Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d be asking you: seriously, what do people without employment DO all day? I am so bored I’ve taken to DUSTING THE HOUSE.

boring-me

(Image from franklycurious.com)

If we were having coffee you’d notice the house is clean and tidy but not spotless. I hate housework. Keeping the kitchen clean is as about as much as I can manage even on a good day. Never mind washing the floors – vacuuming is something I do only when I’ve reached maximum crunch underfoot. I’m not sure I’ve EVER cleaned the window panes. If we were having coffee I’d ask you if you do the dusting while you’re on the phone to your mother, like I do.

housewife

(Image from Mommyish.com)

So I’m writing in my blog (hello readers), I’m reading fiction novels. I’m reading the news, and opinion pieces, and websites about the next US Presidential campaign because we’re just getting the noisy people here in Australia – Clinton, Ben Carson, Idiots Trump, Cruz and Bush. The most likely Republican nominee Marco Rubio isn’t even getting any traction in Australia, which bothers me because he’s the candidate most likely to put up a fight against Democrat Clinton. I think I’d still prefer a Democrat in the White House thank you, even though Marco Rubio is damned fine looking: Mmm-Mmm! Republican Rubio’s politics are conservative and he likes guns. For those who care, my politics are moderately left-wing and I hate guns. One of the things I’ve noticed about my time with the TV series The West Wing is that I’m much more interested in and knowledgeable about American politics than formerly.

I pay bills, I apply for jobs, I cook, I bake, I watch renovation shows – I know: sad. I play computer games. I visit friends. Perhaps I’ll go back to the gym before I have to quit altogether. I paint when I can stand it. DH and I are doing small house things such as gardening and minor home maintenance. We walk the dog together and go to the movies.

bored

(Image from Photokapi.com)

But folks, there’s a job-sized hole of about 10 hours in my day I just can’t fill. Every day. I’ve been advised to apply for a DECRA (which is an acronym for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award), which will certainly fill my time for the next 2 months, but it doesn’t pay the bills. DH gets so excited when he sees me thinking again – but I can’t maintain it when I’ve not much to think ABOUT. Saddest of all: I’m not a Stay At Home Mum. My children are adults. So this old blogpost I read just now totally resonates with me but you know something? At least this lady from Mommyish had someone to care for during the day!

If we were having coffee I’d be asking you how the unemployed keep going without going mad. You’d be telling me drily to take a second look at my bloody New Years Resolutions.

At least the coffee is excellent.

 

weekendcoffeeshare

This blog is part of a weekly link-up hosted by the lovely Diana over at her blog Part-Time Monster

Check it out and join in!

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Today is a good day.

A new day, a new year, a new life, a new something else.

For those who are interested, I left the house. Yes, I have been a little bit agoraphobic. It basically comes down to this: if I leave the house I know I’m going to spend money, so best not.

I had breakfast with a girlfriend. It was good. A delicious Eggs Benny with bacon (that’s an Eggs Benedict for people not in Australia – we insist on shortening every proper noun). Then I went and deposited a cheque, and then I bought more groceries because that’s what I do when I’m about to be seriously broke.

And then I watched the last 5 episodes of the 7th and final season of the West Wing. Who do I love the most? CJ Cregg? Toby Ziegler? Josh Lyman? Donna Moss? Leo McGarry? Sam Seaborn? The completely hunky Matthew Santos? (I’m talking characters here, he’s the even more gorgeous Jimmy Smits in real life). I probably love CJ the most. She’s the woman every strong woman wants to be. Smart, funny, thin and fashionable, driven, in charge. But Josh Lyman. The thinking girl’s hunka hunka burning-up-because-he-never-sleeps love. And we all know he had a six pack under those white shirts (thank goodness they finally started wearing white shirts by the end – grey and green blech at the start). And then there’s Eeyore Toby Ziegler. Soulful, sad, smart, a little bit morally superior, with brown eyes to die for. And Donna Moss, the character who grew the most over 7 seasons and who steadfastly loved her man despite him being an idiot. I loved these characters and I loved the actors and I loved the show and I loved that after Aaron Sorkin left the 5th season the show got a bit meaner and sadder and more difficult. It needed it. Sorkin lives for the soapbox and his characters are well-meaning but a little morally elevated and a touch grandiose. The writers who took over insisted on making the characters more human. It had a remarkably consistent cast, all of whom came back for the final few episodes. It wasn’t perfect TV but it was close enough for me. I shall miss it. That’s no joke – it was 125 hours of TV, 156 episodes. I’m nearly ready to begin The Good Wife, but I’ll need a few weeks of mourning time for my favourite ever TV show.

