It gives me great pleasure to announce that I have recently taken on the role of Managing Editor of the amazing Australian children’s book review website, Kids’ Book Review.
I have written reviews for Kids’ Book Review for some time and for the past 18 months have been contributing to the site as a Senior Reviewer. I love the philosophy of KBR – helping little imaginations soar! – and am thoroughly delighted to now be taking on this new role as site founder Tania McCartney takes time out to focus on her own busy writing career.
At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to myself that I would focus my time and energy on the activities and projects that I was passionate about. There was a video posted by a friend on Facebook earlier this year (which I can’t find now, of course), that talked about the importance of following your passions and being true to what you really believe and love, rather than taking the sensible, pragmatic path.
‘Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold’
So read the first two lines from a poster I was given at the end of Year 6, more years ago than I care to count. The poster was part of a graduation gift from the staff at my primary school, with a different poster given to each child, each signed on the back by all the teaching staff.
I often wondered whether they chose this one for me because my best friend was about to head off to boarding school. I always took it as a little reminder that I should make an effort to stay in touch with that departing friend, which I did for many years, but the truth is it was probably just the poster on the top of the pile when they got to my name.
Whatever the reason, I can still recite most of the poem all these years later (more than 30 for those who are interested) and it has been particularly going through my mind lately when I have been making a real effort to give attention to old friendships that have faltered in recent years as I have withdrawn from many of my social circles due to health issues. I’ve also been thinking about new friends, as I’m making an effort to step beyond my family routine to focus on people and activities that I connect with personally, rather than as an extension of my family.
Today I unexpectedly had two encounters that represented the extremes of my current friendship experiences – a new acquaintance who visited for morning tea and a childhood friend who unexpectedly called in for a lightning-quick visit while in town on business.
So, can you guess the link between the amazing Andrea from Fox in Flats, designer Alex Perry and my good self? No? It’s sunglasses, of course (wasn’t it obvious?)
Today is the first day of #FABruary, the new style dare from style blogger extraordinaire, Andrea from Fox in Flats. After yesterday’s post about postponing the official start of my year until February 1st and my determination to take better care of myself, I couldn’t help but identify with Andrea’s motivation for creating a month-long style dare for February:
“It’s like January is the front door to the year – where you’re busy shaking off where you’ve been, and are caught up in a flurry of greetings, kisses and sweaty embraces. Which makes February the foyer. That spot where you look around, get your bearings, and prepare to make a dazzling entrance.
So to make sure we’re walking boldly into 2013, we’ve created another month-long Style Dare: FABruary.
The aim? To put the focus back on you, in little ways, to bring out your fabulousness!”
I saw Andrea’s prompt about her #FABruary dare a few weeks ago and decided to join in. I don’t have a great track record at following through with these things (I will finish a Fat Mum Slim PhotoADay challenge eventually, really I will). This time I was determined things would be different, however, because I am determined that I will be different this year.
There are lots of great things on the way this year, but it felt weird just launching into blogging again after such a long break without some kind of explanation. So, here it is:
January was way too busy with family commitments and behind the scenes planning for me to get anything productive done on my blog. So, rather than stress about it and feel guilty, I have simply shifted my official ‘Let’s Get This Party Started’ date to the 1st February.
This year, I’m finally feeling like I’ve turned a corner after all the issues of the past few years, probably because I’ve finally found a GP who was willing to look at the cause rather than the symptoms and offer some practical, supportive advice to help me refocus and make the changes I need.
In the past week, I’ve worn my glorious sparkly red ‘grown-up Dorothy’ stilettos twice. It’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed the comments and, I’ll admit it, the envy from others. They are the kind of shoes that grab people’s attention.
Every time I wear them, I go through a silent and intense debate beforehand. Maybe I’m getting a little bit too old to be tripping about in 3-inch heels, particularly when they are covered in tiny red sequins and have silver glitter on the soles. Surely by the time you’re looking at 40 in the rearview mirror, you should be past such silly, impractical vanities. The words ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ echo in my head.
