The agony of job seeking

This is a thing. An actual thing. Job hunting in my field is near impossible, but worse than that there’s a whole list of things I need to do to be competitive. One of them is to write a big long list of key criteria that you can meet.

My latest effort is 4500 words long. This is on top of a weekly updated CV (what can I say that’s different? Well, for starters, depending on the job I either want to highlight various aspects of my career or hide them. This has to be done with each job I apply for so that I look as employable and a good fit with the role as possible).

Then there’s the cover letter – a “pick me, pick me” if you will of why I deserve to be considered for the post. My DH says very few people actually read this section thoroughly however it does have to pass the HR department.

The job I’m currently applying for is a fixed three year term academic teaching post, and not at level B. But now beggars (me) can’t be choosers, and in all other aspects it looks like a fantastic fit for my eclectic musical history and skills.

The horrible bit is that if I don’t get considered for the role then I fall apart. I have no way of managing my disappointment in these instances. None. And as I get further and further into unemployment my prospects diminish even more.

This is the hard bit. And this is the bit that makes me wince, even as I submit my forms and cross my fingers that at last I might be considered for the job.

The worst bit of all is knowing that I might have to leave the state to pursue the career I’ve wanted for a long time, and once again have a long distance relationship with my husband, who struggles without me at the best of times. This fills me with despair.

Which is why I’m so miserable.

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Weekend coffee share 1/11/15

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m going for several cups of the black stuff because I’ve had one hell of a hangover this weekend. My fault: DH was hosting his first Gala on Friday night (first time the Gala has been hosted in 20 years at our institution) and we celebrated with the staff and friends before, during and after the event with sparkling wine. I hadn’t eaten much and although there were plenty of nibbles at the after party I didn’t drink any water. I’ve been paying for it all weekend.

I’ve been in a grumpy as hell mood subsequently but I’m cheering up now because today I’m using my Ilve oven and cooktop for the very first time. Today I made (for the first time, too) an apple and strawberry crumble cake. At this time of year in this hot state we can get cheap strawberries. Not always the best quality, but there’s usually enough in a couple of large punnets to make a delicious something. I’m closer to kitchen perfection with my appliances too – my sisters chip in for birthday gifts so that we can get something nice, and I had requested a Kitchen Aid hand-held mixer to go with the lovely old-fashioned Kitchen Aid cake maker thingy DH had bought me for Xmas the year before (Empire Red, folks). I don’t cook very often but Sundays when the family is gathered it’s nice to put together a Sunday Roast and something sweet. My Sunday cooking mostly consists of roasts and something sweet (but super-easy to make), such as scones or a simple cake or pancakes.

The cake was perfect. The Ilve oven is a bit slow. So while it says 200 C degrees, it’s closer to 180 or even 160. I’ve put our portable oven thermometer inside to test the accuracy of the dial and yep, it’s pretty slow. So even though I used the normal oven setting for the cake (which was a bit slow, but this doesn’t matter too much for cakes) I found it necessary to crank up the dial and use the fan-force setting for our roast chicken dinner.

The cooktop is also slow, but I’ve found using Ceran electric cooktops this is normal. We just have to adjust up the temperatures all the time otherwise the setting sits permanently on simmer, whether it’s at 2 or 8. Luckily the setting goes all the way to 12. One better than 11, Spinal Tap! Oh, and one other thing. It’s perfectly level. After enduring 4 years of a cooktop with a 2 degree angle it’s great to finally work with a level cooking surface. I kid you not. This makes a difference.

So Sunday night we set the kitchen table, sat under our new light, ate dinner made with our new oven and cooktop, and were able to switch off the kitchen lights at the end of the day. Bliss.

 

Reasons to hang out in my writing room

I’ve had a lovely week this week. No longer in a depressed and angry mind-frame, I’m feeling positive about life possibilities, some of which do not include any music or music teaching at all. I’m even investigating administration positions. Not that I have any experience in those but dammit I have a PhD! I’m sure I can construct letters for signing, organise a calendar, plan meetings and events, work on excel spreadsheets, field inquiries, chase errant paperwork, that sort of thing. Actually, I’m not sure I have any of those skills, but I reckon it would take me 2 months to learn all the ins and outs and 6 months to feel like I know what I’m doing.

I’m on holidays as of today – no teaching singing for 2 weeks, and there’s a conference trip to Hobart I’m looking forward to. I lived in Tasmania for a few years when I was a young woman, and I loved the people, climate and the artisanal lifestyle some Tassie residents followed.

