MY KINGDOM FOR A BISCUIT

The traditional ANZAC biscuit, a sweet biscuit made from rolled oats and golden syrup, is my favourite biscuit. I love the crumbly, crispy outer texture and the slightly chewy centre. I adore desicated coconut mixed with that buttery taste.

So when my husband suggested that we make ANZAC biscuits to commemorate ANZAC Day, I was all on board. I sent him off to the supermarket with a photo of ingredients needed for the recipe.

He came home with a packet of Monte Carlos, a packet of Butter Snaps and all of the ingredients for ANZAC biscuits except the most important ones – golden syrup and desicated coconut.

It appeared that every other Australian was commemorating in the same way, which was fair enough. This pandemic had restricted Australians to holding dawn services at the end of their driveways and baking ANZAC biscuits. We were just too late to the party.

Almost a week later, I tried online ordering golden syrup, coconut and treacle (as a substitute, just in case). I had my heart (and stomach) set on making and eating ANZAC biscuits. Plus I had a surplus of rolled oats that would never be eaten otherwise. Imagine my disappointment when only coconut made an appearance.

I thought to myself, “What kind of weirdo conspiracy is this?”

By this stage, it became a matter of principle. I was getting that golden syrup. I wasn’t about to let a pandemic or supermarket shortage stop me. I spent days trawling aisles at different supermarkets. I visited local grocers and natural food stores.

It was as though the Universe was taunting me. “You don’t need those biscuits, love.”

After searching for almost two weeks and on the verge of throwing in the towel, I finally found the object of my desires. By chance, while at my local supermarket, I found two precious bottles of golden syrup tucked right in the back of the top shelf. The only problem? I could not reach them.

Being vertically challenged, I had to get creative. Tippy toes. Jumping up and down. Using my phone and other grocery items to tease the bottles forward. Trying to chase down unwilling and unhelpful store assistants.

In the end, an elderly lady who was browsing nearby took pity on my short ass. She reached over, grabbed a bottle of golden syrup and put me out of my misery. We had a lovely chat afterwards about ANZAC recipes.

When I finally sat down with a hot cuppa and took a bite of the biscuit… well, let’s just say it was worth the wait.

So to my neighbours and friends who received a pack of my home-made ANZAC biscuits, the secret ingredient was… time.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Why are personal statements difficult to write? Being the sole expert in the subject matter of me, it should be a breeze to write a highlight reel. Alas, it is like drawing blood from a stone. It’s worse than sitting in the dentist’s chair.

The last time I wrote a personal statement for a university application, I was a sheltered eighteen year old girl with tall ambitions. Now, I am wiser, wealthier and womanly. Ok, that’s far-fetched, I’m a whole lot of woman and maybe a touch more wiser. At the very least, I have a wealth of work and life experiences to write about.

After staring at a blank computer screen for ages, I took the easy way out and googled how to write a personal statement.

Sell yourself. Highlight achievements. Make it interesting. Be concise. Show the admissions team why they should accept your application. Focus on relevant work and volunteering experiences.

How do you even sell yourself these days? I’ve been out of the game far too long being in my last job for almost a decade. And spruiking my strengths and achievements feels conceited and boastful. It doesn’t come naturally for me. After much deliberation, I wrote my first draft and read it to my husband for a second opinion.

“You’re a mature aged student. No one cares about your high school score or your university grades.” Slashed that section out.

“I think highlighting work experience and achievements isn’t necessary. It’s in your résumé.” Slashed that section out.

“It sounds like you’re trying too hard to sound clever. People will see right through that and think you’re a chump.” Simplified the language. Stopped googling synonyms for every second word.

“Get to the point. Don’t use unnecessary words.” Edited text to be more concise.

“Meticulous, quick to learn, independent… everyone uses them. The reader has probably read thousands of these.” Removed trite phrases and words. Tried to be original.

“Think of who might be reading this. Who is your audience? What are their incentives to say yes or no?”

At this point, I got mad at all the feedback and cracked the sads. I demanded my husband tell me the answer and stop trying to get me to think critically. I don’t know who will read my personal statement but they probably want people who are capable of completing the course and can pay the fees.

“What do they want to know about a non-school leaver who obviously has the capabilities to do the course?”

I scrapped the whole damn thing and started again. In fact, I scrapped many drafts and slept on it for a few more before it finally dawned on me.

Know your audience. Why am I applying? What has led me to this point? What is my story?

I left my job to become a primary caregiver to two young children and started volunteering at the local neighbourhood community centre. That is when this journey began and so that was where I started my personal statement.