Perhaps age isn’t the issue. Perhaps I should be more concerned that an intelligent, well-read woman would find such a frivolous fashion indulgence appealing in the first place. What does the fact that I get such a buzz from wearing sparkly red heels say about my self-esteem, my mental image of myself and my general views on the rights of women to wear comfortable, practical clothing that doesn’t kowtow to superficial societal pressures regarding appearance?
So why do I wear them? Why do I enjoy them so much despite the slight ache in my feet at the end of the night and the mental debate before I leave the house?
When it comes down to it, it has very little to do with the actual shoes, as lovely as they are. What they represent to me is not only freedom to be myself, but a willingness to actually stand out and have others notice me doing so. Wearing them is an act of bravery and defiance, not simply because at my advanced years I’m risking doing a hip if I lose my balance,but rather because I am drawing attention to myself and owning my new confidence.
As a responsible, internet-savvy parent, I regularly remind my children about the importance of cyber safety. They don’t use photos of their own face in any avatars and never give out personal information about their age, school or where we live. All location services are turned off and under no circumstances do they ever organise to meet with someone that they have met on the internet.
Last night I attended a local Twitter Christmas party (#NewyTwistmas) which involved meeting up with 60+ people, most of whom I have never met in person. People I have met over the internet who now know my name, what I look like and miscellaneous details about my life. Looks like this is one of those ‘Do what I say, don’t do what I do’ parenting situations, similar to informing my children that it is too close to dinner for snacks, then sneaking into the kitchen to raid the pantry for chocolate. Parenting is a complicated and, at times, contradictory business.
I have very few ‘real life’ friends on Twitter and most of them can’t understand what I see in it or why on earth I would be excited about getting together with a random group of ‘internet crazies who could be axe murderers, you know’.
For me, Twitter has been a lifeline over the past two years. At the simplest level, Twitter has facilitated connection with an amazing variety people in both a social and professional context that would otherwise be beyond the reach of a stay-at-home mum and writer who moves in quite limited social circles. At a more significant level, several of the people I have met on Twitter have offered me unbelievable levels of support and concern as I’ve moved through two very stressful and difficult years. There have been offers of shoulders to cry on, words of friendship and encouragement, Skype calls and DM conversations that have helped to carry me through some very sad and overwhelming days.
This is a long post, but it’s important, so please read to the end. If you want the short version, here it is:
The Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia does incredible work to bring light, hope and joy into the lives of children who desperately need those things. Please, please support their important work by visiting www.starlight.org.au or click on the Starlight Foundation badge on my sidebar to the right.
For those who want to know why I’m so enthusiastic about The Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia (I’ll refer to it as the Starlight Foundation), read on…
The Starlight Foundation is currently fundraising for their Mission: Christmas 2012 appeal, aiming to raise $1 million to grant wishes for seriously ill Australian children. In a shameless attempt to help you connect with this charity, to make their work real for you, I’m going to introduce you to my wonderful friend Ivy.
I’m not going to show you gorgeous photos to overwhelm you with the cute factor, although I could do that because Ivy’s a sweetie and her mother is a gifted photographer. There are cute photos in abundance. I’m not going to show you heart-wrenching photos either, although sadly we have those in abundance as well. Photos in hospital beds with Ivy lethargic and pale, hooked up to machines with a fatigue and world-weariness in her eyes that no child, or adult, should ever have to experience.
Instead, I’m going to give you a glimpse into the life of Ivy and her family, through the eyes of a friend, so that hopefully you can understand why the wishes The Starlight Foundation grants aren’t just something nice for sick kids. They are true gifts to these children and their families that make a profound difference in their lives. They create priceless moments and memories that these children and their families treasure.
Choose Your Own Adventure books are one of my strongest book memories from primary school (along with Coles Funny Picture Books, Scholastic Book Clubs, and the unfortunately titled Digit Dick books that my Year 2 teacher used to read us). Discovering an as-yet unread novel with the red Choose Your Own Adventure bubble at the top of the white cover was always cause for celebration and delight.
