Have been penning some poetry…

Recently, a close friend invited me to join her writing club. The idea is that we challenge each other regularly with a single word prompt, and respond back with a very short narrative (around 50 words) within 24 hours, whenever we have a spare 5 minutes. Over the last couple of days, we have all completed a number of these little “50 in 5″ challenges. Fun! Anyway, here are a couple of mine:

Prompt: GREEN

AN ODE TO GREEN
Think green
live clean
like falling snow
and seeds that you sow
question, don’t answer
be a flirtatious dancer
always change
let thoughts rearrange
It’s not what you know
It’s the way that you grow
dynamic and spontaneous
taking risks, being courageous
like a seed pushing through
to light, seeing life anew

Prompt: GOLD

GOLDEN DREAMS
Come ride with me on golden wings, to lands of promise and yet.. broken things. We can pick up pieces and rebuild, and grow together and feel fulfilled. Where once were ashes our golden love will grow like a phoenix with the grace of a dove. And we will hold each other dear and always understand that there is only one constant: change, in this golden land.

::

Anyone fancy joining me for the next 50 in 5?

Jane xxx

June 13th, 2014|0 Comments

School Holidays: 10 great activities!

Well, school holidays are here, and I have to admit that I LOVE THEM! I love the slower start to the day. I love that I get to spend more time with my kids. I love that we can be spontaneous and do lots of great stuff together!

BUT

Keeping the weins busy and happy and playing and laughing and not fighting and not crying and not breaking things can be HARD WORK. But I am planning to keep my kids busy each and every day with NEW and FUN THINGS! Creative Things. Things that we can do in our home, in our neighbourhood and in our city that will inspire their sense of creativity and adventure! So given that there are two weeks of five days each to inspire fun & creativity in my children, here is my list of Top Ten Things to do during the school holidays, in no particular order…

1. Give them Free Time: Free time is awesome. Kids love free time. They invent new games. They kick a ball around. They find old toys that they haven’t played with for ages. So one day this holidays, we will have a free time day. Free time day rocks.

2. Give them Free Time: My kids love free time. Sometimes during school holidays when we are having a free time day, my kids will bake something completely random with different ingredients from the pantry. Despite it not being edible, it’s really cool because they get to just make things up as they go along and be creative. Free time day rocks.

3. Give them Free Time: And surreptitiously leave a ream of paper next to an I Prepared This Earlier paper aeroplane. Your house may well be covered with paper aeroplanes by the end of the day, but the squeals of “Wow, this one is AWESOME” throughout the day will be worth the mess. Free time day rocks.

4. Give them Free Time: And your camera. Teach them how to use it. Tell them that they are now the Worlds Greatest Photographer of Normal Household Things. Free time day rocks.

5. Give them Free Time: And cover the family room with all the quilts / blankets / pillows / cushions you can muster. Let the pillow fort construction begin! Free time day rocks.

6. Give them Free Time: Remind them that they have legs. Legs are great for running. So one day on free time day, grab a ball and head to your local park, or maybe a park you’ve never been to before and just hang out. Free time day rocks.

7. Give them Free Time: And pump up the jam with music from the 90′s. This can also go hand in hand with clean the house day. Line up the spray bottles & cloths and watch them flock to clean with you. Seriously, I don’t know how this happens, but it does. Clean the house on free time day rocks.

8. Give them Free Time: If your kids have had enough free time and need to Do Something, maybe just rename Free Time Day to This House Is Now A Spaceship Day and watch how a simple reframe inspires their innate sense of creativity. You may also need to stock up on alfoil ;) This house is now a spaceship day rocks.

9. Give them Free Time: And leave all your board games on the kitchen table. Play with them. Let them play on their own. Encourage them to make their own board game! Free time day rocks.

10. Give them Free Time: Are you sensing a theme here? I thought you might :) Free time day rocks.

As you can tell, I am a big supporter of Free Time. My kids, like a lot of other kids, have very busy school terms. There’s the busy morning routine. There’s homework. There’s after school activities. The week whizzes by, and before we know it, another week begins. When it gets to holiday time, I really love relaxing the entire routine and just letting my kids be kids. There is so much fun to be had with the things you already have and within your local community. Of course, we won’t stay home every day. We will of course still have a few outings. In fact, I plan to get to the park for a little bit of time every day in the name of sunshine & getting our bodies moving :) We will also head down to the beach for a seashell hunt one day. We will head to our library one day. We will also catch up with friends with kids and just hang out. We might even attempt the Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty hike that I did a few weeks back. But there will be plenty of free time, you can count on that :)

How are you keeping busy during this school holidays?

