My birthday is the same day as World Autism Day, which always feels serendipitous to me since my eldest son has autism. So of course I’ve fallen down a hole in TikTok watching all the sweet/cute/informative videos by and featuring people with autism. I only dragged myself out of this hole long enough to post this because I keep not updating the blog much ;p and let’s be real it’s almost guaranteed I’ll be jumping straight back in once I’m done here.
My main birthday present today was a kotatsu – something I’ve wanted for longer than I’ve been with my husband, which is seventeen years, so not a short length of time. I’m looking forward to writing under its lovely soft blanket a LOT this winter, and am glad I live in the southern hemisphere where that isn’t a very long wait. I’m planing to do a lot of words in my Charming for Hire series there 😀
One of the only good things that came out of the dumpster fire called 2020 was that in October I finally started doing ice skating lessons, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child(it only took me thirty-odd years to get around to committing to it ;p ).
Last night I took my fourth test and passed into the Intermediate 1 class. I’ve moved through four levels in the last five months and I’m so excited and proud I thought I’d share it here. The only downside is I’ll be moving to a different time slot for my lessons now, so won’t be skating with any of the friends I made 🙁
On the other hand, I wonder when I’ll get my stats boost for all this leveling up ;p
For months now (possibly even a year, I can’t remember when I started) every time I’ve been passing by our dog, Porthos, and he’s asleep I’ve done what parents of newborns will be familiar with: I’ve stopped in my tracks and waited, breath held, until I’ve seen his stomach or chest rise and fall with breath or some other movement that proved he was still alive. And over the last few months he was napping so much of the time I was pausing at lease five times a day. The saddest part was, this time I didn’t have to check, I just knew. It wasn’t any of his comfortable napping poses. I froze not to wait, but to put my hand over my mouth and start crying.
Like Arima, Porthos was Ezri‘s son, born in the same litter as Arima. He was named for Captain Archer’s (from Star Trek Enterprise) pet beagle, but we had a lot of people (read: not nerds) think it was for The Three Musketeers, especially with Arima around which people would think was Aramis. For a large part of the three’s lives all of them lived together with us, but Porthos had a bit of a journey before those days.
In the young days, still a puppy, Porthos would escape with or without his mother (usually with), but none of those journeys is the one I’m talking about. When he was a few months old Porthos went to live with T-J’s parents. They didn’t rename him because T-J’s mum also is a Trekkie. But it wasn’t a forever home (though not through neglect). When the couple split, Porthos moved with T-J’s mum, but then she made a further move to Tasmania. While she looked for a place suitable for an escape artist dog Porthos stayed with us, completing the trio of dogs we’ve had for over a decade.
Porthos was an impressive jumper. We had to extend too-short fences with chicken wire to prevent his stunning leaps over, and then ensure all houses after had solid six foot fences. Being the leanest of the trio he was often the first to wriggle worm-like under fences too, and was the last to give up escaping the yard for adventures in the wide world – though his last escape a couple of years back was anti-climactic as he only escaped into our back door neighbor’s yard to play with their dog Indie ;p
so grey you can barely tell he’s a pedigree tri-colour beagle
Porthos started going grey almost as soon as his mother did (so a year and a half early) and his colour bleaching was even more extensive and for at least the last year I’ve been calling him ‘Old Man’ far more than his real name.
While being our only dog for the last 18 months might have been a little lonely since his fur family wasn’t around anymore, his human family’s attention was no longer split, and he also got away with a lot more stuff (such as coming inside far more often). He also got to enjoy more big group walks as it’s much easier to walk with two kids and a dog that two kids and three (or two) dogs, that and in his old age he wasn’t tugging the leash quite so violently as in his more youthful days.
Another benefit of being the last dog is when he started getting picky with his food he was indulged (gourmet dog loaves anyone?). Sadly as the months wore on he got pickier and pickier. Even the food he did like he’d wait to eat, or eat a little now then a bit more an hour or two later. A couple of cheeky magpies in the area would pop by in the morning to have a peck or two at what was left in his bowl. Then morning and afternoons, and now just whenever they felt a bit peckish (bdm-tsh). Seriously though, I should take a picture of these magpies, they are legitimately fat birds compared to the rest of their species.
so old he was gentle enough on the leash for Xander to hold it on his own
He was always funny with his food though, insisting on flipping over dry food bowls because he’d rather eat it off the ground, and often playing what I can only call cat-like with individual biscuits and flipping them up in the air and chasing them. (I tried to find a video of this while sorting through our drives for this memorial but there are soooooo many videos over the years, I haven’t been able to find it yet. Will post if I do though because it’s hilarious and adorable). In a similar cat like way, he used to like to climb up onto my lap and curl up there too. In the picture at the top of pregnant me cuddling him he was trying to curl up in my lap and I was telling him “Dude, I don’t even have a lap at the moment”. Like all our dogs, he never chased any of our cats, but that’s probably because he was raised as a puppy with many of them while they were kittens.