I wrote about how I enjoyed the challenges of helping students from diverse backgrounds. I highlighted my admiration for the dedicated teachers who taught the courses. I chose to remove the fluff of achievements, work experiences and skills to simply express my passion in seeking a career in education. I showcased my desire to make a difference in the community and to help others.

Hopefully, by being authentic and truthful, whoever reads my personal statement will look beyond grades, scores and experiences to see the capable woman who is really excited for the next chapter of her life.

As proud as I am of what I’ve written as my personal statement and the lessons learned from the task, I’m nervous about the outcome. I’m checking the email every day for that rejection letter.

Update: I got in! Come July, I’ll be starting a course to become an adult and vocational educator. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I had the kind of courage needed to dr


Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

OPPOSITES ATTRACT

My husband accused me of being a pop culture fluff ball today. Why? We were having an intense discussion about why people are attracted to those that are fundamentally different to them.

You see, my husband and I grew up in very different households with ethnicity, culture, socioeconomics, religion and parental life experiences, impacting on our cognitive and behavioural development.

In my view, he had a fortunate and stable upbringing. He lived in the family home for most of his childhood, made life-long school friends, given opportunities to participate in extra-curricular sports and had few disadvantages.

My upbringing was decidedly different. My parents were refugees and that in itself brought a vast number of issues. I didn’t stay at any school (bar my last few senior years) for longer than two years. Both my parents had undiagnosed mental health issues. We were dirt poor most of the time.

My husband is a logical, pragmatic and heavily systems thinking based person. Emotion is the last variable in his decision-making. His objective to any problem is finding the simplest solution that makes the biggest impact.

While my decision-making is often driven by emotion. This is not to say that I don’t have capabilities. I can hold down a high-pressure and high-level job. I can run a household. I am capable of making good decisions. But compared to my husband, I don’t like to face variables and I tend to veer towards confirmation bias.

If a stranger came up to me and asked me to peel an orange, my immediate response would be… why? Whereas, my husband would think… what’s the best and worst thing, that could happen? And peel the damn orange.

We agreed that the diversity of thinking or lack of was attributed to our differences – our tapestry of life experiences, leading to the software and hard wiring in our brains.

My argument was that given the same upbringing, my husband would not have the same decision-making abilities. He might even be a bit more like me. 

Nope. No way. My husband was adamant that given the same upbringing, he would still be who he is. He would still be the observant, boundary-pushing, thought-provoking and forward-thinking person.

His counter-argument was that while our childhood experience had some influence, the main reason for his diversity of thinking was due to his open-mindedness to challenging assumptions and expectations. Particularly those of people in positions of authority and power – like his parents and teachers.

It’s really no wonder that he had so many school detentions and reprimands. It’s also not surprising that our offspring are cheeky buggers, full of sass and curiosity.

Anyway, we debated many points and in end, I was as befuddled as this post. Back to my original point. Why are people attracted to their opposites?

My husband’s answer? It’s because of our chimp brains and natural selection.

My answer? Because of my husband’s definition of diversity of thought, I have no option but to love pop culture.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE

My dad calls me every day, usually during his meal breaks. He works as a welder in a big factory and for the most part, his work is solitary. There might be a few words here or there with a passing coworker, but everyone mostly keeps to their own work section. I guess he gets lonely. He has a phone list of people he calls while he has lunch – mum, me (not my brother as he never picks up), his brother, his other brother … and another four or five brothers to choose from.

The phone calls are the same every day. How are the kids? What are you doing? Have you heard the gossip about so and so? As much as my dad’s calls can be annoying, they are comforting in their regularity. These days we talk a lot about the pandemic, which is to be expected. He doesn’t understand my concern with food or toilet paper shortages. His response to having no toilet paper? Ah, just go wash your bottom, like the old days. And to food? I have a stockpile of coffee. And lots of liver pâté and two-minute noodles to spare. Uh, thanks Dad.

Yesterday, my mum lost her second part-time job. She’s now jobless and not eligible for government assistance as my dad makes just above the family threshold for support. So now, my brother and I are supplementing her with a small income to help support my elderly grandma overseas. With spare time on her hands, my mum is now also calling me daily. My phone calls with my mum are slightly different than with my dad. Like today, my mum spent fifty-eight minutes giving me advice on wearing masks in public, cooking meals that the kids will definitely like, what foods to buy in a pandemic and what other measures I should undertake. My mum thinks I should be filling old milk bottles with boiled water in case the water gets infected. A bit drastic methinks.