Jane xox

April 14th, 2014|1 Comment

Thesis by Instalments

8 weeks ago, I started a PhD. I wrote about it a little here, after I applied. I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive my offer. It is exactly what I want to be doing.

Now that I have begun, the task seems enormous. Because I want to do it PERFECTLY, I am reading voraciously. ALL of the words about ALL of the things. I want to know it all!

What I am not yet doing is WRITING. And this needs to change. Stat.

My project is around the following themes: cyberbullying, peer pressure, social learning theory, bystander effect, online disinhibition effect, anonymity theory, conformity disposition, mindfulness, emotional regulation, risk-proneness, resilience, cognitive behavioural therapy and locus of control.

My plan so far is to put all these ingredients into a big intellectual pot, stir them up, simmer on low, and then use fragments to create compelling narrative, code like a game dev demon and create a game that adolescents will love that will address ALL OF THESE THINGS and then write a 100,000 word thesis about it all.

SIMPLE!

Not simple, I’m afraid.

But it’s ok. One day at a time. I need to gather the ingredients first. And that’s what I’m currently doing. But I need some kind of Thing to show for it. Each and every day. Because this project is so big and wide and tricky and octopus like, I need to have little bite-size achievables along the way. I need to write. Every day.

After reading some more about one of my biggest role models Jane McGonigal, I discovered that during the writing of her dissertation, she created a blog called The Best Sentence of the Day. So cool – this is exactly the kind of thing I would do to help keep my behaviour on track and in check. (Side note: I actually did create a blog a few years back to journal my daily progress with a weightloss goal – it was amazingly successful for me – something to do with the accountability to myself, and the others who checked my blog that provided additional motivation to keep going when I felt like quitting. If you are keen, my little health blog is still online over here.)

Anyway, I have decided that I am doing something similar to Jane – I am going to write every day, and every day, I will post just one sentence to a new tumblr that I have created specifically for this purpose. I call it Thesis by Instalments. Little by little, I will write an entire thesis. One sentence at a time.

Do you have writing goals? How do you stay on track?

Jane xo

April 7th, 2014|2 Comments

Sticks n Stones

The road was bumpy. It was a scorching 40 degrees, and I could hear the stones bump and grind on the underbelly of the bus. Stone on metal. Made me laugh.. sticks and stones may break my bones… how untrue that words could never hurt… The sharp screeching of the are-we-gonna-make-it engine was almost soothing, insisting that I attend to that first rather than think about how I left. I wonder when They would notice that I wasn’t there? Even without the dusty hillocks and screeching rusty engine, this road was always going to be bumpy. There was no other option. It was either this or blackness.

I don’t know how long I was staring out of the window, focussing on the endless red dust as we traveled away from the red center and the taunts that led me to run… but as I blinked back the tears, I realised that the older woman across the aisle from me was looking at me.

As if she could see my burden, she reassured me with a soft smile and a nod of her head. She had no idea that I spent most of my recess and lunchtimes hiding in different toilets around school to avoid Them. She had no idea that when They found me, they would grab at my clothing and hair. She had no idea that They would flick my glasses off my face before They ran off. She had no idea that They would throw spitballs at the back of my head during Maths class. She had no idea that I cried myself to sleep every night. But somehow, she understood anyway. I tried to shift my face into what felt like it could be a smile, but I wasn’t sure that I’d succeeded.

The dog behind me started whimpering and scratching at the side of the bus and the man that owner him scruffed his neck in playful reassurance, “it’s ok boy, we’ll get off the bus soon”. Mr dog wasn’t reassured and kept on with a quieter whimper.

Towards the front of the bus an elderly couple, dressed in tweed jackets despite the searing heat, sat in comfortable silence, hands clasped together while the bumpy ride jostled them in their seats. I wondered what it felt like to have somebody. Had they ever suffered so keenly that to vanish completely would seem like sweet relief? Surely not, they had each other.

I wondered if anyone had felt the heavy ball of friendlessness and hopelessness buried deep within that had been weighing me down ever since I started at that school.

I couldn’t hold it back any longer. Tears stung my eyes.

*BANG*

The bus slammed on it’s breaks and came to a screeching halt. Everyone grabbed the seats in front of them and steadied themselves as red dust clouded all around the bus. The tyre must have exploded.

We all looked at each other with worry and shock. We were in the middle of nowhere. The bus driver got out of his seat and walked down the aisle looking directly at me.