With Porthos’ passing yesterday we now live in a house with no canines, a state we haven’t been in since the very early days of our relationship. He was 16, like his mum, so a huge part of our lives and our kids’. It’s tough, waking up in a dog-less house, but at least the trio is together once more.
The trio snuggled up in a nap pile, I had to take the photo through the window because if I opened the door to go outside they would hear it and come rushing to the door to beg for food.
For those who’ve been around a long time, you may remember my post on how my son, Xander, reacted when seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2 in the cinema. He still sometimes refuses to watch the movie even now, four years later (we have it on blu ray and do watch it every now and again).
So when How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World came out down here in Australia, releasing on his birthday, we really wanted to take him, but weren’t sure if he’d want to go. After a long fun day of meeting Shaun the Sheep at Paradise Country and shopping for Bendy figurines, we showed him his cinema picture and the movie poster and asked him if he wanted to go. The answer was a resounding yes. We also showed Harley and she became super excited (she and I have been watching the tv series recently).
The kids loved it, and Xander has now grown enough to be able to understand that what he is watching is fiction, that the dragons being tied up and taken away aren’t real creatures suffering before his very eyes. You can still see him get tense and worried, but it isn’t the near meltdown levels of anguish he would experience before.
It’s wonderful to see him grow and mature, and it’s also fantastic when certain triumphant scenes happen he claps and cries out ‘yay!’ in the cinema he’s so happy. (and the patrons directly behind us thought it was cute <3 ). Also you should definitely check the movie out.
My car going up on the tow truck while I watch from my ride to the wedding
OK, I’m pushing the limits of leeway since the song is ‘LIFE Is A Highway’ and the road I broke down on was a motorway, but shhh.
So I was on the way to the wedding of an old work friend, Brad, and my car broke down ON THE MOTORWAY. Of course I was driving in the fast lane when the accelerator suddenly cuts out so I have to navigate in a rapidly decelerating car across four lanes of traffic to the safety of the shoulder. And naturally by the time I get near the shoulder I also have to cut across and extra lane of merging traffic from the on-ramp (why should it be easy ;p )
You can imagine the fun: a lightly smoking car, me in a fancy dress and heels trying to figure out all the things that have to be done to ensure we are safe, the car is safe, and we still get to the wedding – because I sure as hell wasn’t about to miss Brad and Scott’s wedding ;p
The happy couple
Now here’s a tidbit for my Aussie readers. If you every break down on a freeway/highway/motorway you can call up (in Qld RACQ, in other states I’m not sure) and you get a free emergency tow off the freeway to a safe location for you and the car.
You can also, if you have someone babysitting your kids for the wedding, call them up and beg them to also drive you to the wedding ;p
We missed the ceremony sadly (walked up the steps to the chapel just as the guests came out and started walking down them), but we made it to the reception and had a great time.
winking at the camera on her first day living with us
Our house is a little smaller today, as our oldest pet passed last night.
Ezri was the first pet T-J and I took in together (we both came to the relationship with a pet or two but she was our first we got together). T-J had always wanted a beagle and we found a reputable breeder of pedigree beagles and she was looking for a home for an older puppy. Ezri was a year and a half old already when we got her. Her owner had hoped to make her a show dog but she was a little too lively for standing still for inspection. Lively was fine by us though <3
Her original name from the breeder was ‘Mermaid’ but she was called Merry. T-J had always love the name Ezri, and they were similar enough that she transitioned to the new name in no time.
We stayed in contact with the breeder, and one day she asked us if we wanted to breed a litter. Ezri was to the breed standard for tri colour breeds and had the beautiful black saddle and bold caramel, she was beautiful and who doesn’t love puppies. Using the breeder’s connections we found a sire and bred a litter of pedigree puppies who the breeder registered under her name and got us certificates for.