I think some of my contentedness stems from finally having a room of our own right next to our bedroom. It makes such a difference to our outlook, and I get to look over the city through the lovely greenery of my neighbours’ gardens. Which are mostly shrubbery, but you get the picture:

writing room view

I can see right over to the city buildings, which when lit up at night are absolutely gorgeous. It’s bright and cheerful in the room, and slightly less noisy than my former workspace. A lovely room for most of the day, it only gets really hot in the afternoon as it’s due West. But in the morning: wow. What a great space to be. I’m actually wanting to write more and develop ideas in this space. Amazing how a small change to one’s environment can make such a difference to one’s outlook. We’ll see how I feel in the height of summer without an air-conditioning unit, when temperatures can daily hit 35 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity or more.

I’m applying for an entry-level lecturer position at my local uni – tenure track. I think I have Buckley’s chance of getting an interview (there’s an Australian colloquialism for you – it means I have no chance – but don’t ask me the etymology of the phrase as there are several possibilities), but I possess many of the attributes required for such a role and I believe that I am a decent contender for the position. Anyway, that’s 2 jobs I’m going for, including the post-doc. However, I’m in such a cheery mood at present I don’t really care if I don’t get the job because right now working sounds like a horrible idea. I just like hanging in my beautiful writing room (shared, better still, with DH, which is awesome because we like working together). I feel like I’m having my very own writing retreat here in my house. Now isn’t THAT a great thought!

Do you have a favourite workspace or creative space? A room to call your own?

Hoarder disorder. A tale of spring cleaning.

Folks, this is a rather long post about hoarder disorder and spring cleaning. Grab a cuppa.

I had a little brain snap over the weekend. I’ve been angstified about my stepson using as his bedroom the verandah space RIGHT NEXT to our bedroom, which is accessible from our bedroom via a set of ill-closing French doors, the only thing between us and computer games when he visits. It has been like this for 4 years, which is long enough in my opinion for a regime change. He’s now 17 years old, needing some privacy. He has also had to share his space with the Oh Jesus* room, a euphemism for the office space DH uses, which also serves as a storage area.

Sunday morning I woke up with the niggling feeling that THINGS NEEDED TO CHANGE. After I nagged gently suggested DH mow the lawn because forest, I started thinking. What if, instead of Waiting for Godot** we created our own dressing room and study right here, right now, in the West Wing? And that’s what we did. On the very weekend anniversary of our move to our house 4 years ago, DH and I changed some rooms around. It took more and less time than I expected. More time because OMG the crap, but less time because the crap could have been worse. Stepson has been moved into my old teaching space, rattly louvre windows and all. DH and I now share a study – WITH A VIEW – and we finally have a private dressing room/wardrobe in the west wing. Huzzah!

Our house is partially made up of uninsulated but enclosed verandahs (with linings and all, fully electrified – they’re not THAT crappy), and it’s there where the stepkids sleep and where our stuff goes. The verandahs are each 2.6 metres wide by 8/9 metres long, so they’re a useful space, if somewhat long and thin, with cracks between the floorboards. There’s an East Wing and a West Wing. Originally, stepson lived in the west wing while stepdaughter lived in the other bedroom. Then my youngest child moved north to live with us and we had to move everything around. We’ve been living in the house rather uncomfortably for 18 months now, and it’s awkward with three permanent adults and 2 visiting stepkids trying to squeeze into a small 3 bedroom house containing a teaching studio.

I taught singing in the east wing for three years, and it’s the detritus from this phase which is the saddest turning of the tide moment. There is no longer anywhere to put the music gear. I’ve been teaching at the local conservatoire for the year, and the study wasn’t being used. If I am still teaching singing in 2016 I will be hiring an external space. Anyway, the keyboard is now skulking in the space next to the bathroom, an entirely unsuitable spot for electronic equipment. But there’s nowhere else to put it. Also, as with all good music teachers, I have a raft of gifts from ex-students and my old pre-school teaching days. There’s certainly nowhere to put all THAT stuff. I’m talking about picture frames and fun music toys and music mugs and my rainbow flag, that sort of thing. I also have decorating items from my former selves. Little knick-knacks which are adding to my sense of desperate overcrowdedness.

Yes, folks. Time to admit it. I am a bit of a hoarder. Not the reality-TV kind. More the kind that would prefer a little more storage. Just a bit.