It was exciting to watch my own children discover Choose Your Own Adventure stories for themselves. We have borrowed them regularly from our local library and I’ve picked up a few here and there at second hand stores.
The books have also been republished over the past 10 years, generally with revised text, by Scholastic with new covers (black and darker colours now with more prominent titles, but the red bubble remains). I haven’t read any of the newer versions in detail, so I’m not sure how extensive the revisions are. No doubt it has been important to add mobile phones and computers smaller than a cupboard to keep the attention of modern children.
My youngest, Mr8, has just discovered CYOA books and is quite impressed with them. He has started with a 1983 edition of The Race Forever by R A Montgomery and I can only imagine what kind of automotive technical wizardry the book deals with as the adventure follows the First African Dual Road Race Rally. I’ve noticed him back-tracking to find a more satisfactory storyline, although I’ve yet to see him bookmarking pages with his fingers as I used to do, trying to keep track of the story until I didn’t have enough fingers free to actually hold the book.
I really need to exercise more. My figure is becoming decidedly more pear-shaped than hourglass thanks to too many hours in front of a computer where the only body parts that gets a workout are my fingers. Sadly, having limber, well-toned fingers doesn’t help me fit into the size 10 dress I want to wear to the family Christmas party, so obviously I need to do something a little bit more proactive than write and surf the web.
The problem is, I find exercise excruciatingly boring. I’m not a particularly athletic person to start with and my endorphins seem to have misplaced the memo that informed them that exercise was supposed to send them to their happy place.
Over the years, both pre- and post-children, I’ve tried a few different approaches to organised exercise. Back in the 90s, I went to aerobics classes, which achieved little more than proving that if I try to get my arms and legs moving rhythmically at the same time I’m likely to cause injury to myself and those within my immediate vicinity. The word ‘grapevine’ still gives me nightmares and don’t even get me started on my step aerobics experiences. *shudder*
I’ve had several gym memberships, exercising and/or doing weight training a few times a week. I don’t mind the weight training, but it doesn’t take long for my mind to wander and for my time at the gym to start feeling like a terrible burden that must be endured before I can escape to do something interesting.
I love kitchen gadgets. I love to browse through the kitchen appliance pages of the junkmail we receive and wander along the appliance aisles at BigW and Harvey Norman when I get a chance, just picturing all those shiny gadgets sitting on my kitchen bench making my life so much easier.
Of course, the reality is that so many kitchen appliances fulfil very specific functions and take up more room than the average kitchen can justify. More money too, as many are quite expensive when you consider their limited functions or the availability of less expensive alternatives.
My Kitchen Gadget Wishlist is a mile long. Currently it includes an electric kettle with multi-temperature settings (so that I can heat it to the perfect temperature for different types of tea). I’d also love a proper bench mixer. I love to bake and only just retired the handheld mixer that I was given as an engagement present, replacing it with another handheld mixer. I’d love an ice-cream maker too. I’ve even been tempted to buy a coffee-pod machine, which is evidence of my gadget addiction since I don’t actually drink coffee.
There are two reasons that I don’t have wall-to-wall appliances in my kitchen – limited bench space and limited budget. As much as I would love to have everything that blends, chops, dices, freezes, boils, mixes, grinds and froths, I simply don’t have the bench or cupboard space to store them. I generally can’t spare the money to buy them either. So, I continue to muddle along, indulging in the occasional appliance purchase but generally just longing for them from afar.
Taking all that into account, I was very excited to be selected to test drive (test cook?) the new Philips/Jamie Oliver HomeCooker.
Susan Whelan - freelance writer, wife, mother, Novocastrian, compulsive reader, user of big words and inadequate housewife. Contact me at SusanWhelanWriting(at)gmail(dot)com.
By the way, I'm copyrighted. All of me (especially the good bits).
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