Ezri’s first litter was of five, four tri-colour and one bi-colour. Sadly during the first night the bi-colour passed away, but the rest of the litter thrived, bounding all around our house with wild abandon. The two girls were Darla and Inuki, and the boy’s names should be familiar – Porthos and Arima.
As payment for her help the breeder wanted the first born female, Darla. Porthos went to live with T-J’s parents and we decided we’d keep Arima, who was the most sweet-natured of the pups. We advertised Inuki and found her a good home and gave her owners her papers.
A short while later we had a less well-planned litter which had many complications, resulting in medical intervention. Only one puppy, the first, survived and only because we fought to bring her back, so we called her Phoenix. Phoenix found a lovely home with a big family and we made sure Ezri wouldn’t have to go through that again.
For those not familiar with the breed: beagles are escape artists. We’ve probably paid almost a grand in local pound fees from Ezri escaping and going for walks – sometimes quite long ones, often taking her pups with her. We got into fence disputes with neighbours when fencing was insufficient to keep them in, and sometimes even when it was they’d dig right under. And no, even big walks every day didn’t deter this behaviour in her and the boys youth(though it certainly slowed these last few years). We knew she was getting old one day when we came home and she was lazing in the front yard but the boys were long gone.
Over the years Ezri was the first to go grey. It was funny because while I knew some animals really did fade in colour (black horses going bronze ect) Ezri really went grey (you can compare some of the photos when she was really young to some of the recent photos and you’ll see what I mean) .
When I went through my first pregnancy I hung out with Ezri a lot more, I felt old, fat, and tired too and I think she sympathised – but the boys kept crowding me whenever I went to play so I didn’t go out as much as I’d have liked.
not one of the actual pics of Xander trying to ride, but definitely the first attempt to try and climb on ;p
When Xander was young he tried to ride the beagles (that’s why they have saddles, right?). I think Ezri was the first to discover if she sat down he’d slide off and give up after a while.
Ezri lived to the ripe old age (for a beagle at least) of 16, even out-living her beautiful boy Arima, but leaving Porthos with us still (who came back to us, but thats another story for another sad day I hope is still a long way off).
I’ve never been one to cry at weddings before. I understand the emotion that leads people to cry at them and I have felt that culminating swell and flutter often, but never actually had the tears until today. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.
Today our Aunt Trish and her partner Cath were married. It was a beautiful and touching ceremony and I’ve been told that it was the first same-sex marriage to take place in Queensland. The law passed allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australia on December 9th, 2017, but you must give your celebrant 30 days prior notice before the ceremony can legally take place – however, there are exemptions for every rule and Cath and Trish qualified for one(though a part of me wishes it wasn’t so considering their specific exemption).
The magnificent staff at John Flynn Private Hospital (where Cath worked for some 25+ years) went all out setting up and decorating marquees, putting on a delicious spread and making a wedding cake that will be the envy of many couples I’ve no doubt.
All our love to you both Trish and Cath and may you be together and happy far beyond this simple moment in time <3
If you’d like to see more photos than what I can fit in this tiny post those of us attending the ceremony today are using the hashtag #CathandTrish2018 on your poison, oops sorry, social media of choice.
We came back from the weekend away to bad news this week; our beagle Arima had passed away.
Arima was the son of our first dog, Ezri, and like his mother was a pedigree beagle (yep, papers and all). I can remember the day they were born, twelve and a half years ago. T-J and I were so nervous and Ezri probably just wanted us out of her face while she paced and nested and did her thing. We stayed up all night, but the puppies didn’t come till the next morning (I seem to be cursed/curse those around me with long labours ;p).
Arima was named for one of my favourite manga heroes: Soichiro Arima from His and Her Circumstances/Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou.You might be sensing a pattern or anime-derived pet names.
While all the other puppies had homes to go to Arima didn’t, but I was only too glad to keep him with us. Because Arima was bred to perfect breed standards – ideal black saddle and all – we always intended to put him in a show one day, but then next thing you know we have kids and then he has grey hairs and the time passed.
Unlike his namesake Arima was always a mischief. He was a master escape artist (as multiple fees from the local pound when they found him before us can attest), and loved breaking into the house to track down any unattended food. He was also almost always the one to start up a howl, and if you didn’t stop him soon all three dog were howling, then every dog in the street!
