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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CHASING THE GOLDEN ARCHES

“Hey Grandma, did you know that Mummy let’s us have McDonald’s all the time? For breakfasts, lunch AND dinners!”

One loaded statement made from a mischievous six-year-old has led to a sit-down family intervention and my consequential misery.

You see, I’ve been banned from being in close vicinity of any McDonald’s franchise. I cannot use UberEats, Deliveroo or get a taxi to deliver any food from said establishment for a WHOLE month. It seems a bit much. It’s not like I have a problem or anything. Just because I like to eat a Big Mac and fries on many an occasion, doesn’t mean I have an addiction, right?

So to prove to my unnecessarily overly concerned family members that I am not part of a McDonald’s customer loyalty program and I CAN stop, I agreed to their ridiculous terms.


JOURNAL ENTRIES

Day One: Precontemplation

I’m banned. A WHOLE month.

No delicious Big Mac sauce will smear my upper lip. No fulfilling carb-load of fries to warm my belly. No feeling of cold soft serve will tickle my taste buds.

It’s ridiculous, utterly ridiculous! We all have favourite foods. What’s the point of living if you can’t enjoy a Big Mac once in a while?!

I feel such a deep longing; a profound yearning for McDonald’s. I miss smelling, touching and eating it. I feel terribly unsatisfied. Is this normal?

Week One: Contemplation

Hmm… I wonder if there is any truth to this whole addiction thing. Maybe not addiction per se, maybe just a habit. Nope, that word doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe overindulgence. Yes, that’s the word I’m looking for, overindulgence. Is it such a bad word?

I guess I COULD be choosing healthier food options. I DO have the kids to consider. I SHOULD be modelling good eating behaviour. I am a parent and that does come with responsibilities.

Gosh, I still want to stuff my face with McDonald’s. Why do I do that? I don’t really know. Do I have a problem?

Week Two: Preparation

Okay! Okay! … I admit it. I have a problem. I have a McDonald’s affliction. I have a Big Mac and fries obsession. There, I said it. I bet everyone is pleased with themselves.

I have a plan. I will avoid triggers that bring me to my knees. I will uninstall UberEats app. I will bypass all roads that lead within sniffing range of a McDonald’s franchise. I shall choose healthier take-away options. I shall remember to think of the kids and their health every time I feel the desire for a drive-thru. I will eat kale and like it! Maybe.

I am committed. Well, at least for the moment. I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

Week Three: Action

I’ve discovered that it’s damn near impossible to avoid a McDonald’s franchise. They are everywhere, like a fruit fly infestation! Practically every route has a road that leads to nirvana. I suspect Siri has got it in for me.

Every time we are in a food court, I find myself unconsciously drawn to the powerful smell and only awaken from my trance when one of the kids tugs at my arm.

Many salads have been the victim of my frenzied stabbing. I’m cranky and prone to snappiness.

I’m withdrawing HARD. Will it get easier?

Week Four: Maintenance and Recovery

Have I been successful in avoiding triggers and temptations? Yes.

Have I broken the habit? Not yet. I still feel the temptation to stuff my face until I pass out from carb overload.

I think I’ll need ongoing support from family and friends to remind me that ‘I CAN DO THIS!’

Apparently, joining a community support program to reinforce recovery goals can be helpful.

Maybe I’ll look into joining McDonald’s Anonymous. I can’t be the only one with a penchant for Big Macs.


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DON’T TAKE THOSE FREEBIES!

I love freebies. It’s like winning the lottery, only with better odds. It doesn’t matter if it’s a free sample of haemorrhoid cream that I’ll never use or a brochure that will end up in my recycle bin. If it’s free, I’m attracted to it like a fly on a turd. It’s revolting, shameless and somewhat disturbing.

So as a professional freebie collection agent, I’ve learnt a few valuable lessons that I can impart.


Bananas, Nutella, Eggs, Weetbix, Milo, Vanish

I recite the words over in my head.

Coles Little Shop. The current bane of my existence. How has my life become so consumed by this madness?

