Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Category: My Family (Page 3 of 4)

thoughts and experiences on being a wife, being a mother and trying to make a family work

Farewell to Grum

I know realistically no one but me really cares about my cat, but today my cat Grum passed away from liver failure. I need to vent somehow and writing usually helps me. If you don’t care, or might care to much, feel free to not read. I just want to commemorate her.

A very young Grum, you can see some of the bald patches on her feet still

A very young Grum, you can see some of the bald patches on her feet still

She was the matriarch of my pets. Being the oldest of the cats she was automatically queen of the roost, but Grum started out as a stray kitten, too young to be separated from her mother, with ear mites so thick the insides of her ears were black, conjunctivitis sealing one eye closed and fleas so bad patches of her fur were missing.

Understandably she had no trust for humans. She gained the name Grum because she would hide brilliantly but you always knew where she was because when you walked past her hiding spot you could hear her grumbling, a little kitten thunder growl. I imagine she didn’t like the drops in her ears and eyes multiple times a day, nor the paste squirted down her throat, but as the time passed she grew her hair back, the inside of her ears returned to pink and she could see clearly out of both eyes. I don’t think she started to trust us straight away, but it came eventually.

Young Grum, all healed up and inspecting the world

Young Grum, all healed up and inspecting the world

She had faith in myself and TJ, and while the grumbling stopped for us, it didn’t for anyone else who came in our house. Grum didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t part of the family, a fact which lead her into danger only about six months later.

She was being cared for away from our house by a friend, and someone opened the door. Grum saw a chance to escape and took it.

We plastered the pet stores with ‘lost’ posters but heard nothing. A month later we assumed she had escaped into some of the near-by bush land and was living wild.

When my phone rang late one Sunday afternoon I debated answering the unfamiliar number – this was before the ludicrous telemarketers started using mobile numbers regularly, so I answered.

Someone had found Grum. The woman was the owner of a townhouse complex. Pets were forbidden in the complex and she’d been seeing the cat for the last three days and trying to catch her so she could scold the owner, but when she finally caught Grum she discovered the poor cat had tried to remove her collar and her arm was caught in the collar still around her neck.

TJ and I rushed over to pick up Grum and true enough, she had put one of her front paws through her collar while trying to remove it. Now the collar was cutting in under her arm and across her neck. The collar was cutting into her underarm. Her entire arm was stiff and she couldn’t move it. Her arm must have been trapped there for a while because her muscles had seized.

We took her to the after-hours vet, who informed us the only option was amputation.

Grum with her bandage while waiting to go to a vet who would listen.

Grum with her bandage while waiting to go to a vet who would listen.

Being the stubborn animal lover I am, I insisted he was wrong. True, Grum could not move her shoulder, elbow or wrist (or feline equivalents thereof), but the whole drive back from the townhouse complex she had been kneading TJ’s lap with her claws, ALL of them, including the injured arm’s. She has fine motor control, I argued. I took the vet’s painkillers but went back home to wait for our usual vet to be open in the morning.

I stayed up all night with her until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

In the morning I went to the vet and told him my well-rehearsed speech about how she had fine motor control, so surely the arm was salvageable. My vet agreed, and showed me how to do her physiotherapy myself and told me it needed to be done five times a day. Lucky I was only a casual employee at the time and didn’t have a lot of shifts!

Grum, her wound healed, but her leg still not in full use yet.

Grum, her wound healed, but her leg still not in full use yet.

Grum put up with my bending her limbs with poise. She would watch me closely the whole time, but never complain nor bite and scratch me, only flinching when we reached her limits. She trusted me enough to know whatever I did was what was best for her.

After a matter of months it became difficult to remember which of her front legs had been the injured one because she didn’t even have a limp anymore.

Grum continued on to be a mum thanks to her time in the wild, and two of her daughters stayed on with our family (a calico we called Taruto after ‘Magical Nyan Nyan Taruto’ and another grey tabby(darker than her mother) called Miho). Sadly Grum outlived Taruto (a tragic thing for a parent to outlive their child) but she and Miho continued on, moving house with us countless times until settling here in this last house.

Grum rests on Xander's Totoro infant play mat

Grum rests on Xander’s Totoro infant play mat

Grum was not sure what to make of it when I had my own offspring, though she did thoroughly enjoy sleeping on several of his toys and mats even if she was smart enough to not remain in the room with him once he was old enough to walk over and grab her tail.

I won’t depress myself further or make you cry by going through the events of this morning, I just wanted to share the exciting life of a stray kitten who found a home and learned to trust. Grum had tough times in her life, but she knew that TJ and I were always there for her, scaring off the aggressive next-door neighbour’s cat when he’d jump into our yard and try to claim it and helping her recover from those harder times. Today it was just beyond our ability to help.