westwing

Perhaps I should start to read The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, now sitting on my bedside table, and begin my Goodreads pledge.

In other news I’ve been sniffing around for work and have been offered a bit of copy-editing to do. It’s boring work but I learn stuff every time I do it, and I don’t have to teach people, so yes, thanks! to that. And I’m about to start gunning for an ARC DECRA. I have interest from a local uni who have offered to sponsor me and give me support to apply. Wow.

Today is a GOOD day.

 

 

The job hunt begins in earnest!

I am well aware of the futility of that statement. As a woman in her mid-forties, walking into a new job in any field is near impossible. I mentioned it to hubby today because I realised I will need to earn an income over the summer months: that’s November, December, January and February.

I will be without an income during that time (and possibly longer because who knows whether I get to keep my current contract into 2016?!). Now DH earns nearly enough to support us both, but given our current expenditure and his ongoing child support payments and school fees, his nett income is not enough to carry us through. So I need to work. Besides, I get bored, grumpy and too hot if I have to stay at home in summer.

I am currently preparing some fellowship and Post Doc applications. I am not expecting to succeed in my first few attempts so I will have to prepare myself to fail this year. So that leaves me with a very uncertain future in 2016.

On the plus side, here is a photo of my bound thesis (name hidden for privacy reasons): huzzah!

 

Thesis

I’m a little bit proud of this one.

So I’m preparing a book proposal based on my thesis. I have to prepare a book chapter, which will probably be harder than writing the actual thesis itself, if for no other reason than I have to humanise it. I can write quite well but rewriting for a semi-lay audience is a little more difficult. And I have to prove it’s worth publishing, too!

So 2015. The year of grant writing, book proposals, Fellowship and Post Doc applications. Fun.

 

I must be feeling better: I’m filing.

I must be feeling better – I’m having a paperwork clean up. And clean out. I’m getting rid of 5 years of PhD stuff that’s either already replicated online or old obsolete drafts; I’m cleaning up my single sheet downloaded song scores to take with me to work; I’m FILING, people. I hate filing. But today I’m doing it. Maybe to avoid leaving the house because it’s stinking hot out there, but maybe too because I needed to get it done. Ah, the joys of working from home. Not.

paperwork

I’ve had to move my home teaching to my DH’s workplace this year because we’re about to renovate the house and the room will be torn apart at some stage. Therefore I had to move stuff out of it and find another place to teach from. Momentarily I’m already feeling better about the home office. I’m taking the opportunity – now that I’ve removed a bookcase and some of my MT scores – to rearrange the room slightly, so that it feels more spacious to work in. I’ve stored my piano keyboard to one side and underneath it I’ve popped a bunch of my old gig gear. Because let me disabuse of you of a typical urban myth about musos: I never play piano at home. I never sing at home. I never play any music at home except the occasional Plainchant (Hildegard of Bingen for studying); Baroque instrumental music (I love you Bach), OR Jenny Morris’ Honeychild (when I’m cleaning the house). Because as a musician who teaches ALL THE TIME I get sick of music, especially vocal music. And besides, I have music in my head all day. Earworms. I don’t want to be blind but I won’t mind going deaf. I got the music in me!

I have two in/out trays that have been full for a while, so I’m taking the plunge to see what’s in them. I’m clearing off my desk, which usually gets filled up with bits and pieces of not-quite-junk, like hair ribbons and makeup and pens and flash drives and receipts and bills and stuff. I’ve even rung some of my superannuation providers to find some missing money! I found the money, there’s quite a bit – not enough to retire on though.