I curse the marketing gurus at Coles for their ingenious campaign. Damn these super addictive gimmicks! It certainly hooked, lined, and sinkered the crapola out of me. I’m the perfect gullible marketer’s wet dream.

I went from casually getting a few collectables with the weekly groceries to religiously scrolling advertisements on Gumtree for trades and cheap buys. Never in my life have I dreamed of meeting a total stranger; another grown-ass adult, to trade or buy promotional toys. Yet, that’s exactly what I do, under the pretense of getting the whole collection for my five-year-old daughter.

I’ve secured a transaction with someone called MeiMei. She claims to have all six of my… ahem, I mean my daughter’s missing items at a steal. Is it too good to be true? Possibly.

As I park out front of the address MeiMei texted me and stare up at the massive apartment building, I reconsider the rationality of my actions. I have the kids in the car. No one knows I’m here, not even my husband. MeiMei could be an axe murderer.

I quickly rectify the situation by texting my bestie.

“Hey, I’m at x address. If I don’t text you in fifteen minutes, call the cops.”

There. Problem solved.

“Mummy, why are we just sitting here?” asks Mandy.

“I’m just thinking,” I reply. I text MeiMei to let her know that I’m outside her building.

My phone dings. ‘Meet me at Room 42, Level 2.’

The theme song to Jaws starts to play in my mind as I conjure up a whole host of bloody and graphic scenarios of my death. I get a cold sweat; my hands are shaking. I can’t do this! It’s crazy. There’s no way I can escape with two kids dragging me down!

“Mummy! Are we getting the Little Shop!” demands Mandy, exasperated with my procrastination.

I text MeiMei to meet us downstairs instead. It seems like the most sensible thing to do.

“Ok. I want you to lock the doors when I leave and call this number if anything happens,” I tell Mandy.

Mandy looks worried so I try to placate her. “It’s ok. Nothing will happen. I’m just being extra cautious.”

I mentally facepalm myself for putting us through this unnecessary danger and stress. I’m certainly not in the running for the Mother-Of-The-Year Award.

I gape at the person who just exited the doors. The Asian woman is wearing a pair of six-inch black platform pumps, bright pink bike shorts and a pink feathered crop top.

Woah. She can’t possibly chase me down in those heels. I’m probably safe.

“Here, you check,” MeiMei says. No introduction. No pleasantries. Straight to business.

I feel like I’m in a scene of Breaking Bad. I glance about nervously, hand over the cash and grab the goods before rushing back to the car. I forget to say goodbye; I’m that skittish.

I chuck the goods over my shoulder to my daughter and laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Two weeks later…

I grab my foot and wince in agony. I look down at the offending object. Stupid Little Shop miniatures are strewn all over the carpet like landmines waiting to exact maximum damage.

Life lesson: What began as a freebie ended in unnecessary anxiety and a miniature Dettol bottle embedded into the sole of my foot. Nothing is truly free.

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NEGOTIATION BREAKDOWN

Tantrums. A word that sends shivers down many a parent’s spine. An action that when unleashed in public, causes embarrassment and dismay.

Do you ignore it? Do you try to placate? Do you bribe? Or do you edge away and pretend the toddler lying facedown on the ground isn’t yours?

It’s common knowledge that toddlers lack social and emotional maturity, are at the beginning stages of language development and seek independence over their environment. As a consequence, toddlers are prone to tantrums when they become frustrated or upset. While it is a normal part of child development, it’s still painful to deal with.

“Remember Henry, if you want to walk,” I tell my tantrum-prone toddler, “you must hold Mummy’s hand.”

“Ok Mummy,” Henry replies, looking innocently at me.

I know better. I squat down to his eye level and reiterate my point. “You have to hold my hand. No running.”

“Yes Mummy,” he replies, adamant. “I will!”

“Promise?” I tease. Seriously, as if I can trust the word of a two-and-a-half-year-old.

“Promise.”

We start our hundred-metre walk to pick up his sister from school. We get two metres from the car before Henry tugs at my hand.

“Mummy! A bug!” Henry exclaims, pointing at a dead beetle.

“Oh yes, a bug.” I gently pull him along but he resists.