After my talk with the parents, I felt unnerved and conflicted. I had one parent unaffected by the pandemic and another prepping like it was a zombie apocalypse. Fuelled on heightened anxiety, I went to the supermarket to restock on fresh vegetables and meat. I didn’t wear the mask, feeling self-conscious, and rushed through the grocery list in an effort to reduce exposure in the community. Staff were sanitising baskets; customers were wearing masks; there were no children accompanying their parents. Everyone was complying with rules about social distancing. There were green lines marking safe distancing for queuing. Fortunately, the shelves were looking less bare and there was toilet paper!

In my frazzled state, I didn’t check prices for anything. I just grabbed my listed items, chucked them into the basket and bolted to the cash register. It wasn’t until I got home and was reviewing the bill that I realised two heads of broccoli cost me ten buckaroos! We can’t afford luxury goods in this climate! Broccoli will have to go. I’m sure the children will agree.

We are heading into influenza season with winter and this COVID pandemic could last six months. If I can’t keep my wits about me during this time, I might be forced to take up my dad’s offer of pâté and noodles after all.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

COPING WITH COVID

The photo is of the toilet paper aisle at our local supermarket taken on March 3, 2020.

Late January, my entire family went to an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant to celebrate Lunar New Year. At the time, the outbreak of Coronavirus had begun to take hold in Wuhan, and Chinese authorities had just closed off its borders. The problem was largely affecting China, so we weren’t concerned about eating out and being in public spaces. The World Health Organisation had yet to declare Coronavirus a global health emergency.

And so, we celebrated with food and drink in the crowded restaurant. Several people sneezed on my sister-in-law as they walked past her to get to the food trays. We joked that she might catch the virus as a result. A few days later, we discovered that an infected man had dined in the same restaurant. Fortunately, for us, the man visited the establishment the next day, so we avoided being exposed to infected staff and surfaces. It was a near miss!

This close experience made me hyperaware and set me on a path. There had only been a handful of confirmed cases in Australia, but I had slowly begun building my pantry supplies, cooking and freezing meat meals, and preparing for the worst. My anxiety was heightened from the close call, and I became a prepper. I had been ready before the pandemic was even announced.

Fast forward two months and what has happened? People are panic buying everything. By the start of March, toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitisers were out of stock. Then canned foods, long-life milk, pasta and rice became hot items. Last week, meat, eggs and potatoes began to run out. Now, it seems people are stockpiling asthma relievers, children’s paracetamol and prescription medicines. These days, it’s not uncommon to see bare shelves in supermarkets, big crowds queueing at opening times, or agitated people yelling at staff.

Our family no longer participates in extra-circular activities like sports, swimming or gym (everything is closed or suspended). We don’t go out to restaurants or cafes. We don’t browse in shopping centres. We don’t go to parks or play centres. We don’t visit friends or extended family. We simply don’t go out, except for short walks for exercise and fresh air.

My husband is working from home. My three-year-old son has been pulled from childcare. I’m no longer volunteering as a classroom helper as the neighbourhood centre has closed to protect the community and staff. The only person exposed to public spaces is my seven-year-old daughter who still attends school as per the government.

The disruption to everyone’s routine is immense. Ever try keeping a three-year-old from barging into the study while his dad is on a video conference? Damn near impossible.

From a mental health perspective, these challenging times have, unsurprisingly, made me more anxious. The constant focus on Coronavirus in the news and social media have heightened my anxiety. I find myself reaching for the phone all the time, scrolling for any news on the pandemic. It is always at the forefront of my mind. There are nights where I can’t sleep, worrying about when schools will be closed. I think about worst-case scenarios – job loss, mortgage stress, maxing credit cards, children getting ill, hospitalisations, death. The list is endless.

Recently, my husband put his foot down and demanded I stop reading news on my phone. He insisted that it did nothing good for my mental health. I was exposing myself to massive amounts of negative information, mostly conjecture, that was making my anxiety spiral out of control. I was wasting all my energy and time on something I had no control over, and not keeping things in perspective. I was making myself miserable by trying to do the impossible – forecasting the future and preparing for unknown variables.

My husband encouraged me to redirect my focus on my health and well-being. That meant eating healthy, drinking more water that didn’t have caffeine, putting down the phone, going to bed early, going out for walks to get fresh air and trying to spend more time with the kids. All sensible and logical advice that I was not doing. We can try to put ourselves in the best health position to battle the virus, should we become infected.

So I’ve started walking instead of driving for school runs and hating every minute of it. I’ve reduced phone time and go to bed early. I started having breakfast that wasn’t just coffee. And whaddya know, I have begun to feel better. The sense of impending doom has lessened, and I’ve stopped feeling so panicky. The sight of bare shelves and people scrambling for toilet paper doesn’t make me want to rush in too for fear of missing out. I put back that pack of toilet paper that I didn’t need so that someone else has the opportunity to get one. I’m stepping away from the herd mentality. I feel like I have my anxiety under control.