Goodbye Grum. I’ll miss you.

Too Many Topics For A Title

I don’t usually blog about multiple topics in one post, but today I’ll make an exception.

Wahoo! I finally finished Storybook Perfect (again). In case you were unfamiliar with why I mention the ‘again’, I had finished Storybook Perfect, the first in a trilogy, but when I compared its 175,000 word count to my estimated 120,000 word count for the following two books I didn’t like the discrepancy and decided to turn the trilogy into a quartet. You can read more here.

So, finally re-written, revised, edited and formatted. Now onto fixing my paragraph and 2 page synopsis (no need to change the one sentence fortunately). Then to start submissions again. Is it sad that I’m excited by that?

So that’s one thing ticked off on my NaNoWriMo prep list.

Word Count Calendar

I’ve also set up a little excel spread-sheet with my word count goals. It only took me a few minutes to make the spread-sheet, though I am laughing at myself for forgetting how to make sums in Excel (a minute of thought reminded me I need to preface the word ‘SUM’ with an equals symbol). It has been three or four years since I built a spread-sheet from the ground up.

Being the generous person I am (Toot toot! Hear me tooting my own horn?) I thought I’d share it for anyone who wants to save themselves the 10 or so minutes it would take them to make it. You just click this link.

My parents read my post about winning the Nature’s Cuppa tea pack. They are currently doing the grey nomad thing around Australia (not sure what a grey nomad is? Here you go.) and asked me to save some of the chai tea bags for them. That reminded me I probably should try some of the other flavours (I was so in love with the chai I didn’t even open the other packs yet).

The earl grey is delicious. The aroma relaxes you immediately and the flavour matches the aroma to a ‘t’ (pun or not? Your choice). The chai’s scent is a lot more peppery than the flavour (other spices level out the taste nicely) hence why I mention how well the smell matches the taste in regards to the earl grey. Who knows, give me a week and I might have tried another flavour ;p

My business cards arrived too. I was going to post about it yesterday, but doctor’s appointments, broken down cars (resulting in having to drive T-J to and from work), and Xander’s refusal to leave the park even after an hour and a half (I tried the good old ‘bye-bye Xander’ and walk away trick, but he just waved to me and kept on playing. You’re too young to see through mummy’s ruse yet Xander!) meant my day was a little too full for blogging.

A shot of my business card

So here’s my card! I used a small strip of the website background to add a little colour, and I’ve been obsessed with the QR code for months. What do you think?

Lastly, I’m looking forward to going to the Gold Coast Writer’s Festival, I’ll be attending on Friday and Saturday. I’ll let you all know how it goes. I hope someone asks for my business card 😀

Well, that wraps up my crazy multi-topic post. Do you think my word count goal spread sheet could be useful for other stuff too? What do you think of the business card (try out the QR code!)? Keep your fingers crossed for me and the submissions please.

 

I won the Nature’s Cuppa prize pack but am under no obligation to comment/blog about the tea. All opinions are my own and not paid for.

Xander and my business card

Rainy Days – Pros and Cons

I know it’s a window, but maybe I can climb through to outside.

Pro: When it’s raining everything green becomes much richer in colour, so vivid and verdant. I wonder if it is something to do with the clouds blocking certain rays of light, or if their colour creates an offset which makes an illusion of a much brighter green. I don’t know, but it’s beautiful none the less. My camera really doesn’t do it justice.

Con: Your toddler keeps grabbing your hand and taking you to the door, insistently pointing to his sand-pit, swing and outside in general because he’s sick of playing inside. You have to keep trying to explain to him that we can’t go outside because it’s raining. Two minutes later he grabs your hand and leads you to the door again.

A Fond Farewell

Xander’s First Swimming Lesson

Yesterday was the end of term 2 swimming lessons, but sadder than that it was the last day of work for our swim teacher Miss Mikayla. You may briefly remember in the post about Miette’s Moment that I mention we had the best infant swimming teacher ever. She plays with Xander (and all the other kiddies) as well as teaching them and I remember being impressed to see how quickly Xander learned swimming. She was helpful and informative, always happy to share a personal-life tale to giggle over or a fact about water safety. She was also the master mind and organiser of Miette’s Moment.

Miss Mikayla finished yesterday morning with light-hearted claims that it was just pool water under her eyes, but we knew better because we had similar excuses.