I keep thinking I only work 4 days a week, but it’s not true. I do really work 5 – but I forget that my business and the accounts and the paperwork all count as administrative work. And that ALWAYS happens on the non-teaching day.

So my new office space has to double up as a spare room. It’s going to have its own ensuite (but on a landing so it doesn’t feel creepy), it will be 3.5 metres wide by at least 5.3 metres long (not including the ensuite). It will have doors and windows at the front and windows along the side. Under the side windows will be several Ikea bookcases (because cheap) and at the rear of the room will be a built in bookcase and desk. It won’t look like the image below but it will have a skillion ceiling. And a Persian rug. And bookcases. And a desk. And windows. I’m so excited I could spit.

The Christmas special

This might be the last blog I write in 2014, as my time gets taken up with a ROAD TRIP south and Christmas celebrations with the family. I take a moment now to reflect on all the stuff that I have been through this year, and my plans for 2015. Take heed: it’s a long post. Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Firstly, my beautiful daughter M. After coming out as transgender in September 2013, she moved unwillingly up north to Brisvegas in January of this year, to be cared for and supported by me and her step-father. This was a traumatic move for her, given her dislike of the hot humid state generally. She has been through a lot. So have we all as a family, now. M’s experiences as a transgender mtf woman have been typical of this marginalised group. She has been misgendered, she has suffered discrimination and abuse from trolls in Logan (a bogan suburb now proven beyond doubt), and despite help from health care professionals and a truck load of pills, she has suffered mightily from her own demons. These demons were the hardest to manage.

Before she found peace in her appearance with a stonking great new haircut and gorgeous red dye job, she was seriously depressed about it. Her male-pattern hair growth and male looks cause her great heartache, and she often thinks about suicide. My daughter is tall, model slender, and, to my mind, absolutely beautiful as a trans woman. As the female hormones kick in and the testosterone blockers do their work, she is becoming more feminine-looking, softer, and smoother, with clear, fine white skin and beautiful grey-green eyes. But she doesn’t yet see herself that way. She started hurting herself. It was a low point for me as a mother to see my beautiful girl cut into herself and hate herself so much.

It has taken quite a bit of encouragement to get her to see her health-care providers and manage her condition. She is not out of the woods yet. But already her increased medication is improving her well-being, and she is in contact with her health-care providers who have been very supportive. And of course, she talks to me, and I to her. Talking helps, and we are starting to see the triggers for her unhealthy behaviours. One of them is mis-gendering by strangers. She needs to call them out for it. Another trigger is her appearance and hair style. She needs to feel in control of that, and have enough funds to cover her look. I’m sure there are other triggers, and I’m sure one of them is me, when out of fear and concern I say things that might inadvertently hurt her.

But my daughter, despite living in the margins and interstices of life, can be incredibly black and white, and tends to stubbornness. Actually, she has always been as stubborn as a mule. Nothing there has changed since she was 2. And, bless her, she sometimes fails to give a little. We parents have to do all the compromising, and most of the time it’s fine. But there are some minor moments when we also need that compromise from her, and this is when the problems arise. Mostly it’s about the condition of her room, or her sporadic contribution to the housework, or the people she invites to stay over without asking us, or her clothing when she is going out with us. Stupid things. Adolescent things. Things that mean nothing in the grand scheme of life, but that mean a lot in the day-to-day living.

I finally snapped a few weeks ago and realised I needed support from others in a similar situation. I’ve contacted PFLAG in Brisvegas and already have had the most wonderful outpouring of support from parents with transgender adult children, who, like me, need someone to talk with and to share stories with.