DH is always impressed when I do a clean out. He would much prefer to live with a lot less. I’m not untidy, but I do collect stuff. We have no real storage solutions in our hundred-year-old weatherboard home, with 2 households of stuff to make room for (and we have already gotten rid of SO MUCH JUNK). The things we buy for the house now tend to be storage solutions. New coat hangers or pantry containers, that sort of thing. Yesterday we bought a third portable wardrobe, one of those sturdy if industrial-looking chrome storage units. Very retro/trendy. DH can’t believe it. He finally has somewhere to hang his shirts and get his shoes off the floor. A moment of quiet jubilation for him.

DH gets antsy when I bring a new thing home. He asks me – only partly joking-: “what are you now going to throw out?” Looking at the STUFF, I finally see how he is feeling. It’s too much. I regularly clean out my closet, removing old, mouldy or long-unworn shoes and outfits that are out of fashion, tired or ill-fitting. I began this habit a few years ago, and I’m now trying to extend it to other areas in the house, but it’s hard. My worst hoarding habit, I think, is book buying. I rarely throw out old books, as I often re-read them. I’m looking at one of our bookcases as I write this. It’s double stacked. All of our bookcases are. We have 10 large free-standing bookcases, including one in the toilet. Each bookcase holds about 300 books. So we have about 3000 books, texts, academic books, magazines, recipe books, CDs, photo albums, and music books in our little house. No wonder DH is overwhelmed! I also buy art glass, pottery and porcelain things. Usually from overseas trips, they are almost always small, but where to store them? We have stacks of little decorative bowls in our kitchen cupboards, although I now throw out any old glassware and china that’s chipped.

Another of our equally serious problems is the paper trail dogging our heels. We have lots of the stuff. Every six months or so I have a bit of a clean up and manage to partially empty my in and out trays, but almost immediately they fill again. DH is the same. He can’t keep a clean desk at home (given that his desk is bright pink – an old pine desk from years ago that we painted for my stepdaughter, it could be worse), and nor can I. He collects playbills and concert programs and receipts and things. I collect bills and invoices and decorating magazines and receipts and things. I am a hoarder of old electronic equipment and pretty paper things. In my desk drawers are about 100 old computer wires. No idea of their purpose, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need most of them.

In the master bedroom I have a lot of cute little decorative boxes (many of them gifted to me) in which I put all my mostly cheap paste jewellery, which then sit on my tall boy making a visual mess. This stuff is horrible to keep clean and dusted. I even have a white and gold porcelain heart-shaped box WITH A BROKEN LID in which I put my single earrings and jewels THAT ARE BROKEN. Why?! (I just threw it out, with sorrow because it was a gift from my daughter from about 1998. It has been broken since 1998).

We went away for a holiday a while back and to ensure our housesitters felt comfortable sleeping in our bedroom I cleared out all of our bric-a-brac. I liked it so much when we returned I haven’t put it back. This includes my perfume bottles, jewellery boxes and decorative items – things from a former design look (girly romantic, if you must know). It’s getting annoying now, but I loved the streamlined look. It also made me realise I can live with much less than I thought. I’ve worn the same 2 bracelets for months, and rotated the same three pairs of earrings. I’ve worn the one perfume. Now I want to expand a little, but I can do this without the jewellery boxes that hold earrings I haven’t worn in 25 years. While I’ve been writing this post I’ve been quietly going through these old boxes, throwing out broken pieces and empty perfume bottles. I’ve popped all the earrings I’m never likely to wear again but are a reflection of my past in one of the boxes, which I’ve taped shut and stuck in the bottom of my tall boy. A memory of me. Not important to anyone but my grandchildren, perhaps.

Now, the master bedroom is looking roomy, clean and tidy, although long overdue for a dust. The dirty laundry basket has been removed to the “dressing room”, and an old comfy armchair has likewise moved into the west wing. DH’s shoes have gone from under the bed, and we removed the French doors from the doorway. I’ve cleaned out one of the Oh Jesus* boxes and the other is now full of unused picture frames, postcards and some scrap-booking things (scrap-booking: one of my little projects for when I have a project room. Why scrap booking? Because STATIONERY, folks. I have a thing for it).

The next area to tackle will be the paperwork, my desk drawers and the music stuff. I’m not looking forward to it. But already I feel so much better. And I’ve been writing this post from my new study area, which overlooks a view of the city and greenery from my neighbour’s garden. Beautiful.

 

*Oh Jesus rooms were labelled as such by my mother. They are rooms so full of crap that when you look inside the room, you think “Oh Jesus”, and close the door again. Not intended to be blasphemous.