It’s hard to find good teachers for anything, and when you just happen to stumble on one by pure luck you stick with them like glue. We have been swimming with Miss Mikayla for a year now and sadly now that time is over. I’m not sure what is worse, knowing it is over like I do, or simply never seeing someone you adore and trust again like Xander will.

Goodbye Miss Mikayla, we won’t soon forget you, and all the best for your future.

Those Crazy, Hazy Days

I had planned today to post my review of Jane and the Dragon. However I was quite distracted by a Facebook message from a friend who has recently become a new mum. She was asking for help because she wasn’t sure her tiny new son was getting enough sleep. She also worried that she was creating a terrible dependency by not teaching him to self-soothe yet – at the tender age of six weeks.

I had almost forgotten what those early months were like. Between the immense lack of sleep and the thousand different things books/people/the internet/your conscience tells you that you should be doing you lose all self-confidence.

It’s a brave new world, motherhood, and no amount of books or babysitting prepares you for when it is your child cuddling up to your chest, so tiny in your hands you can’t believe he took up so much space in your belly. You may have a clever friend or family member who is wise enough to tell you to trust yourself and do what feels right, but listening to them and not the plethora of information around you is harder said than done.

While all that information can be important, you will find no end to conflicting advice if you read enough. This is where that trust comes in. Trust in yourself. Don’t put your baby in a cot in another room if that doesn’t feel right to you. Don’t put your baby in your own bed with you if it doesn’t feel right to you. Both sleeping options are perfectly fine(as long as you follow precautions such as safety guidelines and SIDs prevention tips) and I assure you neither will affect the likelihood of your child growing up to be a psychopath (never did the research for this sorry, but I’m pretty damn sure). Some studies will tell you your child will gain independence better if he sleeps in another room, some other studies will tell you he will grow up and be more faithful to future partners if he co-sleeps (I kid you not, I saw research which claimed to prove this). Research can be skewed by the opinions of the gatherers all too easily.

You can probably guess I hail from the parenting school of ‘do what works for your family’. As long as you follow safety guidelines, the advice to prevent SIDs and common sense then I see no reason to do something that doesn’t feel right for your family. If asked I give advice but I will never be offended if the receiver doesn’t follow it. Just because something works for Xander and I does not mean it will work for my friend and her child. She is not a clone of me and her son is not a carbon copy of Xander, thus what worked for us may not be so efficacious for them.

All I can hope is that every new mother can find faith in herself and look forward to a long and beautiful life with their new children.

Note: I used ‘he’ throughout this post only because I have a son, feel free to imagine it a ‘she’ if you prefer, my advice is not gender exclusive. Do also focus on the fact I say “As long as you follow safety guidelines, the advice to prevent SIDs and common sense” I’m not advising anyone throw out safety! Though I would hope no one would feel something was right if it were dangerous I do recall those early days to be crazy and hazy at times.

Found it! And Locally Too.

Jane and The Dragon

I was so glad to discover my local bookstore can order ‘Jane and the Dragon’ in for me (Not sure what Jane and the Dragon is? Go to this earlier post to find out). I much prefer to buy from local businesses than the internet, not just for the personal contact and the sake of warranties (though I’ll not deny either of those to be a factor) but because I want to support local businesses. These are people who quite possibly own the house down the street from me and while I’m sure my one or two books a month (who am I kidding? A week more like it ;p ) don’t seem like much, but it makes a difference between what could be their business staying open or closing down.

My parents owned their own business for as long as I can remember (and another before that one which they owned before I was BORN). When they sold it I was shocked – almost as shocked as when they sold the farm and moved to the Gold Coast (lucky bums). I grew up in a working environment, talking with other local business owners in the center, listening to Mum and Dad talk about the ins and outs of the business and eventually when older, joining those conversations.

Being raised in a family that survived on that income makes me more sensitive to the trials and tribulations of a small business owner and of course more inclined to try and buy locally. Yes I know I could get the book for less online, but you know what happens online sometimes? You get sent an item that was bent in the post by an over-zealous postman, or the item isn’t as described and the returns policy expects you to post it back three days before you even received the item. Not to say that you should never buy online – just I prefer to buy locally if the option is there.

Does anyone else feel strongly either way? It’s always nice to hear other points of view.

Jane and the Dragon picture from the Official Jane and the dragon Website

About Positive Female Role-Models For Boys

Jane and the Dragon

Recently I discovered a cool children’s show called ‘Jane and the Dragon’. Naturally I loved the medieval/fantasy setting, I liked the gaming style animation of the characters and the pencil shaded look of the backgrounds and what REALLY sold me (and this is no surprise to anyone who knows me well) is the main character is a girl training to be a knight.

