FULL TO THE BRIM

For Henry’s third birthday, we wanted to give him a memorable day full of his favourites; trains and farm animals. I booked an overnight stay in a quaint little cottage on a working farm, about two hours away in the country.

The plan was to explore the farm, have his favourite dinner (spaghetti bolognese with angel hair pasta) and birthday cake (see the photo of Lightning McQueen and Mack Truck – yes, I made them), and then go on a steam engine train ride the next morning.

Naturally, being a chronic over-packer, I tried cramming half the house into our car. We needed raincoats (it’s spring but what if it rains?), two sets of all clothes and underwear (because options are important), a heap of nappies and wipes (you can never have enough!), an assortment of breakfast and hot drink options (I have particular tastes), my kindle (for when I have a millisecond to read)… and the list goes on!

As I stood there, hand on hip, finger on the chin, unwilling to admit Jenga defeat, my husband oh-so-helpfully asked, “Do we really need all the pillows and the kid’s doonas?”

Wha?! Seriously? To me, that was a redundant question. It’s common knowledge that pillows in hotel/motel/inn/B&B/AirBnB are NEVER replaced. Drool is the least of your worries. My toilet seats are probably cleaner than those pillows! And isn’t it nicer to sleep on your own pillow – germ-free?  As for the doonas – well, I’m willing to sacrifice my body to bed mites but not my children’s! Am I a germaphobe? Maybe.

Before we could get on the road, we needed lunch so we stopped at Henry’s favourite eatery, which happened to be in a shopping centre. While there, I reasoned that gumboots were a necessity for all the farm poo that would undoubtedly be present. Knowing my extreme aversion to stepping on any form of faeces (it’s called coprophobia), the family begrudgingly agreed and followed me from store to store looking for them. Given that gumboots are for winter and not spring, there were none to be found. After Henry yelled out, “I told you there weren’t any gumboots in here Mummy, I told you!”, I was adequately chastised for my idiotic request.  

So off we drove, packed like sardines, to our farm stay. I was thankful that the cottage was clean and had minimal carpets. The host was welcoming and gracious, allowing us to see their week old piglets, chickens, sheep and working dogs. 

The only downside – or maybe it was an upside – was the lack of internet reception. I don’t think people truly realise how reliant (addicted) they are to their phones. My husband forgot to bring his charger, so his phone died shortly after reaching our destination. He was desperate enough to ask a waitress about phone charger availability, stating to me that there would be dire consequences if he didn’t find one. I thought he was worrying about work but it turns out he “needed” to log on his Clash of Clan’s account to twiddle with his people. This overnight trip was a good reminder of keeping priorities in check. 

The next morning, we went on the vintage steam engine train ride. We were seated in the Excursion Carriage of a preserved train from the late 1800s (cattle class as Henry didn’t meet the age restrictions for First Class). We got a signed guide book from the train conductor. We watched the townspeople dressed in their olden day clothing do a tap-dancing performance. We had delectable scones in a tea room. It was a fun day exploring small townships and experiencing an authentic steam train ride. 

That night at home, while I was tucking Henry into his bed, he came up with a doozy. 

“Mummy, I had lots of fun on the train today. I think I want to go to space on a rocket for my next birthday.” 

Do you think NASA hosts birthday parties or do you reckon I should get started on that astronaut training?

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COURSE COMPLETION

I’ve completed my creative writing course and I must say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In addition to stepping out of my comfort zone in terms of attempting different writing styles and confronting my fears of the unknown, I have met and gotten to know some wonderful people, albeit briefly.

What have I learnt or gained from this course?

1. Sharing my written pieces (some very personal and revealing) to a group of strangers and waiting for their opinion is anxiety-producing. It made me feel vulnerable and exposed, and it was difficult to sit in that emotion. I learnt that I am stronger than what I give myself credit for. Not only was I mindful of those feelings, I consciously accepted them and as a result, felt less anxious about the process.

2. Writing is a personal thing. We all have different voices, different preferences in writing styles and different stories to tell. There is no right or wrong way of telling a story. Your story is yours to write and those words will resonate with someone.

3. I realised that this fried and frazzled brain of mine still works and I am capable of rising to the challenge of adult education and weekly homework tasks. Despite my misgivings about adding school work to my expanding list of ‘things to do’, I made it work. We are more resilient than we think.