Am I still scared about the future? Hell yes, but what can I do? The number of infected people will surely continue to rise. There will be overwhelming strain on our health system. People will die. I can only try to keep calm and live one day at a time. I’ll aim to keep in touch and blog our experience through this pandemic.

Keep safe and well everyone.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

LEASHING THE BLACK DOG

Note: Life is hectic. I barely have time to scrape together a decent post for my blog, so it’s rare for me to enter writing competitions. However, upon seeing this month’s writing prompts for Furious Fiction, a story immediately came to mind and I wanted to write it. I share this story with you.


Thunder rumbles. Grey clouds blocks out the sun’s golden rays, darkening the sky and bringing forth a coldness that seeps to the bone. The wind picks up, blowing through tree branches, howling its warning. My eyes scan upwards, noting the turn of the tide. The hair on my neck stands up, prickles in fear. A cold sweat dampens my brow and my stomach churns with apprehension. It’s here. I can sense its foreboding presence.

Scanning the horizon, my eyes land on the ferocious beast as it stalks forward, taking calculated steps, eyes pinned on its prey. As it closes the gap, I can see his snarl, revealing razor-sharp teeth. The Black Dog emits a low and menacing growl. I know he wants to lunge and sink his teeth into me, to subdue and control me.

My heart races, my palms sweat, fear threatens to flood my mind. “Stop!” I force myself to take deep breaths. I won’t let my anxiety overcome and send me into a foetal position. I have trained for the next attack. Standing still in front of the door, I guard my post. A lone sentinel. The only protector to my precious soul, tucked safely behind that door.

Did I miss the warning signs? Did I become complacent? What triggered his advance? I rack my brain for the answers, but it matters little as the beast breaches all of my defences. One by one, the Black Dog smashes through, its leathery skin immune to the surrounding destruction.

I have a choice. To run and be resigned as its victim once more or grab the leash and regain control of this wayward Black Dog. As my eyes narrow on the reason I am constantly on guard, I decide this Dog’s reign of terror has run its course. I am stronger. I am healthier. I am wiser.

Keeping a tight grip on the leash, I approach the beast with a plan in mind. With each step forward, I feel myself growing braver as the Black Dog starts to cower. I stand tall, face him with unwavering eyes, and with the full force of my strength, I snap the leash on his collar. He struggles against my hold and I strain to contain the weight of his pull. Eventually, the beast releases a weak growl before he collapses on the ground, defeated. I lead him to the cage. I am exhausted but happy.

I lean against my door, thankful to have been successful in my guarding. Glossy tears fall freely down my cheeks. I bask in the immense relief. Albeit temporary.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

EXCUSES EXCUSES

I should be losing weight. I should have started my slimming down diet. I should be doing some form of exercise.

Why? No, it’s not to get healthy and fit. No, it’s not for any medical necessity. No, it’s not to be a good role model for my children. It’s simply so that when I rock up to my brother’s wedding next March, I won’t be the butt of my extended family’s ridicule. Sad, isn’t it? I can almost hear you shout… You’re doing it for all the wrong reasons! This would be true if I actually managed to begin the arduous weight loss journey in the first place!

You see, I have a litany of excuses that I am using to bide the time. I’m too tired. I don’t have time. I don’t have runners. I don’t have money to join a gym. I don’t have exercise clothing (That’s a lie… there are some tucked away from 2017’s pilate’s efforts.) I don’t like sweating, my face itches (Seriously, it does!). I have a whole year until I really need to get my act together. And so it goes on and on.

The real reason is I have no discipline. And because I have no discipline, adding lack of drive and laziness into the mix, means I probably won’t be losing any real weight. Have I mentioned that the minute I think about exercising, subconsciously my feet propel towards the pantry and my hand shoves bags of chips and chocolate into my unwilling mouth? It’s a problem. Thinking of a diet causes me to gain weight.

It doesn’t help that my husband tells me every second day that I should start doing the seven-minute workout in the mornings with the children. He thinks it’ll give me energy, and I’ll start to feel better about myself. Sigh. I know what he says makes sense. Somewhere deep in my rational mind, I know this to be true.

I’m just sick of the yo-yo dieting and the lacklustre exercising, and the eventual weight gain. I’m at my heaviest to date and I have gone up three dress sizes since having the babies.

What do you do when you need motivation but have none? What do you do when you should be disciplined but aren’t?

You put one foot in front of the other. You take one step at a time. You start low and go slow.

I guess I’ll start with that seven-minute workout.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/