**Waiting for Godot. Things that will never arrive. In our case, builders’ quotes and renovation commencement.

 

 

In which I aim for good humour and bon vivant.

This week I am determined to remain cheerful and not be grumpy with the world. Today we are having our hot water unit replaced at a breathtaking price but I keep forgetting that the last time I priced hot water units was about 15 years ago. So there’s some inflationary cost there. Or so I keep telling myself as I grit my teeth for the bill. The guy is here now, and we should have hot water by the late afternoon.

On another positive note, an electrician came to look at our job today. Granted, it’s not a small job because we will need a new powerboard and general updating of our old electrical circuits, but we have a Queenslander. It’s all completely accessible under the house, very little stooping or crawling into cavities. And I had budgeted for it. We’re just doing stuff arse about, is all. Said electrician will send us a quote for the job later today and with luck might be able to do the job very soon.

On another positive note, I have decided on the light fitting for the dining room (which is in the same room as the kitchen). It’s this one:

w14_south-hampton

Ok, it’s not exactly cheap. But I don’t want anything too engineered looking or busy. It’s perfect for our little dining room:

IMG_0338

Ignore the lounge setting at the rear of the room – it’s no longer there. Our table is 2 metres long and the light fitting is 1 metre long, and is about right for a long room. So now I am going off to buy the light fitting and keep my fingers crossed that the electrician can start work ASAP on our stove. Because dammit I want to be HAPPY!

In which I generally bitch about stuff.

I have had enough of this weekend. Really, I have. Friday started well enough: I stayed at home to wait for our new fridges and stove, which arrived and are pretty. However, trades are thin on the ground at present and there’s no electrician available to install our new stove. So there’s a big dusty cardboard box on a crate in our kitchen. At least our stainless steel pigeon pair of fridge/freezers look good. Why pigeon pair? Because we can’t get a regular 4-door fridge through our front door. Anyway, the pair work well and make our kitchen look quite good: larger, actually. I had fun putting all the food in the new fridges and retiring the old white fridge, which although still functioning had lost most of its seals, the fridge light, and an important shelf which had been broken for years. Question is, do we replace the seals and the light and the shelf to give to one of the kids for when they move out or do we let it go to the whitegood repairman to resell? 

Friday evening I take the dog for a walk, prepare dinner for the kids (adult children, mostly), and head out to a fabulous new show by a local modern dance company. All’s well: the hubby and I skip out on the post-show function speeches and are having a great chat in the car, to be continued, when I discover the cat has peed on our bed. On our doona. And on some of my clothes I had heaped on there to hang up after arriving home. I lose it with the cat. She is becoming senile and doing this on a regular basis now. She is flung outside for the foreseeable future. I am furious and turn on DH, because I’m just generally shitty. He’s not well and turns on me. We scrabble around to find clean sheets but there’s no other queen bed doonas about so shiver throughout the night under a single sheet and an old blanket (normally in a sub tropical climate this would not be an issue but it’s still winter here and nights get cold). 

Saturday arrives. I awake in a filthy mood. I head to the gym where I work out my frustration with a good dose of HIIT. It’s helping me lose weight and yes, 1 kilo down since the previous week. I feel better. I go home, make myself a delicious cooked breakfast and not one hour later the hot water unit blows up. On a Saturday. And I haven’t had my shower yet. For the second time this weekend I lose it. We can’t get someone to replace the unit until Monday. So no hot water for our showers or kitchen taps. 

At this point I give up on the whole house renovation thing because the house is now falling down round our ears and there’s no joy in sight. I can’t get a builder to come round and do any work for us, there are no trades, and why oh why does the hot water cistern have to explode now? Hubby takes over. I’m done. Done with the whole shebang. I’m sick of not being able to close our bedroom properly (3 sets of doors into our bedroom, 2 being French doors with no handles so the dog just pushes them open and there’s also no privacy), I’m sick of wanting a simple thing like asking builders to come and renovate our house and not having ANY luck. 

I have a cold shower and we head out to look at some stunning houses recently up for sale and very beautiful and well beyond our meagre budget but with 5 bedrooms and 3 living areas and pools. We covet, enviously. We drop the doona off to be cleaned and buy some pee-deodoriser. The children have disappeared to friends’ houses, so hubby and I retire hurt to watch some Netflix and eat comfort food. It’s going well until we get the evil circle of lag. No more Netflix: no more streaming TV because stupid poor service from our and all Internet providers in Australia.