“Mummy, bug bite me?”

“No, it’s dead darling.” My second attempt at leaving fails.

“His Mummy and Daddy will be sad.”

I sigh. “Yes, so sad but they’ll always remember it.”

“Is it a boy or girl?”

Ah shoot. I don’t have time for this.

“I don’t know darling.” I pull him forwards.

“Hey look over there!” I point to nothing in particular.

“What?” Henry asks, his interest piqued.

“I see something interesting over there,” I lie. “Lets go have a look.”

Henry starts walking in the right direction. There are two randy teenagers exchanging saliva on the sidewalk. Henry decides to stop right in front of them and blurts out, “Bleurgh!”

The teenagers stop their tonsil hockey. I suppress my laughter.

We walk another five metres before Henry refuses to hold my hand.

“Mummy, I’m ok. I was here,” he argues, pointing to the footpath.

“No Henry,” I admonish. “Hold my hand.”

We are so so close to our destination, I could cry.

“No!”

In a flash, his hand slips out and he’s running towards the road. I sprint after him like Wile E. Coyote after the Road Runner.

I drop my phone in the process. I’m appalled to admit that for a split second I had considered the merits of stopping to pick up my phone.

I grab Henry by the jacket before he gets hurt. He throws an epic tantrum as I drag him back to retrieve my phone.

I struggle with small fists and legs thrashing around. I’m sweating from my exertion. My phone screen is cracked.

It’s a fine balance between giving your child the opportunity to feel independent and keeping them safe. Some days I feel like throwing in the parenting towel. It’s a hard role. The toughest gig I’ve ever had.

Next time you see a harried parent with a toddler chucking a tantrum, give them a sympathetic smile and try not to judge.

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THE ART OF PACKING

Before I had children, I use to leisurely stroll each and every aisle of the supermarket, picking things off the shelf when I remembered that I needed them. I didn’t bother with a grocery list. There was only two of us and if I forgot something then I’d return another day. No biggie.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of this simple act of necessity as being an enviable task. I miss the days of languid and uninterrupted meandering, just like how I wish I had luxuriated in more sleep. Oh, how I miss those days!

I go to the supermarket with either one or two kids in tow and the most pleasurable part is getting the kids back into the car and going home. I don’t know about other parents but to me having two pipsqueaks continually saying, “Mummy, can we buy this?” and “Mummy, can I get that?” drives me insane.

I almost never leave home without a grocery list, and I speed down aisles to collect items like I’m on a My Kitchen Rules cook-off. I obviously pass the chip, chocolate, and soft drink aisles because seriously, who needs the drama of wrestling contraband off a raging toddler?

Normally, I go through self-serve because it’s the quickest way out of the store. With a toddler that can drop a tantrum like a hot potato, it’s best not to procrastinate in a place with too many temptations and “get the hell out of dodge” is my shopping mantra.

Today I had too many things in the shopping trolley to go through self-serve and seeing that Henry seemed eerily calm, I opted to go through checkout. I methodically place items in groups that I hope get bagged together. The young man at the register begins packing the bags, arranging items in particular positions like he’s a Tetris prodigy. Simply perfect for my anally retentive grocery packing personality. I can appreciate good packing skills. No one wants a dirty tango between raw meats and fruit.

As he continues to pack at the rate of one item per minute, Henry starts to grumble about wanting to hop out of the trolley. I try to placate him with a yoghurt and silently pray for the dude to hurry the hell up. Henry’s about to throw down and no one will be ready for the impending Hiroshima-like explosion that will be unleashed.

I twiddle my thumbs, glancing nervously at Henry’s whining and thrashing about. I give checkout dude one more minute for good measure but my eye twitches at the sight of him taking out a punnet of tomatoes and replacing them with the punnet of mushrooms. They are the exact same size!

“Mummy!” Henry wails.

I suddenly jump into action. I grab the tomatoes off the dude and shove them into a bag.

“How about you scan and I’ll help bag,” I tell him with a smile that’s too wide to be considered normal.

He recoils at the sight of my crazed look and starts quickly scanning. I shove items left, right, and centre into bags, practically arm sweeping them in. I work at a rapid pace and only pause for breath once I hand over my card to pay.