4. I discovered that poetry might be for me. If I get inspired, I might try my hand at poems in the future.

I’d like to thank everyone for being a part of this short-lived journey. It’s now back to my usual random musings about life and parenting the troublesome two. Perhaps, there might be a poem thrown in every now and again.


Links to the previous homework tasks: Week One – A Slice of Life, Week Two – My Faulty Character Descriptions, Week Three – Short Short Stories, Week Four – One-Act PlaywritingWeek Five (part one) – A Mother’s Love, Week Five (part two) – Poems and Poetry

 

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POEMS AND POETRY

Haiku

The vicious vortex
Decimates all in its path
Leaving destruction

Tanka

A fierce gale of wind
Causes trees to sway and swing
Some topple, some break
Crowns askew, the branches shake
As the leaves tumble and fall

Cinquain

Stilettos
Slender, heeled
Strutting, Stumbling, Limping
Optical illusion of height
Shoes

Diamonte

Happy
Cheerful, Content
Smiling, Giggling, Laughing
Lucky, Grateful, Miserable, Forlorn
Crying, Grieving, Mourning
Sad

 

I’ve always appreciated poetry, in all forms, but I hadn’t realised how many different forms actually existed! I truly admire the creativity it takes to produce evocative and profound poetry. 

Links to the previous homework tasks: Week One – A Slice of Life , Week Two – My Faulty Character Descriptions , Week Three – Short Short Stories , Week Four – One-Act PlaywritingWeek Five (part one) – A Mother’s Love

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A MOTHER’S LOVE

Her words cut deep
like barbs of a stingray
sharp and serrated
tearing at my flesh
gouging holes at my heart
precise in its incisions
leaving me wounded and bleeding.

Her disapproval weighs heavy
darkening the mood
shredding my dreams
swallowing my light.

With one fell swoop
she casts aside
my life achievements
with taunts of irrelevance.

Like a beaten dog
tail tucked between the legs
I scamper back to my kennel
chastised for seeking
a morsel of affection or validation.

I brush off her ridicule
no different from before
steel my spine
reinforce my armour
but inside
the little girl weeps
and longs for her mother’s love.

 


This is my first attempt at creating a poem/prose for my creative writing class. Let me know what you think! Formatting, sentence structures, comma placement, full stops etc. And of course, what you thought of the creation.

Links to the previous homework tasks: Week One – A Slice of Life , Week Two – My Faulty Character Descriptions , Week Three – Short Short Stories , Week Four – One-Act Playwriting

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WHY INTROVERTS ARE QUIET

A friend recently sent me an image of a pie chart with reasons why introverts are quiet. It had me giggling and nodding my head in agreement. There were two explanations that stood out for me.

‘I finally came up with the perfect reply but now you’re talking about something else.’

‘The words, I can’t do right when out loud they are spoken.’

Does anyone suffer from this? I over think my responses and take a ridiculous amount of time to perfect a reply. By the time I’ve mustered up the courage to actually contribute to the conversation, I’ve missed the train. And if I feel nervous speaking to the person, I just blurt out random junk in an incoherent manner – I believe the condition is called verbal diarrhoea. I’ve had it all my life – I don’t think there is a cure.

The image had me thinking, is this why I don’t have many close friends? I don’t make great first impressions and I’m not a skilled conversationalist, so are people likely to shy away from getting to know me?

I envy children. They make it look so simple. ‘Hey you wanna play?’ and BAM! a friendship is born. Ok, maybe not exactly like that but you get my drift. They don’t have the same emotional baggage and negative inner dialogues holding them back from connecting with others. They don’t see the same obstacles or barriers that an adult might see.

So what can I do? I still want to get to know people and make friends. While I like my own company, it’s nice not to answer my own questions on occasion. You know what I mean? And at some stage, my children will become teenagers and won’t have a bar of me, my husband will probably request to live solo on a deserted island and I’ll be OLD old. I’d like to think that I’ll have some old biddies to clink teacups with and chat about our latest romance reads. It’s nice to make connections and form friendships. Loneliness is literally a silent killer!

In efforts to rectify this situation, I had to do some self-analysis and admit to any shortcomings. I identified six areas of limitations that needed some serious overhaul to make a better first impression.