But, more importantly, I’ve received the most wonderful support from my friends and family and work colleagues. They have been understanding, quiet, and caring. After all, there’s very little they can say or advise me on – they do not have the experience of this. Instead, they have listened, silently offered their friendship and love, and for that I am truly grateful. One great woman is Deb. Deb is M’s employer. M, with help from me, my boss and Deb, was given work near my work’s local coffee shop. M is fast becoming a great employee, given up to 25 hours work a week at the moment while another employee is on maternity leave. Deb has been a marvel of patience and love and I don’t know how to thank her enough.

Second on my list of 2014 happenings, I finally submitted my PhD. Today is the day when the reports are due back. As if. (Actually, I just checked online – one is already back. And now my stomach is churning.) But who knows? I certainly know I will be a Dr by this time next year, and with any luck I can call myself Dr by March next year, when it actually counts. In the end, the last gasp to the finish line wasn’t nearly so horrible as others make out. I took small vacation breaks to write in: 3 days here, a week there. And at the end, it was 2 hours here, a day there. After shrinking from my Lit review for most of the 5 years, I finally sat down to do it in July and found a way through. It was a rewarding, engrossing time of discovery and, once again, epiphany. The last 3 months of my PhD weren’t hard, as I have previously reported. On the advice of a friend, I compiled my entire thesis into one working document, formatted it early, got most of the frontispieces done (although obviously missed something as I had to keep going back and revising it for stupid bureaucratic reasons), and organised the appendices early too. That way, I was just adding to the lit review and the reference list as I went. My final weeks were about me reading the whole document through, finding tiny edits and enormous sentences and fixing both. In the end, I was writing as if I was dancing. It felt joyful.

But I didn’t really count on the grief I felt at finishing this big thing, and not having something else to work towards in the future. My job is peripatetic, without security, and I have no way of knowing what income I will receive next year. As someone who has struggled to get by for so long, I am rather sick of it. I have teaching at university since 2008, I’ve published and will continue to do so, I’m researching, I’m doing everything a good girl entering academia should do, but am struggling to convert all this work into a full-time gig. And I’m angry at the people who take the system for a ride and refuse to contribute while people like me are on the sidelines waving their arms about saying “pick me, pick me!” Anyway, grief and anger have been my friends the last month or two. Not helped by M’s emotional turmoil, of course.

Thirdly, work. Work has been engrossing, rewarding, at times frustrating and also heartbreaking, when the people you teach, care about and care for, sometimes reward you with insensitivity and thoughtlessness. But at the same time my expertise is getting ever better, my approach more thorough, my interactions with work colleagues more relaxed. It has been a good year. I teach too much and it is exhausting work, and it is certainly not something I would have wanted for myself when I began my performing career, but I’m pretty good at it. But there’s no denying I would like to balance my teaching work with research and more performance. All to come, I guess.

Fourth, travel. This year has mostly been about me escaping home for anywhere else. Noosa in QLD, Aireys Inlet in Victoria, Montville; all these places I have stayed at to finish my PhD. And of course, there’s NYC. A big trip but not a perfect one. Note to self – leave DH to his own devices so I can shop without him being all grumpy guts in the corner.

Fifth, house and home. We’ve been planning our renovations and we have money actually sitting in the bank gathering dust (certainly not gathering interest, FFS). But it’s not quite enough to do all we want to do, and the plans have stalled and my designer, who has great ideas, is very bad at staying in touch. DH and I are both annoyed, but I am particularly annoyed because I cannot keep teaching in my studio space – it’s just not good enough or quiet enough for the money my students are spending on me to educate them. The waiting around has become a pain in the butt.

Sixth, Poppy love. I love her, she loves me, nuff said. Oh! And I’ve finally worked out how to artfully clip her poodle fur using the right equipment, so it should be easier and cheaper now on to clip her ourselves. Huzzah.

Seventh, shows. Lots and lots of shows. So many shows. Many, many shows. Am I showed out? Nah. Love it. Bring it. My experiences make me more critical, but this is a good thing. Always aim for perfection, even if it’s impossible to reach. Highlights? Desh at the Brisbane Festival, Honeymoon in Vegas on Broadway, and It’s Only a Play, also on Broadway. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Into the Woods at our place. Rigoletto at Opera Queensland and Frizstch’s last conducting gig with QLD Symphony Orchestra performing Mahler’s 3rd. Lowlights? Old, outdated and overblown: Aida at the Met, The New York Theatre Ballet with a turkey of a Swan Lake.