I stand back and take stock of my surroundings. The people behind me and the checkout dude are giving me strange looks. I start from the realisation of my erratic behaviour. Embarrassed, I quickly leave with my screaming toddler. It’s a sobering moment of self-awareness at how different my life has become.

Do I regret having kids? Definitely not.

Would I change anything? Probably not.

Oh, wait. Yes. Avoid the Tetris guy.

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LUNCH

Anyone on a budget would know that a surefire way of saving some coin is by packing your work lunch. People will tell you it’s healthier and there is the added bonus of reducing food wastage by eating leftovers. Plus health nuts will tell you that buying a salad drenched in salad dressing will give you a bunch of unwanted calories.

So being the good mum that I try to be, I pack myself an adult sized version of the kid’s school lunches.

A piece of fruit, some low-fat yoghurt, a ham salad sandwich, a handful of crackers and water. Done. Perfectly acceptable nutritious meal.

After all, being a parent means being a role model and you should practice what you preach right?

So as I stop into the bakery nearby work and grab myself a full cream mocha and an egg and bacon roll, I justify it to myself that it’s a necessary evil. I was too busy with the morning rush to have a proper breakfast. And we all know that having breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What’s ten dollars to the budget?

Lunch rolls around and I realise that I left my healthy lunch at home. Was my subconscious mind trying to sabotage my healthy eating? Probably.

I line up with the masses and order myself some overly priced rice paper rolls. If I have to buy lunch then I might as well treat myself. I’ve jumped into a pool of denial and it looks like I’m staying. What’s another fifteen dollars? We’ve blown the budget and the healthy diet anyway. I eat my oh-so yummy meal and push that twinge of guilt deep deep down.

The afternoon flunk creeps up on me and I need a chocolate. The very same chocolate I tell my daughter she shouldn’t have because there’s too much sugar and sugar is the damn devil!

I deliberate for all of about a minute on the pros and cons of unwanted calories. Oh heck! Who am I kidding? I’m eating that damn chocolate.

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FUDGE

Swearing, cussing, cursing, using profanities…

Some say it’s a form of expression. Some say it’s great for social bonding. Some say it’s a democratic right. Some even say it offers stress and analgesic relief!

Most people would agree that it’s considered foul language and that it’s socially unacceptable to swear in front of children. I’ve spent a good number of years retraining myself to say “fudge” instead of “f#@k” and “sugar” instead of “sh*t” so that my kids can keep their virginal ears intact.

I’m not naive. I knew that one day Mandy would learn it from friends or from the schoolyard. I just wasn’t prepared for it to happen so soon.

“Mummy, I know the F word. Teagan told me today,” says Mandy excitedly, like she’s just unwrapped an LOL Surprise. I hate those things.

Astonished with Mandy’s revelation, I spin around to face her, “What F word?” I’m in total denial mode.

“The F word,” Mandy exclaims, using her fingers to air quote.

“Oh the F word,” I say, pretending to understand her meaning. “Yeah fudge is a pretty cool word.”

I turn back to the kitchen counter and absentmindedly prepare dinner. I silently pray for this discussion to end.

“That’s not the F word,” Mandy says with indignation. “Teagan has a sister in grade five, and she told her.”

Mandy pulls me down and whispers conspiratorially, “It’s friggin hell.”

She looks at me for confirmation. I release a huge sigh of relief, “Yes darling, that’s the F word.”

I give her my most serious looking expression. “You are a big girl now Mandy and you will hear bad words that adults sometimes use but it’s important that you don’t use them.”

“Why can adults use bad words but kids can’t?” asks Mandy.

My mind searches for the most appropriate answer but my mouth just blurts out, “Because you’ll get in trouble if the teachers hear you say them.”

Ah sh*t, did I just say that? That’s the best I could come up with? Too late now, I just have to run with it.

I momentarily hold my breath, waiting for a barrage of questions.

Mandy gives me a suspicious look but reluctantly agrees and saunters off.

Phew! Thank ‘fudge’ for small reprieves.

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