institutions in town. Alongside this storyline, we learn of Bonbon’s upbringing by his single father, who used Bonbon as the guinea pig in psychological experiments; his reignited relationship with his teen sweetheart, Marpessa; and how he relates to his father’s old friendship group, The Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals, and their regular meetings to discuss issues of race. So what did I think? There is some cracking writing in this satirical novel. Having visited there a few years ago, I loved his description of how Washington D.C. “with its wide streets, confounding roundabouts, marble statues, Doric columns and, domes, is supposed to feel like ancient Rome (that is, if the streets of ancient Rome were lined with black homeless people, bomb-sniffing dogs, tour buses and cherry blossoms).” And who cannot raise an ironic laugh at the idea of the black school kids participating in “Whitey Week”, a week showcasing the contribution of the Caucasian race the “the world of leisure”; where at a car wash the kids could choose three levels of white washing: Regular Whiteness, Deluxe Whiteness and Super Deluxe Whiteness with their attendant benefits of benefit of the doubt, higher life expectancy, decent seats at concerts, warnings instead of arrests? But there were times, for me, that the novel became too dense and beyond my comprehension: the sentences curled around themselves, and pop, gang culture and Spanish language references went over my head. And the whole resegregation bit? It took a long time to get there. Whereas the blurb had me thinking this is what the book was going to be about, it was really only a part of the story, and I wasn’t that much interested in the other bits. In the end, I found it a bit of a slog. Maybe it is better suited to the US audience?

Between A Wolf and A Dog by Georgia Blain So after a fair share of reading US fiction and non-fiction, I thought it was time to turn my reader’s eyes back to home, and bought the late Georgia Blain’s novel with a birthday gift voucher. Sigh. What a beautifully written novel, and , of course, made all the more poignant because of the way Blain’s life imitated the life of the character, Hilary, who suffers brain cancer. It is impossible, for me, to read the sentence “It is as though her life has been in fast motion until now, racing forward, a great crush of people, places, moments, anger, joy, love, despair all coming to a sudden stop, colliding into each other at the gate, while she slips though, walking onwards, alone in a quiet land” without my heart being pulled into my throat; that the author, herself, would know this experience all too soon. The novel takes place over the course of around forty eight hours and follows the lives of Hilary, her adult daughters, April and Ester, Ester’s ex-husband, Lawrence, and their young twin daughters, Catherine and Lara. The relationship between April and Ester has broken down, and Ester and Lawrence are barely on speaking terms. A sense of betrayal hangs heavy over the characters, and though the use of flashbacks we understand why. There is a sense of life drifting, which contrasts with Hilary’s clarity about where her life is headed. The novel does not end neatly tied with a bow but there is a strong sense that love, despite its being challenged, binds the characters together. An excellent read.

Tell me, have you read any of these? What did you think?

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Taking Stock: April ’17

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And here we are! Nearly at the end of April. I have lost all track of time. Easter, non-instruction week for the kiddie-adults, Anzac Day…daily routine has completely disappeared. But I think I have wrapped my head around the fact that today is WEDNESDAY so…I need to go to the supermarket and take my girl to Pilates. And maybe if I ‘take stock’ I’ll reinforce where I’m at. So here goes!

Drinking: lemon and ginger tea with honey

Eating: homemade muesli, yoghurt and peaches

Cooking: choc chip cookies later today, and something warming for dinner. Think it needs to be stewy!

Hearing: thunder

Looking: at the black clouds rolling across the sky and the rain gushing over my gutters. Melbourne has turned on the wet winter weather today!

Wishing: I didn’t have to go out to the supermarket in this weather! Will just wait a bit…

Watching: The Young Pope by myself. Jude Law – he’s a bit of a prickly pope! Rebellion with my man.

Reading: The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Some cracking lines but I think I’m going too slow with it. Need to pick up the pace to get to the nub of the story.

Making: a weaving! Went to a beginners class at The Studio Workshoos on Sunday. ”’Twas fun!

Bookmarking: online weaving tutorials!

Listening: to Maryanne Moodie on The Jealous Curator

Wondering: how not to become overwhelmed by all the crafts! So many crafts, so little time. Sigh…

Pondering: the revelation that my left hip is very close to having osteoporosis. Hmm. How did that happen? I blame maternal genetics. Anyhoo, must cut back on the caffeine (hence, lemon and ginger tea!), keep up with the exercise, take some vitamin D. But it does make me feel a bit old 🙁

Noticing: the rain has eased a tad. Might be time to head to Woolies!

Buying: new towels for the bathroom. The money spent and pleasure received from this purchase don’t seem to equate.

Turning: pages in my visual diary and smiling at my drawings, pastings, writing

Loving: that soup weather may finally be here!

Okay. So I think I know what I’m doing. Hope you are settled in your week. Pop over here to see what is happening in the life of the brains behind ‘Taking Stock’, Pip Lincolne.

Cheerio!

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I’m average. How about you?

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Yesterday I read this article by Kerri Sackville , this one by Krista O’Reilly and this one by Jodi Gibson exploring whether it’s okay to be content with being average in a society that celebrates high achievers. I thought they were pretty interesting because I’ve often thought about the pressure, or need, we have to be remarkable. To be noticed. To be recognised. To set goals and push to achieve them. We are told that if we can dream it we can do it (to which my man always says it’s his dream to fly naked across the sky but no matter how much he dreams it, that ain’t gonna happen!). What is it that drives us – or, at least, some of us – to pursue high achievement? Or to desire fame for the recognition that that brings? Can we aim high, can we live atop lofty peaks but still maintain our happiness, health and relationships? And what if we don’t want to dream big? Are we letting ourselves down if we don’t ‘reach our potential’? So many questions!

I know that there are remarkable people out there. People with enormous capacity and focus, who can take on a multitude of roles and responsibilities with apparent ease. I’ve met people who are highly proficient across a multitude of disciplines – art, music, sport, high academic ability, and who are genuinely delightful company to boot. I’ve read about people who have fabulous ideas and motivation and make things happen for the benefit of others in society. I salute these people. The world needs them.

I can feel a bit deflated looking at these high achievers. I sometimes look at their efforts and think ‘and I have done …?’ Do you ever feel like that? Here’s the thing. I did an Arts/Law degree at uni. I worked hard. I was focussed on those marks. The plan? I was aiming for that ‘big 4’ commercial firm. I’d keep working hard. I’d make partner. Imagine the status that would come with that! The reality? Got into the firm I had so wanted to join and…hated it! Stuck it out for a few years, fell into depression. Working there was unsustainable. So I ditched it. Career number two? Stay-at-home mum. There’s no status, no recognition in that! I know when I resigned that there were mutterings behind my back along the lines of ‘how can she waste all that study?’, ‘why would she give up being a lawyer to be a mum?’ But status can’t overcome being unhappy in what you do. I was happy to be a mum – and, to be honest, it’s what I’d always wanted to be. Why should I feel I’ve let myself down in any way by making that choice? That’s not the same as saying that I don’t want to do my best at whatever I do. If I’m going to do something, I’ll always do it to the best of my ability. But I’m never going to be ‘the best’ at anything. Nor do I need to be ‘the best’ at anything. I doubt I’ll ever be recognised for some stellar achievement, or have people stopping me in the streets to take a selfie with me. But that’s okay. I’ve managed to bring two functioning adults into the world, I still love the man I married 25 years ago, and I’ve gathered some friends along the way. That’s enough for me. Why would I want any more? Why should I need any more?

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