“I’m sorry love, but we’ve had a blowout. You’d best come with me to the next town, it’s only a 5km walk down the road. We can find you another connection there.”

I looked over at the woman, the elderly couple, the man and his dog…

“What about the others?” I asked

“What others?” he said, looking around blankly…

And as I blinked and looked around again, I realised I was sitting in toilet block E. The bell sounded, and it was time for Maths…

March 11th, 2014|6 Comments

I have been deceived…!

But in the most enjoyable way of course.

This week I was fortunate enough to see my first show at the Adelaide Fringe for the 2014 season – Deception, the newest installment in Matt & Vinh’s journey into the heart of magic. The fact that they have performed at the last two Fringe Festivals, and have won awards for their performance, doesn’t surprise me at all. What does surprise me is their ability to weave a beautiful story, laced with emotion, humour, slights against stereotypes, and a collection of shiny new magical gems revealed at exactly the right moment, into a beautifully seamless performance. Yes, that’s what surprised me.

I have to admit, I am a sucker for a good magic show. Something about knowing that supreme trickery is taking place provides the ultimate challenge to a viewer to try and figure out what is going on… but these boys, dammit – they’re TOO GOOD!

I was gobsmacked by Every. Single. Trick.

So anyway, here’s the bit where I say “Get on down to the Adelaide Fringe so that these boys can entertain you with their magical charm and wit”. It lasts for an hour, but feels like 5 minutes. Get into it.

Buy your tickets here.

DISCLOSURE: I was generously gifted two tickets by Matt & Vinh. I would like to point out though, that I would gladly pay to see this show again, and may just do that. And possibly again after that if I still can’t figure out how they do it. (And then possibly just one more time before season runs out on the 16th of March…)

March 1st, 2014|0 Comments

Change of plans…

A bit of flash fiction… just for fun.

::

He seemed really nice, she thought. Her mother would really like him. He was exactly the man that she thought he would be after communicating so much in the last few days before meeting for the first time tonight. Not backward in coming forward shall we say, but after her ex, she was quite happy for someone to take charge and make decisions. What was it he’d said as he ordered the dessert? Oh, yes.. “I think you need to have the best thing on this menu Amy, so I shall insist that we order the Caramalised Chai Chocolate Truffles. We can share them. They are divine. I can’t wait to feed you one”, he’d said with a cheeky glint in his deep brown eyes. She flushed the toilet and opened the stall door, looking down at the ground to make sure that she wasn’t about to traipse out into the fancy restaurant toting some urine stained toilet paper on her stilletto heels. The dessert would already be at the table by now. She shouldn’t have spent so long sitting on the toilet playing Tinder.

She could already see the courtship unfold. Dinner parties with all their friends. Near constant travel. A lifestyle baked decadently in wine and sex. She knew what it was he wanted, a pretty bird on his arm, a possession. He thought he knew what she wanted, an ambitious and charismatic young man, someone to show her the world. He thought they would be perfect together. She knew they wouldn’t. And as she slipped her heels off and climbed out of the high bathroom window and into the crisp night air of the alleyway behind the restaurant, she realised that she would not even bother trying.

February 17th, 2014|10 Comments

Great expectations

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
Alexander Pope

This is something I really need to work on, for I have great expectations. I repeatedly invest myself emotionally into life outcomes that I hope for; such is the life of an optimist. For the most part things usually work out for me, but when they don’t, the disappointment is crushing.

Six weeks ago I submitted an application. It was an application for an APA scholarship and admission to a PhD program. APA scholarships are highly competitive. Ridiculously so. And this particular research project? Well. It is everything I could ever wish for in a research program. The idea? Mine. The framework? Mine. The proposed research plan? Mine. This project is 100% me. It is the perfect blend of an unlikely pair: Technology and Psychology, my two careers. My skill set was made for this project. Everything I have done professionally has led me towards this path…

To say that I am invested in the outcome of this application would be a gross understatement.

My career is set to take on a whole new incredibly exciting direction. It is going to be amazing!! (see that? It is ‘going to be’ – proof of my great expectations!). It may sound ridiculous, but my happiness in myself, and with my life in inextricably linked to the outcome of this application.

Dramatic, huh? Yep, that’s me. *sigh*

Ok, so I realise there is a bit of a problem here. As the outcome of the application has been drawing closer, I’ve been doing a lot of self-talk (it’s a never ending conversation over here in my head)… goes something like this:

Optimist: I can’t wait for the email that offers me the PhD scholarship!!! It’s all so exciting!