So you can see why I’m shitty today. I hate this weekend. And the cat keeps whining at the back door. 

And later I have to go to a concert. I think I’ll bail on this one. I’m too shitty to converse with anyone. Let this horrid weekend be over.

No news is good news, right?

Typewriter-ClearNoony noony noony noo.

I’m the Sesame St typewriter this month. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m about to finish organising my book proposal and Post Doc applications but otherwise life is just noodling along, pretty calm and relaxed. My referees are coming along nicely, my book proposal is nearly done, my Post Doc is pretty shite right now and I need to get my referee love sorted BEFORE  June, but mostly I’m feeling cool.

I’ve recently seen more pro-am theatre than I ever want to see again, but I don’t mind. As my mum says, “I’m notching up those karma points for my old age”. And most of it has had some very good points. At least at no time was I really bored. That’s important.

My daughter is OK (which is as good as it gets), my DH is a bit ill with a persistent cold because he needs a long holiday, and the house plans are on the final stretch to costings and council approval. The animals are in fine health, I polished the furniture yesterday and the laundry is done (not by me).

My teaching is going fine (as far as I can tell, I’m over it slightly so the care factor is rather low), and I’m performing again, adding valuable dollars to our school fee account. The house sitters are organised, the bills are paid, Netflix and Stan are getting a good work out, I’m going to the gym and calorie counting again (minus the calories for Pinot Noir, because I need it), I’m cooking, we’re eating out a lot, I’m seeing heaps of great theatre and shows, seeing friends, I’m organising our wardrobe and pantry with some new coat hangers, storage jars and a shoe stand (which is a GREAT thing to have). Exciting overseas holiday plans are coming along well – Spain and France this year. And that’s it.

Noony noony noony noo.

Why then do I have a niggling feeling of impending doom?

charlie-brown

 

Goals for 2015

Thinking about how to plan the remainder of the year was brought into sharp focus recently when I was asked by my supervisor “what now?” and I had no real response. I felt like a recently beached (but enormous) goldfish. All lips, surprised expression and air-gulping. So as a result this blog post is a bit of a goal-seeking exercise. It’s also a listicle. To be divided between family and friends, home, physical health goals, personal achievements, and career. Something for me to read back on and laugh hollowly about at its complete lack of completion in 2016. These ideas and lists are not New Year’s Resolutions. They can’t be: it’s February already.

Family and friends

Stay connected to and communicate more with my immediate family, my children and my friends. Call them regularly. Have dinner parties. That sort of thing. On a side note, I am currently at home spending time with DH who is doing both the laundry and the lawn while I try to pay the bills. Bless him. I hope it makes his grumpy pants less so.

Plan weekend activities that do NOT involve going to my workplace to watch yet another undergraduate production.

Home

Plan and make happen the first renovation plans and build. This year. Oh GOD YES. SO overdue. Anyhoo, we’ve said YES to an architectural designer and his fees look completely reasonable as it’s by the hour, and we’re doing the whole lot at once to save time later down the track. Also, to have an integrated reno plan seems, well, sensible. It will mean less money for the first bit though.

Upgrade the family bathroom, replace all the old plumbing, replace the electricity and circuit board and upgrade some of the lighting and electrical points. Yes, this is to make the house safe. The previous owner was an electrician so it’s not actually too bad but there are some tricky moments. Perhaps also plan some hard landscaping to deal with the usual run off under the house whenever there’s a big rain. (*in QLD a big rain means the heavens have opened and raindrops the size of your head come rushing down like the heaviest, most violent shower you have ever had in your life. It’s actually scary to be caught IN THE RAIN. There might be other things lurking in them there clouds. Like cricket-ball sized HAILSTONES that – I kid you not – break cars. Luckily one can usually tell when there’s going to be hail because the sky turns GREEN. When the sky is purple you just hope to high heaven there’s not a cyclone as well.)

Paint the kitchen and the second coat of paint on the fence. Perhaps build us a proper wardrobe? I’m sick of cockroaches making nests in my coats.  OMG you shriek. Yes, they really seem to love living the life of Reilly in one of my old coats. It’s a bit ugh.

Physical Health goals

Lose the 10kgs I gained over 2014 (luckily not the 15 kgs I had previously lost because I didn’t quite get there yet). Again.