The last Christmas we had at our place we served the ham up on a platter, left it on the table to go get the rest of the feast only to find Arima and his mischievous little pack escaped from their area and up on the table scoffing the ham. At least someone had ham that Christmas ;p
In his entire life I don’t think he ever spent more than a whole day away from his mother (actual mother, not me his fur-baby mother ;p ), and even then only because one or the other of them was at the vet. When his brother, Porthos, came back to live with us they became an inseparable pack, which made walks more difficult since leaving anyone behind resulted in endless devastated howling(trust me, we tried many times, particularly after our children were born). I barely have a photo of one of the trio without at least one of the others photobombing. Their pack also includes our cats who were never chased or heckled even once that I noticed.
We’ll miss our little boy and it’s evident his pack still misses him too.
the pack sleeping on top of the table because Baron the cat was ‘hogging’ the dog bed beneath (Arima is the one looking at the camera)
What do I want for Christmas? I want anyone who has an agenda (be it good or bad in ANYONES view) on parents and children to stop using autism as a scare tactic. Anti-vaxxers have been doing it for ages, but a couple of days ago I saw a news article about research that proved if you took anti-depressants during pregnancy your child was 87% more likely to be diagnosed autistic by age 7.
Now my assumption is if your depression is so bad that your doctor actually prescribes you anti-depressants during pregnancy and you take them, that your condition is pretty severe, and you’re in danger of harming yourself and consequently your unborn child. Why put extra pressure on your already fragile self of fearing autism when death is a possible consequence?
The pattern I’m seeing here is people saying autism is a worse consequence than the possibility of death. Articles all over the internet are telling me my son is THE worst case scenario; there is nothing worse in the entire world than having a child like him. And that makes me pray he is never able to read these articles. Can you imagine what it would be like to be told death is preferable to the way your mind works?
To be clear, I’m not telling anti-vaxxers they have to vaccinate their kids. It’s your choice. I may disagree with it, but that’s your prerogative (though I’ll keep my too-young-to-be-fully-vaccinated daughter very far away from your kids sorry to say). I’m also not saying to take drugs if you’re pregnant and damn the consequences. I’m saying if you’re talking about these things(or anything else for that matter) with other people, trying to convince them to follow your way of thinking, don’t use autism as a way to frighten them into siding with you.
Late at night, after I settle my six month old daughter back to sleep after her middle of the night feed, I’ve been unable to fall back to sleep this has been stressing me so severely. I don’t ever want my child to learn that so many people consider him a fate worse than death.
Is autism REALLY a fate worse than death? Could you say that to anyone, child or adult, anywhere on the spectrum? Tell them better they died at two years old, gasping for breath, unable to understand what’s happening, choking as the coughing from whooping cough doesn’t allow them to breathe air back in before coughing again and again and again until there’s no air left to expel and everything goes black. Tell them better they died in utero because their mother was so despondent she cut her wrists and bled too much before changing her mind and trying to crawl from the bath tub to the phone, never reaching her goal.
Tell my son, only two weeks away from turning 5 that he, happy though he is, so adoring of his sister that he stresses strangers might kidnap her so pulls the shade of the pram down to hide her in large crowds, loving to dance, and play with robots and dinosaurs, but is unable to speak or understand much of what is said to him, that he would be better off dead.
Autism is not a fate worse than death. Don’t talk like it is. Don’t spread this heart-breaking lie around. Sure, debate your points if you want, tell people all the research you’ve done or about your friend or family member who had an unfortunate bad experience, but don’t ever say again that autism is a possible side effect with the intent to scare someone into following your advice.
<– This cutie is why it’s been pretty quiet here on the blog lately. Not to mention I have three short stories under various different levels of ‘upcoming publication’ and my yearly goals to achieve (I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to scrap goal #2, because the others have been pretty all-consuming).
Speaking of goals, to try and help me polish off #3 (the final revision/edits of Written By The Stars) I’m going to turn NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month) into NaNoReMo (National Novel Revision Month).
I’ve been using the Holly Lisle ‘How To Revise Your Novel’ course to help guide me and I’m finally up to the last step – doing the write-in (there’s a lot of lead up steps that help you spot problems and plan your revision). So I’m going to break up the process into two parts – the paper revision then the write in revision and track it by pages. I have 191 pages, so each of those done twice means I need to do 12.7 pages a day to do it in a month. At times like this I wish the kids went to school ;p Let’s see if I can pull this off without neglecting the kidlets or the housework too much. Certainly glad I’m not off maternity leave just yet!
Now enough business, lets all just take a moment to absorb how adorable Harley is in her pumpkin tutu!
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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