Realist: Jane Jane Jane, you may not get an offer. Don’t expect an offer. Prepare for disappointment.

Optimist: But I feel it in my bones! This year has been hard, and I really think that things are going to start going my way soon! I really do!

Realist: Jane Jane Jane, be realistic. There were over 120 applications, and there are only 9 APA’s. What are the chances that you’ll get one?

Optimist: 100% chance! I will get one!

Realist: Ugh. Good luck… I hope I don’t have to say ‘I told you so…’

See the optimism I am up against? It’s infallible.

I re-read my application last night, and apart from one glaring (albeit small) error, it is an application that I am proud of. I did my best. I gave it a red hot go.

I will find out any time in the next two weeks. It could be tomorrow. It could be in a week. It could be in two weeks. Who knows.

All I know is that if I do get my offer, I will be so ecstatic that I may actually spontaneously combust with excitement.

If I don’t? Well… you will all need to hold me.

xxx

December 3rd, 2013|8 Comments

Dream Dinner Party

The table is set for eight. The menu arranged. The house is perfect. The cushions plump. The air is filled with the lovely (but not too heavy) scent of your new candles. The guests will arrive in about 20 minutes. Just enough time to pop the cork on the first bottle of bubbles and enjoy the calm before the hilarity. This is the dinner party that you have dreamed about for so long. It is your dream dinner party.

(And it’s a total fantasy and will never happen, but just work with me here.)

I love dinner parties. Love them. It is the perfect context in which to enjoy fabulous company. There is lovely food. Wine is flowing. Soft music in the background. And as the evening progresses, the sensible/tentative conversation that group occasions often begin with is quickly replaced with uproarious laughter, hilarious tales and crazy ideas. Oh what fun!

Now, it is ever-so-lovely to invite the usual suspects around (of which there are just so so many that I have come across in my life), but what if you could invite ANYONE in the world, and it was guaranteed that they would come. Let me also just make this completely ridiculous, and say that they can even be living or dead, fictional characters or real-life people, famous/not famous. Anyone. Anyone at all.

I’ve been thinking about my seven people… and whilst it is an impossible mission to narrow it down, right now, at this very moment, I think I would go for the following:

Jemaine Clement (Comedian, Flight of the Conchords)

Emma Magenta (A favourite author/artist who has become an online friend due to the wonders of social media)

Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones – fictional character)

Jane McGonigal (Game designer/writer/general awesome person who I aspire to be)

Aragorn (Do I need to explain this one? No I don’t think so. Well if I must – Lord of the Rings – fictional character)

Dave Grohl (Lead singer of one of my favourite bands, Foo Fighters)

and lastly…

My husband (cue: nawwwww) (He is trying to convince me to eliminate Aragorn and invite Nigella instead. I told him to keep dreamin!)

::

So, who would you invite?

Pick seven people.

GO!

October 24th, 2013|0 Comments

Snip n Stitch

I am reading Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” at the moment. I love it. A perfect symmetry of complex characters and fascinating story set on a stage of fantasy and myth weaved with such precision that you almost feel as if it is real.

Without going into great detail about the story, I’ve been thinking about a beautifully scripted concept that features in the book – the snip n stitch. Just imagine that your reality is a fabric, a complex fabric that is always growing with new experience, development of different attitudes, personal growth and of course the influences of the external envirnonment around you.

I’m talking an ACTUAL PIECE OF FABRIC.

Well, now imagine that you can zone in on specific life events, things that are internal (things about yourself), or things that are external (things about everything and everyone else in the world), and actually CUT THEM OUT. And then with the whip of a nimble needle, you can mend the fabric as if that thing never existed. And better than that, you can magically weave in an alternate scenario so that you can stitch your reality up perfectly according to your own personal pattern.

Magic.

That bully in grade 7 who made you feel so small, ugly and useless? Snipped!

What about when it was you who created the upset in someone else? Snipped!

What about some life choices that you’ve made, that in hindsight, you could’ve made better? Snipped!

::

Would you snip n stitch?

Would you really?

I think the reality that we find ourselves in, is sometimes far from the fabric of reality that we once have might imagined. The quest for happiness, having great purpose and fulfilling the vision you have for yourself and your loved ones, is so central in so many of us, and as such, the desire to change ourselves and our world in order to make this vision a reality can often create a dissonance that is difficult to tolerate.

I put to you this; that it is this very fact that we can’t change our fabric, that we can’t snip n stitch, that we must endure the lessons of our life, that makes our fabric so rich, so valuable. It is what makes us who we are.