  1. Willingness: I prefer lurking in dark corners and hiding behind any excuse instead of being placed in an uncontrolled social setting. I would rather spork myself in the eye than talk to a stranger. I struggle with anxiety in most social situations.
  2. Small talk: I find small talk incredibly draining. It takes all my concentration and energy to listen and converse in a manner that is meaningful and attentive. I would say it’s the equivalent to a tough gym session but for the brain. I feel like a big bag of chips and a nap afterwards to recuperate from my efforts, I kid you not!
  3. Eye contact: I have an aversion to prolonged eye contact. I feel compelled to look away to relieve the discomfort.
  4. Smile: I hate my teeth, and I’m conscious of them. I tend to smile with my lips sealed tight so often I look like I’m grimacing. It probably gives me a certain RBF appearance.
  5. Body language: Unless I know the person well or I feel comfortable in their presence, I tend to cross my arms or hold a bag in front of me. It’s almost a protective or defensive stance.
  6. Inner dialogue: I have a tendency to be pessimistic and negative about my capabilities. I am hard on myself. I worry about my quirks and awkwardness.

It’s not a great stretch of the imagination to state that I don’t make the best first impressions. I can appear disinterested and arrogant when the opposite is true!

So I’ve decided to tackle one limitation at a time – first off the bat, willingness. I’m going to attempt to talk to someone who I wouldn’t normally talk to while doing school pick ups and drop offs. You never know, I might even make a friend or two who’ll find my quirkiness and awkwardness charming! Wish me luck folks.

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ONE-ACT PLAYWRITING

One-act plays was the topic for this week’s creative writing class. We read works by different playwrights and completed a task where we created an alternate ending to a play called ‘Read About It’ by Jean Blasier. I learnt that one-act plays have one act, have one or two scenes, are typically thirty minutes long, focuses on one main problem or action and generally have less than four characters. 

Prior to this class, I had little understanding or appreciation for the amount of work and creativity that was involved in producing a play. Sure I had been to plays (yawn!) and musicals (snore!) but I’m not really into them (yes, I am an uncultured spud). After attempting it for myself, I realise and respect the skills a playwright must have to create an engaging and creative story. Interesting dialogue is not easy to write!  

Here was my attempt (a tiny fraction of a one-act play).


Setting: Dinner table

Characters: Henry (3yo), Kathy (mum)

Scene: Family dinner

Henry – What’s for dinner Mummy?

Kathy (smiles) – Mini sausages, Mummy’s famous potatoes and veggies.

Henry (frowns) – These aren’t potatoes, they’re chips!

Kathy – Aren’t chips made of potatoes?

Henry – No! You’re so forgetful Mummy.

Kathy – Are they maybe potato chips?

Henry (pauses and nods) – Yes, they are potato chips. These are yummy!

(Henry eats everything except his greens)

Kathy (points at a broccoli) – You want to eat some of your veggies?

Henry (shakes head) – No way man! I’m not eating that.

Kathy – You have to eat your greens.

Henry – Mummy, I can help in emergencies.

Kathy – Okay… eat your greens please.

Henry – Like fire emergencies. To put out fire.

Kathy – Awesome Henry, please eat your broccoli.

Henry – Mummy, I love you.

Kathy – I love you too Henry. Hey, lets eat a broccoli?

Henry (grabs leg) – My leg hurts Mummy!

Kathy (lets out a big gigantic sigh) – Maybe eating a broccoli will fix your leg. Broccoli is a super vegetable.

Henry – I need to go poo!

(Henry goes to the toilet)

Henry – Mummy, I need to take my time.

Kathy – Hurry up Henry! Are you done yet?

Henry – No, I’m taking my time. You can’t rush me Mummy.

(Twenty minutes later, Henry and Kathy return to the dinner table)

Kathy – Ok, your veggies are now cold but you still have to eat them.

Henry – I want apple juice!

Kathy – We don’t have any. Here’s your water.

Henry – But I need juice or I’ll vomit.

Kathy – Henry, I am getting fed up with your procrastinating. Eat your veggies or you can go to bed right this minute!

Henry (reluctantly picks up a broccoli) – How much?

Kathy – All of it.

Henry (whimpers) – I only want the top. And I don’t like carrots or beans.

Kathy – Eat it!

Henry (takes a bite and pretends to dry retch) – It’s yucky. I don’t like it.

Kathy (glares) – One.

Henry (whimpers and puts broccoli to mouth) – You’re not my best friend. You’re rude to me.

