Let’s skip Christmas and head right on to the anniversary

DH and I were married 8 years ago today. I love my man. He is sensitive, clever, empathetic, funny, kind and makes me a better human being. I am filled with love for him.

This year we’re in a difficult financial position, caused mainly by my inability to get a job. We could lose the house (unlikely – I’ll become an UBER driver before I let that happen). But I’m serious. We are in a very bad way, not made any easier by the fact that even though my husband APPEARS to earn a lot, in fact we see less than 40% of his gross income after taxes, child support and voluntary superannuation contributions are taken out.

Like most folks with a good income, we have lived pretty well. And I’ve been a little bit careless financially. We’ve bought each other expensive gifts, travelled a lot, drunk lovely wine and real French champagne and I’m happiest when I’m buying presents for other people. But now all of this has dried right up. We have some big bills that I thought would be paid out by a windfall tax return, but some of that was garnished by the government for back-pay of child support. Just a note here: we pay $1000 a fortnight to his ex-wife who has primary care of his two children. We also pay half of the school fees and all of their phone bills. That would be fine if I were working, but I am not, and it’s now impacting on our ability to pay for things like health insurance, car payments, house and car insurance, council rates, electricity, phone, utilities and credit card bills. And food.

So Christmas was a little bit impacted by our dire need to slash spending immediately. We managed to have a lovely day, though, with turkey, trimmings and a pavlova for dessert.

This year DH and I can’t afford to do anything special for our anniversary. But here’s the rub. Every year our Christmas gifts to each other have been getting more and more extravagant, as if we are trying to best the previous years’ efforts. Last year was the craziest yet with the gift of a beautiful Kitchen Aid bench mixer, and my DH is so good and lovely to me – he just wants to make me happy. This year our gifts were less over the top. I still got some lovely perfume and a spa pamper day, and DH received a book and a blingy shaving mirror, but all of a sudden we have put the brakes on our spending. And this is a good thing. We have a beautiful bathroom and WIR, and this is enough for me.

Today there were no gifts to commemorate our anniversary. Just a small bunch of long-stemmed roses, cards, a day spent in each other’s company and a reshaping of our pantry area and the Oh Jesus room*. Tonight we’re going to a cheap and cheerful pub for dinner followed by a movie. We’re seeing the latest James Bond film Spectre. And you know? I think this is the best anniversary day of all.

Happy New Year everyone.


I’ve got it, by George!

My dissertation has passed with minor changes. Huzzah!!!!

Just thought you’d like to know. Got the news on Xmas eve, a fabulous gift if ever I’ve had one. I was at the South Melbourne Market with friends, idly reading my mail because I truly did NOT expect any news about my PhD until after New Year. It’s Xmas, after all. People go on holidays at Xmas, and some universities shut down all together for a week. South Melbourne Market is a fabulous, noisy, busy market, doubly so on Xmas eve at 3pm. I was standing near the Gozleme stall (mmm, yummy yummy Gozlemes….), contemplating a late lunch.

Aaaanyway. The email subject header was: Outcome of Thesis Examination. Gulp. With kerthudding heart and trembly hands I tried to open the email on my big new shiny iPhone 6+, fumbling with gifts and bags and the crush of too many people having a good time. Too much noise. Appetite gone. I sat down on a bench. Legs not working too well.

The first thing I read: the Graduate School has now reviewed the examiners’ reports on your thesis and is pleased to advise that you will be awarded the degree, subject to completion of the following to the satisfaction of your enrolling School/Institute and the Dean of the Graduate School.


That’s all I managed to read for a bit.

After what seemed like a LONG time I read the rest of the email and eventually found the examiner’s comments. Huzzah. Positive comments mostly. A few critiques of analysis approaches and some awkward juxtapositioning of methods I needed to fix. Some minor editing throughout, and a minor exhortation to be consistent with meanings.

Otherwise easy peasy. Hooray!

Last week I did the changes. I know, I know: people who get their theses back are often shocked by the amount of changes they are asked to make. Not me: I’ve already published. I’m used to being critiqued. Also, being a musician, we’re always critiqued – it’s part of the feedback loop. Sing for someone, they tell you what to change, you change it. Done. Plus, I work better with concrete suggestions. I spent a week crafting the edits in line with the reports, then sent it to my supervisors. There are probably a couple more things I could do for added perfection, but I think I’m really done now.

In a few months, I will be a Doctor of Philosophy.

But don’t ask me to explain my thesis – I still can’t explain my study to the lay person without their eyes glazing over.

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.










Christmas is coming and so is my deadline!

It has been almost a month since I last published my blog – not that anyone reads the researchy bits anyway, but there you go. Apologies. So the last three weeks have been about trying to do another draft of another Narrative Chapter for my thesis and not quite getting there. Luckily I’ve one I wrote back six months or so, so at least I have something to be going on with. I’ve been trying to finish my transcripts and they are the most boring things of all, and it is those elements of my research that have slowed me down the most. I have to sit in the kitchen to do them because the noise in my study is just a little too high for comfortable transcription and then I have to concentrate! This is the most boring bit of all. Transcription, let’s face it, is crap work.