I found out shortly after watching several episodes it was based on a series of books for children and my mind couldn’t help but ask “How could this possibly get any better?”

I’m currently hunting down the books – they appear to be out of print annoyingly enough but there are many online services designed to help me circumvent THAT issue – partially for my own guilty pleasure but more so for Xander. Why? Because until recently I had no idea how little the realms of fantasy (among other things) have few positive female role models.

Personally it hasn’t been until entering the blogosphere that I even realised this. Perhaps I have always had the good fortune of consistently picking up the right kinds of books where women were strong and brave and bold – often outside of the confines of their usual roles, but sometimes from within those restrictions as well. More likely it is the fact I’ve always been a tomboy and as such gender roles were by and large ignored by me. Some of the posts I read make me roll my eyes at the melodrama, but some have such clever points that I can’t help but feel shocked.

So why then do I care about my son reading stories where women are positive role models? That is because I want him to one day be talking with a girl, disheartened she will tell him ‘I can’t be a *Insert role here* because I’m a girl’ and his response will be a look of bewilderment followed by a reply of ‘who on earth told you that load of balderdash? Of course you can’. Okay, maybe he won’t say balderdash, but what more could a mother want to hear?

Xander already has access to some great tales of feminine strength that are brilliantly disguised as ‘normal’ fun stories ranging from comics to books and even a few video games (there’s a sad few of that last format). He even has several real life role models (of course I count myself, but there are a couple of others as well who I hope can stay in his life for him to both learn from and love). So the future looks promising for my sweet little man and with some luck for that poor misguided girl too.

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If you’re interested you may like to read this nice letter to the girls of the world.

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picture from the official Jane and the Dragon website.

Revision and The Anti-Muse

I do have some proper content to provide you with, but first I just want to gush briefly about my son. While buttering our breakfast crumpets I wondered why on earth he was being so quiet in the living room, so peered around the corner to check, assuming Sesame Street would be filling his little eyes with wonder. Instead I found him on one of the chairs at the dining room table. He had prised open my laptop and grabbed what remained of my morning tea and was drinking the tea with one hand while bashing the keyboard with the other. This is exactly what he perceives my early morning to be ;p It was so cute, but I couldn’t grab the camera for fear he might spill the tea on my precious PC.

OK, on with the content my title promised.

I’m revising the recently finished first draft of (working title) Fanta’s Story – it has a temporary alternate title of ‘All The Stars’ but it’s fighting against ‘The Missing Stars’ and ‘The Dissidents and Stars’ all I know is stars are most definitely going to be involved in the title. More on titles in a later post.

Right now I’m wondering if I may have jumped into my revision a little too soon. There’s plenty of red pen to be found, rewrites scrawled on the back of the page it will belong to, but something still doesn’t seem right. I can’t pinpoint it right now and the work is still far too rough for me to show it to anyone just yet. Possibly my squirgly tummy is reacting simply to that roughness – Storybook Perfect was rewritten about eight times before it even made it to first draft stage NOT THE WAY TO DO THINGS, BELIEVE ME! – or maybe my brain is filled with the paranoia which comes along and plagues writers and other artists from time to time. You know what I mean, that ‘I’ll never be good enough’ attitude that pushes to the fore-front of our grey-matter on occasion to make us doubt our skill, our talent, our resolve, our very self-worth.

Writers often talk about ‘the Muse’ as the wonderful part of our mind that blesses us with the very best ideas. This beast that bursts forth I call the Anti-Muse. Creativity splutters to a halt, and the editor becomes even more perfection driven than usual, critical of everything without reserve. I’m even looking at my website – which long term readers will know took me three days to get to this stage due to a lack of knowledge of CSS code – and thinking it looks too kiddie, like my attempt at a Sailor Moon fan site when I was fifteen. It’s frustrating because I do not have the time to learn the code I need to make the site look more professional but neither do I have the money to pay someone to do it for me and the Anti-Muse sure as heck won’t let me leave it like this for much longer.

The Anti-Muse has some good ideas of things to add, like perhaps the blurb or pitch for my novels and a teaser or taste of the first chapter – I might leave that for when I have the books at a stage where they are ready or almost ready to sell – but she’s none to nice when she offers these ideas up.

A part of me wants to step back from the revision and give myself a little more time, but the other part of me tells me I might as well finish this run off and then come back again at a later date, after all, we all know I’ll never just do one revision anyway.

I think what I really need to do is take the Anti-Muse and go for a drive and leave her in some ditch on the side of the road between here and the highway (there’s a lovely, long stretch of road with not much but fields, trees and distant houses that runs for about 15 kilometres) but considering she’s a part of me (and has a few valid points) I think it might be better to weather the storm and keep reminding myself she’s just my anxieties given voice.