Kathy – Two.

Henry (puts into his mouth)

Kathy – Swallow it…

Henry (swallows one bite of broccoli) – Finish! I’m a good boy Mummy.

Kathy (sighs) – Only another three broccoli tops, three carrots and two beans to go.


Links to the previous homework tasks: Week One – A Slice of Life, Week Two – My Faulty Character Descriptions, Week Three – Short Short Stories.

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SHORT SHORT STORIES

There were three components to this week’s homework for my creative writing class. Three! We were to produce a fifty-five word or less short story, an ending to a published piece and our own short story. Time got the better of me and I wasn’t able to complete the third task but two out of three ain’t bad. I’m happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone and gave it a go! 


FIRST TASK: FIFTY-FIVE WORDS OR LESS

The first task was deceptively simple. The example the teacher had us read was a piece by Jeffrey Whitmore called Bedtime Story. With few words, Jeff was able to encapsulate intrigue, sex, deceit, revenge and murder. There was a discernible plot with a beginning and an end. I love twisty endings and this one was quite clever in my opinion!

I found this task challenging in terms of creating a plot and the word limit. I felt my writing bordered on prose poetry. Maybe someone with expertise can enlighten me.

Here are my attempts. I know, I know… I only needed one so why did I do three?! The overachiever in me took hold, that’s why.

NATURAL DISASTER
“Did you feel that?” he asked.
“Uh-huh.”
“Was it an earthquake or a tsunami?” he probed.
“It was an earthquake and a tsunami rolled into one.”
“On the Richter scale…” he began.
“A ten! Off the bloody scales!” she exclaimed.
“Didn’t happen, did it?”
“No,” she admits truthfully. “The Earth did not move.”

SON OF HELL
The marmalade sky battles with inky fingers.
Trees shed their coats.
Charred birds plummet to the ground.
Skeletal animals dance a hot tango.
Acrid smells of ash burn the nostrils.
Skin sizzles and bubbles with hellish fire.
The Son is home.
The warden mutters, “Spawn of the devil this one. Time of death 0300.”

A MOTHER’S MIRACLE
Sweat bathes the body.
Skin bruised and blue.
Sinew split and organs maimed.
Blood gushes through the broken dam.
Wailing screams pierced the air.
A hand is crushed.
The woman braces for pain.
A child is born.


SECOND TASK: CREATE AN ENDING FOR A STORY.

The second task involved coming up with an ending for a short story called ‘A Dip In The Poole‘ by Bill Pronzini. I assumed three things about the story: it was set in America, during early 1900s and it was a noir fiction. Knowing next to nothing of that genre and era, I did some google research in a bid to stay true with common tropes.

MY ALTERNATE ENDING
I bumped into the hotel manager and informed him of the incident with the thief, before heading towards reception to get Mr Stuyvesant’s room number. The victim would surely require his currencies for purchases as credit can only get one so far. I leaned against the cool marble counter as Margaret made a show of leaning forward while reading the log book, giving me a good gander at her bubs. Giving her a cheeky wink, I sauntered over to the elevators, the fat wallet and diamond stickpin secured in my pocket.

As I reached Mr Stuyvesant’s allotted room, I caught sight of the door ajar and felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. There was an ominous silence hanging in the air, unpalatable and trepidatious. Pushing the door open, I called out, “Mr Stuyvesant? It’s Max from Hotel security. May I come in?”

My eyes scanned the room for anything out of the ordinary. The only anomaly was the two empty tumblers perched on the bedside table. It was upon stepping farther into the room that I noticed the leg protruding from the corner of the bed. It was Mr Stuyvesant, laying face down on the floor, arms and legs sprawled at odd angles, with a bloodied slug to his noggin. His coat pockets were turned inside out.

I had a dead body, recovered stolen wallet and diamond stick pin and an enchanting pickpocket on the loose. My detective mind surmised that there was no such thing as a coincidence.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

I felt the bean shooter pressed cold and hard against the back of my head. Slowly, I raised my hands up into the air. I recognised that voice, it was the skirt from before.

“I need that wallet,” she said quietly, almost apologetically. “Nothing personal.”

That’s the last thing I remembered before she blackjacks me with her gun and everything went black.


Links to the previous homework tasks: Week One – A Slice of Life, Week Two – My Faulty Character Descriptions.

 

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