Get me to the gym four times a week PLUS my PT sessions. Weirdly, this is not as hard as it sounds at the moment – I’ll see how I feel in a month when my uni teaching load resumes. Down side to all this exercising is I’ve run out of exercise clothes – at least, they are all so old and skanky that I’m actually embarrassed to be wearing them now, and it’s nearly impossible to lose the old gym sock smell. Time for an update to some sexy new designer threads, maybe some Lorna Jane exxie stuff. So I can sweat in style.

Maintain a careful diet regime and perhaps buy a set of scales so I can weigh myself weekly. Get a fitbit or Apple Watch for health measurement (I can feel a birthday gift coming on!). Yes, well, I may not go the whole hog with the scales, because ouch, but I am doing well with the diet mostly. Sure, it’s only a week, but my stomach has stopped eating itself.

Reduce suspect drinking behaviours at functions. Ok, ok, stop drinking 5 glasses of champagne at every function. The worst part of this drinking thing is at my best I can drink substantial amounts of booze and it only marginally registers. Even my non-drinking DH thinks so. At an event last year we noticed a number of people getting really hammered, yet, it must be said, I kind of kept up. 2 Mojitos and about 3 glasses of Champagne and I was still basically normal, while these good folk were slurring words and stumbling. I’m pretty sure they couldn’t have drunk much more than me – the function was only 3 hours long!

So, sadly, drink less. It has to be said, September through January was a real lush-fest. I drank my way through an indecent amount of Pinot Noir and Champagne (yes, the real stuff), and it has shown on my hips. Gah. I hate to think what my liver looks like. I’m hoping the FebFast thing I’m doing will make up for the other months: Medicinal-brandy March, Alcoholic April, Mojito May, Jello Shots June, Jaundiced July and Appletini August. Never mind about Sloshed September, Out-of-it October and Nobbled November. Plus I think Drinky-poos December will be a bit of a disaster.

Personal goals

Right, now these goals pertain to my need to do something now that the PhD is OVAH. And by OVAH I mean most of the box-ticking has been done bar the last little one. 2 weeks, people!

Perform more. That’s a big tick because I’m actually doing this. I sang at a gig last night although as I’d not sung for 3 months it was a laughable horrible mess. I’m happy though with my first song which was an ethereal little meditation. And I loved the dress I wore, which is the most successful dress I’ve ever bought to date. It’s an Anthea Crawford LBD, and it gives me the most amazing looking figure as it’s full of lycra and hugs just so, but also has structure and some clever ruching around the midriff. I feel a million bucks when I’m wearing it, even at my slightly heavier side of happy.

Other goals include writing a novel (complete first draft in November during NaNoWriMo) and creating a cabaret. For the first idea I’m thinking either stories about transgender communities and people, or a young adult novel with the unreliable narrator theme. And for the second idea I’ve already got some old songs written but I need to find my mojo for this. I’m not a great pianist so it takes me longer than other musicians to formulate song feel and chord patterns. However, I DO have good pianist friends to make life a bit easier. They can do the feel thing. Once again, cabaret is best done about one’s life, so I’ve a bunch of songs about transitions ready to go, and some regular funny songs (probs not that funny, because I am far too serious and lack a sense of humour about myself. It’s being the eldest in the family. The clown is usually a younger child.)

Career goals

This one’s the doozy. What do I really want to do with my life? Do I want to be a kick-arse singing teacher and have on my gravestone: she came, she saw, she taught? Or do I want to expand my repertoire of skills and develop other things?

Oh, there’s no doubt I want to develop other things!

One of those things is to develop my PhD into a book. I already have my preferred publisher in sight, and I will need to expand on my work with a few more stories about singers etc. I think my book will be good and I know how to write for a less arcane audience.

Another thing I’d like to do is apply for a Churchill Fellowship. This fellowship (apart from looking good on the CV) is a great way to foster OS networks and develop further skills in my domain. I’ve been threatening to do this for years, maybe 2015 is the year.

Then DH put me onto the Australia Arts Council website for grants and applications for Arts professionals. There are any number of development grants I could be going for including skills development; conference and workshop attendance; mentorship and other things. Very exciting and I’ll need to chat with some other folk about how to write a successful grant application to the AC. I have some great ideas I want to put into action. So this last thing is a way to develop my business further, and enable me to actually pay staff and me too. Wowsers.

So, I’m feeling rather more positive than I did four months ago after my PhD submission, when I fell apart and felt miserable and sad because I hadn’t a job to go to. There are things I can do in the meantime. Maybe a DECRA? Or a Post-Doc.

So, that’s it for now. I’b better get me to the gym for a yoga session so I don’t feel guilty about missing the HIIT session at 8.30…

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.