Eighth, DH and me. It has been a huge year. He has taken on the top job at our workplace, and I have been finishing my PhD, and my trans daughter has been living with us. It has been a bit of a rocky time, and at times we have struggled to maintain our connection to each other. It’s there, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes other commitments get in the way of a strong, loving connection with one’s life partner. But he is coming on a road trip with me, and we have to spend 3 days in a car together. That’s a good thing! And when we head to the beach house (my folk’s place at Aireys Inlet) I think he really will relax. Even his work colleagues are beginning to complain that there’s no evidence of tapering off at his work! In other words, he came dashing into the top job and everyone has been frantically dashing about ever since, trying to keep up. I think they want him to go away on holiday. For a long time. Me? Well, I long since stopped trying to keep up with my workaholic hubby. We pull together pretty well, and I bully him into stopping work every now and then.

I’m sure there’s more. But now I have to go shower, get ready and lunch with a fabulous friend. Happy Christmas, everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My room of my own

Today I’m down at my folks’ beach house, in a room of my own. And I’m working. I am sitting at a desk in front of a lovely large window from which I can see green. It’s nice.

Here’s a photo.

A room of my ownPoppy my groodle sits under my feet and I have made good progress on another of my narrative chapters, which should make it easier to shape the discussion chapter. Here’s hoping, at any rate. So, I’ve been aiming for 500 words per day. I had thought to ADD those words, but at this rate, I’ve been EXCISING them from my narratives. This is a good thing, actually. The narratives are holding together better and they are less wordy. I’ve paraphrased quite a bit of the quotes and removed others altogether. And I’ve reshaped the commentary. It hurts, but many times I’ve had to look at the quotes and wonder why they are in there. Do I need it? Does it help? Usually it doesn’t.

So out they go. But with one particularly powerful narrative, the voice of the teacher is so strong and profound I dread to remove the quotes. So I think I might reduce other aspects of the narrative altogether. Fun, fun fun.

Lunch, then back to work. It’s great working at my parent’s beach house. It’s not my house, so I don’t feel bad about how messy it is (that’s my mother’s mess, not mine). I don’t feel the need to clean, except my own grot, and there aren’t other things getting in the way. Everyone is leaving me alone. Perfect. But there are people here and an expectation that I will work. And I am.

Well, ok. I may have spent a few hours reading my fantasy novels – Stephen Donaldson and George RR Martin, you have a LOT to answer for – but their writing is good for me to see. Stephen Donaldson’s writing is rather overwrought. It is grammatically correct, but I’m getting sick of words like demesne and puissance. Just say domain and power, for goodness’ sake. Martin’s writing is fabulous. I hated it at first, thinking his first novel in his series GoT rather crappy fantasy style, but actually, it is amazing. I’m liking his work more and more. I’ve seen the series, hated the rather stereotypical and archetypal characters he had drawn, and REALLY hated the gratuitous sex scenes and nakedness, but now I see how he draws his characters. I GET how he has been inspired by the War of the Roses, and I think – scarily – that he has drawn a frankly barbaric account of the European middle ages. Which I suspect is rather accurate in its barbarity. I love it. And I love the teeny tiny bit of magic he weaves into his stories so that the fantasy element stays alive throughout the many descriptions of battles and political intrigue. And I love his characters. I have the first three books out of 6 he has currently written (book 3 divided into 2 tomes) and I can’t wait to read beyond the Red Wedding because his books give no real indication of how awful Walder Frey really is. The TV series is a wonderful accompaniment to the novels despite the many small changes made to accommodate narrative flow in TV.

Right. So easy for me to stray off the path of good intentions! Back to work I go.