I wouldn’t snip n stitch.

No, instead, I shall wear my fabric, own it, iron it carefully if there are wrinkles, and based on the puckers and pinches of the past, I will carefully weave new fabric. Slowly. I will treasure my fabric, because it is the only fabric I have.

xxx

::

(I must postscript here and point out that this it is short-sighted to suggest that all and sundry should endure every lesson of life for the betterment of themselves. Obviously there are many, many instances of inhumanity that should be snipped right out of individuals lives, and out of collective human reality altogether. With sharp scissors and impassioned zeal, I would snip this kind of reality out of the collective fabric of humanity in a heartbeat.)

October 23rd, 2013|1 Comment

R U Ok?

**Trigger warning – LIFELINE 13 11 14**

R U Ok?

Well? How are you really? When was the last time someone actually asked YOU this question? And how do you even begin to answer?

I both love and hate this day.

I think it is an excellent way to start important conversations. I think it is an excellent way to raise awareness of the incredibly diverse nature of mental health states. I think it is an excellent way to actively show your chums compassion and care.

Yes. It is a great day.

BUT

I also think the whole day in itself is a massive trigger, and as such massively problematic. Anna says it much better than me here.

Depression. Anxiety. Addiction. Obsession. Fear. Mania. The list goes on… Mental health disorders are prolific. I’m not going to write a literature review of the prevalence, because this is my blog, not my work. Instead I will give a personal account, my thoughts, and finish with a commitment.

This time 8 years ago, one of my best friends suicided. At the time, I wrote about it here. For the record, I want to slap that 28-year-old Jane around for being so blind and selfish.

You see, the thing is, my friend was at the mercy of a severe mental health disorder. She had one goal, and one goal only. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t possibly understand. I knew her for 3 years, and didn’t realise until a year before she died that she struggled with Cyclothemia – which is similar to long-term Bipolar disorder.

So, if on a day like this, 9 years ago, I had happily asked my beautiful friend ‘Are you ok?’ (and feel super proud that I was doing my RUOK Day duty), we might have had a conversation that goes something like this:

27yoJane: Hey, it’s R U Ok day today! R U Ok?

Beautiful friend: mmm, feeling pretty meh today.

27J: Do you want to talk about it? Is there anything particular going on?

BF: Not much to talk about really.

27J: (struggles to understand) I have an idea! How about we plan something to look forward to?! It’s good to look after yourself when you’re feeling down! :D

BF: Yeah, I guess. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to look forward to something…

28J: Hey, maybe you should go and see someone, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, sounds like maybe you might have some mild depression or something?

BF: Yeah, you’re probably right.

28J: Do you want any recommendations? I have quite a few psych friends?

BF: Nah, it’s ok, I’ll just talk to my doctor.

And then the conversation would’ve turned into something else, possibly the event that I wanted to plan, and meanwhile, her mind would be whirling around at top speed that maybe something really was wrong with her. Maybe she did have a broken mind. Why wasn’t she excited about this cool event? Why can’t she just be happy like everyone else? Why can’t she feel something? Anything?! ….

::

While I believe that it is extremely important to have care and compassion for fellow humans around you, I strongly feel that misplaced RUOK day duty calls are nothing more than triggers for some.

Don’t get me wrong – Of COURSE it’s ok to care. Of COURSE it’s ok to start the conversation.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that there is so much festivity and personal do-gooderiness about a day such as RUOK. That’s the bit about it that I really can’t swallow. Self-congratulation abounds, and all the askers get to feel great because they did GOOD. They asked the question. They are SUPPORTIVE and COMPASSIONATE and all that shit. Meanwhile, the beautiful humans that struggle with how they might answer this question (already dreading being asked it), think about how much this day sucks, and prepare a ‘oh yes, I’m FINE and DANDY’ avoidance script in order to delineate any awkwardness/spontaneous combustion/one way ticket to the institution/tearful reactions on anyone’s part.

Am I going overboard here? Sorry.

Yes, it is wonderful that you care. Ask. But, if you do, be authentic in your interest, ask genuinely and then LISTEN. And then follow-up. And then ask again in a week or two. And then listen again. Etc Etc Ad Infinitum.

One day of care and connection and compassion simply is not enough. Ongoing communities of awareness and support get closer to the mark. Committed compassion for your fellow human every day is what we should aim for.

So that is why today, on R U Ok day 2013, I am making a commitment to asking this question, and giving you my care and compassion, not just today, but every day.

R U Ok?

All the love, J xoxox

September 12th, 2013|1 Comment