Do you have any good names for your Anti-Muse? Or can you think of any particularly heinous monsters whose name could be used? Let’s have a good laugh at the expense of our inner-critics.

Is It Worth It

I was asked this question yesterday by an old work friend in relation to having a child. He’s been with his lovely wife for most of the time I’ve known him – which is a good few years, easily five – and just like most couples the question has started to loom. As is often the case, she is ready, but he remains apprehensive.

This was the first time he had seen me since I gave birth. The last time he saw me I was a pregnant, water-retaining whale in a fancy dress at our company’s award ceremony for managers. It was kind of hard to miss what was happening, but I guess they hadn’t started talking about it at that point in time.

“Is it worth it?” He asked me, eyes attached to the child straddling my hip. It took me a few moments to realise precisely what he was asking me. I thought like most co-workers he meant was it worth it returning to work as a casual after being a manager for so long.

I can’t remember my response verbatim, but this would be pretty darn close.

“I won’t lie and say it’s easy, because it’s not. Late nights, early mornings, giving up things – but nothing, NOTHING, beats listening to him laugh and seeing his face as he learns new things and enjoys playing.”

He nodded along. Whether he was convinced by my words or not, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure he has no idea I even have a blog, but I’m going to write like I’m talking to him still. So Matt:

Sure, you give up things. For example the only reason I was there was because we had tried to go watch a movie, but after an hour Xander just couldn’t take it anymore so I left (luckily the tickets were free, so I really didn’t care). Having a child is more rewarding than the value of those lost or once common now rarely done things. It goes beyond just looking at that perfect face and laughing along with the most infectious giggle ever created. It even goes beyond the sense of accomplishment as you teach him how to talk, walk and play new games. You learn to value those precious little snippets of time and use them more productively, you enjoy those rare things far more now they are rare and you discover a whole new world through the eyes and actions of your offspring.

I waited to have children. T-J openly confessed he couldn’t wait to have kids very early on in our relationship and I was straight-forward in my reply that I did want them but it was going to be a while before I would be ready. I calmly explained I was too selfish and immature. I knew these things about myself. I could not have been the loving mother I am today six years ago when we first were married. Waiting until you are ready is important but there is also a line between wanting to wait and not wanting at all. What you need to assess is which option is you. Don’t rush to it. If your partner is the right person they are willing to wait (just ask T-J, he waited 7 years). But I’ll answer your question right now.

Is it worth it?

Hell yeah.

Blown Away

It stuns me to realise this but since February 14th I have taken my current work in progress (working title is Fanta’s Story, but I can assure you that won’t be the final title) from a story outline I transferred into Scrivener to 55,000 words. I have six scene cards – yes you read right only six scenes – until I have completed my first rough draft.

It doesn’t feel real.

I’m dead serious here. It doesn’t. I started writing Storybook Perfect (back when it was called Yui’s Tale, are you sensing a similarity with my WIP titles?) when I was sixteen. I finished it in 2009, when I was 27 and off work for two months with a (still undiagnosed) vertigo disorder. It was only a rough draft finish of course and it has gone through easily eight full edits since, but to go from the first book taking 11 years to the next taking not even two whole months… it blows my mind!

Admittedly I always have had the habit of getting distracted by something shiny and new. I would start Yui’s Tale and after a chapter or a scene or two I’d get excited about ‘the Children of Tejemanya’ or ‘Evannah’ and do some writing in them and the cycle would continue with new books starting, ideas being plotted and then distraction! I’m even the same with games. I start a game, get approximately two thirds through and then something new comes out and I just can’t help but play with it. I can count the number of games I have actually watched the ending credits roll in on one hand. Ok, I lie, I need both hands, but I’ve played easily more than triple that count, keeping my success rate at under 30%. As a quick aside, oddly enough those I’ve finished I often go back and complete AGAIN. My re-completion rate is 60%. What’s wrong with me? I don’t know.

Getting back to my point now, I am easily distracted – as I just proved in multiple ways. What I think has helped me with my current work in progress is having a child.

Whaaaaaaaaat?!

Yep, having a child. I have so little time that I no longer waste it watching TV or just lying around. I have to use every precious minute. It keeps me focused, makes me determined. Even though I have other projects (this blog and my other secret WIP I will reveal soon) I have been able to maintain focus and tear through this. I never had that until now.

So I want to thank my precious baby, Xander, not just for being the light of my life but for helping me write like a real author. I love you.

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