Working in PJs

I’ve discovered a sad, sad thing about myself: if I want to do any meaningful work during the day, I need to sit at the computer as soon as I get up and start working. No shower, no dressing in clean clothes: just a toilet break, coffee and PJs. Clearly I work from home.

It becomes a bit tricky when it comes time to teach, as I frequently sit in my PJs until my students are nearly due, then dash about having a shower and getting dressed in the space of about 15 minutes! And eating? Well, that’s my break at about 11.00am.

Why do this? Well, if I ablute, eat breakfast and THEN sit down to work, I find I’m less productive. Simple as that.

So today, I woke at about 7.30am (bless my hubby for not waking me as he left today – I’m exhausted!), read the paper in bed, then hung some clothes on the line, went to the loo, made a coffee, and sat at the computer at about 8.15. I next got up at 11.00am to have brekky. I’ve noticed this approach is a real bonus when I’m trying to get into writing flow. I tend not to take too many breaks when doing this and it’s great for concentration, if not my body.

Now it’s 1.00pm, and I’ve worked solidly on a range of projects. I’m off to eat lunch now, shower and dress, and the afternoon’s work prior to teaching my final students for the year will be more process stuff, preparing songs for the Showcase concert I’m giving on Sunday, finishing the book that’s long overdue, and planning Xmas gifts. Plus list writing. I love to create lists. As you can see.

But that PJs thing: wow, it’s a real thing, you know.

Air and Light and Time and Space

Getting myself in the state of mind for study is as easy as climbing Mount Everest, some weeks. I start climbing the North face, because it’s bright and sunny on that side, when a blizzard hits and I tumble down with an avalanche of long-overdue work and things I have set aside because my teaching is so time-intensive.

The last two weeks have been “school holiday” weeks, but I’ve not had any time off then because last week was audition week (9am – 5pm) 5 days, and the week before I was still teaching: I had all my uni students and a day of singing audition preparation with my private students, plus assignment marking. I get too buggered after hours to maintain a mental flow, plus I usually want to cook dinner or eat, or walk the dog. All the things one has to do to maintain a happy work/life balance.

So now, I’m back at work on my full time teaching load for the next 4 weeks or so, with only Fridays available. It’s so stop and start! I’m struggling to keep my head focused on my study because my brain is all tuckered in from working and doing the household and business finance, plus any other organising stuff I have to do.

This weekend we head to Sydney for a PD session on Singing teaching, and the next few weekends and evenings are a riot of busyness and work functions. ARGH.

Still, I can see where I am wasting time now: I am waking up at what a friend calls stupid-o-clock (before 6am) and while I’m not tired then, I rarely jump out of bed to study. Maybe my body is telling me to get my arse into gear and do the morning work thing. Maybe. Or just exercise, because it will be too hot this summer to exercise any other time.

I read a salient comic of Charles Bukowski’s poem Air and Light and Time and Space

http://zenpencils.com/comic/97-charles-bukowski-air-and-light-and-time-and-space/which basically tells me to shut the f**k up and just write, darn it. If I want to do this, I’ll do this.¬† A great reminder to me that this work – in its own way creative – will be done if I want it done. So I must do it.

 

I can’t believe she did it!

Yes. I managed to spend more than 2 hours yesterday on my Methods chapter. I feel slightly better now. Still haven’t taken the dog for a walk (have you SEEN my diary?!), nor have I been to the gym since Sunday night, but hey. Can’t have everything.

baby_steps

My Methods chapter is looking like the gaps are nearly filled. I need to write a quick conclusion, add the missing references, and I’m sending it off to my supervisor this week. 2 months overdue. Way to go, me. It’s not perfect, but that’s the job of my supervisor, to point out those bits that don’t work. It will be nearly 10,000 words long. According to DH who knows lots about this stuff, that seems awfully long for a methods chapter. But I’m just following the advice of Supe. And it’s a qualitative study, requiring (apparently, lots of justification).

Anyhoo. It’s off to work I go now. Perhaps there will be an hour in the middle of the day for me to work on the PhD. Probably not. But a girl can dream.

Cheerio!