So hubby and I recently went to another conference in Perth, Australia. It was the Power of Music Conference and it was a really enjoyable conference. Something for everyone and there were few sessions missed. We missed the last day completely, but I find these things so tiring and the keynotes didn’t appeal to me that morning. Both hubby and I delivered our papers on the first day, and then I spent a good deal of time ensuring people like Profs Gary McPherson and Jane Davidson know who I am and that I am referencing their research in mine… Particulary the lit review; I am seeing the parallels in their work that have resonances in my own. This could be important in future. My paper was on emotion in singing teaching and learning, so I might be able to weave this into my thesis somehow. I think it’s important, but I don’t want to revisit old ground if it transpires that my emotion paper needs to be divided into other elements, like the learning and teaching relationship, that sort of thing.

So, timelines for December – January: submit all three draft narrative chapters to my supervisor, then submit draft chapters to her for my lit review and my methods chapter. All by the end of January.

Then, in February, I’d like to revisit my literature entirely, and begin to formulate my discussion/conclusions chapter.

Once I have submitted my drafts to her I will feel a lot better about where I am at. But it’s hard to focus, once again, on my work. I need to sing and I’ve not done any meaningful thinking today.

What I HAVE done, of course, is send out my CV to the two main tertiary institutions in the state that have advertised for casual tutoring/lecturing for 2012. I desperately need about 6 hours work a week (or, in other parlance, $100 an hour for 13 weeks) and I don’t care if it’s singing teaching or lecturing or tutoring. As long as I get something! And since none of it starts until March, I should be fine for my thesis, as most of it should be drafted by then anyway, if plans go as they ought.

So, today was a reporting and planning exercise. Sorry folks, no meaningful dialogue today, but I’m starting to move on the ideas front a bit. And that’s a good thing.

Oh! And we bought the children their Xmas gifts already, and I’m nearly done with the other family members. So it’s all looking good for Xmas.


So, to Melbourne.

Today I have finally realised that I am enjoying the heat of summer here in QLD. I actually like it. Some down sides include sweating a lot and needing to replace one’s clothes all the time, but really, I think I might be beginning to get the hang of it. Hmm. Maybe I’ll turn on the air conditioning for a little while anyway.

So, off to Melbourne I go, with hubby and suitcase in tow. Tomorrow. I’ve managed to spend a small fortune on Scotty’s gifts, which I ought to have expected, I guess, and will be spending rather less on my kids, who, after all, never get me anything. They’re not good with gift giving. Scott and I foolishly decided to get married in the most expensive month of the year, which was silly, really, because now I have a hard time keeping up with Xmas, New Year, and wedding anniversary all rolled up in one. I have to buy gifts for the little kids to give Scott, then I have to think of something for Xmas, then I have to find out the anniversary gift. This year it’s leather. An easy one to arrange! However, at the very time my teaching stops, I now have no money until nearly February. So I’m having to think of creative ways to maintain funds through this time. Teaching through summer is a good one! Another is keeping up with the ARC work. I’m really enjoying it now, and I hope that I’ll be able to keep working on stuff like this and developing my craft in this area. Another is uni teaching. Hopefully I can teach Score reading again, which is something I really really like, and I have all sorts of great ideas of how I might do this for 2011, if I’m allowed. So, eventually, Feb – June is taken care of, then all I have left or arrange is the remaining half of 2011. Maybe someone wants to give me a choir or two? Perhaps I should practice and put on a show? Hmm, not sure any money will be had from that. At any rate, getting through the next 18 months will be interesting.

Oh! and the dog is ALL better. Thank goodness, but I wish he wouldn’t choose to do this one week before Christmas. Now when will I be able to get the car fixed?! Never at this rate.

The Christmas madness descends part two

Well, I have survived the craziness but my dog nearly hasn’t. Sick little bugger, he is a 12 yr old beagle with Pancreatitis and cannot eat any fat at all. For the last five years he has been on a pretty strict diet and the few times he has managed to eat fatty products he usually throws up. Not this time. After the Hell day on Sunday, when I had the cast of thousands, the dog managed to get into the rubbish bin where he ate all of the yummy left overs: the fat from the pork, the custard, and many other bits and pieces lethal to an old, stupid, senile, greedy beagle.

The following day was an interesting one. Unable to get comfortable, he wandered in and outside all day, even though he is not allowed inside. He got up, he lay down. Then, last night, he became completely confused and couldn’t move. We were to take him for a little walk, but he barely made it out the front door. It was night time, and I thought perhaps he was confused about that, but it was something worse.  I could feel it. He was swaying, his eyes were glazed over. He had thrown up during the day, but now he refused to eat. He was not in a good way.

So, today, it’s off in the car to the vet. I had to carry him to the car. That was something! So, three days before we go to Melbourne, the dog is at the vet’s, possibly dying, with an IV drip and opiates, and an odd mass in his belly. Typical that he has to do this in the most expensive month of our year. Typical.